Jews and money are in the news in these days of economic downturn, whether impressive philanthropy – in the tradition of our young friend on the cover handing over his life savings to help fellow Jews – or embarrassing scoundrels. If money makes the world go ‘round, as the “Cabaret” song about 1930s Berlin says, what about the Jewish world? In this Chanukah season when American culture encourages spending, we’ve taken a look at what Jewish tradition has to say about money: making it, coveting it, losing it and giving it away. Our distinguished contributors talk about our sometimes uneasy relationship with money, and the connection between how we spend our money and how we spend our days.
For perspective, some turn to text: Rabbi Burton L. Visotzky looks to midrashic literature on poverty and charity, and Stuart Schoffman examines an unusual Hebrew book written in 1553 by an exiled Spanish Jew and later translated into Yiddish. Etgar Keret and Chanel Dubofsky share personal stories, as does Shelly Fredman, in light of a range of Jewish texts illuminating the spiritual side of money. About business practices, Marco Greenberg reflects on the nature of success, and David Sarna tracks when business isn’t as usual.
On the 80th anniversary of the failure of the immigrant-owned Bank of United States, Rebecca Kobrin narrates the story, a significant episode at the crossroads of economics and American Jewish history. Elana Stein Hain ties Chanukah into the conversation, and for Jerome A. Chanes, it’s ancient coinage and Shylock.
The stunning images of antique tzedakah, or charity, boxes are from the Moriah Gallery, featured in a show of more than 250 works of folk art, on view through the end of January at 230 Fifth Ave., Suite 1311, Manhattan.
Save, spend and give wisely and generously, and enjoy the season. And, a penny for your thoughts: Write to us at