Thursday, September 13, 2018

Tzedakah in the new year: Charity helps donors as much as recipients

The week between the Jewish high holidays of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur is an auspicious time to give charity to merit a good year and a long life. As we recite on these holy days, "Teshuvah, Tefilah, Tzedakah -- repentance, prayer, and charity -- alleviates the negative decree. May we all be worthy of being written in the book of life for the coming year. To donate, click here

By Yossi Kahana, director, JNF Task Force on Disabilities

Tzedakah. It's the Hebrew word for charity -- for giving assistance and money to the poor and needy, and to other worthwhile causes. It's the responsibility to give a portion of one's personal substance for the common good. But it's more than giving money. Done properly, tzedakah requires the donor to share his or her compassion and empathy along with money. Judaism teaches that donors benefit from tzedakah as much as, or more than, recipients.

In the Torah portion Re'eh, we find the mitzvah of aser te'aser, literally translated as "tithe you shall tithe," referring to the obligation to set aside a 10th of our earnings for charity. Since the word for "tithing," aser, has the same root as "wealthy," ashir, the Talmud interprets this verse as "Tithe in order that you shall become wealthy."

Monday, August 27, 2018

The meaning of Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah ... it’s one of the most important holidays in the Jewish calendar. It's the Jewish New Year, anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve, a day of judgment and coronation.

The Jewish new year greetings for this time of year reflect our prayers for a good, sweet year ahead. On the first night of Rosh Hashanah, we wish l'shanah tovah tikatevu v'techatemu: "May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year." The main thing is to wish each other a good, sweet year with all our heart – because that is what God values most.

Rosh Hashanah is packed with mitzvahs, special foods and traditions but the central observance of Rosh Hashanah is the sounding of the shofar, the ram's horn, on both days of the holiday.

Why the shofar?

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

A new JNF tour of Israel from a Torah perspective

By Deby Goodman

My husband Jeff and I have been involved with the Jewish National Fund For almost 40 years. We are the immediate past co-presidents of the Orange County Region of JNF -- Jeff, in fact, was founding president of the region many years ago and is a third-generation JNF volunteer. As a former firefighter, Jeff is a member of the Fire Fighters and Rescue Task Force. I'm a member of the Disabilities Task Force.

We've been on countless tours and missions to Israel, and lots of trips on our own to visit our kids and grandkids. But on all those tours and missions, there was something missing.  I consider myself a religious Zionist, and my Zionism, and hence support for Jewish National Fund, springs from my Judaism. JNF does wonderful, fantastic things in Israel, and affects every single Israeli, every single day, including the Torah community. But we weren't seeing this aspect being highlighted on our various trips.   

So I decided to create a tour that would look at JNF's work in Israel from a Torah perspective, both in terms of how our various projects tie into the Torah and Biblical history, and how they affect the Torah community in Israel. Thus was born the latest JNF tour, titled Israel: From a Torah Perspective. It will take place from March 4-11, 2019.

Friday, August 10, 2018

What I saw on the ground in Israel as the Gaza border crisis rages on

Ariel and Aleta (left) at the inauguration for the delivery of the first fire wagon funded by JNF.

By Ariel Grunberg
My wife, Aleta, and I were in Israel this summer and able to experience firsthand the tragic eco-terrorism being brought upon those living on the Gaza Envelope over the past few months. As members of the Jewish National Fund Gaza Envelope Task Force, we had visited the area many times and grew to know and care for many living on the border. With trepidation, we looked forward to visiting our friends to see for ourselves what had occurred.
Yedidya Harush, our guide and amazing JNF liaison from the Halutza communities, picked us up at at the Ofakim railroad station and took us to Gama, an area that had been consumed by fire. I was so saddened to see this and then I became angry. I asked myself how people could do such a horrible thing as to destroy wildlife and their natural habitats, forests that purify the air we need to breathe, and agricultural lands that provide food for a hungry world. The sheer cost just to replace what was burned is in the millions. Farmers lost so much -- land that was ready to yield crops and trees that took years to grow were gone, destroyed.

Friday, July 27, 2018

In Israel, artsy bomb shelters bring comfort, beauty to kids in crisis

The painted bomb shelters in Israel's Negev desert create beauty from trauma.

Chaya, 9, used to get off the bus one stop early on her way home to Yated, a moshav in southern Israel. 

One day, her mom asked Chaya why she got off at the bus stop farther from home. The stop closer to her house, Chaya replied, houses an ugly gray bomb shelter, and looking at it made her feel bad. The shelter at the previous stop, on the other hand, looks pretty, she said: "It’s painted and gives me a better feeling." 

A local artist, along with local kids, painted a mural on the bomb shelter as part of a JNF project to beautify shelters and make them less threatening to kids in the communities along Gaza's border. Since March, more than 450 flaming kites, balloons, and rockets have been launched from Gaza at the Eshkol and Sha'ar Hanegev regions of Israel. The devices have terrorized residents and scorched thousands of acres of agricultural land and forests. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Fast fire wagons from JNF aid Israelis under siege along Gaza's border

Credit: Israel Fire and Rescue Services
Fires from incendiary devices shot across the border from Gaza have scorched thousands of acres in Israel's south. 

The families who call the Eshkol and Sha'ar Hanegev regions of Israel home have had an extremely traumatic few months.         

Since March, over 450 flaming kites, balloons, and rockets have been launched at their communities from Gaza. These terrorist devices scorch thousands of acres of agricultural land and forests -- resources the communities rely on as their main source of economic development.  

The fiery devices also spark emotional and physical damage, stoking fear and post-traumatic stress disorder in both adults and children forced to flee to shelters.

Monday, July 23, 2018

First-time JNF mission leader calls Israel trip 'powerful, life-changing'

Author Lisa Grier (bottom center) with her mission participants.
By Lisa Grier

After traveling internationally for two months in a row, first to Israel, and then to China, I am so happy to be back home in the great USA. We are very lucky, as Jewish Americans, to have the opportunity to visit Israel whenever we choose and to support it through amazing nonprofit organizations like Jewish National Fund. The trip to Israel was the first mission I led as a JNF professional. I never wanted it to end. 

Our mighty 47 travel participants became like a family: a family united in the patriotism we feel for Israel and all its inhabitants. After working for Jewish National Fund for a little over a year and a half as director in Orange County, Long Beach and Palos Verdes, I finally had the opportunity to bring people to our homeland and really touch, see, and feel all the incredible things we do in Israel every day.