Saturday, July 30, 2011

Questions asked at the birth of (the now dead) "Chesed Foundation"

The post by Nosson Titein about the demise of Melbourne's "Chesed Foundation" has created some behind-the-scene comment.

We have received some very interesting emails, been forwarded brochures and links to blogs requesting comments about certain posts that discuss Meshulochim. A number of Sydneysiders have also contributed with their views on that city's "Vaad Tzedaka". We shall be looking at all submissions and may post regarding some of the more important revelations.
We thank "Angry Baal-Tzedaka" for forwarding a brochure that was going around town at the time of "Chesed"'s creation.

While no longer relevant here, we have decided to publicise parts of that brochure, in case some other "well-meaning" individual will one day in the future get a similar idea into his head. It should also be of interest for AJN Watch readers in other cities where this type of organisation exists.

The brochure also included the following article in the AJN:
(Note from AJNWatch: We have not verified the allegations regarding the fees demanded from Meshulochim by the Melbourne and Sydney Tzedaka certifiers nor the amounts that its backers allegedly give.)

We don’t know if the individuals behind the “Chesed Foundation” collectors scrutinizing apparatus understand the words of the above Midrash, but their rabbinical backers certainly do.

The message is clear: !די לו בעניותו LEAVE THE POOR ALONE!! They have enough troubles, tribulations and problems in their lives without a horde of businessmen adding to their load.

We ask the businessmen behind this “Foundation” to reply to the following questions:

1) Who are you exactly? Why do your names not appear on the website?
2) What are your qualifications to approve or reject assistance to needy people arriving at our shores?
3) How much Tzedaka do you personally give (even to your 100% “scrutinized” collectors)?
4) Will you now be giving substantially larger amounts to collectors who present YOUR certificate?
5) Can you deny or confirm that the ‘businessmen’ behind this scheme include those who have mostly have their own doors closed to collectors? And/or that give collectors the grand sum of $5 and sometimes even $3? That another gives collectors the run-around where and when to come (costing them time and money) and if and when finally ‘caught’, gives them a negligible amount – often with a few abuses added?
6) How much extra funding are you guaranteeing to collectors who agree to submit themselves to your meticulous scrutiny? Have you lined up additional donors - seeing that they no longer need have doubts about the integrity of ‘certified’ collectors? Will you assure those collectors, that displaying your ‘certificate’ ensures them of additional funds? (And we don’t mean that Mr $5/$3 will now give them $10.) Or is that beyond the objectives of your “Chesed Foundation”?
7) As you well know, there already is such a “vetter” in Sydney (a member of your alleged “global Orthodox Jewish network”?),who charges Meshulochim $60,for such ‘certificates’. If a collector already has a Sydney certificate, will you still impose upon him to get your $50/100 duplicate?
8) If the answer to #7 is ‘no’, please skip this question. However if it is ‘yes’, why? What makes you a better certifier than Sydney? Why force a decent person, who may have fallen on hard times, to again undergo this degrading and time-wasting process? Don’t you trust your Sydney colleague? Why not? And we have the same question if he has a certificate from an overseas Vaad Tzedaka - from one of your so-called “global Orthodox Jewish network”. Why won’t you accept their assurances re the honesty of the collector? Is the true answer that this exercise has absolutely nothing to do with the bona fides of Meshulochim and everything to do with“Meniyat Tzedaka” (as publicly stated many times by Rav Beck שליט''א)- to reduce the number of people coming to you requesting help?
9) How about collectors who come annually? Will they be compelled to be ‘processed’ year after year? And the representatives of well-known institutions, like Chabad, Ruzin, Viznitz, Karlin, Belz, Toldos Aharon etc? Do they need a new certificate every year? Why?
How about that blind man from Jerusalem who nebach shlepps all the way to the other side of the world to raise funds to marry off his 15 children. Does he too need your annual anction that he is authentic and above board?10) And what about the blatant lie in the above newspaper article, where you claim to be “supported by most of Melbourne’s Orthodox rabbis”!
You actually list a grand total of 11 rabbis! ( which is less than 25% of the local rabbinate!
Additionally, have you bothered to investigate how many (if any!) members belonging to the shuls of Rabbis Genende, Glassman, M Groner, MZ Gutnick, S Gutnick, Heilbrun, Reisenberg EVER open their doors to a collector? According to our research there are less than 25 ‘givers’ combined!
As for the other signatories, seeing that they and their communities are constantly fundraising themselves, isn’t this a situation of conflict of interests?
And if you and they are going to be so fastidious about Tzedaka money, why shouldn’t their organizations also be investigated to ensure that monies raised are actually used in accordance with donor’s expectations? Why aren't you demanding that there be a public accounting annually? After all, they raise millions of dollars every year, compared to the paltry few thousand that the average collector from Israel can put together.)
11) If you do not wish to partake in the Mitzva of Tzedaka, simply tell the drivers that you are not a giver and not to bring anyone to you. Why incite the entire community against giving Tzedaka by making contemptible claims in the AJN, labeling good, decent - but poor - Jews as ”cheats”, “unsavory” and “frauds”?
Did the rabbis also approve this disgusting rechilut and hotzoat shem ra?)
Are you confident that if an independent auditor went through your business and financials that you’d come out so great?
The AJN article talks about “collectors whose motives are not pure”. What about the creators of the Chesed Foundation? How “pure” are their motives?

