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Ask Shifra

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

When Meshulachim Attack

I live a fair distance from the major Jewish areas of the east coast and as such most of our meshulachim are imported. As with most imported goods there is a tax to be paid – in this case the driver who ferries these charity seekers from Brooklyn, Lakewood, the airport? At a cost of 20% of the collectors “take.”

On a recent Sunday afternoon, as my husband and I were preparing to go out to a simcha my younger daughter came running upstairs in a panic yelling “Abba Abba there’s a RABBI in the house!!!”
We have told our daughters MANY MANY times that they are not allowed to open the door for anyone they don’t know, but it seems that in our rushing in and out of the house all day, we’d neglected to lock the door (which happens too often I must confess.)

After practically pushing my husband down the stairs he came down to discover a small older man dressed in black standing in our living room and looking around. “You shouldn’t leave your money out like that” he said to my husband in Hebrew pointing at my husband’s back wallet on the table “someone could take it.”

After that he launched into his hard luck story, actually several stories, about his family, a school he is collecting for, he divorced daughter, etc... As my husband finished writing him out a check I came downstairs to see what was going on, and check our bank balance, when the doorbell rang again. This time it was three more people, who had arrived on the street in the same car as the little Rabbi but opted to strike out on their own in the hopes that my husband wouldn’t divide his weekly donation by four but rather by three after paying the little Rabbi separately. At this point I became fearful that my husband (who was offering them water nice man that he is) would be pressured into giving away the store, causing us problems later in the month. I will consent that it is very hard to make a compelling argument to Tzdaka collectors that you don’t have the money when you are dressed to the nines at 4PM on a Sunday afternoon. So out of guilt he gave them more than was comfortable for us and they still complained. After that I wished them well and closed the door.

I hope and pray that I am never on the other side of that door but can’t there be a way for me to help people without the 20% tax off the top. They all requested that we make out their individual check to the same place – can’t I just send my checks there to avoid having my home invaded weekly by people who are unknown to me and whose stories are not confirmable in the one minute I have to make my decision?

The more this visitors come to my door the colder I begin to feel, I hate that about myself. These people haggle and they argue and are not polite or do they seem grateful (well the little Rabbi did, but then again he also entered my house uninvited and I don’t even think vampires do that!!) It’s like a business, the business of money collecting and I’m not sure that’s an industry I want to support anymore.


At 10:24 AM, Blogger Ezzie said...

If they can't be grateful, you shouldn't feel bad. If they're not satisfied, ask them if they'd prefer that you take it back.

It sounds mean, but it's simply not right of them to be upset when you're not only giving them tzedaka, but giving "more than you feel comfortable with".

At 11:12 AM, Blogger almost_frei said...

You are good at what you do and they are professional at what they do...
getting you to part with your money.

It's mostly a business for them. Never feel bad if you don't get a thanks. Over the years (generations) the shnorrers have learned that acting sorry and pitiful earns them more.

I view them and a mitzva for ME and not as if I am helping THEM and therefore give accordingly.

At 11:19 AM, Blogger Honestly Frum said...

I have had them give me the money back when it is not enough for them. Much like on Halloween, we simply try not to answer the door when they knock. Like most everyone else we have our obligations and give to them what we can- but when they show up in shul and then an hour later show up at my door (incidentally it's normally the same people every week and in my community a majority of the rabbonim no longer allow them to enter the shul)it's a bit disconcerting. Leave me an envelope and some information on your organization and allow me to make the decision. I recall that when I lived in Brooklyn (hashem yirachem) before rosh hashana, purim, and pesach there were times when we would get 5 people a night coming to the door, and it was every night.

At 12:17 PM, Blogger Elie said...

One of the advantages of our living on the fringe of town is that we rarely if ever get bothered by meshulachim. It's not worth their while to work blocks that only have 1 or 2 "frum" houses versus the blocks in the "fishbowl" where 80% of the houses are.

That said, I share your discomfort with the whole concept of door-to-door mishulachim as well as the shnorrers that walk around shul every morning, and I admit that I rarely if ever give to either. This is both due to the risk of phonies, and the general embarrassment of both the giver and receivers that is always involved. I prefer to give tzedaka to causes that I have checked out and know - e.g, Chai Lifeline.

