Why Do Jews Do That?

Recently the Los Angeles Jewish Journal ran a story titled, ?Why Aren?t Jews Giving to Jews?? and it got me to thinking. For a long time, I had been pondering this new problem of what I call the ?whys?. Why don?t the Jews of today have that connection that I remember from the days of my bubbie? We had a pushke in the kitchen and always remembered to send charity back to our Je

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Arlene Peck

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Recently the Los Angeles Jewish Journal ran a story titled, ?Why Aren?t Jews Giving to Jews?? and it got me to thinking. For a long time, I had been pondering this new problem of what I call the ?whys?. Why don?t the Jews of today have that connection that I remember from the days of my bubbie? We had a pushke in the kitchen and always remembered to send charity back to our Jewish brothers and sisters in Europe, Israel, Russia - wherever it was needed.

Jewish women worked tirelessly in organizations such as Hadassah, ORT, Technion, etc., to see that no Jewish family had to suffer for lack of education, food, clothing or housing. It was an invisible cord, but, nevertheless, it was there. Today? Try and get someone to devote some time to a Jewish cause. Of course, times have changed and women who would have never worked a couple of decades ago are now in the job market because of necessity. When they get home at night, they are just plain tired. They don?t feel like planning ?bake sales? or organizational fashion shows.

Okay. That?s one of the reasons the women aren?t out there like they used to be . But what about the men? What makes men like Eli Broad, who headed the list of influential public-spirited Jewish citizens of Los Angeles, donate only $2 million earmarked specifically for Jewish causes of the $350 million that was donated to ?good philanthropies?? Or how about Haim Saban, one of the major power brokers in our area, who recently donated $100 million to more ?good causes? specifying most of it for ?generic? philanthropy? Unfortunately, the major part of that money did not go to Hadassah Hospital; it went to Children?s Hospital here.

I?m not faulting people who do mitzvahs for their fellow man. I just wish more of it went to the Jewish fellow man. I always thought that one of the biggest bonds that we, as Jews, had was the tie that binds us to watch out for each other.

I grew up in Atlanta and learned at an early age that when African-Americans became successful, they were ?outa there?. They quickly joined the mainstream and didn?t look back. The Jews of that city and, I?ll wager, around the world, were different. If a destitute Jewish family would arrive in Atlanta, they were taken care of. They were given jobs, settled in an apartment, taken to a Hadassah store and given credits for clothes. There were even organizations that planned their ?working wardrobes?.

I don?t know what the problem is. Truly, I wonder if it?s because so many today, and especially in the Hollywood crowd, have intermarried at such a prolific rate that they just don?t know they?re Jewish any more. I wonder if most of them even knew they were Jewish in the first place. My neighbor, one-half of one of these examples of commingling mishugass, brags to me how they have a ?Chanukah bush? and make latkes for their kid. It is a city of ?trophy wives? and these women are into Save the Whales, Hug your Tree or Walk for AIDs. Victims of Arab terrorism and other Jewish causes aren?t even at the bottom of the list.

I wasn?t surprised to learn that while Jews make up 2.5 per cent of the U.S population, they are almost 25 per cent of all the givers of the general population. While it?s nice to donate to universities, hospitals and museums, somehow they think it?s ?too Jewish? to specify Jewish universities, hospitals and museums. Those groups, folks, only get 6 per cent of the big donations.

Maybe the fund-raisers of my generation had an easier time of it. They were selling post-Holocaust causes, Israel Bonds, support for specifically designated Jewish towns, education, and things that they were familiar with, such as building a forest in Israel. The assimilated generation of today has absolutely no idea of the meaning of ?Jewishness?. Even the elderly today are hesitant to leave their money to their favorite organizations, because they fear it won?t end up where they want.

I remember thirty years ago when I served on a city-wide board for B'nai B'rith and came home disgusted because the entire evening was spent planning for the senior citizens at the Jewish home for the aged to make baby layettes for the charity cases from the welfare hospital. And they sent groups of black children to the Jewish summer camp the week before for a paid-for-by-the-Federation holiday.

I just wondered when the black churches, or the Southern Baptists who filled that welfare hospital, would have meetings to help Jewish youth out in any way. In other words, I believed then, as I do now, that charity begins at home . My momma used to tell me that those who take the time to worry about everybody else?s business won?t have time to take care of their own.
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Arlene Peck is an internationally syndicated columnist and television talk show hostess. She can be reached at bestredhead@earthlink.net.


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