Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Wrong Solution to the Poverty of Avreichim

There is an interesting post today in Marty Bluke’s blog.

Apparently the Tzedaka fund Kupat Ha’ir has crossed a line. They are now using questionable quotes by Gedloim for their own fundraising purposes. They have quoted Rav Chaim Kanieavsky in an ad promoting their Tzedaka and I find it very distasteful. I’m not saying Rav Kanievasky would disapprove of this Tzedaka fund or that he would mind being quoted as a supporter of it. Quite the contrary. Im sure that he is a large supporter of this type of Tzedaka. But I really doubt that he had anything to do with this statement. Which says the following as translated by Marty Bluke:

'With the starting of tractate Moed Katan, R' Chaim Kanievsky said that it is known in the name of the Chasam Sofer that there is a concern in learning Moed Katan because of the fact they you are learning the halachos of mourning. Therefore the Chasam Sofer said that a person should give charity before learning this tractate.R' Kanievsky added that certainly someone who gives charity to "Kupat Hair" will be saved from any pain and anguish and has nothing to worry about.As always, the names of all donors will be passed on to R' Kanievsky for a blessing.'

I wonder if he truly did say this. And I even wonder if the Chasam Sofer did? The fact that it is quoted in the name of the Chasam Sofer without citing a source makes me very skeptical. But even if it’s true, the tactic of using an obscure and questionable quote to raise money strikes me as mercenary, trading on the fears of the average man and implying that every donation will generate a Bracha from Rav Kanievsky.

I wonder how many people in the past gave money to Tzedaka before learning Moed Katan? Let me hazard a guess: Zero. And as Marty points out: “The mesora that I got from my Rabbeim was diametrically opposed to this approach.” I’m sure his rebbeim aren’t the only ones who feel this way.

And then there's the fact that they will pass on names of contributors to Rav Kanievsky. That does not gaurentee he will take the time to bless every single one of them. At least not individually if at all. Highly deceptive tactic if you ask me.

I am told that Kupat Ha’ir is a respectable charity fund with funds going primarily to poor Avreichim in Bnei Brak. But I find the methods often employed in raising those funds by even respectable charities increasingly problematic. I know that poor Avreichim need money. And the vast majority of those needy Avreichim recipients are fine and decent people who literally do not have enough money to meet the bare necessities of life. But do the ends justify the means? Should questionable means be used to raise funds even if they are for a worthy cause? How far do we go with this? Is it OK to steal from the rich and give it to the poor?

This type of charity and the desperate methods used in trying to raise funds, once again points out the failure of the Charedi educational system in Israel. One cannot sustain one’s earthly existence on spirituality alone. The questionable fundraising methods that appeals like this have underscores the magnitude of the problem in Israel. Yet no one seems to be doing anything about it except to keep trying trying to extort ever greater amounts of money from the Govenment and increase the level of charitable donations from the working class in questionable ways.

Perhaps the bubble hasn’t burst yet. But it will if nothing is done. Perhaps within a decade or two, there will be so many poor Avreichim that it will be impossible to generate enough Tzedaka to help them.

The poverty grows. Avenues of Parnassa are denied because of insufficient training for the workplace, and women are prevented from getting decent paying jobs as well by being denied the opportunity to advance their own education.

Those in the community which Kupat Ha'ir serves will say, “ We have to have Bitachon” …faith in the Creator. Well, yes, we should all have Bitachon. But it doesn’t spread well on a slice of stale bread. Bitchaon has to be coupled with Hishtadlus. There are huge numbers of Charedi Avreichim that increase exponentially with every new generation. But when it comes to Hishtadlus for Parnassa there is none. No one from their ranks seems to be offering a solution. Instead they offer only impediments.