As a positive suggestion, I think the community needs to find a dignified and controlled method of handling the inevitable schnorrers and mishulachim. Say, each shul should appoint a gabbai tzedaka like Jewish communities had in the olden days, who is in charge of distributing tzedaka to deserving Jewish poor on behalf of the community. Than add a poor-fund line item to shul dues, so that everyone subsidizes this equally. For me, the benefits of this approach, to both the community and the supplicants, would be well worth the extra annual expense!

At 12:28 PM, Blogger Still Wonderin' said...

I'm sorry to say, but meshulachim are like cats. You feed them once and they'll be back. Often with friends.

So I typically give.....a few dollars MAX. All of us have charities that we support and the best we can do when someone shows up unannounced is send them away with something in hand.

But that something should be determined by you.....not the degree of guilt they can divine up in your living room.

We all do what we can so do your best to be mentchliche and your best not to be manipulated.

At 12:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The shnorrer situation in Brooklyn is out of control and the 5 Towns are catching up.

When I lived in Flatbush, I used to see these Russian shnorrers in shul. The same ones would come to my house to ask for more money.

Then I moved to the 5 Towns and saw the SAME SHNORRERS in the shuls there. They get driven in and jump out like clowns coming out of a clown-mobile.

Maybe I'm jaded but I don't trust any of them. They just don't seem genuine to me. Someone asking me for money who stinks from cigarettes and dresses better than I do just doesn't convince me. I prefer to give tzedaka in the pushka in shul or to send directly to organizations.

When I get shnorrers at my door (it rarely happens in the 5 Towns, thankfully), I usually apologize and say I don't appreciate them coming to my door looking for handouts. They get the point.

At 1:08 PM, Blogger deadherring said...

My wife and I used to give generously to people who came to our door. Now we have people that come into our apartment complex and ask for us by name! We live in an apartment and many of them ring the doorbell repeatedly (in the evening when the kids are sleeping) and bang on the door (we often wont answer when we know it is them or when it is the 5th meshulach in a row). I usually end one of these episodes battling between feeling bad for them and guilty for not answering and trying to convince myself I cant help every poor person in the world.

At 1:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought you lived in the teaneck area? what do you mean that you live far from major jewish populations?

At 2:05 PM, Anonymous seebee said...

That's just outrageous! Talk about the cost of being frum!

At 2:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't feel sorry anymore. I have had meshulachim come to me with photocopies of checks that my neighbors have given. They wanted me to match or do better. I think that is complete chutzpah! What my neighbors give has no impact whatsoever on what I give. I was so upset by that that I stopped answering my door to them for awhile.

And if you think meshulachim are not visiting the 5 towns then you haven't been to Lawrence on a Sunday in a long time (I do not live there)

At 2:15 PM, Blogger Still Wonderin' said...

there is a family of traveling schnorrers that hang out on Central Ave. every Friday. This is their family business. They used to hang out on 13th Ave. and now they've moved on up the East Side. One of the sons is young, handsome and wears an immigrant hat a la Feivel the Mouse....for the life of me I can't fathom why this kid is standing around collecting money when he should be in college.

If I recall, when the girls were younger, their fathe rwould force them to stand on street corners selling flowers to passersby and to drivers waiting at lights. It was pretty pathetic. One Thursday night, I was with a bunch of friends at kosher delight when one of these girls came over to us.

Somehow we discovered that her father wouldn't let her back in the house untill all her flowers were bought. My friends and I bought all her flowers so she could go in side (it was December and pretty cold), but the whole exchange disgusted me.

As for the clown car description --- right on! I see them from the window at the early minyan about once a week. It's an absolute joke. They jump out of the car in formation, the car pulls off, and lo and behomd, within a minute, there are half a dozen older russian men ambling over to people n the minyan, wordlessly nodding and standing until their mark responds with either a dollar, a pat on the pockets indicating that "I'm outta cash" or indignantly davens ever so much louder to imply, 'back off buddy." It's a comedy short waiting to be filmed. and a cultural bonding experience uniquely experienced by all minyan-going Orthodox Jewish men.

