Waking Up Is Hard To Do

Silly me! It took me so long to open my eyes to the fact that we could have religious leaders who appear outwardly very pious and above reproach, but really aren’t. Waking up is a struggle alright.

Over thirty years ago, after searching for spirituality in many religions, reading the book, A Tzaddik in Our Times, had such a powerful effect on me. I saw for the first time that a pure, simple, kind and spiritual life could be found within my own religion. It seemed like a way of life that most valued those who courageously cared about the downtrodden. If this was the way a true Jewish hero could be identified, this was the kind of Judaism about which I wanted to learn. And, thank G-d, I got to do that. The teachers in the women’s division of Ohr Someyach, at Neve Yerushalayim and at Aish Ha Torah all seemed to embody these kind of beliefs as well. They offered such a wonderful world view, an idealistic and yet practical one that I was so grateful to finally find.

Getting married and leaving the baal teshuva yeshivas to settle in an apartment and find work, was sort of like landing with a thud, though. We discovered that the real Orthodox world we moved into wasn’t all that much like the idyllic picture that had been painted, but we were determined, with G-d’s help, to make our own beautiful world within it. With tapes and seforim and shiurim as encouragement to stay on course through the years, we were able to keep on overlooking all the behavior that didn’t seem to fit in with the lifestyle we’d chosen. And we were OK with making excuses for each seemingly crooked, arrogant or illegal action we’d encounter. As baalei teshuvas, we figured that we probably just didn’t get the whole picture. They must have great reasons, based on the Torah, for doing what they were doing – and we just probably didn’t understand them yet.

For many years we were blessed to cultivate a genuinely happy frum home, thank G-d, just overlooking what we thought were a few “bad apples” or seemingly wrong behavior that we couldn’t understand fully. But then something hit us in the face that was so traumatic, we couldn’t look away anymore. The intimidating cover-up that followed was probably even more shocking and horrifying than the initial trauma, however. We learned overnight that we were trying to be dan l’chaf zechus (giving the benefit of the doubt) too often, even when it wasn’t appropriate. We found out that could sometimes be extremely dangerous.

Naïve and way too trusting, we were hurt to the core of our beings, but not disillusioned enough to leave. We knew there was nothing better out there anyway– we’d been there and done that already. And checking out would just give the frum perpetrators and their Mafia-style supporters, that much more power and free rein as well. So we came to see that what we needed to do was ask Hashem for help to try to encourage others like us who lack the confidence and courage as we did, to work on addressing the denial and strive to actually implement improvements. Everybody has to pick and choose what they are willing to stand up for, but if frum people are less fearful of standing up when they see smaller wrongs, they hopefully won’t have to get a brick thrown in their face to wake up, like we needed.

We can’t blame our rabbis or the institutions and organizations they lead for not having courage if we don’t have it. As we take on the responsibility to clean up the dirty business we encounter, their actions will reflect ours. We initially were drawn to Torah Judaism because it seemed so sweet, and for so many of us, it really is. At the same time, we need to accept the difficult truth that power corrupts in this way of life too. We really thought that in this more spiritual lifestyle, money, power and political machinations would not sway our community’s leaders. We were taught stories about great rabbis in the past who wouldn’t take one coin for a yeshiva if the funding might have been somewhat tainted from some unsavory source. And since it is emphasized repeatedly in the Torah that bribes are strictly forbidden, we actually thought that those in positions of authority who dressed like they believed in these precepts, would actually be scrupulous about following them.

To take just one area in critical need of improvement as an example: we can wait for the administrators of our schools to create basic safety plans and written policies for dealing with sexual predators. We can wait for community leaders to demand that our day schools conduct background checks and fingerprinting of their employees, just as public schools do. We can wait for somebody harmful to teach our children about inappropriate touching. Or, each one of us can decide to take responsibility when our children are being left unprotected. We can “vote with our dollars” if that’s all that will get our administrators to pay attention. But first we have to stop fearing them.

Before the destruction of our Second Beis Hamikdash, corruption was widespread among the Kohanim Gedolim. Much more recently, in the past generation, there were many Jewish people that turned away from Orthodoxy after widespread corruption in the kashrus industry became apparent. The corrupt flaws proliferating in our midst now involving financial scandals, prostitution and abuse are being highlighted, so that we can remove them. We have a lot of work to do on ourselves if we really want to be shining lights to the world, and not just dim bulbs.

