Giving that one small kopek opened up the wealthy man's soul to the benefits of tzedakah -- and once your soul is open to tzedakah, you can give the meaningful gifts that will last a lifetime.
There are some great examples of communities that are bringing the soul back into Jewish philanthropy. In Atlanta and in Colorado, the Jewish Federation has programs where members of the Jewish community meet with Conservative, Reform, and Orthodox rabbis and learn about how philanthropy can benefit the soul.
"We provided the rabbis with various themes about giving, including giving in tough economic times, giving Jewishly versus giving secularly, and the history behind tzedakah and giving," said Amanda Abrams, Engagement Manager at the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta. "We want to make sure that our programs have a stronger Jewish tie, other than the common factor of the attendees being Jewish."
The next generation of professional and volunteer leaders of the Jewish community should constantly remember that we are providing the opportunities to elevate rote donations from philanthropy to tzedakah -- enabling Jews to realize their potential to achieve justice in the world.As a result, we must walk down those roads without trepidation and not be uncomfortable talking and teaching about the Jewish side of giving. By tapping into that sense of soul, intangible though it may be, we can create meaningful, long-term giving patterns that won't react adversely when the tangible money diminishes.
Ezra S. Shanken is the Senior Manager of the Young Adult Department and Major Gifts at the Allied Jewish Federation of Colorado and a third-generation Jewish Communal worker. He was the 2009 co-chair of the Professional Leaders Project Skill Summit.