Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Mommy, Can You Spare a Dollar?

By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

Very often, we hear people asking why “they” don’t do this and why “they” don’t do that. There are so many things that have to be done, but more often than not, most people sit by on the sidelines wondering why someone else doesn’t step up to the plate and take charge. This is either due to feelings of inadequacy or because most of us really are not equipped to rectify all of the world’s problems.

There are so many ills that cry out for cures and problems that require remedies; there is no shortage of good causes we can all get involved in and affiliated with. Anyone with a heart pulsing with care for the human condition and for what is going on around us should require little prodding to seek to do what they can to help alleviate prevalent pain and suffering.

People who care about their surroundings should recognize that they can be one of “those people” who roll up their sleeves and get involved to right the wrongs and correct the inequities which confront us. You don’t have to be a special genius or enormously wealthy or powerful to accomplish much; you just have to care.

Fifty years after the founding of Torah Umesorah and the many battles fought to establish and maintain Jewish day schools and yeshivos in this country, rabbeim and moros still aren’t being paid enough.

When we think of Torah Umesorah, we think back in time. We think back to the larger-than-life years and dreams of Rav Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz zt”l, who, while living in Williamsburg and Monsey in the mid-1940s, perceived a spiritual holocaust unfolding in this country.

The Jewish people had lost six million souls in Europe; millions more would be lost if the spiritual holocaust in America went unchecked.

Where others saw wasteland, Rav Shraga Feivel saw opportunity; where others saw potential for disaster, he saw the possibility of greatness.

The situation everyone perceived as a nightmare inspired him to dream.

Back in his day, his idea of building a network of day schools and yeshivos was dismissed as totally unrealistic. Critics said it could not be done. Ehrliche Jews were prepared to relinquish their hopes for a Torah future for the youth of America.

Rav Shraga Feivel stood his ground and fought for the establishment of yeshiva day schools. His talmidim fanned out across the country, winning souls for Torah. Despite some hard-won successes, they lacked popular support at first. They were accused of being un-American, of being “old-country”.

Financial backing was meager, but their rebbi infused his talmidim with a burning dedication to carry on his mission and they made it happen. Their exhaustive efforts to lay the foundation of Torah chinuch in cities and towns across the length and breadth of the country bore fruit. We now take it for granted that every decent-sized city in this country with a Jewish population has at least one school where Jewish children can discover that they are linked in a glorious chain going back to Sinai.

That process is still growing and developing, as every year, new schools are opened, winning backing and support in more cities and towns across the continent.

And there are still thousands of children waiting for us to introduce them to the beauty of Torah and the eternal joys of its way of life.

We contribute to myriad kiruv organizations. We all read and hear about the efforts to try to stem the fallout of poor parenting, inferior education or harmful social situations. But we overlook our responsibility to the rabbeim and people who staff the schools in which our very own precious children study.

We have certain issues in our communities that we tend to sweep under the rug and make believe they don’t exist until they fester and balloon into big problems.

Teachers’ salaries is something that must be addressed. But that is not my point here. Because the rabbeim and moros are underpaid, many of them are unable to afford “luxuries”, such as life insurance. The families of people who have dedicated their lives to the education of our children are often left without protection if disaster strikes. Collections are made and more pain, shame and misery are heaped upon an already sad situation.

So why doesn’t someone do something about it? Why don’t “they” set up something to help the rabbeim? The answer is, “they” have. Jeff Kirshblum, with his “I Can’t Take It Anymore” ad campaign and personal lobbying of schools has brought this problem to everyone’s attention and, through his efforts, many rabbeim now have life insurance.

Yet, many still do not. There are still many schools which don’t provide life insurance. Numerous schools are struggling just to pay salaries and can’t afford to pay life insurance premiums for their staff members.

Torah Umesorah has taken upon itself to do something to help out the rabbeim, but they need our assistance. They have been running ads for a few months now, every week in this paper, about the raffle they have initiated to raise money to pay for life insurance plans for the rabbeim of our children.

It doesn’t require much of us. It’s very simple. All we have to do is buy a Torah Umesorah raffle ticket every time we go grocery shopping. We go to the supermarket and buy everything we want, and there is nothing wrong with that. Boruch Hashem, kosher markets are no longer rinky-dinky old fashioned stores offering only the bare essentials. There are kosher supermarkets as large, or larger, than the branch stores of the national chains. They are packed solid, stocked with everything a palate could desire. We visit these stores and go up and down the aisles filling our wagons with food for our families. And then, as we stand by the register to pay for it all, we add one dollar to the sum total of what we are spending and that dollar goes to buy life insurance for a rebbi.

It is such a simple campaign, such an almost effortless way to help out these families. Plus, you are entered into a raffle for a $10,000 prize. You can feel good about yourself and earn a chance to get some financial reward.

So how many of us are doing it? How many of us are asking the cashier for a raffle ticket? And how many of us who own and manage stores are pushing this campaign in our stores and making sure that every cashier asks every customer if they want to buy a ticket?

No one is asking us to go to leave your house, to listen to long, boring speeches, to make a special trip somewhere, to write a big check, to make phone calls, or to donate our precious time. All they are asking is for one dollar. Is it so hard for us to do? Is it too much for us to remember to ask for a ticket? Is the welfare of the people who care for our children all day not worth one dollar?

Rabbeim are the crown of Torah Jewry. They are the transmitters of Torah to the future generations. They and their families live simple lives and are satisfied with the knowledge that their sacrifice is for the sake of Torah. They deserve our help.

Rabbeim tend to support large families and have to struggle and do all kinds of juggling acts to make ends meet. Imagine, r”l, the main provider passing on; what is the wife to do? How will she marry off her children? Who will pay their tuition and buy them clothes? Why must the wife feel like a charity case? With this life insurance plan, the family is basically taken care of financially and they can stand up proud, knowing that they are not a burden to anyone.

Don’t you want a share in this great mitzvah? All it takes is one dollar.

Another school year is upon us. If for no other reason, let’s do this as a zechus for our children’s success. May we all be blessed with good health and much nachas.


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