The Vilna Gaon reminds us that just as water (which is often compared to Torah) helps plants to grow, it also helps weeds to grow. Alongside the wondrous blossoming of our Torah communities, abusive and corrupt behavior can also grow, strangling what is most valuable, if left unchecked. In order to have a beautiful garden, we can really never become complacent about the weeding that goes along with it. The weeds look so much like the real thing, but they are out to strangle all that is good.

Scandals are G-d’s way of nudging us to get weeding. So after the denial, the shock, and the disillusionment have passed, we can be grateful that G-d still thinks we are up for the job.

Abuse causes agony not just for the victim, but for the victim’s family members as well, who are shunned and silenced, while well-connected perpetrators are supported. And yet, when I asked my husband just last week, what he would say if he had to tell a person in one sentence why this way of life was valuable, he responded that he would still say, “It brings the deepest pleasure possible.”

What’s different about my family now is that we are finally no longer so complacent. If it feels in some ways like we’re living under an oppressive regime in our midst, we are coming to understand now that we’re the ones responsible for letting that situation develop. Through education, however, we can enlighten each other about the frum-style intimidation and cover-up tactics that have become so successfully entrenched. In the future, things can really be the way we thought they once were.

We want to wear the outer garbs and perform the rituals as long as they are vehicles that can continue to bring us to a higher level of consciousness about G-d. Unwilling to surrender the soul of Judaism, we’re craving integrity. Parents can devote their lives to instilling purity in their children, and then have their efforts destroyed overnight. May Hashem give us all the courage to keep waking up.

Bracha Goetz serves on the Executive Committee of the national organization, Jewish Board of Advocates for Children. She also coordinates a Jewish Big Brothers and Big Sisters Program in Baltimore, Maryland, and is the Harvard-educated author of eleven children’s books, including Aliza in MitzvahLand, What Do You See in Your Neighborhood? and The Invisible Book. For presentations, you’re welcome to email bgoetzster@gmail.com.
This article originally appeared in the Jewish Press (4/23/10)

41 comments on “Waking Up Is Hard To Do

  1. well, I was hoping for ongoing discussion of this topic, if that’s what you mean. however, I will wait and see how the topics here at this site evolve, as always.

  2. Michoel, thanks for your reply. I feel that Ben-David is talking from within the community, about another group which is within our community. as fellow Jews, these are valid discussions. I realize that, as you say, you don’t have any problem with a discussion taking place, but I also don’t feel there’s a problem with people identifying certain groups which they feel are relevant. I do appreciate your reply though. thanks.

  3. Steve,
    Where did I say that? Aderaba, I feel strongly that these things should be discussed. I was referring only the Ben-David’s seeming angst toward the more right wing community. One can discuss these things in a way that is talking about US and one can discuss in a way that is talking about THEM. Ben-David, time and again on this blog, has chosen the later.

  4. Our duty is to use discretion and to speak more from personal experience and less from impressions absorbed from the media, including blogs.

  5. Michoel; We are discussing aspects of a community which we are ALL a part of. therefore we are ALL trying to approach this in the best way possible. one aspect of a community discussion is discussion of ALL topics which people feel a need to discuss.

    telling people they should not discuss a topic at ALL leave absolutely NO room for compromise, flexibility, or further discussion.

  6. The Chafetz Chaim makes quite clear that the heter of saying something for toeles is not merely predicated on there being a benefit (toeles), but that the speaker’s (or writer’s) SOLE INTENT is toeles. When a writer criticizes a segment of the Orthodox community with all the gusto of a cat jumping on a mouse, it is pretty clear that there is no heter of toeles.

    If a large number of intelligent Jews (yes, a redundancy) decide that a particular path makes sense to them as the best path, it is exceedingly disrespectful to de-legitimize their decision. This applies in all directions. Furthermore, it is quite clear and obvious to any bar daas, that such criticism ALWAYS HAS THE OPPOSITE OF THE INTENDED EFFECT, and therefore demonstrate a complete lack of sincerity on the part of the criticizer.

  7. I am amazed that this topic is here and have to rub my eyes in disbelief at the accuracy and insightfulness of some of the comments here.


    there is no doubt that one problem in our community is over-emphasis on one’s outward appearance, and whether one adopts the style which is in conformance with everyone else.

    there is much evidence that there has been way way too much glossing over of genuine issues and deficiencies which need to be dealt with. such as habitual behavior which leads to cutting corners and seeking shortcuts in one’s dealings with the secular world. And disregarding certain guidelines for modes of behavior which would be more correct.

