HAYIDION The Prizmah Journal

From the Editor

by Dr. Barbara Davis Issue: Money Matters
TOPICS : Finances

  וְהַכֶּסֶף יַעֲנֶה אֶת הַכֹּל- “Money answers all things.” (Kohelet 10.19)

Perhaps it is fitting that this Chanukkah issue of HaYidion is about gelt. In The Biblical and Historical Background of Jewish Customs and Ceremonies, Abraham Bloch wrote that "the tradition of giving money (Chanukkah gelt) to children is of long standing. The custom had its origin in the 17th-century practice of Polish Jewry to give money to their small children for distribution to their teachers. In time, as children demanded their due, money was also given to children to keep for themselves.”

Oscar Wilde wrote, “Ordinary riches can be stolen; real riches cannot. In your soul are infinitely precious things that cannot be taken from you.” While those of us working in the field of Jewish day school education would far prefer to occupy ourselves in the pursuit of “infinitely precious” matters of the soul, the reality is that many if not most of us spend an inordinate amount of time pursuing the gelt that keep our doors open and our lights on.

The pursuit of money has been defined as the root of all evil, yet money has always been recognized in Jewish tradition as an essential component of our very existence as individuals and institutions: “If we have no money, no one respects us” (Esther Rabbah 2.4). “All the organs depend on the heart, and the heart depends on the purse” (Johanan ben Nappaha, Jerusalem Talmud: Terumot 8.4), and going even further, “Money legitimates a bastard” (Joshua ben Levi, Talmud: Kiddushin 71a).

Yet having recognized the need for and existential importance of money, most of us still struggle with how to acquire it—in sufficient quantities and in a sustainable manner so that we don’t have to constantly worry about it. Tuition income, like ticket sales for cultural institutions, only covers a portion of what is needed to keep schools running. Alternative sources of income (afterschool programs, preschools, summer camps) can provide some additional funds, but for most schools philanthropy is the key to continued survival. 

We live in interesting times with regard to philanthropy. The National Center for Charitable Statistics reports that giving by individuals makes up the vast majority of contributions received by nonprofit organizations, amounting to $228.93 billion in 2012. The Center further notes that those at either the high end or low end of the income distribution tend to give a higher percentage of their income as contributions than those in the middle, and that households that contribute to religious organizations tend to give more, both in dollars per donation and in percentage of income donated. Households that give to religious organizations donate about twice as much as households that give to secular organizations.

What do these facts mean to those of us in search of philanthropic or other financial support for our schools? The authors of the articles in this issue point out several significant trends and methodologies that can be helpful to schools, including information about tuition charges, working in collaborative relationships, accessing federal funds without encountering separation of church and state issues, and determining the value proposition of our schools.

We believe that you will find this issue fascinating and recommend that you not put off reading it. The last few months of the year make up what is commonly called the “Giving Season” for the nonprofit community and between a quarter and a half of all donations are given between October and December. We hope that you find some enlightening ideas in these pages that will make your Chanukkah brighter and more gelt-ful than ever!

Dr. Barbara Davis is the secretary of RAVSAK's  Board of Directors, executive editor of HaYidion and principal emerita at the Syracuse Hebrew Day School in Dewitt, New York. bdavis74@twcyn.rr.com

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Money Matters

Money of course does matter, in myriad ways, to the functioning of our schools. Just as important are the perceptions about money that circulate among stakeholders: How do funders decide where to put their money? What do employees think and say about salary and work conditions? How do parents and prospective parents understand the school's value? What are the explicit and implicit messages students learn about money? Authors present guidance and reflections on the systems of day school finances while exploring the questions around school value.

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