*Moses Maimonides (1135-1204)

created at: 2013-11-25When the Christmas candy was displayed next to the Halloween candy on my grocery store’s shelves this past September, I knew the holiday “noise” would be louder than ever. While the marketplace tries its hardest to entertain, enchant and entice us into giving the latest, greatest and most advanced thing, it’s really just wants, not needs that are being shouted about. Stepping away, breathing deeply and taking back control from those who want us to fill our homes with the impractical enables me to stay grounded in the essential—the true meaning of the holiday experience: special times with family, celebrating traditions and sharing the best of ourselves with others.

This is the time of year when nedivut/generosity is most needed and appreciated. Here are a few simple ways to be generous with your time and talents:

  • The Philippines is rebuilding after Typhoon Haiyan. Funds are needed to repair the country. Host a cookie sale, garage sale or jewelry sale to raise money and send it to the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, which will see that it gets where it is needed most.
  • Men and women serving in the military all over the world deserve our support. At Books for Soldiers, you can find out what soldiers from all branches of the military need, pack the items up and send them off.
  • Congress has not been easy on the poor this session. Benefits for food stamps have been seriously cut. Team up with your local food bank and organize a food drive in your community.
  • What is your special talent or skill? How can you use it to help others this holiday season?

At this time of year, it doesn’t matter whether your family is celebrating Hanukkah, Christmas, Diwali, Kwanzaa or a little bit of everything. Nedivut/generosity translates across all religious and cultural lines.

“Boxes for Katje” by Candace Fleming

Ages 6-10. After World War II, many people throughout Europe lived in desolated towns and villages with little food or clothing. When citizens of the United States discovered the problems they were having, many people began sending boxes of food and clothing to help out. A Dutch girl named Katje, and her town, became the recipient of many gifts from an American girl named Rosi.

“I Had a Hippopotamus” by Hector Viveros Lee

Ages 2-6. In this charming, brightly colored book, a young boy describes all the wild animals he shares with members of his family. Each animal turns out to be from a box of animal crackers.

“Night Tree” by Eve Bunting

Ages 4-8. On Christmas Eve, a family goes into the woods to search for a tree. When they find it, they decorate it with apples, popcorn and nuts so the forest animals can celebrate this special night as well. This beautiful story about a lovely family tradition has multi-faith meaning.

“Pickles to Pittsburgh” by Judi Barrett

Ages 6-9. In this sequel to “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,” the town of Chewandswallow discovers a way to make “lemonade out of lemons.” Their town is ruined by the massive food items rained down on it, so the community forms “The Falling Food Company,” delivering free food to cities and towns all around the world.

“The Mitzvah Project Book: Making Mitzvah Part of Your Bar/Bat Mitzvah…and Your Life” by Liz Suneby and Diane Heiman

Ages 12 and up. While focused on the service projects now required by many religious schools for their bar/bat mitzvah students, this book can be used by families to discover the perfect project to work on at this time of year. Arts and crafts, animals, Israel and the environment are just of few of the many topics researched in this informative book.

Read more of Kathy’s children’s book suggestions here. You can find out about InterfaithFamily/Boston here and be part of the conversation by joining its Boston Facebook group. Parents will also enjoy local blogger Jessie Boatright’s InterfaithFamily blog on raising a child in an interfaith home.