In this last installment of my column for the program year I report to you on the activities of the Rabbi's Discretionary Fund. You have again entrusted me with a considerable amount of financial resources to distribute as needs present themselves. I hope I have acquitted myself well – you will decide.
One project which the RDF funded this year which was new (and unlikely to be repeated) was the Free Book program. When a book clearance center opened temporarily in the neighborhood, I made it my business to rescue the Jewish titles of worth they had in stock and make them available for free in the lobby. Inside each was an envelope in the hopes that contributions to continue the project would follow. The good news is the number of Jewish books in your hands has increased tremendously. The bad news is the number of envelopes in your hands did not decrease significantly. I do not regret for a moment the large sum expended on this project. Fortunately, it did not prevent other good and important work from being done. However, I can’t risk such sums in the future lest they create a shortfall at a time of need.
More than $8,000 was distributed among various charities. They ranged from the secular to the ecumenical to the very Jewish. For example, a contribution was sent to a Masorti congregation in the south of France to support outreach to a small but vibrant community there. The work of our local Interfaith Conference was deserving of support. And small contributions went to support the efforts of congregants in a variety of causes devoted to finding cures for the medical and societal diseases which plague the human race. (By the way, I am pleased to contribute on behalf of the congregation to your cause as well.)
Not included in the above sum is close to $2,500 in personal assistance extended to individuals. For some, it meant the difference between a night on the street and a night in a bed. For others, it meant being able to pursue an educational opportunity.
More than $1,500 was returned to the synagogue. In some cases, these funds enabled me to support the music program and scholarship program of our affiliates. In other cases, items necessary for the enhancement of our religious life or the smoother functioning of the office were underwritten so as not to impact on the synagogue budget. I might add that the non-charitable expenditures were designated contributions by the donors.
The RDF also provides support for job-related expenses for me and our staff. For example, when we are asked to provide representation to a fundraising event, it is sometimes the RDF which will enable one or more of us to represent the congregation. The fund may not be (and is not) used for private personal expenses, in spite of the fact that many contributions to it are funds which are initially offered to me in appreciation for my rabbinic service.
Managing these dollars is both a privilege and a problem. Many times the demand has exceeded the balance in the check book, but, thanks to your generosity, not for long. The year closes with a very little in the bank, but an awful lot invested in the performance of mitzvot. Thank you for your confidence in my discretion and the wherewithal with which I might exercise it.