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Jewish Thoughts on Tzedakah

Video: The Power of Tzedakah – Must See

Source: True Movie H,

Federations and Jewish Agency to Provide Financial Assistance to Bulgaria Terror Victims


The Fund for the Victims of Terror, operated by The Jewish Agency for Israel and made possible by contributions from Jewish Federations across North America, will provide financial assistance to Israelis wounded in the attack in Bulgaria and to the families of those killed.

The Fund, established in 2002, provides financial assistance to victims of terror in Israel. Since its establishment, the fund — which is sustained by contributions from Jewish Federations, philanthropic foundations and donors around the world — has enabled The Jewish Agency to provide thousands of terror victims and their families with assistance at a scope of more than NIS 100 million.

Donations can be mailed to:
The Jewish Federations of North America
Wall Street Station
PO Box 157
New York, NY 10268
Attn: Victims of Terror Fund

Online donations can be made here:

Where Do You Give?

A really neat new tzedakah design contest put on by AJWS. What does tzedakah look like? Where do you give? To whom and why?

The Global Day of Jewish Learning

What: The Global Day of Jewish Learning

When: 11.7.10

About: “On November 7, 2010, Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz will complete his monumental translation and commentary on the Talmud. His mission has been to give Jewish texts and learning back to the Jewish people. To mark this achievement, communities around the world are joining in a Global Day of Jewish Learning.”


In Rabbi Steinsaltz’s words:

“Jewish knowledge belongs to everyone. In this sense, I suppose
that my work on the Talmud has helped to open a new era: taking
the books out of the hands of the few and making them available
and accessible to everyone. Our goal is not so much to “spread”
knowledge, but to give it back to its owners.”

“Even before the Global Day, you may also want to engage in some
of the Big Questions that are part of our communal study, such
as: Does God hear prayer? What is my responsibility to Tzedakah?
What is sex for? When we say “do unto others”…who are the others?”

“I have been commenting on these questions and invite you to join
the Big Questions discussion.”

The Saddest Day

Tisha B’Av, the ninth day of the Jewish month of Av is by far the saddest day in the scope of Jewish history.

Both the First Temple and the Second Temple were destroyed on that day and many other tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people happened on the very same day.

We mark the day with a 25-hour fast and many other customs of mourning. For details, there is a good article here.

There continues to be some dissonance in modern day Israel’s attitude towards Tish B’Av. The Jewish State is reborn and the Jewish people alive and well after a long exile. Problems remain to be sure, but none-the-less here Israel is,  now home to half of the world’s Jewish population.

Still we continue to mourn.

An easy fast and better times ahead.


Maimonides’ Eight Levels of Charity

Mishneh Torah, Laws of Charity, 10:7-14

“There are eight levels of charity, each greater than the next.”

1. The greatest level, above which there is no greater, is to support a fellow Jew by endowing him with a gift or loan, or entering into a partnership with him, or finding employment for him, in order to strengthen his hand until he need no longer be dependent upon others…

2. A lesser level of charity than this is to give to the poor without knowing to whom one gives, and without the recipient knowing from who he received. For this is performing a mitzvah solely for the sake of Heaven. This is like the “anonymous fund” that was in the Holy Temple [inJerusalem]. There the righteous gave in secret, and the good poor profited in secret. Giving to a charity fund is similar to this mode of charity, though one should not contribute to a charity fund unless one knows that the person appointed over the fund is trustworthy and wise and a proper administrator, like Rabbi Hananya ben Teradyon.

3. A lesser level of charity than this is when one knows to whom one gives, but the recipient does not know his benefactor. The greatest sages used to walk about in secret and put coins in the doors of the poor. It is worthy and truly good to do this if those who are responsible for distributing charity are not trustworthy.

4. A lesser level of charity than this is when one does not know to whom one gives, but the poor person does know his benefactor. The greatest sages used to tie coins into their robes and throw them behind their backs, and the poor would come up and pick the coins out of their robes so that they would not be ashamed.

5. A lesser level than this is when one gives to the poor person directly into his hand, but gives before being asked.

6. A lesser level than this is when one gives to the poor person after being asked.

7. A lesser level than this is when one gives inadequately, but gives gladly and with a smile.

8. A lesser level than this is when one gives unwillingly.



Charity donors go anonymous as pressure to give increases

Curb: “The Anonymous Donor Episode


Rating the Charities

There are several charity rating agencies on the web, the best-known and largest being Charity Navigator.

