Hanukkah: Economic Justice: Incorporate Tzedakah into Hanukkah Parties

Incorporate Tzedakah into Hanukkah Parties

Give three percent of the cost of your Chanukah party to MAZON: A Jewish response to Hunger. 

Collect funds and items for Ner Shel Tzedakah at the party.

Letter-writing Campaign
Ask guests to write letters about pertinent social action issue during the party. For instance, write letters to corporations about sweatshop labor or to elected officials about anti-poverty initiatives.

Become part of an “Out of the Cold Coalition” or Interfaith Hospitality Housing Network
As we kindle the Hanukkah lights, we think about those who lack a warm place to stay during the winter. Many congregations help the homeless find a warm place to sleep by partnering with interfaith “Out of the Cold” coalitions. As a member of these coalitions, congregations take turns providing shelter for homeless men, women or families during the winter months. Often, participating congregations host guests for one-week periods. By bringing the homeless poor into our homes, we can bring light to others and raise awareness about the long-term causes and effects of hunger and homelessness.

Provide a Hot Meal to Those in Need
Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel of Elkins Park, PA planned a Hanukkah Dinner for residents of the Federation Housing Buildings in NE Philadelphia. Dinner was cooked and served by volunteers from the congregation, including the confirmation class, to approximately 250-300 guests, regardless of religion or nationality. One congregant hosted at each table and the synagogue provided professional entertainment during the meal. The congregation also provided buses to pick up all of the invited residents.

Take Action on Slavery, Child Labor and Sweatshops
The most dramatic ways in which global poverty manifests itself are through slavery, child labor and sweatshops. Over 27 million people are enslaved today, which is more than those who were enslaved in all 400 years of the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade. Many of the world’s poor, including children, are forced to labor in sweatshops or on farms for minimal or no wages. They work long hours in unsafe conditions, are barred from organizing and lack access to medical care. Workers commonly face verbal and physical abuse and intimidation to keep them from speaking out, fearing job loss or deportation. During Hanukkah as we read Al HaNisim, a prayer giving thanks for our freedoms, we can take steps to ensure the basic human rights of those around the world.

Give Gifts that Promote Fair Working Conditions 
Give gifts that promote fair conditions for the working poor around the world. Many of the products we buy – from coffee to chocolate, from carpets to clothing – are made by people forced to work in sweatshops, whether in factories or on farms. As we purchase gifts for family and friends this Hanukkah, we can support those who are working to end sweatshop labor and take action to ensure fair working conditions for everyone by purchasing Fair Trade products. To learn more about Fair Trade and to find out where and how to purchase Fair Trade gifts for your loved ones this Hanukkah, click here.

Conduct a Fair Trade Coffee Fundraiser 
High school students at Temple Kol Ami in White Plains, New York, sold Fair Trade coffee at the temple’s Hanukkah boutique and stocked their booth with informational material about the importance of Fair Trade. Through this program, students provided a way for members of the community to purchase fairly traded gifts for Hanukkah, educated the community about Fair Trade and raised over $500 towards their service mission to El Salvador with the American Jewish World Service. You can purchase wholesale Fair Trade coffee, tea and chocolate and find informational materials at the Interfaith Coffee Program of Equal Exchange.

Raise Awareness About Sweatshop Labor 
In this season of shopping, instead of spending a day at the mall buying gifts, pursue justice instead. Let store managers and retail companies know that their customers are concerned about sweatshops, and encourage them to sell sweatshop-free products. Divide into small groups to visit different stores. Ask the manager challenging questions to raise awareness about this hidden issue. You may wish to write a letter explaining your youth group’s opposition to sweatshop labor to give to the manager during your conversation. For more information, head to www.freethechildren.com and www.nfty.org/resources/actiontheme/resources.html

Invite an Escaped Slave or Abolitionist to Speak to Your Community 
This is one of the most effective ways to inform congregants about modern day slavery. Consider including a text study, informational materials, fundraising and/or a letter writing campaign as part of the event. Iabolish.com has a list of speakers you can invite to your community. 

Make sure Program ‘Giveaways’ are Sweatshop Free 
Research the companies you use for ‘giveaways.’ Try to find sweatshop-free companies instead of hiring the cheapest company for your T-shirts, hats and other gifts that are given out at retreats, Mitzvah Days and other programs. Begin your search for union made items at www.unitehere.org,or  www.unionwear.com.

Resources on Slavery, Child Labor, and Sweatshops

  • “They Urgently Depend on It: Sweatshops, Raising Awareness in Congregations” from the RAC (scroll down to “Sweatshops”)
  • Visit the RAC Issues pages for Fair Trade, child soldiers, labor relations, human rights, sexual trafficking, Sudan and many others. Go to our homepage and click on the “Issues” section.
  • www.iabolish.com has information on global slavery, information sheets and advocacy resources.
  • Free the Children provides a full discussion of child labor. During 2004-5, NFTY’s social action theme was slavery and trafficking. Its issues page has links to many helpful resources.
  • No Sweat, Co-op America’s campaign to end sweatshop labor.