‘Money For Mitzvahs’


The “Cash for Clunkers” experiment has come and gone, but what was intended for car owners to benefit from increasing their vehicles’ fuel efficiency could be applied to improve Jewish life as well.

The premise would be the same – a valuable voucher or reward going to folks who trade in something less efficient for something on the next level – but our community could make use of it by having consumers of Jewish practice and education be rewarded for stepping up their commitment.

So, for example, the parents of a youngster who goes from a one-day-a-week supplementary Hebrew school to a five-day-a-week day school would receive a special break on tuition, and the child would be honored in some public forum.

Or, a family leaving the more comfortable confines of this country for the challenges and opportunities of life in Israel would receive gifts from their home community as a way of honoring the new olim and making their transition less difficult.

A man or woman who takes on a leadership role in the local synagogue would get a break on dues and receive recognition for the additional volunteer work he or she is assuming.

In essence, these people would be leaving their clunkier selves behind and making themselves into upgraded, sleeker and more efficient models of do-gooders.

And who, you ask, would be doling out the extra dollars, and where would that money come from? The idea would be to create a special fund for mitzvah work and distribute it to those who increase their level of engagement in Jewish life, and by doing so, improve themselves and the community.

Granted, it’s an idea in progress, but it could lead to a way to give folks an incentive to reach in and step up, leaving their old jalopy ways in the dust.

was editor and publisher of The Jewish Week from 1993 to 2019. Follow him at garyrosenblatt.substack.com.