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.



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