It is traditional to give children coinage, called Hanukkah gelt, on Hanukkah. The practice derives from the coins that were stamped by the Hasmoneans to commemorate their victory over the Greek Empire. As an alternative or complement to gift-giving, here’s a way the guilt of gelt can be transformed through the mitzvah of learned giving.
- Obtain a pushkah, a small donation container also known as a tzedakah box, for your home. You can make one from a coffee can by putting a hole in the lid or buy or fashion one of beauty; Judaica shops and catalogues carry many types.
- Encourage everyone in your family to regularly drop funds into the pushkah – money found in the pockets in the wash, extra deposits when you feel especially blessed, or in honor of someone’s memory or healing.
- On one of the nights of Hanukkah, open all of the tzedakah boxes in the house and count the money. Announce the total and give the following assignment for another night of Hanukkah: “Please bring a clipping about a cause you believe needs funding. Try to obtain a copy of the financial statement and program report of that organization; these are often online. Even better, visit the institutions associated with this cause if you can and report on what you see and learn. You will be the advocate for your cause. Also, bring three blank checks with you, just in case someone’s presentation compels more than we have to allocate.”
- On the day of your “Gelt Gathering” ask each person to present his or her cause, research, and analysis. For each cause, go around the table and invite questions, thoughts, ideas from all present. Ask each person to anonymously write down the percentage of the tzedakah money he or she recommends be allocated to each cause. Hand the results to one person, who will tally them for averages and place the tzedakah money in 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.
- Now, set out envelopes labeled for each cause and ask those present to take out the three checks they’ve brought and decide to which causes they want to add funds. Once they’ve decided, place their checks in the appropriate envelopes. Some may want to enclose a note dedicating the donations in memory of a particular person. Seal and mail the envelopes. Now, remind those present to follow their cause – an advocate is a powerful and precious asset to a nonprofit.
— Goldie Milgram in Meaning & Mitzvah
To fund a change in the world
in the name of another
is to fulfill two mitzvot:
zahor, sacred memory, and tzedakah,
the just sharing of your resources.