CN looks at a lot of financial data and then rates 5,500 agencies using a 0-4 star system.
Questions still abound. Is it all that simple? Can you rate the efficiency or worth of a non-profit organization so easily?
Efficiency, salaries, administrative costs, plus fundraising costs weigh heavily in the star ranking system.
But some charities have argued, and logically so, that they have greater administrative costs because they perform more functions.
Or they incur greater fundraising costs because they are trying to increase revenues to expand their reach to a larger client population.
A good friend just sent me ratings for some major Jewish organizations covered by Charity Navigator along with their CEOs’ salaries.
It’s certainly an eye-opener. Check out each organization’s full rating report on Charity Navigator for yourself and see if you agree with their conclusions.
American Jewish Congress: 0 Stars

Executive Director’s Salary: $205,232

OneFamily Fund: 1 Star
Executive Director’s Salary: $148,077

MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger: 2 Stars
President’s Salary: $147,799

American Jewish Committee: 3 Stars
Executive Director’s Salary: $463,939

AFMDA: American Friends of Magen David Adom: 3 Stars
Chief Executive Officer’s Salary: $279,155

Milwaukee Jewish Federation: 4 Stars
Executive VP’s Salary: $224,767

Anti-Defamation League: 4 Stars
National Director’s Salary: $282,252

Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America: 4 Stars
Executive Director’s Salary: $334,628

Jewish National Fund: 4 Stars
Chief Executive Officer’s Salary: $392,819

American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee: (4 star)
Chief Executive Officer’s Salary: $431,654

Chai Lifeline: 4 Stars
Executive Director’s Salary: $160,295


Better Than Charity

Jewish tradition teaches that there is something even better than charity…

Nearly a thousand years ago, the sage Maimonides wrote:”A loan is better than charity, for it enables one to help himself.”

And Jewish communities around the world have operated interest-free loan funds for just this purpose.

Our favorites:

Ozer Dalim, operating community-based funds in 35 cities throughout Israel. Read about them here. Or call them at 718-434-2228 to donate.

And the Israel Free Loan Associationwhich grants over 400 loans every month. Check out their website and donate on-line.

We were particularly delighted to receive an email from Professor Eliezer Jaffe, an old friend, and the founder of the IFLA with this great news:

The Israel Free Loan Association (IFLA) received a major donation in March from Trudy and Bob Gottesman of New York City. The Gottesmans granted $1 million to the IFLA to provide interest free loans to low income Israeli individuals and struggling small businesses. Mr. Gottesman is also publicly challenging other donors to match the donation in an effort to encourage others to assist the IFLA.

Love the gift to this worthy cause and especially love the challenge issued by the donors.


BGU Looks At Israel’s Nonprofit Sector

Remember the good old days of fundraising?
That’s right, I’m talking about 2007.
The following report summary on Israeli non-profit fundraising in 2008 was put together by our neighbors down the road at Ben Gurion University and featured in today’s Business In Briefsection at Haaretzonline.
The year 2008 was a grim one for Israel’s nonprofit organizations, which raised 31% less in donations than in the previous year. A survey of 225 charities conducted by Ben-GurionUniversity of the Negev for the Israel Gives organization found that 4% of the NGOs that had participated in the previous year’s survey had disappeared and about a quarter are cutting back on personnel. Half, however, reported raising more money this year as the global economic crisis receded, while 17% reported an increase in demand for their services. (Lior Dattel)

Is there light at the end of the tunnel?

We’ve seen a significant upturn is mailing and emailing acquisition during the second half of 2009. And we expect that to continue.
Many Jewish organizations had panic attacks when the economic storm hit in late 2008. They responded by cutting back on services, staff and fundraising all at once to save resources. Now many are seeing that not being in the mail, not being in touch with their donors and doing acquisition for new donors is not a good long-term fundraising strategy.
It may save money in the short run, but down the road when you have 20,000 less donors on your file, you are going to feel it.
Donors also had their own panic attack and many cut back on donations or stopped giving altogether.
Now, with the economy starting to show signs of a turn-around, people are starting to give again and non-profits are starting to mail again.
We’re looking for an even bigger return to direct mail in 2010 and also increased usage of email blasts.

Startup Nation

That headline, believe it or not, refers to Israel, and also serves as the title of a new book by Dan Senor and Saul Singer.

Start Up Nationaddress the trillion dollar question: How is it that Israel, a country of 7.1 million, only 60 years old, surrounded by enemies, in a constant state of war since its founding and with few natural resources, produces more high-tech start up companies than large nations at peace, such as Japan, China, Korea, Canada and the United Kingdom?

The book is an interesting read and provides some facinating answers that the authors think can be applied to the American economy. Take a look at this interview with author Dan Senor when he appeared on CNBC:
We’re proud, in our own small way, to be part of the story as the first commercial list company operating in Israel.

