I’m going to be an “honoree” at the Agudath Israel of America dinner a week from Sunday, May 17th in New York. I am among a handful of people receiving the Avodas Hakodesh award, which is for volunteers who contribute to the Agudah in some way by, well, avodah — work. If the Agudah calls what I do kodesh (holy) and asks me, as it has, to help promote the organization’s goals by agreeing to accept a plaque and to lean on my friends and associates to contribute, I’m happy to do it.
Someone asked me why. Part of it is that I am friendly with quite a few people who are very involved with the Agudah, and I like them, and what they do, and I like what they ask me to do, too. But on a less personal note, here is the letter I sent out, tweaked a little:
I have agreed to accept the Avodas Hakodesh Award at the upcoming 87th Anniversary Dinner of Agudath Israel of America at the New York Hilton Hotel on Sunday May 17th. And I am writing to persuade you to join me there.
The easy part is explaining why I have carried an Agudath Israel membership card for over 20 years and why this organization merits your support.
“The Agudah” is the largest grassroots Orthodox organization in the country, with chapters in over 30 states. In a time of dizzying political and social change, the Agudah is our community’s consistent voice in federal, state and local government. Its efforts on behalf of yeshivos and day schools, religious freedom, and advocating on behalf of the needy and disadvantaged are well known. Behind the scenes, I have been privileged to be exposed to Agudah’s efforts in coordinating private legal and allied resources where they are needed. And of course, the Agudah plays a leading role in spreading Torah throughout the world, in sponsoring social service and housing programs, job training, youth activities and summer camps, and providing overseas relief.
Agudath Israel takes on challenges that affect the whole Jewish world, with unusual clarity of mission. That clarity is a result of the fact that the Agudah operates under the direction and guidance of the Gedolei Yisroel. And that is why I am an Agudist.
As would be expected with an organization whose ambition and responsibility are almost boundless, the Agudah bestows great benefits… on countless beneficiaries… but is far short of benefactors. Please be one this year, when your support matters more than ever, by making a contribution via this link and, I hope, joining me at the Agudah dinner. Thank you for being at least a little open to persuasion!
You like? OK. Now, someone asked me why BT’s, in general, should want to be involved in this effort, and in particular why BBT-er’s would. To me, the foregoing is more than enough reason. The Agudah does important work on behalf of the Jewish people and it aspires to do its work by the principal of Daas Torah (Torah wisdom as enunciated by leading sages of our time).
It never occurred to me that BT’s might only be interested in supporting “kiruv” (outreach) projects, in the popular sense of the word. Supporting works that benefit the whole community and enhance kavod shomayim (the honor of Heaven) is for all of us. I can think of no better way to demonstrate a lack of need for social training wheels than for BT’s to demonstrate their commitment to the general welfare of our community.
Besides, it has been argued here often, and of course elsewhere, that the best kiruv of all is displaying to the “not yet frum” the “best” the frum world has to offer in terms of role models. Many of those role models are to be found in the ranks of the Agudah, both professionals and volunteers, and as I said, it was obvious to me almost as soon as I understood the “scene” that I must be an Agudist. The fact that I have, over the decades, had the chance to become friends with and work with so many of their number is one of those very happy bonuses in life for which I am very grateful to Hashem.
I like ’em. They’re my guys, and they’ve invited me to dinner. They even put me in a cool video. And now I’m inviting you!
(Don’t worry, glatt kosher. I asked. ;-))