Kupat Ha’ir’s Over The Top Advertising
The report you heard is true, according to multiple, reliable local sources with whom I checked. The Lakewood mashgiah Rav Mattisyahu Solomon, shlit”a, did term some of the solicitation techniques of Kupat Ha’ir as “gezel gamur”/ theft in the true sense of the term. According to one local press report, he decried the fact that single women desperate for a yeshua had contributed all their savings to KH, and turned to him when the choson wasn’t forthcoming.
Not only is the report true, but R. Mattisyahu took his objections straight to R Chaim Kanievsky, shlit”a. The latter argued that he clearly did not offer any guarantees, and that his statements about the efficacy of donating to KH were nothing more than a reiteration of the statements of Chazal about the power of tzedaka – not any special prognostication on his part. Despite this reassuring clarification, R. Mattisyahu apparently did not change his mind about the impression that KH’s advertising aimed for, and clearly succeeded in achieving in many cases.
It is important to separate the advertising from the point of the organization. I can think of few regular, familiar features of Orthodox life that bring more disgrace to Torah life than the KH brochures and ads. They proclaim to the public that Torah is the province of worshippers of miracle-rabbis. Nonetheless, the information that I get also points to KH as an effective and responsible organization for distributing tzedaka funds. The needy who are serviced by KH should not suffer because of the overzealousness and deception of the advertisers.
It should be easy to contain our disgust to the marketers. Those writing the horrific copy play on the fears and vulnerability of their audience, while coming close to promising miraculous results. They even come close to encouraging making a pledge to KH in place of following medical advice. They are playing with people’s lives, not just their money. They also diminish the real power of personal prayer, which always remains the best strategy for securing what we think we need for ourselves when the forecast looks bleak. Readers should mentally review the stories they undoubtedly know about the great Rebbes of the past who made a point of emphasizing to their Chassidim the potential of their own tefilos, rather than relying upon the intercession of a third-party intercessor, regardless of his stature.
It would be short-sighted, however, to see them as the chief villains. Those are the folks who have slowly turned Torah personalities into larger than life Litvish rebbes. The people who teach children (and their parents) to look at Gedolei Torah in a way they were never regarded in the past – they are the ones to be criticized. Insisting that they must also be ba’alei mofes does not add to their honor, but detracts from it – as if the accomplishment of their learning was insufficient.
It has also led to too many casualties on this side of the Atlantic, as people have become so skeptical about what comes out of Israel, that they are throwing more and more babies out with the bathwater.
No I disagree. Here’s exactly what’s driving most of us in the CC realm mad – that many of the Gedolim have been railroaded by handlers, at least when it comes to public influence.
And finally one Gadol says to another, do you realize what’s being done to your image, and the effect it’s having? And the other Gadol says back – I didn’t create that problem. And some of our own defend it – see, it’s just the handlers and the Gedolim can’t do anything about it.
If we don’t vote with our wallets, if we don’t vote with our political votes, if we just sit back and accept this response “that’s the way the world is running and we need to support it because that’s the best we can get” what hope do we have?
Those are the folks who have slowly turned Torah personalities into larger than life Litvish rebbes. The people who teach children (and their parents) to look at Gedolei Torah in a way they were never regarded in the past – they are the ones to be criticized. Insisting that they must also be ba’alei mofes does not add to their honor, but detracts from it – as if the accomplishment of their learning was insufficient.
Well said. The culture war has been won by those that grant supernatural capabilities to Torah scholars. Those scholars are the victims as much as the unfortunate parties who have been hoodwinked into believing in them. Is it too late to turn back the clock?
Nonetheless, the information that I get also points to KH as an effective and responsible organization for distributing tzedaka funds. The needy who are serviced by KH should not suffer because of the overzealousness and deception of the advertisers.
However, given the plethora of decent Tzedaka organizations who do not employ such despicable marketing methods and the limited resources most people have, it would be quite appropriate to send a message to the organization by withholding contributions in order to “encourage” them to hire a new marketing team. Unfortunately, my guess is that the target of these ads are not rational Jews like us and that these ads are probably quite effective with their target audience. That really is the bigger concern.
[YA – I would suggest an intermediate position. Mail in your usual check. But when the fundraiser comes to town, make a point of going over to him and telling him that you can’t support an organization that engages in this kind of advertising. Couch it in such a way that it is not a lie.]
If people are looking for a wonderful community tzedakah to support in Eretz Yisrael, might I recommend LeMaan Achai of Ramat Bet Shemesh? They are an incredibly professional organization whose goal is to rehabilitate people to be financially self-supportive rather than give endless hand-outs.
