Southern & Jewish
Southern & Jewish celebrates the stories, people, and experiences – past and present – of Jewish life in the American South. Hosted by the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life, posts come from educators, students, rabbis, parents, artists, and many other “visitors-to and daily-livers-of” the Southern Jewish experience. From road trips to recipes to reflections, we’ll explore a little bit of everything – well, at least all things Southern and/or Jewish. Shalom, y’all!
Around Hanukkah this past year, my family decided to start our own giving circle. Sitting around the kitchen table, armed with the Amplifier Giving Circle participant workbook for each member of the family, we began to plan out how we wanted to collectively make a difference. So, a few months later… how are we doing?
This has been a thoughtful and engaging process and for me, a wonderful opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of my children’s ideas and passions. When we began planning our gifts, we went through the page in the workbook on Jewish philanthropic values and had to answer the basic but vital question: “Why do I give?” It was interesting to me that all three of my children (young adults, now!) marked off the “I want to create justice/equality Tikkun Olam: Repairing the World” option. Next we discussed “How I Give – locally or globally, to Jews only or to everyone?” All three responded in the same way: They wanted to give to organizations supporting people in need or to educational/cultural organizations, not just to Jews.
As we continued through the process and questions, we whittled down the list to three deserving local community organizations. It was a tough decision to decide which of these three will be the first recipient of our family’s giving circle allocation, since all three are such amazing organizations:
Stewpot Community Services, a local organization in Jackson, Mississippi, which provides thousands of men, women and children with hot meals, groceries, clothing, shelter, childcare, mentoring and other programs to nurture them and help them get back on their feet. As a family we have participated in our local food drives, created Bar Mitzvah party table centerpieces of books, canned goods and fresh fruit to donate to Stewpot and served meals there on Christmas and Easter. It was a very familiar and personal decision.
Camp Dream Street, MS is a five-day, four-night camping program for children from all backgrounds with physical disabilities and/or related cognitive disabilities. The camp, currently in its 41st season, is held on the grounds of URJ Henry S. Jacobs Camp in Utica, MS and is sponsored by NFTY’s Southern Region. Both the campers, who attend free of charge, and the counselors, members of NFTY Southern who attend on a volunteer basis and volunteer one on one or two on one with campers, benefit from the life-changing experiences the camp has to offer. Dream Street is a place where children with physical disabilities are given the chance to be children – not “special” children, not children with disabilities, but just children, for a week of community and joy.
Jackson Friends of the Animal Shelter is a volunteer program at the local Jackson, Mississippi, animal shelter. It is the rescue group through which Eric, our youngest, chose his 13th birthday/Hanukkah/Bar Mitzvah gift– rescuing his dog Marley, two years ago. Relying on volunteers to assist with the care of the animals through donations of dog and cat food and volunteer time to play/pet the animals, this group is dedicated to finding permanent homes for these lovable animals.
After the case was made for each of the three outstanding organizations, the ultimate choice made was… Camp Dream Street.
The Schipper Giving Circle is proud of the fact that the money we can share will help continue to support this program. It was even more meaningful to see my children work at the camp, serving as program director, upper staff and counselor during the just-completed week of this inspiring camp. I could not be more proud of them. Giving of their time and financial support, they continue to make a difference.
The last question I asked them several months ago as we were wrapping up the Pop Up Giving Circle: “Are you willing to do this again next year?” With smiles on their faces, they agreed.
If you are considering starting your own giving circle, please check out Amplifier’s great resources on getting yours up and running. I hope it will be as meaningful for your family as it is for ours!