Tzedakah (Tz)Thursday

In Pirkei Avot it says: “To save one life it is as if you have saved an entire world.” I grew up wanting to save as many worlds as possible. I was raised in a home with two parents who participated on multiple non-profit boards. My parents never really spoke about philanthropy at home (at least not that I can remember), but gave financially and were active in the Jewish and non-Jewish communities alike. They set the example of involvement and community engagement and for that I am very grateful.

Tikkun Olam can mean the physical act of getting your hands dirty: Creating a community garden, building a house with Habitat For Humanity, organizing a food drive or volunteering at a local shelter. It can be the time and energy you put into helping lives. It can also mean philanthropy, tzedakah. As someone who has worked for various non-profit organizations, both are valuable and both heal the world.

Our generation views the concepts of tikkun olam and tzedakah very differently than previous generations. Our parents’ generation has historically been involved in boards and gave their time and energy to engage in strategic conversations and direction for the community. Most of their charity work, however, was through tzedakah – actual financial donations. They supported only a few targeted organizations, most inside the Jewish community. Their gifts went to the synagogue and to Federation and maybe a select non-profit outside of the community. Due to a commitment to only a few organizations, gifts were made annually and contained many zeros at the end.

Our generation views tzedakah and tikkun olam as one and the same, and we view it differently than our parents. We give our time much more willingly than our money. We are less likely to participate in boards or long-term commitments, but are happy to come and work for one or two days on a small project. Financially, we give very differently than our parents as well. We are less likely to give a donation, but when we do, we invest not only money but our time in the organizations we choose. We know a lot more about the world and our gifts are more widely spread. We give to organizations that show the greatest impact of our money, ensuring it is a cause that speaks to us, that it is a well-run organization, and that it is helping who and what they promised to help.

Personally, I connect strongly with international organizations and have given to global health and development non-profits. Locally, I give to organizations that impact my daily life. I give to Minnesota Public Radio, to my alma mater, to my high school and to various other non-profits based on a compelling appeal or connection to a friend.

TC Jewfolk is one of the few Jewish organizations I support. It provides me, a single, full-time working mother, with access and knowledge about the Twin Cities Jewish community that I would not get otherwise. I give because it provides a forum for me to connect with other Jewish mothers on the Minnesota Mammaleh’s Facebook page and keeps me up-to-date with what is happening around town. TC Jewfolk has become an important part of my weekly reading and I’m a proud supporter of their work.

For me, tikkun olam is an everyday commitment to our local community and more broadly to healing the world we live in. I hope that everyone finds something that speaks to them and encourages them to get involved both through time and money.