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Oct 28, 2012

Bet Shemesh Tzedakah Verification Office

In an interesting piece of local news, Rabbi Spektor, Rav of the Givat Sharret neighborhood of Bet Shemesh, is trying to do something about tzedaka that has become fairly common in the United States.

In many cities in the United States with a significant Orthodox Jewish community, the local organizations, often under Agudath Israel of America, set up a clearing house of sorts for dealing with collectors from out of town. They set up this body that receives applications from potential collectors who wish to come to town and collect tzedaka. they investigate the applicant, and, if he passes the investigation, receives a letter of certification from the office. He can then take that around town and use it for collecting - it shows the locals, who usually have no way to verify the integrity of any given collector on their own, that this collector has been verified as collecting for a legitimate purpose. For this to function successfully, the local community must participate and only give to collectors bearing the certificate - if the community isn't strict about this, collectors won't bother to get verified.

Back to Bet Shemesh now... An article in Tmura, one of the local weekend newspapers, mentioned that Rav Spektor has decided to establish such a body in Bet Shemesh, under his auspices in conjunction with a number of other community rabbis from that neighborhood, who were listed. The moked set up will receive applications from potential collectors looking to collect in the Givat Sharret neighborhood, and will check them out - they will hold an interview, they will investigate the applicants lifestyle, they will look over the applicants expenses, and other means. Assuming the applicant passes muster, he will be given a certificate with which he can collect in the area.

This will filter out the "legitimate" collectors and make it easier for the donors to happily donate without questioning anybody's legitimacy or integrity.

The success of this endeavor is dependent upon the residents cooperating and donating only to collectors with the authorization of this moked, and also to direct collectors, who might not be aware of the new arrangement, to the moked for certification.

This arrangement is good for both sides of the tzedaka. The collector will be seen by all, or at least by those who accept the word of the moked, to be legitimate and will donate to such collectors, perhaps even more than they used to. The donor will know that the person at the door with the certificate form the moked is legitimate and will be happy giving his tzedaka to someone who really needs it, and will be relieved that he does not need to do any checking on his own.  

The moked is starting to operate in and for the Givat Sharret neighborhood, but the goal is to expand to the entire Bet Shemesh (including RBS). Being a new arrangement, kinks need to be worked out, and the public has to cooperate and send collectors to the moked, and not donate to those who have not been authorized.

One major difference between the way this moked will run and the way they work in the US is that in the US the authorizing body usually either charges a fee to the applicant, or the donors are meant to write checks out using the name of the office. Before the collector leaves town he goes to the office and clears all his checks, minus a percentage taken by the office. It is a win-win situation, and the office thusly has its expenses covered by the fee collected.  This new moked in Bet Shemesh will not be charging a fee and will not be taking a percentage, but, I am told, will be run on a volunteer basis. Donors will give their money and write their checks directly to the collector. I guess office expenses will be covered by sponsors and other donations.

The moked will operate in the miklat of the Ohel Yona Menachem shul in the Sheinfeld neighborhood on Sundays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays between the hours of 20:15-21:00 (8:15 PM until 9 PM), and can be reached by phone at 074-701-3056.

I wish the moked much success, and remind you that for it to succeed, it requires all of our cooperation.

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  1. The question is, if someone is collecting for "hachnasas kallah" - but it's because the chassan plans to learn in kollel rather than work - is that considered tzedakah? And many such similar scenarios.

  2. B'hatzlacha. This is usually easy to carry out in a closed yishuv where one would need the permission of the rabbi. Hopefully this will work out and will gain credibility. I would definitely give more to someone who has been verified over someone who seems to return with the same sad story.

  3. This is certainly a good idea, but unless the community takes measures to support the rabbanim embarking on this endeavor (phsically), it won't last long. The simple reason for this is the people that are not reliable - the ones who won't get the ishur, are often the most unstable. They lie, and their livelihood depends upon it. I know that in Yad Binyamin, the rabbis were actually threatened with physical harm for not giving an ishur, and these rabbanim will find themselves in precisely the same situation, receiving threatening phone calls, physical intimidation, if not outright violence.
    It really is a good idea, and a long time coming.
    But the rabbanim should be careful, and the community should take step to protect them.

    1. interesting. I wasnt aware of the threat of violence. The biggest challenges I thought would be the issue of division - who is he to give an ishur or not, etc. and why should I listen to that rav. that along with a problem mentioned above of deciding policy as to what constitutes a legitimate purpose for collection, such as hachnassat kallah - do they collect only for wedding expenses or also for apartment, or maybe furnishings or maybe even to live for the first year. etc.


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