You can’t wipe your hands clean: Finding your philanthropic obligation
In her article in the Jewish Daily Forward, Linda K. Wertheimer challenges readers to reevaluate the value of a “Mitzvah Day.” She asserts that this annual day of volunteering negates the idea that doing mitzvot should be a way of life. People volunteer once and believe they have satisfied the Jewish obligation to do good deeds.
How does this concept translate to the world of philanthropy? If once a year I pay $125 for a ticket to an organization’s gala, am I fulfilling my obligation to give tzedakah? How often and how much do I have to give in order to fulfill the obligation?
I have just begun to contemplate these questions. Last summer I was stopped on the street by a young guy with a clipboard and ended up agreeing to give $5 a month to the Human Rights Campaign. Though I can’t afford to give much more, I don’t think I’m fulfilling my obligation. I have no relationship to the organization and no knowledge of the work they do or how my money is being spent. I don’t judge obligation by how much or how often I give, but rather by my emotional investment in the cause. For me, my philanthropic obligation is not complete when I write a check or pay my credit card bill; I must be educated about the issues, passionate about their solutions, and connected in money, time, and energy, to the pursuit of social justice.