Last year, Temple Isaiah launched a new program for families, Maglei Tzedek. A multi-generational giving circle, Maglei Tzedek offers families the opportunity to spark a love of giving in their children, connect with other families in the Temple Isaiah community, allocate funds, and gain a deeper understanding of what Judaism has to say about our obligation to give tzedakah.
As family educator at Temple Isaiah, I am blessed to be able to spend a significant amount of time with our parents and children studying Jewish texts and exploring how Jewish rituals and Jewish values can become a meaningful part of daily family life. Judaism offers us a blueprint for not only making the world a better place, but also for strengthening families and supporting parents in raising their children. However, our current family education programming, with each grade meeting once or twice a year on Sunday mornings, while delightful, do not offer the type of ongoing learning that leads to transformative Jewish living.
In searching for a way to offer ongoing learning that could truly impact and provide meaning for families, the Family Giving Circle Initiative was born. I’ve spent a lot of time talking with families about tzedakah, cultivating gratitude in our children, and raising our children to be generous givers; I know it is particularly important to parents to instill these deeply-rooted Jewish values in their children.
Seven families with kids ranging from second to ninth grade signed up for our pilot year, forming three mini-circles of 2-3 families with children of similar ages. After a joint kick-off at the synagogue, families met on their own throughout the year. They were guided by a binder which included resources from Amplifier (Selected Jewish Texts on Giving, Group Dynamics, Safe Spaces, and Facilitation, and Making Decisions: Some Approaches) and activities to help move them through a process of determining what causes were important to them and how they wanted to allocate their funds. At the end of year we came back together for a celebratory Shabbat dinner as each mini-circle shared their allocation choices – it was a delight to hear the kids talk about the organizations they chose and the reasoning behind their decisions.
The Resnick family (Brian, Stacie, Hannah and Samara) shared their reflections on the experience:
“When the opportunity of joining a giving circle through Temple Isaiah was offered, I knew right away that it was something I wanted my family to be part of. The whole idea of a giving circle matches the values my husband and l try to instill in our daughters of helping others and giving back. When we learned that the children who participated would research charities and organizations to which we’d donate our money, we knew it was the perfect fit for us.
Through our experience, our daughters learned about charities they never knew existed. The research led to a lot of discussion with my daughters about those less fortunate who need assistance and why it is so important for us to help.
In particular, we were compelled by a charity that another family member in our group had researched that provided guide dogs to the blind in Israel. We learned about how many thousands of Israelis were blind, and how much it cost to train one dog. This was powerful information and my daughters were very touched by what they learned.
One part of the experience that was very meaningful was getting together with other families and listening to the dialogue between the children as they talked about giving back. They got to voice their opinions, listen to others, work through some exercises together and -- as a group -- come up with a decision on how to spend the money.
Overall it was a very meaningful experience and one that I know my family was grateful to take part.”
Maglei Tzedek is preparing for our second cycle, and are looking forward to launching the next round of Family Giving Circles in the fall. Learn more about Maglei Tzedek: A Family Giving Circle Initiative atwww.templeisaiah.org.