Melissa Sandler


Working in Manhattan I tend to keep a few spare bills in my pocket to donate to the homeless. It’s very heartwarming to connect with a stranger on this level. When someone thanks you and blesses you, and tells you that they can eat lunch, you can’t help but feel good.

Location: New York, New York

Profession: Development Director

What was the first charitable gift you ever gave?:

A few coins placed in the tzedakah box in preschool.  I didn’t really understand the value of money, but I understood the value of sharing. My parents and our teachers explained that giving a few coins each week helped people, and it was a nice thing to do because we were sharing what we had with others. I think normalizing giving at a young age (even though the idea is pretty abstract for a child) is a way to emphasize the importance of engaging in acts of kindness.

Tell me about what you are doing to make a difference in the world through your work.:

I am the Director of Development for the Aleph Society, which supports the publication projects and educational outreach of Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Everyday I am doing my small part to help Jews around the world have access to our foundational texts. Rabbi Steinsaltz’s life mission is “Let my people know.” This is not simply a cute twist on a familiar line from the Torah, but rather it is a prescription for health and renewal. Through his landmark Talmud translation, commentary, and more than 60 other books, Rabbi Steinsaltz has opened the doors of Jewish learning for this generation and those to come by making it vibrant, compelling, and accessible.

What inspired you to go into this field?:

It has always been important to me to do something purposeful that helps others. Knowing in some small way that my work impacts people around the world is incredibly inspiring. Fundraising is very challenging, but it’s also very meaningful. I don’t approach my work as a job. I actually smile at work, and feel blessed and excited to be able to do what I’m doing.

What is your personal charity of choice today?:

It’s hard to pick just one. I support American Cancer Society and St. Jude. Unfortunately, many people who were close to me have passed away from cancer, so I try to do what I can to fund organizations that support research and provide treatment to those who cannot afford it. I wish I had more time to volunteer. In the past I have participated in and volunteered at various walk-a-thons. My best friend is a special education teacher and I help out at her school’s annual fundraiser, which benefits Autism Speaks. This year I am running the cotton candy station again, which I am looking forward to doing. I also support my local synagogue, United Synagogue of Hoboken.  I hope to be able to give more to these organizations one day than the modest amounts I am currently giving. I always say that my goal is to one day become a philanthropist from being a fundraiser.

Who inspires you to give?:

I feel an obligation to give. My parents always instilled in me the importance of giving something of yourself to others. Even if it is small or seems insignificant, to the person in need it means a lot. When my sister and I were children and outgrew our clothes, my mother would always explain that we would donate our clothes to other girls who didn’t have what we did. When we would go shopping for school supplies, my mother, who is an elementary school teacher, would always ask us to pick out extra items to give to her students who didn’t have the supplies they needed. These small acts of kindness have stayed with me throughout my life. Working in Manhattan I tend to keep a few spare bills in my pocket to donate to the homeless. It’s very heartwarming to connect with a stranger on this level. When someone thanks you and blesses you, and tells you that they can eat lunch, you can’t help but feel good.


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Lauren Shoolman

About

Lauren is a development professional with five years of experience in Canada and the United States in individual and institutional giving, and special events. She is an Emerging Leaders of New York Arts (ELNYA) Fellow, a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals in New York, and has been invited to deliver guest lectures at St. Lawrence University, NY, on fundraising. Lauren holds a BA Specialized Honors in Marketing and a Certificate in Management from York University, Canada.


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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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