At 2:18 PM, Blogger littlejerseygirl said...

I once gave $5 to a meshulach. He asked to speak to my husband. I explained that DH does not have any more money than me.

Dh once gave $10 to s/o, and he asked for more. Dh said that he didn't have any, so meshulach asked for a check.

They go driving around the block with 4 people in a town car with NY plates, and different people get out at different houses and then they switch.

A guy actually stopped me while walking my kids to a birthday party so he could confirm where the Jewish people live. He then proceeded to ask me if I knew which people gave generously. I don't live with my head in other people's bank accounts. I have no idea.

I much prefer to send my money to Chai Lifeline, MY mikvah, MY kids school, MY high school, DH's high school etc. These dudes probably collect more than I make in a year. AND it's TAX FREE!!

At 2:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have heard > 20%

A guy came to my house with a lamenated sheet asking for money for some children whose mother died. I gave him some money and then (not that I expected the answer he gave) asked him how old the children are.

"Oh, they are in their twenties, but they are still affected by it"

I just smiled. I lost a parent in my early twenties so I dropped out of school and got a job to support the family.

IMHO, if you have the energy to travel the world, mostly by foot, walking into peoples living rooms, you can get some sort of a job too.

My wife claims (I never verified this) that halachically you have to help them. If enough people believe that, its a pretty good racket.

At 2:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What you have to do is find out what specific need they have and tell them you will only make out a check to that specific thing. So if they give you a story about medicine, you say, what is the name of your pharmacy, I'll write out a check directly to them. Or the name of the doctor and I'll write the check directly. Believe me- you will see a mass exodus from off your doorstep.

At 2:54 PM, Blogger Y.Y. said...

tzedakah is a big mitzvah the world stands on tzedakah you give to the poor and needy not for their thanks and smile but for hashem because hashem wants us to give hashem says give tzedakah test me and i will give you so much blessing till you gonna say i have enough

At 3:21 PM, Anonymous Julie said...

If I had discovered someone standing in my living room, I would have screamed bloody murder. I certainly would have threatened to call the police. Just thinking about the situation makes my blood boil. No one has the right to enter your house without your permission. I have difficulty understanding why people feel guilty not giving money to a burglar.

At 3:34 PM, Blogger Elie said...

YY: I suggest you actually read all the previous comments, instead of skimming them. Obviously nobody here is opposed to giving tzedaka. The question is about the propriety of door-to-door or in-shul style of begging, from multiple standpoints:

1) The conspicuous embarrassment and lack of dignity for both giver and receiver, and resentment on the latter's part. Seems to map to what the Rambam calls the lowest level of charity.

2) Invasion/assault on the privacy of the home and sanctity of the synagogue.

3) Supplicants whose genuine need is unverifiable, and in serious doubt, if not an outright and obvious fraud. Is it a mitzvah to give money to a con man?

At 4:50 PM, Anonymous Big Fan said...

I as on a subway in NYC a number of years ago and a "crazy" woman was begging for money claming that she was raped 2 days ago and hadn't eaten in 2 days and perhaps had hungry children too; I don't remember. I ignored her.

A college age girl started yelling at me that she is jewish yet not religous, but I , since I am wearing a Yarmulka, should be an example and give money. I explained my reasoning (Not verifiable, I give to other orgs, etc..) and she said OK reluctently.

She then offered a sandwich to the woman who of course did not want anything to so with it.

At 4:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 6:18 PM, Blogger OrthoMonkey said...

I can not remember the exact quote (and I unfortunely may even be wrong about which text) but in Orchos Tzaddikim (the ways of the Tzaddikim) when it talks about embarassment/shame it says that you should never ask for something in a way where the person will only give because they are embarassed or uncomfortable. To me the whole Meshulachim interaction is based on that...

At 6:31 PM, Blogger Still Wonderin' said...

I agree with Y.Y.. We should all be more like him!!!.

Y.Y. I imagine you'll be posting your home address and where you daven so all the collectors can feasily find you to ask for tzedaka from such a generous, enlightened Jew.

