In honor of Asher’s sixth birthday, we strolled up and down supermarket aisles, tossing into our cart cans and boxes to donate to Yad Ezra, the local kosher food bank. With my three kids in tow, I shlepped 30 pounds of canned goods into the non-descript building on 11 Mile Road and watched as my wide-eyed kids learned how those without a way to buy food are helped by the donations of generous others. Which, on that day, included us.

I have always loved the concept of tikkun olam, or healing the world, most about Judaism’s values – the idea that we have a responsibility as a people to help others, both within our community and outside of it. And it’s been a priority for me to instill a value of giving in my children.

I read recently about a kosher soup kitchen in New York, Masbia. On opening day three years ago, it served eight people. Today, it’s 160 meals per week.

Poverty, hunger, and handouts are something we Jews keep on the Q-T. I hear more about fundraising efforts for Yad Ezra and Mazon than I do about the individuals who are helped. Perhaps it’s a way to preserve dignity. But I think we’re also deluding ourselves into thinking that misfortune cannot befall us.

Cost of living increases, widespread unemployment, the weakening dollar, astronomical fuel prices are but a few of the reasons many families are having a hard time stretching their dollars for everyday necessities.

In more observant Jewish circles, there are the added costs of day school, keeping kosher, and synagogue membership.

I’ll admit, I have a hard time rationalizing the expense of day school. Perhaps if I loved the curriculum or focus of a particular school, if I believed in it more than any other option, I wouldn’t struggle so much with the idea of paying the bill.

But I believe we are setting ourselves up for failure. It IS possible to be a committed Jew without breaking the bank. In fact, one might even argue it’s a Jewish value to live humbly and generate identity from the home while intermingling in the world at large for the most impact all-around.

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