January 2, 2014

Israelis Are Giving

December 31 was GivingTuesdayIsrael, the country’s national day of donating. Canada and the United States also have a GivingTuesday and hopefully many more countries will join in. 

People around the world are enthusiastic about giving to their loved ones on Christmas, but getting excited about giving away time and money to strangers is, unfortunately, a rare concept.  Here is a peek at one small country that has become a specialist is this art.

Israelis are good at donating time and money and a recent study proves it. In a report published by the Central Bureau of Statistics and a report by the World Bank, Israel ranked second in the world as the most charitable country. Given that this place is fairly fresh on the new country scale and teensy on the size charts (about the size of the state of New Jersey), this is actually remarkable. And although the good ol’ USA scored number one, many developed, affluent countries did not rank so high on the charitable scale.  Australia came in third, with the U.K., South Africa and Canada following behind.

Drill the Israeli statistics down and we learn that there is one small place in this small country that ranks as Israel’s most charitable town for giving via online donations. And I am proud to say that Ra’anana ranks as number one. Ra’anana with one piddling main street (Ahuza) and two rickety police cars is a sleepy suburban kind of town; but its citizens make up for it with their zest for giving.

In an article detailing this incredible news, one commentator suggested that Ra’anana ranks number one because of its high population of Anglo olim who were educated to give. And even though they may have brought along a grating accent when they ‘medabearrr eevreet,’ they immigrated with the custom of tzedaka, the Jewish mitzvah of donating at least ten per cent of one’s net income.

Aside from simply writing checks, Anglo Ra’anana-ites have placed their energy into making this country a better place.

Ra’anana is home to Leket, the brainchild of an American immigrant who wanted to solve the problem of hunger in Israel. From one person and a fridge, Leket has evolved into a national charity in just 10 years. In 2013 alone, Leket’s 50,000 volunteers helped rescue and distribute some 2.5 million pounds of produce, serve one million prepared meals and deliver 1.1 million prepared sandwiches to schools. This week we were two of about 1,500 donors who went to their annual dinner, all eager to give and support.

Beit Issie Shapiro, a school for children with disabilities, was the dream of one South African immigrant to Ra'anana with a vision to assist those with special needs. Today, Beit Issie is recognized as the most effective non-profit and is renowned world wide for its special education school, hydrotherapy center and multi-sensory therapy, all impacting 30,000 children and adults a year.

Mishne Lehem was founded by a few Americans in Ra’anana. This organization has a network of volunteers who deliver bags of groceries to under privileged families in Ra’anana. The Lemonade Fund was developed three years ago by an American immigrant to Ra’anana. A breast cancer survivor, the founder decided to help Israeli women diagnosed with breast cancer to receive the proper care and support during treatments. 

And a Canadian immigrant to Ra’anana who saw a lack of financial planning knowledge in many poor households, founded Chaim BePlus. This organization helps families who are in debt to balance their budget, decreasing the downward spiral of poverty and increasing financial stability.

This is just a sampling of some of my immigrant neighbors who are making a big difference in Israel. There are many more incredible organizations run by inspiring visionaries in Ra’anana and beyond.

Israel may have instituted GivingTuesday into its calendar, but many Israelis get excited about giving every day of the year. 

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