The Time for Giving


It seems that the time from Thanksgiving to New Year’s is just one big holiday after another, and with the commercials on TV, the decorations in the malls and the neighborhood lights, it is impossible to escape what these holidays seem to signify — shopping, buying and giving presents to family, friends and colleagues.

But this is also the season for another kind of giving: tzedakah, or charitable giving to organizations and institutions that do good work. Although tzedakah, which literally means justice or righteousness, is an ancient concept that has its roots in the Torah, the timing of charitable giving in today’s America probably has its roots in the Internal Revenue Code. Many people devote some time in December to going through the plethora of mailed and emailed solicitations from various causes, organizations and institutions, trying to decide which is worthy of receiving a donation or a gift of a check, a credit card payment or stock. (My mother once saved all of the mailings she received, and they overfilled a shoe box.)

I was very surprised, and a bit disappointed, to have read in the JT the results of its “Poll of the Week” on Nov. 24, which indicated that only 56 percent of respondents felt it was a “religious or moral obligation to donate money or time to nonprofits this holiday season.” I suppose it should be encouraging that a majority felt that way, but the fact that 44 percent did not share that belief was a disappointment. On the other hand, Wendy Miller’s column, “Giving Thanks,” on Nov. 17, which reported that The Associated had raised $1.2 million in one day, was reassuring.

Personally, I sort through the mail and emails and decide to whom I would like to make a year-end gift — both Jewish and non-Jewish causes. Ever since moving to Columbia 20 years ago, the Jewish Federation of Howard County has always been at the top of my list for giving. My reason has been pretty basic and straightforward. The Federation is an organization that benefits the Jewish community in Howard County, in Israel and around the world. I can actually see, in person, what it does here, and I know what it does around the world. It is a gift that I enjoy making and that brings me a great amount of satisfaction and joy. My hope is that everyone will find satisfaction and joy in charitable giving and tzedakah this holiday season.

Andrew Nussbaum is vice president of Campaign at the Jewish Federation of Howard County.

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