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Feb 18, 2008

local RBS Tzedaka: Lema'an Achai: a primer

This introduction to Lema'an Achai was written by Lema'an Achai and sent to me upon my request. Comments are, as usual, open. I encourage your comments and especially if you have any questions as to Lemaan Achai policy or methods - someone from Lemaan Achai will be following the comments and has made himself available to answer any questions....

The purpose of this post is to learn about Lemaan Achai. Do not use it as a springboard to attacking or accusing other organizations. If you have a criticism of Lema'an Achai you are welcome to say it in the comments (and hopefully someone "in the know" will be there to respond and explain), but please do so respectfully.


This can be very beneficial to everybody. Lemaan Achai, I have found, is always open. I have found them open to questions at all times. I have asked various people within lemaan achai, over the years, about their policies, methods, issues, etc. they are always willing to diiscus what they do with anybody. you can call them, email them, walk into their offices, etc. but if you do not want to do that but still have questions, you can feel free to ask them in the comments of this post...

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PROBABLY THE BEST CHESED ORGANIZATION IN THE WORLD!

They have not seen anything like it in London, a Jewish community founded in the time of William the Conqueror in 1066. In younger cities & Jewish communities, like New York, Los Angeles, Toronto, they do not yet have an equivalent organization. And even in Eretz Yisrael, it's a one-of-a-kind.

Ten years ago, Ramat Bet Shemesh was another tract of open and beautiful countryside, south of Bet Shemesh, situated between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Today, that hill is a bustling thriving community, with 20,000 people, almost entirely being Torah observant.

Along with the establishment of the community, a unique chesed organization developed.

Rav Chaim Soloveichik, son of the Torah luminary Rav Aahron Soloveichik, and Mr David Morris who established and ran Yad Leyedid in Jerusalem, set up a new organization "Lema'an Achai" - "for the sake of our brothers" (Tehilim 122) - in Ramat Bet Shemesh, with an ancient and yet innovative concept they termed "Smart Chesed".

Taking their lead from the Rambam's highest form of tzedaka – to help someone in such a way that they will not require tzedaka, Lema'an Achai has developed a unique three stage program:-

1. Support

Direct Aid – food aid, assistance with critical bills, and many other programs aimed at helping families through their crisis.

2. Solutions

Professional Services & Rehabilitation – Social services, financial & legal counseling, employment assistance, psychological therapy, citizens rights advice & advocacy. These and other programs are aimed at solving problems, helping families out of their crisis.

3. Prevention

Community Programs – Serious Illness Support, Interest Free Loans Fund, Home Finances Seminars, The ShemeShop Thrift Store, and other programs aim to get to problems before crisis drives a family into needing intervention – crisis prevention.

Today, Lema'an Achai runs over 25 community programs, involving over 200 volunteers, coordinated by a core professional staff, including five in-house social workers, and it operates from a small & modest office/converted apartment.

Recent Achievements

By the nature of what Lema'an Achai does, most of the organization's achievements cannot be publicly reported. So these are just some highlights of Lema'an Achai's achievements over the past twelve months that can be reported.

* FIVE THOUSAND Four Hundred & Ninety Three Hours of support & counseling by Lema'an Achai in-house professional team of Social Workers
* Six Hundred & Sixteen Hours of Psychiatric/Psychological Therapy
* EIGHT THOUSAND Free Dental Treatments - over Five Thousand for Kids
* Seven Hundred and Six Hours of Professional After-School Teaching for Kids at Risk
* Sixty Families received Advocacy Services (a new service established in 2007) - 45 of these have had their cases successfully resolved, so far
* Forty Families Received Intensive Financial Counseling - saving thousands of shekels for each family.
* Over One Hundred and Sixty Families (over one THOUSAND people) received Regular, Reliable Food Stamps - so no-one goes hungry.
* A further One THOUSAND nine hundred & twenty food supplementary packages were delivered (including our unique Shmita-Friendly Aid Packages!!)

* FIFTEEN THOUSAND items of second hand clothes sold at Lema'an Achai's ShemeShop thrift store.

Perhaps most impressive is that Forty-Six Families (29%) no longer required Lema'an Achai's assistance, during 2007. Of these, Twenty-Seven Families (17%) achieved their independence in 2007 directly due to Lema'an Achai.

