I am a child of the Depression. My father, a careful and skilled tailor, managed to find enough work during those hard years to provide for my mother, my sister and me. My mother was ingenious in finding ways to make do when money was scarce so we were fortunate to always have a roof over our heads with ample food on the table.
Also on our table, was an ever-present blue JNF pushka — a silent, steady statement that however strained our life might be, we had an obligation to others, both those around us and those far away.
Every Erev Shabbat we fed that little blue box before we fed ourselves. This simple act was both a reminder and a fulfillment of our obligation of Tzedakah. It didn’t matter how much or how little we had – we were required to find a way to give to others.
My parents came from Europe as teenagers just before WWI, and met and married here. Our small home provided an initial place of shelter and support to family and friends finding their way here from Europe; a haven for them to breathe and get their bearings before starting their new life in their new country. This constant stream of guests in our home was another reminder of our obligation to others.
My late husband, Louis, learned similar lessons on the importance of giving from his parents and, together, we knew that teaching Tzedakah and Tikun Olam to our children, grandchildren, and great-grand-children was a basic part of being Jewish.
One day, as a young child, I received a marvelous gift from my beloved aged grandfather. Reaching deep into his pocket, he retrieved a lovely, blue glass sphere (like a marble) which he held out to me. I took it with such gratitude and shared it with my sister. How we both treasured that gift!
I learned three important lessons from his gift:
Firstly, a gift given with love and respect can powerfully bind giver and receiver. Secondly, a gift received and then shared with others is doubly sweet. And finally, every gift, no matter how small, can bring comfort and support and improve the life of another human being.
My endowment to the UJA Federation is made in the spirit of my grandfather’s gift and with the hope that it will in some small way strengthen the Jewish community and heal the world.