Well, the big day is almost here. The ideas and concepts, the planning and details, the phone calls and emails are almost done. On Friday morning, Women's Philanthropy will celebrate The Next Step: One Community. One Day. One Gift.
It is going to be a terrific morning. Although Kati Marton's new book, Enemies of the People: My Family's Journey to America, won't be published until the day before she joins us, we've received an advance copy. This is a very powerful story by a wonderful writer and I can't wait to hear her. So, I'm glad we're going to have a great speaker. But I'm even more excited just to see all of you who will be joining us. The opportunity to be with so many women who share the value of gemilut chesedim, performing deeds of loving-kindness, is very special.
Why do I say gemilut chesedim rather than simply tzedakah, which can mean justice, righteousness, and sometimes charity? Part of the message behind The Next Step, and I hope our overall message from Women's Philanthropy, is that we can combine hands-on care for individuals with the ability to change the lives of many through our philanthropy. If you are looking for hands-on opportunities, we have a new resource for you: go to www.ujcnj.org/volunteer and take another step! And whether you have already made your pledge to the 2010 Annual Campaign, will make it at The Next Step, or will be a part of the ongoing campaign conversations, know that your one gift, combined with the gifts of all of this one special community, makes an enormous difference.
And here's one more thing you can try. Whether you have the time to volunteer or not, whether you are in a financial position to make a financial commitment to tzedakah, there is always one thing you can do. We are told that Rabbi Shammai , the famous scholar, taught "Receive all people with a cheerful countenance…a person who receives everyone with a cheerful countenance, even if she gives them nothing - Scripture accounts it to her as though she had presented them with the most precious gifts in the world." (Ethics of Our Ancestors 1:15, Avot de-Rabbi Natan 13) This story comes to me from a wonderful book I hadn't looked at in a while but which came to mind recently. A Book of Life: Embracing Judaism as a Spiritual Practice, by Michael Strassfeld (Schocken Books, New York 2002), is a wonderful book that examines the spiritual practices that can lend deeper meaning to our Judaism. So smile at people you see as you go about your day. You will be surprised at how often you can get someone to smile back and even more surprised at how good you feel when they do.
There really is always a NEXT STEP!