Other amazing Lema'an Achai achievements over the past 12 months include:-

* Lema'an Achai's joint Social Services Program with The Gush Katif Settlers Council played a critical role in obtaining FIVE HUNDRED MILLION (half a billion!) NIS of additional aid for Gush Katif Evacuees, as a supplement to the Evacuation & Compensation Law, in June 2007.

* Lema'an Achai received The Bet Shemesh Prize & Recognition during 2007, for its Leadership Role in hosting & aiding over one THOUSAND refugees from the Second Lebanon War of 2006.

* Lema'an Achai was multiply cited, as part of a whole chapter focusing on Bet Shemesh (the only city to merit this), by the Ben Gurion University National Report on the Response of the Non-Profit Sector during the Second Lebanon War (the non-Government equivalent of the Winograd Report), published in 2007.

* Lema'an Achai established its First Branch Office, located in Migdal Hamayim, servicing Bet Shemesh, Givat Sharet and Migdal Hamayim (in memory of Emma and Simon Wang z"l).

* The Municipality of Bet Shemesh Granted Lema'an Achai a Two Dunam Building Site, on Prime Real Estate on Nachal Dolev, RBS.

Transparency & Accountability

Money:
Lema'an Achai's volunteer Board of Directors are democratically elected annually. The Board includes Rabbonim, a CPA, a CEO of another successful charity, a member of the City Council, and community activists. The Board meets at least monthly, sets policy and oversees the activities of the professional staff.

Lema'an Achai's accounts are externally audited by a CPA and also undergo scrutiny by both the Ministry of the Interior and, being Section 46 Approved for Tax Deductible donations, the Ministry of Finance. US Friends of Lema’an Achai is IRS Approved.

Lema'an Achai has also developed an administrative system which keeps immaculate accounts and tracks where all money goes and what man-hours are used for.

During 2007, Lema'an Achai was chosen for a random and rigorous (every piece of paper & every transaction over the past six years!) top-to-toe organizational audit by the Charities Commission, which Lema’an Achai passed "with flying colors".

Lema'an Achai's financial support is almost entirely from local private donors. Over one-thousand five-hundred families regularly donate to Lema'an Achai. Those who know us best, trust us with their tzedaka funds.

Services:
Lema'an Achai is "color blind", and helps all who need their assistance, regardless of race, gender or level of religiosity. The sole criteria for assistance are objective and professional, closely following the Israeli Government's Poverty Definitions.

Lema'an Achai has cooperative hand-in-glove working relationships with around forty other local, national and international charities and orgnizations.

Lema’an Achai is Approved by the Wurtzweiller School of Social Work (Yeshiva University) to train and supervise social work interns here in RBS.

The two Lema’an Achai Free Dental Clinics are Approved by the Israeli Ministry of Health.

Lema'an Achai's remarkable activities have been extensively reported in the Israeli media, such as the Channel 2 TV, Jerusalem Post, Haaretz, HaModia, Connections Magazine, Voices Magazine, and local Bet Shemesh media.

Lema'an Achai has ambitious plans and commitments to help more people, even better, during the coming months and years.

Halacha
Lema'an Achai has enthusiastic support from across the local communities, including from leading community rabbis. Lema'an Achai stringently follows the halachik directives and guidance of their founder & possek, Rav Chaim Soloveichik; other community rabbonim are regularly consulted. Rabbi Avrohom Leventhal, the Executive Director of the organization has over 17 years experience as a director of Ahavas Yisrael, Baltimore’s leading Tzedaka & Chesed Organization.

All this, taken together, is the envy of every major Jewish center around the world; right here in Ramat Bet Shemesh, Lema'an Achai is "probably the best community chessed organization in the World".

What You Can Do To Help

In order to do continue our work, Lema’an Achai needs the support of everyone who is in the fortunate position to be able to give. To give your time & energy, and to give your tzedaka.

Each time Lema’an Achai says YES, to a new call for help, it costs the organization over $5000/a.

That $5000 buys over $25,000 in delivered services! And, what is more important, you’re buying a Cure, not a Band Aid. It’s the greatest deal in the world of chesed.

To date, we have never had to say NO to anyone in need, due to lack of funding. That’s an amazing record.

However, over the past months, our revenues have been severely hit by the falling dollar (many of our donors give in dollars) and by increasingly competitive other worthy charities. The limited ‘tzedaka’ cake in RBS is being sliced into thinner and thinner slices.