Finally, let us repeat the words of Rav Beck shlita during his Shalosh Seudot Torah on Shabbat Parsha Mattot (citing well-known Chassidic sources): “As long one isn’t too exacting about who he gives his Tzedaka to, so too in Heaven they are not overly vigilant when granting this person their blessing. However, if someone is adamant to give charity only to one who is 100% worthy, similarly in Heaven - middah keneged middah - they will scrutinize his adequacy thoroughly to see if he is eligible to qualify for Hashem’s bounty.”

And now a few questions to the honorable Rabbanim:

1) Did you consider all the above points 1-11 before signing?
2) If so, how do YOU answer the above questions?
3) Did you know at the time of signing that HaRav Beck was so firmly opposed to this and despite that gave your approval?
4) Do you know that in most places where there is a Vaad HaTzedaka, it is managed by Rabbanim and not in the hands of a few businessmen?
5) What will YOU do on the POSITIVE side of the ledger for those collectors who do pass muster? Will you speak to your well-off congregants and supporters requesting them to make generous donations? Or are you only supporting this “Chesed” foundation for the NOT giving part?
6) In your letter (published on the website) it states that “even if an institution or individual does receive a certificate of approval, it does NOT mean that in the eyes of the Vaad (Hatzedaka) it/he is worthy of the community’s support”!!!
Can you please clarify? You seem to be saying that despite demanding that these unfortunates (and representatives of prominent Yeshivas/Kollels/ organizations) go through the degradation of being probed and scrutinised by sel-appointed businessmen, you still state: “but we [still] don’t recommend supporting you”.
Or have we misunderstood your words?
7) Will you insist that Rabbanim, Roshei Yeshivot and Rebbes also be certified?
8) Isn’t the role of a Rav to encourage people to give Tzedaka – rather than stopping Jews doing Chesed?
9) And (repeat of above question #9) to our Rabbanim: Do you have ANY IDEA what percentage of YOUR membership gives - if ANYTHING - to collectors?
10) According to our investigations, 35-40% of the funds raised by most collectors are from the Adass community.
Accordingly, shouldn’t you rabbonim consult with the rabbi of that community, before backing such a vetting scheme?

We look forward to hearing the response both of the businessmen and the Rabbanim to all of the above. Meanwhile we strongly urge decent and generous Jews observe the words of the quoted Midrash: “Al Tigzol Dal”. Have no part in adding salt to the wounds of the needy and distressed.
והזהיר הקב"ה שלא יגזול אדם מהם מתנות הראויות ליתן להם, "כי דל הוא", די לו בעניותו…

והיות שאנו נמצאים בימי בין המצרים נכון מאד להזכיר שציון במשפט תפדה ושביה בצדקה - שהפדייה מהגלות והשבייה היא על-ידי צדקה  
 וגדולה צדקה שמקרבת את הגאולה בב''א


  1. vesalachta lavonenu ki RAV huSaturday, July 30, 2011 11:58:00 PM

    How come I never saw that brochure? Was it generally available?
    It asks good questions - especially of our rabbis. Did any of them reply?

