Tools for Elul: Alan Lesgold
Tikkun olam, the repair of our world, has several parts, including ending of racial and ethnic oppression, repairing our environment, and fighting evil. There is another part, though. This is helping the many people whose sense of self-worth and self-respect has been destroyed by the direct and indirect effects of automation. Automation is an unstoppable force, and it will eventually produce opportunities for good. However, it also has left a large swath of our middle class unemployed or underemployed, feeling dis-empowered, and feeling left out of the American dream.
Some of those displaced have the ability to adapt by learning new skills and finding new roles. Others do not. The latter group is the target of those evil forces who pursue nationalism, promote overt racism on top of our society's built-in racism, and promote gun violence. For too many of our neighbors, adapting to displacement from productive lives in a positive way is difficult, and negative options are readily available: evil websites, guns, and gatherings led by evil forces.
While we must oppose evil behavior, we also must recognize that most of us have benefited from the circumstances that have deprived others of economic security and a sense of full membership in our information society. Unless we find ways to listen to and respect those who struggle, the current and dangerous rise of racist populism will continue.
We have done this kind of work before and do some of it now. Members of our Congregation like Jeff Herzog help immigrants get started with jobs here, and members like Leonard Weitzman (z"l) helped people prepare for worthwhile jobs in the past. Some of our Pursuer of Peace awardees also do this kind of work.
If we want to improve our world today, one of the tasks must be to provide respect, social support, and learning opportunities right now for those displaced by automation and unprepared for the productive roles now available. The forces of evil will continue to seduce those whom our society displaces and ignores. We can help change this.
-Alan Lesgold, Congregant