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iThis, eThat, and the traditional way of giving
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iThis, eThat, and the traditional way of giving

Most people do not like asking others for money. It doesn’t matter the purpose or cause, it simply feels invasive. Money, we tell ourselves, is a personal matter. How much we make and how much we spend is private. To ask another for money, it follows, simply isn’t our business.

For UJA, asking others for money has been our business for years. We do this so that others may benefit.

It’s been our business for so long that there is an entire genre of jokes about United Jewish Appeal campaigns. Who hasn’t heard the one about the guy stuck on a desert island who was optimistic about being discovered because he hadn’t paid his UJA bill? And who hasn’t referred to UJA as the “Jewish IRS.”

In fact, during my two years as campaign chair, countless people have expressed sympathy for my “timing” in that I’ve worn my title during our collective difficult economic downturn. The only thing is, I don’t agree with that sentiment — not for one second.

In spite of recent difficulties, I am continually inspired on a daily basis.

The list of courageous, heartwarming stories from within our own community is endless.

This past week, for example, we were contacted by a bat mitzva girl who is a soccer fanatic. She asked us to take some of the money given to her as her bat mitzva gift and donate it to a group of Ethiopian kids in Israel. She wanted to help out their local community center by supporting a soccer program they could enjoy. In one check, Morristown met Rishon Letzion.

The temptation at this point is to share a few more stories. That’s the UJA way. I could easily write about the money we raised for Haiti after the earthquake, and throw in the phrase, “tikun olam,” “repairing the world.” Then, I could share a local story about a family devastated by the economy who has received help in a number of forms from our agencies.

But I will not.

Our bat mitzva girl captures the essence of UJA all by herself.

We make connections like no other.

In fact, we are so effective at what we do that this year Charity Navigator — a group that evaluates the efficacy and impact of not-for-profits — awarded MetroWest four stars, the highest possible rating. That’s like receiving an Emmy in helping.

And while we are proud of our achievements, we must remember that the 2010 UJA Campaign will be over before we realize. With our goal set to raise $20 million for the Jewish community — for those who need us — we understand that it’s a tall order. Phones will ring, letters will be mailed, and appointments will be made, all in effort to reach many of you.

You are our first connection.

In an age of iThis and eThat, where cutting-edge is every day, the philanthropic connections of a campaign to an “umbrella” agency remain. But then, of course, when it does rain, what do we all reach for?

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