  8. As someone whose background straddles both the MO and Chareidei world, I can comfortably say that the older (and hopefully wiser) I get, the more comfortable I am with the MO world and the less comfortable I am in the Chareidei world.

  9. Bob, the details are important but when I am comfortable with the integrity of the commentators, as I am with all those in this thread, I believe it is toeles (purposeful) to listen, question and learn from what was said.

    Rabbi Shimon Green beautifully expressed in the shiur that was posted last week, that at the root of Torah learning is humility. He stated that when someone says something we disagree with, we become greater Torah Jews when we try to understand why this person has an opinion different than us. It’s a tremendous opportunity for us to learn and grow. We may still arrive at a different conclusion, but we will nonetheless be wiser in the end.

  10. Mark, we both know discussion of a given topic can be valid or invalid. It’s in the details.

  11. Bob,

    Although this site includes sharing stories, that is by no means its main purpose.

    The purpose is to support BTs in whatever ways possible. And part of that support is letting people express their problems and frustrations in the areas which the frum world has failed them and their families and friends.

    Our posek has ruled that is a legitimate toeles and therefore falls within the boundaries of permitted speech.

    There are of course limits to this expression and I’m not claiming we make the perfect decision all the time, but I do know that our Rabbinic Advisors are still comfortable and more than satisfied with the work we are try to do here.

    I just came back from the Torah U Mesorah Convention and if talking about problems and issues in our communities was Loshon Hara there would probably be no convention. And most of the major American Torah leaders were there, so I’m assuming they’re halachically ok with the expression of communal problems.

  12. Once upon a time, this blog was for BT’s to share their stories, including “war stories”. While this still goes on and can still have value, there are altogether too many attempts by commenters to stigmatize groups of Jews. These attempts often look like limited personal experiences grafted onto unlimited echoes from other blogs and media reports. I guess we can all be adults and evaluate these in relation to our own experience, but they still often smack of high-test lashon hara that we should not have to read in the first place.

  13. I agree that the conduct described in the post is reprehensible and caoable of instilling a serious case of being cynical about Torah observance. That being said, R B Wein once commented that one must be careful to distinguish between Jews and Judasim. I agree with some of Shua Cohen’s assessments. However, I don’t believe that the issues and phenomena are limited to amy one hashkafic label, since, we know that wholesale lack of adherence to CM knows no such boundaries.

  14. Shua writes on immaturity and narcissism:
    these are traits that cut across not only the entire spectrum of Orthodoxy Jewry — but (are typical) of American secular society in general.
    That you tar BTs and Chareidim with these labels alone is patently unfair and untrue.
    – – – – – – – – – – –
    … except that the Haredi world explicitly trumpets its superiority to the rest of the spectrum, and BTs who become Haredi profess to have left American secular society behind for something better.

    More to the point: Torah observance is supposed to help us identify and grow out of these negative faults of perception and character. The Torah life is supposed to put us in touch with reality.

    But in the Haredi world Torah observance itself is often distorted into a piety that serves as a vehicle for narcissism and escapism.

    And that appeals to matching unhealthy impulses among some BTs.

    You conclude your post with a good example of pious escapism:

    So yes, we do live in an “upside-down world” as you suggested. But, in a certain sense, this is the result of the Divine decree singular to our era. Ultimately, we may not have all of the solutions to our crises, nor even the best ones among those that we strive to implement.
    – – – – – – – – – –
    Uhhhhh – we’re talking about basic, long-established norms like men supporting their families instead of living off “kest” and the dole. You don’t need a Rebbe who’s a prophet – or “da’as Torah” – to figure out what needs correcting.

    A lot of the pain now hitting the Haredi world is self-inflicted, and a result of distortions of long-standing Torah-based social and ethical norms.

    But when the yardstick itself is crooked – and propping up an unhealthy elitism….

    (Yes this is also true of left-wing MO – their intellectual laxity is coming back to haunt them.)

    The purpose of the “chevlei mashiach” – as Rav Dessler and others explain – is to throw people back upon their assumptions, and get them to rethink and renew their commitment.

    The upheavals are not arbitrary – they are calls to action, not blind submission, abdication of responsibility, or shrugging ignorance.

  15. Ben-David:

    > “I HAVE seen immaturity, narcissism, romantic notions, and abdication of adult responsibilities.”

