In this last issue of The Bulletin of the program year, I always report on the distributions from the Rabbi’s Discretionary Fund. These efforts are funded entirely by voluntary contributions. As you know, I do not accept honoraria from members. When such gifts are generously offered, I always deposit them in the fund.
If anything struck me this year, it was the high cost of these mitzvot. In earlier years, an offer of twenty dollars would help pay for food, gasoline or a part of the rent. Now, anything less than fifty dollars is not meaningful help. Fortunately, the availability of scrip and similar in-kind contributions has allowed me to assure that strangers do not take advantage and that friends get exactly the help they need.
At least monthly, I helped an individual in immediate need. The total of those disbursements was $3,675. Two of them are worth noting and not confidential. Sandi Dubowski produced a remarkable film entitled Trembling Before God. It was my honor to help him cover his expenses to speak about the film here in DC. And the wife of a colleague, Anne Zisenwine of Jerusalem, suddenly needed a heart transplant. In order to secure the help of UCLA Medical Center, the family needed to deposit half a million dollars in an escrow account. I was among hundreds who contributed to that fund. She is recovering.
The Discretionary Fund provided $7,350 in scholarships for Jewish studies at accredited institutions, ranging from pre-school to graduate work. Approximately $3,000 is still due from commitments made this year.
Organizations received just under seven thousand dollars in contributions. They include a number of different Hillel Foundations (hint to college students: I always say yes), a wide range of social justice and interfaith organizations, Jewish and civic institutions and local social service agencies. I am particularly proud of two new allocations. The first is a seder for hundreds of Ethiopian Jews in Israel, led by the very first Ethiopian Conservative rabbi. Along with every rabbi in Seaboard Region, I helped to fully underwrite it. The second is sponsorship of congregants in fund-raising marathons. While I have previously sponsored such efforts, this year included some wonderful causes linked both Jewishly and generally. (Hint to congregants: I always say yes, except for the part that is during Shabbat.)
As usual, some of the funds went to enhance off-budget programs at the synagogue. For example, in order to protect our standard of kashrut, I bought lunch for the usually brown-bag clergy association meeting. I also spent a remarkably small amount of money for office furniture not in the budget for the year. And I provided honoraria for visiting speakers, not including our resident scholars. All told, those expenditures were under $700.
I am again grateful for your trust and generosity. Thanks to you, our congregation is helping to sustain those in need and repair a sometimes broken world.