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26 Old Mill Road, Great Neck, NY 11023 (516) 487-6100                                                         Shabbat Announcements Ki Teitzei 5779
         a society – the knowledge that you are surrounded by people  education, age, income, gender or race. Religion creates
         who have your welfare at heart, who will return your lost   community, community creates altruism, and altruism turns
         property (see the lines immediately prior to the fallen   us away from self and toward the common good. Putnam
         donkey: Deut. 22:1-3), who will raise the alarm if someone   goes so far as to speculate that an atheist who went
         is breaking into your house or car, who will keep an eye on   regularly to church (perhaps because of a spouse) would be
         the safety of your children, and who generally contribute to a  more likely to volunteer in a soup kitchen than a believer
         “good neighborhood,” itself an essential component of a good  who prays alone. There is something about the tenor of
         society.                                             relationships within a religious community that makes it an
                                                              ongoing tutorial in citizenship and good neighborliness. At
         The man who has done more than anyone else to chart the   the same time, one has to make sure that ‘religiosity’ does
         fate of social capital in modern times is Harvard sociologist   not get in the way. One of the cruelest of all social science
         Robert Putnam. In a famous article, ‘Bowling Alone’ and   experiments was the “Good Samaritan” test organized, in
         subsequent book of the same title, he drew attention to the   the early 1970s, by two Princeton social psychologists, John
         sharp loss of social capital in modern times. It was   Darley and Daniel Batson. The well-known parable tells the
         symbolized by the fact that more people than ever were   story of how a priest and a Levite failed to stop and help a
         going ten-pin bowling, but fewer than ever were joining   traveler by the roadside who had been attacked and robbed,
         bowling teams: hence ‘bowling alone,’ which seemed to   while a Samaritan did so. Wanting to get to the reality
         epitomize the individualism of contemporary society and its   behind the story, the psychologists recruited students from
         corollary: loneliness.
                                                              Princeton Theological Seminary and told them they were to
         Ten years later, in an equally fascinating study, American   prepare a talk about being a minister. Half were given no
         Grace, he argued that in fact social capital was alive and well  more instructions than that. The other half were told to
         in the United States, but in specific locations, namely   construct the talk around the Good Samaritan parable. They
         religious communities: places of worship that still bring   were then told to go and deliver the talk in a nearby building
         people together in shared belonging and mutual       where an audience was waiting. Some were told that they
         responsibility. His extensive research, carried out throughout  were late, others that if they left now they would be on time,
         the United States between 2004 and 2006, showed that   and a third group that there was no need to hurry.
         frequent church- or synagogue-goers are more likely to give   Unbeknown to the students, the researchers had positioned,
         money to charity, regardless of whether the charity is   directly on the students’ route, an actor playing the part of a
         religious or secular. They are also more likely to do voluntary  victim slumped in a doorway, moaning and coughing –
         work for a charity, give money to a homeless person, give   replicating the situation in the Good Samaritan parable.
         excess change back to a shop assistant, donate blood, help a   You can probably guess the rest: preparing a talk on the
         neighbor with housework, spend time with someone who is   Good Samaritan had no influence whatever on whether the
         feeling depressed, allow another driver to cut in front of   student actually stopped to help the victim. What made the
         them, offer a seat to a stranger, or help someone find a job.   difference was whether the student had been told he was
         Religious Americans are measurably more likely than their   late, or that there was no hurry. On several occasions, a
         secular counterparts to give of their time and money to   student about to deliver a talk on the Good Samaritan,
         others, not only within but also beyond their own    “literally stepped over the victim as he hurried on his way.”
         communities.                                         The point is not that some fail to practice what they preach.
         Regular attendance at a house of worship turns out to be the  The researchers themselves simply concluded that the
         best predictor of altruism and empathy: better than    parable should not be taken to suggest that Samaritans are
                                                              better human beings than priests or Levites, but rather, it all
                                                              depends on time and conflicting duties. The rushed seminary
                         Great Neck Yoetzet Halacha Lisa Septimus
                           Welcomes your questions about mikvah,            students may well have wanted to stop and help but were
                       observance of taharat mishpacha (halacha relating  reluctant to keep a whole crowd waiting. They may have felt
                       to married life) and women’s health, as it connects   that their duty to the many overrode their duty to the one.
                             to Jewish law. Reach out to her at:
                                  Phone: 516.415.1111         The Princeton experiment does, though, help us understand
                                                              the precise phrasing of the command in our parsha: “Do not
                                                              see…and ignore.” Essentially it is telling us to slow down
                              Great Neck Synagogue            when you see someone in need. Whatever the time
                     26 Old Mill Road, Great Neck , NY 11023   pressure, don’t walk on by. Think of a moment when you
                                  516-487-6100                needed help and a friend or stranger came to your
                                                              assistance. Can you remember such occasions? Of course.
                         Rabbi Dale Polakoff, Rabbi           They linger in the mind forever, and whenever you think of
                      Rabbi Ian Lichter, Assistant Rabbi      them, you feel a warm glow, as if to say, the world is not
                    Dr. Ephraim Wolf, z”l, Rabbi Emeritus     such a bad place after all. That is the life-changing idea:
                           Yitzy Spinner, Cantor
                    Eleazer Schulman, z”l, Cantor Emeritus    Never be in too much of a rush to stop and come to the aid
                                                              of someone in need of help. Rarely if ever will you better
                     Rabbi Sholom Jensen, Youth Director
                  Zehava & Dr. Michael Atlas, Youth Directors   invest your time. It may take a moment, but its effect may
                      Mark Twersky, Executive Director        last a lifetime. Or as William Wordsworth put it: “The best
                     Dr. James Frisch, Assistant Director     portion of a good man’s life: his little, nameless,
                          Erran Kagan, President              unremembered acts of kindness and of love.”
                   Harold Domnitch, Chairman of the Board
                  Lisa Septimus, Yoetzet Halacha 516-415-1111
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