What is the proper way to act and respond to the many tzedakah requests – via email and regular mail – one receives from individuals and organizations they do not know and are not associated with?
In my opinion, it is unreasonable to expect a response to the non-ending flurry of tzedakah requests that we receive. As such, there is no halachic obligation to send a response. One should carefully plan his tzedakah allocations to make sure that every tzedakah dollar is allocated wisely with maximum efficiency.
– Rabbi Jachter is a prominent rabbi who serves as the rabbi at Congregation Shaarei Orah, the Sephardic Congregation of Teaneck, and is a popular Torah teacher at the Torah Academy of Bergen County. He also serves as a Dayan on the Beth Din of Elizabeth and has acquired an international reputation of excellence in the area of Get administration. He has authored sixteen books on issues ranging from contemporary Halacha, Tanach, Aggada, and Jewish Thought all available on Amazon.
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There is no obligation to respond to any tzedakah requests made by mail or from organizations, and certainly not everyone. The law of bal tikpotz (closing our hands to the needy) is not relevant in this context, but rather only when one is approached in person by an indigent person.
It is undoubtedly commendable and generous if one does donate to these individuals, institutions, or causes that make postal or electronic appeals for our charity dollar or shekel – as long as one has first ascertained that the cause and the collectors are legitimate, the money is being channeled properly and not being diverted illegally (into someone’s pocket) or unethically (to pay inflated salaries).
– Rav Steven Pruzansky is Israel region Vice President of the Coalition for Jewish Values and author of six books, including the recent “Road to Redemption,” available at Kodeshpress.com.
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We are good-hearted people who do our best to be kind and charitable. We want to build a better society, ease suffering, aid the needy, support worthy institutions, etc. We are barraged by those who solicit funds for one cause or another. We may give a few dollars to each; we may give a lot to a few; we may give more or less, depending on our mood when we receive the solicitation for charity.
Do we have a philosophy that governs our charitable outlays? Or do we just make contributions randomly, based on who asks us first or who approaches us most respectfully?
I suggest that we think carefully about our charitable giving, and view our charitable dollars as a means of advancing our vision of a better Jewish community and a better world. We should focus our giving on those causes and institutions that best represent our own values. It is counter- productive to donate to those whose goals we do not ourselves share.
Each dollar we contribute is, in effect, a “vote.” It reflects who we are and what we believe and what we dream. If we would all vote wisely, if we would all contribute in ways that advance our ideals, we would be voting for real change.
We all should give generously and graciously. But we need to think carefully when deciding to whom to entrust our charity dollars.
– Rabbi Marc D. Angel is director of the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals.
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There are priorities in distributing tzedakah. In general, poor people of your community and your community charity needs come first.
The second level is giving to the poor in Eretz Yisrael.
The third level of tzedakah is supporting one’s family.
And finally is supporting general tzedakah needs that have little to do with your community but are nevertheless considered tzedakah.
With this in mind, if one is confronted with many charities that one does not know, it behooves the giver to first find out if the charity is authentic. Once you corroborate its authenticity, then you may give as you see fit, as long as you don’t spend all your money – which could lead to you yourself becoming a burden on the community.
Our sages require that one gives ten percent and a maximum of twenty percent to tzedakah. This amount, of course, would depend on the wealth of the individual; certain people may be able to afford to give even more.
– Rabbi Mordechai Weiss lives in Efrat, Israel, and previously served as an elementary and high school principal in New Jersey and Connecticut. He was also the founder and rav of Young Israel of Margate, N.J. His email is [email protected].