Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

11 Nissan 5765 - April 20, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Mesamchei Lev: Bringing Joy to Jerusalem

by Yated Ne'eman Staff

This year the Ashkenazi family from New York reached a record high in dispensing help to Jerusalem families totaling some 2 million dollars.

Mesamchei Lev struggled with the problem of how to distribute 25,000 pairs of shoes within five days. Last year they rented the 900 square meter Tamir hall, but it was cramped.

Mesamchei Lev was determined to give everything with a smile for both giver and recipient. They sat and brainstormed and finally decided to erect a tent.

A suitable site was found at the intersection of Yaffo and Sarei Yisroel, the most accessible place in Jerusalem. A tent of 1400 square meters was erected on a parking lot. Adjacent to the tent temporary offices and excellent lavatories were erected.

Space larger than Expected

The shoes and sandals were brought by Mesamchei Lev from Italy, Spain, China and Turkey. There was a very rich selection, which allowed each and every child to choose his favorite shoes.

5,500 households received the tickets allowing them to obtain shoes for their children, for a total of 25,000 pairs. The mother pays 20 NIS for one pair of shoes. The real cost of the shoes is obviously much higher. But this approach allows the child to feel better, because his mother paid for his shoes and didn't receive them as a donation.

The distribution was planned so that for each day of the distribution, 5000 children per day would be invited to come, and the tickets were a different color for each day. The tent itself was divided between men and women.

The shoe tickets as well as the food items and other products were mailed in advance to the family homes, with wonderful results thanks to concentrated and devoted work and coordination with different sector heads and businessmen, especially in Jerusalem and its satellite communities of Beit Shemesh and Beitar.

Before opening the week of distribution, Mesamchei Lev gathered its sales staff to stress and reinforce the feeling of fulfilling a mission. Rabbi Ashkenazi, the son of the organization's head, asked each and every staff member to remember at all times that his job is to make the poor and needy feel happy. A warm and friendly smile is an integral part of the mitzvah. If help is offered without making the recipient feel happy, then we have missed our mark!

The exemplary organization and order that prevailed throughout the distribution ultimately saved time for every customer as well as for the staff.

As it turned out, the amazing order created a situation where only 66 percent of the time designated for trying on and buying the shoes was necessary. Within 10 minutes, on the average, each child left the store with his new shoes.

New Shoes for the First Time

25,000 children received shoes a full week before Rosh Chodesh Nisan. Everyone was thrilled, but some were happier still.

One family related how their children were receiving new shoes for the holiday for the first time in their lives. This is a very large family with very low resources. The parents barely earn a living. So the children passed on their shoes from one to the other, and even these shoes were used but in good condition when they first received them from relatives or neighbors. Certainly this was the first time that all the children were able to wear new shoes together . . . even when they married off their firstborn, they didn't dare buy shoes for all the children.

One family came with 10 children to try on shoes, but for some reason this household received only 7 tickets. 3 small children approached those in charge and asked with honest innocence: "Can we also have shoes?" Indeed, the staff so much wanted to give, perhaps even more than the child wanted to receive.

Kimcha Depischa as Intended

Before dismantling the tent of chessed, it was used for one day to distribute 6 tons of hand-baked shemurah matzoh.

Maintaining their tradition to give only the best of the best, Mesamchei Lev chose to provide the most mehadrin matzos available, produced at Kommemiyus.

The Ashkenazi family decided to send these very expensive matzos, and therefore decided to provide them for the seder night to adults as well and not just to children. There were matzos baked from hand-ground flour and also matzos baked with flour that was machine ground.

The distribution of the matzos was attended by the Admor of Chernobyl, who praised the great mitzvah of kimcha depischa of the Ashkenazi family. The Admor's presence caused much excitement among the organizers and activists.

Because of the huge demand, Rabbi Ashkenazi decided to add an additional ton of shemurah matzos to distribute. These matzos came from the Weinberg bakery, under the hashgacha of the Badatz Eida Chareidis, since it was no longer possible to obtain such a large quantity from Kommemiyus.

On a Full Cup of Wine

4,000 cases of wine and grape juice were delivered to thousands of homes. Here as well, the style of Mesamchei Lev stood out.

The organization ordered a special line of wine and 100 percent natural grape juice, American style, from The Zion wineries of the Shorr family. Each case contained a dozen bottles: 10 grape juice and 2 wine. The distribution of the cases was carried at local and neighborhood distribution centers.

Meat and Fish and all Delicacies

The most difficult stage, as well as the most costly, was the distribution of poultry, meat and fish. 86 tons passed through the sparkling but small special store on Rabbenu Gershom St. in Jerusalem.

The chessed store of Mesamchei Lev was especially established to distribute the meat and fish. 40 tons of poultry, 14 tons of beef and 32 tons of fish.

The trucks came day and night, almost nonstop, so that the huge freezers don't remain empty for even one moment, despite the fact that families kept coming to receive their meat and fish.

To bring Joy to the Widow's heart

A philosophy of chessed is part and parcel of Mesamchei Lev. Because it is really a total way of thinking to be able to understand and comprehend the innermost reaches of the poor person's misery.

The shoes are given to families with children. And food products are given to people who have already married off all the children, because during Pesach many of the married children go to their parents with grandchildren or even great- grandchildren in tow. Without Mesamchei Lev's help, many such parents/grandparents would have nothing to feed these guests.

But there are also lonely, poor and unfortunate widows. They don't need food because they attend their children's or other family member's seder. But they also need a financial push for Pesach, or clothing or shoes. And no less important: "A few pennies" so they can buy something for their grandchildren.

We were Slaves

Rabbi Ashkenazi the son enthusiastically sums everything up: "Indeed, we were slaves, because we feel that slavery was given us and not dominion. Slaves to sons of royalty. But only in this way can we truly feel as free men . . . ."

The Patched Shoes say Thank You

Just recently a brown cardboard carton arrived at the Mesamchei Lev offices. The return address on the package was of a Jerusalem family.

Surprisingly, the package contained a small pile of old and patched children's shoes.

A note enclosed with the package said it all:

"This is the first time our children have new shoes for the holiday. We thought that Mesamchei Lev deserved a special, if symbolic, gift of appreciation. And nothing can express our thanks more than our very happy children's old shoes . . . ."


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