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April 17, 2014 / 17 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Non Jewish’

Survey: Jewish Americans More Generous than Non-Jews

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

More Jews give to non-Jewish causes than Jewish causes, and Jews overall are more generous givers than non-Jews, according to a new survey called Connected to Give.

It found that 76 percent of American Jews reported a charitable contribution in 2012, compared to 63 percent among non-Jewish Americans. The median annual giving rate among Jews was $1,200, double that of non-Jews.

Among Jews who give charity, 92 percent of those surveyed gave to a non-Jewish organization and 79 percent gave to a Jewish organization. Additionally, 21 percent gave only to non-Jewish organizations and 4 percent gave only to Jewish organizations.

Younger Jews are less likely to give to Jewish causes, according to the study: 49 percent of non-Orthodox Jews aged 18-39 gave to a Jewish group in 2012, compared to 62 percent of those 40 and older.

The most significant determinant of American Jewish generosity is the degree of engagement with the Jewish community, according to the study. Those who reported more Jewish connections — such as attending religious services, having Jewish friends, being married to a Jew — were more likely to give to charity, and not just Jewish charities.

“Conventional wisdom says that fundraising from Jewish donors is a zero-sum competition, with Jewish and secular causes fighting over smaller pieces of a shrinking pie,” said Shawn Landres, co-founder of Jumpstart, a Jewish charity research group.

“Connected to Give challenges that assumption and shows us that the stronger a person’s Jewish community connections, the more she or he gives to all causes, and the larger the pie becomes.”

Did She or Didn’t She?

Friday, August 16th, 2013

Over the past two days, while the army was shooting into the crowds in Egypt and half of Beirut was lifted by a huge car bomb, and many other awful things were happening, The Jewish Press readership has been dealing with mostly the question of the possibility that a Reform Rabbi named Angela Buchdahl could have attained her high position without the benefit of a Jewish conversion.

It started with an article in The Forward (Angela Buchdahl, First Asian-American Rabbi, Vies for Role at Central Synagogue), that basically suggested Buchdahl was not Jewish according to Jewish law:

But she also engaged Judaism at a time when the Reform movement itself was undergoing dramatic change. Eleven years after Buchdahl’s birth, in a move still hotly debated in all streams of Judaism, including within Reform Judaism itself, the Reform movement overturned more than 2,000 years of tradition that recognized only those whose mother was Jewish as Jews from birth. Others, including those with just a Jewish father, were required to undergo a process of conversion, though this process varied among Judaism’s different streams.

Starting in 1983, as intermarriage advanced steadily among its members, Reform Judaism conferred a “presumption of Jewish descent” on those with one Jewish parent, whether it was a father or a mother. The one condition to this recognition was that it be established “through appropriate and timely public and formal acts of identification with the Jewish faith,” according to the Central Conference of American Rabbis.

In many ways, Buchdahl represents the flowering of this revolution in Judaism, and symbolizes a kind of coming of age of its children.

This was coupled with an article in Hadassah Magazine:

Profile: Angela Buchdahl

Though Buchdahl’s mother did not convert, she wanted her children to find a home in the Jewish community. Her father instilled Jewish pride in his children and gave them a Jewish vocabulary, says Buchdahl, but it was her mother who imparted a sense of spiritual yearning and wonder. Her mother’s Buddhism informs her Judaism, she says, noting that Jewish and Korean cultures overlap in their approach to life, their emphasis on giving back and their drive to succeed and to be educated.

So yours truly, enchanted by the concept of the non-Jewish Rabbi, charged ahead. I still believe all the points I was making were right, namely that the Reform  doctrine of patrilineal descent and the “presumption of Judaism” in the case of a the offspring of a non-Jewish woman married to a Jew were on the money.

Except that it turns out Buchdahl may have converted to Judaism after all.

Thanks, first, to our reader Vicky Glikin of Deerfield, Illinois, who wrote:

It is highly unfortunate that your facts and the very premise for this article are plain wrong. Rabbi/Cantor Buchdahl underwent an Orthodox conversion, a fact that you would have easily discovered had you actually been trying to write an intelligent work of journalism.

So I went looking for the misrepresented conversion, and found the following line in the Times (Defining Judaism, a Rabbi of Many Firsts), hidden among long, familiar paragraphs like this one:

Her first reaction was to think about a formal conversion to Judaism, but a second impulse quickly followed: Why should she convert to prove something, when she had been a Jew her entire life? In traditional Jewish law, a Jew is defined through the mother’s line. But over roughly the last 40 years, the Reform movement in Judaism accepted descent through the father’s line as legitimate for Jewish identification, so if a child has a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother who affiliates as a Jew (the mother need not convert if she is involved in synagogue life), the child does not need to undergo a conversion to become a Jew.

