The summer is over and the Jewish holidays have come and gone. People from all over the world come to beautiful New England to see the orange, gold, yellow and umber colors hidden under the previously-green leaves. The green is the color we see when leaves are alive.
My grandson, Elliott, has reached the age of WHY. “Why is the sky blue?” With great delight, I always have the scientific answer and of course being an amazing ZJ - Zaedy Jeffrey - I want to be right there with the answer. Some people might say: “You could tell him anything and he would believe you!” But everyone prefers to hear the truth. So for all you science buffs and knowledge seekers: the reason leaves are green is because of the chlorophyll, which is a pigment found in the outer surface of chloroplasts in the leaves. The green chloroplasts are the organelles that carry out photosynthesis. Without photosynthesis the green leaves do not do their job. Their important job is to convert CO2 into O2 so that all living things that breathe oxygen can live. Think that is important? Of course it is! And as we read about the devastation of the rain forests, more and more and more people are becoming concerned about our planet. The green of the leaves represents the life of the trees and plants. What is so very interesting to me is that under that “life” is something incredibly beautiful, hidden by all the green covering up this beauty. Digging deeper, or looking under, or perhaps considering something that is “covered up” reveals something we did not anticipate. All people have traits that reveal themselves in the way they behave, the way they dress, speak, or just how they interact. We all know these traits and some are simple - introvert, extrovert - but there are really more than fifty. There is one that is not well known by most people other than the psychologists reading this article. It is called “compassion fade.”
Compassion fade is a tendency to act or behave more compassionately toward a small group of identifiable victims than a larger group of anonymous victims. This is a sentence you have to read more than once or maybe think about for a couple of minutes. We have a tendency to behave more compassionately toward someone we can identify than towards a group that we do not see. Everyone really knows this. In New Haven there are 4,500 homeless people. In New York City there are 63,000 homeless, yet we see the person at the subway exit or outside the department stores. So many roll down the window and give them a little money. These unfortunate people are easily identifiable and easy to be seen.
Our Jewish community has a wide reach geographically and offers some amazing services for Jews and non-Jews in our wonderful community. All agencies of our Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven are doing great, great things. We have great compassion towards the people that we can identify or who make themselves known to us. The number of people that come through the doors of the Jewish Community Center is just amazing. They are self-identifying as people who want to enjoy what our JCC has to offer. The agencies, Towers, Jewish Family Service and our Jewish schools work with, educate, and bring comfort to these people. People are known to us not just by being needy, BUT BY JOINING OUR RANKS and making our community stronger and better. They join the J. They join synagogues and temples. They participate in programing and show up at events. They are the extroverts of our community. There are 25,000 Jews in the greater New Haven area and when our community puts on an event there should be standing room only ALL THE TIME.
The introverts are out there, too. The people who self-identify, that want or need our services, are easy to find. Maybe they are the “green” that we can all see. BUT UNDER THAT GREEN is real beauty and value in the people we CANNOT see - the leaves that are hidden behind the other leaves. Think about it: the leaves that are not out in the sun die first; they are ones that show the true beauty hidden by the green ones. Everyone in this wonderful Jewish community counts. We need to make sure that we do not have compassion fade. We need to ask our friends to be part of all the good things that are happening here. When you come to an event or support our community, BE BOLD and ask someone to come with you and experience everything we have to offer. You will be glad that you did and you will have helped make our community better and stronger. Cold weather is on its way and in the spring the green will come back, renewing our energies. We are doing great things in New Haven. Be part of it and ask others to join you. Thanks for the help that you have given, the help you are doing now, and help you will give our community in the future.
Dr. Jeffrey Hoos
Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven President