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Investments with a Guaranteed Return

on Thursday, August 30 2012. Posted by Rabbi Efrem Goldberg
Imagine if at the end of davening, our President David Wolgin and I stood at the pulpit and shared a number of incredible investment opportunities with the community.  The opportunities would have a guaranteed return with absolutely no risk to the investor.   These investments will yield dividends for years to come.  It is hard to imagine any objection and instead there would likely be great appreciation and a mad rush to find out more about how to purchase such an investment.

Yet, Dr. Wolgin and I did exactly that this past Shabbos only with a very different response and result.  David spoke about the Kol Nidrei Appeal and our goal of 100% participation and I spoke about the Jewish Education Scholarship Fund and the important work that it does.  Unlike investments with Madoff, Wextrust, Rothstein or MF Global, giving tzedaka to a worthy cause carries no risk and guarantees a return to the generous investor.  Indeed, the dividends accumulated from funding appropriate causes are felt not only in this world in the form of satisfaction, meaning, and purpose, but they continue to pay in the world to come.

Someone once asked baron Edmond Rothschild about his net worth.  He turned to his personal assistant to come up with a calculation.  The assistant returned with a number based on his real estate holdings, investments, cash, etc.  Rothschild turned to her andsaid, “That isn’t my worth.  The markets could crash, the assets could be seized and I could lose it all in an instant.”  He then opened his desk drawer, removed his charity ledger and said, “This is my real worth.  What I have given to charity nobody could ever take away from me.”

Just imagine if all the money that was lost in ponzi schemes, crashing markets, upside down real estate holdings and poor investments went into charitable causes instead.   The owners would have been out the money either way, but if it went to charity, it would forever contribute to their true net worth.

I hope it is obvious why we should all participate in the BRS Kol Nidrei appeal.   In doing so, you are not just supporting your Shul, but you are fueling the engine that drives our community.  What is perhaps less obvious is why your Shul Rabbi is spending time and energy raising money for Jewish education when he isn’t employed by any of the schools.  Let me explain why I am working hard for this fund and why I believe you should invest in it, like Yocheved and I have.

Space does not permit me to discuss the tuition crisis, afford ability crisis, or whatever else you would like to call it.  We all know too well about the rising cost of Jewish education and how it is far outpacing rise in salaries or income.  A number of ventures are currently being worked on in an effort to influence the issue in a meaningful and impactful way.  For example, there are selfless members of our community who working with the OU have created a Community Advocacy Network that is interacting with State Representatives on issues of school choice, vouchers, scholarships, bussing, textbooks and more.   If you would like to get involved by doing work, not just sharing opinions, please let me know and I am happy to provide more information to you.

However, until these big picture projects really kick in and begin to make an impact, we have a very real and present need.  Our local day schools are collectively giving out over 6 million dollars of tuition assistance each year.  They, and you by paying tuition, are doing your part.  Nevertheless, there are families that cannot meet the generously discounted tuition contract they have been offered and without assistance will simply have to remove their children from Jewish school.  There are legitimate reasons to have to leave day school, but money should not be one of them.  I believe that a Jewish education is a necessity, not a luxury and every Jewish child deserves a chance at one.

Our Jewish Education Scholarship Fund does not support the operating budget of schools or make donations to their fundraisers.   The fund provides money on behalf of specific children in specific circumstances to make sure that they can remain in a Jewish school.  Helping the youth of our community is not the job of schools alone or of other parents who happen to have their children in the same school.  It is the job, responsibility and halachic obligation of each and every one of us alike, whether we have young children at home or are empty nesters.

Put simply, supporting the fund is an investment opportunity that is guaranteed to pay a return.  The dividends are informed, inspired, passionate Jewish children who are committed to Torah, the Jewish people and the State of Israel.   With all of the challenges we are having inspiring our youth, the research and statistics don’t lie.  One cannot compare the Jewish identity of a child that attended a Jewish day school with one who didn’t.

In a couple of weeks, we will stand in Shul and emotionally proclaim – “Teshuva, tefilla u’tzedaka ma’avirin es ro’ah ha’gezeirah, repentance, prayer and charity remove the evil decree.”   The Machzor is not suggesting that we bribe God with money in this High Holiday season.  It is suggesting that we show that we understand the true definition of networth with a commitment to invest in God’s children generously.

Don’t be a foolish investor; put your money in the one place that you can be absolutely sure will give you a good return.  Please participate in the BRS Kol Nidrei appeal in whatever way that you can.

And please, do your part to help your neighbor’s children have access to the heritage, tradition and Jewish education that allowed many of us to become who we are today.

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