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Poor people deserve respect too

I was checking out the scene on Pico Boulevard on Saturday night in Los Angeles and I got to talking with this poor Jewish fellow standing out in front of Nagilla Pizza asking for money to pay his medical bills. He seemed like a reasonable enough guy so I gave him $10 and had a nice little chat with him about life and his situation.

I also had the opportunity to watch how people react to someone collecting money first hand. The man had plenty to say, as since he was laid off from his company selling time shares and had multiple strokes hes gotten this completely different and sometimes sickening view of the frum community where he asks people for money on a daily basis. Now, I wasnt there to do anything besides have a chat with a guy who people merely pass and try to ignore. I always feel like the hardest part of being someone whos so far down on his luck that he has to go out and ask people for money has got to be the way people treat you, not the giving itself.

I stood with this man for at least 45 minutes and not one person said a word to him besides for me. He wasnt a forceful meshulach, in fact, I would venture to say that his calm demeanor hurts his earnings because he asks for tzedakah in a very soft voice and shyly gives over his teudah from the West Coast Vaad Hachesed. I almost wanted to start screaming at the dozens of passersby that they could at least look at the guy when they claimed not to have any money, but most people get uncomfortable I almost felt that they wanted to block out the fact that they had a perfectly normal looking rum dude admitting that he was broke enough to ask for handouts to pay his medical bills.

I dont expect people to stop and talk with the man, I merely did so, because thats my thing I always give something to the folks begging at exit ramps for money or food and I always try to have a word with them before the light changes, but I was fairly disgusted at the way people gave the guy money. He was saddened to tell me that the people who gave him the most money were the non-Jews and non-observant Jews. He told me that the Persian women would force their husbands to give money and then ask him to make a bracha for them. He seemed to know everyone, he remembered who had smiled at him two weeks before and he pointed to one fellow sitting in the pizza store who had gotten up in the middle of his meal to give him some money.

So naturally I asked him if he was looking for a job, he claimed he was, I took his name, number and email address he seemed like a pretty intelligent guy, so I told him maybe I could find him a job the only problem is he cannot really be out in the sunlight, not too good for someone living in LA, but nonetheless I figured its a shot to pass along his name and number to anyone who has any sort of position open he worked in marketing and sales for many years.

{ 83 comments… add one }
  • Batsheva January 31, 2011, 12:42 AM

    I wonder if part of that reaction isn’t coming from orthodox theology somewhat. I mean, we say it every day in the birkat hamazon: “Naar hayiti gam zakanti ve lo raiti tzadik ne’ezav ve zaaro mevakesh lachem–I was young, and I’ve also grown old, and I’ve never seen a righteous person abandoned or his offspring begging for bread.” And the Torah and Talmud are both chock full of places where it either outright says or clearly implies that if bad things happen, it’s because HaShem is causing it for a punishing reason. So should we really be surprised that the frummies are the least likely to give to those asking for help? They probably think he’s done something to deserve to be in the situation he’s in.
    Don’t get me wrong–lots of people, Jew or gentile, religious or secular, get uncomfortable around people asking for handouts. I think it’s pretty typical that most people don’t want to look them in the eye. I do, but like you, Hesh, I’m weird that way. I don’t think it’s abnormal, though, to be hesitant around and/or avoiding of panhandlers. However, the fact that this gentleman panhandles outside a kosher restaurant, has a teudah, and he specifically notices that the obviously frum people give him the least of anyone–that says something. I think my theory explains it. Anybody got a better one?

    • Anonymous January 31, 2011, 5:55 AM

      Just as the Torah and Talmud are choked filled with references to punishment, they are also replete with references to giving charity and not judging your fellow man before you have stood in his shoes. It is not your prerogative to determine why people are where they are and to play judge, jury, and executioner in the process. It is your responsibility to assume the best of people and do what you can to help. If God is intent on punishing a person, he will surely find a way to do so without your help.

      • batsheva January 31, 2011, 8:40 AM

        Absolutely agreed. But no one seems to have presented a better theory as to why the frum seem to be giving less.

        • Yankel January 31, 2011, 12:44 PM

          Either they thought he looked suspicious and was going to use it for drugs, or more likely, the street is just not the preferred place to give tzedaka, and the orthodox sort of got used to looking away. Those who are legit usually manage to come to shul or to your door with a letter from an established organization.

          I cannot say I approve of this, and I certainly don’t practice it, but it’s somewhat understandable.

          There is absolutely no question that the Orthodox – as a whole and as individuals – give a far greater percentage of their earnings to Tzedaka. It just might be a legitimate frum tzedaka, as opposed to funding some Chiloni Jew-hating Israeli soccer teams uniforms, which can often be preferred for some of the MO and most of the rest…

          As far as your “theory” Batsheva, it’s nothing short of retarded. Quite frankly, if you are capable of even coming up with such a ridiculous idea, let alone go for it, it says a thing or two about you and your prejudice views, as well as your total disconnect from and ignorance of the general frum culture and way of thinking.

        • DF February 1, 2011, 6:08 PM

          PLEASE! Heshy and Batsheva…

          While its possible frum Jews give less on the street – and I think that has more to do with Jackie Mason’t theory of how the Jews in his audience are busy calculating how much money he is making – “How much per seat? How many seats sold? … mmm hmm carry the nine…”

          People think to themselves “oh this guy is doing pretty well for himself collecting money, why do I bother waking up early and going to work…”

          But overall you can’t possibly believe frum Jews give less. They give tons of Tezdakah to many organizations . No one comes close.

