A unique gathering to discuss the annual tzedakah distribution of the Oneg Shabbos V’Yom Tov organization took place this week at the home of Rav Shmuel Halevi Wosner in Bnei Brak with the participation of Rav Chaim Kanievsky and Rav Yaakov Meir Schechter. These gedolim came together in support of the multi-branched organization headed by Reb Efraim Stern of Yerushalayim.
This organization has earned the approbation of gedolim, who witness its far-reaching efforts up close. For the past thirty-six years, Oneg Shabbos V’Yom Tov has illuminated thousands of homes in Eretz Yisroel, injecting rays of light in dejected hearts and lifting the spirits of widows and orphans. The food packages they receive every Shabbos and Yom Tov are plentiful, providing enough leftovers to sustain the recipients throughout most of the week.
The crowning glory of these varied distributions is the annual Kimcha D’Pischa campaign, the most comprehensive distribution in the world, which is implemented simultaneously in various locations in Eretz Yisroel. Thousands of families from all sectors of Klal Yisroel receive bountiful food packages with Pesach provisions, including matzos, wine, grape juice, meat, olive oil, eggs, and boxes of fruits and vegetables.
Recently, due to the downward economic spiral, Oneg Shabbos V’Yom Tom has been inundated with requests for help, while the stream of incoming donations has notably decreased. Due to the importance of this Pesach assistance, Rav Wosner hosted an event in his home to strengthen the organization that keeps hunger at bay in thousands of homes.
Rav Wosner, who now rarely opens his home for meetings, greeted Rav Chaim Kanievsky with great warmth, and they fondly reminisced about their shared past, when they visited the Chazon Ish together nearly seventy years ago. He also welcomed Rav Yaakov Meir Schechter at the meeting in which his son, Rav Chaim Halevi Wosner, also participated.
Before the meeting got underway, a letter sent by the gaon av bais din of the Eidah Hachareidis of Yerushalayim, Rav Yitzchok Tuvia Weiss, to Rav Wosner was read aloud. Rav Weiss expressed his regret at being unable to attend and proclaimed his support for the organization.
During the course of the meeting, the gedolim heard details about the difficult financial situation in Eretz Yisroel. Even those families that manage to get by throughout the year on the breadwinners’ meager incomes simply cannot contend with the astronomical Yom Tov expenditures. They collapse under the mounting expenses and are forced to contact Oneg Shabbos V’Yom Tov.
After details of the dire situation were presented, Oneg Shabbos V’Yom Tov director R’ Efraim Stern, who has led the organization for 30 years, addressed the assemblage. He described the many desperate requests that reach his ears and the manner in which these requests have multiplied many times in recent years. He indicated that the number of new applications for assistance is in inverse proportion to the amount of money being donated. Both the increased demand and the decreased donations are due to the current global financial crisis.
Rav Stern does his utmost to give a positive answer to the hundreds of pleas for new assistance coming through 24 hours a day. Just imagine for a moment that a head of a family who has never had to come on to tzedakah in his life, after weeks and weeks of heart-wrenching agony, realizing that it’s almost Pesach, finally breaks and makes the call, only to hear Rav Stern’s tear-choked voice answer that he is not sure that he can help him. Then there are tears on both sides of the phone.
The gedolim discussed at length how the organization should allocate its funds, and they expressed their concern over the financial woes of so many Torah families in Eretz Yisroel. Together, they formulated plans and strategies that would enable Oneg Shabbos V’Yom Tov to continue its monumental work.
Oneg Shabbos V’Yom Tov is currently meeting the needs of more than 10,000 families in Eretz Yisroel, who will be receiving a Pesach package valued at $300.
Rav Stern hopes that between now and Pesach, enough donations will come in to cover the existing enrollment and all the new requests. He realizes that in order to get enough donations, both small and large, in such a short period of time, people in all financial strata will have to open their hearts and pockets despite their own constraints. He remains confident in the goodness of Klal Yisroel.
In his remarks, Rav Wosner underscored his yedidus for over 30 years with Rav Stern, describing him as the individual who shoulders responsibility for the whole operation. Rav Wosner then affixed his signature to a letter requesting that Klal Yisroel support this undertaking by pledging substantial contributions to the organization.
The gathering came to a close on a note of awe and passion, with the gedolim giving a brachah to righteous Yidden all over the world who respond to this request for help that they merit warmth and generosity and all that their hearts desire.