This publication has been reprinted from Gym Shoes and
Irisis, Book II, with the permission of the author, Danny
Siegel, and the publisher, Town House Press, Spring Valley,
NY. Updated and Copyrighted June 2004.
1. Pick some
immediately-solvable Tzedakah situation and solve it:
shoes, holiday meal, table and chairs for recently-arrived
immigrant family, space heater, large print prayer book
for synagogues. Get to know the feeling that you have
done something easy that makes a difference. Flex your
stuffed animals, teddy bears, and Beanie Babies (and other
similar items) for distribution to kids in hospitals (in
America, Canada and in Israel). Don't be surprised to
learn that elderly people love them too!
3. Learn some magic, clowning, and balloon-animal making and
use these skills in local institutions and for agencies such
as Big Brother and Big Sister programs. It is a great
way to do the Mitzvah of Bikur Cholim—Visiting the Sick—in
pediatrics ward of hospitals. (Sweet Pea and Buttercup
(=Mike and Sue Turk), are willing to offer help in this area:
19 Mohawk Rd., Short Hills, NJ 07078, 973-376-2885).
a Flower Committee to take leftover flowers from synagogue
and other Jewish communal events to shelters, hospitals, or
residence for the elderly.
5. Write cards
for soldiers to be put in packages for Barbara Silverman’s
a Package From Home project. Mail them to her, or have them
delivered by Mitzvah messenger [A Package From Home, Barbara
Silverman, Keren Kayemet St. 12, Jerusalem, Israel, 02-623-2548,
6. Put a book
sale rack for Jewish books in your synagogue or JCC lobby.
Overcharge for the books and give the difference to Tzedakah.
7. Open a separate checking account for Tzedakah and deposit
a portion of your income as soon it arrives.
to your local UJA-Federation campaign.
9. Take a
tour of your local Tzedakah agencies, Federation-sponsored
and other, private-organizations. (Some communities, like
San Francisco, take contributors on a day-long bus tour.)
Ask questions, learn about the workings of the agency, and
10. Seek out
the local Mitzvah heroes. Meet them, talk to them, invite
them to speak to community groups (particularly the religious
schools). Apprentice yourself to one of them.
a food barrel in your local synagogue or other Jewish communal
building. Collect food and distribute to individuals in need,
either through local agencies or individual contacts. Have
children and adults decorate the food barrel together.
12. Set up
a Mitzvah crib to gather all kinds of items for infants and
young children: stuffed animals, toys, diapers, books, blankets,
strollers, other cribs, etc., and get them to agencies that
will distribute them to people who need them.
13. Seek out
unused Yiddish books in your library, in your friends' libraries,
and community libraries and send them to the National Yiddish
Book Center. (48 Woodbridge Street, South Hadley, MA 01075,
413-535-1303, Fax: 413-535-1007.) They have people around
the United States and Canada ("Zamlers") who will
help with the shipping. (By consulting local Sefardi Jews,
you might want to help set up a similar project for books
14. Make a
home-made Tzedakah box (Pushka) for your home. When
it is full, have the entire family decide where the money
15. Have your
synagogue give a Tzedakah box to every bar and bat mitzvah
kid. Ideal synagogue gift for weddings, Chanukat Habayit (moving
into a new home), conversion, and other occasions. Get residents
of the local residence for the elderly to make the Tzedakah
boxes. (Contact Irvin Goldstein, The Temple, 5101 Brownsboro
Rd., Louisville, KY 40241, 502-423-1818.)
16. Have the
synagogue provide a Tzedakah box for every family unit. A
good time to distribute them is when people come to pick up
their High Holiday tickets.
17. At organizational
programs and meetings, have each member give $1.00 to a specific
member. That person will become the Shaliach/Shelichah—Messenger
to distribute the money. At the next meeting, he or she reports
on the allocation, unless there is a need for secrecy about
18. Call your
Rabbi and ask about his or her private Tzedakah discretionary
fund. Indicate that you are willing to be "on call"
if emergencies arise and extra assistance is needed.
