OPINION: Extreme poverty is such a disgrace

OPINION: Extreme poverty is such a disgrace

Rabbi Aaron Goldstein
Rabbi Aaron Goldstein

By Rabbi Aaron Goldstein

Rabbi Aaron Goldstein
Rabbi Aaron Goldstein

Among the thousands of people Living Below The Line last month were many Liberal Jews, my wife Tammy and I included – all trying to spend no more than £1 a day on food and drink for five days.

While some are cynical – after all we could still heat our home, use transport and enjoy unlimited ‘free’ drinking water from our taps – I strongly believe campaigns such as this have a role, especially after trying it myself.

Living Below The Line is about raising awareness, reminding ourselves that around the corner, in our neighbourhood, and yes, in our community, there are those who live week in week out with poverty – not just for five days.

It also raised my awareness of the effect of my body being food poor – in terms of quantity and quality. Had it not been for our relationship with the local greengrocer, who twice gave us a box for £1 with fruit and veg that was going off, we would have had no fresh produce.

Yet I, who never has headaches, was afflicted during those five days. My legs became full of pain and I resorted to taking pills – even though I don’t like taking them. Of course, I could afford them and I can see how addictions to dull pain can result – a vicious cycle. And the second time I asked our greengrocer for a handout, I had an inkling of what ‘shame’ might feel like.

All of this takes its toll on the physical and mental health of the individual. It also makes no sense for any country to allow its citizens to live in such a state. Real people allowed to be unproductive, at a ridiculous cost to us all. Such extreme poverty is a disgrace to our country, to any land.

I know I have a part to play in not being gluttonous, in supporting others, in not wasting. I know it’ll be our pressure that will change our society so we do not allow the land to be depraved.

Small things help. Most Progressive Jewish communities support a local food bank and I urge members to donate products when they come to services. How about a tin a visit?

When we have eaten and been satisfied, may we be responsive to the needs of others and to listen to their cry for food: to share God’s gifts and help remove hunger and want from the world.

Aaron Goldstein is rabbi of Northwood & Pinner Liberal Synagogue

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