There is a concept in Judaism called "hakarat hatov," which means recognizing the good that someone or some group has done you. The JDC, Joint Distribution Committee which is one of the greatest humanitarian organizations globally, aiding Jews as well as non-Jews in need all over the world, is fulfilling this important Jewish ethical concept after the devastating typhoon which decimated the Philippines, by sending emergency relief supplies: food, materials for shelter, medical supplies as well as provisions to ensure clean water and sanitation supplies to where they are needed most in the Islands.
So how is this disaster aid "hakarat hatov," recognizing the good someone has done? Because there is a historical connection between the Jewish people and the Philippines and Filipinos: around 70 years ago, Philippine president Manuel Quezon together with the Jewish Frieder family which owned cigar factories in Manila, saved one thousand Jewish refugees from Nazi Europe, by issuing them travel certificates and bringing them over to work in the factories--despite the fact that most of these refugees had no experience whatever in making cigars! It was a clandestine rescue operation which saved Jews who surely would have perished in the Shoah (Holocaust), and now the JDC is repaying the debt.
The article in the JTA by Alan H. Gill, CEO of the JDC details the historical connection and the great good that Filipinos did for the Jews, and how repaying this debt is part and parcel of the Jewish people: doing good for others, doing acts of chesed--the mitzvah of loving kindness, taught to us by our forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, as taught to them by G-d, written down in the Torah. In Mr. Gill's words are revealed the Jewish concept of valuing life above all.
Today, in the wake of one of the worst storms in history, with perhaps more than 10,000 dead and hundreds of thousands homeless, we are fully committed to fulfilling President Quezon’s prophecy and returning the favor to the Filipino people. Not just because we are Jews, the heirs to this nation’s life-saving actions, but because we firmly believe in mutual responsibility and the idea that each individual life is valuable beyond measure.
And I am doubly proud that my daughter Tzipi is associated with such a wonderful organization, and has been invited multiple times to speak on their behalf.
Here is an excerpt from the documentary Rescue in the Philippines, made this year, which tells the story.