Rabbis know of an incredibly wide range of Tzedakah situations
where secrecy is an absolute must. This is a great way to
be an anonymous miracle worker.
19. Pick on
night of Chanukah when you will want relief from the burden
and craziness of giving gifts, and donate the money you would
have used for a gift to Tzedakah. Buy extra gifts and
give them to those who would not otherwise have Chanukah gifts.
(Contact Sharon Halper, 914-723-7727.)
20. Ask the
finder of the Afikoman on Passover if he or she would be willing
to have the cost of the gift given to Tzedakah instead. Contribute
to that individual's favorite Tzedakah.
the money you would have used for food on Yom Kippur or other
fast days to MAZON or other organizations helping to feed
the hungry. (Mazon-A Jewish Response to Hunger: 12401 Wilshire
Blvd., #303, Los Angeles, CA 90025, 310-442-0020, Irving Cramer,
22. Tie in
all kinds of personal celebrations with Tzedakah— birthdays,
promotions, graduations, anniversaries, etc.—by asking relatives
and friends to contribute to Tzedakah in your honor. Specify
which are your favorite Tzedakah projects.
23. At various
celebrations, instead of floral centerpieces, have a card
noting that the cost of the flowers was contributed to Tzedakah.
Have a centerpiece made of books, to be contributed to a local
synagogue or Jewish communal library.
Have trees planted in honor of the guests, with their certificates
on the tables.
(c) Have cans
of food, to be donated after the celebration to a local agency
that will channel the food to hungry people.
All of the above.
the synagogue to sell a Torah, prayer books, or other items
they may have more than enough of , and use the money from
the sale for Tzedakah. (Jewish Law supports this practice.
"We may sell a synagogue, and , similarly all holy objects—even
a Sefer Torah—in order to provide for Torah students or to
marry off orphans with the money from the sales." [Shulchan
Aruch, Orach Chaim 152:6.]) There is always a need for Jewish
education scholarships, and we may easily extend the meaning
of "orphans" to include some community members who
may feel disadvantaged, lonely, alienated, or in some way
feel distanced from the community. Some Mitzvah people I know
would include latchkey kids, our Elders, single-parent families,
singles, widows and widowers, people with disabilities—any
one of a number of people—in this group.
"The Tzedakah Habit" of buying an extra item of
food whenever you go grocery shopping—for distribution to
one shelf of your food pantry "Tzedakah Food" so
you, family, and friends will remember which items have been
set aside for Tzedakah.
your local bakeries and grocery stores to channel day-old
and leftover foods for local pantries, soup kitchens, and
shelters for the homeless.
28. Put a
Tzedakah Box by your washing machine to gather all of the
loose change you find in the pockets of your clothes.
29. At organizational
meetings and programs, have people bring in a can of food
for the organization's food barrel.
30. Get a
copy of your state’s or province’s Good Samaritan Law on food
donations, and find ways to take leftover food from Jewish
communal affairs to appropriate recipients. Encourage local
Jewish caterers to get involved. (Call City Harvest, 212-349-4004
31. Have your
synagogue ask each member to bring a non-perishable food item
for the food barrel before Kol Nidre begins.
Passover, collect the Chametz you are removing from your house,
and, using the synagogue as a drop-off point, distribute it
to a local food pantry.
33. Have your
synagogue and caterers the MAZON project where 3% of the cost
of an affair is donated to MAZON. The contributions are used
by MAZON to support hunger programs around the world. (See
#21 for MAZON address.)
34. Do your
own individualized holiday food project: buy provisions for
a family for Rosh Hashana, Purim, Chanukah, etc. Channel the
provisions through an agency who will locate a family who
would need the food. (You won't need to know the recipients,
and they won't know you. There's always a middle-person.)