Google Co-Founder Brin Gives $1 million to HIAS and the JTA

Google co-founder Sergey Brin has given a $1 million gift to the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society.

Google co-founder Sergey Brin
Photo: AP [file]

HIAS was one of the groups that helped Brin’s family when it fled the Soviet Union 30 years ago.

Brin, who is Jewish – as is Google co-founder Larry Page – apparently is ramping up his philanthropy. According to The New York Times, he has given several gifts to Jewish organizations that helped his family.

“I would have never had the kinds of opportunities I’ve had here in the Soviet Union, or even in Russia today,” Brin told the Times in an interview. “I would like to see anyone be able to achieve their dreams, and that’s what this organization does.”

Full article here.

The Power of the Cirlce

by Tamar Snyder

Staff Writer: Jewish Week of New York

The Power Of The Circle: the Next Phase in Jewish Philanthropy
Rochelle Kleter never pictured herself as a philanthropist. The first-generation American, born to parents who grew up in the Ukraine, had a hard time finding her place in the Jewish community. “I was one of the only Jewish kids in the public school system” in East Hanover, N.J., she said. “I didn’t know what it meant to keep kosher for Passover. And when I took Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur off as personal days, I was made fun of.”
Yet two months after participating in a Taglit-Birthright Israel trip, Kleter, a financial analyst with Citibank, enrolled in a crash course on Judaism. She learned to read Hebrew and recently had a bat mitzvah at the age of 25. After discovering her faith, she says, she wanted to give back, to practice the mitzvah of tzedakah. But she didn’t have much to give and she didn’t want to go it alone.

So she joined Birthright NEXT’s Young Philanthropist Committee, a group of 20 Birthright alumni who each contributed $250 to a communal giving pot (previous YPC groups gave a minimum donation of $500, but the amount was lowered due to the tough economic climate). Birthright matched the combined $5,000, effectively leveraging the individual $250 contributions into a sizeable $10,000 donation.

Over the course of three months, the group met weekly at a conference room in Manhattan’s Diamond District. They learned how to evaluate grants and met with philanthropists like Charles Bronfman (“He’s a calm, little man who looks like everybody’s grandpa, but he’s unbelievably generous with the amount of money he gives away,” Kleter said). They were each responsible for researching a Jewish charity worthy of the group’s collective funds.

Giving is the Same Process as Receiving

Noach: Rabbi DovBer Pinson

Being “Stiff Necked” and Following Trends

This quote could help explain why the Jewish community lags a little behind in following trends, including trends in social media and new fundraising application.

What’s your 2 cents? We’d love to hear from you!
“God calls the Jews a “stiff-necked people.” Being stiff-necked is both good and bad. It’s bad because you are stubborn and unwilling to change. But it’s good because in the face of fads and trends, you stick to your guns. If the Jewish people were not stiff-necked, we’d never have survived till today.”

– Rabbi Noah Weinberg, from the article “Handling Social Pressure”


Another Take on Efficiency

Maybe it’s time to take another look at efficiency as a measure of worth, especially in the non-profit sector.

There are other factors involved, and they need to be considered when making a donation.

Check out this article by consultant Dan Pallotta in

Secular vs. Religious

Thanks to the New York Times for the above graphic.
Clear, concise and to-the-point.
Charitable contributions drop drastically in 2008 while donations to religious organizations defy the trend and actually rise.
What’s the message for fundraisers?
Should your organization tweak its message?
Get back in the mail more agressively?
It’s certainly food for thought.

Reflections on Maimonide’s 8- Levels of Charity (Tzedakah)

What’s the Jewish perspective on giving?

A good place to start is Maimonides and his eight levels of charity.

Sasha Dichter beaks it down for us in his post “Reflections on Maimonides’ 8 levels of Charity (tzedakah)” in his blog: Sasha Dichter’s Blog

“Maimonides wrote a code of Jewish law, the Mishnah Torah, based on the Rabbinic oral tradition, and he described charity from the least to the most honorable as follows:

8. When donations are given grudgingly.

7. When one gives less than he should, but does so cheerfully.

6. When one gives directly to the poor upon being asked.

5. When one gives directly to the poor without being asked.

4. When the recipient is aware of the donor’s identity, but the donor does not know the identity of the recipient.

3. When the donor is aware of the recipient’s identity, but the recipient is unaware of the source.

2. When the donor and recipient are unknown to each other.

1. The highest form of charity is to help sustain a person before they become impoverished by offering a substantial gift in a dignified manner, or by extending a suitable loan, or by helping them find employment or establish themselves in business so as to make it unnecessary for them to become dependent on others.

Read Sasha’s post in it’s entirety here.


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