July 21, 2024
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July 21, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

The Art of Giving Today: A Balancing Act

The Jewish community is currently facing the somewhat unusual combination of heartache and pride, as our brothers and sisters in Israel confront the trials of war against evil. Our hearts, thoughts and prayers are undeniably and understandably directed towards Israel at this trying time, and thinking about our local circumstances, including charitable needs, may seem small and selfish. How can we even consider our local difficulties when the people of Israel have suffered and continue to suffer so much loss and grief?

An essential element of the mitzvah of tzedaka, however, requires our striking a harmonious balance between supporting our global family and our brethren in Israel, and addressing the vital needs of our local charities. Local organizations like Project Ezrah, The Friendship Circle, SINAI, Tomchei Shabbos, Project Yechi, Yachad, the Mikvah, and of course, our yeshivas and shuls, among many others, are part of the lifeblood of our special community, attending to the unique needs and challenges faced by those closest to home—the members of our very own community. And they are all in need of our tzedaka support.

The act of giving, analogous to an art form, requires a delicate brushstroke that considers both the immediate and the broader canvas of our communal responsibilities. Our local charities are woven into the very fabric of our neighborhoods and play a pivotal role in enhancing the day-to-day lives of people who live next door to us, whom we see on the streets of our towns, and who sit near us in shul. This year, some of our local institutions made the decision, due to the war in Israel, not to have their annual fundraising dinners, and therefore may not receive the same donations that a dinner usually brings in. Others, who are holding their dinners, nonetheless anticipate a drop-off in the amount of funds raised. This obviously makes it difficult for these worthy programs to effectively carry out their important missions.

A charity near and dear to my own heart is the Bayit Association, an organization dedicated to the purchasing and renovating of homes in our area to be lived in by adults with intellectual developmental disabilities (IDD). Since the start of the war, I have done very little fundraising for The Bayit, as my heart, thoughts and prayers too are with Israel. But I realize that the adults with IDD living in our community are still going to need housing in our town, despite the situation in Israel. The houses that The Bayit already owns are still going to need renovation to make sure that they are safe and appropriate for our young adults. The Bayit still needs funds from the community.

Similarly, families of people with cancer are still going to need support, the hungry will still need to be fed, and our children will still need a sound education in our schools. Supporting the organizations that provide these services is not only an investment in the well-being of our immediate community, but also a testament to the enduring strength reflective of our sense of communal unity and responsibility. Local charities, tackling issues ranging from poverty to joblessness to education to mental and emotional well-being, have a direct and tangible impact on the lives of our own neighbors. By extending our strong support to these organizations, we continue to contribute to a resilient, thriving community capable of weathering various storms.

In times of crisis, such as the current struggles in Israel, the art of giving takes on added significance. The Jewish community’s commitment to standing with our brethren overseas must be steadfast, as our support for Israel remains unwavering, but we must not forget the invaluable work being done by local institutions, addressing the immediate concerns that shape the quality of life for our entire community. The delicate dance of giving thus involves a dual commitment—one to the Israel community and the other to the local initiatives that define the very character of our own community. The art of giving, therefore, involves navigating a nuanced approach that balances the urgency of the needs of the people of Israel with the ongoing, everyday needs of those here at home.

In this delicate interplay between Israel and local institutions, the artistry lies in understanding that both are essential components of a vibrant and compassionate Jewish world. Gifts to both at this time can result in a practical tax advantage; generous end-of-year charitable contributions are thus both meaningful and practical. The Jewish community’s ability to extend a helping hand to our brethren in Israel while maintaining a focus on the pressing needs of our local organizations exemplifies the true art of giving. It is a testament to the richness of our spirit, where every act of generosity contributes to the creation of a world where giving knows no bounds.


Beth S. (Bassie) Taubes, RN, CHC, CYT, is the owner of Wellness Motivations LLC. She motivates clients of all backgrounds, ages and health conditions to engage in improved self-care through nutritional counseling, personal fitness training, yoga practice, breath training, tai chi, and stress reduction techniques. She is also the rebbetzin of Congregation Zichron Mordechai in Teaneck. She can be reached at [email protected], wellnessmotivationsbt.com.

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