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Tell us Your tzedakah story!

Nov 08, 2011 by Sasha  |  Everyone is a Philanthropist

Does this story sound familiar to you?

I recently asked a friend of mine about her experiences with tzedakah, from when she first learned about tzedakah to what it means to her today. I found that her memories of tzedakah are very similar to mine and many others whom I’ve asked. It appears that many people learn about tzedakah at a very young age, but it’s not until they get older that they really start to engage with it.

Do you remember first learning about tzedakah? Do you remember your first tzedakah box? After reading her story, tell us your own tzedakah story by commenting below!

“I first learned about tzedakah in Mechina (preschool) at Temple Beth Hillel in Valley Village, CA. My teacher taught us that it’s important to give back but I don’t really remember learning why or anything else besides that it’s a good thing to do. She wrote the word tzedakah on the chalkboard, in Hebrew and in English, and from then on, every Sunday morning on my way to Hebrew school my parents would give me a dollar to put in the classroom tzedakah box. I don’t remember where that money went, and my parents never asked, either.

“It wasn’t until my bat-mitzvah that I initiated giving tzedakah myself. In planning for my bat-mitzvah, my parents talked to me about the fact that I would be receiving money from my friends and family and that it would be a mitzvah to think about donating some of it to an organization I cared about. My rabbi helped me decide where to donate.

“My grandfather died from multiple-sclerosis, and after he passed away my grandmother began working for an MS organization. I decided that I wanted to honor both of them by giving to the organization that she worked for.

“Today, I don’t give a lot of tzedakah because I don’t have a real income. However, I know that tzedakah is something that’s important to me and I want to be able to give on a regular basis, I’m just not sure when, or how or where.”

Allison Whorton lives in Brooklyn, NY.


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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