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The True Meaning of Philanthropy
December 24, 2014
The True Meaning of Philanthropy

Posted by Wendy Wilsker

In late December our mailboxes are filled with holiday greetings and solicitation letters. Often these letters go in a pile to review before December 31. Every letter is compelling and shares stories of worthy causes and the impact that philanthropic support makes. But what is the true meaning of one’s generosity?

Sometimes it is valuable to look back to better understand the meaning of words and phrases we commonly use today The word “charity” is derived from late Latin, “caritas,” meaning “generous love.” In Judaism, the word most commonly associated with “charity” is “tzedekah,” which translates to “justice or righteousness.” When you put the Latin and Jewish meanings together— “generous love, justice, righteousness”—one can understand the true meaning of philanthropy: giving from the heart and seeking justice for all in order to make our world better.

It’s not easy to decide where to give and how much to give. I enjoyed reading Michelle Singletary’s column in the Personal Finance section of this Sunday’s Boston Globe. Take a moment to read the article and think about Singletary’s suggestions for how to choose the causes that are most meaningful to you. For the most sophisticated philanthropists to those who are just starting to think about giving, this article highlights how to give from your heart and your head.

No matter what faith you practice and what holiday you may celebrate this season, I invite you to take action and embody the true meaning of charity and tzedekah.

Did you know you can make an end of the year gift from your IRA? To make a gift under the new charitable IRA legislation, you must be age 70 1/2 or older, give up to $100,000 from your IRA in 2014 by December 31, and transfer funds directly from a traditional or rollover IRA.

WendyWilskerWendy Wilsker is the Senior Vice President of Development. Throughout her life, her Jewish identity has been deeply entwined with tikkun olam and tzedekah. She began her career in development at Combined Jewish Philanthropies and has led development at the American Jewish Committee, the Rashi School, and Lahey Clinic. Most recently, she served as a consultant and executive recruiter to local and national nonprofit organizations.

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