Israel Stories

Friday, September 02, 2005

To Give or Not to Give

Another night and another knock at my door. Three bearded men, long coats and black house, lay siege to my house. Living in a house makes me easy pray for the collectors. I wonder what it’s for this time. Maybe I should give them a form to complete so they don’t have to waste time mumbling their rhetoric about a family with no food, a family that wants to raise money to make a simcha, or a community trying to support a school, yeshivah or build a shul. My philosophy is charity is charity, it’s a mitzvah. Don’t turn away someone who is collecting. It’s not for you to judge whether they really need it or not. Let a higher court decide. So I give them some coins, they mumble they’re gratitude and Tizku L’mitzvot.

Now some of my friends are quite anti-ultra orthodox. Generally, it seems, it is the uninformed people, who have no contact with the ultra-orthodox, who perpetuate the hatred . They say we shouldn’t give money to any of them, they’re leaches on society, don’t pay taxes, don’t do military service, don’t even believe or respect the idea of the State of Israel.

I wanted to be more informed about these accusations so I started to investigate. You see I think it’s just a few bad apples that spoil it for everybody else. What really, really upsets me is the may that uninformed Jews can stand up and point their figures at their fellow Jews in such a vicious way. These charedi (ultra-orthodox) Jews, always in the papers for tax fraud, benefit fraud and money laundering. Quality newspapers like the JC love to stoke the fire like some cheap tabloid headline. We escaped the Holocaust thinking we’d left behind the hatred only to find in our own ranks some of us mock insult and actively demonize sections of our own people.

Nobody condemns the non-religious Israelis who refuse to serve in the army. Suddenly they are conscientious objectors. It’s immoral to serve in Gaza, its immoral to serve in Judah and Samariah, it’s an immoral army and we cannot accept its authority. As opposed to the charedim who say that the army is immoral full stop. But there is a charedi unit in the army. They have been in many dangerous situations and some of them are decorated heroes.

There is no doubt in my mind that if the charedim had not been so steadfast and obstinate Judaism as we know would have disappeared. Do you think the United Synagogue or Young Isreal could have perpetuated Judaism before during and after the war. I’m sorry but it wouldn’t have happened. The fact is that the charedi population are responsible for the continuity of Judaism as a religion.

Question; my community are trying to build a shul. We have 100 members and have grown out of our current premises. We have a very active fundraising committee who do everything they can to increase our building fund. Rabbi Yitchak, and young Rabbi in Bet Shemesh, has a long beard, wears a striemal on Shabbat, and learns all day in Kollel. His community desperately needs a new shul. They have a hundred members and have grown out of their current premises. Who are you going to give money to? In the late 1940’s Southgate Shul needed to be built. People had to collect money from somewhere. Why criticize ultra-orthodox Jews for collecting for a shul?

The holocaust left our nation so depleted in numbers it was only by a significant miracle we were not lost forever. As the sun set in one place the sun rose in another. We are a tiny nation. In the UK more people have an affiliation to the Jedi Knights than Judaism.
Some charedim have the philosophy that it is a duty to repopulate our numbers at any cost. So I approached my wife to see if she would be prepared, in the fullness of time, to have 14 children. I would like to print her reply but to describe the look I got would take pages. Numbers are important to us. In Israel with the Arab birthrate being so high it is in our interest to have large families. In my street of seven houses there are 41 children. We have two and one on the way and feel a bit overwhelmed. Not a charedi neighbour amongst them, by the way. Now we could say if you can’t afford them don’t have them. But one thing really has nothing to do with the other. In, what I would term as the ultimate irony, a survey revealed that people trusted an untra-orthodox collector more than a national-religious or irreligious one.

The truth is that Tzeddaka, charity, is a huge obligation on all of us. But very rarely do people have a chance to fulfill this mitzvah. Its only when some bearded man knocks at the door do you get the chance to reach for you wallet or purse. We should thank these, often very dedicated people, for spending their entire week giving us the opportunity to do this mitzvah. Sounds a bit naïve? Well as Jews we are champions at raising funds. It’s in out nature to give. It’s in out nature to fill those blue UJIA boxes, build schools, and support the poor in our own communities. According to a BBC survey the British public gives an average of a $150 a year to charity. But 58% of people give less than a pound a year.

We shun these charedi Jews who invade our privacy collecting for starving families in Jerusalem, families who are so poor they cant afford 400 shekels for a Kiddush to celebrate a bar-mitzvah, communities who need schools and shuls. Why, because we hate having these things forced on us or we have better causes that we also never give to. I’ll give when I want and to whom I want. The trouble is most of us never do.

Even if you are not religious it’s still your moral obligation to give charity especially to your FELLOW Jew. You don’t have to give to a chardei Jew.

I am not chardei and not due any kick-backs from this article. Give because it is your obligation and don’t think why and for what. Put your prejudice aside and know you are doing something that is natural to Jews.

As for me, my nightly routine will continue to be Eastenders, a knock at the door, a few mumbled words, the sound of a few coins and Tizku L’mitzvot.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home