When Charity Is A Sin

12/08/2014 - 19:00
Special To The Jewish Week

The televised ad broke my heart.

The veteran returned from serving as a commander in the U.S. Army in Iraq was a paraplegic. No job, no home, a wife and two children to support and mounting medical bills. He desperately needs help — and he is not alone. Tens of thousands like him are suffering from traumatic physical and emotional wounds. Today there are as many as 200,000 homeless veterans in the United States who account for one-third of the adult homeless population.

Rabbi Benjamin Blech

Close Shave For A Good Cause

04/08/2014 - 20:00

This week, 73 North American rabbis will be missing something when they go to Shabbat services: their hair.

As part of a campaign that raised more than $570,000 for pediatric cancer research, approximately 60 male and female rabbis voluntarily shaved their heads last Tuesday night at the Reform movement’s Central Conference of American Rabbis convention in Chicago. (Several rabbis who were unable to make it to the mass hair-shedding event shaved their heads elsewhere at different times.)

An assembly line of rabbis having their heads shaved last week at convention of Reform rabbis in Chicago. Julie Pelc Adler

Synagogue Members Give The Most Charity

New study suggests benefits in widening the pool for charitable donations.

01/13/2014 - 19:00
Staff Writer

American Jews who are members of synagogues are more likely to give to both Jewish and non-Jewish charitable causes than non-synagogue members, but those who identify with a denomination of Judaism while not belonging to a congregation are also generous givers. And Orthodox Jews are as likely as non-Orthodox ones to give to non-Jewish causes.

Jumpstart’s Shawn Landres: Report emphasizes “the extent to which [charitable] giving is empowered by Jewish engagement.”

The Year Ahead: Who’ll Replace John Ruskay at UJA-Fed?

12/30/2013 - 19:00

He’s taken his share of lumps over the years (too slow to integrate Russian speakers into the federation world; too timid in standing up for a film festival highlighting the daily lives of Arab Israelis). But overall, UJA-Federation of New York CEO John Ruskay, the most respected federation exec in the country, has had an excellent 14-year run at the helm of the mega-charity. He initiated and championed the idea of a “caring community” and, though the philanthropic winds were against him, he was a vigorous defender of the notion of centralized giving. As boutique giving became the rage he pivoted adroitly, arguing that it was actually countercultural (cool, even) to support the agencies that did all the heavy lifting. But he also took some chances and funded numerous incubator-type projects, from Bikurim to the irreverent Heeb magazine.

John Ruskay

Donor Walls Make Good Role Models

On the 7th day of Hanukah, an anonymous donor gave to me a car-fridge and a new Wii. (Or so I dream.)

According to Maimonides, this kind of gift, where the donor knows the recipient (i.e. the coveted car-fridge) but the recipient doesn't know the donor, is the 3rd highest level of giving. The highest is the well-known teach-a-man-to-fish and the lowest is when donations are given begrudgingly.

Anonymous giving is certainly good, as Maimonides said, but role models are helpful, as well. Wikimedia Commons

Slump in Charitable Giving Could Last Until 2022


The continued softness in charitable giving is hitting synagogues especially hard, and non-profits in general are facing a slog back toward recovery from recession that could take as long as a decade.

2011 donations were almost flat

Nonprofits Fear Tax Limit On Charitable Deductions

Jewish groups lobby against Obama plan to cut top rate.
07/18/2011 - 20:00
Special To The Jewish Week

In its ongoing efforts to raise the debt ceiling before the Aug. 2 deadline, the Obama administration has gone back to an idea it had already proposed twice before—that of limiting the tax deduction for charitable donations. The suggestion has alarmed several Jewish nonprofit groups and catalyzed them to lobby congressional leaders against adopting such a policy.

Many charities are warning against President Obama's plans to limit tax-deductible donations.

Punching Your Ticket

07/07/2011 - 20:00
Jewish Week Online Columnist

Q - I frequently use a 10-trip punch card on the LIRR. Often the conductor fails to appear to punch the card before I get off.  What is my obligation here? Should I tear up the card before it runs out to make up the difference or am I free to use it again as it is the responsibility of the railroad to collect the fare? This does not involve deception since I am ready to pay the fare.

Rabbi Joshua Hammerman

Razoo Changes Policy on Israeli Credit Cards

If you didn't receive numerous email solicitations from non-profit organizations during the final week of 2010, then your email server was likely down.

A few complaints led Razoo to change its policy on accepting credit card donations from Israel.
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