Category: Tzedakah


The word tzedakah is untranslatable because it joins together two concepts that in other languages are opposites, namely charity and justice. Suppose, for example, that I give someone £100. Either he is entitled to it, or he is not. If he is, then my act is a form of justice. If he is not, it is an act of charity. In English (as with the Latin terms caritas and iustitia) a gesture of charity cannot be an act of justice, nor can an act of justice be described as charity. Tzedakah means both.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, To Heal a Fractured World: The Ethics of Responsibility (New York: Shocken Books, 2005), 32.

Showing compassion to the world is very important, but not at the expense of feeding hungry Jews. If we don’t step up, no one else will.
“If I am not for myself, who will be for me?” Hillel said. But then he added, “But when I am for myself alone, what am I?”
The tension undeniably exists for every single Jew. The dilemma of how to triage our precious charity resources must weigh upon all of us. For us to see the horrors of recent natural disasters in Haiti and Japan and do nothing is surely inhuman and un-Jewish. But to make Japan and Haiti our primary focus and to forget about Israel’s needs and the needs of our brothers and sisters around the world is to say that my brother and sister are no different from the stranger, and that, too, is wrong.

Rabbi N. Daniel Korobkin, “Give Until It Hurts”, The Jewish Journal (29 April – 5 May 2011), 33.

Jews don’t give to organizations but to causes. Organizations need to see themselves as tools for donors and users rather than vice versa.

This is not merely semantics. It implies seeing the relation between missions and users, donors or members in a completely different light. Organizations need “network weavers” rather than fundraisers, facilitators rather than directors, and catalysts instead of organizers.

Andres Spokoiny, “Study Points The Way Toward More Avenues to Jewish Life”, The Jewish Week (8 November 2013), 43.

Too many leaders and too many boards spend too much time cultivating relationships with a payoff, raising big money and not necessarily engaging in community building on every level. We need to spend more time and thought engaging more people in our missions and expanding donor bases with smaller donations. Political campaigns have benefited enormously from micro-giving, helping people feel that they are part of the energy and the community and not merely a pledge card with a pulse.

It is time we asked ourselves what we are doing to make the invisible more visible in our organizations.

Erica Brown, “We Need Jewish Micro-Giving”, The Jewish Week (1 November 2013), 66.

The Leanses’ advice for young people who want to give, but feel they don’t have the financial capability to offer large sums, is to start small with a regular, monthly contribution, as Tom did with his first contribution of $83.33.

“Do something monthly. If it’s on your credit card and you pay your credit card, it’s just like a tank of gas or your dinner,” he said. “You don’t think about it. It’s already done.”

Jared Sichel, “Life of Giving Started Small”, The Jewish Journal (8-14 November 2013), 49.

In our first book, The Art of Giving: Where the Soul Meets a Business Plan, Charles Bronfman and I noted that one of the largest problems in philanthropy is the lack of intentionality of many, if not most, donors as they give money away. Here are some of the most intentional people on earth, using laser-like focus to accumulate substantial wealth, and yet when faced with philanthropy’s overwhelming conundrum: having to constantly decide between right and right, they shy away and avoid the discipline that is, in the words of Peter Drucker, not an attribute of business, but an attribute of greatness.

Thoughtful, intentional philanthropists seek to be strategic.

Jeffrey R. Solomon, “Intentional Philanthropy: Geographic Considerations“, eJewish Philanthropy (4 November 2013).

…hopefully at all Jewish organizations, the act of working there should be part of their Jewish Journey. She hoped to connect this personal growth to the act of giving as being another important step on one’s Jewish Journey. Being a Jewish professional deepens one’s own experience as a Jew, as does giving tzedakah. Both can be seen acts of generosity which ultimately reward the giver.

Adam Naftalin-Kelman, “Staff Giving to the Nonprofits for Which They Work”, eJewish Philanthropy (8 March 2013).