Do Something

How you can help

Civilians just like you in Israel and Gaza have been thrust into the front lines of the Israeli-Hamas war. Here are some ways you can help from right here at home:

One Family Together is an Israeli organization providing assistance to victims of terror attacks, with financial and legal assistance, mental health services, support groups and healing camps for the young.

Magen David Adom, Israel’s version of the Red Cross, is peopled by 26,000 volunteers and provides much of the country’s national emergency medical services. 

World Food Program USA is collecting donations to get much-needed food aid into Gaza and the West Bank.

The International Committee of the Red Cross is donating medical supplies to Gaza and is working with authorities to help identify the missing. They are also partnered with Magen David Adom and the Palestine Red Crescent Society to help the wounded and sick.


Read More

Solutions for better citizenship

For a weekly dose of ideas, solutions and practical action steps, sign up for our newsletter:

* indicates required


( mm / dd )

And follow us on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram.

Be a Better Philadelphia Citizen

Here's how

One of the founding tenets of The Philadelphia Citizen is to get people the resources they need to become better, more engaged citizens of their city.

We hope to do that in our Good Citizenship Toolkit, which includes a host of ways to get involved in Philadelphia — whether you want to contact your City Councilmember about the challenges facing your community, get those experiencing homelessness the goods they need, or simply go out to dinner somewhere where you know your money is going toward a greater good.

Find an issue that’s important to you in the list below, and get started on your journey of A-plus citizenship.

Vote and strengthen democracy

Stand up for marginalized communities

Create a cleaner, greener Philadelphia

Help our local youth and schools succeed

Support local businesses


To this story in CitizenCast

Welcome to the enhanced audio edition Of Jay Coen Gilbert’s story.

And go here for more audio articles from CitizenCast

Guest Commentary: An Open Letter to My Fellow Jews

The opportunity for moral courage in the Israel-Hamas war, from a local leader of the B Corps movement

Guest Commentary: An Open Letter to My Fellow Jews

The opportunity for moral courage in the Israel-Hamas war, from a local leader of the B Corps movement

I have been grieving for nearly two weeks. I have been struggling to come to grips with the murderous terror of Hamas in Israel and the scale of immediate human suffering and long term implications of justifiable military response by Israel in Gaza. I am coming to an uncomfortable and surprising, at least to me, conclusion about Jewish self-interest and moral courage.

I am a Jew who feels in my body the mortal fear of being alone amid rising antisemitism, who sits in the history-informed truth that I and my family would likely be abandoned by friends and neighbors if their own safety were threatened in protecting mine. I am also a seeker of justice for all peoples. After examining as best I can the alternatives, and reflecting as deeply as I can on my ultimate objectives, four things seem increasingly clear to me:

    • A ceasefire is the best strategy to preserve Israel’s increasingly tenuous right to exist as a Jewish state.
    • A ceasefire is the best strategy to reduce rising antisemitism and make Jewish people like me and my family and friends around the world more safe.
    • A ceasefire is the best strategy to minimize human suffering.
    • A ceasefire exemplifies the moral courage called for in this moment.

As Thomas Friedman says, a large-scale Israeli military response to “eradicate Hamas” plays directly into the hands of Israel’s mortal enemies. An Israeli response with that militarily questionable objective will result in a highly visible, unavoidable, and escalating number of deaths of Palestinian women and children which will erode U.S, and European support for Israel, and also increase antisemitism, making all Jews everywhere less safe.

I’ll be clear: A ceasefire that includes a return of all hostages and enables the flow of humanitarian aid is not justice, but it is the strategy that is in the best interests of the state of Israel, and of Jewish people around the world.

It does not require moral courage to seek vengeance. It requires moral courage to exercise self-restraint when every fiber of one’s being cries out for vengeance.

In addition, this potentially heroic example of Jewish moral courage in self-restraint might also serve the interests of billions of people around the world who seek peaceful and prosperous coexistence where they live, among people with whom they disagree strongly, amid escalating efforts by the ideological and the greedy to divide us for their benefit.

