To: UAHC Congregations From: Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie Re: Turning Your Tax Rebate into Tzedakah Date: June 7, 2001
Today, President Bush signed into law a $1.35 trillion tax cut. As a result of this bill, the Treasury Department is now preparing millions of checks for $300 or $600 to be sent to every taxpaying household in America, depending on marital status. However, these cuts will also place the future of the Medicare trust fund, social security and social service programs in jeopardy, while disproportionately benefiting the wealthiest segment of society.
At the press conference announcing a coalition of organizations opposing the tax bill, Rabbi David Saperstein made clear our litmus test for our support of tax policy:
Does it serve all the people, not just the wealthy?
Does it treat the poor and the needy, the elderly and the ill, the children, the widow and the orphan - the most vulnerable of God's children - fairly?
Does it reflect the prophetic mandate to create a society of justice and equity?
The bill that Congress passed, and that the President signed today, does not meet these standards. But that does not relieve us of our obligation to do so.
Therefore, today we are asking every UAHC congregation to form a Tzedakah Collective and, in turn, to ask members of their congregation to donate as much as they can of the rebate they receive to this Collective. Each individual will need to decide how much of the rebate they will donate to the Collective. But in a congregation of 400 families, with an average gift of $300 per family, you could provide groceries for 50 families of three for an entire year. If you multiply that by 900 congregations, you will see the impact that we, as a Movement, can have.
A Tzedakah Collective is different from a "Social Action Fund" in that its purpose is not to fund synagogue social action programs, but rather, a way to pool individual's money to have a greater impact and disburse these funds to worthy organizations and causes. While the "members" of a collective can decide to give the money to whatever cause they deem appropriate, they may want to pay special attention to those areas that will be particularly adversely affected by the new federal budget - programs for the needy, reproductive rights, the environment, and organizations working to maintain the separation of church and state.
I have asked the Commission on Social Action and the Religious Action Center to prepare and send out a Guide to Establishing a Tzedakah Collective, which will provide answers to questions regarding the "how to's" of this program: the legal/tax ramifications; issues of governance; how to decide who gets the money, etc. You should be receiving this guide in the coming weeks.
In the meantime, we wanted you to be able to prepare the groundwork to launch your Collective by the end of the month, so that it will be up and running by the time the checks arrive in people's homes (sometime in August).