The Only Pitch For An End-of-Year Donation You Need to Read Before 2012

Gotten enough emails yet? From us? From other Jewish organizations? From your favorite environmental/advocacy/performing arts/social service non-profit? From every 501(c)3 with an internet connection and a functioning keyboard? Can you hear me now?

How about now?

The end-of-year donation solicitation email has joined Dick Clark, the Times Square Ball and a plethora of Top Ten of (fill-in-year) lists as one of the most reliable countdown to New Year’s institutions. And because you respect the mission of these correspondents, you overlook the awkwardness of repeated emails appealing to your noble philanthropic impulses which also subtly remind you that these impulses have a positive (if time-limited) tax-liability impact.

And you know what? That’s okay.

The end-of-year appeals are really no different than the work-a-day fundraising that goes on year-round and which is necessary for our society to have functioning religious institutions, cultural organizations, non-governmental social safety nets and issue-oriented activism. It’s the clustering of so many appeals in the fading days of the expiring year that can overwhelm. It’s the distillation of the entire non-profit sector’s life-blood into a potent stream of emotional appeals and idealistic blackmail that can cause us to shut down and turn away.

So I’m here to remind you not to.

Charitable giving is one form of tzedakah — which has many translations in English, but no one definition really suffices to encompass the totality of the word. The best I can say here, is that tzedakah is the moral imperative to complete the work of creation: to make the world a more just, compassionate, creative and healthful place. The work of tzedakah happens in large and small ways every day — from small acts of kindness to large donations of money. They’re all necessary. And when any of the work goes undone or underdone, the world is poorer for it.

We send these emails to you at the end of the year because we are hoping to get your donation for our benefit and for your own as the Gates of Tax Deductions are closing. But I like to think that we also send these emails to you at the end of the year because it is a time of reflection, a time of resolutions and coming as it does on the heels of Chanukah, a time of re-dedication. It is our hope that our message at the end of this year, will carry over to a resolve in the new year to remember the responsibilities we all have to create and support the communities we desire for ourselves and our loved ones.

So yes, it would be great if you would make a donation right now.

But better than that would be if you resolve that in 2012 you will make a contribution — be it of time, of money, of spirit to helping us continue the never-ending work of creating this Community Center…

…but you can also donate now.

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One More Look at December 25th

We just had to share some more of the amazing photos taken by Lloyd Wolf of our 2011 December 25th Volunteer Project. Looking through the photos really brings home just how important and moving this experience is for those who volunteer and for those who benefit from their service. This is Lloyd’s 20th year photographing the project and we’re displaying a small number of the stand-outs from that enormous collection in our Community Hall and Distrikt Bistro for the next few weeks. You can read all about it in the current issue of the Washington Jewish Week.

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Adding Your Light to Chanukah

Our Chanukah prayersOur prayers range from lofty (“world peace”) to social-justice-inclined (“equality for all”) to personal (“have a baby”). Together, they make up a portrait of who we are.

This week at the DCJCC, during every night of Chanukah, our community added our own prayers, hopes and wishes – lights for the season – a project that was kicked off by GLOE’s program on the first night: 8 Ways to Make Your Chanukah More Meaningful. One of those ways was to consider, beyond the usual brachot, what do we want to consider? What hopes do we want to put out into the world? As a group, let us set our intentions, and work towards them in whatever way we can.

In a happy accident, the display board was positioned under an air vent, so our flames actually flicker. Throughout the week, I saw people drawn to the menorah, reading someone’s prayer for unity, a child’s hope for a turtle and that no one gets hurt, others’ hopes for the messiah, disarmament, political wins, food for the hungry, a job.

I was drawn to one in particular: “Peace of heart for everyone.” I liked that it’s both lofty and pragmatic: we need to hope for the big things – peace, love, life – but in the unlikely event that all those big things don’t happen right away, let’s also find a way to be at peace with whatever’s happening now in our lives.

Our lights will be on display in the lobby until the end of the week, and I hope you’ll come and read a few.

Then, we’ll take down these little sticky notes, put the board away and collapse the easel it stands on. As for the “lights” themselves, they’ll flicker as long as we remain dedicated to whatever it was we hoped for and took the time to write out.