In a bit of sarcasm about this issue, a leading administrator of a major yeshiva told me that at a recent wedding he went over to a enerable elder rabbi and told him of a great fundraising idea. They should advertise that on Decembe 25 “Nittel Nacht” 10 talmidei chachomim would go to the Kosel and play chess all night at a merit for the donors.(it is a custom not to go to the bais medrash on that night because in Europe there was danger for Jews going out on that holiday so people played “shach” chess instead of learning)The elder rabbi, who has made aliyah, came back a half hour later and said that he still couldn’t stop laughing. He said he would have written decrying the fundraising practices you describe but was afraid. In other words, he honestly felt intimidated by a form of advertisement that everyone I know finds laughable.I have never given a dime to KH. There is no shortage of worthy causes and even at 10:30 motzoei shabbos, two chassidim from Israel knocked on my door. Their check list from the Agudah Chairity Fund had so many causes checked off that I was amazed,e.g. kiruv,wedding, mental, panossah,etc.
The bottom line was they needed money and I gave each $5. I coculd have argued with them but why bother, on the other hand KH is what you say and more. The aniyim won’t go out of business if this particuar organization does. If they are gazlonim and mechallelei Hashem,let them go out of business.
Re Lemaan Achai (you can google it) they don’t publicize who they support, due both to confidentiality and to emphasize their help-everyone philosophy, but a high percentage of recipients are Charedi (both for local programs and occasional national-crisis initiatives). So it isn’t a political move away from supporting one’s sub-community, either.
>If people are looking for a wonderful community tzedakah to support in Eretz Yisrael, might I recommend LeMaan Achai of Ramat Bet Shemesh? They are an incredibly professional organization whose goal is to rehabilitate people to be financially self-supportive rather than give endless hand-outs.
Paamonim is another such organization. Why should we support organizations whose very ideology contributes to the rampant poverty for which they are collecting money? It is a vicious cycle. Better to support organizations aimed at giving people the tools to be self-sufficient, even even it means they will have to give up some of the sacred cows of their ideological position.
I would second the praise for laman achai. None of their funds are used for fundraising. Most of their work is done by volunteers.
לענ”ד this is likely part of a much broader issue – approaching Torah as a way to side-step the natural order, rather than as a guide for working within the natural order.
As a child I was fed many “moifsim” stories, and the lesson I came away with was that Torah and mitzvos (and perhaps rabbis’ blessings) enable you to get around the frustrating constraints of the way the natural world runs. Meaning, be a tzaddik and then you don’t have to worry about ordinary, mundane problems b/c God will take good care of you. This is similar to the perspective of Kupat Ha’ir’s campaigns, which say that if you do this mitzva then you don’t have to worry about things because Hashem will care for you miraculously.
Isn’t there a way to educate our children (and ourselves…) to loyalty to Torah without presenting it as a magical button?
Another organization whose focus is to help people become financially self-supportive is Paamonim; it has the endorsement of R. Herschel Schacter. Meir Panim and Yad Eliezer and many other organizations are above reproach and also efficient.
While I appreciate the objective of not throwing out the baby with the bathwater, there are already too many similar tzeddakot, creating inefficiencies and overhead, that need to be reduced. This is what gedolai olam/kehillot in the past addressed. In our global village, this issue has gotten entirely more difficult. There would be pain if many/most of these organizations shut their doors; but it would likely be of longer term benefit. I have no idea how to implement such a transition or even of a feasible solution long-term, but KH gives me an idea on a start.
[YA – I can’t think of who would undertake the responsibility of determining which tzedaka survives, and which folds. If such a selection were ever to be made, there is a good chance the KH would be one of the survivors! Leaving aside the issue of its overhead, KH has several plusses: it reaches over a wide geographic area, it has good information gathering capability, and those who make the decisions about who gets how much are some stellar talmidei chachamim who take their job quite seriously.]
I think that most in the CC community would agree that they have been put off by the distasteful marketing approaches of Kupat Hair and similar organizations. We know that there are no quick fixes in life. Furthermore, the celebrification of Torah personalities has set the stage for the ability of KH to have the audacity to create such ongoing marketing campaigns. These campaigns obviously have their roots in American marketing tactics. These campaigns seem remarkably similar to those ads that have appeared for years on the back pages of newspapers/magazines as well as the ubiquitous infomercials for herbal supplements and cleaning products which can get spots off of anything. What the Chareidi world has as its validation is that the impenetrable concept “Daas Torah” has made it immune to criticism by adherents in Israel or America. Furthermore, when invoking imagery of holy people davening at holy sites for 40 days and 40 nights, who can argue about the value and efficacy of spiritually wholesome concepts like davening, supporting Torah, and uplifting the poor?
