Maryland Philanthropy and Israel: An Image Gallery
Written by Rachel Kassman. Originally published in Generations 2007-2008: Maryland and Israel.
Tzedakah is more than a good deed for Jews, it is an obligation. Often translated as “charity,” tzedakah is in fact much more: it is about acts of justice. In Judaism, performing charity and philanthropic acts is a way of creating justice in the world, a responsibility so great that its fulfillment is required whether one’s pockets are full or empty. For many Jews, supporting Israel is a way of meeting the obligations of tzedakah and the Jews of Maryland are no exception. This photo essay captures how, whether on a personal, private level such as dropping a few coins in a tin box, or through community events such as group fundraising to purchase an ambulance, Maryland Jews have seized myriad opportunities to aid Israel.
Small (although not always), personal contributions have been a mainstay of Maryland support for Israel. Charity boxes, commonly called by their Yiddish name, pushkes, represent the everyday nature of tzedakah in Jewish life. Pushke, from the Polish puszka, is literally a container, usually made of metal or cardboard, and used to collect small sums – pocket change, for a variety of causes. Small and unassuming, these ubiquitous boxes appear in homes, synagogues and stores throughout Maryland. The pushke is a symbol of anonymous yet highly personal efforts to aid those in need, allowing anyone to contribute, no matter how big or small the donation. The array of pushkes shown here represent support for the Jewish communities of Israel, each box representing a plea for aid for “the poor, old, sick rabbis, scholar, orphans and widows,” for schools, the Jewish National Fund, and the American Red Magen David.
Line 1: Charity for the Poor Orphans in Jerusalem, JMM 2000.54.3; Great Charity “Chaye Olam” Institutions and Orphans Kitchen of Jerusalem, JMM 2000.54.5; United Charity Institutions of Jerusalem, JMM 2000.54.6; Charity for Jerusalem for “the old, poor, sick…” JMM 2000.54.7
Line 2: United Inst. Or Torah, JMM 54.9; Aiding Americans in Israel, JMM 2000.54.10 General Israel Orphans Home for Girls, JMM 2000.54.13; Charity for the Poor Orphans in Jerusalem, JMM 1994.83.3
Line 3: Kollel America Tifereth, JMM 1994.83.4; United Charity Institutions of Jerusalem; JMM 1994.83.5; Hadassah, JMM 1993.92.2; For the Jewish National Fund, JMM 1991.160.1
Line 4: For Yeshiva Yetev-Lev D’Satmar, Jerusalem, JMM 1992.245.4; For the support of Religious Colonies and newly arrived Immigrants in Israel, JMM 2000.135.1; Jewish National Fund, JMM 1991.38.1; For General Israel Orphans Home for Girls, JMM 1992.245.2
The Buying of Trees
Another highly personal form of support for Israel embraced by Maryland Jews has been buying trees through the Jewish National Fund, an organization dedicated to reclaiming the deserts of Israel. The JNF was founded in 1901 for the purpose of purchasing land in Palestine. The introduction of the JNF’s “Olive Tree Fund” by 1908 marked a shift in focus, establishing Diaspora support of forestation efforts. Since its inception, the JNF has overseen the planting of over 240 million trees and the building of 180 dams and reservoirs, established more than 1,000 parks, and developed a quarter of a million acres.
Perhaps an even more individual way for Maryland supporters of Israel to perform tzedakah is through charitable missions, actually visiting and working on projects in the State of Israel. Many of these missions have been organized through The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, the main Jewish community service organization in Baltimore. The earliest documented Associated mission to Israel was in 1954, only six years after the founding of the state.