Students and Giving; Our Responsibility

A summary of our podcast Students and Giving; Our Responsibility.

This past week we re-introduced our students to a concept we developed a few years back, inviting them to become Shareholders of Chabad at Brandeis at $10 a month. Becoming a Shareholder is a lot more than a financial gift, it’s a statement of value and partnership.

Judaism teaches that there are three parts to connecting. To understand (Torah), to feel (Tefillah), and to give (Tzedakah). It’s through the act of giving away something that belongs to and can be used for oneself, which achieves a connection that understanding and feeling alone cannot accomplish.

This is not about giving back though, which is the immediate knee jerk reaction students have, “You’ve given me so much, I’ll give you back.” Tit for tat. Rather it’s about valuing something by giving something up for it.

Disclaimer: This is not intended for those who have a very limited budget for their basic necessities. Thankfully though most students at Brandeis are able to spend money on pleasures, like movies, eating out, hosting meals or joining Greek life.

Students think along the lines of what provides them with immediate happiness and pleasure. It’s in this light that many also view Chabad; remembering the good times and memories they’ve had, and there are plenty. They will also continue to rave about Chabad as alumni.

What’s lost here is the engagement with Chabad in a thoughtful and mature manner. Thinking about what is Chabad’s impact on me, what real value, beyond fun and good times, did Chabad have on me? The $10 a month stimulates this type of thinking.

If it was about raising money for Chabad there are far more effective ways to spend our time  raising even more significant funds. Instead, inviting students to join as Shareholders is about our responsibility as educators to our students, teaching them to develop their “thinking”, “valuing” and “giving” muscles.

A lot of students absorb in college, and even earlier, the message of how they are going to accomplish amazing things in the world. But for that you need an amazing character, which happens through one’s personal development, efforts, and at times, giving (up) of oneself. A mistaken assumption is that character development is magically achieved over four years, but in fact it’s not. Not at all.

So that even when students receive an income (which is a sentiment we hear often as to why they’re not currently giving as students) there’s no guarantee that they will become givers, after all, their expenses only increase.

Being a giver needs to occur in all areas of life, not isolated to finances. It’s what creates a mensch, what being human and, even more, being Jewish is about. It’s what brings to us and  the people in our intimate orbit, much harmony, happiness, and purpose.

For some it’s easier, for others it’s harder, but for all it’s a choice. To be a giver or not to be a giver.

As educators we won’t shirk from our responsibility to teach it.

Listen here to the full 12 minute conversation.

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