    >> I don’t doubt it. But I truly believe that these are traits that cut across not only the entire spectrum of Orthodoxy Jewry — from the young “have everythings” of the 5-Towns (who drive around in their late-model Saab convertibles each summer to and from their beach clubs), to the brats of Brooklyn who turn their noses up at any boy who isn’t learning in Lakewood — but of American secular society in general. That you tar BTs and Chareidim with these labels alone is patently unfair and untrue.

    > “As the years pass we — and they — see the negative aspects of this community. Just like the original post…”

    >> I absolutely agree with this, as well as the last paragraph of your comment. The Chareidi communities of America and Eretz Yisrael are in crisis. Baruch Hashem, the issues are at long last being openly addressed — as Bracha Goetz does so eloquently here…as Yonasan Rosenblum, Yitzchak Adlerstein, et al, are doing on CrossCurrents, and as Yakov Horowitz is doing in various forums. There are many notable others.

    But again, your implication is that crises are the exclusive province of BTs and Chareidism. But we surely know that this is not so. The MO world is collapsing into post-Orthodoxy on the left, and the center is confronted with the “flipping out” phenomenon whereby the next generation is hemorrhaging to the right. Rabbi Shlomo Riskin concluded years ago that Modern Orthodoxy would not survive in an American environment (when he said this, his upper-west-side-of-Manhattan audience, in reaction, was aghast). This was a major impetus for his making Aliyah and taking as many families with him as he could.

    There is a prophetic aspect which underlies all of this. I assume that you are familiar with the concept of “chevlei Moshiach,” the time just before the final redemption when Klal Yisrael will suffer from the severe pain associated with labor and childbirth. The Chessed L’Avraham wrote in this regard: “Israel’s troubles will become as grave as can be, and they will suffer intense pain…The reason for this is that the Divine Presence will judge it’s household…” (Chessed L’Avraham, 1:17)

    So yes, we do live in an “upside-down world” as you suggested. But, in a certain sense, this is the result of the Divine decree singular to our era. Ultimately, we may not have all of the solutions to our crises, nor even the best ones among those that we strive to implement. Those perfect solutions to our problems will need to await the advent of the final geula, with the coming of Eliyahu HaNavi — may it be VERY soon.

  16. B-D, I and others have seen something quite different. That’s normal, because people, including commenters on blogs, seldom see the entire big picture. Some of your associates were, as you say, “subtly disdainful”. You have done them one better by hitting us over the head.

  17. I am the child of parents who started their path to Torah in their 40s – so I straddle the BT and FFB worlds and perspectives.

    My parents’ BT path (like that of my wife) was marked by maturity and intellectual honesty. Unfortunately I did not see this in most of the younger BTs that they – and now I – have opened our homes to.

    I HAVE seen immaturity, narcissism, romantic notions, and abdication of adult responsibilities.

    Yes, that’s right Shua – all the criticisms I have stated were based on preponderant personal experience – confirmed to me by educators and others who deal with BT and Haredi circles.

    Both my wife and I have BT friends and coworkers who have drifted into the Israeli Haredi world. A considerable number of these people were subtly (and not-so-subtly) disdainful of our own choice to live in the modern mainstream of Torah Judaism.

    As the years pass we – and they – see the negative aspects of this community.

    Just like the original post.

    Many have expressed to us their real distress and disillusionment – as the financial, social, and educational limitations of their communities press upon them, and feel less and less like what Torah living was supposed to be about.

  18. Hello Judy Resnick:

    I thank you for your kind words, and I do remember that you had the last comment on the “Aliyah” thread, and that it was most sensible. This is true, also, of your thoughts on the topic at hand (at #9). I would commend that comment to both Ben-David and Abe, as representative of an “agenda” that employs the kind of positive and constructive language that, I believe, is a closer reflection of Toras Emes…and would therefore be a shonda to dismiss.

  19. Let’s stop bashing Shua Cohen and admire the fact that he raised six children who are Shomer Torah u’Mitzvot. That is a big accomplishment in this upside down world, and I for one salute him for being a successful BT parent. Shua Cohen and I personally disagree on the issue of Aliyah and living complacently chutz la’aretz, but we should recognize that he is a smart man raising important points that we all should think about.

  20. Abe (at #16) wrote: “As if the Shuas and Bobs of this blog don’t have agendas.”

    Of course we have agendas, Abe. The only question is, are they helpful or hurtful? filled with constructive insights or incitable stereotypes? expressed by helpful language or derogatory diatribes?

    As you clearly identify Ben-David’s agenda as representative of some sort of “truth,” then I plead guilty to your criticism of my dismissal of it…and proudly so.

