Jews traditionally use the Hebrew word tsedakah which means righteousness (and implies an obligation) rather than the English word charity (which connotes optional) to refer to helping the less fortunate. The tax code provides incentives to donate, but there are only five days left to make 2009 charitable donations. If you have been waiting until the last moment to chose which Jewish organizations to support take a look at the list in the right hand margin under the heading Recommended Jewish Charities. I first mentioned several of these almost eight weeks ago in my article on the Goodstock charity fair in Brooklyn.
If you only can give to one Jewish charitable organization UJA Federation of New York, which funds a wide variety of social services serving the Jewish community here in New York as well as helping Jews in need around the world, would be a good choice. If on the other hand you can afford to support several organizations read on.
Many of the Jewish cultrural events I have reported on in this space have been funded by the Foundation for Jewish Culture. If you have enjoyed the exhibits, plays, concerts, dance performances, films, or book talks I have reported on and want to help fund future creativity the Foundation for Jewish Culture is the appropriate address.
To help fund Jewish education make a donation to your shul’s Hebrew School or to your local community day school. To support the development of engaging curricula and pedagogic approaches employed by Jewish educators consider a donation to JESNA. To ensure that Jewish college students find a Jewish home away from home on campus support Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life. Three of the Jewish couples my co-author and I interviewed for I Am My Beloved’s: Jewish-American Couples Talk About Their Marriages met at their college Hillels.
Kulanu assists isolated Jewish communities around the world. They sponsored the talk by JJ Keki of Uganda’s Abayudaya Jewish community that I reported on a month ago. Kulanu also supports Jewish communities in several other African countries, China, India, as well as descendants of Jewish conversos seeking to return to Judaism in the Americas and the Iberian peninsula.
The organizations mentioned above benefit fellow Jews; as Hillel said, “If I am not for myself who will be?” Hillel’s quote continues, “But if I am only for myself who am I?” Jewish ethics requires us to feel responsible for the weakest among all humankind as well as for the well being of the planet, and to strive for justice in our own country; several Jewish charities address just these concerns. Mazon, A Jewish Responce To Hunger supports food banks in the USA and hunger relief projects around the world. American Jewish World Servicesupports grassroots community development projects in Asia, Africa, and the Americas with an emphasis on empowering women and on marginalized communities. AJWS also sends teams of Jewish-American volunteers to work on such projects in the various countries; participants have reported that being part of a team of fellow Jews living and working with impoverished communities overseas has strengthened their Jewish identity.
My November 5th article focused on efforts by Jewish World Watch to provide solar cookers to Darfuri refugee women so that they won’t have to leave the safety of their camps to find firewood. In that article I wrote that JWW also provides Darfuri refugees “with medical supplies. clinics, a maternity ward, sponsors schools for Darfuri children, and is providing similar humanitarian assistance to the civilian victims of organized brutality and systematic rape in the war ravaged Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). It also advocates for legislation and policies aimed at stopping or preventing genocide and finding a comprehensive peace for Sudan and the DRC.”
The Hillel quote I cited above concludes, “if not now when?” Around the world numerous coastal communities face imminent relocation as sea levels rise because of global warming.The Jewish Climate Change Campaign, a Jewish response to rising temperatures caused by carbon emissions, seeks active political engagement in addition to monetary donations. The campaign asks supporters to pledge:
YES: I believe that the Jewish People can and should play a distinct role in responding to climate change and fostering sustainability between now and September 2015 (the end of the next 7-year sabbatical cycle in the Jewish calendar);
YES: I call on all Jewish organizations, small and large, to create Green Teams that will draw up seven-year goals to effect change and specific steps to get started this year;
YES: I believe we must integrate education, action and advocacy. So I commit every month to learn more about the environment and about Jewish teachings on sustainability; to act by making more sustainable choices; and to advocate for generational change by speaking up to friends, family members, colleagues and opinion-leaders;
YES: I’ll write to my elected representatives “I call on you and our government to build a more sustainable global economy; to support the creation of green jobs; to prioritize protecting vulnerable populations; and to ensure that the UN Climate Change Conference creates the strongest possible framework to ameliorate climate change.”
YES: I hope 600,000 Jewish people join me in signing this pledge. Please add my name to the list.
Jewish Funds for Justice seeks to create a just, fair, and compassionate America through grantmaking and loans, service, learning, leadership development, organizing, education, and advocacy to achieve social and economic security and opportunity for all Americans by investing in healthy neighborhoods, vibrant Jewish communities, and skillful leaders. Their programs reflect four strategies to address the root causes of social and economic inequality in the United States:
* Expanding the Jewish progressive base and increasing its capacity for creating economic justice.
* Partnering with the center to engage them on issues of common concern.
* Strengthening the capacity of low income communities and their grassroots organizations.
* Reestablishing the Jewish community’s role as an anchor and ally to those committed to social and economic justice.
There are many organizations that fund charitable projects in Israel. None of those that I recommend fund settlements in the West Bank that most Israelis agree are an impediment to a two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and, moreover, that such a solution is essential to Israel’s future as a Jewish democracy. New Israel Fund supports a variety ofsocial justice and human rights projects in Israel. Rabbis for Human Rights is an advocacy organization that documents human rights abuses in Israel. Israel is home to some of the world’s cutting edge medical research, and Hadassah helps fund some of that research in its hospitals and clinics. Hadassah also supports the Young Judaea youth movement and advocates for women’s issues here in America. Israel Union for Environmental Defenseseeks to reduce pollution and funds ecological sustainability projects in Israel. Camp Shutafis a summer camp in Israel for children with special needs. In the interest of full disclosure one of its founders, whose son has down syndrome, is a friend of many years, and the father of another camper (an autistic girl) went to college with my wife.