Putting the give into Thanksgiving

Putting the give into Thanksgiving

In the beginning was Robert Browne, an Anglican priest who in 1581 was the first to secede from the 47-year-old Church of England. (This at the time when those who skipped weekly services were fined by the state.) And Brownism begot the Mayflower colonists, and the colonists begot Plymouth Colony, and the Colony begot, two or three centuries later, Thanksgiving and America’s sole four-day yontiff.

And in the late 20th century, Thanksgiving begot Black Friday, when the Christmas shopping season was heralded with amazing discounts that were in-store only, leading some pilgrims to camp out overnight and others to trample their fellow pilgrims to death.

And lo, in 2005 Scott Silverman of Shop.org said: “Let there be Cyber Monday,” and Mr. Silverman sent out a press release, and the New York Times duly reported that “millions of otherwise productive working Americans, fresh off a Thanksgiving weekend of window shopping, were returning to high-speed Internet connections at work Monday and buying what they liked.”

And the shoppers saw Cyber Monday, and it was good. And in 2006 online spending on Cyber Monday jumped 25 percent to $608 million, and by 2011, notwithstanding the spread of high speed Internet at home, and the fact 7 percent of human resource managers had reported firing an employee for holiday shopping, that figure had doubled.

So it was that in 2012 the 92nd Street Y and the United Nations Foundation decided to combine Thanksgiving spirit of gratitude with Cyber Monday’s spirit of online credit card use to draw attention to philanthropy.

Thus was born Giving Tuesday, a day in which Americans are encouraged to give back to their community and to highlight their philanthropic sides in their online interactions, and of course to give generously.

And in 2013, online gifts on Giving Tuesday rose 90 percent over 2012, and according to one credit card processor, the average gift rose from $101 to $142, and the Chronicle of Philanthropies saw that it was good.

So it was that in 2014 the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey came aboard and promoted the idea of Giving Tuesday to the organizations of Northern New Jersey, both as a Jewish coalition and as part of a broader, nonsectarian Northern New Jersey Giving Tuesday program.

In keeping with the principles of Reverend Browne, who was the founder of decentralized Congregationalism, different organizations have been participating in Giving Tuesday in different ways.

At the federation itself, Giving Tuesday is an opportunity for a classic display of the organization’s mixture of hands-on community involvement and leadership philanthropy.

Starting early, on Monday Federation staff packed frozen turkeys and large chickens for a food pantry in Paterson.

“Hunger is still a huge factor in northern New Jersey,” said Miriam Allenson of the federation.

On noon on Giving Tuesday, volunteers from Flames of Giving will gather at the federation’s Paramus offices to prepare gifts for residents of the Federation Apartments in Paterson, a senior independent living facility. Volunteers are invited to bring two mugs, candy to pack in the mugs, and holiday cards. The federation will supply cellophane and wrapping paper.

That evening, the organization is hosting Laura Silver, author of “Knish: In Search of the Jewish Soul Food” as part of its “Leadership Leads” program. Leaders of the federation and its affiliated agencies are invited to learn about the knish – a food that to Ms. Allenson “represents the past, present, and future of the Jewish community” – and to make their pledges for the federation’s annual campaign.

The Jewish Home Family is involving its residents, clients, and outside volunteers – that could be you – in sorting medical supplies. No longer needed but still usable medical supplies have been collected; now people have to sort them so they can be shipped overseas where they are needed. Please call Charlene Vannucci at 201-784-1414, ext. 4237, if you are interested.

The Bergen County YJCC in Washington Township has jumped into the social media nature of the Giving Tuesday event. (Giving Tuesday organizers boast that last year, there were 320,000 posts to Twitter with the tag “#GivingTuesday.) From early in November, Rhonda Roth of the YJCC has been posting to the center’s Facebook page, highlighting spreading awareness of both Giving Tuesday and the work the YJCC does for the community. Modeled on the popular “Humans of New York” Facebook posts, these posts feature a member of the YJCC community and comments.

The center also has set up a special dedicated online giving site.

And on Tuesday, the word will go forth via an email to members that Giving Tuesday is here, and a donation would be appropriate.

Across Bergen County in Tenafly, the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades is preparing for its own Giving Tuesday appeal. It will highlight the work it does for children with special needs, for children with cancer, and in feeding seniors.

“When you make donations and support your community, you’re also helping yourself,” said Jeff Nadler, the JCC’s chief development officer. “You’re helping your family, helping your neighbors, and you’re helping the place where you live. You strengthen us as a whole.”

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