Philanthropy is first a gift motivated by friendship for our fellow human beings and by our concern for the destitute, whether they need food, clothes, education, culture, …or meaning. Through philanthropy, we give unselfishly, without considering profit or high-minded theories that would deprive philanthropy of its soul. Philanthropy is a moral geste in an economy that imposes its rules on the world and disrupts the workings of social regulations and protections. Thanks to philanthropy, we devote our life to a lofty cause and gain something like an added meaning, which may well be this enhanced soul that, alone, bears the seeds of the world to come, better than this one. Thanks to philanthropy, we expect wealth to be redistributed.
Philanthropy becomes a moral act when the giver feels that his deed is a commandment and when the receiver perceives the gift as an encouragement. Philanthropy is the only nook that still protects human beings from becoming mere tools and safeguards their humanity from corruption or destruction. With Levinas’ words in mind, we would say that it is not man who gives to men, but God. A gift by a man to his fellow is a gift from God – matan el, in Hebrew. Seeing God as the Universal Donor would be our simplest offering to Him. The idea might seem pretentious but it is nonetheless necessary, for it may prevent philanthropy from becoming patronizing and from delivering useless do-good sermons, and it may forestall the major foundations’ humanitarian neo-colonialism. Matanel gives without expecting anything in return, out of a duty of “charity and justice,” as Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz says. Rabbi Steinsaltz prepares the ground for this, together with Joelle Aflalo, Gad Boukobza, Willy Van Rickeghem, and many other advisors who find at the Matanel Foundation a place where helping hands come with encouraging words. Matanel calls for a spiritual philanthropy that serves not only people’s physical needs but also their search for a meaning – be it religious or philosophical – in their life. Giving is at the core of the foundation’s code of ethics.
The Matanel Foundation is not the only one that acts in this spirit and practices a disinterested philanthropy. Giving through activists who fight distress and through messengers who pass on meaning is an age-old practice. The Matanel Foundation aims at communicating its spirit and ideals to its partners who become philanthropic actors as well and to its beneficiaries who become potential donors when their situation hopefully changes for the better, allowing them – if they can and if they will – to perpetuate this chain of giving in which Matanel is only a link.