  2. A letter following a discussion of Vaad Tzedaka in the Yeshiva World News

    Thinking out loud says:
    November 4, 2008 at 6:22 am
    I live in Brooklyn, and I don’t want it.

    I am not a socialist. I enjoy the right to decide for myself whether or not a poor man is poor, hungry, lonely, or just needs chizuk.

    I enjoy the effort it takes on my part to care about another yid on an independent level, listen to his story, and offer him a drink, if I don’t have even $1 for tzedaka that day.

    I enjoy the right to blame my narrow-minded judgementalness for not giving tzedakah, rather than some well-meaning yid on a vaad.

    I enjoy the freedom of knowing how to say “No. I’m so sorry. I can’t give you more money today. I don’t have any more money for tzedaka now. Perhaps you would like a gift to bring home to your wife? I have stuff.. lots of stuff… that I don’t need. But I have no liquid assets right now.”

    I enjoy the thrill that comes from saying… “Do you have a parnassa? Are you having success? What do you do? Perhaps can daaven for you.”

    I enjoy asking, “Where do you live? Perhaps we know someone in common. Perhaps I mooched a meal off of you when I was in Yerushalayim Ir HaKodesh for a Year!”

    This is why:

    I will never forget, when I, an American kid in Israel for the year of learning and living on the edge, ate by a complete stranger in Meah Shearim, for the “experience”. In my magnanimus Americanism, I came with my fancy glasses, $150 shoes, and other assorted goodies…. and brought them wilted flowers for Shabbos. They graciously accepted my “gift”. My friend and I were given a bedroom with clean linen. Our host asked if we want to daaven at the Kosel. We walked to the Kosel friday night. Through Sha’ar Shechem… without any fear. Our host waited for us to take it all in. Then he escorted us home, where we joined the family in the Kitchen/Family Room/Dining Room/Library/Living Room for a delicious seudah. We were asked our names, where we are from, and what we are learning. The seudah went well into the night. After the seudah, we were asked if we would like to see a tisch. Our host left his family at 11 PM, and walked us over to see the Reb Ahrelach. We stayed for at least an hour, and then he walked us back home. The apartment was now dark and quiet. There were people sleeping where we had eaten. We tiptoed into the guest bedroom we had been given, and went to sleep. It wasn’t until the morning that we understood: There only were two rooms in that apartment.

    We had been given the bedroom.

    I don’t remember their address. But I sure hope they have had hatzlocha in marrying off their children with enough money to afford a spare highriser, as my parents did.

    What’s your story?

  3. English speaking fundraiserSunday, July 31, 2011 12:36:00 PM

    The sad thing was that one of the leaders of the 'vaad' used to be a decent baal tzedaka [actually he was the only one] giving nearly all of us $100. This went right down after its establishment.

    Another couple of gevirim - they know who they are - used to give us amounts of $100-180. Recently they were giving $36 without a certificate and $50 with. So what did the whole thing achieve? A reduction in Tzedoko!
    I wonder how those rabbis can live with themselves.

    And btw, interestingly a couple of the rabbis who signed for the Chesed Foundation, continued to give their usual nedovo - and never requested the certificate. Go figure!

  4. i know what i am talking aboutSunday, July 31, 2011 12:39:00 PM

    Why don't you tell us about the Sydney rorting?That Vaad tzedaka is 100 times worse than Melbourne's. Even the rabbis (except of a single solitary one) dumped it.
    Not that it helped. meshulochim are paying thru the nose.

  5. More than one Chabad meshulach has told me that the rebbe was not in favour of these Vaads.

    Anyon eout there know about this?
    Are there any letters about this in Igros Kodesh?

  6. giver, I don't know what the rebbe said about this, but presumably he would agree with what is said in Pirkei Avos about the 4 types of baalei tzedaka

    ארבע מידות בנותני צדקה: רוצה שייתן, ולא ייתנו אחרים--עינו רעה בשל אחרים;
    שייתנו אחרים, והוא לא ייתן--עינו רעה בשלו; שייתן, וייתנו אחרים--חסיד;
    לא ייתן, ולא ייתנו אחרים--רשע.

    Sadly it seems that our rabbis in Melbourne belong to group 4!!

  7. It was a beneficial workout for me to go through your webpage. It definitely stretches the limits with the mind when you go through very good info and make an effort to interpret it properly.


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