The rambling thoughts of a Modern Orthodox Chassid (whatever that means). Contact me at emansouth @

Monday, October 15, 2007

Mi She'oskim B'tzorchei Tzibbur B'emunah

It is very hard to be involved in Jewish communal affairs without becoming bitter. At least that's been my experience.

I spent three years as chairman of the board of a certain local school and left feeling as though I had accomplished absolutely nothing after spending literally hundreds of hours working on its behalf. The smallness, nastiness and self-dealing of some of the people I had to work with is hard to describe.

My six years as president of a shul were far less frustrating because much more was accomplished. Still, it was hard to deal with all the whiners and all the people who drive $50,000 cars and give $100 to the shul and think they are doing you a favor. (In fairness, there are also amazing tzadikim who give vast amounts of money and don't make a peep, and others who work tirelessly on behalf of the shul).

This past motsai Shabbos was a prime example of what one has to deal with. It's a small episode but gives you a flavor for what I'm talking about.

The shul hosted a hilula to commemorate the yahrtzeit of the holy Rebbe from Piazcezna, the Aish Kodesh, after whom our shul is named. For the past six years, we have brought in Yosef Karduner for this night. It is one of the highlights, and main events of the year.

This event costs a lot of money. We pay Karduner, we pay for his ticket, we rent the Young Israel of Lawrence Cedarhurst (our shul is too small), we pay for sound, we pay for security. It adds up. We have a sponsor who helps defray about 40% of the cost and we ask for a suggested donation of $10 to cover some of the rest.

We always lose money on this event yet we are happy to do it. The event anually draws hundreds of people, most from outside our shul, and is always very special.

This year, as usual, I got to YILC over a half hour early to make sure everything was in order and to collect the suggested donations. Sadly, I only get to listen to the very end of Karduner's performance because I stay at the door most of the night. I'm not complaining; that's my job.

Early on, a man in his thirties, lets call him "Yankel", comes to the door. He sees the the "suggested donation" signs and dramatically whips out a ten dollar bill which he drops on the table. Without making eye contact with me, he says in a gruff voice, "You shoulda put on the email that there was a suggested donation" and proceeds to walk in. I replied, "You should have said that in a nice way." He stalked off.

Yankel is not a member of the shul. In fact, he's a freeloader. Although he comes to our shul frequently, to my knowledge, he has never contributed so much as a nickle or lifted a finger to help. And, while he's right that we should have put it in an email, he also knows that we've been charging a $10 suggested donation for years.

Ich kenesht.



  • At 12:46 PM, Anonymous levi ben levi said…

    There are the water carriers and the water drinkers! Be happy that you will be going to a better place than all the water drinkers after 120!

  • At 1:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    $50,000 cars?!

  • At 1:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    not everyone can afford to plunk down a ten dollar bill for every event. the same thing goes on in all areas. many people feel the synagogues and the events are there but for the people - which they are. despite the fact that the shul people know the true burden of putting on events. Truth be told, if you are advertising an event to the public, members and "freeloaders" alike, you must be forthcoming with ALL necessary information. its dishonest to hope he will choose to come not knowing that theres is a suggested donation, just obe guilted into giving the cash to spend, which he wouldnt have had he been able to know beforehand and choose not to come because maybe just maybe, it is an extra expense he would choose to do without, despite the cause and zedaka to which it is going.
    those of us who dont have 50,000 cars and who frequent public transportation have to reconsider every outing even the ones who charge "7 dollars for non members" despite the fact that it goes straigt to the shul because we just might be able to afford to.

  • At 2:03 PM, Blogger Fern said…

    I hate to disappoint, but your complaints are not unique to Jewish organizations. I've spent a bit of time in both the secular/political and Jewish non-profit worlds and the people are the exact same. There are some amazing people who volunteer amazing amounts of their time and donate every penny they can and there are freeloaders who come to every event, eat three or four portions of food and complain the whole time.

    Some people are givers and some people are users.

  • At 3:42 PM, Blogger MoChassid said…


    Perhaps I wasn't clear.

    Yankel's point was correct. We forgot to put it in the email.

    had he come to the door and said, "MoC, by the way, you forgot to put in the email that there was a suggested donation of $10", I would have responded, "You're right. Sorry. Our mistake. If it's a problem, you don't have to pay." Indeed, many people who did not have cash or for whom it was a burden went in for free on motsai Shabbos.

    My point is that there is a way to talk to people, especially when you are an "outsider" who continuously takes advantage of what our shul has to offer and gives nothing back in return.

  • At 4:36 PM, Blogger kishke said…

    Did you delete my comment? Why?

  • At 4:37 PM, Blogger kishke said…

    Oh, I see, I posted it on the wrong thread. Oh well.

  • At 12:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Then there are those users who will pay so that they can exercise their right to kvetch! They are entitled to you know . . . they paid!

  • At 9:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Grow up already MOC.

  • At 9:27 AM, Blogger MoChassid said…


    I'm not sure what you mean by "grow up". Should I try harder to let this stuff pass and not let it bother me? Absolutely. It's a constant struggle and one of my biggest nisyonos.

    But, after being either chairman of the board or president of large community institutions for 13 of the last 14 years, and seeing what I've seen, it ain't easy.

    On the other hand, read my next post.


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