A world away, Brandeis rabbi practices what she preaches

Photo/Elyse Winick

Last month Rabbi Elyse Winick ’86 left the familiar comforts of Brandeis’ Multifaith Chaplaincy to learn from NGOs fighting for civil, political, and gender and sexual-health rights in the Dominican Republic.

She made the trip with 10 rabbinic fellows and the American Jewish World Service.

“It was a powerful experience on so many levels,” Winick said. “The world is a very broken place. At the beginning of the trip I found that idea to be overwhelming, but by the end I realized that we can’t do it all.”

Dominicans of Haitian descent gave the rabbis firsthand accounts of daily governmental discrimination  — from the threat of deportation to being forced to work under the table. It reminded Winick of the work that needs to be done in combatting racism in America.

Still, problems in one’s own backyard are never a reason not to help in far-flung places, she said.

“I realized halfway through my trip what an important role we were playing. “The United States has the power to lead other countries and be a force for good,” she said. “It’s not about Americans coming in and telling people what to do, but listening and helping citizens achieve their goals.”

Winick left the Dominican Republic with a heavy heart, yet comforted by Jewish wisdom. “In the Mishnah there is a statement attributed to Rabbi Tarfon which states that though work is not yours to finish, you are still not free from doing your part,” she said.

“I want to practice what I preach and be a model for others, because we learn more by seeing than through being told what to do.”

Categories: General, International Affairs

Return to the BrandeisNOW homepage