Kol Hakavod!!

At 7:10 PM, Blogger Classmate-Wearing-Yarmulka said...

It's starting to reach absurd levels-you can't daven shachris in the morning without being harassed by at least 10 schnoros. Some of them have been coming to my shul for at least 10 years, we know them by name. No one knows what they are collecting for, or how much they skim off the top.

At 7:29 PM, Blogger Y.Y. said...

kol hackovod
i daven netz every morning in satmer 53 street all people in need are welcome to stand in line as i empty my pocket change with a smile!!!!!!!! thats what hashem wants to give you cant daven bs hshem wants you to give tzedakeh during davening

At 7:36 PM, Blogger AlanLaz said...

It sounds like you all need a system like the one we have here in Baltimore. R' Moshe Heinemann (very well respected) takes hours out of each day to meet with Mishulachim and determine if they really are in need. If they pass, they get a laminated, dated letter with their picture, the rabbis signature. They are only allowed to collect for a few days. Basically, it's reached the point where this system has become so estalished, a meshulach won't get much with out a "Rav Heinemann letter". Supposedly, only a third of those who come to the Rav are actually supplied a ltter. It's not full proof, but it's better than any other system I've heard of. IMHO, just as big of a problem is the ridiculous cut the drivers take, which approaches a 3rd here in Bawlmore.


At 7:41 PM, Blogger littlejerseygirl said...

Are you actually serious? S/O once asked my father for money to help his children or expand their house in the old city. C'mon. That is not tzedaka. That money could be going to people who really need it to put food on the table.

At 8:39 PM, Anonymous the one who will soon become known... said...

To two of the anonymous-

Anonymous 1- That's ridiculous. Not only is it a big chutzpah to show the check and expect you to match it, I would be upset if someone was showing my check to my neighbors. Ich! *shudder*

Anonymous 2- I am pretty sure your wife is wrong. If their story is unverfiable and you already give/gave to established charities, you can say to them that you are sorry but you don't have any more tzedaka money to distribute this month. As always... ask your L.O.R.

Your tzedaka money is a spiritual investment. Spend it wisely. Give it to established organizations that use it for good purposes. If a shnorrer comes to your door and asks for money, either tell them you are sorry, that you already gave to an organization this month (obviously you shouldn't be lying about this), or give them a couple of dollars and send them on their way. There is no reason why you should give them more than you can afford. While you are all decked out on the way to a simcha, don't say that you don't have enough money to give to them (which would raise eyebrows based on how you are dressed), say that you don't have any more tzedaka money to distribute that month. That said, ignorning people asking for money is against the torah so you should talk to them and tell them your situation (even if they aren't interested) not just ignore them.

At 8:41 PM, Anonymous the one who will soon become known... said...

Many communities do not have ONE rabbi that everyone respects and will listen to.

At 9:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Doesn't seem they've made it this far out-of-town yet.

At 10:49 PM, Blogger Somewhat Anonymous said...

I was at a shiur from a respected Rav in the 5 Towns on this topic, and he said the following about giving to Meshulachim -

1)They are the very lowest of priorities for Tzedaka, and as such it is fine (or best practices even) to give them only some change or a dollar bill and to give your maaser to institutions, local aniyim, yeshivos, etc.

2) There is no requirement to answer the door whenever the meshulachim show up. The Rav suggested that people set aside an hour or two on Sunday or Motzaei Shabbos as the time they will see Meshulachim and otherwise inform the people at the door that you will see them if they come then (or to leave an envelope).

There are so many reputable causes and institutions that serve the needy in our community that it is far better to give the overwhelming majority of your Ma'aser to them and only give a dollar bill at most to meshulachim.

As a side note, once you start consistently giving a dollar, the traffic level will drop off considerably. My parents used to be deluged by Meshulachim at all hours of the day and night all throughout the week - including some who would walk in uninvited (and one who refused to leave one time). A month or two after my father stopped writing checks and started handing out dollar bills, our evenings became much quieter.

At 4:50 AM, Blogger ~ Sarah ~ said...

they manage to travel pretty far, we have them turning up on our doorstep (here in australia), the same sort of issues.

