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Jun 3 2013

Birthday Parties: Is Asking for Donations Instead of Gifts Too Preachy?

By at 10:03 am

lego set with falg“Partying all night” now means the yearly ritual where my husband, my son, and I open his birthday gifts after the last cranky guest has left for the evening. (This year, my night-owl daughter may well join us.) Hey, it’s the closest thing we Jewish families have to Christmas.

Amid fallen streamers and crumpled napkins, we paw at tissue paper to discover sets of Legos, puzzles that beep mysteriously, rickety railroad sets. With delight, Josh and Sam extract the toys, even ones we already have (in their view, there’s no such thing as too many Imperial Star Destroyers) and squeeze them into the mounds of crap climbing every inch of our wall space. When they move on to the next gift I quietly salvage the packaging and pocket the gift receipt, mapping out my return route for Monday. If it doesn’t have a gift receipt, I’m even more determined to try. Refund or bust! Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 18 2012

A Hanukkah Without Presents: A Report From the Trenches

By at 4:29 pm

“On the first night of Hanukkah, my mommy gave to me,” my 13-year-old son began singing, as the 9-year-old and 5-year-old joined him in the chorus, “Absolutely no-ooooo-thing!”

Well, it’s not like they weren’t warned.

A good week before Hanukkah started, I informed my kids that, due to the damage done by Hurricane Sandy, with people not 50 miles away losing everything they owned, not to mention the high unemployment rate, the millions of people going hungry all around the world, and the fact that my children already had so much stuff they couldn’t even manage to keep their rooms clean, there would be no Hanukkah gifts this year. Instead, we would spend the eight days of the holiday doing good deeds, and the eight nights discussing them as we lit our candles. Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 11 2012

The Fifth Night Project: Teaching Giving During Hanukkah

By at 11:15 am

box of toy donations for charityLet’s face it; in order to help Jewish children from feeling left out of the Christmas season, Hanukkah has lost much of it’s traditional meaning and has become a holiday based around eight nights of presents. Customarily, Hanukkah is celebrated with candles, dreidels, and latkes; the eight crazy nights of toys and books was only added to compete with Christmas. Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 6 2012

I Never Liked Hanukkah, But I Do Like Tzedakah

By at 9:43 am

So–it’s almost Hanukkah, just about everyone’s favorite holiday. Gifts, gelt (Yidd., money), no fasting, no standing in shul for hours, no cooking for big family meals, nice lighting-the-menorah ritual.

Well, I never liked it. Despite the gifts, I didn’t like it even as a kid.

As a first generation American on my father’s side (especially grateful to this country since everyone who was not here were killed by the Nazis,) and a third generation American on my mother’s, I am a very patriotic American with a strong American identity.

But every Hanukkah, I felt like the “other.” Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 6 2012

How to Donate Without Opening Your Wallet

By at 9:44 am

Donate clothes your children have outgrown or just don't wear

As part of our month-long series dedicated to Women, Work & Money, Alina Adams shares her strategy for donating time and skills instead of money.

When I wrote my earlier piece about how to save money by (primarily) not caring about what other people had, I stressed that it applied to those in your higher and comparable financial strata. Caring about people who have less than we do is a completely different issue.

However, when it comes to tzedekah, I have chosen to teach my children that there are ways to contribute other than monetarily. Not only because, as a teacher and a writer living in New York City with three kids in private school we don’t have a lot to spare, but also because I truly believe that giving means more when you actively do something to heal the world, rather than merely pay someone else to take care of what you perceive to be a problem. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 19 2012

Helping the Needy When You Are the Needy

By at 12:57 pm

canned food driveOne day my kindergartener came home from school and excitedly announced, “Our class is collecting canned foods for the needy!” to which I snidely replied under my breath, “We ARE the needy!”

Of course as soon as I said it, I wished the words had never left my mouth. Especially when my son’s teacher stopped me the next day at school to report that he had repeated my exact words to her. Luckily, she had a great sense of humor and found it pretty funny. “You’re telling me!” she said with a look compassion and irony. Of course I felt myself blush. Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 3 2012

My Fancy Night Out with Mayim & Other Powerful Jewish Women

By at 4:19 pm
carla naumburg mayim bialik

Kveller BFFs Carla and Mayim.