  21. I found Ben-David’s comments true, insightful, cleverly stated, and very much aligned with the reality of all the BTs I know, including myself — whether we’d admit it or not.

    This is the upside-down world we live in where truth is dismissed as an “agenda” (Shua) and a well-justified point of view can be dismissed as “shooting from the hip” (Bob). As if the Shuas and Bobs of this blog don’t have agendas.

  22. Ben-David:

    Here is a list of pejoratives (in order of their appearance) regarding “chareidim” that can be gleaned from your latest post (#13):

    blind followers; dress-up players (i.e. pretenders); inauthentic; abnormal; escapist; romanticistic (i.e. unreal); unhealthy; elitist; insecure; irrelevant.

    My friend, you clearly have an agenda here and it isn’t very pretty to behold. I, for one, wish you would take it somewhere else. The editors of BT have been most indulgent.

  23. B-D’s statement of the problem for BT’s, which is put forward as universal, does not fit my reality. I suspect that others also see it that way. We need more than shooting from the hip.

    The idea of living in the present to the best of our ability does make sense. Drawing on our traditions—which are not fantasies—can actually help us to do that.

  24. … let’s not keep Bob Miller waiting:
    I await your proposed solution(s) or at least your discussion of solutions that are already being implemented.
    – – – – – – – – – – – –
    The solution is for people – both FFB and BT – to live a Torah life IN THEIR OWN DAY AND AGE, IN THEIR OWN PLACE AND TIME.

    That means that people raised and educated in the modern West shouldn’t throw over their education to blindly follow charismatic rabbis.

    Nor should they “play dress up” – wearing the garb of 17th-century Polish goyim in an attempt to recreate a romanticized nostalgia for a European experience that never was – and is not authentically theirs.

    Nor should they let themselves be persuaded that Torah Judaism excuses one from the demands of normal life in this world – when in fact the Torah is not intended to insulate one from this life, but to really live it with its fullest meaning.

    Torah Judaism is not about escapism. And if you believe the Torah is relevant to your life – it should not be an exercise in nostalgia or romance.

    Yet the cliche of the BT motivated by unhealthy desires to escape painful reality is real – and dovetails with the same unhealthy motivations in the Haredi world.

    Torah Judaism is not about elitism.

    Yet the cliche of the BT who uses Torah as a crowbar or hammer in existing relationships is real – and dovetails with the same unhealthy, insecurity-driven elitism of the Haredi world.

    The solution is to act like Torah Judaism is relevant to us, here and now. And to live it in our here and now.

  25. I happen to like both communities (and in a small town, if you leave anyone out you are going to be mighty lonely.) Having said that, everyone has his or her problems, and, as the author says, we have to weed our own little corner of the garden rather than dump poison (e.g, insulting each other)on the whole thing.

  26. Let’s face it, there is a great deal of superficiality in both the MO and chareidi communities, albeit of different types. That is what’s disillusioning to baalai tshuva, who may have sought out the frum world because of unhappiness with the superficiality of the non-frum lifestyle. It hurts to realize that there’s NO place where outward appearances and materialism are not extremely important.

  27. This is in reply to Ben-David’s comment: “many of them [BTs] jump right over the middle-of-the-road Young Israel/YU/Modern Orthodox communities that they could live quite happily in – dismissing them as less “authentic” – and go to play dress up with the Haredim.”

    I’m sorry, but I find this statement to be patronizingly objectionable. As a ba’al teshuva of some thirty years now, I did not “jump over” anything, but rather ‘passed through’ Modern Orthodoxy — with much gratitude to those MOs who positively influenced me on my journey).

    But yes, I determined that it was not the derech for me. I was not happy living in, what I perceived to be, an overly superficial MO community, and with increased learning and commitment moved to the right. You may fail to respect the intellectual integrity of those, like myself, whose journeys took them through Modern Orthodoxy and beyond, but I proudly play “dress up with the Haredim” — to coin your condescending phrase — not because of, but in-spite of the many problems plaguing the chareidi community.

    But if it makes you feel any better, I will tell you that of my six children — all educated in chareidi institutions — there has been a divergence of paths. Three are Modern Orthodox, and three are yeshivish chareidi. I have no objection at all to their chosen directions in life, and I’m grateful to the Ribbono Shel Olam that they are all living with Torah as their guide.

