Dear TEE Community,
There are many ways that members of a community take care of one another. Often these take the form of personal support: visiting the sick; sharing joys and sorrows, running an errand, or making a phone call. Sometimes, however, individuals may need economic help as well. Jewish tradition teaches us that tzedakah, money used for the alleviation of poverty, is a necessary partner to all the other mitzvot of caring.
In the shtetls of Eastern Europe, collectors went door to door each Friday afternoon, receiving a portion of each household’s weekly pay to distribute to those in need, so that every family could have enough for Shabbat. We no longer live in small villages but Jewish communities throughout the world maintain some version of this informal support system. For American Jews this takes the form of the Rabbi’s Discretionary Fund, a special bank account that allows congregational rabbis to give money confidentially where needed.
Since coming to Temple Emanu-El, I have used money from my Discretionary Fund for medical bills, food, utilities, transportation and other basic needs. The majority has gone to members of our Temple family but I have also made donations to others in the Rochester community, following Jewish traditions which prioritize the poor of one’s own household and then city, regardless of whether they are Jewish or Gentile.
In addition to unexpected needs, I am currently using my Discretionary Fund for three purposes. The first is to support Temple members affected by the pandemic, the second (as described in previous communications) is to assist the Tikkun Olam Team in providing for a refugee recently released from detention, and the third, again with the Tikkun Olam Team, is to support food banks at this difficult time.
If you would like to help any or all of these efforts, please make out a check to, TEE Rabbi’s Discretionary Fund – please do not make it out to the Temple – and indicate on the memo line if you want the money used for a specific purpose.
A consistent theme throughout Jewish teachings on tzedakah is the concern that there be no shame on the part of those in need of economic assistance. Our tradition is all too aware of the unexpected ups and downs of life and finds no fault in poverty. I hope that if you, or anyone you know, is in need of some financial support at this time, you will contact me so that your Temple community may have the honor of fulfilling this mitzvah of care.
Be well / Zei gesunt / Sano,
Rabbi Drorah Setel