Rebecca Gold is an Alumna of the Metrowest, NJ Wexner Heritage Program. She is the VP of Training & Education for the Metrowest UJC Women’s Philanthropy Board and sits on the Executive Committee of UJC. She can be reached at

“Where tzedakah is a gift or loan of money, hessed is the gift of the person. It costs less and more: less because its gestures often cost little or nothing, more because it takes time and attention, existential generosity, the gift of self to self.”  Rabbi Jonathan Sacks “To Heal a Fractured World – The Ethics of Responsibility”

Two years ago, at the age of 7, my younger son was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, an insidious disease that causes rapid cycling of moods and irrational feelings, good and bad. There is no amount of money or love that will totally cure what ails him.  Does this mean I throw my hands up? Of course not!  I recognize his courage and appreciate his creativity, humor and charm. I focus on the positive. Most importantly, when he is struggling I listen to the feelings behind his words and actions, patiently waiting for the times that he can cope with change and manage transitions. I try to take myself out of the picture, not feeling guilty – just responsive. To me this is how I can be most generous and constructive.

Nothing has taught me more about chesed than this. Nor has anything been as instrumental in molding the way I approach difficult situations and how I try to lead.  When I appeal not only to what others say, but to what is underneath their dialogue and their actions, I am more successful in impacting a project, eliciting a donation, or strengthening a relationship. I also protect my spirit and reserve my energy by not “fighting” someone or a situation that is not ready for change perhaps just yet.

Having a generous spirit can carry us a long way. Many of us burn out trying to steer a new course or fix problems in our community. It’s not easy work!  But, if one comes at it with an “existential generosity” you may be surprised and refreshed. It works for me!