Thursday, August 16, 2007

Tzedakah II or towards a new way to tithe

This past week I was at the havurah institute in New Hampshire. It was a great week. To be fair a week of August vacation in upper New England was sure to please, but this went beyond any normal expectation. There were so many brilliant, beautiful people, so many conversations, songs, dreams hatched, things learned, and relationships furthered.

While at 'tute i kept a list of things to blog about. hopefully i will cover most of them in the next few weeks. sorry my posting has been slow so far.

Before I offer my first idea hatched at institute, a few quick links:

  • you can read a blog roundup here
  • we had some meetings discussing big changes at jewschool. you can read more here and here.
  • a fuller account of the tzedakah class can be found here.
Thank you to Magid for providing the fuller account linked to above. I too, took the course on tzedakah. I loved working through some of the talmudic texts and have made tentative plans to work with them more slowly with Jacob upon the return of our life to rest here in DC. While taking the class I gained some clarity into what i am comfortable and uncomfortable about with tzedakah. a few months back i wrote about my process of tithing. I am quite comofrtable with the process of setting aside money with the intention of giving it away. i am less comfortable knowing exactly where to give it. after speaking with some friends including Jo and Jacob we hatched a plan to get some folks toghether with a broad portfolio of justice-related expertises and each basically get charged with sub-advising part of a tzedakah portfolio. we would probably all put a large chunk of our tithes into a donor-advised fund and then design it's allocations. each person would make allocation recommendations in their specialty and we'd have a diverse and effective array of causes. anyone who was so inclined, whether or not they had a role in the allocations advice, could donate to the fund and have there money distributed according to the allocations.

basically, it'd be a great way to aggregate expertise in domestic poverty reduction, global poverty, human rights, civil rights, public health, etc, and how to realize them in the world. it would provide a great way for young progressives to give and have confidence in the effectiveness and impact of their justice supporting. We would not use our whole tithes in this way as it would only include 501c3 giving (not political giving for instance) and we'd probably avoid most kinds of Jewish organizational giving. Does this sound appealing?


At 8/16/2007 , Blogger Aharon said...

Quite appealing! Also, is there a way I can calculate how much of my tax dollars go to positive social welfare programs (ie, TEA-21, Hope 6, Section 8 Housing vouchers, etc.) I'd like to understand tithing without treating taxes as something inconsistent with investing in fairness, justice, and my community.

I'm reading about your institute experiences with much joy and hope.

At 8/16/2007 , Blogger Eli said...

A Fabrangen story:

Whenever the adults had a community meeting, they'd bring their tzedakah money. We kids would sprawl across the tables of the GWU Hillel building, sorting and counting these great heaps of change until our hands were black. Then we'd sit around (with a facilitator, i.e., a parent) and debate where to send it. I'm not sure how we did it. I think we divided the money by number of kids, and every kid picked an organization (WWF, UNICEF, etc.) to receive his/her share. The adults implicitly trusted our choices about where to send their money.

Now, we kids weren't experts. But there were other reasons to let the kids make the decisions. I would doubt that many readers of this blog attend shuls with adolescent kids. So the moral is: when you don't have kids, use experts.

At 8/16/2007 , Blogger bpt said...

This is not a new idea. In the 70's there were Tsedakah Collectives. You might ask around to see if any have survived these decades, and if not, what sunk them so you can avoid those shoals. My hunch is that basic American anxiety about assets and moneytalk works against these conversations, so really explicit ground rules need to be set, perhaps by using a percent of income. Would there be a pool, or does each person contribute individually?
There are over 1.5 million certified charities in the USA.
I wrote about the tension between giving fewer larger gifts, for higher impact, and more smaller gifts, to help good causes maximize their donor base.

At 8/19/2007 , Anonymous arnie draiman said...

yes, do it! the more people who are involved in direct, personalized tzedakah, the better!

yasher koach.

for your reference, mitzvah man danny siegel is in rockville, and his ziv tzedakah fund has been doing this for 35 years. jo and jacob are big fans of danny's!

arnie draiman

At 8/24/2007 , Anonymous Arieh Lebowitz said...

bpt beat me to it in terms of the tzedakah collectives of teh '70s and '80s.

A quick search on Google for

tzedakah collective

shows that there are a few TC's [hey, I just made that up] in existence now. Knowing a few of the folks involved in the ones of the '70s and '80s [not in their 70s and 80s!], I can ask around to see just for the heck of it what happened to them.

My own sense is that they were informal affairs, four or five or six people getting together to pool some money to give as tzedakah, to pool some knowledge and insights, etc., and like most such endeavors lasted a few years. People's lives changed, they got married, divorced, moved, just "dropped out." So it goes.

> Arieh Lebowitz -- P.S.:

[PDF] Tzedakah Collectives Tzedakah Collectives Tzedakah Collectives ...
A tzedakah collective is a group of people who pool their funds and decide ... At the same time, the tzedakah collective can be about much more than pooling ...

A pooling of funds to boost donors' impact |
At the end of that year their circle, the "Tzedakah Collective" - a ... The Tzedakah Collective is just one incarnation of a growing model for philanthropy. ...

Giving Circles
The Boston Area Women's Tzedakah Collective is a group of 10 young professional women who work and study in the Boston area, bringing variety of backgrounds ...

[PDF] TEC Times_Jun07.pmd
File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat -
Grade Tzedakah Collective. The parents of this year�s seventh graders. bonded together to form a Tzedakah Collective. in honor of their sons and daughters ...

Special Content - New York Jewish Week
At Natan, Hebrew for �to give,� a group of young people, most of whom work as hedge-fund managers, has updated the 1960s idea of a tzedakah collective. ...

Temple Beth Sholom: The Rabbi's Monthly: July & August 2001
A Tzedakah Collective is different from a �Social Action Fund� in that its purpose is not to fund synagogue social action programs, but rather a way to pool ...

Enough for now. Go and learn.

At 8/24/2007 , Anonymous Arieh Lebowitz said...

P.S. See this:

Tzedakah Collectives: Sharing the Mitzvah of Tzedakah…and More
Making decisions about tzedakah in the context of a group can be a powerful force in both deepening our spiritual lives and building community.
By Rabbi Arthur Waskow
Pages 218-221 from Down-to-Earth Judaism, by Arthur Waskow. Copyright (c) 1995 by Arthur Waskow. Used by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

The disappearance of landsmannschaften [societies of individuals from the same town or country in Eastern Europe] and the flattening out of the kibbutz movement have left the Jewish community almost bereft of face-to-face sharing of money and decisions about money. Even in the arena of tzedakah (translated as "charity," but rooted in the Hebrew word for justice), most giving is organized like a modern corporation. ... MORE:


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home