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Treating All People with Dignity: A Conversation with Raquel Kirszenbaum Didio
Do you ever wake up in the morning and think, “I am worthy of love and joy?” During morning rush hour, do you look at your fellow commuters and consider how important they are? In Judaism, human life is valued above everything else, and we are encouraged to honor ourselves and the people around us. In our conversation, JWRP Trip Leader Raquel Kirszenbaum Didio shares strategies for treating those around us with respect, including the challenging people in our lives.
Why is Kevod HaBriyot, treating people with dignity, a Jewish value?
Judaism believes that each person is created as a part of G-d’s plan and is made in G-d’s image. Because every person has the potential to create and bring goodness to the world, we are G-d’s partners in creation. When we offer our fellow humans dignity, we are living up to our potential, as well as respecting G-d’s creations, G-d’s partners, and G-d.
How can we make treating others with dignity an everyday practice?
“Love your neighbor as you love yourself” is a recurring theme in Judaism. But, how can we possibly love everyone just as we love ourselves? The first step is recognizing that we are each a work in progress. Just as you accept that for yourself, remember that this is true for everyone. Be patient with the people you meet. Try to see them as whole and complex beings, instead of judging them based on one mistake. Put yourself in your neighbors’ shoes. Remember that we are all human. While we want to grow, growing is difficult. Focus on each person’s positive qualities. Treat people as you would want to be treated.
What are some tips for positively interacting with the challenging people in our lives?
G-d brought us into this world to become the best people we can be, and the hurdles that we face along the way help us grow. So, trust that G-d has put challenging people in your life for a reason. Don’t expect them to change. Instead, focus on changing your attitude toward them. Also, remember that giving often leads to love. Invite the people you find challenging into your home. Make them a bigger part of your life. Once you develop a sense of compassion for them, you may feel differently about them. Finally, recognize that we are all challenging at times. Be forgiving of others as you would want people to be forgiving of you.
How can we look at ourselves and others as beings who were created in G-d’s image?
This isn’t easy. We live in a society, which values people based on their professional achievements and material possessions. But Jews believe that every person has intrinsic value simply because they are alive. G-d wants us here because we each have an important role in this world. If you can remember that this is the case for everyone around you, you’ll respect and value both yourself and each person you meet. And you might think twice about pressing the snooze button on your alarm!
How can we teach our children to respect and value each person, regardless of their appearance and abilities?
We need to train our children to find the positives in the people around them. We also need to help them understand that if everyone were the same, there wouldn’t be any uniqueness in the world. In fact, it is because of our differences that we can achieve something greater than ourselves. Show your children that though people may have different needs, they can still live full and happy lives. Just the other day, I was at the park with my two-year-old when she saw a girl in a wheelchair. My daughter realized that the girl couldn’t walk and became sad. “But she can do so many other things,” I told my daughter. I also reminded her to be thankful that can walk. Let’s teach our children the importance of doing acts of kindness, feeling empathy for others, and being grateful for all of our blessings.