The Othering of Tzedaka in Jewish Education

Penny in the pushka,
Penny in the pot,
We give tzedakah right before Shabbat.
Counting all the pennies, nickels, quarters, too
It’s fun to help each other,
It’s what we ought to do.
One for the family without enough to eat,
One for the poor folks that live down the street,
One for the little girl who learns in special ways,
And one for Israel and that is why we say…..


The problem with the song is that the ones we are helping are always framed as “the other,” (even if it is not the case in reality). We, the singers of the song, the teachers, the students in the class, are the “Givers,” who help the poor, those with special needs or those who do not have enough to eat. The idea that the children in our schools, or their families or neighbours may be those who are poor, who may not have enough to eat, who have complex needs or mental illness is never brought up in the context of Tzedakah in the classroom.

read the rest of my post here


This entry was posted in Day School tuition, Judaism and Social Justice and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Othering of Tzedaka in Jewish Education

  1. I agree but it is not comfortable to see ourselves as a charity case.

    I don’t know what the best way is?

  2. Now I have read the longer article and I like it very much.

    As a parent of a child with Special Needs we went suddenly from being donors to a school for children with special needs to recipients (when our child switched to that school). An “odd” feeling. We are now both recipients of the charity of others and expected to be schnorrers for the cause.

    We really wanted our child to have friends and signed up to a “buddy” scheme – but while somewhat successful it does not feel great to us as our child’s “buddy” clearly sees it as his “Tsedakah and Social action” slot on a Friday afternoon – there is no real bilateral friendship.

    More postitively, I travelled around with friends as a young student and and we received lovely hospitality off strangers on our travels. When I can, I like to feel I can do the same for young travellers passing through my town. That feels more like “sometimes you receive and sometimes you give” – a far better feeling.

    And there is learning how to give or to help soimeone without embarrasing. An art in itself.

    Finally I recall that I had worked out I wanted to help people who were handicapped and help them get into work. I had a moment of revelation when I realised that rather than quiting my job to do this or giving “tsedakah” to a charity, there was a young man in my team at work with cerebal paulsy who needed my support and tuition. I suddenly realised that charity can begin much closer to where we are if we just re-envision what it means.

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