Giving Well All Year Round

Written by Gabe Aaronson on . Posted in Features

In 2012, the 92nd Street Y and the United Nations Foundation started “Giving Tuesday,” a day dedicated to charitable giving, as a counterbalance to the growing consumerism of the holiday season. According to USA Today, nonprofits raised $168 million on Giving Tuesday last year from 1.6 million contributors. And these numbers are growing every year: Blackbaud, the biggest processor of Giving Tuesday donations, processed 472 percent more donations in 2016 than in 2012.

Jewish nonprofits engage heavily with their donors on Giving Tuesday. This year, schools, synagogues, and organizations across Maryland, DC, and northern Virginia all ran Giving Tuesday fundraising campaigns.

Since Jews in Maryland, Virginia, and DC have such a wide range of Jewish organizations to choose from when giving their time and money, we asked local professional staff and donors affiliated with Jewish nonprofits for their best advice on giving Jewishly all year round.

Getting the Biggest Bang for Your Buck

Baruch Fellner, the Jewish National Fund’s Assistant Vice President for Government Relations, said you should give to a cause you are passionate about. Even large organizations — the Jewish National Fund (JNF), for instance — often allow donors to specify a program or agency they want to support.

Another way to maximize one’s impact is by donating to an organization with a broad reach, allowing your gift to touch multiple lives. One such organization is The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, which proudly runs an unrestricted Annual Campaign. Chief Executive Officer Gil Preuss said, “These unrestricted gifts enable Federation to meet the critical needs of our community through our support of 37 local, 12 national, and four international organizations that provide programs and services to millions of Jews around the world.” However, Preuss added, Federation is happy to partner with current donors looking to support a specific cause with a donation above their Annual Campaign contribution.

The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore also accepts unrestricted donations for its $31 million annual campaign. The Associated Board Chair Linda A. Hurwitz  said this allows them to flexibly allocate the money to serve the community’s changing needs each year. Hurwitz said this approach is only possible because The Associated has earned community members’ trust over the years with their excellent management and very low overhead costs (11percent).

Go Local. And Regional. And International.

Audrey Siegel, Executive Director for Bikur Cholim of Greater Washington (BCGW), says you should support a range of nonprofits — local, regional, and international — but start close to home. 

Siegel said that donating to local nonprofits like BCGW, which helps Jews in local hospitals and their families access kosher food, a place to stay, and much more, is special because you can see the impact of your donation on your community.

Yad Yehuda of Greater Washington is another local nonprofit whose broad purpose is to serve as the community’s financial safety net, helping Jews in financial need through a free kosher food pantry, employment services, financial advice, and more. According to Debbie Katz, communications coordinator for Yad Yehuda, if you live in the DC Jewish community then you probably know at least one person Yad Yehuda has helped.

Gil Preuss agreed that people should give generously to their local and regional nonprofits, and emphasized that Federation plays a key role in supporting the broader community. “The Jewish Federation proudly partners with programs and agencies throughout Greater Washington to ensure that the critical needs of our community are addressed,” he said.

By way of example, Preuss pointed to Federation’s focus on critical issues like inclusion. “We want to ensure that our community offerings are accessible to everyone. We are committed to driving our community forward, and work closely with our partners to make Jewish Greater Washington as welcoming and inclusive as possible,” Preuss said.

Steven Adleberg, a donor to The Jewish federation of Greater Washington, said that Federations also serve the unique role of representing the community to the external world. Through interfaith dialogue, Holocaust education, and more, Adleberg said, federations give Jewish communities not only a cohesive purpose but also a cohesive voice.

On an international level, Jewish nonprofits are often focused on supporting Israel. For example, the JNF has been working with Israeli partners to build the infrastructure necessary to support new communities in Israel since 1901. Currently JNF is focused on the Negev and Galilee regions. According to Baruch Fellner, one of JNF’s larger initiatives is called Blueprint Negev, which seeks to increase the population of the arid Negev region from about 70,000 to 500,000. This means helping communities plant parks, buy fire trucks, build preschools, and more — something clearly beyond the ability of most small or medium-size Jewish nonprofits.

Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces (FIDF) is another international nonprofit dedicated to supporting Israel. FIDF provides educational and well-being support to Israeli soldiers and builds connections between Israeli soldiers and Jews around the world. Scott Fishkind, a Young Leadership Chair of the FIDF in Bethesda, said he supports FIDF in particular because the Israeli Defense Forces creates a safe place for Jews anywhere in the world.


Linda A. Hurwitz from The Associated stressed that no one should feel limited to just giving money on Giving Tuesday — or any other day of the year. Every year on Giving Tuesday, about 150 volunteers help The Associated fundraise. “Throughout the year, The Associated has multiple opportunities to volunteer either within our 27 agencies, or by joining a ‘volunteam’ through our Jewish Volunteer Committee and participating in planned acts of service,” said Hurwitz.

Debbie Katz from Yad Yehuda said that an important aspect of the organization’s work is performed by community members who volunteer their accounting, legal, financial, handyman, and other expertise to help those in need. Many also volunteer their time working at the Capital Kosher Pantry, Katz said.

If you want to volunteer but aren’t sure how to, Steven Adlelberg said you should simply call up your favorite nonprofit or agency and ask how you can help. “Don’t be shy,” Scott Fishkind from FIDF said. “Whenever you see something that touches you – even if you think you can’t add a ton of financial value — you should always get involved.”

Enjoy and Leverage Your Giving

According to Allen Schick, “You give more when you enjoy giving.”

Schick, a resident of the Woodside neighborhood of Silver Spring, put this ideal into practice eight years ago when he and his wife Miriam established the Torah Scholarship Fund to ease the financial  burden of day school tuitions for families in their community. Together with their daughter Deborah Laufer (who advises on grants and handles the paperwork), the Schicks provide approximately 25 scholarships a year to local families. Everything is done to maintain the privacy of recipients who fill out a one-page application form.

The Schicks provide the funds for the Torah Scholarship Fund themselves. Often, however, they have leveraged their giving to get others to give, such as when new Sefer Torahs were recently dedicated at the University of Maryland Hillel and the Yeshiva  of Greater Washington. The Schicks covered  the full cost of the Sefer Torahs, enabling these institutions to receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations from other contributors.

The Schicks’ favorite charity is Bobbie’s Place, a “store” established in Brooklyn in memory of Allen’s mother that provides free new clothing to more than 6,000 needy children every year. When  someone in the Greater Washington area contributes to Bobbie’s Place, the Schicks give an equal amount to a local Jewish institution selected by the donor.

Step Up

Our final piece of advice comes from the sage Hillel, who always used to say: “In a place where there is no man, strive to be a man.”

And if all this advice catches on, then who knows? Maybe next year we can add “Jewish Wednesday” to the post-Thanksgiving lineup.

By Gabe Aaronson


Tags: Giving Tuesday,