As a public Jewish person, I am asked to speak for a lot of Jewish causes. I feel truly blessed to be able to put the word out there about organizations that do so much to change the world.
Even in my non-celebrity days, though, when I was “just” a graduate student who used to be TV’s Blossom, I was involved in a variety of charity organizations, and believe strongly in advocating for young people to put their money (even if it’s only the money they would spend on one night out drinking) and their passion behind a cause. I even co-founded a young person’s branch of the Jewish Free Loan of Los Angeles to show young people that they, too, can be philanthropists by helping add money to the pot of interest-free loans given out to people of all faiths.
Now that I am a mother, I feel even more strongly about organizations I am affiliated with, such as Na’Amat. You might associate the organization with our grandmothers’ generation. It’s 85 years old (so we’re not entirely wrong in our association) and it started as the Working Women’s Council in Palestine. Golda Meir was a founding supporter and Na’Amat is the Hebrew acronym for “Movement of Working Women and Volunteers.”
I just finished filming a PSA for Na’Amat and am happy to promote the great work they do along with its sister affiliate Na’Amat Israel. As an organization they work to help Jewish women work around halachic obstacles regarding marriage, divorce, and widowhood. They provide a 24 hour hotline for women experiencing domestic violence and provide women’s rights centers, free legal and health services, and do advocacy work to help end domestic violence. They provide affordable and safe childcare to tens of thousands of children. And they gives scholarships to women in need (180 were given out last year alone!) and stand by the principle that women deserve and merit equal opportunities to achieve and succeed free of discrimination in the educational and workplace arenas alike.
For me, becoming a parent made me feel connected to other parents in a new and powerful way. The thought of not having money or healthcare or the right to not be discriminated against feels much more significant now that I am a parent, and to imagine that this goes on all over the world every day can be overwhelming. Giving voice to organizations like Na’Amat helps contribute to making small changes for other parents and future generations.
And they need our support. It’s that simple.
Finally, as a person comfortably living in a wealthy country, I often marvel at how much we — I include myself in this — take for granted. A bad year financially for many of us looks like luxury to millions of people all over the world. Budgeting for a new water filter in our kitchens (and dechlorination filters for our bathtubs!) is profoundly disturbing when there are families with no clean water to give a sick child. We can give a little. We can give $5. We can also give $10. And we can give $1. The notion is that philanthropy is financial, yes, but it is also spiritual. It’s not about assuaging guilt; it’s a connection to others through time and space.
“Kol Yisrael arevim zeh la-zeh” means that all Jews–and all people–are responsible for one another. No exceptions. No modifiers. Stand up for something with your money this Hanukkah, be it a big or small donation. Because there is no measure for how great that contribution is: for your soul, for the recipient of what your donation leads to, and for the truly priceless gift of being a part of this great nation of Jews. Let us be a light among the nations any way we can during this Festival of Lights. Chag Hanukkah Sameach.