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Helping Others: A Central Theme in Judaism

Renee Eder on Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Before my son and daughter go to Hebrew school, they check to make sure they have change in their book bags to put in the Tzedakah (charity) box. They sometimes wonder where the tzedakah goes and about the people it helps. Regardless, they feel good about the mitzvah they have participated in as long as they can remember. This is one of the ways they have learned about helping others and giving back--a central theme in Jewish education.

For thousands of years, Jews have been dedicated to taking care of others and giving back to society. In fact, in Deuteronomy it says, “If. . . there is a needy person among you … do not harden your heart and shut your hand against your needy kinsman. Rather you must open your hand and lend him sufficient for whatever he needs.” The Talmud teaches: “Charity is equal in importance to all other commandments combined. Based on these and other biblical teachings, every Jewish child, regardless of denomination, in every Jewish educational setting learns about the need to give tzedakah.

At the J, we like to emphasize tzedakah in our school and in our community, to teach this fundamental Jewish value and celebrate charitable giving. This year, for the first time, the J is partnering with FACETS and reaching out to the community to hold a holiday toy drive in our lobby from November 1-December 1. The toys collected will be used for the Sibling Shopping Party on December 15 at Wedgewood Community Center in Annandale. These parties present an opportunity for the youth living in low-income housing to pick out a holiday gift for their sibling or parent. Volunteers are paired with a young person to take them around the... community center and help them shop for a gift for their brother, sister, or parent. Contact if you are interested in volunteering for the Sibling Shopping Party to help set up, wrap gifts and/or shop with a resident on December 15. If you would like to donate a gift for a child, teen, or adult as part of the gift drive, please contact Carla or Shelley Adler at for more information and a flyer that has helpful guidelines for gifts. We hope you will participate in this charitable giving event.

In addition, if you feel like giving to a worthwhile cause this holiday season, please consider the J's Capitol Campaign to fund renovations, new engagement activities, and programs and initiatives outside of our building– throughout Northern Virginia. Learn more here.

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