Of Shekels and Dollars: Finding Financial Shalom

By Anne L. Corn

Ever since Jews needed shekels to give to the Levites in the desert, money has been a topic of discussion. Contrary to the stereotype that all Jews are wealthy, couples and singles in Austin may benefit from a course on the basics of money management.

The Temple Beth Shalom course is suitable for everyone, from those with student debt to spouses engaging in spirited discussions about monthly budgets and those just starting out who want to head toward wealth building.

Financial Peace University is a nine-session course that begins with a discussion of saving for an emergency fund before taking participants through several topics including, but not limited to, getting and staying out of debt, saving for children’s college, buying a house, wealth building and tzedakah.

Financial Peace was developed by Dave Ramsey, an evangelical Christian. When Rabbi Alan Freedman, Rabbi Amy Cohen and Anne Corn reviewed the content, they decided it was well developed and were surprised to learn that many of the religious teachings in the course have Jewish origins. Corn will coordinate the class and both rabbis will offer Jewish perspectives on the management of money during each class.

Nearly 4 million people have taken this course in the United States, but it is the first time it will be offered to a Jewish community. Rabbis from other cities have already expressed interest in learning about the Austin community’s experience with the course.

Classes include a video featuring Ramsey and members of his team, rabbinical teachings, a workbook activity, small group discussions, and homework. The course is recommended for couples and single adults, beginning at college age. Teens living at home are welcome to join their parents during the classes. The high school version of the course was approved by TEA and is available in several high schools in Texas.

Ramsey’s presentations are not only informative, but also full of humor. He is supportive as he also conveys hard lessons. One of his premises is that only 20 percent of dealing with money is about the numbers. The remaining 80 percent is about how people relate to and behave with money and how couples relate to each other about money. He wants couples to take the course together and suggests singles choose and work with a “financial accountability partner” through the course.

Financial Peace will meet from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Nov. 8, 15 and 29; Dec. 6, 13 and 20; and Jan. 3, 10 and 17. The course does not meet when Austin Independent School District classes are not in session.

Ramsey Solutions set the cost for the course, and partial scholarships may be available. Registration includes online materials and access to a great variety of forms and information. Taking the course includes content to set a path toward financial independence, and the registration allows participants to repeat the course at anytime in the future.

Whether the Jewish community is talking about giving shekels in Moses’ time or about personal and communal finances in 5778, there is much to learn about our lives, relationships, and how Jewish texts are connected to finances. ■

For more information about the course, contact Anne Corn at Anne123C@gmail.com or by phone at 512-371-9945. For course registration and to learn more about babysitting during the course, please contact Marissa Wright at marissa.Wright@bethshalomaustin.org or at 512-835-8900.

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