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Tzedakah boxes send profound messages

An 85-year-old real estate agent from western Massachusetts has chosen Hanukkah as another way to give back.

Harold Grinspoon, a philanthropist best known for giving out free books to children, is mailing 250,000 tzedakah boxes to the same children to encourage and spread the spirit of generosity and giving. The Hebrew word “tzedakah" is often translated as “charity,” but it is derived from the word for justice and righteousness and carries the call for repairing our broken world by “doing” justice and giving to others.

Grinspoon launched the project at the holiday season because it is a time when families of different faiths try to teach their children about charity, fairness and justice.

“Generosity of spirit is a learned trait, taught to children by their families and their communities and, if taught well, benefits those communities for generations,” said Grinspoon, founder of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation and its flagship PJ Library program.

The colorful, kid-friendly tzedakah boxes are a project of PJ Library, which distributes children’s books and literature focusing on Jewish stories, customs and values around the world in partnership with local Jewish organizations. More than 6 million books have been distributed since the program started in 2005. Grinspoon said in a news release that the boxes are “a Hanukkah gift to families with young children who are already nurturing the spirit of charity, and an opportunity for those same families to spread that light into the world, for years to come.”

Inside each tzedakah box are four different card games reinforcing the principles of giving to others in need. Some of their messages include “Donate books you no longer read,” “Say sorry for mistakes” and “Don’t use more water than you need.” To learn more, visit