On Hillel Halkin’s “Who will support Israel’s Orthodox?”

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Some readers of this site may have caught Hillel Halkin’s piece in last week’s New York Sun in which he quoted at length from a letter from a girl named Sarah written soliciting contributions for her upcoming wedding. Halkin found the letter infuriating and berated the poor girl and the community from which she comes for turning to working people like him for tzedakah. He even questioned whether Sarah really exists.

At least on the latter score, Halkin can rest easy. By rather remarkable serendipity, I was able to check out Sarah’s story. It turns out that a neighbor of mine teaches Sarah in the Old Beis Yaakov Seminary in Jerusalem, where Sarah is completing the equivalent of a B.A. degree in music. The girl’s actual story is even sadder than that quoted by Halkin. Her mother passed away when she was ten (in Sarah’s arms) and her father is not emotionally stable or able to work. Sarah lived in a variety of foster homes after her mother’s passing. The young man she intends to marry also lost his mother when he was less than two, and after his father remarried shortly thereafter, was shuttled through a long series of foster homes.

Despite these inauspicious circumstances, it appears that Sarah and her husband-to-be have pretty good chances in life. She is very talented. A musical in which she starred recently played numerous times in Jerusalem, and he is described as a budding talmid chacham.

Halkin’s assertion that chareidim regularly turn to secular Jews like him for tzedakah is laughable. Down-and-out Jews are more likely to go door-to-door in chareidi nieghborhoods, even if they are not religious, than to affluent secular neighborhoods, like that in which Halkin lives. They know chareidi Jews are trained to give. Or they make come to one of the many soup kitchens founded by chareidi organizations, like Meir Panim or Chazon Yeshayahu, which primarily serve non-religious Jews.

According to a Bar Ilan University study chareidim contribute annually between four to seven times as much annually as their secular compatriots, despite constituting one of the poorest sectors of the Israeli population. And virtually every major volunteer organization in Israel serving the general Israeli population was founded by chareidim. Readers interested in the topic can check out my article “Uncaring Chareidim, Indeed” at www.jewishmediaresources.com.

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3 Responses

  1. Yaakov Menken says:

    Jonathan, how about posting the address for donations?

  2. Jeff Ballabon says:

    Gil – maybe you’re proving JR’s point: you get these by the truckload because you’re frum and likely to give; Halkin doesn’t because he isn’t.

  3. Gil Student says:

    I didn’t get Halkin’s point at all. I get a few letters like that each week. They are usually unverifiable and because of the high likelihood of fraud I throw them in the garbage. But this is not a new phenomenon at all. Why the sudden interest?