Whenever I read a story like this about a nonprofit organization building a luxurious new structure, I wonder what happened to the recession we keep hearing about. And I can’t help but recall reading articles in The Jewish Press and elsewhere about the yeshiva tuition crisis and receiving letters in the mail asking me to help the hungry and the sick both in New York and Israel.
While each person obviously has the right to donate his money as he sees fit and each organization has the right to spend its money as it desires, the story leaves me troubled. (Though I’ll admit that for all I know, Lincoln Square Synagogue raises millions of dollars a year for charity.)
But it’s not just the Lincoln Square story that’s at issue. When there are plenty of empty seats in neighboring shuls and a rabbi or a group decides to spend money on a new shul (or shteibel), the question is the same. When an ornate new shul gets built, the question is the same. (Yes, I know about hiddur mitzvah.) And when thousands of dollars are given or raised to write a sefer Torah for a shul that already has a dozen, it’s the same question again.