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The Art of Giving

by Rabbi Shea Hecht

  

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Giving to others is a real art. Sometimes I think it's actually a lost art, which makes State Bank & Trust's recent giving even more special. Their actions are a breath of fresh air.

The bank created a $502,000 "Pay it Forward" initiative, in which they gave the employees of the company's 14 banks in North Dakota and Minnesota a very special bonus this year. Full time employees received $1,000 and part-time employees received $500 as a year-end bonus. The bonus came with a catch though: The employee gets it, but can't keep it. Bank employees were given orders to use the money for people in need. They were told to give it to an individual cause, a larger project, or collaborate with donors outside the bank to maximize the donation.

Bank employees were asked to document the good deed with a video camera the bank gave them to keep - another act of giving by the bank. Workers also got their usual year-end bonuses of about 4.5% of their annual salaries - money that they can keep.
A compilation of videos of bank employees' generosity will be shown at next year's party. That will be the final icing on the cake in the lesson of giving and the absolute joy it brings.

State Bank & Trust is a real example for the rest of the corporate world as well as for every individual who will be inspired by their story and pass on some good deed.

Mr. Solberg, President of State Bank & Trust said, "We're going to really see some huge impact on our community."
I must tell you that I think that the impact will be more far reaching than Mr. Solberg can imagine. The joy of giving is one that is incomparable, immeasurable and can't be duplicated. Each person that gives will be encouraged to give more, and as so often happens, those who get will be encouraged to pass the giving "bug" on.  

Even reading about what the employees of the bank are deciding to do with the money is a lesson in giving and caring.  Their choices are most impressive. Among them are: cancer research; friends who recently lost three of the quadruplets they were expecting; towards a new home for a child care center, which serves low-income families and children with behavior disorders.

State Bank & Trust employees have been quoted as saying that the bank has a culture of giving. What the bank has done is to take the art of giving and bring it to a totally new level. Giving charity is one level, giving others the opportunity to give is another.
As the Mishnah tells us that he who gives charity and inspires others to give is saintly.
State Bank & Trust is truly an inspiration for all of us.

Shea is chairman of the board of NCFJE (National Committee for the Furtherance of Jewish Education). He is a Rabbi and activist in the Jewish community. He can be reached at rabbishea@aol.com


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Mishnah
First written rendition of the Oral Law which G-d spoke to Moses. Rabbi Judah the Prince compiled the Mishna in the 2nd century lest the Oral law be forgotten due to the hardships of the Jewish exiles.