A friendly reminder to my gentile friends re: Charlottesville
There are a bunch of posts going around about donating to local Charlottesville charities in the face of the hate march, and I think this is a great idea.
Do you wanna know an even better idea?
Donate in multiples of $18.
Here, I’ll explain!
Hebrew is a numeric language. That is, all of its words have a numeric value. If you’ve ever seen the movie π, by Darren Aronofsky, there’s a great scene with a Chasidic Jew who explains a little about this and shares a word problem that hinges on it. So there are lots of puns and things that don’t translate, because, well, even if English had numeric values, we can’t guarantee they’d be the same, you know?
So, let’s take a second and talk about chai. Not the tea, the Hebrew word:
חי. Those of you who followed my conversion may know this is also (part of) my Hebrew name, in its feminine form:
חייה. It means “life.” Chai, you can imagine, is a great word! Lots of kids named Chaim (male) or Chaya (female). “L’chaim,” or “to life,” is the traditional Jewish toast. Our most important holiday, Yom Kippur, features a greeting that translates to “may you be inscribed in the Book of Life.” We talk a lot about chai.
And chai, as you may have guessed, has a numeric value of 18.
It’s a very common Jewish practice to give cash gifts in multiples of $18. For Chanukkah last year I donated $36 to my nieces’ Hebrew school, $18 for each of them, without even a moment’s thought to sync up “what I can afford” with “what’s appropriate and meaningful.” My temple does their donation forms in multiples of $18, with a couple of nominally-normal numbers like $50. It’s one of those cool little cultural things. And I promise you, if Charlottesville gets flooded with $18 donations, the white supremacists and Nazis setting up camp there will notice, and they will know what it means.
Fight the 1488 with the 18.
Fight hate with life.
(Non-Jews, feel free to reblog and share this to other platforms. In fact I genuinely and unironically hope you do, because I’d love to see this take off among gentile donators who want a great, nonviolent way to offer a one-two punch.)