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Rochel or Rotel?? – Responding to the Response
by Rabbi Yakov Horowitz

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Dear Rabbi Horowitz:

First let me wish you a hearty yasher koach on your work on behalf of Klal Yisroel.

The point of this note is to convey my surprise at your choosing to attack a particular "thing" that people do with their money, rather than attacking my pet irritations (hotels on Pesach, expensive homes, extravagant vacations, … expensive chasan and kallah gifts, etc.). Instead, you chose to attack something that you find irritating - people giving money for a cause that you see having little if any value. I am sure that you are well aware of different communities within Klal Yisroel having different approaches to Hashem … Some pour their hearts into saying tehillim, some attach themselves to a tzaddik/rebbe, some … serve Hashem through their devotion to learning His Torah, nigleh and nistar.

I am also sure that you recognize that … each Yid has his or her own unique challenges and therefore needs to approach it in his/her own unique way. Preferably with some wise guidance, but a person is certainly entitled to try to solve their problems and address their issues. Perhaps Yossi's yeshu'a will come from Chai Rotel!!! …

Your language, "Legend has it that some unnamed tzadik promised material benefits (yeshu'os)", gives me a very strong impression that you have not put much effort into finding the makor or significance of this. Have I misjudged you? Do you not see that this is offensive to those of us who have some understanding of these matters? …

Personally, I feel strongly the pain of the Yossi's as I/we went through something similar; and I feel the need of the yungerman as we have such a child, too; and I never have, and probably will never sponsor Chai Rotel. But to take your … chashuv public reputation and pulpit and give vent to your prejudices and preferences without any authority or research other than your personal feelings and superficial examination seems to convey an arrogance, at worst, or a lack of kavod and eimas hatzibur, at best. I hope to hear that I have misjudged you, and … I wish you much b'racha v'hatzlacha.



My Turn

Mrs. Naomi Mauer, Associate Publisher of The Jewish Press, once mentioned to me that in her experience, people respond to published articles when they are either passionate or upset. Well, judging by the sheer volume amount of emails that I received in response my most recent column on "Chai Rotel" stacking up the charities that support the needs of our school-age children with the charity of "Chai Rotel" - which provides visitors to Meron on Lag Ba'omer with alcoholic beverages - many people must be pretty passionate, upset, or both. In addition to the many emails that I received, my article was posted or referenced on more than a dozen websites and 'blogs' - generating even more input and feedback. (For the record, more than 2/3 of the responses were positive in nature)

So, how do I respond to all the response? My reactions are twofold. Firstly, I appreciate all those who took the time to respond. My other reaction is that this discussion is long overdue. As far as I am concerned, it is perfectly fine to agree or disagree with what I wrote. But we cannot afford (pun intended) to take a pass on an earnest dialogue regarding funding for Jewish education and our overall charity priorities. Our schools are under funded, our rebbeim and teachers are underpaid, and parents of school-age children are drowning under the crushing burden of ever-rising tuition costs. All the while, we are losing a frightening number of our children, in my opinion, far more each year than we are 'gaining' through all kiruv programs combined.

So this discussion of charity priorities needs to take place in our homes and our communal forums.

So what were the issues raised by those who took the time to respond? Setting aside the complimentary emails, the feedback can be divided into three themes:

1. Taking me to task for slighting the 'Chai Rotel' charity.
2. Asking why conspicuous consumption was given a pass and 'Chai Rotel' charity was highlighted instead.
3. Educational in nature; questioning the notion of providing 'Yossi' with a tutor as opposed to making fundamental improvements to our chinuch system.

Charity Priorities

In the interest of generating more passionate emails from the readers of this column, allow me to expand on the discussion of charity giving.

Permit me to begin by stating the obvious. Every individual who is involved with his or her favorite charity feels passionate about it and can present logical reasons why that cause ought to be at the top of our prioritized list. Who could argue with the primary importance of organizations that help needy brides or assist with the mitzvah of bikur cholim? There are so many other extraordinarily important ones: Hatzolah, Tomchei Shabbos, and cancer societies - the list goes on and on. Each is vitally important and is deserving of communal support. And, thankfully, our community has people who are inspired for each of these many diverse and significant causes. They vote with their feet and pocketbooks and volunteer their time and funds to support all of these worthy efforts.

What is troubling, however, is that aside from Dr. Marvin Schick and a few others, no one seems to be advocating for our children in a sustained manner. Perhaps more disconcerting is the hawking of 'yeshuos' (miraculous salvations) in increasingly more and more charity ads - as opposed to making the case in a thoughtful manner for why this particular charity is worthy of your support. I do not think that people who are desperate for children or shidduchim should be 'pitched' for charity giving in a manner that sounds as if they are almost guaranteed a 'yeshuah' if they will contribute to a particular charity. Hawking 'yeshuos', in my opinion, is inappropriate in a public forum, and distracts from the much-needed discussion about our charity priorities.

(Continued in the next column)

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