Sobering Assessment

As a member of the Los Angeles community, I would like to address a submission in the Features section two weeks ago titled “Sobering Thoughts,” written by a yeshivah bachur describing his Purim collecting experience. I am certain I speak for many others in this community when I say that it is very surprising to hear this well-intentioned bachur’s misguided perspective and disheartening implications which generalized a negative portrayal of the entire community of Los Angeles.

The modern-day Purim culture that has developed over the last 15 years where yeshivos encourage talmidim (either actively or passively) to collect money has perpetuated a certain attitude amongst many yeshivah bachurim, like this author. This bachur appeared to be asking for sympathy/validation, presumably in monetary form, as if there is an expectation of a donation or a certain expected value of a donation.

Although there can be enough sympathy for both parties, the bigger “victim” and primary recipients of sympathy should be the baalei batim who field hundreds of well-intentioned, mentchlich collectors, as well as ill-intentioned rowdy collectors, patronizing collectors (to quote, “making the master of the house feel important for having money”), witty collectors, local Los Angeles organizations/yeshivos collectors, more personally affiliated organization collectors, and many hybrids of the aforementioned. The Los Angeles community is extremely charitable and generous to mosdos all over the world (sometimes to the detriment of local mosdos) and has opened many homes to host hundreds of visiting collectors from around the globe; to suggest otherwise is reckless and insulting. Baruch Hashem, there are so many organizations all over the world that facilitate Torah and gemilus chassadim but, unfortunately, most people can only give so much to so many. Not having your efforts translate into a big donation (or any donation) should not lead to judgments about the characteristics of a person/ community or what that says about your hard work.

Additionally, we baalei batim also have our own family and extended family that we enjoy spending time with on Purim. Shouldn’t there also be a sympathetic acknowledgment of the fact that fielding non-stop collectors throughout Purim might have an impact on family time and a more tranquil enjoyment of Purim? 

It is genuinely warming to hear of the bachur’s connection with and affinity for his Rosh Yeshivah, but again, there are, b”H, many fantastic yeshivos and organizations that have incredible leadership and are in dire need of financial help. The bachur mentions he is “collecting for a factory of kedushah, a mini Beis Hamikdash” — once again, I strongly assert that the community of Los Angeles feels that way about every upstanding yeshivah and organization. However, there is, b”H, a plethora of mini Batei Mikdashim, local and abroad, that make it extremely difficult to give everyone who asks, even someone like this bachur who is witty, gracious, dances, smiles, isn’t inappropriately drunk, and represents his yeshivah fervently and authentically.

Parenthetically, it would be a little more comforting and inspiring to see yeshivos/Roshei Yeshivah take public responsibility for the bachurim who collect on their behalf, especially if they are being sent to a location far from home.

Please don’t mistake this response as discouragement from returning to LA. On the contrary, we enthusiastically welcome everyone to come experience our simchas Purim. I am simply imparting the nature of collecting and how each year, some people will inevitably feel they got the short end of the stick. In future years, it is our hope this bachur and others can understand the perspective of many baalei batim in Los Angeles, New York, and all across the globe.

Respectfully,

A Local Los Angeles Baal Habayis