Philanthropy in time of the global coronavirus pandemic – opinion

All over the world, people are losing their jobs, and this will affect the global economy. But most of all it will hurt those who are already in a position of few opportunities.

"Blue Box", charity (tzedakah) box of the Jewish National Fund, model 2006 (photo credit: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS/DAVID SHAY)
"Blue Box", charity (tzedakah) box of the Jewish National Fund, model 2006
The novel coronavirus is changing our lives. It is a new reality none of us have ever experienced before. In a very short time, we have moved from a stable, secure and collective society to an isolated, frightened, and uncertain one.
At this challenging time, it seems appropriate that those in the position to build our confidence should now be doing so.
The coronavirus is not only affecting our health. It is also severely affecting our businesses and our communities. It hit us around Purim, a celebratory and joyful festival. "When the month of Adar enters, we increase in joy," the Talmud says. Instead, rather than experiencing lightheartedness this year, we are being propelled speedily toward Passover, a time reminiscent of plagues.
The People of Forever Are Not Afraid is a novel by Israeli writer, Shani Boianjiu. Israelis have used this quote as a response on many occasions, and its lesson is clear and precise. It demonstrates that this nation of the "People of Forever" will not lose its aspirations in troubled times despite the uncertain future that lies ahead. We shall not lose our hope.
When facing a crisis, the human instinct of man is to protect himself and his loved ones, but we cannot – and must not –stop there. We are a collective people. We should not be afraid of the long road ahead. We have been through many disastrous periods, and the one goal that has always kept us strong, is taking care of each other and maintaining our collective responsibility.
The coronavirus is a tremendous threat to humanity but needs to be dealt with mutual effort and courage. We need to show these same qualities as leaders and not be afraid of uncertainty; to assess and take control of the situation. We need to respond with clarity of mind. Troubled times call for passionate and robust leadership. The coronavirus is highly contagious, but leadership too is infectious. It is our duty to take the next step, to lead our tribe. Philanthropists must heed the call of the hour. Our beneficiaries are dependent upon us. Children's lives depend on us to remain strong.
Times may seem dark at present, but we can all do our part to ensure that a brighter tomorrow is around the corner. No one is spared from the effects of the coronavirus. The virus will not infect all of us, but we have all been affected. However, we need to know that it is only a matter of time until this threat will pass from the world. The stock market will go back up, and our lives will return to normal. Our isolation is only temporary. Now is the time for us to assume a strong leadership position and to keep the spirit high.
As leaders, we must remember that this is an opportunity to examine how each of us can play our part in the collective effort and enable those less fortunate to get through with as little suffering as possible. At this time, we must remember our mission and recognize that "leaders lead in a time of crisis." In a time of darkness, the flock needs a shepherd. In a time of stress and fear, people need to hear a calm and reassuring message.
As philanthropists, we need to remember why we are doing what we choose to do. We need to remember that this is neither a hobby nor an additional activity. We make the decision to volunteer our time and resources to change a reality that needs to be corrected, and now this reality needs us more than ever. This reality cannot afford to lose their leaders. This reality needs to stay strong for the poor, the misfortunate, and the underserved.
All over the world, people are losing their jobs, and this will affect the global economy. But most of all it will hurt those who are already in a position of few opportunities.
The beneficiaries you are serving in your cause will one day become Israel's next generation of hope. What is the message we want to send them today? Will they learn from us that in times of stress, despite the hardships, they must not lose their hopes and their dreams?
This is the time for them to learn the most crucial lesson in life. They must learn that when the road becomes tough, the strong will prevail. Real leaders never abandon their beneficiaries. A true mentor continues to be supportive, even when he too, is in the midst of a troublesome situation. In times of crisis, as in times of opportunity, we must remember that it is we who are providing people with hope.
It is not a matter of which cause we serve. Rather, it is assuming the responsibility of maintaining our commitment. There are many reasons and motivations for philanthropists to act and give as they do. Some see it as a family tradition For others, life’s circumstances have led them toward charitable involvement, some see it as a sense of social responsibility, yet others thrive on the satisfaction and enjoyment of giving, or the need for fulfillment of social participation in times of crisis.
At the end of the day, as philanthropists, we have created a sense of belonging to the community, powered by our desire to promote issues we believe in.
Each of you reading this now can reflect on what has resonated and motivated you to personally take part in charity. You have been working hard, probably for years, and you have made a real impact through your involvement. This present crisis cannot be a sign for termination. This is only the beginning of a new chapter.
We should continue on our path of exploring new initiatives, keep evolving and seeking new partnerships and innovative ideas designed to increase our impact every year. Our spirit must stay strong.
Most of you are longtime philanthropists and you have invested a lot of effort in making your impact thus far. We are now facing a situation that requires maintaining our investment in the best possible way and ensuring its sustainability. We cannot afford to lose this investment and our dreams for a better world because of this virus.
Every one of us is faced with conflicting priorities. Our families, our loved ones, our businesses. All these priorities must be dealt with in ways we see best to overcome the crisis fallen upon us. Our ultimate goal is to convey confidence and support to the mission we started, and believe in. We must not allow this to fail.
In this crisis we must take the extra step and look beyond the horizon. As an organization, rather than showing fear and uncertainty, we must demonstrate confidence and conviction. We have to convey pragmatic rationality as a guiding way of thought. We will show solidarity to our nation and to our mission. We must aggressively demonstrate the commitment to our cause.
This letter to you is not a call for supporting a new project. This is an opportunity to truly make a difference by maintaining the project in which we have invested thus far. This is our promise to provide our beneficiaries with a reason to believe in humanity and to believe in their leaders. Only in this way, will we lead our world to a better, healthier place.
Make philanthropy your priority today, so that we may assure a better tomorrow.
The writer is executive director of Friends of Ofanim.