Are you "buying friends," and enticing them with a free meal? Of course not. This process is sharing, not buying someone off. In fact, spending money to share with others is one of the most pleasant expenditures possible.
Recently, in a Jewish Bulletin story on the United Jewish Appeal's Young Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C., called Washington 10, it was suggested that the line between philanthropy and activism is blurred in the UJA's approach to young leaders.
There is no line to be blurred between philanthropy, activism, and building a Jewish community. They are all one. Young Jewish leaders work to create a great big Shabbat dinner: a group of friends sharing common values and enjoying each other's company through activities ranging from Jewish study to bicycle riding.
But unlike just any gathering of friends this is a Jewish dinner. A dinner marked by sharing with others. Our guests at the table include hungry elderly, new emigres to Israel, and Jews at risk in countries around the world. And dare we say it? This sharing is called tzedakah, or philanthropy.
A place filled with people joined in this way is a home. Truly, the Jewish community represents a home for many of us in young leadership.
We spend a great deal of our time in this home. Many of our closest friends are people we have met through young leadership activities. Frankly, we've found that we enjoy the company of the type of people who give of themselves.
Whether one gives time or money doesn't really make a difference. In fact, people who are givers tend to make little distinction between time and money. They see the need and then go out to try to make a difference.
Can you buy your way into a position in the young Jewish community? We kind of wish more people would try. But seriously, in any community organization there are places at the table for people who write checks, places for people who give time, and places for the majority who do both.
We do not question the motives of people who step up to the table. Anyone can find an excuse not to give: mad at federation, mad at an agency, a perceived slight. It doesn't matter why. We all know that those who care find a way to contribute. Others find excuses.
There is a blossoming of young leadership in the Bay Area. More than 100 of us went to Washington 10. This turnout rivaled a similar gathering in L.A., a vastly larger community. We were teachers, writers, prison guards, mothers, fathers, and yes, some doctors and lawyers.
The program was incredible. Spirituality, political activism, a visit from President Clinton, and fun. We didn't sense any traces of cynicism.
Members of the Young Leadership Cabinet inspired the rest of us. They have made a large commitment in every way. And for that, we respect and try to emulate them.
At home more than 30 Jewish organizations have programs for young Jews. Synagogues, Jewish Family and Children's Services, Israel Bonds, the federation and AIPAC — all have opportunities for Jews to give and share.
Many of the young Jews reading this paper are involved, but so many are not. We especially want to reach out to the emigre community. We invite you to join us in setting our communal Jewish table. Our guests are Jewish people who are in need. Our guests are Jewish learning, Jewish values, and Jewish community. We create a home. And there are many doors into that home.
Dan Lavin is president of the Young Adults Division of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation. Karen Katz is the past president and regional chair of Washington 10.