It’s an amazing zchus to have probably the world’s best community chesed organization, right here in RBS – please join in that zchus by donating as much as you possibly can, right now.

So that tomorrow morning, when a family calls desperate for our unique Smart Chessed, to achieve their independence again, Lema’an Achai won’t have to say No.

How to Donate: http://lemaanachai.org/donate.asp

Mail a check to: 40/7 Nahal Lachish, Ramat Bet Shemesh, 99093, Israel.

Give By Phone 24/6 : 02 99999.33

Personal Invitation: Seeing is believing, and as part of our policy of transparency and accountability, we invite you to book an appointment and to see for yourself the amazing work of Lema’an Achai.

Call Rav Avrohom Leventhal on 9991553, Ext 5, for a personal appointment.

24 comments:

  1. amazed&impressedFebruary 18, 2008 7:40 AM

    WOW!! This is incredibly impressive... I have given regularly to Lema'an Achai since I moved to RBS, and I never knew Lema'an Achai does SO MUCH, SO WELL! Yeshar koach to Lema'an Achai, to Rav Soloveichik and heh! - to Rafi for giving space on his blog - for all they are doing for RBS and all they do for Am Yisrael! I am very proud to be a Lema'an Achai supporter... How do I find out what more I can do to help Lema'an Achai, the jewel-in-the-crown of RBS?

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  2. I am familiar with the work of Lemaan Achai, and I say, ashrei chelkam. The work that they do is extraordinary.

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  3. Just donated again... yasher koach Rafi.

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  4. What amazing work! Locally, the GK expellees and during the Lebanon War. We were zochei to help in time and money.

    Yasher koach to LMA and to Rafi

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  5. Kol Hakavod!
    That was a very well-written and informative post.
    I have some follow-up questions.
    1-You mention over 5000$ per family helped. Is this at its core a set package? Meaning, you send the same types of professionals to evaluate each family,etc.

    2-Assuming the 5000$ includes help with debts is it a set amount or percentage, or is this an average?

    3-What if a family needs help but won't change their spending habits (eg. spending less or moving to a more affordable apartment,etc.)
    What can you do?

    4-Is the ShemeShop really meant only for people in need/future need, or can anyone who wants a bargain shop there?

    5-Could you walk us through a typical but imaginary family like the Smiths, explaining how you typically get involved, what you do first,etc.

    Curious But Impressed

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  6. Lemaan Achai is great BUT...
    Why are they allocating capital to Bet Shemesh - to outside of RBS? To chilonim, when there are so many needy that are frum and local?
    I have allocated the majority of my maasar to lemaan achai and been a volunteer for the past eight years. But I am seriously considering switching to the Kuppa. Any answers?

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  7. can I request that readers commenting anonymously choose names to use so it will be easier to respond? it does not have to be your real name, but with already 3 anonymous comments, and I am sure many more to come, it can get confusing to keep track of what is being asked and what is being answered...

    thank you.

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  8. anon of 9:52 - as far as I understand, the branch in bet Shemesh is not run based on money from RBS donors. RBS goes to RBS. Bet Shemesh is completely independent and separate.
    Hopefully someone from lemaan Achai will be here soon to respond with more details.

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  9. To say that the Jewish community in London dates from the Time of the Norman conquest (1066) is rather untrue. William did invite the Jews into England it is true, but we were expelled in 1290 and not allowed back in until 1655 by Cromwell.

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  10. David Morris -Lema'an AchaiFebruary 18, 2008 10:58 AM

    Thanks Rafi for this opportunity to explain more about the activities of Lema'an Achai. We encourage people to post their questions,and will make every effort to respond. Also feel free to phone me (9997107)or Rav Leventhal (9991553) any time, any question!

    Here's a few answers to the questions so far:-

    Question 1-You mention over 5000$ per family helped. Is this at its core a set package? Meaning, you send the same types of professionals to evaluate each family,etc.

    Answer 1: Each and every family is objectively assessed by our professional & compassionate in-house team of social workers, solely according to need, and a unique program (mainly from our 'menu' of 25 projects) established and implemented with each family.

    Question 2-Assuming the 5000$ includes help with debts is it a set amount or percentage, or is this an average?

