Philanthropy and tzedakah – aligning your heart and head


When I think of philanthropy, I think of people with wealth giving money to worthy causes that help humanity.   That is partially true as my research has shown.

The definition of philanthropy, according to a Google search, is “the desire to promote the welfare of others, expressed especially by the generous donation of money to good causes.” 

Wikipedia goes deeper, “Philanthropy means etymologically, the love of humanity, in the sense of caring, nourishing, developing, and enhancing what it means to be human. In this meaning, it involves both the benefactor in their identifying and exercising their values, and the beneficiary in their receipt and benefit from the service or goods provided.”

This aligns with tzedakah, the Jewish perspective of charity.  How to give, how much to give is  discussed in the article “Charity: Tzedakah”  on

Tzedakah – often translated as charity – is a mainstay of Jewish life. The sages teach that the world was built upon kindness. However, tzedakah goes one step beyond. Literally translated as ‘justice’ or ‘righteousness,’ tzedakah tells us that sharing what we have with others isn’t something special. It’s the honest and just thing to do. Tzedakah is not limited to gifts of money. Sharing time, expertise or even a kind smile are all forms of charity that we can do.”

I feel that when we give our time for worthy causes we are being philanthropic.

I have difficulty equating tzedakah with charity because of the connotation of the word charity. For me, some of my most rewarding work comes from non-monetary remuneration. Although money is our means of exchange, the heart and soul behind our giving is what makes the difference. For example, when I mentor a person or offer business leads, it gives me great satisfaction that I am helping a person succeed.

Tzedakah is a very important concept – one we should pay attention to every day.

PATRICIA RASKIN hosts “The Patricia Raskin Show” on Saturdays at 3 p.m. on WPRO, 630 AM/99.7 FM and on Mondays at 2 p.m. on Raskin is a board member of Providence’s Temple Emanu-El.