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Charity Beginning at Home

If you went to Hebrew school at some point in your life, chances are you were given a Tzedakah box by your teacher on the first day of class. For those of you who didn’t go to Hebrew school or aren’t Jewish, Tzedakah is the Hebrew word for “charity,” and the box is a small metal or cardboard container that you’d put coins into. Depending on your age, tzedakah boxes were used to collect money for the movement to establish the State of Israel, to plant trees in Israel or to advance other Jewish-related causes. Putting coins into the tzedakah box or helping our parents add money to the collection plate at a house of worship may have been the first time in our lives we made donations.

Coin collection drives have also been part of other fundraising campaigns, including “Trick or Treat for UNICEF” and The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Pennies for Patients drive. When I worked at The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, staff used to contract with armored car services to collect the coins donated by school children. This was done for safety and security reasons, not to mention that large bags of coins can be very heavy!

Nowadays, given that most of us don’t carry coins in our pockets, and do most of our shopping online or in stores using credit or debit cards, I wondered if “there’s an app for that” - donating tzedakah online. The answer is yes. And, Coinstar machines will convert your coins into donations to a number of charities they partner with. So, a penny saved is still a penny earned to help others.

What’s a coin collection campaign or Tzedakah fund that you participated in or helped organize? What’s your first memory of donating to a charity?

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