Last Thursday night, I had the opportunity to go see our very own Mayim Bialik speak at a charitable event in Boston hosted by the Combined Jewish Philanthropies. To be sure, it wasn’t the Emmys, but it’s about as close as I have come to the red carpet. In honor of my big night out, here’s my Mayim-style recap:

1. Clogs–not cool. Huh. Apparently most women don’t show up at high-end fundraisers in Boston wearing Dansko clogs. In all fairness, I literally raced from a presentation at a social work conference (where clogs are part of the dress code) to the event, but a more fashion conscious (and organized) Mama would have had a spare pair of heels in her bag. Whoops. (Note to self: buy a pair of heels.) Read the rest of this entry →

Mar 26 2012

Interviews with Interesting Jews: Wendy Berezovsky

By at 9:58 am

Wendy's family in their pj's.

Mother of three, Wendy Berezovsky, founded a nonprofit organization called Sweet Dreams for Kids, which collects pajamas to donate to children in hospitals. She started the program after having her own daughter in the hospital for cancer treatments.

1. Tell us about your program: what do you do and why did you start it?

Sweet Dreams for Kids is a nonprofit organization that donates new pajamas to children in the hospital. We have donated over 3,000 pairs nationwide. Our dream is to have every children’s hospital filled with cute, cozy, and comfortable pajamas instead of the hospital ones. Read the rest of this entry →

May 6 2011

Give To a Mom Who Really Needs It

By at 1:42 pm

Note: This is the do-gooder complement to our post on stuff to buy for moms.

“Mother’s Day–that’s such a Hallmark holiday,” skeptics have said. Well, listen up and listen good. Every other day is Children’s Day, or Husband’s Day. So you can suck it up for a day.

I kid (kind of). The sad part about Mother’s Day is that people should be appreciating mothers every day–having a designated day for tributes sort of belittles the other days. Let it be known here that my mother is the most amazing woman I know, but more on that another time. There couldn’t be enough tributes to her.

The Mother’s Day Movement was founded by six women who were surprised to learn that $14 billion was spent in the US alone in 2010 on Mother’s Day celebrations including flowers, cards, and meals.  That’s a ton of cash.

“Given the number of women and children suffering globally, and here at home, it is time for everyone to rethink this holiday and donate a portion of Mother’s Day spending to those less fortunate,” the movement’s website reads.

I can get on board with that–note that it said “a portion.”  I don’t need flowers or a card (unless crappily made by my kids–take that, Amy Chua!), but I’m not skipping a meal here. Though I will be honest and say that the idea of my gravity-impaired 6 and 7 year olds serving breakfast in bed has me mentally fast-forwarding to the vision of myself cleaning pulpy orange juice and coffee out of my duvet cover. We can skip that too, kids.

My jokey nature aside, there are mothers around the world who do not have the same chances as we do at a good and healthy life for themselves or providing for their children.  This year, let’s take a moment to honor and pay tribute to them, giving a little tzedakah to make the world a better place for mothers and children.

A few ideas of where to turn to make a difference in mothers’ lives:

1. Google your local chapter of Jewish Family Services, which provides social services to out-of-work mothers, victims of abuse, and others with a wide range of support services.

2. The National Council for Jewish Women works in both the US and Israel on behalf of womens’ rights. In Israel, for example, they are supporters of coalitions that aim to ensure the rights and well-being of Israeli women, children, and families, including the Israel Forum of Foundations, the Inter-Agency Task Force on Israeli Arabs, and the International Coalition on Agunot Rights (ICAR).

3. Vday.org is a global activist movement to stop violence against women and girls, promoting creative events to increase awareness, raise money, and revitalize the spirit of existing anti-violence organizations. V-Day generates broader attention for the fight to stop violence against women and girls, including rape, battery, incest, female genital mutilation (FGM), and sex slavery.

4. The R Baby Foundation is the first and only not-for-profit foundation uniquely focused on saving babies lives through improving pediatric emergency care. R Baby Foundation is dedicated to ensuring that babies, including those in the first month of life suffering from viral infections and other infectious diseases, receive the highest quality of care and service through supporting life-saving pediatric training, education, research, treatment, and equipment.

5. The Fistula Foundation helps women in poor countries to have surgery to fix the damage done to their continence by obstructed labor. The foundation lets donors cover the cost for one woman’s free, safe fistula surgery–either as a one-time donation of $450 or a monthly donation of $37.50.

6. Half The Sky is an amazing book written by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof and his wife, Sheryl WuDunn. Their Half The Sky movement lays out an agenda for the world’s women and three major abuses: sex trafficking and forced prostitution, gender-based violence including honor killings and mass rape, and maternal mortality, which needlessly claims one woman a minute.

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