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Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 8/12/11

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Dear Rachel,

I would like to write about a subject that affects many people who give tzedakah. As you are aware, Chinese auctions have become a very popular way for all types of organizations to raise funds. I confess, I am a Chinese auction junkie and put tickets into all the auctions that come my way.

Recently, however, I have been very turned off by some of these very worthy organizations. You see, because these are not-for-profit charities, they do not fall under the auspices of the “do not call list.” Thus, I am inundated with phone calls from many different charity organizations at all hours of the day.

Lately, some of these organizations have taken to using an automated phone system so that calls ring in our homes without letup.  This is what prompted me to write to you. One organization that ran an auction recently called me EVERY SINGLE DAY of the week leading up to the drawing, once even as late as 11:00 pm. But they didn’t stop there — they called my house phone and cell phone and continued to call even after I removed my name from its call lists.

I consider this type of solicitation abusive, aggressive, totally uncalled for and bordering on harassment. These people are also taking advantage of their not-for-profit status. I am so turned off that I have decided that any organization that calls me will be put on my “black list.”

I imagine I am not the only one annoyed by all these phone calls. Please print this letter so that administrators in charge of these fundraisers will hopefully be made aware that they are irritating the public.

Repeated automated calling, especially when one has already donated, will have the opposite of the intended effect. It’s a shame to lose donors on account of these bothersome reminders of “the big drawing.”

No longer donating to telemarketing charities

 

Dear No Longer,

This column cannot speak on behalf of organizations that resort to automated fund-raising in achieving their goal. But should someone reading this qualify as a spokesperson for one, we would certainly welcome his or her input.

There are plenty of opinions, however, at the other end. While reactions vary from person to person (some people can deal with automated calls better than others), too many to count feel victimized and are as peeved as you are at this uncalled for intrusion into their lives.

I’ve personally witnessed homebound senior citizens, both male and female, married and widowed, hounded by phone solicitors. Even a personal voice can be exasperating (sometimes more so, as the automated call can be more easily terminated), when an elderly man living on a fixed income is pressured into making a pledge against his will and better sense (and then eats his heart out about it).

Speaking of pledges, I know of one married homemaker who simply can’t say no to a pleading voice and, as a result, had a rude awakening. When she tried to make good on all her outstanding pledges before the onset of a new year, she realized that their budget was stretched beyond its limit and that their ma’aser (required percentage of income set aside for charitable contributions) had more than maxed out.

Her husband, in a quandary and none too pleased with his wife’s zealous generosity, sought advice from his Rav — who ruled that her pledges need not be honored. The well-respected community leader furthermore emphasized that a woman dependant on her husband’s income is not to dole out tzedakah on a whim, and that any woman finding herself alone when a solicitor comes-a-calling is not obligated to make any donation, period. (If she can and wishes to, the amount should not exceed the sum of $5.00.)

To expand on this last bit of sage counsel, if we may: a woman finding herself alone at home should best not heed the ringing doorbell altogether, especially after dark. If need be, an unexpected visitor can easily identify him/herself via a simple cell phone call.

As for this couple, the wife was additionally advised to make a hataras nedarim (annulment of vows). It would be surprising if all of this didn’t impact negatively on this household’s shalom bayis.

Where Chinese auctions are concerned, there may be a question as to whether the “shopping” one is coaxed into doing by the lavishly illustrated brochures actually qualifies as charity. It may all depend on whether one is browsing the catalogue with the sole aim of giving tzedakah, or merely surrendering to a desire to own some of the featured luxurious items. (Obviously, this is something one must discuss with one’s own rav.)

Back to the automated caller, let’s face it: if this hasn’t proven to be a worthwhile gambit, the practice would be waning by now rather than picking up momentum. Those who cannot tolerate this nuisance can simply choose to ignore the ringing phone when the ID display is unfamiliar (or familiar as one of those annoying callers).

Eleven o’clock at night is outrageous and inexcusable. A practical solution to this would be to silence the ringer for the duration one wishes not to be disturbed. (Generally speaking, it is prudent not to place calls to others past the hour of 10:00 p.m.)

Those of us who don’t have a money tree growing in our backyard can compile a list of charities we consider worthy of our ma’aser, and of course we always have the option of tossing those fancy auction catalogues in the recycle bin directly upon receiving them.

Above all, let’s keep in mind that “charity begins at home.” Our children’s (or grandchildren’s) schar limud counts as legitimate ma’aser expenditures, and alleviating the burden of close kin suffering an economic meltdown takes precedence over other causes.

Thank you for offering us the opportunity to discuss this matter which is of no small significance.

May we be worthy of Hashem’s compassion in providing us with the means to be self-sufficient, as well as to help others.

* * * * *

We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to  rachel@jewishpress.com  or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 4915 16th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11204. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.

About the Author: We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to rachel@jewishpress.com or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 4915 16th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11204. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.


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