    Answer 2:This $5000 is an average number. Simple total revenue divided by number of families helped. The amount each family is helped can vary significnatny as to their level of need. Need more help, get more help!

    Question 3-What if a family needs help but won't change their spending habits (eg. spending less or moving to a more affordable apartment,etc.)
    What can you do?

    Answer 3: Very few families are willfully impoverished. We work with a family to identify WHY they are not meeting the goals of our mutually set plan for addressing and solving the family's problems. But there may be some 'block',for example,to people changing their spending habits: the wife may be willing to change her spending habits,but the husband won't empower her to do so. ("Where's my steak?!"). This then becomes a family-management issue. And yes, where appropriate,we can bring pressures to bear.

    Question 4-Is the ShemeShop really meant only for people in need/future need, or can anyone who wants a bargain shop there?

    Answer 4: ShemeShop is open to the whole public. Of course, at 5-10NIS prices per item of clothing(just 1NIS during sales!) , this is a life-saver to impoverished families; however, a family which is 'scraping by' is also helped,and so prevents them ever knocking on Lema'an Achai's door in need. We welcome even more fortunate families, so that NOBODY is embarrassed to be seen in the ShmemeShop. The more fortunate are effectively subsidizing the less fortunate and removing any stigma. Come on in!!

    Question 5-Could you walk us through a typical but imaginary family like the Smiths, explaining how you typically get involved, what you do first,etc.


    Answer 5: We receive a call for help, we listen carefully. A social worker is immediately assigned. They make a home visit (one can learn more and quicker than solely seeing the family in the LA office). The social worker and family work out a program of aid and assistance, and achievable goals are established. This can include financial counseling, legal counseling, advocacy to National Insurance and other authorities, family or individual therapy, tutoring & mentoring for the kids, after school moadonit,etc..etc..(see www.lemaanachai.org Programs).

    Question 6: Lemaan Achai is great BUT...
    Why are they allocating capital to Bet Shemesh - to outside of RBS?

    Answer 6: Lema'an Achai received a $50,000 designated grant from a non-RBS source, to establish a branch office in Bet Shemesh. This and other special programs (Gush Katif, War Relief, sickness funds, even our Loans Gemach, ...) are seperate accounts and are not 'subsidized' by regular RBS donors (unless donors specifically request to).

    Question 7:To chilonim, when there are so many needy that are frum and local?

    Answer7: Hilchot tzedaka state aniyei ircha KODMIM. But this is not the limit of a Jew's obligations to help other Jews (regardless of their kippa).

    Lema'an Achai's world view starts in RBS, and includes other Jews in need, such as in Bet Shemesh, Gush Katifniks, war refugees etc. (see above for how we separate these activities out from RBS funds)

    Question 8: I have allocated the majority of my maasar to lemaan achai and been a volunteer for the past eight years.

    Answer8: Yeshar koach!!

    Question 9: But I am seriously considering switching to the Kuppa. Any answers?

    Answer 9: The Kupa is a fine and worthy organization. Of course we encourage you to continue being generous to Lema'an Achai,and if the answers I have provided do not suffice - please do give me a call personally,or come on in to our office to dicuss any questions you have. We are open, accountable and transparent and welcome your feedback! Keep it coming!

    Best regards
    David

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  11. Olam Chessed YibanehFebruary 18, 2008 11:40 AM

    I am always amazed at how Lema'an Achai does so much for our community without the loud splash, expensive PR and messy posters. To me it is a breath of fresh air.

    They seem to spend more time actually helping people than they do talking about how they help.

    My family lived in Baltimore for some time and were well aware of Rabbi Leventhal's dedication to tzedaka and chessed through his organization Ahavas Yisrael.

    We are fortunate that he has brought that dedication and knowledge here to Eretz Yisrael.

    I encourage all RBS residents to get more invloved with Lema'an Achai through their time and tzedaka.

    Organizations like Lema'an Achai make me proud to live in RBS!

    Kol HaKavod and keep up the great work!

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  12. David - Lema'an AchaiFebruary 18, 2008 12:23 PM

    Dear Zach Kessin,
    Thanks for your note about the age of the London Jewish community. You are of course correct. It was established in 1066, but then there was a hiatus during the expulsion, until Cromwell.

