It is a frequent question, asked with consideration for those in need. My answer is always the same: in both Jewish tradition and fundraising best practice, it is not only appropriate but an obligation to make the same request of all members of the community.
To be a community is to accept that we are all for one another. Each of us is required to do our part, in whatever way we can. While some may need more resources during difficult times, all are required to give when and if they can. Today, a member is unable to give but, perhaps, next year, she will be able to participate. That is her decision. Ours is to offer the opportunity to do the mitzvah of Tzedakah.
When my daughter was young, one of her favorite books was, “What Zeesie Saw On Delancey Street” by Elsa Okun Rael. It tells the story of a young Jewish girl, circa 1930s, who shares in a special family party – part dance, part community gathering. During the evening, which is her birthday, she watches as each man, one by one, goes into a room alone, closes the door…and emerges minutes later. Curiosity wins, and she manages to sneak in and hide behind the curtains. On a table is a small box and, as Zeesie soon discovers, each man either takes money from the box, or puts some in. Feeling ashamed that she has witnessed a secret, she quickly adds her birthday dollar to the box and leaves, hoping no one sees her.
This is an old custom, but a clear example of what it is meant when we say a community’s obligation is to support each member.
In another telling, Eli Wiesel’s “A Passover Haggadah” includes a memory he has of each year’s seder night. Walking throughout his small town with his father, they would search for a stranger who had yet to be invited for the holiday. Without such a guest, their joy would have been diminished. He remembers that in some towns, funds were raised quietly, in much the same way as in the Zeesie story: Jews would go to the community house and enter a room where they would find the money dish. Some left funds; some were in need. No one knew who gave or who took, but everyone had the opportunity and the obligation to be sure the needy were cared for, and with the dignity of anonymity.
There are many ways to show you care: you can donate time, expertise, books or clothing, and yes, monetary resources. Each donor and gift is important; each mitzvah, performed by the asked and the asker, is needed. Most of all, each community member is valued and appreciated.
As a member of this community, I feel a special pride in participating in both the outreach and the outcome. You see, I am a donor, too.
Thank you for all you do for our community.
Please demonstrate your commitment to the college’s vital mission by donating today.