Originally posted on the blog of Ask Big Questions.
Like many people in my generation, I first associated tzedakah, the Hebrew word loosely understood to mean “charity,” with the pushke—the little metal box given out in Hebrew school, rusting on my parents’ windowsill.
I learned in the 1950s that Jews were supposed to collect pennies in the pushke to plant trees in Israel. There was no passion or intensity embedded in this ritual; no real understanding of the values or texts behind this seemingly strange act of generosity; and no opportunity to innovate. It was just something Jews did. Read More
Originally posted on The Global Circle Blog.
Whether we like to admit it or not, money is one of the strongest driving forces in our lives. Along with love, of course, money makes the world go ‘round. Here at AJWS, we wouldn’t have much of an impact in the developing world without the generous gifts of our donors. Of course, we all know the dark side of money – greed, envy, and feelings of inferiority. Read More
Several months ago, my husband was stopped by one of the ubiquitous young people on the streets of Manhattan fundraising for good causes. He was told that for just $22 a month, he could sponsor a needy child in the Global South. Moved by the pitch, he signed up, and soon after, a photo of an adorable young girl arrived in the mail. When he told me what he had signed on for, I was touched to be married to the type of man who gives freely when asked. But I also wondered about the organization itself—its giving practices and how much of its funding actually reaches the children it was established to support. I did some online research and was surprised to discover that the organization’s CEO makes almost half a million dollars a year and that there was no analysis of its programmatic impact. But its overall rankings on reputable charitable accountability websites were high, and I already felt emotionally bound to the girl whose picture sat on our desk, so we have been supporters ever since. Yet this question—of how to translate our good intentions into effective giving, is one that many of us face regularly. Read More
Text with Texture is a weekly blog series (featured on Tuesdays) that explores the rich and textured material found in On1Foot in connection with what’s happening in our world today.
Working at a non-profit, I think a lot about generosity—with money and with time. Here at AJWS, we depend on our supporters to give us some of their hard earned income so that we can use it to support human rights activists in the developing world. We also depend on staff and volunteers for their time. But I recently came across a medieval text that challenges the notion that money and time are the defining structures through which generosity is expressed.
Rav Avraham tells us that it’s not enough to be generous with our money. We must also be generous with our power. We must use our influence; call in our favors for the weak and the needy. We must throw our social weight on the side of the downtrodden.
I wonder: What would it look like to truly stare down the amount of power that I have as an American, a voter, a Jew, a teacher, and commit to being generous with that agency? How could I throw that power into advocacy work or community organizing to help those in need? And what would the world look like if we all began to think of our power as something we were obligated to give of generously?