By Laura Seymour
Did you get as many solicitations for donations at the end of the year as I got? The requests bother me on many levels, as well as make me feel bad that I can’t give to all that I wish to support. I know that the Jewish way of thinking about tzedakah is that intent and motivation are not the most important part — giving, no matter how you do it, is a mitzvah — a COMMANDMENT (that means you don’t really have a choice)! We do not have a choice to give (in fact, the sages say that even a poor person should give what he can) but we do have a choice about who to give to and how much. How does your family make that decision?
Beginning this month, our kids at the J began saving their tzedakah dollars for Habitat for Humanity. We decorated our own tzedakah boxes (so great to have lots of tennis ball cans from our Tennis Department). Each child also took home a “Tzedakah Giving Calendar” with questions to discuss at a family dinner. The calendar is wonderful — each day has an amount to give based on your home: for each room in your house deposit 25 cents, add 25 cents for each room that is carpeted, if you have a backyard add $1 and on through the 31 days of January. The wonderful part is not the money that each child will collect but the gratitude they will feel with their home and everything in it.
Two tzedakah challenges for your family: first, if you would like to take part in the JCC Habitat for Humanity Collection, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send you the Tzedakah calendar and family questions. Second, create your own calendar with items like “if your family goes to the movies, add 75 cents” and “if you bring in a pizza for dinner, put in 25 cents” and “put in $1 if you have an iPad,” etc. Fill your tzedakah box with gratitude.
Laura Seymour is director of Camping and Youth Services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.