35. Get involved
in the local "Meals on Wheels" program.
a food pantry in your synagogue.
the shelters, food banks, and soup kitchens in your town and
locate Jewish street people. Organize a program in the Jewish
community to provide services for them. (Contact: The Ark,
6450 California Avenue, Chicago, IL 60645, 312-973-1000.)
a shelter for homeless people in your synagogue. (Contact:
Temple Israel, 1180 University Dr., NE, Atlanta, GA 30306,
404-873-3147 or Temple Israel, 1014 Dilworth Road, Charlotte,
NC 28203, 704-376-2769.)
involved in organizational Tzedakah work— Hadassah, ORT, Sisterhoods,
Federations, synagogue, youth groups— tell your family and
friends exactly what Mitzvah work you are doing and why you
are doing it. (I am shocked by how many children of involved
parents - and parents of involved children - have no idea
why the parent or child is always going to meetings, making
phone calls, doing mailings. The higher aspects of the Tzedakah
work often get lost in the organizational shuffle.)
- inform your driving-age children that they are expected
to use the car a certain percentage of the time for Mitzvah
a synagogue Tzedakah committee to cover very direct Mitzvah
work. (Contact: Marlboro, NJ, Jewish Center Tzedakah Committee,
POB 98, School Road West, Marlboro, NJ 07746, 732-536-3358.)
your organization's mailing list to include the members' occupations
and special interests. Inquire as to what limit merchants
and professionals are willing to donate goods and services
for specific Mitzvah projects. (Do not exceed their expressed
limits. Respect the bounds they set.)
43. Make your
synagogue and Jewish communal buildings accessible to people
with disabilities....including the synagogue Bima.
large print and braille editions of the prayer book, Chumash,
a large print and braille section of your synagogue and agency
library. Ask visually impaired individuals which books they
might want. Publicize this service in the synagogue or agency
bulletin and local newspapers. (For large print and braille
books of Jewish interest, contact: The Jewish Braille Institute
of America, 110 E. 30th St., NY, NY 10016, 212-889-2525 and
Jewish Book Council, 15 E. 26th St., NY, NY 10010, 212-532-4949.)
some copies of your synagogue or agency bulletin and announcements
in large print.
a Large Print Photocopy Committee to: (1) inquire which books
individuals with visual impairments would want to read (2)
find someone with a photocopy machine that enlarges, (3) write
the publisher to ask for permission to reproduce the book
in larger print by photocopying it, (4) photocopy the book,
(5) deliver to individuals, agencies and/or libraries.
Jewish book publishers to publish some, more, or all of their
books in large print. Specific publishers include: Jason,
Aronson, Jewish Publication Society, Jonathan David, United
Synagogue, UAHC, and Reconstructionist Presses.
49. Have your
synagogue or library subscribe to the Large Print Edition
of the New York Times.
a special sound system (infrared, audio loop, etc.) in your
synagogue and agency meeting rooms for people with hearing
impairments. (Contact Dr. Mark Ross, 9 Thomas Drive, Storrs,
CT 06268, 860-429-6688.)
synagogues and local agencies to purchase TTY’s (=typewriters
and modems connected to phone lines) which will allow the
community's deaf members to use the phone system to allow
them to be tied into communal events. Price range: $275 and
52. Have synagogue
services and communal events sign language interpreted for
the hearing impaired members of the community. Inquire which
members already know sign language...it is often a pleasant
surprise to know that such resource people are often already
53. Set up
courses to teach American Sign Language (ASL), or sign up
for an already-established course. Be sure to learn the contemporary
Jewish terms in ASL. (Contact: Rabbi Dan Grossman, Adath Israel
Congregation, 1958 Lawrenceville Rd., Lawrenceville, NJ 08648,
Basic Guide to ASL
prayer books, Chumashim, Machzorim, etc. with Russian, Spanish,
Ladino, Farsi, Yiddish, or other translations for synagogue
members who will appreciate services more with these translations
a group home or group homes for Jewish retarded adults in
56. If there
are already group homes in the community, make certain the
residents are part of synagogue, JCC, and community programs.
Help facilitate the transportation.
