Thursday, November 30, 2006

It's a big mitzvah

Last night, I received my first phone solicitation. It began innocently enough with the phone ringing, Gabe answering, and his handing the phone over with the information "speaking in Hebrew." I took the phone, expecting something, anything but what transpired. There was a nice person on the other end, asking me if I've ever heard of Akim. I told her that Akim was familiar to me, which was true - In my head, I tried to remember exactly what they do and was it connected to something having to do with the disabled community.

She told me that it's all about connecting and assisting the special needs community, particularly those with mental retardation. She quickly (it's always fast here) told me about the help given to families with newborn babies, and how that help grown to encompass home care, respite services, voactional training and independent living (just to new name a few of the things that Akim does). Would I like to give and of course, I can put in on my credit card. I hamma hee for a few moments (which is what Akiva says when he's not sure what else to say). It's a "mitzvah g'dola/big" to give of course, she tells me. I tell her that I'm the parent of a retarded person myself and I know how important it is to support organizations like these - yes, would you like to support the Akiva Skop fund. I ask for her to send me something and get the usual, it costs money to send and don't you want to give tonight, it's a "mitzvah g'dola." I put her on hold and tell Ira that I can't say no to this nice Jewish phone lady and that I'll make a modest donation. I return to the phone, give her our info and thank her for her work of the evening. I let her know that even though my gift might be modest, that we also give abroad to other organizations that do similiar things. I hang up the phone and remember my father telling stories of the various tzedakah men who would show up outside his office at the shul in Malverne. He had regulars who stopped in, often for coffee, some for lunch (in those days, I can recall a very religious man who would come back to our house, he had already vetted it for kashrut on a previous visit, and allow my mother to heat him up a can of Rokeach veg soup, which he would eat with a piece of challah. This would never happen these days) and all came for a little help, a little tzedakah. I don't think my father ever sent off anyone empty handed. He kept his discretionary funds for these kinds of purposes - small, localized giving and he enjoyed the giving and the receiving - the interaction with all kinds of jews and non-jews who knew that the chief rabbi of Malverne was a generous one.

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