This story with Rav Matisyahu Solomon is even further troubling. Let me get this straight. He is certainly no lightweight in the Chareidi world. Yet,he feels strongly enough to communicate empirical break-downs in the system with the undertone that Rav Kanievsky and his colleagues have been exploited. The fact that Rav Matisyahu is basically rebuffed only serves to document the commonly held assumption that they are not being kept fully in touch with all the realities of the world at large. We can thank the various entourages of Askanim for looking out for the best interest of Klal Yisrael and facilitating the wholesale exploitation of Torah personalities by Kupat Hair.
Back to the glossy brochures and why we keep seeing them delivered to our shuls and in our mailboxes (with the elephant in the room being who is paying for all of this graphic design, printing and postage). The obvious point is that the abject poverty in the Chareidi world in Israel, much of which has been self-inflicted by a refusal to be part of the workplace, has reached a point of utter desperation. And desperate people do desperate and over-the-top things, even if it comes to selling snake oil and the resulting Chillul Hashem. The message coming from the Israeli Chareidi world is that “we can’t work, we won’t work, don’t tell us what to do or intrude in our lives, and we will keep asking you for endless handouts….and we have the Gedolim on our side to verify this entitlement”. While I’m no expert in segula when it comes to Shidduchim, I am pretty confident that the best segula for parnassa is…(drum roll, please)obtaining skills training/credentials and working for a living.
ayin cross currents – march 7th – dibbur hamatchil achish melech gat awards –
Rabbi Adlersten: I certainly agree with your basic point. Bu I must take issue with your description of Rav Chaim Kanevsky’s response as “reassuring.” I, and I gather others, find it troubling. Moreover, do not the Gedolim themselves bear at least some responsibility for the situation you so rightly and eloquently decry.
[YA – It was reassuring because it could have been much worse!
To be sure, the gedolim of every community bear much responsibility for everything that happens under their watch. (The gemara seems to hold them responsible for even mishaps that could have been avoided had their tefilah been more effective!) It is much harder to criticize someone of stature after you’ve been exposed to his accomplishment, and I have been awed by R Chaim Kanyefsky’s torah. Yiras HaRommemus won’t allow me to connect dots that may be apparent to others. (Plain ‘ol halacha tells us that we have a chiyuv of giving the benefit of the doubt to people we know to be of significant stature even when the case against them seems damning. (R Nebenzahl, shlit”a was asked by a talmid how to be dan lekaf zechus when there is a preponderance of evidence on the wrong side. He wisely replied, “Who says that you have to judge?”
So I do my best to turn off my thinking past a certain point, and certainly pull out the cable from my keyboard…]
Torah and mitzvos (and perhaps rabbis’ blessings) enable you to get around the frustrating constraints of the way the natural world runs….
Only recent generations can believe such ideas – previous ones lived far less comfortable lives that made them old hands at coping with adversity.
The major lesson on bitachon from the Kivshan HaEsh story (Avraham Avinu let Nimrod throw him into a fiery furnace rather than associate himself with idol worship) is that Avraham Avinu was prepared for the natural-world consequence – he was ready to die for his ideal.
Nowadays we think if we do the right thing it’s automatic salvation. Yes – but only in the next world.
Seeing R. Natan Slifkin’s comment caused me to connect this issue with the witch-hunt against R. Natan, mori v’rabi R. Nosson Kaminetzky and other independent-thinking talmidei chachamim. When you lobotomize the minds of people, how is there any room for anyone to express any thought which has not been pre-digested?
I’ve never been ideologically offended by these ads for the simple reason that I have never looked at them. It’s just another excessively flashy fundraising insert. I’m surprised anyone even notices a particular ad in the flood of fundraising letters, advertisements, inserts, and phone calls that we all receive daily.
Maybe that’s the problem. There are so many organizations competing for the entire world tzedaka market that some organizations go overboard in trying to set themselves apart from the crowd.
Personally, many years ago, my wife and I chose a few specific organizations that we believed deserved our support, and that’s where our organizational tzedaka goes.
I don’t know where the other commenters read enough about R’ Kanievsky’s response to know that R’ Solomon got rebuffed. I’m definitely only hearing half the story about R’ Kanievsky’s response here. He said that *he* didn’t make any guarantees. Beyond that, there’s just not enough information in this article for me to know whether he will (or even can) insist that Kupat Ha’ir change its advertising.
Miriam wrote: “Here’s exactly what’s driving most of us in the CC realm mad – that many of the Gedolim have been railroaded by handlers, at least when it comes to public influence.”
We hear this argument a lot at Cross-currents and elsewhere. I was interested to read recently in I. Etkes’ book on the Vilna Gaon that the Chasidim used the same argument to defend themselves against the Gaon’s attacks — that is, they claimed that the Gaon was being misled by his “handlers”.