But then, the Times revealed: “Eventually, at 21, she did undergo a conversion ceremony, but she prefers to think of it as a reaffirmation ceremony.”

Another clue was in something David Ellenson, President of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, wrote in his letter today (Hebrew Union Pres. Pulls Fast One in Non-Jewish Rabbi Debate):  ”you assume an article that was written in another newspaper and upon which your author draws for his piece reveals all the facts about her life. ”

Meaning, Ellenson may have known Buchdahl had converted in an Orthodox ceremony, but to concede this would mean that he agrees that it takes an Orthodox conversion to turn even the child of a Jewish father into a real Jew — as shown by the very poster child of patrilineal descent, the subject of our attention these past two days.

I still find the entire affair more than a little bizarre: why should someone who did convert in an Orthodox ceremony be sending out all the signals that they didn’t and that they’re proud they didn’t. Perhaps we’ll find out in the next chapter of this very strange story.

Not Only Is It The Right Thing To Do, It May Get You What You Want

Wednesday, October 1st, 2008

(Names have been changed)


We are bombarded with requests for Tzedakah (charity) and it is our responsibility to give. Many people keep their ma’aser money – which is 10 percent of their income – readily available for the many collectors who call. We may even offer those collectors that come to our door something to eat or a drink on a hot day. We have always been known as people who are generous and rarely say “no” to requests for charity.

Non-Jewish canvassers for cancer, heart disease and other charities love to collect in Jewish neighborhoods because they are rarely turned down. We, as a Jewish community, make sure that we care for those of our neighbors who are going through hard times. We make sure their physical and psychological needs are met; that they have food, shelter, and this may even mean providing Shabbos robes in some communities.


But sometimes in our desire to collect money for charity, we forget to consider that the persons we are asking to help us, may be in need themselves. Sometimes they cannot give and some empathy and a kind word is what will help them when they can’t help us. And in our desire to collect for our charity, we forget to see the need that is staring us in the face and lose the chance to do a chesed while collecting for our cause.


After years of working, despite the chronic illness, Minnie’s husband Jack finally had to stop working and go on disability. The disease had progressed too far to enable him to work even on a limited basis. Fortunately for the family, Jack had disability insurance. The policy would pay him 60 percent of his former income. Minnie was not exactly sure what that would mean in terms of dollars and cents. She wasn’t sure if their health insurance premiums would be covered or if the 60 percent was taxable. There were still too many unanswered questions about her income as they transitioned from work to disability.


 It was during this month of transition that Minnie seemed to be getting a lot of telemarketing calls requesting charity. She and Jack had always given to any request for tzedakah before. Saying no because they didn’t know if they could was terribly painful, but not as painful as the response of the Jewish charity telemarketers.
 
Minnie told me that each caller asked her to give the same donation as the previous year.  When she explained that her husband had just been put on disability and she wasn’t able to make that commitment right now, all the non-Jewish charity telemarketers seemed to say a few kind words, and wished her husband a speedy recovery. In contrast, it seemed to her, that all the Jewish telemarketers pressured her over and over to make a dollar commitment now. “Could you donate half of last year’s donation? A third? How about $18?” – all without a word of support or caring.
After finally hanging up on a few of those calls, Minnie finally confronted one. After explaining why she couldn’t commit and being pressured by the caller, Minnie finally asked, “Didn’t you hear what I just told you? My husband is no longer employed. How do you think your pressuring me to donate is affecting me?” After an “Oh,” as way of explanation, the telemarketer hung up.


Minnie decided at that point that whatever money she would be able to give, once the dust settled; she would give to the charities that had taken the two seconds to give her a kind word and a polite goodbye. Sadly, that left out most of the Jewish causes. And that is what she did until a few months later when she received another call from a telemarketer from a Jewish cause.


This time when she explained that her husband was on disability the telemarketer asked her if she could add Minnie’s husband’s name to her Tehillim list and if it was alright, the telemarketer would like to daven for him. Further, could she call back in a few weeks and see how they were doing? Minnie was taken aback. She had never experienced this caring from a telemarketer before.


Several weeks later, Minnie was further shocked when she got a follow up call from the telemarketer to ask how she was. Assuming the girl was collecting again and grateful for the bit of caring, Minnie offered to make a donation. She was shocked to discover that the girl was not collecting but calling from her wanting to know if she should keep Jack on her Tehillim list. It was because of those few minutes of human caring interaction that Minnie began to give to Jewish causes again.


