Skip To Content
Back to Opinion

Charitable Lessons

The story in this week’s Forward about the $12.25 million gift from a group of donors to a Jewish day school near Boston arrives at the end of this trying, tumultuous year with several important messages.

The first is that high-quality, pluralistic day school education is worth supporting. As Rabbi Irving Greenberg wrote on these pages a few weeks ago, “only day schools offer the tools to make a mature embrace of Judaism plausible for many of our young people.” There is no easier, cheaper alternative. A trip to Israel, a summer of camp, exhilarating though they may be, cannot begin to compare to the immersion in Jewish life provided by full-time education, especially for non-Orthodox Jews whose skills, confidence, commitment and identity are tested daily in the broader world.

The second message is found in the target of the gift: debt reduction. Hardly a sexy prospect. The donated millions will not be used directly for programs, buildings or any concrete creation, but rather to enable Gann Academy to retire an existing debt and therefore focus its resources on things of educational value. Anyone involved in running nonprofit institutions knows that gifts of this nature are the most prized, because they strengthen the core mission without embellishment or distraction.

The third message is even more profound. Unlike 95% of the donations to education in America, this one is anonymous. Imagine! A charitable act without a demand for public recognition. It recalls Maimonides’s wise but often ignored teaching that emphasizes the anonymity of the donor and puts at its highest value donations that strengthen others.

The human need to create something in our image, and to receive credit where credit is fairly due, is difficult to overcome. We cannot all be as generous and self-effacing as the Gann Academy donors, but that doesn’t mean their behavior shouldn’t serve as an example to be honored and, let us hope, emulated.

A message from our editor-in-chief Jodi Rudoren

We're building on 127 years of independent journalism to help you develop deeper connections to what it means to be Jewish today.

With so much at stake for the Jewish people right now — war, rising antisemitism, a high-stakes U.S. presidential election — American Jews depend on the Forward's perspective, integrity and courage.

—  Jodi Rudoren, Editor-in-Chief 

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.