So I wonder: is this argument really valid? Or is it just an excuse that has been used for generations? Perhaps, the Gedolim are not being misled, but we just disagree on how they are managing public policy. It’s hard to believe that everyone knows the Gedolim are being misled except the Gedolim themselves.
There would be pain if many/most of these organizations shut their doors; but it would likely be of longer term benefit.
Completely different topic, but there’s a huge advantage to maintaining a network of smaller tzedakah organizations. First, then many of them can be maintained by a primarily volunteer corps. Second, there are different legitimate approaches to helping people and different organizations under different leaderships will satisfy various needs (permanent handouts vs. hand-ups) and attract different types of givers. Third, with a smaller scope they can pinpoint specific goals and restrict their decision making to those goals’ success. Fourth – another angle of scope – they are in a better position to have personal knowledge of those they help and the unique situations of those individuals.
The problem with the many organizations nowadays is the same with everything (besides limited supply of course) – it’s presented as if there *should* be only one ideal out there, not a harmony of many.
Daniel Shian is correct in stating that if we are to respect someone we have to believe that he is aware of what is going on.If not, then the whole structure falls. Yossie Beilin once stated that he believed in Oslo.When he was confronted with the adject failure of his efforts, he replied that the facts did not matter because he could not live in a world where peace with the Arabs was not possible.
Felix Frankfurter when confronted with some of the details of the Holocaust during the war said that he could not believe it.Upon sonfrontation, he explained that he did not mean that it wasn’t true, just that he could not bring himself to believe it.
“Only recent generations can believe such ideas – previous ones lived far less comfortable lives that made them old hands at coping with adversity.”
Thank you, Miriam! This is the root of so many of the problems of our age. We demand, not just a life of goodness, but a life without suffering or hardship as we define it, and we expect the gedolim to “comply”.
All this “handlers” stuff reminds me of President Truman’s famous desk sign “The Buck Stops Here” and his motto “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen”. The most unfortunate phrase “plausible deniability” (see Allen Dulles and Richard Nixon) also comes to mind.
As R’YBS pointed out – dan lkaf zchut applies to events that already occurred, but when there is a history-cavdeihu vchashdeihu (trust but verify :-)) is the watchword.
>The people who teach children (and their parents) to look at Gedolei Torah in a way they were never regarded in the past – they are the ones to be criticized. Insisting that they must also be ba’alei mofes does not add to their honor, but detracts from it – as if the accomplishment of their learning was insufficient.
Come on. This is the predictable fruit of softening up on hisnagdus on the one hand, and teaching that a certain type of inspiration is more important than truth. What’s happened now is eminently logical, it was predictable, and frankly Roshe Yeshiva or Mashgichim who allowed themselves to be seen as oracles, in the name of inspiration, cannot claim no responsibility. If chalilah a women wants to teach someone a Tosafos they get galvanized pretty much right away. This was decades in the making.
“It should be easy to contain our disgust to the marketers.”
I am very disturbed by this line of reasoning. You must not absolve the organization from responsibility for their advertisements. Do you really think that no one in the organization saw and approved the advertising campaign? Did they give the agency wads of cash and tell them to write something that will work? Certainly a tzedakah should have at least as much responsibility for its advertisements as politicians have for theirs.
Whether for money or not, no Jew has any business telling another Jew that there is a sure-fire way to make his life work out in Olam HaZeh just as he desires. Our goal is to learn and live by HaShem’s plan, not to waste time in the illusion that we can impose our own inferior plans through quasi-magical means.
Rabbis’ handlers? Doesn’t the Gemorra say ” kol ha’omer lo yada’ane peshi’utta havei – anyone who says ‘I don’t know’ is negligent.”
If I can’t use the Gemorra’s view of not knowing, then what is Da’as Torah?
The last time I looked, a person is supposed to a consult with their Rav before making major life decisions, like DONATING THEIR ENTIRE LIFE SAVINGS TO A CHARITY THAT PROMISES THAT YOU WILL BE INSCRIBED IN THE BOOK OF LIFE, or THAT YOU WILL GET ENGAGED or GET MARRIED ETC. I also saw the advertisement around Rosh Hashanna and thought it was outrageous. Also, it is generally against halacha to donate more than 20% of ones income to charity.
In the local news article link, BTW, it seems like Rav Matisyahu was engaging in a little hyperbole – it was “hundreds of women donating their life savings”, not just a particular individual. Nevertheless, anyone who would have donated their entire life savings to Kupat Hair because of the Rosh Hashanna advertisement needs to get their head examined. And if her Rav told her it was ok to do so…Nah, no Rav would have told a woman to do so.