If you believe the Jewish people were “chosen,” maybe the Jewish people were “chosen” for this moment.

Where is moral clarity?

Moral clarity condemns terrorism. However, there is unlikely to be moral clarity in how to respond to terrorism when the response requires a massive number of deaths of women, children, and other human beings who did not commit the acts of terror. How many innocent deaths are acceptable? It’s more than zero, but beyond that, I don’t know. How can we minimize suffering? I don’t know, but Yuval Noah Harari points to some creative and courageous ideas.

Widening our aperture: How will we know Hamas is “eradicated?” What other jihadist terror groups will arise to take Hamas’ place? What do we do in Lebanon? In the West Bank? What do we do with Syria and Iran? What is the political plan for coexistence that breaks this seemingly endless cycle of violence and robs us too, as Jews, of our humanity? I don’t know the answer to any of these questions, and, more importantly, after 20 years, trillions of dollars, and nearly a million lives lost in the “war on terror,” I don’t have evidence that Israel or the United States have answers I’m willing to support either.

If one is looking for moral clarity, one needs to look elsewhere than Israel and Palestine. The recognition of the state of Israel by the global community in 1948 was a morally complex decision that favored Jewish people over Palestinian people. Two thirds of the people living in Palestine in 1947 under British Mandate were not Jewish.

Conceding that point, some would rest the argument for moral clarity on Jewish claims as the sole surviving indigenous people of this land.

This argument is rooted in arcane matters of cultural anthropology and genealogy that I have a hard time following, and dismisses as irrelevant the more understandable and incontestable historical fact that the Jewish people came into possession of that land by force 3,500 years ago when Joshua crossed the river Jordan from the east, conquered the Canaanites, and redistributed the land to the 12 tribes of Israel. This land was never empty. This fact blurs the line between the case for sole indigeneity and the case that might makes right. As an historically persecuted minority, and seeker of justice for all peoples, might makes right as a moral principle makes me anxious.

In looking for moral clarity, some would go back even further in the biblical story to the claim of a Promised Land being given by God to a Chosen People. Perhaps needless to say, that claim does not have moral clarity for anyone other than for some Jews, and perhaps evangelical Christians, for whom that story is considered divine revelation, and necessary to coming Messianic times. From an Arab or Muslim perspective in particular, I can understand why this argument would be further clouded by the biblical story of Isaac and his exiled brother Ishmael.

Let’s get out of that ancient mess and back to modern times.

What is moral courage?

It does not require moral courage to seek vengeance. It requires moral courage to exercise self-restraint when every fiber of one’s being cries out for vengeance.

Self-restraint as moral high ground

One reason to exercise the moral courage of self-restraint is because one believes that an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind. This moral clarity rests on the belief, and perhaps clinical observation of history, that violence only begets more violence, more hatred, more insecurity. This moral clarity is the most challenging because it requires the most faith.

There is little evidence that turning the other cheek, being the better person, taking the high road results in better long-term outcomes for those who choose this difficult path. Gandhi’s India was created in massive religious violence and does not today reflect Gandhi’s pluralistic vision. King’s Dream in America remains just that. Mandela’s South Africa has not delivered on its early promise by many measures. Yet, it’s not unreasonable to say that each of these three are examples of moving, however meanderingly, slowly, and inconsistently, in a better direction than when under oppressive, colonial, and White supremacist rule. Perhaps it is true, as King said, that “the moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice,” as long as we bend it in nonviolent ways.

Self-restraint as self-interest

History shows that the above strategy of nonviolence might not be persuasive to many as a rationale to exercise the moral courage of self-restraint. Another reason, at least in this instance for the Jewish people, is because exercising self-restraint now, in the face of suffering unspeakable horror at the hands of terrorists, will enable the Jewish people to reassert their moral claim to the right to exist as a Jewish state in the land of Israel and Palestine.

