Passing Along the Importance of Tzedakah

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sachs-pete-2009Every year, as the Chanukah season approaches, I reflect on the importance of passing down one’s traditions.

When our family gathers to light the menorah and say the Chanukah prayers, I am reminded of what we share with our children — the history, values and traditions that define who we are.


This is so important to me. My family has lived in Baltimore for generations. My great-great-grandparents on both sides arrived in this city more than 100 years ago. Like many immigrants, I’m sure their early years were challenging, adjusting to a new country and earning a living. Yet, even when times were tough, they knew who they were, and they wanted to make sure their children and grandchildren shared their values.

As my family grew and became ingrained in the fabric of Jewish Baltimore, tzedakah became a value that they passed on to future generations.


Over the years, my wife and I have shared these values with our children and now our grandchildren. We believe the best way to share our priorities is to engage them in what we do.

One of the things we’ve done is set up a donor-advised fund with The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore. Not only is it a tax-efficient way to give, but it provides each of our family members with the opportunity to decide what is most important to us and how we want to invest in our community’s future. It was easy to set up our fund, even at the last minute at the end of the year.

We’ve always believed in the importance of a strong Jewish community. It’s why one of our largest gifts from our fund has gone toward The Associated’s Annual Campaign because we know that the organization will allocate our money to meet the community’s most pressing needs.

There are many ways we all can instill this value in our children. It could be as simple as filling a tzedakah box every Shabbat or designating a night of Chanukah where your children select an organization to which they wish to donate and providing opportunities to talk about what inspired them to choose this cause.

I encourage you to find the time this holiday season to sit down with your children and begin the conversation. Ask them to tell you what is important to them. Let them know what’s important to you. And investigate ways, no matter how small or large, in which your family can give back.

Pete Sachs is chair of The Associated’s philanthropic planning and services.

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