Where Do You Give?

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To Give Where You Live

Feb 16, 2012 by Lauren  |  Everyone is a Philanthropist

This post was written several weeks ago. We’re publishing it now to celebrate Lauren and wish her well on her move to Seattle. All the best to Lauren and her family!

In eight weeks, my husband and I are moving to Seattle, WA for a new job he recently accepted. Moving across the country is bittersweet for us, as we have made many strong connections and friendships here on the east coast over the past dozen years. Still, we also look forward to this next chapter in our lives and are eager to make solid connections to our new community as well.

As is our custom at year end, we sat down tonight to think about where we will allocate our year’s tzedakah. Last year, our giving was issue-centered—inner city arts programs, nutrition programs for children, women’s empowerment organizations. The physical location of the institution or geographic reach of the non-profit did not matter. This year, however, as we considered the charities to which we would give, we realized that what we really wanted was to start rooting ourselves in our new community by giving financially to it. We thus selected some highly regarded non-profits that operate in the Seattle area on issues that are important to us. By making donations to support organizations in the region that we will soon join, we immediately felt more connected, as if a piece of us was already there.

Rambam, a medieval philosopher and all-around mensch (good guy), understood the strong connection between one’s presence in a community and one’s responsibility to support it financially. He taught, for example, that if you live in a city for thirty days, you must give tzedakah to feed its poor; the longer you live there, the more charitable financial obligations are upon you. Rambam understood tzedakah as more than just dollars and coins; it’s also about what it means to join a community—being responsible for its members and feeling connected through your giving. We took our first step tonight and look forward to what the future brings.


Lauren Kurland works at American Jewish World Service as an associate director in the education and community engagement department, overseeing educational materials produced for AJWS’s domestic audiences. Prior to joining AJWS, Lauren served as director of education at Congregation Ansche Chesed in New York City. Lauren received rabbinic ordination and an M.A. in Jewish education from the Jewish Theological Seminary, and a B.A. in education and social policy from Northwestern University. Siddur Mah Tov, a children’s prayer book that Lauren co-authored, was published in April 2010 by Behrman House.

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