JAMming in Franklin Park

By Danny Obeler
Behrend Builders and Community Service Coordinator

After wrapping up my December 25 Day of Service (D25) project at The Creative Center for Non-Violence, grabbing a quick bite at the D25 epicenter, and delivering gifts and foods to local families in need, I suddenly found my self at Franklin Park with JAM DC, a group that brings together Muslim and Jewish young professionals through social, educational, cultural, and service activities.

The JAM DC crew went to Franklin Park and spread holiday cheer by handing out gift bags with toiletries and socks, holiday cards created by younger D25 volunteers, and sandwiches that the group had prepared at the DCJCC.

The response at the park was joyous, overwhelming, and exhilarating all at once.  Hugs were exchanged, a dance party broke out, and what “community” truly means was exemplified by a Muslim and Jewish group celebrating Christmas and the holiday season together with those less fortunate.

 

(Check out more great photos from Lloyd Wolf, on more D25 projects.)

Shabbat Surfing: An Unbelievable Bounty of Jewish Music

It’s programming season for the Washington Jewish Music Festival. Next month I head up to the Association of Performing Arts Presenters Conference in NYC, but this week I’ve been doing some virtual scouting. And I’m reminded of what an amazing amount of exciting, creative new Jewish music there is today. Check out a few of my favorites–some may wind up in the Festival, some won’t, but they’re all superb in their own way.

Yiddish Princess offers up Yiddish Power-Pop done right. It’s like Pat Benetar meets Your Bubbe.

Saul Kaye is singing the Jewish Blues. With a history like ours, who wouldn’t?

Yael Naim‘s “New Soul” was made famous by an Apple commercial. Her new album features songs in Hebrew and English!

Moshe Hecht describes himself as a Hasidic indie-folk artist. Perhaps he can help us survive in the post-Hasidic-reggae-superstar era.

Shabbat Shalom and Happy Hanukkah!

Paula Hyman: A Reflection

By Ilana Weltman
Director, EntryPointDC

Paula Hyman was certainly my go-to when I needed to reference Jewish women’s history in graduate school.

I was very saddened to hear that she had died this week. One of her most significant impacts on me came in my second year at NYU.

My fellow graduate students and I curated the NYU Grey Art Gallery exhibition, “Art, Memory, Place: Commemorating the Triangle Shirtwaist  Factory Fire.” Alongside the curatorial process, my classmates and I analyzed the history of the fire heavily. Our exhibition documented a century of commemorations, tracing the many social and political advances inspired by the tragedy, and the myriad ways in which its memory has been claimed, contested, and re-invigorated.

Paula Hyman raised an interesting question on the fire’s history:
Who owned the memory of the fire?

She argued that rather than the Jewish community claiming it (most of the women who died were young Jewish immigrant women), labor activists and social reformers had declared the lessons of the fire. She pushed me to think about the way that histories get told and shaped, and to dig beyond a single version of an event.

In her honor, I hope you’ll take a moment to consider an historical event that has been “owned” by a specific group, and imagine who the other lesser-heard voices may have been.

(Read more about Hyman’s argument.)

8 Ways to Make Your Chanukah More Meaningful

It’s easy for Chanukah to fly by in a blur of wintry celebrations. We wanted to create ways that got at the spirit of the holiday and made celebrating Chanukah mean more than our usual routines.

  1. Remember what Chanukah is about: visibility! Not only put your menorah in the front window, but also talk to friends and family about issues that are important to you.
  2. Volunteer! Help at the DCJCC on December 25 or pick another organization that could use your help.
  3. Remember what Chanukah is about: shedding light into the darkness! Reach out to a friend who could use your shoulder now.
  4. Make a donation to a nonprofit or charity in place of a regular gift, especially now when the tough economy has meant fewer donations.
  5. Remember what Chanukah is about: fighting back! Talk to your schools to see what they are doing about bullying and suicide, especially among LGBT youth.
  6. Tzedakah means justice! Think about ways you—yes, YOU!—can make the world a more equitable place… and then do them.
  7. Learn a new Chanukah tradition from a group that celebrates differently than you!
  8. Create your own prayer! What does the holiday mean to you? What would you like to see  change? What do you hope for?
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