          And now ladies and gentlemen… “Beggar Women” by Moshe Yess

          Take it away Moshe! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z5bx54QFoo4#t=3m25s

          • Yoreh K'chetz (aka Phil) February 2, 2011, 4:38 AM

            DF,

            I little off topic, Moshe Yess passed away a few weeks ago, for those that aren’t aware. Use to be my next door neighbor.

          • Sergeant J February 11, 2011, 5:48 PM

            I hate to say it, but when it comes to charity, it seems the nonfrum Jews are more giving, on average.

            • Yankel February 12, 2011, 12:11 PM

              Where in the world are you getting your info from?

            • Yoreh K'chetz (aka Phil) February 12, 2011, 3:57 PM

              Sarge,

              That may be because frum Jews believe that tzedaka is best given anonymously, while reform / non observant Jews need a plaque to commemorate every donation they give. Of course, their are exceptions on both sides.

    • Shoshana January 31, 2011, 7:54 AM

      Naar hayiti gam zakanti ve lo raiti tzadik neezav ve zaaro mevakesh lachemI was young, and Ive also grown old, and Ive never seen a righteous person abandoned or his offspring begging for bread.

      I have seen that interpreted to mean that I never ignored the person begging. In other words it’s not about whether the person who is begging was a tzadick or the son of a tzadick but my reaction to someone begging. Assume they are tzadikim and help them!

      • A. Nuran January 31, 2011, 2:05 PM

        Anyone can become poor through bad luck, bad decisions, changes beyond their control or a hundred other things. Job was a pretty pious guy, and he got put through the wringer. Joseph spent quite a while in an Egyptian prison, and he was even willing to turn down a hot arab MILF. Saying “he’s undeserving of charity because it’s God’s punishment” makes us callous and selfish.

        The interpretation you’ve been taught reminds us of our duty to help the less fortunate and be compassionate. I’m guessing, just guessing mind you, that that leads to being a better Jew and more of a mensch than the first worldview.

        • Yochanan February 2, 2011, 11:15 AM

          That was before Egypt was Arabized.

      • Leeba January 31, 2011, 7:30 PM

        Nice comment

    • talking stam January 31, 2011, 9:03 AM

      1. its difficult for me to believe that frum jews give less charity, because you see the most beggers/ meshulachim in religious neighborhoods, religious stores, and even at religious simchot (weddings). the poor people asking for handouts know where the most charity is given, and they pick their location based on where the most “business” will be for them. maybe the frum people coming to nagila pizza already just gave all their pocket money to the poor man at shul, and to the poor lady collecting at the grocery store (only at frum grocery stores would they ever even allow this.)

      2. frum jews are usually already giving a lot of charity through other means (in other words not just when a poor person happens in their path but proactively, by mail in check) for example tomchei shabbos to feed poor families, hatzolah to save lives, charity to the poor in israel, charity to kollel families, charity to chai lifeline for the sick, the list never ends. this might explain why they have nothing left for the poor guy at nagila pizza.

      • Guest January 31, 2011, 9:45 AM

        When my wife and I got married (two converts, no Jewish relatives) the frum community raised about ~$4000 for us. Perhaps an anomaly, but later on, in a completely different locale, after the birth of our son, we had free dinners cooked for us for two and a half weeks straight–completely unsolicited. And we are of means (I’m a physician), so they could have just as easily said “screw it, they’re not begging for bread.” I’m skeptical about any claims against the kindness of the orthodox community. Sure there are problems. There’s social politics, and people can be obnoxious/even downright immoral in ways that are influenced by frumkeit, but I have never, ever seen this degree of kindness as a rule in non-Jewish society. Don’t get me wrong, maybe the Amish have something goin’ on–most orthodox Jews don’t go so far as to build houses for each other, and for sure there are plenty of kind non-Jews, but on a societal level I don’t see this man’s observations adding up.

        I’ve also never seen nearly as many people begging in standard non-Jewish America, as I do in large orthodox communities. Maybe these people are deluding themselves into thinking that they’ll get more money in an orthodox community, but, if so, nobody’s told them that yet, and apparently they don’t feel that way either.

        One of the main Achilles heal of the orthodox community now, especially the chareidi community, is that their lifestyle predisposes them to financial difficulties. Many don’t go to college, have large families, which they often start while they are barely out of adolescence, and many live in some of the most expensive cities in the country. Even with all the community chessed that goes on, there can’t be that much left over for charity.

        All that being said, it was great of you to not just give him money, but to help him feel like a human being again, and not some untouchable. God willing he’ll be able to work and sustain himself again, and not have to deal with this kind of behavior from people anymore.

        • Puzzled January 31, 2011, 12:05 PM

          This is how I think of orthodox giving. People are happy to give to services for the well-off, they were happy to give to you, a physician. It’s only the poor who haven’t showered recently, who are looked at as something else entirely, that they won’t give to.

          • Yankel February 1, 2011, 11:37 AM

            Puzzled,

            It’s not that. I mean, I really have not seen that in my experiences. The needy are always the first to get when they’re known to be legit.

            The reason the homeless are often overlooked, is because people think they’re nuts.

