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Posted October 17, 2005

Book: Offerings of the Heart: Money and Values in Faith Communities
Author: Rabbi Shawn Israel Zevit
The Alban Institute, Herndon, VA, pp. 135

An Excerpt from the Preface:

As I began the journey of writing this book, asking for God’s direction in the opportunity and privilege to do so, I experienced the excitement and awesome possibility of bringing Jewish wisdom about money to those who have made building religious community and communal organizations their volunteer or professional life. I also experienced anxiety, a sense of inadequacy, and blocks to bringing a sacred approach to money in my own life. I know I am not alone in this, for our are sharing these words with me, drawn by your own curiosity or need. I have yet to meet anyone, no matter how solid their faith, that is free of struggle when it comes to dollars and “sense.” And so the journey begins, and the gates of inquiry open.

An Excerpt from the Book:

I remember an interaction with a president of a congregation at one of the money and Jewish values seminars I was leading. The participant had come to the workshop with a great deal of anxiety about her role leading a fund-raising effort directed at hiring a part-time rabbi. As the workshop progressed and we studied Jewish texts about money and building sacred community across the centuries, she leapt up enthusiastically at one point and said, “I get it now! I am not asking people for money. I am creating an opportunity for them to fulfill mitzvah — to use their financial resources towards a holy end and to help build this community!” On returning home she brought her enthusiasm back to her board, convinced that the prevailing attitude they were operating under in proposing a part-time rabbinic position was underestimating what the community could raise if the approached their campaign from the position that they were creating opportunities for giving and building holy community. Persuaded by their president’s newfound passion, the board agreed to a two-thirds rabbinic position and a subsequent campaign that exceeded expectation.

The desire to give of one’s self runs deep in the human soul. All too often, fear and the absence of open communication, along with unclear goals and lack of an explicit connection to Jewish values and approaches that emphasize holiness and vision, not actual capacity and willingness to share resources, can inhibit organizing money in communities of faith.

Judaism does not split the religious from the business or financial end of a faith community’s ongoing life. Such a split often leads those who are searching for spiritual answers to the challenges of contemporary life to cynicism with organized religious communities. When done right, however, fund-raising can be a powerful spiritual, healing, and inspiring exercise in fulfilling our potential as sacred communities and as individuals seeking to live out our values in concrete action that will have impact long after we are gone.

Table of Contents:

1. The Jewish way: text, tradition and today
2. Living the vision: mission and values
3. Money as a spiritual tool: planning and budgeting
4. Sustaining sacred community: from the half-shekel to contemporary dues
5. Organizing money: capital campaigns and fund-raising
6. Tzedakah: justice through giving
7. Money, values, and community: a case study

Epilogue Towards a beginning: a prayer