At 7:02 AM, Anonymous Julie said...

I am still having problems understanding why anyone feels obligated to give money to a meshulach, particularly one who comes into the house uninvited. We have an obligation to give tzedakah. How does that translate to an obligation to give money to someone who says, "I am collecting for X who has such and such need."? When I think about the issue, it sounds like what we tell our children about unwelcome touching--no one should touch you without your permission.

At 9:02 AM, Blogger Elie said...

That said, ignoring people asking for money is against the torah

Please indicate which halacha this is against. I understand it's wrong to turn your back on a genuinely needy individual, but I sincerely believe that most mishulachim, and even many of the shul-schnorrers, do not fall into this category. In which case, ignoring them (i.e., don't answer the door) is probably a better option than confronting and arguing with them.

At 9:12 AM, Blogger Soccer Dad said...

Once the nice man let himself into your house, you should have escorted him out. There was no excuse for that.

In my experience, not all meshulachim are ungrateful. Some are, but most that I see are not.

I had two experiences this week that were interesting.

One fellow came to my door with a second meshulach. The first one did the talking and showed the teudah and I gave him a donation. Then he said that the second fellow was also collecting. I asked for the teuda and he said he was getting it. I said that if he didn't have it, I wouldn't donate.
(There are those who abuse the system.) And they left.

Another fellow came by and asked if he could enter. I said yes. In the middle of our conversation his cell phone rang and he excused himself and started talking - loudly. I tried to hush him because of the sleeping children. He got my hint and hung up and became very apologetic even rejecting my donation. While I wasn't pleased with his behavior (interrupting for a cell phone call was rude; talking loudly - though he explained that he had an ear injury - was worse) I wasn't going to deny the tzedaka. He thanked me profusely, though he was clearly embarrassed. (I hadn't meant to embarrass him, really.)

At 9:19 AM, Blogger MDmom said...

sometimes, you do meet one who is so grateful for the tzedaka you are able to give, he makes you feel like you want to give more.

there was a rabbi like that, who collected for his school, on his own (no driver)and would shower brachot on our heads no matter how much (or little, if the finances were just not there)we gave him.

he would always start with a dvar torah and then his pitch but he was such a mentsch, my husband and i named him,"rabbi personality." when we moved from our newlywed apartment to our next home about an hour away, we called him to tell him that we were moving, and let him know where we would be. we told him that when it was his "collecting season" he should just call us and we'd send a check. but no, he came out to us personally because he felt the phone call was not kavodik to someone who was giving tzedaka.

he was a twice yearly fixture at our home, saw the expansion of our family three times and showered us with divrei torah and brachot at every opportunity. it was a pleasure giving this man tzedaka and we actually felt sad having to tell him that we were making aliya. he has yet to show up at our door in israel but who knows? we may still meet up with him yet!

At 10:12 AM, Blogger PsychoToddler said...

OMG you described my situation to a T. As we live quite a way off the beaten path, and people have to come from Chicago or points east to get to us, it astounds me how much they must have to spend to go on these trips. That plus the "tax" you mention makes me feel bad about the small amount that I give them. Plus as you said, it's hard to plead poverty when they walk into the front room and there's a kid playing playstation in there (OK statistically likely to be me playing the playstation).

I've also told my kids time and time again not to open the door for strangers, even if they look Jewish, but that doesn't stop them, and on occasion the Mrs. has had to hide because they let someone in when she wasn't wearing a tichel.

We also get the mass invasion with groups of 3 or more coming in waves, and I must admit that I tend towards the law of diminshing returns, where each one gets a progressively smaller amount.

Still, I will never turn someone away. My daughter has told me on more than one occasion how impressed she's been at my willingness to give tzedaka to these people, no matter how dissheveled, rude or just plain shady they look.

At 12:18 PM, Blogger Y.Y. said...

lo sechal l'hisalem

At 12:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am from the 5 towns and I get bombarded with meshulachim. I try to give everyone a few dollars, but not more than that, because I don't know if they are legitimate. I DO NOT give the Russian brigade a dime. They are incredibly pushy & rude. They come every few months with a driver and attack. They saw me pulling into my driveway once and crowded my car waiting for me. I was afraid to come out! I wish people would stop giving to them so that it would not be worth their while to come to the neighborhood.
As a general rule though, I believe in supporting organizations such as Chai lifeline and your local shuls & yeshivas.