        • Leeba January 31, 2011, 7:48 PM

          I am a social worker. Two years ago I contracted West Nile Virus. I don’t remember much about getting to hospital – just that I had been out with a friend and fast-forward to someone from hatzola, then barfing on the ED nurses’ shoes, asking the doc for another LP to relieve the headache…then waking up two days later to see two rebbetzins who had made sure someone was at my hospital bedside night and day. One had a 4-week old infant. I was brought food in hospital and cared for in on of their homes upon discharge. I then went to my own home and was brought meals by the community, even though I lived on the other side of town. Money was put into my bank account so I could pay rent (thankfully, the day before Pesach I was paid from work and able to gift the money back to the Yeshiva) I did not ask for help, yet they were there for me.
          On the other hand, I am called often to step into a woman’s home and take care of things when she goes to have a baby – get kids off to school, take care of smaller children, cook, wash clothes. I am not expected to do any of this. I offered up this service as it is something I can do. Everyone can do something – even sending over a meal or dessert or just stopping in to visit someone who is alone.
          I wish there was a street service as I work with many homeless people and see that often, having someone sit with them, bring a cold drink in summer or a hot one in winter, is really what they want most. They are human beings first, homeless people second.
          Nice comment, “Guest”

    • shame January 31, 2011, 11:49 AM

      SHAME ON YOU! you talk about “them” like they are some kind of disease. “They” (the frummies) are your brothers and sisters and give more charity and do more chesed than anyone else on the entire planet. “They” have more chesed organizations more charities etc. Than any other group in the universe. “THEY” are not perfect and there may even be some rotten ones, but your disgusting generalazation of an amazing people shows how rotten you are, OPEN YOUR EYES and learn to see the good in other people

      • A. Nuran January 31, 2011, 2:11 PM

        Of course charity is a Jewish virtue. Even someone as far from frum as you can get and still a Jew like me sees that. It’s in so many teaching stories for the kids. It’s in the written Torah. It’s in the Talmud. It’s part of the teachings of every great Jewish leader I’ve heard of.

        It’s like hospitality, so much a part of Jewish culture that it spills over into the almost completely assimilated and secular.

        To look down on your fellow man let alone your fellow Jew for being poor is a terrible thing. If you’re callous and cruel and despise the poor, the sick, the widow and orphan how in the world can you expect to stand in front of your Creator?

    • anonymous February 2, 2011, 11:39 PM

      Seriously? I have lived in LA for the majority of my life, and I have over a decade of experience with its homeless/down-and-out people. That includes bringing them into my home, feeding them, clothing them, etc. I just don’t feel the need to talk about it online. However, this made me want to speak up. Although I forge ahead and try to be friendly and establish a connection with all the people I meet (disclaimer: I am a “frummy”), I can also understand where people’s discomfort may stem from. I have been shouted at on the street when I was not carrying a cent, let alone anything else, on my person while out on a walk. I’ve been spat at (in the face) for giving what one man felt was not a sufficient amount. I worked in a restaurant that provided job opportunities as well as food for the homeless, but almost all of them demanded stuff that wasn;t offered (ie. soda, ice cream, etc.) and would bring a small crowd with them the next time they came, not to mention relieve their bowels in the back alley of the restaurant, which I and other employees would have to remove so the health department wouldn’t blitz us. And because it was gross, of course! Keep in mind that there are plenty of public bathrooms around. I’ve had things stolen when I sheltered them, there have been times that I’ve been short on cash, and they had more money at the time than I did. Since so many people come asking at shul (Jews and non-Jews alike; quite a good sign that Jews in fact do give, or why would they waste their time?), my father took to carrying rolls of quarters in his tallit bag. He is not a rich man and could not afford to give a dollar to every person every day. But he made sure to give a quarter to every person every day. Guess what? One day he got a piece of mail with a bill inside and an accompanying note saying, “All you’ve ever given me was a quarter, no matter the day of the week, so here’s all your money back”.

      It is important to keep in mind that many of these people have mental illnesses, which is why they behave the way they do, and when you have enough experience with them, you either learn to overlook it, or more commonly, avoid it like the plague. It is nearly impossible to coerce these people to get help when they are off their meds and thinking everyone is out to get them. All you can do is wait it out and lend an ear.

      I guess what I’m trying to say is that it can be very hard to remain committed to the homeless community. I’ve been burned many times, but I am stubborn and keep coming back for more. That doesn’t mean that the people who have trouble handling it should be judged for their understandable reactions and their desire to give under less threatening conditions. But I have *never* spoken to anyone who expressed the idea that these people deserve the situation they are living in, and that’s a horrible thing to imply.

      P.S. In LA, teudot are a dime a dozen. Heshy, it’s very nice that you gave and all that, but I really do not see the point to this post, other than making you look good and others look bad. Did you ever think that the guy may have been playing you when saying what he did? He was, after all, outside a Kosher restaurant for a reason. He could have frequented one with more non-Jewish clientele if they are that much more giving. Which leads me to another thing- I know of at least 2 Jewish owned restaurants in Pico which are overly accommodating and helpful to the homeless, well past what is necessary, and they are Jeff’s Gourmet and Pizza Station. I’m sure there are several more.

  • Anonymous January 31, 2011, 1:00 AM

    Heshy is a tzadik and hashem loves him tremendously

  • Leeba January 31, 2011, 1:23 AM

    Wow.
    Heshy, I am happy that you posted this. I work with homeless people in two ways – 1. As an advisory to the city of Sydney and 2. as a social welfare worker.

    The percentage of those who never imagined they would be homeless has become a bit of an astonishment, even to me. A renter pays their rent on time. Their landlord cannot make the mortgage payments on the rental. The bank comes and takes the house and the renter becomes homeless. Truly homeless.

    I could tell you stories that would curl your hair about the frum community here and how they deal with poverty and homelessness. *shaking head* This is the reason I work for both the city of Sydney and for a NGO that is accountable for every cent that is spent.

    Yes, it is that bad.

    Btw, many homeless persons have pets. If you ever see someone with a dog, perhaps a small sack of dog food would be a welcome gift. Often Nutro, Iams or Science Diet will have samples. Ask at a pet store. If they say they don’t have any samples, as them to request them from their salesman and they will get them in.

