Let’s Go Shopping
July 21, 2022
Ahavas Tzedakah, founded by Dr. and Mrs. Shanik, has been helping local families in need for the past 30 years. Working hand in hand with many local rabbanim, the organization ensures that donors’ tzedakah money is maximized to the fullest to benefit those who need it in the most dignified way possible.
Rabbi Eliezer Gewirtzman, dayan of Coventry Shul and a member of the va’ad harabbanim of Ahavas Tzedakah together with Rabbi Henoch Shachar and Rabbi Yosef Zimbal, took the time to sit down with us to give us a glimpse into the behind-the-scenes of Ahavas Tzedakah.
How would the Rav define the responsibility of the kehillah and rav with regard to caring for the needs of members of the community?
I’ll start with the responsibility of the kehillah at large. We all know the famous Chazal, “Aniyei ircha kodmin—The poor people in your city come first.” This halachah, which is brought very clearly in Shulchan Aruch, states that we all have the responsibility to look out for our neighbors. We need to make sure that they are able to stay afloat. If one knows that their neighbor is suffering, it is incumbent on them to make sure they have what they need.
In addition, we must make sure they are not suffering specifically because of our success. If we’re successful and others are not, it’s harder for them than if they were to live in a place where no one is successful.
Ahavas Tzedakah is unique in that they work with a board of rabbanim from across the spectrum. What is the role of the rabbanim in the organization?
The rabbanim are very involved in setting the policies of the organization. They decide what should be considered a necessity, what the application should look like, what the criteria and vetting process should look like, and how the funds should be distributed.
The process helps vet the applicants and makes sure the funds are allocated as needed. Of course, it can’t be a cookie-cutter process. For example, people can find themselves in a situation in which their income is adequate, but they have suddenly incurred large expenses such as expensive therapies for a child, which leave them floundering. The rabbanim evaluate all the factors and then make a decision. Sometimes, families will only need assistance through a specific crisis.
Can you give us a little insight into the decision-making process?
We wish we could help every single family that comes our way, and we try to give every family what they need. Last year, we distributed over $3 million, and if there is room in the budget this year to give more, we will. This is why each donation is crucial to the organization—the more money is raised, the more families will receive assistance.
Usually, funds are allocated according to family size and are given out Yom Tov time. Based on the needs and what we have to offer, we also try to give a little bit of extra when we can.
How does Ahavas Tzedakah verify the needs of the families on their list?
There is a questionnaire that families fill out that helps us get a picture of where a family is holding financially. In addition, one of the organization’s rabbanim contacts the family’s rav to discuss the case, and we continue to touch base with the family’s rav over time to reevaluate. If the family reports on their application a higher income than previous years, we inquire further and ask the family’s rav for more information. Perhaps the parent just got a higher-paying job but the family still has a huge amount of credit card debt, so they’re still struggling. We take all these factors into account.
Ahavas Tzedakah supports people who are really, really struggling. The organization ensures that donors can rest easy, knowing that those around them have what they need. In the olden days, cities had a tax for citizens that would be distributed to aniyim. We obviously can’t do that these days, but it shows the importance of this kind of tzedakah.
How do families come on board?
The family fills out an application, sometimes after being referred by their rav. In addition, when we advertise for fundraising purposes, there are usually people who reach out to ask for assistance. The office staff at Ahavas Tzedakah is extremely warm, helpful, and accommodating. We’re constantly looking for ways to help the community in a way that is as bakavod’ik as possible, so families shouldn’t feel any shame when reaching out.
How do families receive and use the funds?
We use a card system in which each family is issued a debit card. There is a large list of Lakewood stores that participate, and the family can go to any one of those stores to purchase what they need. We try very hard not to place limitations on the families in terms of what they can buy. Whether it’s in clothing stores, sefarim stores, or food stores, they have the flexibility to purchase what they need.
Is there a parting thought that the Rav would like to share with readers?
In two places, Rashi cites a Chazal that if a person loses a dollar on the street and someone else picks it up and uses it, the person who lost it gets the reward of chessed for the use of that dollar. If a person receives a reward when he doesn’t even realize he was doing a chessed, imagine the schar of one who does realize!
Of course, we know we are doing a chessed when we give tzedakah, but we don’t often see the results; we don’t see what someone’s Yom Tov looks like due to the tzedakah we gave. When we come to realize the depth of chessed that is the result of the tzedakah we gave, it’s an unbelievable thing. The menuchas hanefesh of enjoying a Yom Tov when the basic expenses are covered is not something that is easily put into words.
It’s impossible for us to know how far our dollar went, but Hakadosh Baruch Hu is definitely keeping cheshbon. In the zechus of being nosei b’ol im chaveiro, may we always have what we need and never need to rely on others for sustenance.
Our Entire Community Is Going Shopping with Ahavas Tzedakah!
Imagine shopping in a place where there are never any long lines, the prices are always great, and everything you buy comes with an eternal-satisfaction guarantee.
No, this is not a dream; this is your chance to impact the lives of thousands of local families in need by going shopping for them.
What will you buy?
Will you shop for the family that can’t afford to fill up their grocery wagon and stock their cupboards with essentials? Or the family that never visits the shoe or hat store because there is just no way they can pay the bill? Will you buy diapers or a pacifier? Containers or aluminum foil?
It’s up to you.
Not everyone is as fortunate as we are. When we need something, we head over to the store and buy it. Simple, right? Well, not for everyone. Thousands of our friends and neighbors simply cannot afford to buy their most basic needs. Let’s join together and shop for those in need just like we shop for ourselves. It’s the best deal you’ve ever seen, with 100% eternal satisfaction guaranteed.
Prepare your shopping list and check out now!
Show our friends and neighbors that you care today by visiting ShopForAT.com or calling 732-228-8688 and going shopping.