Rabbi Evan Schultz
Rabbi Evan Schultz was born in Queens, NY and raised in various cities in the Northeast, most notably Boston, MA. He graduated from Brandeis University in 2001 with a degree in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies and a philosophy minor. As the student rabbi of B'nai Israel Synagogue in High Point, NC, for three years, Evan loved working with a Southern Jewish community, as well as teaching and leading t'filah services at Congregation Beth Elohim in Brooklyn, B'nai Jeshurun and East End Temple in New York City.
Additionally, during his tenure at HUC-JIR, Evan led monthly Shabbat Unplugged services at Shaaray Tefila in New York City, helping grow the community of young professionals in a lively band.
Before attending HUC-JIR, Evan piloted a new full-time teacher program at Central Synagogue for three years, spent a year volunteering in Izmir, Turkey, with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC); and worked as a Jewish Campus Service Corps Fellow at MIT Hillel.
Evan is married to Jenny Goldstein and is the proud dad of Koby Schultz. He is an avid cyclist, runner and guitarist. He is very excited to join the B'nai Israel community!
Mar Ukba and the
other December Dilemma
The month of December stirs a wide array of feelings and emotions. It is a time of reflection on the past year, of holidays, family, celebrating the miraculous and, of course, eating latkes. For many individuals, couples and families, December is also a time of thinking about our charitable giving – how much money we want to give to tzedakah and to whom. I often know that December has arrived just by the sheer number of envelopes and emails I receive from non-profit organizations asking for year-end donations (I try not to be swayed by the free tote bags).
My partner Jenny and I sit down and try to think intentionally about how we give our money, but it is not so easy. Do we give more money to less organizations or less money to more organizations? Do we donate to small organizations or large ones? Jewish or non-Jewish? Local, national or international organizations? Or Israeli non-profits? The questions are real and difficult, and each year after we send in all of our checks, we always wish we could have somehow figured out a better system for determining how and to whom we give tzedakah.
I recently, however, came across a story from the Talmud that may help guide our process as we think about year-end charitable giving:
Mar Ukba was a renowned scholar. Every day, on his way home from the Beit Midrash (the Jewish house of study), he would slip 4 zuzim (coins) under the door of a poor man who lived in the neighborhood.
One day, the poor man thought, “I will go and see who is being so gracious to me.” On that very day, it happened that Mar Ukba was late in returning from the Beit Midrash, and his wife came by to see what was keeping him.
On the way home, Mar Ukba, accompanied by his wife, stopped by the poor man’s house, as usual, and stooped to slip the zuzim under the door. At that moment, the poor man opened the door to greet them.
Mar Ukba and his wife fled and hid in an oven from which the coals had just been swept. Mar Ukba’s feet were burning, but his wife said, “Lift your feet and put them on mine.”
Mar Ukba became upset [because his wife was clearly the recipient of a miracle and he was not].
But his wife said to him: “[I have merited this miracle] because I am usually at home, and my gifts are immediate and direct.”
Babylonian Talmud, Ketubot 67b
In this Talmudic story, the author presents us with two models of giving. Mar Ukba gives anonymously; he has no relationship with those he helps nor does he understand their specific needs. Mar Ukba’s wife, on the other hand, gives face-to-face; she understands those she helps and engages with them based on their specific needs. Mar Ukba is so intent on staying anonymous that he eventually finds himself in a furnace with his wife, hiding from the poor man. It seems that his wife is rewarded (another December miracle) for her approach to giving, while he is punished.
There are two lessons we can glean from this story:
- Know and understand who you are giving to. Take some time to research the organizations that come to you asking for donations. How do they operate? How do they spend their money? What are their real needs? Do you feel a personal connection to the organization?
- Money is not the only way to give. At this time of year organizations are always looking for volunteers to help with soup kitchens, food pantries and shelters. Operation Hope (www. operationhopect.org) is just one wonderful organization right in Fairfield that is always looking for people to help out at the pantry or help prepare meals.
Our Talmudic tale highlights the importance of knowing and understanding those that we support, to take the extra time to build a connection with a particular organization so that we may all have a very meaningful December.