Checkout charity

Elizabeth Hersh is Senior Rabbi at Temple Emanuel (TE), and a blogger on the Jewish Light’s website (

By Rabbi Elizabeth Hersh

While checking out at a local food store, I was asked to donate an additional dollar for hunger. In the past, I recall the request was to round up my change to a whole figure. I am not exactly sure what prompted me to start a conversation with the cashier, but it was a colossal error. I had recently written several checks donating funds to various organizations, at least one having to do with feeding the hungry.

“When is it all right to say no,” I pondered, perhaps not so under my breath as I had hoped. Should I always donate something? Is it better to reduce the amount on the checks so I can always participate in the request from the cashier? And what do I do when I haven’t been to the bank and have already accounted for the remaining money in my wallet? Essentially, should one be allowed to say “no” without a verbal assault from the cashier or a tug of war in my blistering conscience? 

On my next visit to this particular store, I looked around before haphazardly falling into the checkout line. I even selected a line with more people waiting so I could avoid the cashier who questioned my willingness to give. Was this soul just trying to do her job? She was on a mission to raise money for a good cause. 

I have not been back recently. The holiday season is readily upon us. There will be a bell-ringer wherever I go. It’s time to fish out that loose change and get fresh singles from the bank. I am not sure I can refuse a second time.