Where Do You Give?

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Meet Our Finalists: Michael Cohn MOreau

May 04, 2012 by Sasha  | 

Every day from now until May 15 when we announce our Grand Prize Winners, we’ll be featuring one of our finalists on our blog so you can get to know them a little better! Our first finalist is Michael Cohn Moreau from Nashville, TN. Join us in congratulating him!

WDYG: What is your educational and professional background?

MCM: I have a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and English and I recently got accepted to Indiana University’s Masters program in Interaction Design, so I’ll be starting there in August. Professionally, I’m a software engineer, working mostly in the health-care industry. In the past few years I’ve become much more focused on user experience and that’s really where my passion is. I’m a big believer in the idea that software can have a huge impact on health-care both in the quality of patient care and in the cost.

WDYG: What inspired you to enter our competition?

MCM: Indirectly, my fiancee did. She recently converted to Judaism and in order to be supportive, I went along with her to her conversion classes. One of the classes focused on the role of tzedakah and tikkun olam and it really struck a chord with me. I made a pledge to donate to one charity a month and look for opportunities to volunteer. When I stumbled on this contest I thought it was a great way to explore these topics further.

WDYG: Tell us a little bit about the message you hope to get across through your design.

MCM: I guess the central message is that we are not so different from the people we want to help. I think many developing countries, especially in Africa, still have a mythical, “Heart of Darkness” status in a lot of peoples minds and it’s just not true. While most people in the States don’t have the kind of daily struggles some people face in the developing world, ultimately we all have family and friends, dreams and desires, and we all just want the chance to pursue a fulfilling life, whatever form that may take.

WDYG: How do you think art can shape or change the way we think and talk about giving?

MCM: Art has the ability to create emotional connections that facts and statistics cannot. Logically you can know and understand a problem in detail but if you do not connect with that problem on a deeper level, than you will not act upon it. There is a danger in inundating people with negative imagery (it’s ultimately self-defeating when people feel like nothing they do matters) but art can act as a persuasive motivator and as an argument for a cause.

WDYG: Who is your favorite artist/designer?

Johnathan Singer Sargent. There is something about his paintings that strike me full force, not in the sense of provoking a reaction but in their pure, unadulterated beauty. His technical skill and ability to draw your eye is unmatched.


Sasha Feldstein is a program associate in the education and community engagement department at AJWS, where she manages WhereDoYouGive.org. Aside from wanting to be and play outside all of the time, she is interested in radical reconceptualizations of ancient traditions and in deeply exploring why we give, where we give, how we give and what it means to define giving tzedakah as pursuing justice. Sasha can be reached at sfeldstein@ajws.org.

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