Walking toward the Lilith office on a cold, wintry day last month, I noticed a woman in a nondescript old coat and flip-flops leaning against a Macdonald’s trash can unwrapping her bandaged foot. My heart went out to her, a person without even a pair of sneakers against the bitter weather. And then, as I got closer, thinking I should offer her help, or some money, I saw what she was tossing into the trash: the tissues wound between her toes from her recent pedicure. (Pedicure! Not homeless!)
Then I heard that a woman I know — who always looks pretty presentable, I hasten to add — was waiting for a friend outside a Manhattan bookstore with her cooling coffee in her hand when suddenly she heard a splash. A kindhearted passerby had dropped a quarter into her paper cup.
Financial anxieties skew the way we see the world right now.
We’re all worried about money — earning it, spending it, investing it, giving it away. And the woman with the open paper cup now also has to worry whether she looks like someone who has lost it all.
It’s no laughing matter. We’ve certainly felt the pain at Lilith these past six months. As an independent nonprofit, Lilith is supported largely by tax-deductible contributions from generous readers, plus foundation grants (subscription revenue covers less than one-third of Lilith’s budget). So we worry every day about how to sustain Lilith’s work, bringing you fine writing and women’s voices with narratives you hear nowhere else.
But I have to tell you that even while I’ve been worrying my way through the most uncertain time that Lilith has ever faced, I’ve been repeating to myself the many things Lilith has learned (and written) about women’s tzedakah, our charitable giving. Here’s the mantra:
1) When the economy turns down, women keep on giving, knowing that the causes they care about need to be sustained even through a downturn. Many men stop giving, uneasy about not being able to contribute at their previous levels. Women continue to write checks.
2) Women give where they know their money has an impact — often boldly funding smaller groundbreaking projects — like Lilith.
3) Women draw others into causes they care about, and honor other women when they give. This explains the number of women who give Lilith gift subscriptions; the magazine provides a way to share an enjoyable experience. And making your contribution in honor of (or in memory of) a woman who has influenced you is another way of recognizing how related we feel to other women: friends, relatives, mentors.
4) Giving money is empowering — and not because others honor you for your contributions. Each of us feels instrumental when we support causes that we know make a difference. When you support Lilith you’re helping shape the world for yourself and for a next generation of daughters and nieces, students and friends.
5) Where you give tzedakah is a marker of your identity. You’ve heard it before, and it’s still true: anyone looking into your checkbook gets a vivid snapshot of who you are. The checks you write reveal your values.
Mother’s Day is coming up. So are graduations and other celebratory moments. Please use them as a chance to give tzedakah in honor of, or in memory of, women you know who have made a difference in your life. Give a woman a gift that has meaning — a charitable contribution in her honor.
When you support Lilith you gain three ways. You have honored someone, you’ve empowered yourself, and — maybe most important — you know that you’re fueling an engine that drives positive change for Jewish women everywhere.
Please give now, to be part of the coterie of women and men who sustain Lilith’s work. If you love the magazine, and its website, the Lilith salons, the Lilith Blog, and what you learn in these pages, please give generously now.
You can give securely online at Lilith.org, by phone at 1-888-2-LILITH, by fax to (212) 757-5705. or you can mail your check or credit card contribution to 250 West 57 St, New York NY 10107.
(And for fun: with our huge thanks for your contribution of $360 or more, we’ll send you this dramatic tote-bag, which is, we promise, an excellent conversation- starter!)