A prominent rabbi of Newton, Massachusetts, attended a housewarming party at a large, beautiful home in his wealthy suburb of Boston.

Guests oohed and ahhed, checking out every unusual piece of furniture, every exotic light fixture, every imported piece of handcrafted art, the thick azure carpets, the golden hand-carved door handles both inside and outside, and on and on and on.

During the course of the evening, the homeowners related to their guests that they had paid the highest fee for their interior decorator, but it was worth every penny. The results were astonishing. Every decision, down to the last window treatment, was just impeccable. They could not have been more pleased.

“This,” they declared, in contrast to how most people thought a home should be furnished, “is interior decorating.”

About an hour passed, and the elderly mother of the hostess, who lived with her daughter and son-in-law, asked her rabbi friend to come upstairs and take a look at her room.

Having left the posh living room and dining room of this large, magnificently appointed and lavish home, the elderly woman opened the door of her upstairs bedroom and pointed her finger toward the windowsill. When the rabbi looked, he was astounded at what he saw.

The woman did not point, as the daughter did, to any of the furniture or decorations of the room. She pointed only to the windowsill, toward a row of charity boxes, pushkes, one for every worthwhile cause imaginable. There were boxes for hospitals, yeshivot (religious schools), orphanages, battered women’s shelters, homes for children who were blind or deaf, funds for the handicapped—you name it! One for every single Jewish institution she could find that distributed charity boxes for people to drop coins in and return when full.

Before modern methods of fundraising took hold, these small charity boxes “decorated” kitchen windows in every traditional Jewish home. “Now, Rabbi,” said the elderly woman, gazing proudly at her windowsill filled with charity boxes—“this is interior decorating!”