Rabbis Without Borders
Rabbis Without Borders is a dynamic forum for exploring contemporary issues in the Jewish world and beyond. Written by rabbis of different denominations, viewpoints, and parts of the country, Rabbis Without Borders is a project of Clal – The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership.
No matter how much money each of us donated yesterday on what has come to be known as Giving Tuesday, it certainly wasn’t as large a charitable commitment as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan made. On the occasion of the birth of their daughter, Max, yesterday the couple pledged to donate 99 percent of their stock shares of Facebook (currently about $45 billion) during their lifetimes to improve the world for the next generation. While this level of charitable pledging is unmatched (Warren Buffet, Bill Gates and Eli Broad have been very successful in getting many billionaires to commit to donating 50 percent of their fortunes during their lifetime), I was more interested in two other aspects of the Zuckerberg-Chan family’s public announcement.
First, I found their open letter to their newborn daughter to be extremely meaningful and inspirational. I too penned (or rather typed) letters to each of my children on the day of their birth. So many people wait until they’re close to death to sit down and write an ethical will to their children. A truly important time to do this exercise is on the highly emotional first day of our child’s life. In Zuckerberg’s letter to his daughter, he wrote:
Your mother and I don’t yet have the words to describe the hope you give us for the future. Your new life is full of promise, and we hope you will be happy and healthy so you can explore it fully. You’ve already given us a reason to reflect on the world we hope you live in. Like all parents, we want you to grow up in a world better than ours today.
While headlines often focus on what’s wrong, in many ways the world is getting better. Health is improving. Poverty is shrinking. Knowledge is growing. People are connecting. Technological progress in every field means your life should be dramatically better than ours today. We will do our part to make this happen, not only because we love you, but also because we have a moral responsibility to all children in the next generation. We believe all lives have equal value, and that includes the many more people who will live in future generations than live today. Our society has an obligation to invest now to improve the lives of all those coming into this world, not just those already here.
[…] Our hopes for your generation focus on two ideas: advancing human potential and promoting equality. Advancing human potential is about pushing the boundaries on how great a human life can be. Can you learn and experience 100 times more than we do today? Can our generation cure disease so you live much longer and healthier lives? Can we connect the world so you have access to every idea, person and opportunity? Can we harness more clean energy so you can invent things we can’t conceive of today while protecting the environment? Can we cultivate entrepreneurship so you can build any business and solve any challenge to grow peace and prosperity?
The second part of the Zuckerberg-Chan family’s letter that struck me was that it was filled with hope for the future, but also a genuine concern. As a father, I’ve been thinking very seriously about these issues over the past several years as well. Before my first child was born almost 12 years ago, I envisioned a world for him without racism, without war and without terrorism precipitated by hatred. As my children have grown from infants to toddlers to pre-teens, I’ve watched sadly as there has been more hate and evil in our world. No doubt, Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, likewise, wish to envision a world for their newborn daughter in which peace and love dominate.
This beautiful letter by Zuckerberg not only articulates his hopes and prayers for his daughter, but it also is a clear and poignant testament to the world he is willing to help create through his personal wealth. We should all be grateful to Zuckerberg and Chan for their devotion to the next generation and to ensuring that our children’s and grandchildren’s lives will be better than our own lives. Mazel Tov on the birth or Max Zuckerberg and thank you for your commitment to the future.