There is a very simple solution to the dilemna posed in this post. One can and should prioritize one’s allocation of Tzedaka to those Mosdos that affected you as a person in your development as a Ben or Bas Torah, as opposed to even considering giving to Mosdos with a lot of PR but which had no such impact on one’s development. If KH is in this category, one would not necessarily consider it as a pressing Tzedaka need, despite the expensive advertising that is KH’s unfortunate trademark.
“One can and should prioritize one’s allocation of Tzedaka to those Mosdos that affected you as a person in your development as a Ben or Bas Torah, as opposed to even considering giving to Mosdos with a lot of PR but which had no such impact on one’s development”
– would you say the same thing in the face of your rebbi whom you trust telling you otherwise? To many who read / write for this blog, the list of gedolim signed on to KH whom they believe possess daas torah surely has no less import.
A friend of mine who was childless for many years once walked in to my office with a kupat ha’ir pamphlet promising all sorts of miracles, in tears and absolutely furious. He shouted “look at this” and threw it to the ground! While this tzeddaka may be dispensing funds honestly, they are injuring people along the way there. They won’t get any money out of me. I’m disgusted by them. If I want to find aniyim, I’ll look elsewhere.
As for the young women (hundreds or even one) who donated their life savings to KH, although “it’s a free country”, no responsible person would do anything with their life savings without consulting with a financial advisor. I’m sorry to say, very few Rabbis possess suitable credentials especially those pictured in the brochure. So, one wonders where their parents were, unless they were also complicit in the self-inflicted Shidduch Crisis.
I have not seen anyone bring up the Halachic axiom of “lifnei iver”, which is to the best of my knowledge still a Biblical prohibition in 2010, and is salient here. This should ostesibly apply to those running Kupat Hair–with the victims being both the donors being misled as well as those targeted for the photo ops.
Any comments on the value of tefilah by proxy? Someone in the Old City set up a real business of taking money from people in need of yeshuos and promising to hire Yiden to daven for 40 days at the Kossel on behalf of the person in need. Same concept w/o the promise of having g’dolim doing it.
That KH uses these tacticts is disgusting, that they are effective is really scary. However, anyone who heard the clip of a Jerusalem rabbi ranting about how if you believe Gedolim could be misled (or that the fact that they don’t know English is relevant to their banning books that are written in English) you are a Conservative Jew, should not be in the least bit surprised. KH’s main weapon is not the miracle stories, it is the fact that they are the tzedakah of the Gedolim; nevertheless, a major problem is that there is an attitude that all stories involving supernatural phenomena are to be considered true until proven false. I heard a rosh yeshiva (whom I respect very much) talking about how a group of high school students who were skeptical about a story in Rabbi Yosef Weiss’ Visions of Greatness were clearly not yet ready for the story and too immature. Another Rosh Yeshiva told the story of the Dibbuk from the late 1990’s when it first came out and insisted “it’s true, it’s true”. As recently as 2004 I heard a chareidi Rabbi in Israel, who is considered an expert on chinuch (you can buy his tapes), insist that his friend saw the woman in the dibbuk case floating above the ground. (I believe him that his friend said that; the problem is that he believed his friend and considered that sufficient basis to tell the story as a way to inspire a group of post high school students). When I was in high school and was poking fun at the Monsey talking fish story, my Rebbi said he believed it because Bilam’s donkey spoke, and he knew a story about a fish speaking to the Arizal. We have been taught to be naive, that skepticism is immaturity, if not blasphemy; KH is using it to their advantage.
>The latter argued that he clearly did not offer any guarantees,
An honest question: If Rabbi Kanievsky “clearly did not offer any guarantees”, is he outraged that KH is insinuating that he (and the other Gedolim whose names they drop) did offer guarantees?
If so, then why does he not immediately publicly denounce the lies? Why not remove his support from KH and offer it to some of the hundreds of other organizations that don’t rely on word-twisting and promises of immediate physical relief as payment for donations?
And if not, if he is not outraged, then what help is it that he “clearly did not offer any guarantees”? Are we playing a game akin to Yakov answering Yitzchak’s question, “האתה זה בני עשו” with “אני”? Is this the type of low-level stooping tzedaka organizations need to do in order to get funds? It is intentionally misleading which makes it IMO robbery and מכשול לפני עוור. Would not any name willingly* lent to this scheme be culpable?
* I believe the best דן לכף זכות is to believe that KH may hijack names for use without authorization.
I want to clarify that I in no way mean disrespect to Rabbi Kanievsky. I am asking genuinely to understand, and find out if he has some as of yet unarticulated reason not remove his sponsorship from KH.
