Giving Away Books About Giving

Giving Away Books About Giving

Sandee is the arts and culture editor at the Jewish Week.

Noam Zion spent four years writing a book about Jewish giving, and now he’s giving copies away.

In the last few weeks, he has already given away more than 500 copies of “Jewish Giving in Comparative Perspectives: History and Story, Law and Theology, Anthropology and Psychology” to rabbis, scholars, educators and theologians. The 3-volume major new work is also for sale as an ebook and will be available as a hardcover.

“I want this book to be part of the discourse on tzedekah, charity and tikkun olam,” says Zion, an author and research fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. “The purpose in writing is to have others read these books.”

On Sunday, January 6th, Zion is giving a lecture — that’s free — to launch the book in New York. He’ll be speaking at the Skirball Center for Adult Jewish Learning at Temple Emanu-El on “The Guide to the Perplexed Donor” at 6 pm. Those attending the program can get a free copy of one of the books.

Together, the three independent volumes — 2300 pages in all — map out the many different Jewish approaches for helping the needy. Zion decodes complex narratives and includes stories and texts, from the prophets to Maimonides, Talmudic debates to contemporary discourse about philanthropy; he also looks comparatively at other traditions.

The first volume, “From Each According to One’s Ability,” deals with societal policies toward the needy. The second, “To Each According to One’s Social Needs,” focuses on treating the recipients of tzedekah with dignity, and the third, “For the Love of God,” explores the many motivations of donors.

Now 64, Zion made aliyah during the Yom Kippur War in 1973.He has been interested in issues related to charity and tzedekah for decades, since he was a high school student in Minneapolis in the 1960s.
Zion is also the author of several innovative books of Jewish learning, but this is his first academic book. His books include

“A Different Night: The Family Participation Haggadah,” “A Different Light: The Big Book of Hannukah,” “A Day Apart: Shabbat at Home,” “Sipurei Reshit,” a Hebrew anthology on contemporary readings of Genesis, published with his daughter Tanya Zion Waldoks, and another well-received haggadah, “A Night to Remember,” with his son Mishael Zion.

The three volumes of “Jewish Giving in Comparative Perspectives” are available from Amazon as kindle books at $11.99 each. Copies can also be ordered from Zion’s website ( ), where some long excerpts and essays can be downloaded for free. Zion will continue to make copies of the books available free to scholars and clergy who are interested professionally. E-mail

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