  • Anonymous January 31, 2011, 1:46 AM

    You must have made that man’s day, from the kindness and care you showed him…a true mitzvah. May Hashem repay you with His kindness.

    • Leeba January 31, 2011, 7:53 PM

      Omayn!

  • Eliyahu January 31, 2011, 1:51 AM

    Heshy, I often find myself seething at your posts in smug judgmentalism.

    I’m duly humbled, with little doubt the Good Lord is sheppin’ nachas from this one and its inspired actions.

  • A. Nuran January 31, 2011, 1:54 AM

    You’re a good man, Heshy. Blessings on you for having kind heart.

  • Yankel January 31, 2011, 4:30 AM

    Some people are burnt by the guys out there who really shouldn’t be collecting.

    I try very hard to see every guy who comes around, as an individual just like myself, who happens to be in a less fortunate situation.

  • Geoff January 31, 2011, 5:45 AM

    Come on Hesh, 45 minutes? This was obviously bittul Torah. 😉 One thought-do the outwardly frum in your area tend to be less well off than other people? I don’t tend to think of LA as a big bastion of the kollel lifestyle, but that was something that occurred to me. If you’re just talking about plastic surgeons with tiny srugis, though, that seems unlikely.

  • Anonymous January 31, 2011, 6:15 AM

    In defense of frum people, most secular Jews live in well-to-do neighborhoods and are not subjected to constant solicitations from Meshulachim in their shuls and homes, so it is much easier to make the decision to give when you are strolling on Pico. Additionally, they tend to make more money, so again it is not as large an issue.

    Having said that, it appears to me based on anecdotal experience, that there has been a steady decline in empathy in the frum community over the last number of years which is not a good sign. This is not to suggest that there aren’t many charitable organizations doing good thing (there are many), only that the attitude of individuals seems to have shifted from understanding to indifference. Charity seems to be less about helping people than fulfilling an imposed obligation.

    • Geoff January 31, 2011, 7:21 AM

      After my initial comment, I remembered seeing studies showing that charitable giving often shows an inverse correlation with wealth/income, i.e., those with less usually give more.

      I also missed Heshy’s comment that the guy was apparently frum himself, because he called him a “rum dude,” which I assumed meant he drank rum. It makes more sense now.

    • some jewis guy in Montreal January 31, 2011, 7:40 AM

      sounds like a cop out to me…

  • Chaim January 31, 2011, 6:53 AM

    Maybe they weren’t giving him because your presence was scaring them off. 🙂

    Panhandling is a job like any other. There are those that are good at it and there are those that are not as good at it. http://ablognormal.blogspot.com/2011/01/panhandling.html

  • Catholic Mom January 31, 2011, 7:10 AM

    Reminds me of the parable of the rich man and the poor man, as told in the NT. This isn’t verbatim the way Jesus told it, but basically there’s a rich man and outside his gate lies a poor man named Lazarus (not the Lazarus Jesus raised from the dead, that’s a different story). Lazarus is starving and covered with sores and he lies in front of the rich guy’s gate begging. Every day the rich guy comes out of his house and steps over Lazarus to get into his Mercedes and drives off to his important job.

    One day the rich guy dies and he wakes up to find himself in hell. He protests loudly to God that this must be a mistake — he’s always been an observant Jew. He keeps a strictly kosher home. He’s president of his shul. He’s well known for his generous contributions to charity for which he’s received many awards. How can he be in hell?

    God replies that he’s in hell because every day he stepped over Lazarus without even noticing him. The rich guy says that this seems very unfair, but if those are the rules then he aks God to let him appear to his seven living brothers so they’ll be sure not to make the same mistake.

    God replies, “they have Moses and the prophets to instruct them. If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not listen even to one risen from the dead.”

    Translation: You don’t need Jesus to tell you not to ignore the poor in your midst. God made that very clear 2,000 years earlier.

    • PrettyBoyFloyd January 31, 2011, 12:14 PM

      #1)Why would you quote a man made bible, when the original, Gd given version is readily available?
      #2)THERE ISN’T A NATION, GROUP, COUNTRY, RACE, CULT, OR FOLLOWING THAT DOES MORE CHESED (KINDNESS), THEN THE JEWISH PEOPLE.
      To Heshy, you found 1 person in 1 town outside a pizza store, people mostly ignored and you defame the entire Jewish nation as misers??? What planet do you live on? Are you really blind to all the Tzedaka that goes on in Jewish communities? Pretty pathetic man.

      • tinok shenishba February 1, 2011, 8:58 PM

        I’m stunned Heshy is receiving *any* criticism for this piece. I think he recognizes there is a lot of goodness in the frum world, but he was telling it as he saw it with regards to a particular community.

        I hope this inspires more people to give freely when they see need around them (not only writing the big checks, though of course that is wonderful too).

        Way to go, Heshy! This reader is proud of you.

  • yitz January 31, 2011, 7:23 AM

    heshy, i alwayz knew u were specail!!!

  • Frozen Chosen January 31, 2011, 7:24 AM

    If only the man had a golden voice! I think you may have been living outside of major metropolitan frum areas for a bit too long. San Fran has a HUGE homeless community, are you trying to champion their cause? I don’t think that this post was satire, otherwise I wouldn’t jump to the defense of “my group.” As the givers were predominantly non-frum Jews, could it be that those people were passing through…and don’t see him daily? What about the other 99 meshulachim or homeless? Did you greet each one of them? Or my favorite place in LA not-to-give-tzedaka, if you got to stop off at Jeff’s….did you get to meet any bona fide crackheads? That block is a haven for junkies. If this poor person thinks that frum Jews are the worst givers, then what the hell is he doing on Pico outside of Nagila!? I give charity, more than required, but how I do so is not for you to judge.