I do not think it does any person in a leadership position honor to lob soft-ball questions, and leave hard questions unasked.
And as for KH, I am hoping that a reactionary response from the supporting Rabbis will shock them into an apology, a disclaimer, and a future of standard fundraising that does not involve deceit.
Jewish Observer wrote, “would you say the same thing in the face of your rebbi whom you trust telling you otherwise? To many who read / write for this blog, the list of gedolim signed on to KH whom they believe possess daas torah surely has no less import.”
Just as we now have to ask about the authenticity of signatures in a wall poster or published kol koreh, we have to ask what the Gedolim named in these ads really meant to do and support. The presence of a Gadol’s picture with a quotation that the charity is a really good one does not automatically mean that the Gadol ever pledged to do a specific thing or accomplish a specific result for donors.
I’ve never paid attention to KH brochures, but if they do accept donations of life savings in return for unrealistic, unfulfilled and unfulfillable promises, they’ve got a lot in common with several evangelical churches, which coincidentally is an already troubling trend among Orthodox Jews.
Dr. E, you state that “no responsible person would do …. without consulting with a financial advisor.”
You touched upon the crux of the matter. Chareidi society has designated the Rabbonim as the end all and be all of every type of knowledge, be it spiritual, medical, scientific, financial, etc. I hear with increasing frequency that people don’t even accept medical advice without first checking with a Rav.
The system has created a generation of irresponsible people.
R’ Adlerstein, I must take issue with your response to someone suggesting not to decrease donations to KH. Personally, it is irrelevant to me as I have never given to KH, and each such “magazine” they send me makes me surer I shouldn’t. But I think it is entirely reasonable that if someone feels their money is better used elsewhere, they have every right, and quite possibly an obligation, to give it elsewhere. And there are plenty of organizations that serve the same communities as KH, so it does not come at the expense of those in need.
Much of the objection seems to be in terms of the message of the ad. I would also point out the cost of the ad, which your donation has to support as well. My wife pointed out to me that Od Yosef Chai’s brochure hasn’t changed in several years, which means all the money that they could be spending on creating PR materials is going to those who actually need it.
[YA – My point was that those who have been giving to KH should not think they need to drop it like a hot piece of cholent. You are entirely correct. People halachically enjoy the prerogative of directing their tzedaka funds wherever they like, as long as they act responsibly. Some people are very concerned about the percentage of their contribution that goes to service overhead; others are not. They don’t mind, if the overhead is used to secure a larger bottom line that addresses a bigger share of the problem. Those people who have seen merit in the approach of KH (and its reportedly high level of integrity in disbursing funds) should not automatically yank their support because of the misdeeds of the marketers.
Personally, I do buy into your argument, and try to direct my larger contributions to organizations with low overhead. I am personally acquainted with a few “boutique” tzedakos, like Tzidkas Yosef Naftoli, and Keren Y&Y, which I both contribute to as well as assist in fundraising. In all such matters, I am guided by the excellent “insider” information that I get from Reb Dovid Leib Cohen, half of the famous duo of Goldberg and Cohen, the “tzedakah czars” of Yerushalayim. Reb Dovid Leib brings a businessman’s thoroughness to the practice of tzedakah, and is always prepared to say good things about competing organizations when he believes that they are operating efficiently, as well as warning about the inefficient ones. (With his partner, Reb Dovid Leib tackles some of the most heart-wrenching and neediest cases in Yerushalayim. See http://www.aish.com/jw/id/48898647.html Taking the tzedaka tour with him is an unforgettable experience that I’ve shared with my kids, and that no one forgets. I direct larger checks to him as well.)
Still, I have been sending money to KH, and see no reason to stop. ]
Daniel writes: Why not remove his support from KH and offer it to some of the hundreds of other organizations that don’t rely on word-twisting and promises….?
Must be exactly why Rabbi Adlerstein himself advocates supporting this organization fully – they do such good work, and perhaps the Rabbis see themselves as they should – not the be-all, end-all, know-all, but as plain ol’ Great Rabbis. Which means that they rely on the perspective of the PR guys who might explain: this hyperbole is normal nowadays and the standard/only way to get funding, this type of reasoning only preys on wealthy who are still within their 20%, there’s fierce competition out there for the same tzedakah funds….
But should you give to them? Well, let’s consider this reasoning from Jewish Observer:
….the list of gedolim signed on to KH whom they believe possess daas torah surely has no less import….
OK so they’re signed on that it’s a “good” tzedakah – so this means they’ve made a public statement that KH does good work. Doesn’t say anything about what portion of one’s personal tzedakah should go there, if any.
