illustration via New York
Vanessa Grigoriadis' New York exposé of Madonna's ill-fated intervention in Malawi is well worth a read, first for its discussion of the vapidity of celebrity philanthropy, and second for its revelations about the fraudulent and cultish Kabbalah Centre, which seems more interested in bilking rich people and flipping real estate than in teaching the tenets of mystical Judaism.
The whole nasty business reminded me of one of the enduring lessons I learned in Hebrew School: that not all tzedakah, or charity, is created equal. Indeed, the Talmud outlines eight ascending levels of tzedakah, which also means "fairness" and "justice:"
1. Giving begrudgingly
2. Giving less that you should, but giving it cheerfully
3. Giving after being asked
4. Giving before being asked
5. Giving when you do not know the recipient's identity, but the recipient knows your identity
6. Giving when you know the recipient's identity, but the recipient doesn't know your identity
7. Giving when neither party knows the other's identity
8. Enabling the recipient to become self-reliant
Worth thinking about–especially number 7, I think.