I’ve received a couple of emails regarding interesting Yom Kippur charity initiatives that play on the various prohibitions of the holiday.
The American Jewish World Service is asking that its supporters take the money that they would have spent on food, were they not fasting on Yom Kippur, and donate it to the AJWS to help fund its projects that build farming capacity in the developing world.
The organization is asking its supports to give $36 to its "Fighting Hunger From the Ground Up" initiative.
On the other foot, the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly is using the prohibition of wearing leather shoes on Yom Kippur to try to help buy shoes for children in the developing world.
The RA is suggesting that its members but non-leather shoes from TOMS Shoes, an eco-friendly shoe company that gives one pair of shoes to a child in the developing world for every pair of shoes that it sells.
More information about the “Heart and Sole” initiative is available here.
Here are the press releases for both projects
AJWS Asks Supporters to Fight Global Hunger With Money Saved from Yom Kippur Fast
Donations will be Awarded by AJWS as Grants to Grassroots NGOs
New York, NY; September 21, 2009— As part of its recently launched campaign, Fighting Hunger from the Ground Up, American Jewish World Service (AJWS) has issued an appeal asking supporters to donate the money they would have spent on food, were they not fasting on Yom Kippur, to AJWS-supported communities building local farming capacity in the developing world.
Invoking the prophet Isaiah, the appeal reads: “’This is the fast I desire…To let the oppressed go free; to share your bread with the hungry.’
“These are the 2,000-year-old words that we hear chanted in synagogue every Yom Kippur,” AJWS’s Yom Kippur appeal continues. “But what can we do to put them into practice? This year, bring the Yom Kippur liturgy to life by donating the ‘cost’ – we suggest $36 – of your fast for people in the developing world for whom hunger is an ongoing reality.”
Everyday, more than 1 billion people worldwide go hungry and one child dies every six seconds from hunger-related causes. AJWS has launched Fighting Hunger from the Ground Up in order to build awareness in the American Jewish community regarding the political roots of hunger, to emphasize that Jews have an obligation to participate in the struggle against hunger, and to provide channels for Jews to get involved through grassroots advocacy and financial support for sustainable food production in the developing world.
“Hunger is not a result of depleted food supply,” said AJWS president Ruth W. Messinger in a statement. “Ample food is produced each year to feed the world twice over.”
Messinger added: “Inequities in control over the means of food production and distribution— byproducts of public policies, such as free trade and subsidies— encourage the co-opting and degradation of indigenous farmland by large agribusinesses. These policies also enable farming conglomerates to overproduce food and dump their surpluses onto markets in the developing world at cheap prices.
“As a consequence, local farmers trying to compete alongside subsidized conglomerates are squeezed and local agriculture is choked. We’re talking about a deeply flawed global food system rooted in politics and thus eminently fixable.
“In Pirkei Avot, we are taught that without sustenance there is no Torah. Without food, it is impossible for communities to thrive, and as Jews in the 21st century, where proximity alone does not define community, we must be concerned with the well-being of all who share our very small planet. We can help end hunger by advocating for policies that protect local farmers in the developing world and by providing impoverished communities with the resources they need to grow their own food.”
The Rabbinical Assembly and TOMS Shoes Create "Heart and Sole" – A Yom Kippur Tzedakah Project
Prohibition Against Wearing Leather Shoes Provides Shoes to Children in Need
September 21, 2009 (New York, NY) — For the 2009 High Holy Day Season, the Rabbinical Assembly in partnership with other Conservative Movement organizations* is pleased to announce a new Yom Kippur initiative that will allow people to fulfill the mitzvah of tzedakah while honoring the prohibition against wearing leather shoes.
Due to the rabbinic injunction against wearing leather, it is customary to see Jews wearing sneakers, sandals and other non-leather footgear on the Jewish Day of Awe. This year, we became aware of the work of a company called TOMS Shoes (www.tomsshoes.com) that gives away a free pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair sold. Our project, "Heart and Sole," is a Conservative movement-wide project that encourages Jews to wear non-leather shoes this Yom Kippur and will double their mitzvah by enabling children in need to receive a free pair of shoes for each pair of TOMS shoes purchased.
Though many of the shoes manufactured by TOMS Shoes do contain leather, the company has a vegan line of shoes that are entirely leather-free and therefore ideal for Yom Kippur.
"Heart and Sole" is entirely voluntary and will be publicized throughout the schools, synagogues and organizations of the Conservative movement. The company has created a special webpage dedicated to the initiative with comic book-style artwork by Jordan Gorfinkel of Avalanche Comics. The artwork is available on PDF on the webpage (www.heartandsole.net) to enable synagogues, schools and organizations to spread the word.
In a letter to the Rabbinical Assembly membership, Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, Executive Vice President of the Rabbinical Assembly commented, "The power of Conservative Judaism is our passion to link our ancient cultural traditions to current issues that give additional meaning and purpose to the practice of ritual. Not wearing leather on Yom Kippur reminds us that the purpose of the day is reflection and not personal comfort. Furthermore, by wearing non-leather shoes that also allow a child elsewhere in the world to walk to school with shoes on and to live free of the diseases caused by going barefoot, a ritual mitzvah becomes an ethical one as the goal of tzedekah is also being fulfilled."