Reframing Hanukkah Gelt in Meaningful Ways

Here's a way the gift of the gelt  can be transformed: [money given as gifts on Hanukkah]

On one of the nights of Hanukkah open all of the tzedakah boxes in the house and count the money. You might also keep a tzedakah box on the counter by your desk at work, many caring people who come through the building will help to keep it brimming. Announce the total.

Give the following assignment for another night of Hanukkah, one several days ahead:

"Everyone please bring a clipping about a cause you believe needs funding in the most immediate way when you come. If you can, identify organizations or individuals that are working on this cause, obtain a copy of the financial statement and program report of that organization. Even better, visit the institutions associated with this cause if you can, and report on their activity. We'll do this again next year, so our practice will have time to evolve and spread into the year.

Also, bring three blank checks with you, just in case someone's presentation compels more than we have to allocate. Anyone who is inclined to contribute their Hanukkah gelt into the tzedakah collection are also welcome to do so."

Have everyone present their cause and analysis. For each cause, go around the table and invite questions, thoughts, ideas. Have each person write down the allocation they recommend from the tzedakah money for each cause, to add up to the total. These are anonymous and handed in to one person who will tally them for averages and place the tzedekah money into piles with a note indicating the amount and percentage going to each cause. One person will then write a check in those amounts for each cause, and take the money for personal deposit.

Then an envelope is placed in front of each cause. Each person takes out their three checks and decides which causes they want to add funds to and they place their checks into the envelopes. The tally person seals the envelopes so they can be mailed.

Each person agrees to follow that philanthropic effort during the year and to send an occasional email to those who attended about the activities of that group, and perhaps to learn more about other groups working on the same cause.

To fund a change in the world in the name of another is to fulfill the mitzvot of both zahor, sacred memory and tzedakah, the just sharing of your resources.