  • Frozen Chosen January 31, 2011, 7:26 AM

    BTW if there’s one group even more notorious for how they mistreat the homeless, it’s the Eskimos. The Inuit tribe treat their own dejected like caribou droppings.

  • Poor Jew January 31, 2011, 7:30 AM

    I’m a poor Jew, and I am very concerned that I may become homeless. I don’t blame Obama or Bush, but nature: the amount of resources in not keeping up with population growth. When this happens in the animal kingdom, we see massive die-offs by the dozens of millions, but no one cares because they are animals. But, this is now going to happen with humans, and I don’t believe we should just have dozens of millions of American die-offs on the streets. Since those that have jobs view the homeless with disgust and hatred, I suggest an option: government subsidized free voluntary euthanization clinics. If I become homeless, I will suffer and die a slow and painful death on the streets. I would rather just check into a euthanization clinic and be injected with lethal substances: it’s like when I went under general anesthesia to have my wisdom teeth removed: it was euphoric. But in this case, we just don’t wake up.

    • talking stam January 31, 2011, 9:18 AM

      you just expressed a death wish. please get help quickly.

    • OfftheDwannaB January 31, 2011, 9:29 AM

      That is twisted.
      First of all, your facts are wrong. There are plenty of resources, they’re just more concentrated in the hands of the rich today because of more machines doing the labor that people once did.

      Second, normal, psychologically healthy people don’t want to die rather than be homeless for a little, or even an extended period of time. They have other reasons to live, not dependent on their money and status. If you truly are feeling this way, I’d suggest joining a support group like AA (you don’t need to be an alcoholic, just go), or going for counseling.

  • FeistyFrummy January 31, 2011, 8:24 AM

    Wow! You probably have no idea what kind of impact you had on this guy, Heshy. I mean if he remembers the guy that smiled at him two weeks ago, I can only imagine that he must consider you his best friend!

    I guess when it comes to homeless people, it’s really hard because everyone is constantly telling you never to trust anyone. And if you give money to a poor guy, most likely he’ll go out and spend it on alchohol or drugs. I don’t know how true this is but when the sketchy man asks me for money in front of 7-11 at 1 am, I can’t help but think the rumors are true. How do you sift out the honest ones from the not?

    Whatever the case, what you did was incredible and you just bought yourself a nice plot o’ land in shamayim. 🙂

  • Cali January 31, 2011, 8:40 AM

    being from LA, i understand why that is. daven in a shul in the morning and you will be harassed not less than 25 times for tzedaka. people over rate the wealth of the LA community. the meshulachim think everyone there is rich, and drive people nuts based on their mistaken assumptions. And about the west coast teudah, the head office themselves will tell you that it is worth nothing. Unlike the vaad hatzdaka in say , toronto or lakewood, they do not do any background checks and give it to anyone that asks

    • Heshy Fried February 2, 2011, 11:38 AM

      Meshulachem who come from different communities to harass the shul attendees are a lot different than a local guy who everyone seen all the time.

  • Izzy (1) January 31, 2011, 9:41 AM

    I try to follow my Dad’s example….we grew up as a lower middle class family in upstate NY. Yet, when I’d walk with my Dad to work when there was no school, he’d always find the time to give money to poor street people who asked for spare change on the street. The nice part is they knew him by his first name.

    Whenever I run into a street person in LA asking for a handout, I’ll try to give them some money. They say you are supposed to give charity to really help someone out and not just to make ourselves feel better. But I can’t help it..it does make me feel better.

  • peretz January 31, 2011, 10:36 AM

    Most of us give,we just get burned out. In my shul these days,there is a stream of collectors,all with some story. I give a bit to each.

    A few weeks ago,some lost soul ( we seem to adopt them) was waiting outside at 5:45 in the morning. I gave him two bucks to reward his work ethic.

  • Heshy Fried January 31, 2011, 12:24 PM

    There is a big difference between people collecting for their daughters wedding in Israel and a local man who comes out to the same spot every night, people know who he is – the point of this post wasn’t so much about the money, it was more about treating other human beings with respect – rather than making it awkward and looking down or walking quickly past. It would have been nice if people said shavua tov or gut vuch to the man.

    • talking stam January 31, 2011, 2:05 PM

      Heshy, I hear your point, but its idealistic and possibly naive. Many of the homeless on Pico (and there are plenty) are mentally unstable and even dangerous. There have recently been a few stories in local news of people being attacked by a street person. The reason most people avoid or try to look away or walk quickly past a street person is because they are trying to protect themselves.

      I’m surprised you didn’t focus on the satire of a man coming to one of the most religious spots on Pico everyday to collect money, while complaining that the religious people are the least likely to give…

      • A. Nuran January 31, 2011, 2:19 PM

        This was part of the 80% he doesn’t usually show on the blog.

    • Leeba January 31, 2011, 7:59 PM

      “There is a big difference between people collecting for their daughters wedding in Israel..”

      This is no joke, either. I actually got an invitation from someone that I only know through a friend of my mother’s cousin and on the invitation it was engraved, “We realise that many of you will not be able to attend. Please consider half the price of a return airfare to Israel as your gift to the newlyweds” (something similar) I threw that invitation in the trash bin so quickly!!!!!!

      It does happen.

  • Yoreh K'chetz January 31, 2011, 2:16 PM

    Hesh, what you did was kind, one of the highest levels of giving tzedaka include when you say some kind words or encourage the recipient.

