Friday, August 20, 2004

Continued from yesterday

Two stubborn men, each defending their own culture, and me in the middle: A baynonim moment if ever there was one.

To my right: the GT, the shteeble's gabbai tzeddaka, or administrator of the charity accounts a man whose ample stomach is surpassed only by his enormous heart. "I can't tell you the man's name." he says, "It's not proper. It's not discreet. And anyway, the highest form of charity is between two people who don't know each other."

To my left: the shul president, a good lawyer and a good friend, "I have a fiduciary responsibility to our members and to the institution,"he says,"Our building expansion depends on cooperation from the County and The State. I won't put that at risk. I can't involve the shul unless I'm given personal knowledge of the facts."

And in the middle: me. To the GT I say: "If you take the shul president into your confidence, we can raise much more money for our neighbor." To the president I say:"If you accept the GTs word, together we can do a wonderful act of kindness."

No dice.

Both men are sympathetic. Both men are apologetic. But both men are stubborn.

And perhaps something larger is at stake

"This is how Jews do things." says the GT as he rings off, "Informally. Discreetly. Privately. Its worked for 2000 years."

"There's a big picture here." concludes the shul president, as our conversation ends. "The shul's reputation. The expansion project. The trust of the membership. I can't jeopardize those things. I have an obligation to the shul. What if the GT himself has been deceived? Why won't the GT just tell me the man's name? I am an officer of the court. I'll be discreet. I just need to know the facts."

The last thing I say to both men is: "Ask your rabbi, please, and let me know." If I don't hear from them within the week, I'll circulate the GT's email under my own name. It won't be as well received as an official message from the shul, carrying the president's signature, but at least its something.

Readers, what is your view? Is either man on the side of angels? Or do we say a pox on them both?

FIN

Comments:

The shul president is totally wrong.  

MOC - I am not sure I disagree. I am leaning toward "they are both wrong" but I want to hear what people think, and why.  

IMO, the GT is on the angels' side. What strikes me is that the GT is not trusted by the pres to do his job. As for the pres- I don't quite understand how tzedakah squares with fiduciary responsibility. Tzedakah admits risk and doesn't flinch. It also could be that divulging a name may contribute to a sense of shame or embarrassment. I think it is far better to be embarrassed by the consequences of our good will than by exposing someone to further discomfort.  

They're both trying their best- and they're both letting details get in the way. Unfortunately, it sounds like they've set up a situation where one has to give and the other win. Is there no way for them both to save face? That seems to be what it's coming down to, at this point.  

I agree - it is a shame that one has to be right and the other wrong.

Unfortunately people sometimes misuse trust. The first question is why isn't the GT trustworthy? Assuming there is a good reason why the pres cannot trust the GT - here is the answer.

We can all agree that it would be best if the Pres could make the announcement without further details. However, that is not possible here. So if the GT cannot share information, the family in need would not get the money they really need. Therefore, he must compromise to raise money - though it should certainly be done in an appropriate way.

If the GT does not bend then how can he square his mesora with Tikkun Olam?  

First off, folks...the GT is associated with one organization "The shteeble". The president is the president of "the Shul". They don't work together, so neither one *needs* to trust the other...right? If I've been following this correctly.

To quote Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof "You're right, he's right, everyone's right!" The GT is right in that this may be embarrassing for the neighbor and thus diminishes the level of charity. You, Adam, are right in that you are trying to increase the amount of charity given to the "neighbor". And the shul president is right in that he's looking at the big picture. He wants to make sure his consituents can trust him when they are called upon to give in the future.

However, I think the GT should take the shul pres. into his confidence so that he may endorse this charity, and thus garner more charity for "the neighbor" without exposing his identity to the masses.

*sigh* we've all given before to causes that were unworthy and felt like chumps afterward.  

Yes, Noa's right. The two men represent different institutions - different communties, really - and as I've been recording, these two communties - though both are Orthodox, and committed to halacha, do not take the same view of things.  

I forgot to tell everyone the story about my Zayde who once gave to a worthy organization who helps needy children in the homeland. Well, it turned out that he was duped by the evil forces at the "Holy Land Foundation" made famous by funding terrorism. He felt bad, but it does shed some light on my beliefs about tzedekah.  
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