The Three Jars


A Message from Arlene Miller, President & CEO

I have an end-of-year tradition with my two children, ages 8 and 11, where we sit down to make some big decisions – decisions about where to give tzedakah (giving to people in need or to worthy causes). During the year, they get to put their weekly allowance into three jars: a SPEND jar for little purchases (e.g. trinkets from the Target dollar bins), a SAVE jar for toys and other bigger “wants”, and a TZEDAKAH jar for community philanthropy. 

Of course, there are parameters around this entire exercise. They get interest on savings and tzedakah – but only if they do the math on it. Ten percent goes into tzedakah and the first $18 given from there always goes to the Jewish Federation & Family Services Annual Campaign. To this, they always ask me, “Why?” And I tell them, “Because if we don’t, who else will? We have a responsibility to our family and our community first.”

It’s never simple, this process. There are often tears and drama because, at their age, the hardest lessons around the three jars are about patience and waiting and limitations. But I started this because I want my children to have a visceral understanding of money – with real dollars and pennies. I want my children to be comfortable with money and to not feel any stigma around it. And I wanted to empower them at an early age.

Now, as this end-of-year tradition ripens, I see that my children are appreciating the “thank you” letters they get from the organizations to which they’re giving. And the conversations we have about collective impact – that there are hundreds and thousands of other people giving $18 or more – excite them. There’s a real beauty in seeing them experience how they are part of something bigger. Just as one candle on the menorah can fill a room with light, throughout the year their gift illuminates the lives of countless people in our community. Leaders. Mothers. Volunteers. Holocaust survivors. (If you weren’t able to join us at our recent Annual Meeting, you can watch “Our Stories”, a video we showed that tells about some of the people impacted by Jewish Federation & Family Services this year.)

For those of you who have made your Annual Campaign gift, thank you. If you haven’t yet given, please join me and my children in supporting our community and make your Annual Campaign gift today. Consider an increase in your gift too and know you’ll touch even more people throughout 2018. 

Happy Chanukah and Shabbat Shalom,





Jewish Federation & Family ServicesMission Statement: We care for people in need and strengthen Jewish community in Orange County, Israel, and around the world.




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