At 3:05 PM, Blogger flatbushrenegade said...

Elie said...
Than add a poor-fund line item to shul dues, so that everyone subsidizes this "equally".

You've got to be kidding. You're not actually suggesting that everyone give equal amounts of charity are you? Do you really believe that the rich man and poor man share the responsibility equally?

At 3:26 PM, Blogger Elie said...

You've got to be kidding. You're not actually suggesting that everyone give equal amounts of charity are you? Do you really believe that the rich man and poor man share the responsibility equally?

No, definitely not, since people give tzedaka to many other charities, all within their own means and level of generosity.

But I am suggesting a standard assessment for each shul dues-paying family, to be allocated to a local fund which would address the needs of deserving local Jewish poor. Shuls today ask for annual dues along with, often, a separate building fund, eruv fund, maos chittin fund, etc. These are generally fixed assessments, at the same level for all members. That's the model I was envisioning for the poor fund. Of course, if a given shul does provide a sliding scale for these other fees, the poor fund should be as well.

I haven't thought through all the details and ramifications of this suggestion. But I do feel it is fundamentally better than current situation as described in the post and above comments.

At 12:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a divorced woman living alone, but my house is still on the list for the meshulachim.

Being in a more remote Jewish community, the fact that I am a woman living alone is something that these men - and they are ALL men - KNOW from prior visits as well as from their reliance on local rabbis for info of which houses are the "Jewish" ones. [I've even had some offer to find me a shidduch. Uhm, no thanks.]

I used to be surprised that it wouldn't occur to these men that: (1) I would NOT want to see them in my house (especially at night); (2) that I often may not be dressed tzniusly, so even if it appears that someone is home (lights on), if no one answers, they should not keep knocking on the door or ringing the bell; and (3) waiting for me in a car outside my house makes me want to call the police, not give tzedaka.

By this point, I am no longer surprised. But like many others here, I am sad that thoughtlessness has really turned me off from a mitzva that I enjoy being able to fulfill.

At 11:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shifra, please erase that revolting and disgustingly vulgar comment above.

At 1:55 PM, Blogger Shifra said...

Ummm Anon- I don't really see your objection to the comment - a single woman doesn't want strange men coming to her house at night... I can understand that.
I am very wary of opening the door to strange men when I am home alone as well.

Oh oh the hot CHANIE comment...
I will delete that- I was going to leave it until someone complained - but now I will take it down.


At 4:45 PM, Blogger Chana said...

Anonymous at 2:07 PM said...
I can't feel sorry anymore. I have had meshulachim come to me with photocopies of checks that my neighbors have given.

THAT is horrendous and a huge breach of privacy!!!!!!

I would tell the neighbor who wrote the check, and if I were the person who wrote the check, I would never donate to them again AND tell them why!!!

At 3:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You wrote that they all told you to write the check to the same organization name? What org is that? Is it a known organization? How much do they take off the top?

At 1:27 AM, Blogger Jack's Shack said...

In my neighborhood I see them on a semi-regular basis.

When they see me at the door I am sometimes given these nonsensical stories about how they'll daven for me and my life will turn around.

It is offensive. The patronizing tone just irks me.

At 11:14 AM, Anonymous Big Fan said...

We had one who gave us the name a neighbor (actually someone 5 blocks away who we happen to know) as a reference (and maybe even showed us their check) When we asked the neighbor, they had no idea about them other then that they came to their house and asked for money.

At 11:25 AM, Blogger DTC said...

Yes, there's always the "here's how much so and so gave us" shtick, but then you have our personal favorite:
"I left my cell phone next door, could you please give them a call and let them know that I'm coming over to pick it up?"
(this is for when the next door neighbors actually follow the family rule about not opening the door.)

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At 9:59 AM, Anonymous hoss said...

