Sometimes the Mail Makes Me Go, What Now?

Somewhere between promiscuously spreading my personal information round the internet in pursuit of free stuff etc.*** and my charitable donations, I end up receiving a lot of unexpected junk mail.

Today, walking up the step pulling out the mailbox contents which will go directly into the bluebox I found an envelope addressed to me upon which was written in bold blue letters,

With 57¢ a day you can feed an elderly Jew.

This promise, I see from reading top left, has come to me from Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews® of Canada.  (I’m not the only one to think, “Jews®?” am I?)

 The contents of the Rabbi’s epistle clarify (and make me go, hmmmm, again).

There are more than 300,000 poor, elderly Jews in the former Soviet Union.  They endure hunger, bitter cold, and ill health because of Russia’s crippled economy.  More than 60 per cent have no family at all (many lost relatives during the holocaust).

Now I’m reminded of that little liturgy of yesterday afternoon when the boss came to address the Department to confirm that the recently vacated tenure-track French biblical position cannot and will not be refilled (and that’s another story, perhaps/likely the subject for later posts).  Anyway, when the question of fundraising came up, Il Dulce pronounced, you have to sell a story.

The story Rabbi Eckstein is selling me?  Above the salutation in faux handwriting (complete with the quotation marks):

“I look out my balcony and see grandmas and grandpas eating from garbage bins.  The fact that some strangers from overseas help – it’s unbelievable.” Brona, Achinsk, Russia

Below “Dear Friend,”

From her balcony five stories up, 80-year-old Brona can’t ignore the pitiful scenes of poverty in the streets below.  You see, her view is her window to the world, because asthma has left her unable to leave her apartment for eight years now.

It goes on and on, but to the point:

Yet, despite her hard life, on one special day each week Brona’s soul lights up …. Brona is one of the lucky ones.  Thanks to our supporters, an outreach worker visits her each week and brings food, medicine, heating fuel … [ellipsis in original] and friendly conversation.

On to the general appeal, back to Brona, back to the general appeal. 

Ok, now – I confess – I’ve exoticized Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein and in my head he recites the passage from which this particular program gets its name complete with an accent: “Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter?”  (FYI, he leaves out the rest of the verse: “when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?”  And BTW – while I’m in a confessional mood – I liked Julie & Julia.)

To the IFCJ website.

No, the Rabbi is virtually indistinguishable from almost every administrator I’ve met in the last 20 years.

That’s not quite correct.  In fact, he’s more youthful and handsome than most administrators I know.  (Hmmmm, combine this remark with a pair of Meryl Streep appreciations – including a graphic Angels in America homage, for those of you who didn’t catch it – which also remind me that I also heart Babs and the Divine Miss M, and would love to see Jersey Boys, and I have to ask, am I in some sort of denial?)

Moving on.

Alright, Rabbi, I’m starting to buy the story.  But who are you selling it to exactly?  The answer perhaps explains why the rest of Isaiah 58.7, “not to turn away from your own flesh and blood,” was left out.  Not good for the pitch I reckon: some smartass-cheapass potential donor just might note that almost 40% of the old folks have some family, as well as ask, what of that flesh and blood that is the whole of the Jewish people? 

I’m not fishing for a rationale to reject his plea, rather I pose the question for the omission seems to point to the answer to the original question: the Rabbi is “proud to tell you that through the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews of Canada, thousands of kindhearted Christians reach out to people like Brona.”  Sure sure, I’m a Christian by default, certainly a goy by definition.

And before anybuddy gets (any more) offended, know that I know I’m almost sold.  Cynically, I’m led to investigate in search of the answer to the question, is everything with this outfit according to Hoyle?   (Please note that I avoided the all too obvious euphemism for legitimate here.)  Ok, BBB tells me that the “International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ) meets the 20 Standards for Charity Accountability.”

Alright alright, Rabbi, between your letter, this impious post, and my oisbrenguer ways of late, I’m filled with di shuld.  Take my $50.00 and hand out a food box for two.  (I really wanted to give the $51 “to help provide hot, nutritious meals for an elderly Soviet Jew for three months” that the direct mailer asks of me, but the online donation form didn’t offer that option.)

***By the bye.  Remember the 100 free rosaries I got through the interwebz?  I’m now down to a couple of dozen.  First, I cancelled out the borderline blasphemy that went with the original order and the petition for ideas for what to do with them by giving an entire box to Father Ron who, upon learning from Jacques the librarian that I had them, told Jacques who told me, that he thought such things would make nice First Communion gifts.  Second, I gave away another dozen or so in something of the spirit of the educational mission of Holy Cross Family Ministries, and in my own pedagogical mission, to my World’s Living Religions class on the last day (with the disclaimer that I was neither proselytizing nor mocking) along with bunches of leftover Hallowe’en candy.

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