Tzedakah Ain't Just for Jewish Millionaires

Regular Folks Can Do Serious Good Deeds on Modest Budget

Big-Hearted Macher: Steven Spielberg, shown with his wife Kate Capshaw in Cannes, France, is one of many philanthropically minded Jews. Their generosity doesn’t mean the rest of us shouldn’t chip in.
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Big-Hearted Macher: Steven Spielberg, shown with his wife Kate Capshaw in Cannes, France, is one of many philanthropically minded Jews. Their generosity doesn’t mean the rest of us shouldn’t chip in.

By Jordana Horn

Published May 19, 2013, issue of May 31, 2013.
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The Good People Fund finds “good people” — people doing great work on a comparatively personal, rather than institutional, scale — and matches them with donations and donors. The projects range widely in size, are based in America and Israel, and cover needs from hunger and elder care to kids, veterans and disabilities. One organization helped by the Good People Fund educates women in Israel who have opted to leave prostitution; another organization provides horseback riding therapy for victims of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Thirty-six dollars can be a significant gift when sent in the right direction. “Any amount,” Eisenberger said “is important and can change lives. It’s a very tangible thing.”

She cites examples of expenses — desalination pills, child care for women undergoing cancer treatments, graduation robe rental fees — that can be taken care of with minimal expenditure, and whose assumption by donors can make a tremendous difference in the life of a grantee. Last year these individual donations added up to almost $1 million.

The other good done by this micro-charity is perhaps less tangible: As an organization, it holds up its “good people” as beacons of light in a dark world, and as examples of how one person can, in fact, make a difference, even if he or she isn’t a billionaire.

Each funded project was started by people who saw a need and decided to attempt to fill it. One initiative, Down on the Block, helps suburban neighbors experiencing a sudden financial setback, whether through job loss or otherwise, by providing short-term anonymous assistance.

Another, Project Ezra, offers food, clubs, home health care and support to frail elderly people on the Lower East Side.

This is about the true potential of the individual to meet the needs of others. It exemplifies the maxim of the Jewish sage Hillel: “Where there is no one and someone is needed, strive to be that someone.”

Each one opens up a window of good, and a window into the possible. And in doing so, they give us a gift of their inspiration, and the ability to emulate them ourselves.

Jordana Horn is the former New York bureau chief of The Jerusalem Post and is a cont ributing editor to the parenting website Kveller.com


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