We all know the Chazal, Mi Shenichnas Adar Marbim B”simcha. We also know that this time of year there is a great need for the not so fortunate amongst Klal Yisroel who are worried about how they will cover the additional expenses of Purim and Pesach.
In “normal” times the months of Adar and Ellul are the busiest months for the Far Rockaway/ Five Towns Vaad Hatzedakas. Many needy individuals and organizations come to our neighborhood to collect for Maos Chitim primarily from Eretz Yisroel. This year, as in so many other areas things are different. Meshulachim coming from Eretz Yisroel are down about 60 %. Those that have come to make the month long pilgrimage to the United States are worried they will not be able return to their families for Yom Tov as lockdowns and travel restrictions continue. There has been an uptick of Meshulachim from Brooklyn and upstate communities in our area this year. This brings the Vaad to the issues we now face.
For the past 7 years the Vaad has been part of an international database that vets Meshulachim and Chesed organizations worldwide. Every Meshulach requesting a certificate from the Vaad must provide positive identification and a letter of reference from a known Rov attesting to their needs. In the past, the Vaad of Lakewood for a small fee did investigations in advance, and the information was disseminated to all the affiliated Vaadim. If a new individual, who is not in the database, requested a certificate, he was required to wait until his verification was complete. Most Meshulachim were repeat cases and as such very little investigation was necessary.
This year poses new challenges. Many Meshulachim who are new to the neighborhood do not know the protocol to follow. Here are some points from the Vaad.
- All Meshulachim must wear a facemask at all times.
- They have been instructed to leave an envelope at the door if there is no answer.
- They should not be knocking on doors after 10 PM
- They should not be dropping leaflets on the tables in Shul and should not be circulating during any part of Davening
- The Vaad is open EVERY Sunday from 11:30 AM to 1 PM at the Agudath Israel of Long Island. When asking to see a certificate from the Vaad don’t believe an excuse that the Vaad wasn’t open this week. Since after Sukkos when we reopened, we have not missed a week.
Some additional information of which you should be aware.
- Vaad certificates are printed on Goldenrod paper with a gold Vaad seal and a silver Vaad holograph seal. They must contain a picture of the Meshulach and be laminated.
- Every certificate has a line Last Visit indicating the last time the Meshulach was in town.
- Please accept only certificates from OUR Vaad and check that the dates have not expired.
- Every certificate is numbered. If you pay by check, remember to write the certificate number in the comment field of the check. If a check is ever altered (as has happened ) we can trace the source of the fraud and prevent it from ever happening again.
- There are retail stores in Brooklyn that will take third party checks. Please check your bank statement and inform the Vaad if you made a check out to a Mosad and it was endorsed by a cleaners or grocery store.
- Meshulachim using a credit card machine are charged 10% of each charge by the company that rents the device.
- Meshulachim drivers take on average 1/3 of all collections or a flat fee of $225 to $275 per person per day.
- If you plan on giving a major donation to an individual or organization and would like verification of the cause or status of the individual, please email our Vaad. For a fee of $8 dollars, the Vaad of Lakewood will verify an individual and cause, and send us a report.
- If you ever encounter an unruly or aggressive Meshulach, PLEASE NOTIFY THE VAAD IMMEDIATELY by leaving a message or email. Since there are over 20 Vaadim around the world that have access to the same database we can prevent further problems. (Last year there was a collector in Far Rockaway that was caught on security camera stealing mail from a mailbox when no one was home. The Vaad of London was able to identify the individual and we were able to follow up.) We also issue FRAUD Alerts when necessary.
The Vaad Hatzdokos was established by our local Rabbonim to enable the community to give Tzedakah with confidence. We try our best to weed out unscrupulous Meshulachim. We welcome the help of the public, and will try to return every email and phone message in a timely fashion. Our email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and our phone number is 516.500.1551 (Leave Message)
Wishing you all a Frailichen Purim and a Chag Kasher V’Samech
Rabbi Avrohom Liss on behalf of the Vaad.