    Here is some food for thought:

    – Many frum Jews have the custom of giving 10-20% of their net earnings to charity.

    – When giving charity, one has the obligation to verify (as best possible) that the recipient is in dire need of his money, food, etc.
    That is why many people (myself included) give the bulk of their charity to organizations they personally trust, and know that 100% percent of it is going to valid causes.

    – If a person comes to you for help, you are forbidden to turn them away empty handed. However, when a person collect from the general public, Rambam suggests not giving them a large donation, rather, give them something small. In his words, “you aren’t obligated to give more than a dried fig.

    I have dozens of people coming to my door, and many more coming after me in shul every morning. I don’t have the time or resources to check up on all of them, so they typically get 25 cents each, sometimes a dollar if I’m out of quarters.

    On rare occasion, some have asked me for bigger “loans”. The honest ones re-paid, the deadbeats never pay and keep asking for more loans until I’ve had enough. Then, they never come after me again.

    I once asked a rabbi about beggars that seem to find money for smokes and booze, yet refuse hoest work any time they are offered a job. He said I should give them a nickel, or possibly a dime if I was feeling extremely generous.

    • A. Nuran January 31, 2011, 2:25 PM

      That’s excellent advice all around.

      Unfortunately, some charities spend most of their money on fundraising and lining their own pockets. The US and I think Canadian governments make the tax records of registered charities and non-profits available. There are organizations which can tell you how much of the donations actually goes to help the needy. The last time I looked I was shocked at how little some of the more famous ones gave and how much some of the more obscure ones did. I’m sorry I don’t have the information on tap.

      The Jewish laws and traditions on charity make a lot of good common sense for someone who wants to be, in the words of the Salvation Army, “hard-headed and soft-hearted”.

      • Yoreh K'chetz February 1, 2011, 1:35 PM

        Nuran,

        That’s why it’s crucial to know the people that run any given charity cause. I know the guys that run some groups that distribute food to the poor. They are 100% volunteers, give food to big families that are struggling.

        Hatzalah is another organization that uses 100% volunteer work, all funds raised go to buy medical emergency equipment and communication systems.

        While yeshivas aren’t non profit, they still have status as non profits. If I’m going to ask for tuition assistance for my kids every year, I make it a point to give back to them as well.

        Lastly, the shuls I go to get some as well. Again, they are run by a few of the members, 100% of the funds go to the shul, whether for siddurim or toilet paper, makes no difference to me. Both are important.

      • rationalist frummie February 1, 2011, 4:42 PM

        A. Nuran, go to charitynavigator.com and check because your not quite right. American Red Cross spends nearly 91% on programs, Habitat for Humanity spends 85% of their income on programs, and the same goes for guide dogs for the blind and many other organizations. So check 1st

  • Bubba Metzia January 31, 2011, 5:16 PM

    It’s usually preferable to give charity to organizations that help the poor rather than to individuals directly. Organizations in general are able to do things more efficiently than individuals. Also, if it’s an organization you’re familiar with you can be sure it’s going to help people rather than some random person on the street who you don’t know who might be using it for what they’re saying or they might be using it for alcohol or something else that is only going to make their situation worse.

  • Lirehagi January 31, 2011, 7:54 PM

    It sounds like this guy qualifies for government aid.

  • Bob January 31, 2011, 8:28 PM

    First time commenting.

    I have to say this is BS. The frum community gives the most charity in all sorts of ways. There is Tomchae Shabbos along with many other organizations where one can get food, besides for all the government programs out there. I just find this so typical of people who like to criticize. It is just away to make your self feel superior. I think one commenter put it the best that the guy picks one of the most religious places to collect and then complains how very few people give him anything.

    Panhandling is on of the biggest scams.

    • Heshy Fried February 2, 2011, 11:40 AM

      Still not getting the jist of the post – it’s not about giving money, it’s about giving respect – 70 comments in and you are all arguing about money and that wasn’t the point.

  • CCMSM February 1, 2011, 7:14 AM

    In New York it is a misdemeanor to make up a fake story in order to beg for money, it is called “Fraudulent accosting”

    http://public.leginfo.state.ny.us/LAWSSEAF.cgi?QUERYTYPE=LAWS+&QUERYDATA=$$PEN165.30$$@TXPEN0165.30+&LIST=LAW+&BROWSER=EXPLORER+&TOKEN=17834075+&TARGET=VIEW

  • Rina February 1, 2011, 7:43 AM

    Whatever happened to being dan lekaf zechus- judging others favorably?

    Heshy, it’s nice to find that there are others out there who give to the exit ramp people, and treat those in need as human beings, not invisible.

    To everyone else: yes, you do have a right to be wary of who you give your money to. But no one has the right to judge anyone else. Ever.

    • Yoreh K'chetz February 1, 2011, 7:58 AM

      Rina,

      Though we are told to judge favorably, when a young, seemingly healthy person refuses honest work chooses to beg for a living, it makes it tough to give anything substantial. When that person begs with a cigarette in his mouth, that about sums it all up, even worse when the guy reeks of weed or booze.

      Giving money to such a person when the money could have gone to a trustworthy organization / people that really need it, is a travesty.

      I once asked an young man from Israel collecting for a siblings wedding why he bothered coming all the way here instead of working. He simply answered that it was easier and more profitable.

      • OfftheDwannaB February 1, 2011, 8:24 AM

        I think Rina’s point is not to judge, that a person deserves your respect.

        Speaking about those guys who come from Israel to collect:
        Do you know the stigma attached to leaving the learning community and working? Immediately, you’re a total ois-vurf. You need to find new friends, a new community, besides for getting a good-enough job in the Israeli economy to support your family without a high-school education. Of course he said this is “easier and more profitable”.

