As we have mentioned before on this blog and as we have seen in countless other articles and news stories, COVID-19 is wreaking havoc on everyone’s lives. One of the biggest concerns is finances. The Jewish community – like many other communities – is working hard to help people get through this with a special focus on people who have been laid off or furloughed.
As such, the Jewish Community Response and Impact Fund (JCRIF) was established. It will be offering over $91million in interest-free loans and grants in an effort to help these people and to maintain US Jewish life infrastructure. Set up by seven anchor foundations it is working in conjunction with the Federation system and is being organized in two parts: interest free loan program; aligned grant program.
This is the largest collective Jewish response to the current COVID-19 crisis.
The 2020 Genesis Prize – of $1m – has been awarded to ex-refusenik, human rights activist, Israeli politician and author Natan Sharansky. As has been tradition over the years with the Prize, Sharansky will be donating this money toJewish charities.
Sharansky – a prior leader of the Jewish Agency – has been recognized as a “true Jewish hero” by Isaac Herzog and termed a “true giant of world Jewry” by Laura Janner-Klausner, a Senior Reform Rabbi. He has also been commended for the “great sacrifice” he engaged in by “dedicate[ing] his life to the Jewish people, the State of Israel and the entire world, in the spirit of tikkun olam” by Tova Strasberg-Cohen, prize panelist and Israeli Supreme Court judge.
Natan Sharansky has received other awards in the past including the Presidential Medal of Freedom and Congressional Gold Medal.
While the American holiday of Thanksgiving is, well, quintessentially American, it is also the kind of celebration that can be enjoyed by anyone. According to an article written by Yvette Alt Miller a few years ago, “Thanksgiving is Actually Really Jewish.” This idea has been echoed by others who see the day as most Jewish for a number of reasons.
Giving is very central to Judaism. Rabbi Moses ben Maimon who lived between 1135 and 1204 actually established a list of eight giving levels. These levels are based on the most and least compassionate/sensitive ways of giving. Ultimately, the more sensitive one is to the receiver, the higher the level of giving.
When it comes to Thanksgiving, this could be ranked the fifth level of giving – “Giving before you are asked.” Invite a lonely neighbor over for the meal. Celebrate with them. Make them a part of your family.
Accordingly, the great codifier of Jewish law, Maimonides (Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, 1135-1204) formulated a list of eight levels of giving, correlating to the degree to which the giver is sensitive to the needs and feelings of the recipient.
Israeli-Russian entrepreneur Yitzchak Mirilashvili is a classic example of a case in which success is used for good. In as much as he is a successful business executive, Mirilasvili is an extremely generous philanthropist. He gives an enormous amount of money – on a regular basis – to noteworthy charitable causes.
Based in both Russia and Israel, Mirilashvili co-founded Vk.com – Russia’s largest social network. As chairman and majority shared of the firm, the company has enjoyed tremendous success. Indeed, earlier this year it was rated by Alexa as being within the Top 500 sites.
Together with his wife Vika Mirilashvili, Yitzchak donates millions of dollars to educational, welfare and social institutions around the world. They have a charitable foundation – Keren Menomim – through which they help sustain many institutions working with disadvantaged individuals and communities. One example of this is the food bank Yehuda Ya’aleh.