Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

1 Adar 5766 - March 1, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family

Raising the Dough
by Adina Hershberg

I find it difficult to ask people for money, but when it is for the sake of a mitzvah, then Hashem gives me the inner resources (no pun intended) to approach people for charity. For example, I was on a committee to organize an annual Chinese auction, whose proceeds go for helping out indigent brides. I volunteered to be in charge of the prize committee. I asked just about everyone I knew, or didn't know, about offering a free service or prize. I even called up my babysitters and asked them if they would donate free time. My husband would joke that if anyone I knew saw me during this period, they would cross the street!

One day at the supermarket, I ran into someone with whom I had volunteered when we were both single as counselors on Shabbos programs for not-yet-religious Jewish youth. He told me he was in the food importing business. Losing no time, I made my pitch about the Chinese auction, and he immediately offered prizes running into hundreds of dollars. Ever since then, he has continued to donate cases of American-made kosher food to the Chinese auction.

Another time, over a decade ago, my neighbor Malka, who runs an organization which helps single mothers and their children, asked me if I had any rich relatives or friends whom I could approach for funds. I told Malka that I would see if I could come up with something. After mulling it over for a while, I thought of a wealthy great-aunt who lived in New York. I wrote her a letter in which I described how this organization helps widows, divorced women and their children. Malka was attempting to raise $11,000 for a four- day summer vacation for these families.

One Friday afternoon, my husband Abe came home with a letter and a check from my great-aunt for Malka's group. I glanced at the check and I read $1,100. Not bad. I read the letter which my aunt had written and it went something like this: "We have our usual charities that we give to, including the school for fashion and design that we founded in Israel, so the only reason I'm sending a check is because you asked me, Adina." I looked at the check again and I saw $11,000!

Several years ago, I had a humbling experience. A friend's mother was sitting shivah for a sister. Even though the parents don't really know me well, I decided to pay a visit. I went to their apartment with our youngest child at the time. Usually, a mourner's front door is open and one comes in without expecting someone to "let" him in. Since my friend's parents are yekkies and very proper, and as the door had no sign on it nor was it ajar, I decided to knock. My friend's father opened the door and handed me a few coins; not remembering me, he assumed that I was collecting for myself. The degrading feeling gave me a window into the feelings of those who do collect for themselves . . . I have been very involved with gathering funds for a friend who is single and very ill with cancer. It does not come naturally to me to make a public appeal. (One of the reasons that I chose casework in social work school over group work and community work is because of my loathing of public speaking.) But the knowledge that a friend or a certain cause needs help and that Hashem is on my side are strong motivators to overcome my shyness.

Hashem seems to lead me to situations in which fundraising is needed. One morning, I found myself in Jerusalem needing a place to daven. I approached a woman who was wheeling a stroller with a baby and a little girl walking by her side. Upon hearing my request she replied, "I think that all the women's sections of the synagogues are locked, but you can daven where I work."

She took me to her place of work — a soup kitchen that provides a daily hot meal to poor Jews who are often lonely as well. After showing me to the dining area, a small area with tables, chairs, refrigerators and freezers, she left to take her older child to nursery school and her baby to a sitter. I was still praying when she returned, and she went straight to work in the adjoining kitchen. When I had finished, I went into the kitchen where she was busy preparing a meal with two other workers. I asked her where I could leave a contribution and she gave me a pushke into which I put some money. One worker asked if I had contacts in the United States who might be able to help the soup kitchen. I asked if they had a brochure and I was given information in several languages. I took it, hoping I might be able to raise some money from relatives while at a summer family reunion in the U.S.

One week of the Hershberg Family reunion was in the Catskill Mountains. I had arranged for my uncles and aunts (on my mother's side) to come to see us at the hotel. I awaited them in the lobby with the soup kitchen pamphlets at hand. At the other end of the sitting area sat a group of people who seemed rich. There were some older women and two middle- aged men. I didn't try to eavesdrop, but the volume of their voices was turned on high and I couldn't help overhearing talk about a million dollar deal. There was nothing Jewish in their exchanges. When my husband came by to check if my uncles and aunts had arrived, I mentioned to him that the people across from us seemed to be rich. I mentioned that it would be great if I could get money from them for the soup kitchen. But how could I break into their conversation and start talking about tzekodah? I prayed a short request that Hashem give me an "in." Seconds later, the direction of the conversation shifted. The outspoken middle- aged man suddenly said, "Every few months, I send a check to a place that helps the blind. If I had more money I'd give them 20 million dollars. I'd like to see (no pun intended I'm sure) to it that all the blind people have seeing-eye dogs." I had witnessed Hashem's immediate response to my short prayer and with that cue, I rose and started giving my pitch for the soup kitchen. I handed each one of them a brochure, and later on I gave my relatives brochures as well.

Recently I read an article about people who fundraise full- time. I wouldn't want to be in their shoes. I can think of much easier professions. Many of them are on the road for months at a time. The separation from their families is very difficult. Not everyone gives, and there are givers who do not do it with a smile. On the other hand, there are people who give generously and with a smile. I recently heard a Torah lecture by Rabbi Mordechai Perlman, who presented an important idea which should help all of those involved in Torah fundraising. In 1953, Rabbi Perlman's grandfather went to see the Brisker Rav in order to get a letter for his fundraising efforts in the fight against missionary activity in Israel. The Brisker Rav asked him, "Why, in Parshas Trumah, where Moshe asks the Jews for donations for the mishkon, does Hashem say, ' . . . that they `take' for Me an offering'? Should it not read, ' . . . that they give Me an offering'? The S'forno comments that Hashem is telling Moses to appoint collectors to take the donations. Jews are generous. They need someone who is willing to collect. If there are people collecting, there will be people willing to give."


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