And then let’s refer back to what Rabbi Kanievsky is reputed to say about his appearances for KH – he was only quoting gemaras that everyone knows already and wasn’t making actual promises. So even if KH advertising suggests specific donation amounts for the individual, reasoning suggests that none of these Gedolim who are “signed on” are giving any one of us a psak regarding our actual allocation….
Maybe, to clear the air, we need a clear public statement from the Gedolim misused in these ads, that quotes the many sources that say performing the mitzvah of tzedakah should not be done mainly to receive a specific (even immediate!) earthly reward, and especially not in the total expectation of that reward.
Does anyone recall the famous story of R’ Yoshef Chaim Sonnenfeld? A childless woman from Europe sent him 180 gold coins in the hope that he will pray for her to have a baby. When her husband found out about this, he was livid. Just then, the post man delivered a package from R’ Sonnenfeld returning the money, but assuring the woman that he would pray for her anyway. (He wrote that it appeared to him that she sent the money without consulting anyone, and therefore it was wrong for him to accept it.)
The point is very clear. Judaism as it is practiced today in parts of our community has evolved into one that gives mysical powers to human beings and these rabbis are not suspected of being charlatans.Therefore we assume that they are willfully unaware of how they are being misused. It hurts me very much to think that Rabbi Kanievsky is willing to go on allowing his name to be misused unless he honestly believes in what is going on in his name. I think that it may very well be the later. Is it not possible that in his mind, his early morning prayers for thousands of needy people (if the advertisements are factual) are effective and that he has only pure intentions. What I don’t understand is why he doesn’t know or doesn’t mind that charlatans are misusing his temmimus
To take this one step further. I understand that anyone who ever spoke with the Lubavitcher Rebbe was amazed at how knowledgable he was and how he knew exactly what was happening in myriad issues. Later in his life, he was asked if he was the Messiah and he apprarently nodded his assent. Since he was stricken by a stroke, he could no longer talk and this nod of his head was taken as positive indication that he was indeed the promised scion of David. I would not hold this against the rebbe, as there is no reason to think he meant what they said his nod meant. Likewise, this very old and very removed from worldly concerns holy man, may simply not realize what is happening in his name. As our forefather Isaac was fooled by Esau with his questions of how to title the salt, so too great scholars can sometimes be mislead. The alternative is that the veneration is misplaced. That is a conclusion that many would be afraid to state.
Chananya Weisman (founder of End The Madness) has been complaining about the fundraising tactics of Kupat Ha’ir for a long time.
Please help me reconcile a Gadol knowingly having “handlers” with the obligation of midvar sheker tirchak?
Name the handlers and those who work for the handlers. Out them so others know whom to avoid. Keep outing them until there is no incentive OTHER than emes to be a Gadol’s aide.
For those of you looking for a worthwhile tzedaka that stays far away from such tactics I second the suggestion of Rav Slifkin.
Lema’an Achai ia an amazing organization that is helping scores of people stand on their own. They have a modest office, a small professional staff and a corps of hundreds of volunteers.
I visited their headquarters in Bet Shemesh and was mazed at what is going on there. Financial counseling, employment training, therapy, food distribution and even a free dental clinic.
Their posters are simple, powerful and promise nothing more than an opportunity to help people on the highest level.
This is a tzedaka that should be supported and duplicated..everywhere!
I honestly think Rav Chaim and Rav Ahron Leib don’t have a clue what the propoganda pamphlets say. Someone should translate them into Hebrew and show it to them and then see if there’s a change of heart in their support of the KH tactics.
This thread is really about the meaning of Daas Torah. Today I was approached in the super market by someone who grew up in Gateshead and went to ask his RoshHayeshiva for his Daas Torah. He wanted to know if he should learn further in the USA or Israel. Rabbi Gurevitch told him that if he wanted daas torah, he should go learn in the bais medrash for several hours and then he would know which choice to make. i once heard on a tape by Rabbi Berel Wein that in his day if you asked a Rosh Yeshiva if you should marry a certain young lady,the answer was “if you like her, marry her”. In other words the gedolim of our Lituanian stream shied away from telling budding Torah scholars exactly how they should life their lives and taught them autonomy. Maybe the problem is that we are investing powers in Rabbi Kanievsky that are not true and that are contrary to our mesorah. If that is true, then the problem is bigger than charlatans taking money under false pretenses. The whole house of cards if built on a false premise. Perhaps the learned contributers can tell me if I am as krum as a pretzel or on to something.
I have two comments to make.
Firstly, I work in the non-profit sector, and have contact with many, many tzedaka organizations. There is absolutely no doubt that the Yiddish expression “A fish shtinkt fun kop” (A fish starts stinking from the head) applies here fully. Either the top levels of the organization saw and approved of the advertising, or it is not a well run organization, and is one that should be trusted with public money.
