Our community is an incredibly benevolent one. Here, I mean the Melbourne community in general, across all groups. When there is someone in need, there is a charity fund, numerous ones, various Gemilus Chasodim organisations, formal and informal, that help with loans, food after illness or birth—the list goes on. We have every reason to be proud to not only have created a climate where Yidden are so caring and generous. These acts also form a cogent living example for our children so that they are exposed to an attitude of giving, caring and helping.
Are we doing enough? I don’t mean to ask whether individuals or organisations are coping with the requirements of those who are in need. I am particularly referring to the qualitative aspects of giving Tzedaka as opposed to the already established and measurable quantitative metric. For example, consider a family of N souls whose bread-winner no longer wins bread. That person and their family are supplemented generously with food, clothes, school fees and all manner of assistance. Baruch Hashem that their needs are being met. What of the bread-winner and his responsibilities?
It must be easy to become despondent and fall into an habitual trap where the mind is convinced that there is no light at the end of the tunnel. Meandering from day-to-day, week to week, year to year, I could well expect that a person loses focus and hope and despairs of ever getting to a point where either they don’t have to stand with their hand outstretched or even have to do so on less regular occasions. It is very expensive to live a particular life style and afford to put children through private schools. It is not getting easier.
Why is this thought invading my head space? I recall that we once wanted to ask whether a group, who were out of work, and Baruch Hashem well supported by various funds, would consider attending daily minyanim in Shules that were challenged to find a minyan for daily Shachris, or even Mincha/Ma’ariv in the winter months. In return, the Shules would donate funds towards the Charities that were supporting these individuals. I thought at the time that this was a no brainer: a win-win situation. Perhaps the new networking opportunities would even help in gaining employment, even part-time employment. Alas, I was wrong.
Administrators of these funds informed me that
“you can’t rely on them, they are unreliable lazy good for nothings”
“they wouldn’t get up on time anyway”
“our management thinks that this is a wrong approach”
I have to say that I was shocked. God forbid, if I was in a situation where I had to come for weekly help and couldn’t work. If I was, I’d offer my services even on a volunteer basis in any which way I could. What brings people to a point where they simply lose their way?
What are we missing? I think we are missing professional staff. I believe that we need to have a qualified professional social worker associate full-time with those in need and their families. That person would oversee the complete and more complex issues surrounding families and individuals and work with cognate professional to help as appropriate. Surely, this itself is a higher level of Tzedaka that could be performed and would help make those in need even partially better equipped to sustain their families. Anything has to be better than turning into a בטלן and יושבי קרנות?
Should we become more intelligent in the manner in which we appropriate certain acts of חסד? Is there a halachic imperative on the receiver to take part in acts designed to help them get back on their feet? Is it a two-way street from a Halachic perspective?
I ask these questions, not חס ושלום, to diminish the importance of what is being done. Rather, I wonder if we can do things a little better?