Our great teacher of Tzedakah and Tikkun Olam has so much to share. Why reinvent the wheel, when you can learn from our own local hero?
You will soon see Danny Siegel's name in various places on the JChoice website. Let me tell you why...
Danny grew up in a typical Jewish household in Northern Virginia, where he saw his parents 'walking the walk' of Tikkun Olam, that is, they were involved - in their own way - doing things to make the world a better place to be. His father the country doctor often went above and beyond the call of duty and was just as often paid in chickens and hens or not paid at all. His mother, too, was a Tzadeket, involved in many things to fix the world.
As a teenager, Danny was very active in his synagogue youth group and even became their international president! He struggled with undiagnosed ADD, but did make it through high school, college and graduate school. And then.....at age 30, after having been to Israel 9 or 10 times already, he decided to return mid-year, for a month or so. And then....instead of waiting for people to give him the 'traditional' dollar or two to carry with for Tzedakah, he began to ask his friends and family for Tzedakah money for his trip to Israel. He collected $955. But what to do with it? He went in search of the right people to give it to.
He had no theory, no plan, no vision to guide him other than 'money should make a difference'. His mother had recommended the first person to give to, and then he started asking his friends in Israel "Who is doing good stuff, Doing Good?". And then....as Danny says, it was easy.
Now for the amazing part! When he returned, he sent a report to everyone who gave him money. He thought that this would be the end of it. But his friends and family started to send him even more money, asking him to be their 'shaliach' (their mitzvah messenger) and give out more Tzedakah money.
The next trip to Israel it was $1,600, then $2,900, then $6,000 and more and more. He started a Tzedakah Fund, and named it "Ziv" (meaning "radiance") for two reasons ¬ the radiance of the actual Mitzvah of giving Tzedakah, and also the radiance of the Mitzvah heroes.
All in all, after more than 30 years, Danny has given away more than $13,000,000 - made up mostly of contributions of $100 or less. And all to people and places who use Tzedakah money wisely, efficiently and effectively. The simplest-of-simple principles guide him: keep overhead to the barest minimum, and Mitzvah heroes ¬ find them, learn what they need to do their work and give them funds for what they need, to whatever extent you can. There is nothing magical or mystical about it ¬ nothing requiring two PhD’s or expertise in software configuration management.
Danny has taught tens of thousands of people over the years about Tzedakah. Now that Ziv Tzedakah Fund has closed, some of his students have started a new one - Mitzvah Heroes Fund - www.mitzvahheroesfund.org - and so, it continues.
And now, JChoice is here! Born out of the same ideals and principles. Here are JChoice, you too, can easily continue what Danny has taught. JChoice is all about doing Tzedakah right. You can visit Danny's website for more information: http://www.dannysiegel.com
-- Arnie Draiman