As has been my custom, this last column of the year is devoted to the Rabbi's Discretionary Fund. The dollars you have contributed to enable good works have gone a long way, and give some insights into the needs in our community. I appreciate your confidence in me and your generosity â€“ in some cases, extraordinary generosity.
The largest category of allocations was for scholarships. From small children to college students to adult learners, the Rabbi's Discretionary Fund enabled Jewish education to reach minds and hearts. A total of just under $13,000 supported religious education, Jewish leadership training and Jewish camping. A few very large and very quiet gifts made this level of support possible, augmenting the many contributions of others.
A dozen or so social justice institutions shared just under $3000 in contributions. About half are well-known Jewish groups and the other half groups in which Jews participate with others. There is very little we do that is more important than our work to improve the world around us.
Similarly, local college-age programs shared $1300 in allocations. (A few more distant campuses benefited as well â€“ a hint to our students who read the bulletin!) College-age youth services, perhaps because they are so underfunded, get the biggest bang for the buck. It is a privilege to support them.
As usual, the largest single allocation this year went to the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. It has been a tough year for Federations in general. The importance of meeting local needs and those of Jews in Israel and elsewhere always seems to be inversely proportional to the health of the economy. Every member of the shul should be a contributor to Federation.
I have mentioned very few specific destinations. Some of them are confidential. Others are not, but whenever I list one name, someone wonders why I didn't mention another. But I do want to share a few modest disbursements with you so you have a sense of the diversity of your collective mitzvah. $284 went to Argentinean Jewry, including a $100 allocation to a project run by our own Conservative movement. I sent $100 to a synagogue in another city that had suffered a devastating fire and was anxious to resume serving its senior population. I answered a request from a local colleague whose son was serving with an Israeli Army unit to provide fleece vests to soldiers standing guard against homicide bombers. A local organization refurbishes and distributes used computers to low-income students, and I sent them a small check that will bring another couple of students technological access. And a remarkable synagogue in Los Angeles, Beit Teshuvah, is pioneering Jewish faith-based recovery for substance abusers and others with compulsive behaviors; they received some inadequate encouragement.
To be sure, some of the funds were used to enhance programs at the synagogue not in our budget â€“ some replacement of equipment, books and holiday gifts for the staff, security guards for our commemoration of the September 11 disaster. One area in which expenditures have plummeted â€“ thanks to proper budgeting â€“ has been my professional expenses. I spent less than $1000, most of it related to travel to day-long conferences.
Thanks to your giving, the Discretionary Fund is usually able to meet the requests of those who need it. And while I would never discourage you from contribution to it or any of the other funds of the congregation, consider meriting some of the privilege of seeking out your own discretionary destinations for your tzedakah dollars.
And, once again, I offer you my gratitude for enabling me to act as your agent for these mitzvot