        So I totally disagree with the destructive system in place, but we don’t have the right to judge these individual people as being morally corrupt, lazy, thieves. Would we do any different in his place?

        • Yoreh K'chetz February 1, 2011, 8:34 AM

          OTD,

          I have trouble believing that someone that goes around begging is less of an Oisvarf than one that gets a job. Then again, I don’t live in Mea Shearim or Bnei Brak…

          If someone doesn’t have money to make a bog wedding, make it smaller. It’s not unheard of for Israeli couples to get an apartment along with all their furniture as gifts from the families. Then, the families come here to beg for the the down payments/mortgages.

          A few years back, this tenacious collector refused to leave my house unless I gave him posted dated checks amounting to $1000 towards his sister’s wedding. This after I invited him in for some food as he was hungry. Pissed off, I asked him to contribute $5000 towards my sons bar mitzvah, and he refused. I ended up physically throwing him out the door.

          • OfftheDwannaB February 1, 2011, 10:38 AM

            The people there are living in an environment not suited to fit reality. So they’re twisted into thinking and doing corrupt things.

            But those examples are notably sick. A mshulach once asked my uncle for money than he’d just given him. My uncle, who lived meagerly in Kollel for a number of years, said to the guy, “What right do you have to sit and learn, while I had to go out to work?”

            • OfftheDwannaB February 1, 2011, 10:39 AM

              *asked for more money

            • Izzy (1) February 1, 2011, 1:54 PM

              When I visited Israel for the first time and went to the Kotel, I was quite shocked how many times religious looking groups of men would approach me and give me a blessing and then ask for a donation. After having this happen for approximately each 10 feet that I walked closer to the Western Wall, I got a little fed up after one of them told me to give them more money. I basically told him to get lost and he was not a happy camper. The Kotel had the most aggressive religious beggars I’ve ever seen in my life. Each one had a unique story meant to tug at your heart. I must’ve stood out as most local Israelis or regulars to the Kotel were not even approached. I inherently think getting blessed at the Kotel was a good thing….up to a point. I was really disappointed that I couldn’t focus on absorbing the enormity of facing the Kotel without constantly being hit up for donations. I felt that I must’ve had a sign on my back that said “American tourist, get in line here. ”

              Since my visit to Israel, I understand the Israeli government has cracked down on the aggressive beggars that have no knowledge if they have been successful. It would be good to hear from someone who’s been there in the last couple of years and see if this begging is still as oppressive.

              • Yoreh K'chetz February 1, 2011, 2:05 PM

                Izzy,

                Had the same experince when I visited the Kotel as well. Luckily, someone forwarned me of how bad it is. Before I left the hotal, I had the change some bills into a huge bag of small change. I was in Yerushalayim for a week, so I split up the change and took some every day, nothing else. When I ran out each morning, I didn’t feel bad to tell the I was “cleaned out”.

                Worse was some guy on Ben Yehuda. He was selling the red string hamsas, then let me know that he would “accept” all the shliach mitzvah money people gave me to bring to Israel. When that didn’t work, he wanted my hotel address and room number so he could come and pick up a check!

                • Izzy (1) February 1, 2011, 2:51 PM

                  For me in Israel, the Kotel was simply a magnet for great scams and real people in need. It was really hard to judge whether to give or not. After about four blessings and finally putting my hands on the Wall, I thought they would leave me alone but it was not to be. I had to shoo a few people away.

                  One of my cousins in Jerusalem and near the Kotel had joined Aish HaTorah. He asked me if I would like to buy a Tefillin from his Rabbi. I indicated that I would be happy to do that as my bar mitzvah tefillin was aging and I thought it would be a mitzvah to get one in Jerusalem. The Rabbi, who was very nice, asked me what I would like to spend. I told him that a medium price would probably be suitable and that he indicated a medium price for tefillin was about $350. I said okay and he gave me the tefillin and I brought it back with me to Los Angeles. When I davened at my local Chabad, one of the chief rabbis came up to me and notice my new tefillin. He upfront asked me “So where did you get such a crappy tefillin?” And I asked, “What do you mean crappy tefillin?” He then showed me the difference between my tefillin and his tefillin and indeed, physically there was a great difference. My leather was very shiny but very stiff and really hard to wrap in a comfortable manner. In the meantime, his tefillin consisted of very soft and pliable leather. He said a really good tefillin should be like that and that the price I paid was too high for the quality. In short, he indicated that the Aish LaTorah Rabbi had probably sold me a tefillin of mediocre quality. But, I simply don’t know if he, as a senior Chabad Rabbi, was trying to diss Aish LaTorah.

                  It might be fun to see a post from Heshy about the art of buying great tefillin.

                  • Yankel February 1, 2011, 4:34 PM

                    I don’t know if he was trying to diss Aish (HaTorah:)) or not, (let’s give him the benifit of the doubt – as slim as chances are), if it would have been a Lubavitcher Sofer, he would’ve painted the guy in a better light.

                    Regardless, he was probably comparing the amount to 30 years ago. For $350 you won’t get anything decent today. Mine were $1200, and this was quite a few years ago.

                    The Rabbis there are honest people – even if you don’t agree with their ideology. They still stand for what they believe, and ripping off naive Americans is a bad thing in everyone’s books.

                    But let’s assume there theoretically were to be a guy who would do this, Aish would never let him get away with it. They care way too much about PR, and this guy’s few extra bucks wouldn’t sway them.