We moved recently to a new house which used to be owned by non-jews. In fact there is a huge evergreen in front which used to be lit every year with the xmas lights. They left the lights in the tree since they were intertwined very high in the tree, and we have not had a single meshulach come to us in our new house. (Of course we don't turn on the lights, but their presence sends out enough of a signal that they don't even knock).

At 5:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hoss, lucky you. Maybe I'll string up xmas lights in front of the house too and leave them off. Maybe Chanukah lights.

At 3:57 AM, Blogger caitlyn said...

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At 9:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This reminds me of an experience I had a few summers ago.

I was in upstate New York, near Woodridge. A chassidish guy, probably around 50 years old, asked me for a ride to a particular bungalow colony. I was going to pass it by anyway so of course, I took him.

It turned out, this guy was a shnorrer. On the way to the colony, he told me that his married daughter just had her sixth kid and they must buy a house because they no longer fit in their apartment.

He was collecting, and asked me for money, to help fund his daughter's down payment.

I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I asked him what his son-in-law does for a living. He sits in kollel. A family on a kollel stipend, of course, can't afford a house.

Instead of berating this man for his absolute chutzpah, I let him off at the colony and didn't give him any money. But he had even more chutzpah when he asked me if I'd mind waiting for him and taking him to another destination.

It's people like this, and also the Russians who are professional shnorrers, that ruin it for those genuinely in need.

But this leads to another problem in the Jewish community that really bothers me. Why do we all have to support kollel families? Why can't these men learn in kollel for a little while and then get jobs to support their families.

I'm certainly not putting down Limud HaTorah, but there's a time and place for everything. Too many kids are getting married nowadays where the boy sits and learns and either the girl works a full day and takes care of the house and eventually takes care of a family too. Or some simply rely on PHDs (Pappa Has Dough) for their income.

Why are (some of) the yeshivos so anti-professional? Don't they realize they've breeded a generation of kids are feel they are entitled to everything and have to work for nothing?

At 11:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am not a Rav but I have looked into these halachos many times. From what I have read there is an issur to say no to a person asking for tzedaka. Even if you give them a very small amount there still is an obligation not to turn your back.

At 11:13 AM, Anonymous just wonderin' said...

Some of them do get jobs... They become Rebbeim. And the rest of them? What should they do? They have no degree or work experience because they have been learning the whole time. They could get minimum wage jobs but that would hardly be enough to support a family. So what do you suggest?

At 2:47 PM, Anonymous Big Fan said...

just wonderin' -

Um, how about getting a degree and work experience?

I have a couple of friends who got degrees and maybe a little work experience and then (while they could still afford it) took a year off to learn and then went back to work.

When I was kid the parsha pictures showed the avot with sheep. The pictures my kids bring home show them with a tent full of seforim.

At 4:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon 11:13, Why can't they go to college and get a degree? Or atleast learn a trade?

At 4:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shif: These last three or four comments have started a new topic that is well worth a post of its own!

At 4:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon from 11:13 am: Point taken. But the question hinges on the definition of "tzedaka". If a person who is able to work but chooses not to, and/or is not poor by any normal definition, begs for money, is it truly "tzedaka" for you to give it to him? Or rather, is it wasting your money and being an ennabler of his indolence and deceitfulness (which may well violate lifney iver)?

At 7:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's an interesting story from the Chafetz Chaim. Note his second reason.

When the Wissotski gevirim of Russia once came to the Chofetz Chaim with an offer. They saw that the yeshivos were in bad financial straits and thought it undignified that meshulachim should go from door to door for small donations. Therefore, they were willing to set up a fund with a big fund, and put in enough money to support the yeshivos from its interest.

The Chofetz Chaim opposed the idea for three reasons. First, it is impossible to give the merit of supporting yeshivos to a few gevirim. This merit belongs to the whole community and it is forbidden to take this mitzvah from even one person, even if he only donates a few cents…

Second, the yeshiva’s representative gives more to a donor than he takes from him because when he enters a home, and the family sees an old rav with a beard speaking a little about Yiddishkeit, he leaves an impression on the father and on his children and grandchildren, and who knows what effect his visit has on the donor’s family?

