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Teaching Jewish Values

September 2012

Teaching Jewish values in a temple is not a news flash, but how we do it here at TRT may be a little different from what you thought. We have showcased the “Middah of the Month”; we have encouraged our students to stretch their comfort level when we bring them to a cemetery instead of talking to them about Jewish end-of-life values; we have had them walk around the building for a solid six minutes to underscore the tenuous stamina of a child who has a rare neurological disease; and we have offered our students the choice as to where their collective tzedakah contributions will go. We get hundreds of requests for money every week: how do we know which to support and which to let others support? How much should we give and how often?

This November, we will be talking about the value of tzedakah – which in Hebrew means an act of justice (not charity) – not only with our younger students but with you, our adults, as well.

We will be participating in a groundbreaking program created by the American Jewish World Service (AJWS) entitled Where Do You Give? A Tzedakah Curriculum. This curriculum is part of Where Do You Give? Reimagining Tzedakah for the 21st Century, an initiative that features a national design competition, online interactive media and educational resources that engage the Jewish community in critical questions about where we give, to whom and why. To learn more about Where Do You Give, visit its website at

Remember when you went to school and asked your parents for some change to throw into the little blue box, or some other charity container? This initiative aims to go way beyond that simple act, providing the entire family with the opportunity to explore together what truly matters: how you want to change the world, one small step at a time. Every effective ad campaign for a non-profit organization includes a spokesperson who feels passionately about the cause, and asks that you join them. What is your cause? What do you care about and want the world to help you achieve? Eradicating hunger or disease, ensuring the well-being of Israel or a Jewish education for all? Stay tuned for details as we invite you on this journey with us, as we provide tools for you to re-evaluate the giving of tzedakah in a thoughtful, responsible and impactful way.

A teacher once taught me a story: Once upon a time, a young woman watched helplessly at the banks of a river, as toddlers floated downstream, in danger of drowning. Many people tried to brave the current to save the babies, but there were too many children and not enough saviors. The young woman turned around and started walking upstream. “Where are you going?” the people cried. “I’m going to find out who’s throwing these babies into the water in the first place.”

Won’t you join us as we discover some meaningful answers to life’s persistent questions? As you discover better answers for yourselves, you will be teaching the next generation of givers how to find answers – and causes – of their own.

Now that’s a Jewish value.                                                                             

                                                                                                                        Rabbi Shira Stern 

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