                    • Izzy (1) February 1, 2011, 4:45 PM

                      I didn’t mean to imply that the Aish Rabbi actually ripped me off. I’m just responding to what the senior Chabad Rabbi said about its general mediocre quality. It’s quite possible that $350 was on the low end of quality when it comes to tefiullin in 2007. Like a good Mezuzah, perhaps the quality is sometimes a reflection of the script or piousness of the writer and accordingly, quality tefillin must obviously have their own inherent quality based on the reputation and piousness of the manufacturer. $1,200 seems like a lot to me but you obviously knew you were buying something of great quality.

              • anon February 3, 2011, 7:26 AM

                The beggars are not allowed to beg actually at the kotel, so they hang out nearby. The best thing is to have a bag of small change and give each one a shekel. Then they’ll leave you alone. If you give more than that they’ll start to bother you. If you wish to donate larger sums best to do it through reputable charities. It’s true that you’re not supposed to pass a beggar without giving them something, but you are also supposed to check that the recipient is genuinely in need. Otherwise you are depriving a genuinely needy person of your tsedaka. Sorry to say, but some of these beggars are making more than anyone on this site.

  • Michael February 1, 2011, 9:11 AM

    Heshy,

    Were you still in Los Angeles last night? I think I might have seen you if you were in the Martel/Beverly area around 7pm or so.

  • Daniel February 1, 2011, 2:19 PM

    If he was by Pico then I doubt that he’s not aware of this resource already but there exists a counseling for job and other social services at SOVA which is (if memory serves correctly) on the corner of Pico and Robertson. They can offer him many various forms of assistance. Ask to speak with one of the counselors. I doubt he’s not aware of it already though again.

  • MLR February 1, 2011, 4:46 PM

    At my shul there is a daily flood of 6-12 guys coming in to ask for $. One guy comes in on a bike. Most people give these guys change or a $1. What I don’t get are the people asking for $ to pay for a wedding. What is that? Have a smaller wedding that they can afford. That is not tzedaka. Maybe they should give a few bucks when ever I feel like eating sushi or if I need a new tv. I understand true economic hardship, medical bills, too ill to work, someone died in the family etc but I won’t pay for other people’s simchas. Most of the time the simcha in question is pretty fancy on other people’s dime.

  • Heshy Fried February 2, 2011, 11:41 AM

    I still find it hard to believe that we are 70 comments in and no one has realized that the point of the post wasn’t about money, it was about respect regardless of if you give or not. The man himself told me that someone wishing him gut vuch, or a smile and nod would be a lot better than money shoved in his face with no respect or acknowledgment of him as a person with feelings too.

    • Yoreh K'chetz February 2, 2011, 11:54 AM

      I think I acknowledged that in my comment above:

      “what you did was kind, one of the highest levels of giving tzedaka include when you say some kind words or encourage the recipient”

    • MLR February 2, 2011, 12:00 PM

      I treat the collectors with respect… I don’t like when they interrupt people during davening repeatedly and I will say something to them. I usually remind them before the davening that when people are shuckeling, quite and focused on what they’re doing that they shouldn’t touch them or be in their face. They should wait until after Shemoneh Esrei.
      Some of the guys are understanding and polite. Others are brazen and do as they wish. Two of the guys are not religious and may be goyim. (It’s debatable) One guy stinks like garbage and his pants are falling down so his crack is in your face during kedusha.. A few of the professional traveling meshulachim from Eretz Yisroel come in weekly trying to raise money for Yeshivas. Not many come in for simcha money. The traveling ones can get nasty if you have no money to give. One was spitting at people who didn’t give as he walked away in the Beis Medrash.
      Many of the minyan have complained to the Rabbi but he won’t talk to them. Or if he has they don’t listen.
      So I give what I can and treat them fine. The worst I have done is ask them to wait to collect until after people finish Shemoneh Esrei.

      • Frozen Chosen February 2, 2011, 6:24 PM

        If the man is looking for gut vochs and smiles, maybe he should be collecting at the Happy Minyan. This man is collecting money and non-vocal about it. I don’t know anybody in the world who likes being asked for money. It’s uncomfortable. Plain and simple. All of the people on Pico would’ve/should’ve/could’ve given this man a smile or more time of day, but l’maysa he is one of many collectors that pop up in the life of the pedestrian, metropolitan Jew. The impression I get of your followers, based on the comments at least, is that most of us here are on your side of things regarding the importance of treating people with respect and common decency. But we’re all human.

        In the same breath, you mention your disgust of the manner in which people gave and also how this man recognized lots of people who made positive impressions on him. I’m reminded of the famous story (I think with Rabbi Eliezer Silver?)–following WWII, he was talking with a survivor in a DP camp who turned his back on Judaism. The man explained that he reached this point when he saw a “frum” guy charging people a piece of their bread in order to use his siddur. The sharp and wise rabbi responded, “why focus on this wicked man, rather look at all of the amazing souls who were willing to pay to use the siddur!” I hope it goes without saying that I’m not drawing any comparisons to the Holocaust whatsoever, just thought it was an appropriate story.

  • Anon February 11, 2011, 4:53 PM

    Excuse me but I get very mad when I see seemingly capable people (who’s backstory I don’t know) begging for money. I bust my ASS working 40 hours a week for $8 an hour AND I take 12 credits at night. I leave my house at 9:30AM and return at 9:30PM
    Excuse me if I have absolutely no sympathy for these people. I literally want to yell: “Get a job!!”
    I do give ma’aser, but to a poor neighbor I know personally…

    • Heshy Fried February 11, 2011, 5:19 PM

      dude – respect has nothing to do with money, if you smile and say no it’s better than giving with a straight mean face

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