Third, if a large fund is set up, no one knows what might happen because times change. The value of money might plunge and the gevirim who established the fund might go bankrupt. And if Klal Yisroel get used to not giving to yeshivos, in such an eventuality the yeshivos will have no source of funding.”

At 7:34 PM, Blogger The back of the hill said...

I feel guilty about avoiding certain intersections in my own neighborhood because of betlers. Some of them are just so darn good at getting more.

At a dollar here and there, it doesn't add up to more than I can afford. But the five dollar recipient does cut into what's available for the next guy.

One must give. But it will never be enough.

Rather than giving money to people with laminated sheets (what might legitimately be called meshul'chim), I prefer to give money to people who are clearly in need of food and shelter. There's no cut, no twenty percent, and in many cases no overhead to swallow up a portion.

Oh, that and Chabad. Their non-denominational drug-addiction treatment center is a good thing.

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At 7:27 AM, Anonymous just wonderin' said...

big fan- We are talking about after the fact. When someone has been learning in kollel for years and has a bunch of kids it is much harder to start getting a degree. Especially when a degree is something that is not accepted by their community. What will they feed their kids for the years that they are in college getting that degree. It is much easier to stay in kollel and probably fits with their values more.

At 10:51 AM, Anonymous Big Fan said...

just wonderin' said...
>big fan- We are talking about >after the fact.
>When someone has been learning in >kollel for years and has a bunch >of kids it is much harder to >start getting a degree.

I agree that it is hard after the fact. They should get a degree before they learn. If you say "it is too late now" then they should have their kids get a degree before they learn. But I doubt they will do that.

>Especially when a degree is >something that is not accepted by >their community.

Well that's the problem right there.

>It is much easier to stay in >kollel and probably fits with >their values more.

They are better off (for the general economy, not for themselves) getting a low paying job and getting tzedakah for the rest, than getting their entire income paid with tzedakah.

At 11:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To my knowledge . . . The obligation "not to turn away your eye" "lo suchal lehisalem", does not apply if there is doubt about whether the poor person is legitimately poor, or represents a legitamate cause. One has to use care to be honest with him/herself whether there is a resonable doubt, and not to use that as a blanket excuse.

Seperatly one does not have to interupt davening to give on the basis of "osek b'mitzvah patur min hamitzvah". if you are involved with one mitzvha you need not interupt for a second mitzva. (that does not apply during learning torah, and it may not apply if it is at a point during davening where you are passive, e.g. chasatz hashatz.)

Finally I've heard in the name of top poskim that the obligation does not apply to mailed solicitations.

It goes without saying that no obligation applies if there was concern for safety, such as a women home alone.

At 11:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder what percentage of revenues in a mailing campaign go to mailing costs. Those too are getting out of hand, although the option to refuse is easier.

At 9:42 AM, Anonymous Amanda Rush said...

Shifra, if someone walked into my house uninvited like that, he definitely wouldn't be getting any tzedakah. That's extremely unnerving. Where I live, it's pretty safe to assume that anyone who walks in like that isn't there for tzedakah.

At 1:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Before we criticize the Meshulachim writen by C.D.
or charity goers or even weird os is to try to put yourself in their shoes god forbid you will have to collect and try to understand what embarrassment they go thru not really wanting to schnor (collect) i heard and read in many places if a Jew (only a Jew) places his hand out for a donation to another Jew u should give them merely for the purpose of the fact that he has to beg and the embarrassment that it involves. And yes I understand that there are many (quite a few) collectors are not honest all the way but they are our brother a Jew. And to begun I agree that this topic is a tough issue to discuss but (example) an middle age respected man in his neighborhood in yerushlaim never collecting for his personal need and barely surviving wants to marry of his daughter (hachnases kaleh) or collecting for his kolell yeshiva where people don’t pay tuition: and a middle aged Jewish American or any western country is just like him just the only difference is that he studies torah hallacha all day and the American works and is successful in covering all his expenses for his family but both are respectful people. And every single collector (scnorer) has his sad story so understand and put yourself in their shoes
p.s. when I get the chance I will write a full halachic review according the rishonim BY C.D.

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