57. When you
hear of protests against group homes in a neighborhood, organize
committees of people to show your support. Particularly encourage
the religious school students to take part in the process.
local general group homes and institutions to locate Jewish
residents. Provide services for them (holiday celebrations,
get-togethers, visits), and extend invitations to communal
59. Have the
local special needs individuals participate in Super Sunday,
the UJA-Federation's annual major phone-a-thon. Two or three
of my friends from different cities indicate that this has
been extraordinarily successful in their communities. Similarly,
they should be invited to other fund-raising events where
their people-power may be needed. Make sure to have
TTY’s available (see #51) so members of the hearing impaired
community may be reached.
synagogues and agencies to mention on stationery, bulletins,
newsletter, and publicity what accessibility there is for
their buildings and programs. (Holiday Inns and churches do
61. Go to
your local dry cleaners. Offer to distribute unclaimed
items to individuals in need.
all national synagogue organizations, National UJA, Council
of Jewish Federations, JWB, and other national organizations
to publish their directories with notations indicating which
buildings have what kind of access for people with disabilities.
63. Keep giving
your money away to Tzedakah.
a testimonial dinner to a dessert reception. Contribute the
difference in cost to Tzedakah.
a Tzedakah-Newspaper-and-Magazine-Clipping Committee to scan
the papers and magazines for Tzedakah articles to be shared
with your group. Review at least one article before each meeting
or event. Compile a scrapbook and share it with religious
school children and members of the youth group.
your local newspaper, or synagogue or agency bulletin to publish
a regular "Be An Angel" column. Specific projects
in need of specific goods and services and contributions are
described,...encouraging the readers to take part. (Contact:
Denver's Rocky Mountain News, 303-892-5381.)
a clothing drive for local individuals in need.
68. When cleaning
out the closet and selecting clothes to give away, recite
some formula such as "I am now about to perform the Mitzvah
of Halbashat Arumim-ohnurg ,ackv- providing clothes for those
in need of them." If you have children, make sure they
are aware that this is a specific and important Mitzvah stretching
back many centuries in Jewish tradition and not just a "something
or other" we do now and again. Also, it is important,
on occasion, to give away clothes that we would still use.
drivers to insure that non-drivers, elderly, infirm, partially-able,
or all-alone members of the community can take part in community
70. Seek out
your local Jewish interest-free loan society. If there is
one, find ways to make their work better known in the community.
If there isn't, set one up. (Contact: Mark Meltzer, Jewish
Free Loan Association, 6505 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA
71. Get a
computer whiz kid to computerize a series of projects - volunteers,
times, places, and other details....a good way to integrate
the youth into Mitzvah work, and a fine way to use a computer.
72. Set up
a local Jewish Big Brother and/or Big Sister Program for the
benefit of latchkey children or any other children who might
need such a program.
a recently-arrived immigrant family. This is a major project
in many communities for Jews arriving from Eastern Europe.
your Jewish Community Center to make all facilities of the
building - gym, pool, day care, message service - available
to individuals presently seeking jobs through Jewish Vocational
Service, Jewish Family Service, or other agencies. During
the tense, often-depressing interim period between jobs, this
can be a most welcome contribution to the well-being of the
unemployed person. (Contact: Harry Nadler, c/o Jewish Federation,
615 N. Alabama St., #412, Indianapolis, IN 46204, 317-637-2473.)
a Jewish hospice program in your community. (National Institute
for Jewish Hospice, 6363 Wilshire Blvd., #126, Los Angeles,
CA 90048, 213-653-0795.)
a program for Jewish alcoholics, chemically dependent individuals,
and gamblers in your community. (Contact: JACS - Jewish Alcoholics,
Chemically Dependent Persons and Significant Others Foundation,
Inc., 10 E. 73rd St., NY, NY 10021, 212-879-8415.)
77. Help revive
or stabilize a synagogue whose membership has moved away.
(e.g., The Eldridge Street Synagogue on the Lower East Side
of New York, through the efforts of Project Ezra; The Tremont
Street Synagogue, Cambridge, MA, through the efforts of college
and graduate students and leftover 60's people in Boston.)