    However, my great grandfather clearly relayed to me the Morris family tradition that not only was Sir Boris de Horace-Morris at the Battle of Hastings, but actually ducked the arrow that hit King Harold. I hope, Mr Kessin, you would not stoop to contradict such an heroic family tradition?!
    Sincerely,
    David de Horace-Morris

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  13. look at that! not only does he do good work, but he also has a sense of humor (or should I say "humour"??)!! Or was he being serious???

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  14. Rav Soloveichik RulesFebruary 18, 2008 3:36 PM

    Rav Chayim, Rav Chayim Solo, Rav Chayim Soloveichik-the new song of RBS

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  15. Kol Hakavod to Rav Soloveichik-we love you!

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  16. Sir David Morris and Rav Soloveichik-you have proven that English and Americans can get along. This should serve as a model of co-existence for our entire community!

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  17. I am positively impressed by the leadership that LeMaan Achai has demonstrated-may Rav Soloveichik and David Morris continue to lead our community

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  18. I have an observation rather than criticism or comment.

    I have lived in the Rama since 2001. I am committed to neither and both organizations.

    If I remember correctly Lema'an Achai has been an organization concentrating on rehabilitation (not just giving out money) while Kupa has always been good at giving out large sums. I surmise that this is why Lema'an Achai has a staff while Kupa is all volunteer.

    Over the last couple of years I see that Kupa is heading into this direction as well. They keep on stressing rehabilitation managers, etc.

    I don't quite understand. If Lema'an Achai does a good job with some angles of tzedaka and Kupa does with other why do we need overlap? It seems to me that this duplication is a waste of public funds. Also, if the Kupa is using volunteers for issues that would be better served by professionals I am concerned about the results.

    Perhaps both organizations should concentrate on what they do well and not try and copy what the other is doing.

    I think that this would alleviate confusion as to which organization to support (everyone could support both) and ensure that all the needs of the community are being met.

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  19. Another Average JoeFebruary 18, 2008 10:32 PM

    Rafi-

    Thank you for posting this most interesting article about Lema'an Achai.

    I have a few questions that I hope someone from Lema'an Achai can answer.

    1) I notice and appreciate that Lema'an Achai is much less obtrusive in their PR. Even for the recent Kupa Melave Malka I rec'd 2 invitations, a visit from my local rep and 2 phone calls until I finally gave in and said yes, I'll go.
    Do you think that your low key approach affects your fundraising?

    2) I have had school kids come to my door collecting for Lema'an Achai. Do you think that this is better that a set person coming each month? Why don't you have set people coming around..perhaps more people would give?

    3) While at the Melava Malka I noticed that Kupa gets a lot of support from stores and businesses in the area.
    Do these businesses support you as well? If not, don't you think you'd be able to accomplish even more with their support?

    4) There seems to be parts of the community that don't support Lema'an Achai and may even say derogatory comments. Do you continue to help the people in those parts of the community?

    I hope not to offend anyone with these questions. I look forward to hearing the answers.

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  20. To Michoel-

    To answer your question...imitation is the highest form of flattery...and PR.

    Kupa has obviously realized that most people would rather give tzedaka that will actually accomplish something. Instead of letting LA do what they do best Kupa seems to have entered this "market" as well. I assume that they have drawn more supporters because of this.

    This is in line with their spending more money on dinners, invitations and popular speakers. I don't think you would have seen an English oriented event (or one that included women!) from Kupa 4 or 5 years ago.

    However your concern about duplicity and lack of professionalism is well founded.

    Treating people's emotional issues and offering therapy "with no overhead" also concerns me.

    As someone in the mental health profession I am troubled by this approach from the Kupa.

    I am confident in supporting an organization that is consistent in its goals and uses Rabbinic guidance as well as professionals.

    It seems to me that Lema'an Achai has never tried to change it's outlook just to pick up more financial support.

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  21. Dr Freund-
    Perhaps you shouldn't treat yourself.

    Rafi requested "Do not use it as a springboard to attacking or accusing other organizations."


    Let's wait to hear from the Kupa when it's their turn.Not why you think they do things.All-knowing as you are.

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  22. disgusted-

    Temper, temper.

    It wasn't an attack on anyone rather a comment/perpesctive on someone's pointed question.If you would have read carefully you would have seen that this is my opinion.

    Perhaps you should seek some treatment for anger management.

    Thanks for the "all knowing" compliment but I'm much too modest to accept it.

