What are our priorities when giving charity? Can the Biblical approach of giving “maaserot” and “terumot” actually work? What is the role of the federal government in combating poverty? These are some of the questions that Ma’ayanot seniors explored last Wednesday during an interdisciplinary day of study that addressed “Poverty and Philanthropy.”
“We felt that it would be appropriate to delve into this theme following Thanksgiving and Giving Tuesday,” said Chani Rotenberg, chair of Ma’ayanot’s History Department and Co-Director of Interdisciplinary Programming. “What’s more, we want to prepare our seniors as they head out into the world and begin making their own financial decisions. We want them to explore poverty on local, national and global levels and also to think about ways to address poverty.”
“Interdisciplinary programming’s philosophy is to broaden our students’ perspectives and enrich their learning beyond the classroom,” says Shalvi Isseroff, an English teacher and co-director of interdisciplinary programming. “Our goal is to expose students to new topics they haven’t considered before, or present new approaches to topics they are already familiar with, such as giving tzedaka.”
Following the sessions, students attended a giving circle, led by Tamar Snyder Chaitovsky, director of marketing and communications for the Jewish Communal Fund. “We discussed our values, why we give, and how best to give, and then the students took turns pitching a number of charities to be supported by the giving circle,” she said.
Based on the pitches, students voted to contribute $200 to the Hebrew Free Burial Association, which serves the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
“The Poverty and Philanthropy program provided opportunities for students to think about the ethics of philanthropy, analyzing motives, intentions, and effects. Sometimes motives may be pure, but effects might be negative or counterproductive,” said Rotenberg.
Reflecting on the day, senior Shoshana Berger shared, “I think the program as a whole was an important reminder that everything in life is complex, even where you give your money. However, it also reminded me that things don’t have to be overthought. Every charity offers something important, so no matter where you give your money, it will be helping someone.”