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February 12, 1988 - Image 26

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-02-12

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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26

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 12, 1988

great deal of time working
with professional Jewish
fundraisers, and while he
sees "an immense, growing
interest in the Jewish side of their work,"
he is still concerned about the ethics of
the profession.
He says he finds in many cases a
chasm between the intentions of the
Jewish professional worker and the kind
of day-to-day work they are involved in.
"I ask them when was the last time
they felt heairen and earth meet in their
work," says Siegel, "when was the last
time they really felt they helped some-
one directly, and most of them could not
remember."
Siegel, Leonard Fein and Baltimore's
Darrell Friedman reflected on
"The World of Tzedakah" during a re-
cent Sunday morning program at Balti-
more Hebrew Congregation in memory
of the late Rabbi Morris Lieberman.
They began by acknowledging the
essential work done in and for the
Jewish community by the Federation
movement, with moderator Friedman
noting that he views Federation as more
of a community-building organization
than a fund-raising one.
But Fein and Siegel went on to
discuss the reasons for the growth of in-
novative new forms of small, grassroots
Jewish charities in the U.S. in recent
years.
According to Fein, who is serving this
year as the first visiting scholar of the
Reform Action Center in Washington of
the Union of American Hebrew Con-
gregations, Federation in the 1960s and
70s became the religion of American
Jews, with Israel its central theology.
But in the 1980s we have come to
learn, painfully at times, that Israel is
not the mythical land we imagined it to
be. "Israel hasn't changed," observed
Fein. "We have. And we have come to
see that Israel is a real place with real
people and it makes real mistakes."
In addition, American Jews are begin-
ning to realize that Israel is not the sum
total of Jewish life, that indeed there is
creativity here at home. In Fein's
analogy, while Israel is still the Broad-
way hit show, some of us are discover-
ing that there is interesting theater go-
ing on Off-Broadway. "Not a big hit yet,
perhaps, but not to be disregarded," he
said, referring to the newer, smaller
charities.

OF
PROFESSIONAL
FUNDRAISING

Siegel criticized Federations for
sometimes forgetting their ultimate
mission and concentrating more on the
.means than the ends. The bottom line
is not money, but helping others, said
Siegel, ' who added that it is more
beneficial for a Jewish organization to
hire a mensch as a fund-raiser than a
high-powered person who brings in large
sums of money.

The first question from the audience
dealt with the balance between the ends
and the means, specifically do you take
charitable funds from a crooked person?
Fein responded by citing a late 19th cen-
tury rabbinic ruling that says, in
essence, you can take the money but you
cannot call the contributor to the Torah.
In other words, no honors.

Siegel agreed, noting that "part of the
pain of tzedakah work is that you are
forced to keep increasing your stan-
dards. The point of it all is to improve
you as a person."
And that is what troubles him when
he sees some of the people involved in
Jewish communal work, people he de-
scribes as arrogant, cold and manipu-
lative, achieving positions of power as
professionals because they are suc-
cessful in fund-raising or administra-
tion. "Allowing such people to hold these
positions is wrong because it's a chillul
Hashem, a profanation of God's name;
it makes the people who work for them
miserable; and it contradicts all that we
say about Jewish values.
"What I try to teach and say is really
so simple," says Siegel. "That to be a
heartless collector is less preferred, that
people like to be treated nicely."
He deplores the fact that in order to
move up in the pecking order of com-
munal service organizations, the front-
line social workers with the most
humanity must move into ad-
ministrative, budgeting and fund-
raising positions to increase their in-
come. "We should be paying the best
front-line workers the best salaries," says
Siegel, who would like to provide
workshops for such workers on avoiding
burn-out.
Siegel is convinced that Jewish educa-
tion is the key to Jewish fund-raising,
that the more people know about their
heritage and tradition, the more in-
volved they will become. "People are hot
for Ibrah," he says. "I see it wherever I
go."

O

G.R.

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