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Home From the Rabbi From the Rabbi - December 2019
From the Rabbi - December 2019 PDF Print E-mail

One of my great honors as rabbi of this congregation is the opportunity to give blessings at community events such as the City Council, County Commissioners Court, and the Metro Ministries Poor Man’s Dinner.  A couple of weeks ago at the Poor Man’s Dinner I was blessed to not only give the benediction but to hear about the inspiring story and work of Kevin Adler of Miracle Messages. 

Kevin  told of his uncle Mark who was a beloved member of the family but also suffered from schizophrenia, and lived on-and-off the streets for 30 years. In thinking about his uncle’s life he wondered if there was anything he could do for the people still living on the streets each day, whose lives we forget or ignore. And so he decided to do something about it.  He went out to the streets and started talking to people and realized something important.  As one person told him: “I never realized I was homeless when I lost my housing, only when I lost my family and friends.”  So many of the people he spoke to were on the streets not because they had lost their house but because they had lost connection with their family, their friends, and their community.  Kevin  notes: “This loss of a “social home” is overlooked by nearly all service providers, but is a primary concern of people living on the streets. Without social supports, homeless people tend to stay homeless.”

So he came up with a plan to help them that was both simple and brilliant and involved using something we all have in our pockets every day – a smart phone.  He and others started filming videos of homeless people to their families and put them on social media.  And the response was amazing, connecting many to their long lost families and in many cases allowing them to return and be helped out of homelessness as a result.  Just on the day of his speech here in Corpus he and his team had gone out and recorded several messages of people living on the street here and already by the evening he already had a couple stories of families reunited.  

This approach is in keeping with Jewish sources.  In Deuteronomy we are told:  “If, however, there is a needy person among you… do not harden your heart and shut your hand against your needy kinsman. Rather, you must open your hand and lend him sufficient for whatever he needs.”  The rabbis understand the phrase “sufficient for whatever he needs”  to mean not just physical and material help (which is vitally important) but to help by giving dignity to those in need and treating them as all people should be treated, as children of G-d.  

Kevin’s work in Miracle Messages makes providing dignity a central aspect of helping our homeless neighbors.  And it’s something that we can all do in a meaningful way. We are discussing with other groups in the interfaith community who are interested in this way of helping the homeless and with Miracle Messages to find the best way of allowing our members to find meaning in this work here in Corpus Christi.  

We hope that this will allow members of our Jewish and interfaith community here in Corpus to engage in this meaningful work and help fix the world one person and one reconnected family at a time.   

Rabbi Ilan Emanuel



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