Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Dear Readers:

The following email was a response from a letter writer who had originally been upset at the way she felt she was treated by a Chabad-run facility (8/17/18). She felt that our editing of her terminology made her appear needy. For this we are truly sorry, but it was how we understood it. The second letter is one of many that we received from shluchos who took offense at the original letter. We thank both letter-writers and hope that this puts the issue to rest.

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Dear Mrs. Bluth,

I would like to comment on your reply to my letter. First, thank you for publishing it, and thank you for your much needed validation of my feelings and your encouragement towards a resolution. While I respect your right to edit the letters you publish and agree with most of the changes you made in mine, I think you went a bit far when you wrote that I was not “financially viable” and was “struggling.” I believe that I wrote that I was working class – not poor, but nothing glamorous. My grievance was not with the lack of pity towards an impoverished mother too poor or clueless to find a babysitter, but with their snobbery towards someone whose gentile neighbors have no problem accepting as a peer play date. I too went to Bais Yaacov and lived in Crown Heights. They should have wanted to have my son in their playroom.

I will admit to wounded pride, but not jealousy. I was happy to see a thriving Chabad house, happy for the winning team until I found myself painfully and unjustly shut out of it. Look, they are entitled not to want us as family friends, but I was only asking to sit in their playroom, which was right by the living room, for a one hour shiur each week. I was even willing to settle for a polite reply to the repeated letters I sent them explaining my situation. I do not believe that my resentment on the subject is in any way unhealthy or immoderate.  Since I have been giving rides and delivering packages to others lately, when I drive “in-town,” I feel more qualified than ever to judge.

Your suggestion that I call “someone from 770” is not one that I find practical.  The Chabad central headquarters does not have an infrastructure for complaints against shluchim and, in any event, it is my word against theirs on the untouchable subject of what someone does in a private home. I am sorry to say that as much as I love Chabad I do not believe that my problems are rooted in its current organizational structure, rather in human error on the part of one isolated couple. Chabad encourages its shluchim to raise money “locally.” which usually means that the survival of any given Chabad house depends on its effective use as a base of courting donors – who are often secular and might take offense at any truly accurate presentation of Judaism. I wish Chabad would consider a blind donor system where all collected monies went to a central office.

Let me tell you a story. I have been using a gentile contractor who looks more like impressive donor material than I do. And he loves to tell me about his wonderful relationship with this Chabad house. I have signed enough documents by now to know that this is no sales pitch.  I smile and go along with it to avoid a chillul Hashem.  But I am seething inside as I write this.

I hope my letter causes Chabad to rethink its fundraising structure because I don’t know how much longer I can keep holding on.

 

Dear Mrs. Bluth,

I always enjoy reading your column, and I follow with great interest the topics that hit home. As a shlucha, your column of August 17 struck a chord, and I would like to respond.

First, if you would have spoken to a shliach, you may have had a different perspective to the question.  I will address the letter-writer comments.

The woman wanted to bring her son to an established shiur, and have him play in the playroom while she was in the next room over with her husband.

  1. Social norms dictate that it is not acceptable to bring a child to shiurim unless it is specifically indicated that it is okay to do so. The only exception to this may be bringing a quiet infant.
  2. If the shliach would agree to someone bringing a child, he would have to be the one hiring a babysitter.  Even though parents may say their son will play quietly, how is he supposed to know this is really true? And, if anything happens to this child in his house, the shliach is liable.
  3. This woman is not looking to benefit from the shiur, she is looking to alleviate her isolation. That means she does not really want what the shliach has to offer, she has her own agenda. This is called taking advantage.  She is not looking to become part of his community.
  4. It is none of this woman’s business where the shliach‘s money comes from, and where it goes. He did not ask her for any money, did not mention any money and this has nothing to do with money!  As a side point, much thought goes into all these issues, and the shliach must have thought long and hard before deciding how to go about having a Chabad house.
  5. Lastly, the letter reeks of a double standard. This woman says outright that she belongs to another community, where the rabbi and rebbetzin do not take care of the community’s needs such as an eiruv and shiurim that would alleviate her alienation, but she understands because they have a double-digit number of children. The shliach, though, who she knows nothing about other than what she saw that one time, she has no problem judging!

Shluchim open their hearts and homes, but they have been burnt once too many times not to proceed with caution.

Wishing you much continued hatzlacha,
A Shlucha

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