Banking on moral debt

The morally questionable recognition of the state of Israel by the global community over the righteous objections of the Palestinians who were the supermajority of residents of that land, and of the entire Arab world, was because the rest of the global community was paying to the Jewish people a moral debt.

The recognition of the state of Israel was an act of repair. The recognition of the state of Israel was an acknowledgment of the truth not only of the Holocaust, but also of the historical fact that the Jewish people have largely not been safe anywhere in the world at any time when they have been a minority population (400 years under Ottoman rule notwithstanding). The recognition of the state of Israel was a form of repentance for global sins of antisemitism, and at some level, a very uncomfortable acknowledgment that the global community wasn’t sure it could or would control that antisemitism in the future. The non-Arab global community paid that moral debt at the expense of the supermajority local population of human beings called Palestinians, telling them that more than half the land on which they lived was now someone else’s land.

Today, we must seize the opportunity for moral courage before it is too late, and the wheel spins faster, rolling us into new cycles of violence that will leave us all less safe for generations to come.

That is defensible as long as we acknowledge that it is also a moral judgment made at a specific point in history about the relative worthiness of the Jewish and Palestinian peoples. This moral judgment as an act of repair may even be considered by some to be an example of moral courage — perhaps made easier by the decision of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem to seek alliance with Adolph Hitler and the Nazis — but it is not an example of moral clarity.

Israel exists only because the rest of the global community, specifically the U.S. and Europe, continues to choose to pay that moral debt. Israel exists because the non-Arab non-Muslim world recognizes the massive amount of moral currency the Jewish people have earned after the Holocaust and two millennia of suffering. Since 1967 and its illegal occupation of Palestinian territories, Israel has been making withdrawals from its moral bank account. Those withdrawals have increased over the last 50 years as settlements and other forms of Palestinian dispossession and oppression have increased.

The brutal, unconscionable, indefensible, inexcusable attacks by Hamas were designed to provoke massive, vengeful retribution by Israel. The intent was to trigger a natural, human response for vengeance as justice.

The hope of Israel’s mortal enemies is that Israel responds with such fury that the images of devastation, the images of bloody and dead women and children, will drain Israel’s moral bank account, eroding the support for the Jewish right to exist as a Jewish state in this land at this cost.

The hope of antisemites everywhere is that the Israeli response offers evidence that the Jewish people are no longer worthy of special protection and can be left to fend for themselves as a tiny minority in a world that has proven over and over again, until 1948, that they will never defend the Jews when attacked.

Accepting a ceasefire in exchange for the return of hostages is a historic opportunity for Israel to make a massive deposit in its moral bank account.

Exercising self-restraint despite the moral case that could be made for a massive military response will safeguard Israel’s increasingly tenuous right to exist as a Jewish state, and it is the best strategy to undermine growing antisemitism and keep Jews safe in Israel and across the diaspora, including in the United States.

There will be time to wrangle over what next. Today, we must seize the opportunity for moral courage before it is too late, and the wheel spins faster, rolling us into new cycles of violence that will leave us all less safe for generations to come.

Jay Coen Gilbert is the co-founder of B Lab, IMPERATIVE 21, and White Men for Racial Justice.

The Citizen welcomes guest commentary from community members who represent that it is their own work and their own opinion based on true facts that they know firsthand.


The Philadelphia Citizen will only publish thoughtful, civil comments. If your post is offensive, not only will we not publish it, we'll laugh at you while hitting delete.

Be a Citizen Editor

Suggest a Story

Advertising Terms

We do not accept political ads, issue advocacy ads, ads containing expletives, ads featuring photos of children without documented right of use, ads paid for by PACs, and other content deemed to be partisan or misaligned with our mission. The Philadelphia Citizen is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan organization and all affiliate content will be nonpartisan in nature. Advertisements are approved fully at The Citizen's discretion. Advertisements and sponsorships have different tax-deductible eligibility. For questions or clarification on these conditions, please contact Director of Sales & Philanthropy Kristin Long at [email protected] or call (609)-602-0145.