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  23. David Morris - Lema'an AchaiFebruary 19, 2008 3:36 PM

    Dear Another Regular Joe: You say…
    "I have a few questions that I hope someone from Lema'an Achai can answer.

    Question 1) I notice and appreciate that Lema'an Achai is much less obtrusive in their PR. Even for the recent Kupa Melave Malka I rec'd 2 invitations, a visit from my local rep and 2 phone calls until I finally gave in and said yes, I'll go.
    Do you think that your low key approach affects your fundraising?

    Answer 1: Lema'an Achai has encouraged our volunteers, particularly with professional skills, to volunteer their valuable time and skills to directly help the families we serve.
    Lema'an Achai has not yet developed a network of building and street reps. (Most shuls in the neighborhood have a Lema'an Achai rep).
    We are aware that more people would likely give more money to Lema'an Achai if they were only asked!
    We are therefore currently seeking volunteers to help Lema'an Achai establish such a network – bloggers, please contact me if you are interested to help!

    Regarding Lema'an Achai's outdoor advertising policy, this has been according to a principle we call "Clean & Green".
    It is Lema'an Achai's position that we should raise tzedaka for local families, in parallel to keeping our neighborhood beautiful!

    We trust our donors to respect, to appreciate, and to reward Lema'an Achai's unobtrusive & considerate approach to our whole community, by supporting Lema'an Achai generously.

    Question 2) I have had school kids come to my door collecting for Lema'an Achai. Do you think that this is better that a set person coming each month? Why don't you have set people coming around..perhaps more people would give?

    Answer 2: Lema'an Achai's vision extends beyond today, or even beyond next year...
    Lema'an Achai has therefore recently launched a new program, together with local schools, to encourage & educate our next generation of oskei tzibur!
    Part of this program includes practical fundraising, and the kids are turning to their neighbors and friends.
    Please be likewise encouraging to these great kids, our future, and be generous & welcoming to these young collectors!

    Yes – this does not replace the need for adults to proactively fundraise for Lema'an Achai – so, bloggers, please do step forward and take your lead from our kids! Please volunteer to help Lema'an Achai's PR and fundraising campaigns! Please email me: david AT lemaanachai.org .

    Question 3) While at the Melava Malka I noticed that Kupa gets a lot of support from stores and businesses in the area.
    Do these businesses support you as well? If not, don't you think you'd be able to accomplish even more with their support?

    Answer 3: Lemaan Achai actively encourages local businesses to partner with Lema'an Achai and to contribute back to all our community. Many of these businesses and others do generously support Lema'an Achai. Yes, we do need more volunteers to assist us with this. Please step forward!

    Question 4) There seems to be parts of the community that don't support Lema'an Achai and may even say derogatory comments. Do you continue to help the people in those parts of the community?

    Answer 4: When we first opened our doors in 2000, Lema'an Achai helped needy families in both Ramat Bet Shemesh ALEPH and in BET.
    After three years, it had become all too clear that whereas individuals in BET were willing to help us, and *many* needy families were willing to accept 'hand-outs' from Lema'an Achai, the wider community in BET was not willing to support Lema'an Achai, either with their tzedaka donations or with volunteering their time. Lema'an Achai therefore regretfully withdrew its services from Ramat Bet Shemesh BET in 2003

    Here in RBS ALEPH, Lema'an Achai still helps *everyone* in RBS Aleph, solely according to their needs - regardless of whether that individual's shul, rabbi or neighbors are supportive of Lema'an Achai.

    Another Regular Joe - I hope I have satisfactorily addressed your questions. Please feel free to also contact me off-line (9997107) if you (or any other blogger!) would like to discuss Lema'an Achai's policies & activities.

    Keep the questions coming!!

    Best regards,
    David.

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  24. When i first read the statistics, i thought it was since the organization's inception. Then i realized that all those thousands of hours of hard work and dedication was just in one year - incredible!!! We're all busy people, we all have committments and tight schedules, but there are are a lot of people, here in our own neighbourhood who are making time to volunteer their time and knowledge to this amazing organization - usually very quietly and discreetly.
    Lemaan Achai relies on volunteers to do the vast majority of the hard work - a fact that is overlooked when others criticize LA for having a few salaried positions...
    Keep up the excellent work!!

    ReplyDelete

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