78. Ask the
principal of the religious school if you could come in and
talk to the pre-bar/bat mitzvah groups about giving some of
their money away to Tzedakah and or other Mitzvah projects
they might tie in with the celebration.
a Habitat for Humanity house.
a Bet Tzedek - a Jewish pro bono (free) legal service for
people in need. (Contact: Bet Tzedek, 145 S. Fairfax Avenue,
Suite 200, Los Angeles, CA 90036, 323-939-0506, www.bettzedek.org
the bar/bat mitzvah families to invite members of the elderly
community to the event, from the old age residence or independent
a special "twinning" program with Jewish special
education children and adults for the bar and bat mitzvah
program. Match up a bar and bat mitzvah kid with one of the
special people to share the day.
bar and bat mitzvah celebrations for individuals in Jewish
special education programs in the community.
84. Make sure
your local old age home has pets. Remember: resident
animals are always better than a visiting pet program.
Also, make sure your local independent housing for Elders
allows pets. (Contact: Linda Hines, Delta Society, 289
Perimeter Rd. East, Renton, WA 98055, 1-800-869-6898, and
Dr. William Thomas, Eden Alternative, RR 1, Box 31B4, Sherburne,
NY 13460, 607-674-5232.)
85. Ask if
your zoo will bring pets to old age residences for programs.
Set up an inter-generational program with the religious school,
always an enjoyable and entertaining event. (The Utica Zoo,
for example, has such programs.)
an inter-generational choir, choral group, or band.
the Jewish elders in non-Jewish old age residences and provide
the mayor of your community and ask to set up a bookbindery.
The books would be bound by the elderly, the books themselves
- the schoolbooks of the school children.
89. Have your
synagogue gift shop market the Kippot made by Guatemalan women.
Contact MayaWorks, Kathleen Morkert, 773-506-4905, firstname.lastname@example.org,
90. Hold a
"kid video" drive in your synagogue or local Jewish agency.
Donate them to a pediatrics ward at the local hospital…on
the condition that they allow the child to take the video
home with them if they want to. This means you will have to
continue to supply the hospital with more and more videos.
(Contact Meryl Innerfield or her mother, Tobi, at email@example.com,
your cantor, choir, singers, or just plain people with good
voices to sing at hospitals, institutions, and other places
where this will be appreciated. (Contact: Cantorial School,
Jewish Theological Seminary, 3080 Broadway, NY, NY 10017,
your barber or hairdresser to cut and style the hair of individuals
in local old age residences and institutions free of charge.
Also a good project in local shelters. (If you cut hair yourself,
volunteer to do it.)
93. If you
are a merchant or a professional, sell some of your merchandise
or give some of your services at a discount, asking the "discountee"
to give the difference to Tzedakah. Set a reasonable limit
on how much you can handle, pick which friends you think will
respond, and encourage them to support your favorite projects.
audiologists, hospital hearing centers, old age residences,
and other likely sources, and collect hearing aids that are
no longer being used. Have a Tzedakah Messenger deliver them
to Yad Sara in Israel - they will repair them and lend them
for free to people who need them. Other supplies (glucometers,
crutches, etc.) are very much needed. (Contact: Yad Sara,
ATTN: Uri Lupoliansky, 43 HaNevi'im St., Jerusalem, 02-244-242.)
95. Form a
sub-group of your SATO Committee to specialize in human-animal
interaction Mitzvahs – there are many. Have a local veterinarian
talk to your group to spark the discussion and begin to launch
your dentist and dental technicians to donate dental equipment
for the free pediatric dental clinic at Dental Volunteers
for Israel. Or, encourage your dentist to volunteer to work
there for a week or two during the year. (Dental Volunteers
for Israel, ATTN: Zev Birger, 29 Mekor Haim St., Jerusalem,
phone: 02-643-6628, firstname.lastname@example.org.)
your plumber, electrician, carpenter, handy-people to offer
their services for free to agencies that will link them up
with individuals who need the repairs done, but cannot afford
to pay. If you, yourself, are such a handy-person, volunteer
your own services.
attorneys, accountants, and investment counselors to do pro
bono work for (a) Jewish communal agencies, and (b) individuals
these agencies might want to refer to them.
seminars for attorneys, accountants, and investment counselors
to study the ins and outs of encouraging people to give more.
