It’s not unusual for religious society to pick up some techniques from modern society. In the past 5 years or so, charedi Judaism has picked up modern advertising techniques for tzedakah (charity). Conceptually this is a good thing, more charity more helping of people. On a practical basis though it’s led to some serious tzedakah competition, increasing amounts of advertising and like the maker of soap or laundry detergent, everything has to be NEW and IMPROVED and BETTER THAN THE COMPETITION…
Kupat Ha’ir (the City Charity) and Vaad HaRabonim (the Rabbi’s Council) are the current leading competitors.
- Each has a famous leading rabbi of the generation supporting them (or at least letting them use his picture and signature).
- Each has a few fantastic claims for supporters.
- Each is in your face with big expensive charity boxes in front of each supermarket (in religious Jewish communities in Israel), at major bus stations, and advertisements in every major orthodox religious Jewish publication (frequently).
Let’s see what they have to say…
The City Charity, “All that tithe to the City Charity (of Bnei Brak) merit to see visible miracles”, followed by the signatures of 2 leading rabbis of the generation.
Sounds excellent! I could use some visible miracles! Let’s see if the Council of Rabbis can complete with that…
“Tithe to the Council of Rabbis and see salvations!” They don’t have a signature on the front but a full letter from a leading rabbi of the generation on the side (confirming the salvations to be seen).
Hmm. Visible miracles or salvations? Which is right for me? If I give to the wrong one will I not merit either visible miracles or salvations? What if I give to someone locally needy?
Like any brand, these charity organizations are struggling to build up their brand and outdo their competition. Somehow for charity that feels unseemly, but those involved would say “whatever it takes to get another bit for charity is worth it.”
I’m not so sure. Pirke Avos tells us we shouldn’t turn Torah into a spade, perhaps we also shouldn’t turn charity into a promise of return but rather emphasize the need for tzedek (justice) in helping our needy brethren.