Whatever you do, don’t take advice from me on the stock market. I still think “mutual funds” is when each person pays his or her own way on a date. And “capital gains,” as far as I know, has to do with expanding the borders of the District of Columbia.
But I do know of one investment that delivers dependably year after year. It is the investment in the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. The dollars that are contributed by members of the Jewish community (and some non-Jews) allow us to sustain life and enhance its quality for the clients of recipient agencies in North America, and for the Jewish communities around the world, especially in the State of Israel.
It is particularly important that you contribute to Federation this year for two reasons. The first, as you guessed, is Israel. With unemployment approaching 20% and tourism and high-tech at a fraction of two years ago, Israel’s economy is suffering mightily. Absent a quick resolution to the conflicts in the Middle East, you are unlikely to spend your tourism dollars there (though you should). The next best thing you can do is direct those dollars to helping Israel by contributing to Federation. Israel continues to absorb thousands of new immigrants each year who come seeking a better life than their Diaspora communities offer them. But helping Israel through Federation, you are helping the Jews of Argentina, Russia and Ethiopia, both directly and indirectly.
The second reason is a bit more complex. Charitable giving in the United States remains high, but not consistent. Much generosity is being diverted to charities focused on the responses to terrorism, especially September 11 recovery funds. Coupled with the sagging stock market, “mainstream” charities are suffering as funds dry up. Ironically, the mandate of such philanthropies becomes all the more urgent. Federation funds the agencies (including social service, educational and relief agencies) that help to meet those needs and the essential “normal” institutions of Jewish life (including schools, centers and synagogues) that help to bridge the gap.
December 8 is Super Sunday. You can call Federation now to volunteer (301.230.7200) or answer your phone on that Sunday when a volunteer calls you.
Or better yet: both.