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April 21, 2014 / 21 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Every Jewish’

It’s My Opinion: Back To School

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

      Summer isalmost over,and in countless homes throughout the country, preparations for the new school year have begun. Shiny new pencil boxes and supplies have been purchased.  Hair has been cut and shoes have been shined. Many children are eager to see old friends and familiar classrooms. Traditionally, this time of year has been one of happy anticipation and excitement.  


    Unfortunately, especially in these tough economic times, many Jewish families are facing back-to-school with dread. Breadwinners have lost their jobs. Businesses are barely scraping by. Revenue is down. For these families, yeshiva and day school tuitions loom as an insurmountable hurdle. 


   The thought of sending their children to a public school fills many parents with anguish. The youngsters cannot understand why their beloved rebbes and teachers will not let them into the school they love so much. They know that they have done nothing to warrant expulsion. The sad fact is that this experience can forever sour a young mind on the Jewish lifestyle. They see the very yeshiva that taught the importance of chesed, has thrown them out on the street.


     The adults feel helpless. They simply do not have the money. They feel humiliated and abandoned.


     The Jewish schools, themselves, should not necessarily take the brunt of the blame.  Some can barely meet their payroll. Some cannot even do that. Many have fully half of their students on some sort of discounted (scholarship) rate. It is troubling, however, that the cost of many Jewish schools is on par with that of college tuition.


    Jews in the United States took part in a vast cultural endeavor.  They interacted and intermingled with the population.  Their venture was, tragically, a great success.  The rate of assimilation and intermarriage of American Jews has been astounding.


   Jews who attended yeshivot and day schools, however, have bucked this trend. Their assimilation is far below the national numbers. They, for the most part, have remained true to their heritage.


    The Jewish people need to put together a communal effort toward nurturing every precious young soul. Jewish organizations and philanthropies need to make this funding as a number one priority. It is essential to the very survival of our people.


    Synagogues need to make appeals from every pulpit for money to fund Jewish education.  Jewish Federations need to concentrate on this vital issue and cut back on funding non-essential parties, events and trips.  Every Jewish group, club and congregation needs to be part of this vital undertaking. 


     One-and-a-half-million Jewish children were murdered in the Shoah.  We have not a soul to spare. 

Making Gemachs A Real Act Of Kindness – Two Letters, Two Views

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2003

Special Note: Several weeks ago, I received two letters regarding gemach problems. For those of our readers who are unfamiliar with the term, gemachs are organizations found in every Torah community to help families who are in financial straits. Interestingly enough, the two letters that I received describe gemach problems from different perspectives - one speaks about the responsibilities of the donors, and the other about the responsibilities of the recipients. They each make valid points that should be addressed.

Letter #1

Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis:

I run a gemach for ladies’ gowns for simchas – weddings and bar mitzvahs. The concept behind this gemach was to collect beautiful, fashionable, but gently-used gowns that people had worn to their simchas. While in some cases, women will re-wear their gowns and recycle them – generally speaking, in this community, simcha gowns are worn once only. I collect a small fee for the rental and use the income to clean the gowns and make repairs. In rare cases, when there is a surplus of funds, I will make new gowns because I never have enough formal wear to meet the heavy demand.

My problem is that the dresses that I get are so old and out of fashion that they are often unwearable. I’m saddened that people make their donations with misguided thoughts. They seem to rationalize that just because a woman cannot afford to buy a new gown, she should be satisfied with a gown that was made 20 years ago, has discolored, and is out of shape.

It would behoove women who have worn their dresses and enjoyed them at their simchas to remember that the gowns are simply pieces of cloth that have served their purpose once their
simcha has passed. They ought to keep in mind that these very same dresses could be making somebody else very happy, instead of collecting dust at the back of the closet.

I know that people pay thousands of dollars for their gowns, and consequently find it difficult to part with them. It seems to be a popular, but unrealized intention of many women to use their gowns again, and so I understand the difficulty that some women might have in parting immediately with their dresses. The dresses are a visible reminder of the sentiment attached to the simcha. However, after a reasonable amount of time has passed, a woman ought to realize that her dress is a potential gift that can keep on giving.

We live in a time when so many have so much, while so many others have so little. As with any tzedakah, the feelings of the recipient must be taken into account. Unfortunately, gemachs are often viewed as a dumping ground for third rate merchandise. This is a serious misconception. A person who needs the services provided by a gemach should be able to avail herself of its services with dignity and respect. When the quality of the merchandise on display is shoddy and worn, the experience of using a gemach becomes demeaning and a cause for embarrassment.

Every Jewish mother, regardless of her financial circumstances, should feel like a queen at her child’s simcha. How can I impress upon people in my community the scope of the mitzva of donating the dresses that brought them so much joy, and could do the same for others?

Letter #2

Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis:

For the past eight years, I have run a gemach from my home. In addition to clothing, my gemach also has a collection of lovely jewelry – costume to be sure, but they look real. We also lend folding tables and chairs for Sheva Brochos and Brissim. We even have silver wine decanters and goblets so that everyone’s simcha may be as beautiful as possible. We lend these items with a full heart and sincere wishes of mazel tov. But here is where the problem starts.

We almost never get our merchandise back in the condition in which we lent it. Clothing is returned dirty and torn… Jewelry is bent and broken, and earrings are returned with only one of a pair. Tables and chairs come back battered and damaged.

I try so hard to collect quality merchandise that will lend a touch of elegance to people’s simchas, but instead of hakoras hatov – appreciation, I encounter an attitude which suggests, “You owe it to me - it’s coming to me!” It’s perhaps because of this attitude that people are so disrespectful of the merchandise they borrow. My committee and I run our gemach with a full heart and I believe that people should accept these loans in the spirit in which they are offered.  There are of course, many exceptions, and Baruch HaShem for that … there are many who truly appreciate our help, but far too many abuse our gemachs. I am writing to you in the hope that people who read your column and borrow from gemachim will recognize that they have to preserve that which they borrow for the good of others as well.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/rebbetzins-viewpointrebbetzin-jungreis/making-gemachs-a-real-act-of-kindness-two-letters-two-views/2003/07/23/

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