  28. OK, the best solution is for us BT’s to be the best possible Jews we can be, both l’makom and l’chaveiro; to take seriously dina d’malchusa dina and uphold business ethics as well as the relevant halachos in Choshen Mishpat; to refuse to let other frum Jews and established Jewish organizations off the hook on sensitive topics such as covering up allegations of fraud and pedophilia. Most importantly, let us BT’s teach our children not by lecture but by living example and role model what it means to really be a true frum Jew as well as an exemplary human being.

  29. Ben-David,

    I await your proposed solution(s) or at least your discussion of solutions that are already being implemented.

  30. Forgot the most important ones:

    The culture of “Daas Torah” which leads people to abdicate personal responsibility, and ascribes prophetic powers to modern scholars.

    A corrupt political culture geared towards short-term goals, that reinforces elitist/separatist views towards others.

    Together with the Daas Torah phenomenon, this culture concentrates power and leaves many people dependent both economically and psychologically on those very powerful people.

  31. One of the greatest paradoxes of the BT movement is the fact that BTs – who are usually seen as spiritual seekers – in fact focus enormously on externals in making some very important decisions.

    In particular, many of them jump right over the middle-of-the-road Young Israel/YU/Modern Orthodox communities that they could live quite happily in – dismissing them as less “authentic” – and go to play dress up with the Haredim.

    I can’t help but think of this in connection with the writer’s description of their dissolution.

    I am not saying that these incidents do not occur in other communities.

    But it’s clear that aspects of Haredi culture most definitely help the crooked justify the crookedness.

    The elitism that says “I am better than others”.

    The specifically economic elitism that says “I am above working for a living – the regular rules of life don’t apply to me. I am entitled to other people’s money/support.”

    The educational dead ends that leave people in dire straits.

    The externalized culture based on comparisons, honor, and “what will others think” that leads to shushing things up and a “as long as nobody finds out” mentality.

    The culture of chumra-based one-upmanship that forbids permitted pleasures and narrows people’s choices and opportunities.

    All of these contribute to the problems – and to the problematic reaction to negative incidents.

  32. Somewhere along the line, everyone has learned that the clothing, the manner, or the title don’t make the person, but rather his/her inner reality. Maybe we have been too lazy in thinking that everyone who looks the part of an ehrlicher Yid really is one. Nevertheless, on examination we will find that there are indeed many ehrlicher Yidden here and around the world. We have to do a bit more probing to find out who they are so we can join them and support them.

  33. as far as the abuse things goes – this week at the Torah Umesorah convention there will be presentation of a frum safety program whose mandate is to educate frum kids about inappropriate touching, etc. it is called T.O.P.S. and the developer (Mrs R. Weissman, a frum educator) can be reached at topsprograms@gmail.com

    people should know about this program and request that it be featured in their children’s school safety programs. speak to your principal and get it into your children’s curriculum.

    may we all have only nachas from our children, and may Hashem have only nachas from us all.

  34. There are still some valuable organizations. Give your money directly to chinuch, not to some faceless entity that exists only to grab money, but to a genuine educational institution in desperate need of donations to meet its payroll. Think any local Orthodox cheder (boys’ elementary school) or Bais Yaakov (girls’ school). If you dislike the policies of XYZ School then donate to ABC School. It’s not always easy to determine whether the person asking for donations is really a Jew in need or someone masquerading as a tzedakah case to get a handout.

  35. Two decades ago, there were certain Jewish charities that I donated to enthusiastically. I now realize that may of them either do not live up to their reputations or do not accomplish as much as I thought they did. One specific organization in particular was revealed to be amazingly corrupt and phony.

    Ten years ago, a friend told me: Don’t give money to organizations, instead give directly to specific needy individuals. I now realize that he was very correct for many reasons.

    The greatest blessings seem to come into my life when I gave directly to specific needy individuals, not when I gave to tax-exempt organizations that spend a lot of money and effort on: fundraising, redundant expensive advertising, hiring relatives, getting endorsements from Rabbis who don’t really know what the organization is doing and attacking competing organizations by any means possible.

    When I gave directly to specific needy individuals, I lost the tax deduction, but the blessings of success that came into my life were far more valuable than the tax deductions.

    If you insist on giving to organizations, then only give to those which reveal their finances to the public. If any organization tells you that you are crazy because you asked to see their financial records, then NEVER give to them.

  36. I can’t believe that I’m the only one commenting. Kudos Bracha for this wonderful post. I’ve been very down about all the garbage. The father of the mashgiach of my son’s yeshiva was recently jailed for graft and bribery–what the heck is going on around here. This wasn’t the reason I chucked out my jeans twenty five years ago. Thanks for telling it straight.

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