Friday, June 01, 2018

A Charedi Treasure and Pictures of Women

Women who participated in the CCF's  'Step Up'
What if I could show that the Posek HaDor of the 20th century approved of publishing pictures of women? There is of course no way to ask Rav Moshe Feinstein directly this question. He passed away at age 91 in 1986.

R’ Moshe was considered by the vast majority of the Yeshiva world to be the Posek HaDor. It was Rav Aharon Kotler that was in large part responsible for getting the world to see him that way. Rav Aharon Kotler founded Lakewood Yeshiva (BMG) and was considered the Gadol HaDor by the entire Yeshiva world. When he spoke, people listened. Even other Gedolim. 

That was made famously clear when 2 such Gedolim, Reb Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz and Rav Yitzchok Hutner wanted to open up a college as part of Yeshivas Rebbenu Chaim Berlin. They went to a lot of trouble to do that and even received accreditation from the New York Board of Regents. Rav Aharon said ‘No!’ ...and that was the end of it. This is how powerful his influence was as the undisputed Gadol HaDor of the Lithuanian type Yeshiva world.

So that when R’ Aharon Kotler told people that asked him Shailos in Halacha – to seek answers instead from R’ Moshe – R’ Moshe became the Posek HaDor. Of course it should also be mentioned that the reason R’ Aharon gave R’ Moshe that status was because of his broad and deep knowledge of Talmud and Halacha – which is very evident in his multi volume magnum opus, Igros Moshe. 

But I digress. My point is to show just how important his word was with respect to Halacha and Hashkafa in the non Chasidic Yeshiva world in America.

Back to my  question. What would Rav Moshe have said about publishing pictures of women? The best way to know the answer posthumously is to ask his close Talmid, Rav Shmuel Fuerst who did Shimush with him. But we don’t even have to do that. We can see what the organization he founded – and the organization he Paskins for – does. The Chicago Chesed Fund (CCF) recently circulated a brochure that features several pictures of women.  Like the one in the above illustration taken from that brochure. (also available at their wesbsite - a must visit!)

Lest anyone think that this was done without his approval, let me disabuse you of that notion. The CCF does not move an inch without asking Rabbi Fuerst first. If those pictures are in there, it means that based on what R’ Moshe’s close Talmid said, it was not only appropriate but laudable to do so.

These were pictures of women who volunteered in one of the many projects that the CCF is involved in. In this instance it was  a event called ‘Step Up’. On Mother’s Day all the women who volunteered trekked up the 55 flights of the North Harbor Tower to raise funds for infertility treatment. 

This is but one of many projects this fine organization is involved with. It is housed primarily in a huge warehouse – where its ‘shopping’ section includes donated shoes and clothing (either new or gently used – like new) of all type for men, women, and children. 

They are neatly arranged on racks or shelves - much the same way they would be in a department store like Marshall’s or TJ Maxx.  But it isn’t only clothing. It is food and furniture of all types. It is also money. If you need it, they give it to you based on your needs. 

This is not only for the poor. It is also for the underpaid with large families. When shopping there, you are treated no differently than any shopper at Marshall’s would be. And yet, to avoid embarrassment, no 2 people ever shop there at the same time. Shoppers can go through the racks of clothing and shelves of food, or anything else they offer; take what they need and walk away without paying a penny! If money is an issue, once the truth of their situation is verified, they are given the funds they need. No questions asked.

One family I personally know that are homeowners but where the only income was from a father who lost his job, got all of their Pesach needs taken care of by the CCF. Which included hand Shmurah Matzah for the entire family of 12 children! And enough money to shop freely for his family’s Pesach needs. His Pesach was as elaborate as anyone else’s - thanks to the CCF’s generosity.

If a Bar Mitzvah boy needs a new suit and the family can’t afford it, they will buy it for him. I know at least one case like that where they were told of such a case and the Bar Mitzvah boy got a new suit - having had no clue where it came from. The CCF gave it to the family anonymously so that he would not feel like a charity case.

The CCF is staffed to a large extent by unpaid volunteers and a minimal paid staff. The Chicago Jewish community is well aware of what the CCF does and has been very generous in its donations, both financial and in providing products (like food, clothing, and furniture), and in the amount of time they give to it .

Except for their small overhead - their fundraising efforts go entirely to help those in need. Those availing themselves of their services are never made to feel like they are charity cases.

The CCF is also a uniting institution. Those that volunteer come from all manner of Hashkafa. From Chasidic - to Yeshivish - to Modern Orthodox. Often working together in common cause. The CCF is also uniting in the sense that they never turn down anyone in need regardless of their  Hashkafa. Nobody’s Tzitzis are checked!

I have really only scratched the surface of what this fine organization does.  But I wanted to publicize one of Chicago’s  real treasures.

I am proud of the entire Orthodox Jewish community in Chicago for their generosity in supporting the CCF, whether it is with money, product, or time. Thank you, CCF for all the good you have done, do, and will do in the future.