Anna Weiss

It’s been a two-way giving experience—I might have been the original tutor, but he’s taught me a lot. 

Location: Boston, Massachusetts

What was the first gift you ever gave?:

The first memory of giving I have is from Hebrew School. I found $20 and didn’t know whose money it was, so my parents suggested I give it to the tzedakah box. I’m pretty sure my teacher let me ring the dismissal bell that day!

The other memory that stands out is from Hanukkah when I was around 7 or 8 years old. On one of the nights, my parents gave me a card with a note that they had made a donation in my name. At the time, I was surprised that was my gift, but I remember it being really impactful. I was taught from a very young age that you should be giving—that it’s very much a part of how you should live your life. That early lesson in giving back has stayed with me.

What is your charity of choice?:

Several years ago, a friend of mine introduced me to Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP), a group that supports a wide range of social service organizations in Massachusetts. At first, my involvement was mainly social, but I joined a few committees, and later became the advisory board chair of, a website that connects people to Jewish life in Boston. Sitting at the table as a decision maker—as someone who helps steer an initiative like—has been a powerful experience.

Who inspires you to give?:

I’m inspired by people who give even when they have very little. Their contributions—especially in proportion to their income—can be staggering. It’s tremendously inspiring and doesn’t leave much room for excuses for the rest of us.

What motivates you to give?:

I’ve been lucky. Whenever I’ve entered a new community or faced a challenge, people have rallied around me and offered their support. I feel a great responsibility to pass that on as much as I can in my philanthropy.

How do you give of your time?:

I’ve tutored Andre, a man who immigrated to the U.S. from Jamaica, for five years. We met through ReachOut!, an eight-week volunteer service program at the United South End Settlements (USES), which runs adult GED classes. Andre and I partnered up at one of the first sessions and immediately clicked. It was clear that he was unbelievably driven to learn so when the program came to an end, we continued to meet and work on writing, reading, and critical reasoning skills every other week for the past five years. In that time, Andre has become a close and supportive friend. It’s been a two-way giving experience—I might have been the original tutor, but he’s taught me a lot. I’m lucky to know him.

What advice do you have for others to consider giving?: 

Giving doesn’t have to be an enormous commitment. There are so many small but meaningful ways to make a difference. Find ways to support causes that are of interest to you. If you’re not sure where to start, talk to your friends about their philanthropy.  Are they running marathons to fundraise for causes close to their hearts? Show your support. You’ll help them, their organization of choice, and your community. Whether you give time, money, or expertise, it all adds up.



Julia Levy, Founder, has a decade of development experience, including working for a philanthropist, a small nonprofit and now a large nonprofit. She has raised significant dollars for numerous causes, from education to religion and from donors of all ages. Julia holds a Certificate in Fundraising from NYU’s Heyman Center for Philanthropy and an undergraduate degree from Cornell University. Julia has taught fundraising workshops, most recently at Brooklyn Brainery and coached development professionals.

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Why We Give tells stories of ordinary philanthropists, making a difference, dollar by dollar and hour by hour.  

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