Saturday, December 24, 2011

My Last-Minute Gift Giving Guide. Of a Different Kind.

Yes, I know that I'm late for the "gift giving" season. But this guide is for a different sort of gift. It's not the kind of guide where you give presents to your loved ones. Rather, this guide is for people who want to give to people that they don't know and never heard of. That's right - it's my First Ever, Annual, End-of-(Secular)-Year, Tzedakah Guide.
For those of you living in the United States (and Israel), we're at the tail end of the tax year, meaning that you might want to give some tzedakah and enjoy the last minute benefits of the corresponding deduction. And, according to this article in the Washington Post, you won't be alone. Plus, I received the following email from a friend, who wrote me:
I’m doing end of year accounting, and I while most of my tzedaka is local, I like to give something to aniyei eretz Yisrael. I somehow went an entire year without any personalized requests from people I trust. (I put solicitations from organizations I know nothing about directly into recycling – I’m so very eco-conscious that way.) Any suggestions? Oh, I do have two requirements:
1. I don’t like giving to organizations that hate me / my hashkafa / think I’m a goy but will accept my money anyway. I’m perfectly fine letting insular communities be completely self-supporting.
2. I don’t like giving to organizations that encourage dependency. If your hashkafa is to be poor and starving, that’s fine. I never considered the deprived monastic life a major part of my religion, but if that’s your religion I certainly don’t want to disrupt your way of life by pumping money into it.

So, I'm sharing my answers with you, in the hopes that you too will dig deep and help support a worthy Eretz Yisrael cause. Caveat: I work at the Orot College of Education, which I support wholeheartedly, and strongly recommend donating tzedakah towards our scholarship fund, which helps young women complete their education. If you're interested, email me here. That being said, here are some Israeli tzedakah options fitting the above criteria that I recommend wholeheartedly (all allow online donations):

1. Leket Israel: At its core, Leket Israel reclaims food that would otherwise have gone to waste, from restaurants to grocery stores to entire fields, and uses that food to feed the hungry.
2. Jobkatif: Created originally to assist the former residents of Gush Katif and help them find new jobs (and often new careers), JobKatif is a grassroots organization that has helped change literally thousands of lives in Israel for the better.
3. Pa'amonim: This organization, instead of simply giving poor people money, trains volunteers to help people who have jobs but have fallen into debt get a handle on their finances, so that they can get on track on their own, and don't need charity.
4. Hazon Yeshaya: It's a soup kitchen. They give hungry people food.
That's enough for one year. If you've got money left over, email me. I'll be happy to make other suggestions.

With blessings for a very blessed, profitable new (secular) year, in which you'll need to make many tax-deductible donations!