(How far may one go when suggesting contributions - arm-twisting,
mild suggesting, strong urging, etc.?)
your local computer whiz, establish a Furniture-Utensil-Vehicle
Committee which will keep track of people who no longer need
certain items, and who, on the other end, might need them.
The committee can serve as the intermediary for the transfer
at no cost, cost, minimal cost, or symbolic cost.
a Mitzvah Day program, combining study about the Mitzvah and
specific Mitzvahs that can be done within the time frame.
Eight hours is a good start.
friends for an evening of Tzedakah storytelling. Share the
stories and review together the insights gained from them.
They should be stories from your own life, or from your own
life, or from what you have heard or read.
up a private Tzedakah library: books, videos, slide shows,
tape-interviews with Mitzvah heroes, and newsletters from
various Tzedakah groups.
an infant car seat drive. Gather car seats no one is
using and get them to agencies that will deliver them to people
who need them.
105. Set up
a seminar for high school seniors, informing them for what
kinds of Tzedakah projects are available on college campuses.
(Contact: B’nai B’rith Hillel Foundations, 1640 Rhode Island
Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20036, 202-857-6560.)
106. If you
are a grandparent, invite your grandchildren out for an afternoon
when you can tell them Tzedakah stories from your own life,
and that of your parents and grandparents, to give them a
good sense of the continuity of this Mitzvah through the generations.
your Rabbi, research the issue of donating corneas and/or
other body organs.
an Ethical Will and put it in your safe deposit box. The document
should contain your feelings about what values you consider
important as a Jew: caring, Tzedakah, kindness, decency, etc.
(Consult: Ethical Wills, Riemer and Stampfer, Schocken Books,
your Rabbi during the week, asking who is in the hospital,
and offer to make rounds. Establish a Bikur Cholim-Visiting
the Sick Committee. Similarly, consult the Rabbi concerning
making a Minyan for people sitting Shiva.
a synagogue or community Hachnassat Orchim-Welcoming Committee
whose committee members visit people new to the community,
welcome them, and introduce them to the nature and structure
of the community. Congregation Beth Sholom of San Francisco,
at the end of services, asks new people in the congregation
to stand up and introduce themselves so that members can more
easily welcome them. Other congregations have two different
color cups—usually one blue and the other white—at the Oneg
Shabbat. The Rabbi announces that guests and strangers should
please take the blue cups, so the members can come up afterwards
and welcome them.
about getting involved in your local Chevra Kaddisha-Burial
Society. Many cities need people to sit by the bodies during
the night before the funeral (Shemirat HaMet.) The movie,
"A Plain Pine Box" is an excellent introduction
to this area of Mitzvah work. (Movie — Adath Jeshurun Congregation,
10500 Hillside Ave., Minnetonka, MN 55305, 612-545-2424.)
you donate to a Mitzvah hero or Mitzvah Project, sometimes
you will want to give to them to use the money where they
think it can make the most difference, but you should ask
whenever possible for a “wish list”. These are specific items,
equipment, activities, or programs they might need funded,
and you may be able to solve it totally by your donation.
114. On any
trip to Israel, always take a larger suitcase than you originally
planned to take - fill the extra space with Mitzvah items,
e.g., school supplies, sox, baby items, etc. for the Rabbanit
Bracha Kapach (12 Lod St., Jerusalem, 02-624-9296).
the computer and computer whiz kid, keep track of which groups
and individuals are going to Israel and ask them to deliver
some of the Mitzvah items that have been collected. Ask them
to buy Israeli products and bring them back to share with
116. Collect a variety
of new, useful, practical clothes (sox, comfortable slacks,
skirts, shirts and blouses) and have them delivered by Mitzvah-Messenger
to people in Jerusalem who will put them at the disposal of
individuals who otherwise could not afford to purchase them.
One of the great, unique Mitzvahs. (In Jerusalem, The Rabbanit
Bracha Kapach, 12 Lod St., 624-9296.)