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yesh omrim

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Charity for crooks

6 May 2011

Like many people in the Orthodox community, I receive occasional brochures from Kupat Ha’ir, an organization that provides financial support to poor people in Israel. Kupat Ha’ir has such a history over-the-top marketing—touting the miracles that God has performed on behalf of its donors—that last year, one prominent Lakewood rabbi described its techniques as “gezel gamur” [complete theft].

This year, in their pre-Pesach magazine, they have outdone themselves. After the cover story quoting Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky to justify their marketing practices, they have a sequence of miracle stories. The first is about a rabbi who hired a man to flagrantly violate Israeli traffic-safety laws (towing an overwide trailer without hiring a police escort); said driver almost got arrested by the strictest traffic cop in Israel, but thanks to the rabbi’s donation to Kupat Ha’ir, the cop couldn’t find his measuring tape. The second is about a rabbi who told an Arab taxi driver to wait for him and let the meter run for ten or fifteen minutes, but returned over an hour later to find the cab gone; in the merit of a donation to Kupat Ha’ir, this rabbi recovered the tefillin he had left in the cab, in a way that did not give him the opportunity to pay what he owed the cabbie.

If my son were on his way to study in Israel, I would make a point of looking up the “gedolei hador” who associate themselves with this charity, and advising him not to learn at any of their schools.