(With thanks to the Shefa Fund – whose successor organization, Jewish Funds for Justice, has become part of Bend The Arc – for the idea for this piece.)
For centuries, giving to tzedakah has been a traditional way to mark Jewish holidays. But all holidays are not created equal. In this resource, we offer connections between the theme of each holiday or season, and some possible giving opportunities that correspond with it.
The High Holy Day cycle is traditionally observed with Teshuvah, Tzedakah and Tefillah – repentance, sharing of wealth and prayer. For Rosh Hashanah, the new year of the earth, direct Tzedakah towards artistic projects that enlarge our sense of awe and connection.
For Yom Kippur, a day on which it is traditional to fast, many synagogues organize hunger-relief food drives. Direct Tzedakah toward organizations dedicated to eliminating poverty and achieving economic justice.
During Sukkot, it is traditional to eat and sleep in a Sukkah, a temporary booth, which is open to the elements. For this reason, your community might want to focus its Tzedakah work towards reminding us of our vulnerability within the natural world (e.g., ending homelessness).
The High Holy Days end with this “rejoicing of the Torah,” traditionally observed with all-night Torah readings. Tzedakah for education fits the spirit.
Hanukkah is an opportunity to link gift-giving with Tzedakah in keeping with holiday themes: self-determination, religious freedom, and free speech.
This “New Year of the Trees” is ripe for Tzedakah dedicated to environmental preservation locally and in Israel-and to economic justice for farmworkers and others in food industries.
This Jewish holiday, in which we celebrate our identities, points us towards causes that support inclusion. Some suggestions for organizations include: feminist, GLBT, those that support the physically challenged, Jews of color, etc.
Passover expresses Jewish longings for freedom and a world in which our deepest values can be redeemed. Tzedakah dedicated to campaigns against slavery and to just treatment for immigrants and “strangers” is very appropriate for this remembrance of the Exodus.
Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Memorial Day)
In response to the incalculable loss of Jewish life in the Holocaust, Tzedakah might best be devoted to building Jewish life and culture, and to organizing against anti-Semitism and racism.
Celebrate Israel’s day of independence with Tzedakah devoted to peace and security in the Middle East.
Shavuot celebrates the Covenant made at Mount Sinai, where every Jew who joined the Exodus from Egypt, as well as “the souls of all future generations” (Talmud), were given the Torah as revelation about how to live our lives. Tzedakah on this day might be devoted to projects of generational continuity and to legal activism for corporate, government and judicial responsibility.
This fast day recalls the destruction of both Jerusalem Temples by outside forces intent on obliterating the Jewish people. Tisha B’Av also marks the birth of the messianic hope for redemption. Tzedakah for world peace and disarmament fulfills the spirit of Tisha B’Av.