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A Grandmother and her Grandson: Talking about Tzedakah

Daniel, a 4th Grader, and his grandmother Jane discuss tzedakah boxes and tzedakah.

Daniel:  You have a large collection of tzedakah boxes, why do you have them?
Jane:  I have a few different examples, each an old one in a different shape, and each to raise money for a different purpose.

D:  What do you love about tzedakah boxes?  What do they mean to you?
J:  Several things - they remind me that when I was a little girl my parents always had a blue and white tzedakah box in the kitchen; and, most important, that part of being Jewish is to think about others who aren’t as lucky, who need help, and try to help.

D:  Do you have a favorite tzedakah box?  Which one and why?
J:  Actually, I do have a favorite.  It’s this big painted black tin one, that is so dented and used.  It came from a synagogue on the Lower East Side in New York City like one that all my grandparents might have belonged to when they came from Russia and Poland to this country.  There is very old masking tape with writing in Hebrew around it that says that the money collected was to be used to buy books, to educate the children.  I love that a group of people, who didn’t have very much themselves, thought it was so important to buy books.

D:  What’s your first memory of learning about or giving tzedakah? 
J:  I remember somebody coming to my house to pick up the full tzedakah box, and giving us an empty one.  The money was going to be sent to Israel - except that it wasn’t ‘Israel’ yet - to plant trees.

D:  What does tzedakah mean to you?
J:  It helps me to remember how lucky I am - my family is - and that I want everyone to be so fortunate.

D:  How do you decide where to give?  What factors and values do use to determine your giving priorities?
J:  Sometimes it is very personal; sometimes there is a disaster and help is needed immediately.

J:  You just did a big fundraiser - can you tell me about it, what you did and what it was for?
D:  I raised money for Sri Lanka by making three lemonade stands, and then six relatives matched the profit.  I also had a lot of help from my brother Adam, family and friends.

J:  What did it feel like to ask people for money? 
D:  I didn’t just ask - at the lemonade stand, I told people that the lemonade was free, but if they wanted to, they could donate money, whatever they could.

J:  Why did you choose the organization you did to give money to?
D:  My Dad went on a work trip to Sri Lanka, and he told me about it, and that they needed money and asked me if I wanted to help raise money.

J:  What did it feel like to give all the money you raised to the organization?
D:  It felt good because I knew that I was helping.

J:  What does giving tzedakah mean to you?  Why is it important?
D:  To me it means raising money and giving it to people who need it.  It’s important because some people don’t have stuff like we do, so I try to help.

Do you talk with your own family members about tzedakah? Tell us below!

Photo courtesy of Daniel’s Dad.

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