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Fund for the Needy

Tzedekah collective to fund a variety of projects throughout the year.

Community Contact Information:
Temple Sinai
Washington, D.C.
http://templesinaidc.org/

Goals:

  • Raise money for a variety of charities and social action projects.
  • Engage every member of the congregation in at least a small act of tzedakah.
  • Involve congregants in creative, effective, long-lasting social action programming.

Overview:
The synagogue started a fund, administrated by the Social Action Committee, to which congregants are asked to contribute eighteen dollars (chai) annually, with additional funds collected throughout the year, including at Shabbat services and during the High Holy Days.

Preparation:
With approximately twenty thousand dollars at its disposal, the Social Action Committee established a set of guidelines for the distribution and use of the fund. The majority of funds are distributed to local organizations that assist under-served families in the areas of housing, nutrition, or educational opportunity. Priority is given to organizations that demonstrate high efficiency converting funds to meaningful services and have been recommended by committee members, congregants, or other local organizations.

Project Implementation:
The Social Action Committee also uses money from the fund to conduct congregation-wide activities throughout the year. These events include:

  • Thanksgiving Baskets for Needy Families. This event appeals to both older members, who shop and pack, and the children of the congregation, who are invited to decorate the baskets, which are distributed to area families in need..
  • Christmas Breakfast for the Homeless. Over sixty congregants spend Christmas Eve preparing thousands of pancakes and serving them the next morning at local homeless shelters.
  • Providing Shelter for Sukkot. The confirmation class celebrates Sukkot each year with a home rebuilding project, which often includes adult congregants willing to invest a bit of sweat equity.

A significant portion of the Fund is committed to the annual Social Action Service Award. Congregants are asked to nominate an organization that promotes social justice or social action in the community. Preference is given to those organizations with which the congregation can develop a long lasting relationship. The Social Action Award is presented at the annual Social Action Shabbat, a service dedicated to the volunteers and accomplishments of the past year.

Results:
The purpose of a modest annual commitment has many benefits: it allows even the least advantaged members to make a charitable contribution without personal hardship; it acts as a reminder to the more fortunate that charitable contributions are a Jewish obligation; and when all funds are combined, it allows the congregation to have a significant impact on the community.

Through thoughtful administration, the fund acts as a tool for promotion and education of social justice/social action issues. It permits every member of the congregation to participate in as great or small a means as ones conscience requires. It bridges the generation gap by providing activities that can be enjoyed by old and young alike. It helps to build relationships and alliances with community groups by way of volunteerism and financial contribution. And it reminds us, as Jews, and as human beings, that some of the greatest satisfaction comes from serving others.