charitable work

I don’t know where I got my instinct for giving, but it seems to have started at an early age. Whether it was volunteering as a teenager at the Jewish Community Center in Baltimore, Maryland, as President of the Voluntary Action Center in Tidewater, Virginia years later or heading up non-profits in Virginia and Florida in my forties and fifties, or through my current position as Vice President for University Advancement for Towson University, the notion of having impact on someone, some cause or some organization has had an appeal to me. It has always brought me a great amount of joy. Going to the former Soviet Union (before glasnost) and aiding Russian Jews who had been refuseniks for decades or serving at a soup kitchen, regardless of how big or how small the task, a desire to connect in a way that can make a difference has been strong. The bottom line for me is the connection, with people, that I seek.

While the highest form of charity (Tzedakah) in Jewish life is anonymous giving, I have to admit my motivations have not been totally selfless but also tied to the pleasure I receive by recognizing others. When my wife, Nancy, passed away several years ago, I established a scholarship in her name at Towson University in Maryland where she and I had graduated, and the opportunity to meet the students who have been the recipients of these funds has been incredibly rewarding. The fact that something so devastating as her passing would years later be a catalyst for good, as cliché as it may sound, has brought tremendous satisfaction. You know what? It truly does not matter where the motivation lies if the result of doing brings happiness and in some instances rescue and relief. In fact, I really don’t understand those who don’t give.

Professionally, I have been involved with fund-raising for over 25 years, while if I combine that with my volunteer activities, it stretches to well over 35 years. In all off those years, the overriding feelings from my activities have been a sense of reward received through making a difference in some way. I know this sounds overly sentimental and “do-good “and at the worst self-serving, but this has been my experience. The older I get the more important it becomes. Why? Because the concept of legacy, no longer an abstraction, becomes more real as the years pass by. Mortality becomes a reality. At the end of the day all we have are our memories and our legacy built through our relationships with others.

My music also provides another charitable opportunity. Having performed several concerts at Towson University with proceeds going to endowed scholarships has brought great satisfaction to an already personal outlet. If there is one lesson to be learned in all of this, it is to try and find something in your life that has great personal reward for you while at the same time great rewards for others. I certainly don’t set myself as the “example” but I can only share with you the meaningfulness of all of this in my own life.

Charity and giving plays itself out in many ways but the core of any charitable act is going beyond “you” and recognizing “you are not the Center of the universe”. Really!