Maren Pyenson and Bruce Abramson of San Francisco asked guests not to
give them gifts, but instead to donate to the Jewish Agency Fund for Victims of Terror.
April 29 ,2010 / 15 Iyar 5770
When Maren Pyenson and Bruce Abramson of San Francisco decided to get married and began planning their January wedding, they were certain about one thing: They didn't want any gifts.
Not the material kind, anyway. No gift registries. No crystal bowls or china plates or even a sleek Italian espresso machine.
Instead, they decided to use their wedding as an opportunity to encourage friends and family to give a real gift to those in need.
"We are both a little bit older and we have enough physical objects between the two of us. We didn’t really want to approach the wedding with a gift giving mentality. We wanted this to be a celebration with our family and friends. That is why we wanted people to honor us with a gift that was intangible," said Maren, 39, a consultant specializing in internet product management.
"We don't need more stuff," added Bruce, 46, a lawyer. "So when Maren said that people are going to want to buy us something anyway, I thought why not give a gift that is actually doing something useful?"
And since the couple believe that the biggest problem facing the world today is Islamic terror, they started researching to find the exact organization working to help those living on the "frontlines in Israel, squarely on the border between civilization and barbarism," to rebuild their lives. They found it in the Jewish Agency Fund for Victims of Terror. Since its inception, the Fund has granted over NIS 35 million to 1,300 victims of terror and their families, enabling them to improve their quality of life and ease their recovery and rehabilitation. The Fund is supported by special donations from the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), as well as other donors from around the world.
To let their friends and family know about their unique request, Maren and Bruce added a link on their online wedding page called "Registry and Charity Donations" in which they specified that in lieu of gifts, they would like people to donate directly to the Fund for Victims of Terror.
"On the occasion of our wedding, there is nothing that would make us happier than to share our joy with front line victims. We are working with these organizations to allocate funds to help the survivors and surviving family members of Israeli victims of Islamist terror to plan their own weddings and begin their own lives together," they wrote.
Through help of the Jewish Agency and JGooders.com, friends were able to make direct donations to the Fund for Victims of Terror via the couple's wedding page. All together, they raised NIS 18,000 (nearly $5,000) for the Fund.
Eli Carmeli, the manager of the Fund for Victims of Terror, said this type of donation is unprecedented. "This is a very original initiative that has greatly warmed the hearts of the employees of the Fund. Here we have a couple who wanted to help the victims of terrorist attacks in Israel re-build their lives on the same day that they themselves are building their future life together," he said.
For their part, Maren and Bruce do not feel that they have done anything extraordinary, which is not how their friends see it.
"I did not think it was that big of a deal," said Bruce. "If someone wants to do something in honor of our wedding then I think making a donation is no different than buying us a toaster oven, but a lot of my friends were impressed that we chose to do this. It has definitely opened up people's eyes and given them a chance to look at the concept of gift giving differently."