Sharon Blumenthal of Congregation Tikun Olam in Malibu California, recently caused a stir when she decided to arrange a fundraiser benefitting only a Jewish charity. The charity in question, Yad Dinah, which helps homeless teens in the Tel Aviv area has existed for over 50 years has an excellent reputation. It wasn’t so much the charity that was a concern for congregants, it was just that it was so… Jewish. When questioned about the choice of charities, Rabbi Blumenthal, dressed in an oversized kippah way too big for her head, and wearing a rainbow colored tallit worn like a scarf (even though there were no services going on at the time) defended her position. “Here at Tikun Olam, it’s all about Tikun Olam. We treasure Tikun Olam here and we feel that through Tikun Olam, the world will understand Tikun Olam. We need to be accepting of all people.” When it was pointed out that Rabbi Blumenthal did not actually answer the question asked, she simply repeated the words Tikun Olam at least 5 more times leaving the issue unresolved.
Other congregants were more forthcoming. Long time member of Tikun Olam, Phyllis Scharf made her feelings clear. “I’m sorry but this charity is waaaaay too Jewish. I mean, it’s in Israel for God’s sake. What are the odds there will be any non-Jews involved? Now don’t get me wrong, I support Israel, but the way things are going right now, I mean, Bibi, need I say more? “ When asked what current Prime Minister Benjamin Natanyahu had to do with the topic at hand, Ms. Scharf simply rolled her eyes, called me a sexist pig and threatened to defriend me, even though we are not friends on Facebook to begin with.
Cantor Lisa Blum was a bit clearer in the reasoning for the choice. We met in her office while she held a guitar for the entirety of the interview. “Sure, we’ve had some blow back because the charity involved is Jewish, but this past year, the local food pantry said that 23 fundraisers in a row were kind of enough, and the 3 families they service would be just fine for the next 10 years at least. We thought we’d branch out and go Jewish. Sometimes you need to go against the grain and we are willing to take that risk. We know that supporting Jewish causes can seem exclusive, but it’s really all about sowing the seeds of peace… and of course Tikun Olam.” When asked what peace had to do with it, Cantor Blum simply mentioned that all past donations to the food pantry were gluten free and that she was very proud of her congregation. The fundraiser for Yad Dinah will take place next month.