The title of this volume, which contains prose and poetry written by tzedakah activist Danny Siegel over the course of the past half century, is a translation of the Hebrew word ziv. This is fitting: Siegel founded the Ziv Tzedakah Fund, which was in operation between 1981 and 2008, and raised and distributed more than thirteen and a half million dollars.
Part I of the book consists of prose and Part II of poetry; each part is further divided by topic into various sections. The first section addresses mitzvahs that pertain to tzedakah and related projects. The second focuses on Torah texts about tikkun olam (repairing the world), which Siegel feels should be regularly studied and reflected upon by Jewish leaders, those engaged in social action, and day school students. Siegel then turns to “Mitzvah heroes”— individuals whose personal examples of involvement in tzedakah have deeply impressed and continue to inspire him. Next, the author explores writings that describe living with menschlichkeit (“sensitivity, kindness, love, and generosity”). Part II of Radiance comprises some of the many poems that Danny Siegel has composed over his long career. The practical nature of the book is reflected in an introductory outline entitled “Using This Book in Your Personal and Organizational Life,” which guides the reader as to how the contents could be employed in various contexts, as well as in the book’s fifth section, “How and Why to Give Tzedakah Money Away.”
The author refers a number of times to his own learning disabilities; these have served to define not only his learning style and considerable lyricism, but also his determination to pursue and educate others about tzedakah. While he acknowledges that some individuals allow themselves to be discouraged by learning limitations, others — some of them described among his mitzvah heroes — make the most of their abilities.
One of the Jerusalem institutions that Danny Siegel feels constitutes an outstanding example of radical, innovative approaches for helping people in need is Yad LeKashish, or Life Line for the Old, established by the late Myriam Mendelow. Rather than “warehousing” elderly individuals as typically is done, Mendelow created workshops that would provide these people with creative, artisanal jobs, whereby they could live in their own homes and also continue to feel productive by making tablecloths, wall-hangings, toys, sweaters, and other objects, the proceeds of which are devoted to tzedakah causes.
Implicit in the essays in Radiance is an evolution in Danny Siegel’s thinking. This is particularly reflected in the 1975 “The First Tzedakah Report” when compared to the 2008 “From the Ziv Tzedakah Fund Final Report.” Siegel has noted the year in which each of his essays was originally published, allowing the reader to consider not only the technological changes that have transpired over the course of time, but also how the author’s attitude toward Tzedakah became increasingly nuanced, sophisticated, and wider in scope.