February 25, 2022
One of the great struggles of modern-day fundraising is highlighted in this week’s Torah portion, Vayakhel. In the 21st Century, general fundraising has become the process of simply building relationships between donors and their charities of choice. Each nonprofit tries to position itself to best highlight the projects, programs, and initiatives being implemented in order to pull on the philanthropic heartstrings of generous donors looking for meaningful places to share their wealth.
However, Jewish philanthropy, as this week’s Torah portion so clearly states, is about connecting the donor to the need and encouraging them to be so personally involved that they make their gift with special attention, highlighting their direct investment in the cause. In fact, when Moses asks, “everyone whose heart is so moved” (Exodus 35:5) and again from “all whose hearts moves them” (35:22) and yet again from the community “whose hearts moves them to bring anything” (35:29) to support the building of the sacred Mishkan (the Tabernacle – ritual tent) in the desert, in only a few short days of collecting the people’s donations Moses has to proclaim that “no man or woman should make any further effort toward bringing gifts for this sacred cause.” (36:6) And “So the people stopped bringing: their efforts had been more than enough for all the tasks to be done.” (36:6-7)
Seriously, when was the last time you heard a development professional tell prospective donors, “Sorry folks, we’ve reached our limit for contributions. Nobody is allowed to bring anything more to the cause.”
The great sage, Ramban, highlighted the phrase “making effort” as the key to why the people were engaged. Ramban explains that the use of this verb signaled that the gifts were not simply possessions that the people were donating. These gifts were personalized artifacts and handmade creations that showed the people’s investment in the cause.
Donating to the Jewish community has always been about connecting a donor to our purpose, making sure that we remember that we are a link in a 5,000-year-old chain. It is critical that we maintain the connection between our people’s past and the future generations yet to come. Donating to the Jewish community is not like supporting a general charity of choice, which has value and should be acknowledged for the good it does. But donating to the Jewish community is an investment in nurturing lives, building community, and sustaining our people’s future.
Today, Jewish Federations across North America are rolling out an international campaign to immediately assist the Jews in Ukraine. We are deeply concerned with everyone suffering the consequences of Russia’s unprovoked military invasion and pray for a swift and peaceful resolution. Therefore, the Jewish Federation of San Antonio, along with our partner Federations across the United States and Canada are asking for your help, your personal support, and like Moses said in this week’s parashah so many centuries ago, “from everyone whose heart so moves them.” Please consider making any donation possible, because when we strengthen and support any Jewish community across the globe, we are…