We should never lose sight of the basics. Everyone is fighting some sort of battle. Sometimes those from whom we are asking help may be in worse shape than those for whom we are asking the help. Listening to the response and responding with kindness may make all the difference to them, to us and to the Tzedakah we are working for.


You can contact me at annnovick@hotmail.com.

It’s All In How It’s Said, Or Not Said

Wednesday, July 4th, 2007

(Names changed)


 


         We all have our favorite charities. We tend to give more money to those charities that are close to our own experience, that have helped us or someone we know, or have touched our heartstrings in some way. Most of us give to as many charities as we can, even if it is a small amount. Non-Jewish door-to-door canvassers for secular charities like the Cancer or Heart Foundation have told me that they love collecting in Jewish neighborhoods, because almost every door they knock on responds with something, and with a smile.

 

         In our hearts, when we give tzedakah, we hope we will never need to call on the charities to help us but, as well spouses know, that isn’t the reality. Charities like the MS Society, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Cystic Fibrosis, etc., become all too familiar in the life of well spouses who often look to them for the support and help they need. In most Jewish communities, our own support charities often come to our aid as well. But asking for help is painful. You feel fragile and vulnerable. And that is why it is so very important, how the charity representative responds to you, whether with help or the inability to help. Rightly or wrongly, it can even affect future donations.

 

         Leah was trying to get help with an air ambulance transport. She desperately needed to transport her ailing husband and normal air travel was out of the question. Many of her friends were calling their contacts to see what assistance they could get. Leah was beyond desperate as she wondered how she would pay the $16,000 bill that she would have to put on her charge card.

 

         Through a mutual contact, she received a call from a gentleman who told her that “for sure” he could help her. He gave her two numbers to call. He told Leah to say he referred her to them. One had access to private air transportation that often transported people like her husband. The other would probably help with the bill if the transport option didn’t work out. The man gave Leah his three personal phone numbers, and told her to get back to him. If by some slight chance these charities couldn’t help, he had other contacts. Leah was beyond delighted. Help had finally come.

 

         Leah called the first number and using the gentleman’s name got right through to the appropriate person. Leah told her story and explained her need. In response she was coolly told that that organization only helped transport people with a certain type of disease and not others, like her husband’s. And then the phone went dead.

 

         Leah was hurt. There was no “I’m sorry for your plight,” or “I really wish we could help.” There was no “Maybe you should call…” or any words of support or encouragement. She told me a few kind words would have helped ease the disappointment. It had been so hard to ask for charity in the first place. But just being treated in this manner was devastating. She felt worse now than before making the call.

 

         Summoning her courage, she tried the next number. She was told the same thing in much the same manner. To make matters worse when, as per his advice, she called back the gentleman who “was sure” he could get her help – he did not take her call. After leaving several messages telling him what had happened, and again asking for his help, Leah was pained when he never returned her call.

 

         Having no other places to try, she finally gave up. She told me that, as panicked as she had been before, she felt worse now. The coldness and apparent lack of caring of the people she had spoken to, along with being ignored by the person who promised to get her help, left her feeling more deserted, alone and more helpless than she had been before looking for charitable help.

 

         Years have gone by since the incident, but Leah and her friends refuse to give to the charities that treated her so coldly. “A kind word, even while telling me they couldn’t help, would have made all the difference. Don’t these people realize how hard it is to even ask for charity? I know it’s wrong, but I can’t bring myself to give to these causes.”

 

         When Chaya Sarah’s husband was transferred, she wanted to move her ailing father to her new city so that she could continue to care for him. As a new resident, she had no knowledge of the facilities available. Many people told her to speak to the head of a specific charity that they felt could direct her and give her guidance. When Chaya Sarah called, she was told, “Oh we don’t do that!” No further referral or assistance of any kind was given. Not even a word of support.

 

         Now, years later, Chaya Sarah volunteers for many agencies, but not this one. She gives generously to many charities but only a token to this one. She told me she prioritizes her tzedakah dollars and the agency that treated her so heartlessly is not on her priority list. Like Leah, she felt fragile and vulnerable when she called for help. A kind word – even without their ability to help, would have made things less unbearable.

 

         Not every agency can help with all the needs and requests they receive. But, the manner in which their inability to help is expressed, can mean so much to the state of mind of the person asking for help. It may also affect the support the agency receives later.

 

         You can reach me at annnovick@hotmail.com

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/its-all-in-how-its-said-or-not-said/2007/07/04/

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