[By Chaskel Bennett – From the YWN Archives 2016]
Let’s be honest, the past few weeks and months have been extremely painful for anyone who cares about the reputation of our community. Sadly,the onslaught of media stories alleging impropriety of various natures, leaves Jews and all people of goodwill shaking their heads in dismay and despair. While juicy gossip seems to carry itself at the speed of light and always with righteous purpose, what is not shared or rarely discussed is the everyday stories of compassion, generosity and kindness that is literally a lifeline and safety net for thousands of individuals and families.
What you won’t see on WhatsApp, twitter or Facebook is what’s really going on in the Orthodox Jewish community behind the headlines. Morally compromised newspapers like the NY Post or the Forward won’t report on the thousands of cases of potatoes, grape juice and Pesach staples distributed for free to needy parents with hungry children. Nor does the agenda driven NY Times pay a drop of precious ink to report on the seismic economic impact communal charity funds have quietly distributed to thousands of people wishing to celebrate the Passover holiday, if only they had the financial resources with which to celebrate. The numbers are indeed staggering and worthy of significant coverage, though the tabloids rarely seem interested in reporting on the extraordinary good works the Orthodox Jewish community is renowned for.
So while many of our own people have their heads buried in their smartphones, absorbing the days latest “breaking news”, tzedokah collections, food distributions, Rabbeyim appreciation funds and shul maos chitim campaigns have quietly dominated the communal landscape all across the Jewish globe. From Pinsk to Jerusalem, Flatbush to Far Rockaway, Lakewood to Los Angeles and everywhere in between,those Pesach distributions have been undertaken to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. That’s millions!
Encouraged and guided by our Rabbonim and Manhiggim this special generation, with all of the gashmios and purported flaws,has stepped up in a way that matches the great chessed generations of Jewish history past. Our charitable network of givers, including the most prominent and generous baalei tzedokah Klal Yisroel may have ever known, joined by the hard earned time, effort and dollars of regular everyday individuals, collectively have raised the bar to unparalleled heights in tzedokah and maisim tovim. The beauty of it all is that its mostly done quietly and behind the headlines, to spare the “have nots” from public embarrassment and humiliation. In a world that remains fixated on flaws and imperfections and thrives on screaming headlines, can you possibly think of a more important story to share? And yet it’s not even mentioned, even as an afterthought around our own tables. That should change. Our children need role models, heroes and news stories that we can all be proud to share. This is it.
So dearest brothers and fellow Yidin, as you sit in shul this yom tov, look around and chances are you probably know one of the collectors, drivers, packers, warehousers, organizers,or benefactors that makes Am Yisroel the great nation we are. Thank them for representing all of us with such quiet distinction.
Yes it is true that we have problems and serious issues that need to be addressed, as any growing community does. But I would like to believe that those negative reports of bad behavior are the exception to our community and not the rule. We might better focus our energies on strengthening the legendary compassion and overwhelming kindness that defines our everyday lives and less on scandal packaged as legitimate news. Ordinary people living extraordinary lives, that’s the real story and that is the very essence of Klal Yisroel.
Chag Kosher V’someach
Chaskel Bennett is a noted communal advocate involved in various Jewish causes. His advice and counsel on Jewish issues and concerns is sought by elected officials and key opinion makers. Twitter @chaskelBennett