The only good thing one can say about the advertisements is that they generally do quote R. Kanievsky – and if you look at what they actually write, he never says “give to KH” but “give to organizations LIKE KH” (my capitalization). They are banking on people not noticing the difference.
Which brings me to my second point. I fully agree that the deification of gedolim is a real, and apparently recent problem. But, it really has nothing to do with Chassidus or Chasisim, per se. Rebbe / Gadol as ba’al mofes is neither unique to chasidim or nor new at all. And, among Chasisim there are plenty of stories that highlight the ability of Chasidim to think for themselves, and the insistence on a direct relationship with Hashem. What seems to be new is a reluctance to teach children to think, to teach machsheves yisroel and to allow the asking of any questions under almost any circumstances.
That’s what KH is playing on. And, ironically, it’s something that makes people far more vulnerable to the influences of the goyishe world, although this trend seems to have developed as a misguided attempt to prevent that vulnerability. It also makes people far more vulnerable to every sort of shtus and scam on the planet.
It’s important to note that what KH and VH have done to the notion of giving Tzedakah is not that much different than what commercial marketers have done to celebrating XMas. Whatever Xmas may have once meant or stood for, it certainly didn’t resemble the madness that pervades nowadays with insanely long gift lists and going in to debt for an entire year just to be able to comply with that mandate. That well-meaning yet simple people fall for that is testament the power of marketing which retailers have taken full advantage of for the the past 100 years.
The marketing directors of KH and VH [and many other tzedakos] have utilized a similar concept and capitalized on it to a large decree. Pretending that these tzedakos are, according to the Gedolim, the only way to effect yeshuos or long-life etc. is a marketing concept that well-meaning, simple people fall for.
A close friend of mine who is very active in a large well-known Israeli tzedakah that has used the same basic ad for the past 30 years told me that they were approached by a marketing company seeking to represent them. The company promised them something similar to KH and VH advertising complete with booklets detailing alleged “yeshuos,” statements from gedolim, bold promises etc. When the Tzedakah initially refused the marketing company explained to them that they must do so or they will never compete with the others who employ these tactics…..
It took a lot of gevurah to overcome the temptation for hire this company, but ultimately they felt it went against their grain and turned them away.
Remember, every time you see one of these bold ads, there is little there that is actually holy. It is a marketing concept that you’re looking at, not Olam Habbah.
Having eaten this past friday night at Reb Mattisyohu Salomon’s house , i need to correct my good freind RYA. Reb Matisyohu confirmed his comments and stands by them (althought he made sure to state that A- it was said sitting at a table not as part of a drosha to the crowd; and B-he was NOT commenting on KH as a tzedaka, and it IS good a good cause)However He did NOT speak to Reb Chaim, what he did was called the house and asked that a message be realyed to him that he feels the advertising and the way thaey are using him is a chillul Hashem. He never got nor asked for a response. So all the comments anylizing what Reb Chaim may have meant etc. can be put out to the trash bin.
[YA – My info came from someone close to R Mattisyahu, so I am puzzled. We need a kasuv hashlishi to be machriya – although I will be much happier if this version is closer to the truth!]
I think too many people are misreading the issue here: As I see it, the real heart of this is, who is driving the ship of Judaism? We all pay lip service to the concept that “the Gedolim lead us”, but in fact too many of them are themselves being directed by “askanim” whose agendas should be suspect. Why should we NOW be so attentive to rabbinic pronouncements about KH, when KH itself has been “using” the gedolim for years without a murmur of protest from them?
There are consequences to EVERY statement by a Gadol. A few months ago, when there was a story going around about women with braces being unable to go to mikvah, it almost caused the last-minute cancellation of a gerus! Other alleged pronopuncements have caused massive Chilul Hashem, such as the media’s mockery of Indian-hair sheitel burnings. Yet others have caused financial disaster for people, such as the forced closing of a sheitel store for the crime of being across a wide avenue from a yeshiva.
Seems to me to be time for a serious reevaluation of who is a Gadol, how one can tell,and when to accept media reports that are attributions via “askanim”.
A more interesting example of through-the-grapevine piskei halacha from gedolim was the initial announcement that elevators in Tzomet-designed-and-approved Shabbos mode no longer had the approval of one of these gedolim. A din Torah initiated by those who stood to lose money (owners of apartments on higher floors for example) brought immediate and more thorough attention to the matter, and the announcement was soon after retracted.
It just underscores that when you hear something – anything – via the media, you have to suspect its validity. But some of us are disappointed to conclude that we have to question all media, not just the mass secular sources.