Crown Heights – The rising numbers of panhandlers at the main shul of 770 Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, has led the ones in charge to instate a new rule: Pay for your stay.
Charity collectors who roam around the large shul, its lobby or entrance throughout the day are now asked to pay a symbolic $5 a day from what they collect.
One outraged panhandler has told the New York Post. “Poor people collecting money have to pay? It’s like extortion.”
And some congregants like real estate owner Mendel Drizin refused to believe it. “It’s a lie from top to bottom!” he was quoted as saying. “These rabbis are not poor people – they don’t need the $5 for people to beg inside.”
The policy was created by R’ Avrohom Holtzberg, one of the 5 gabboim elected to the shul by Crown Heights residents (the role of Congregation Lubavitch Inc. as administrators of the shul is being contested in court by the Chabad establishment).
While Holtzberg was not reachable for comment, two of his colleagues told COLlive.com the move was more than justified.
“Many of the tzedaka collectors are not unemployed people,” one of them said, asking to remain anonymous as financials was Holtzberg’s responsibility.
“What we have here is an open shul that anyone could come, spend the whole day here and collect for himself or an institution, and we are left paying the maintenance and electricity bills each month,” he said.
He added that “what is being publicized is not honest.”
Another gabbai, also asked not to be named, said: “They get free shelter, coffee, cake, a chance to raise money – $5 is not a percentage.”