By S. Friedman, Matzav.com
I recently came across a news tidbit involving a famous football player generously sponsoring scholarships for 9 graduating high school students. How much for each aspiring collegian? One thousand dollars. Nice gesture, for sure, but it struck me how a donation of $9,000 from a multi-millionaire athlete is seen by the news establishment as noteworthy. Though I have given this phenomenon thought in the past, seeing the $9,000 donation make headlines made me again swell with pride.
Vice President Joe Biden famously averaged $369 a year in charity giving. Our much more “openhanded” President gave $2,350 in the year 2000, or about 1% of his income. These are the leaders of our nation, and supposedly the cream of the crop. I don’t doubt that almost any breadwinner amongst our community has given money to tzedakkah that dwarfs those amounts. The average dinner we attend cost the $360 that Biden shelled out for an entire year, and many balei tzedakkah who opened their doors on Purim gave much more than the $9,000 on that single night than this athlete did.
What’s interesting about the generosity of our people is that it seems not to be limited to those of us that are fully observant of Hashem’s mitzvos. Our brethren who identify themselves as “traditional Jews” are the world’s greatest benefactors by any measure. Larry Ellison (founder of Oracle) gives over $100 million annually to charity. Mayor Mike Bloomberg has given $200 million annually. The list goes on. A Who’s Who of successful Jewish businessmen regularly dominates the world’s top donors list.
Now I may be tempted to shout this from the rooftops, as a rejoinder to those who never bore of the anti-Semitic “cheap Jews” rhetoric, but I won’t. I don’t have to answer to the masses. Eisav sonei es Yaakov, and that’s not going to change. However, a lá Rav Levi Yitzchok of Berditchiv zt”l, I would like to produce a “mi k’amcha Yisroel” moment.
We know the financial burden of living a frum lifestyle is vastly different from one that is not. For instance, consider public school, no kosher food, no bar mitzvahs, minuscule weddings, no support past marriage for children, no matzos, no esrogim. No tefillin, no sheitels, no mezuzahs, no Sifrei Torah, no yeshiva/seminary in Eretz Yisroel. The list goes on. These expenses are absent from people who are not frum Yidden, but for us it is standard. We also can’t generate any income on Shabbos, making us approximately 14.2% behind the eight ball when it comes to making a living.
Here’s another list. Tomchei Shabbos, Bikor Cholim, Chai Lifeline, your son’s Yeshiva, your daughter’s Bais Yaakov. Your old Yeshiva, your local shul, Hatzolo, Shuvu, Sinai Academy. Oorah, Lev L’Achim, Bonei Oilem. The list goes on. There are numerous Yeshivos and organizations with multi-million dollar budgets that all get supported through our generous contributions.
Whether it be the multi millionaire dedicating a new building for a loved one, or a Kollel Avreich giving a $18 check to help out, the proportion of our communities’ benevolence is staggering. Recently I’ve heard/read people complaining on the extravagant spending on Shalach Monos, and a similar sentiment about Pesach hotels is surely percolating as well. The merits of how people lavishly spend their money on what others consider frivolities is another topic. In the meantime, I just want to reflect on the Kiddush Hashem that our philanthropic people make and proudly declare, “Mi K’amcho Yisroel!”