Thursday, July 15, 2010

A Different Rendition but the same Melody

I received a phone call today and, not recognizing the number or the caller's name, I was prepared for some kind of sales pitch. I wasn't disappointed, but the caller was trying a different tack than the one such calls usually take.

When I answered in the affirmative that I was Mrs. K, the caller began by asking me the following: If your brothers or sisters or your parents were starving, if they struggled every day to put food on the table, would I help them out? Obvious answer: Yes, as much as I would be able to. Next question: Would I extend that same help if it were my aunts or uncles or cousins who were starving every day? Again, obvious answer: Yes, as much as I would be able to.

The caller then segued into the following: Are you aware that Kol Yisroel Areivim zeh lo zeh? That all members of Klal are brothers? You have just told me that you would help your brothers if they were starving, so shouldn't that apply to all your brothers? At this point the caller had still not identified for which organization they were making an appeal, although it did flit through my mind that the use of the word "starving" meant they were from some type of organization like Tomchei Shabbos.

Before I could even get out my sentence asking what organization they were soliciting for I got the following spiel: We Jews know all about feeding the body but we also know that the soul and heart must be fed, and for that to happen we must feed our hearts and souls Torah. Many Jews do not, themselves, feed themselves Torah but it is surely their obligation to help those who starve the body so that they can feed their souls Torah.

I had hit saturation point and broke in with "What organization are you collecting for?" Again, no truly straight answer but I got the following: We believe that all of Klal benefits from those who starve their earthly bodies and sacrifice to fill themselves with Torah. It is all of our obligations to help them in the ways we can so that they do not face an empty table. May we put you down for $54 as your chelek in supporting those who feast on Torah at the sacrifice of regular food on the table?

I told the caller that he had 3 seconds to name the organization he was calling for or I was hanging up. He responded with Yeshiva X. Then I responded that if the yeshiva were truly worried about giving real food to these people they might try training them to make a parnoseh, that God does not require us to starve our children so that their fathers can sit and learn. And then I hung up.

Somewhere "out there" there is someone cursing my name and probably wondering just what kind of Jew i could possibly be if I am refusing to give tzedaka, particularly to Yeshiva X. How can I ignore people with no money to buy food? What kind of person am I? The kind that believes in the old maxim "Give a man a fish and he'll eat today. Teach a man how to fish and he will eat all the tomorrows." And I also didn't appreciate the roundaboutation of the caller. If you're calling to get a donation to a yeshiva say so up front--I'll either give or I won't. But please don't fold in the old "children are starving in India" approach and expect it to pull the wool over my eyes. If learning in a kollel program means you are going to be starving there is something seriously wrong with that kollel program, not with me.

I'm sure there are many good reasons to own a telephone, but I long ago realized that phone solicitations is NOT one of those reasons.


mother in israel said...

I like your new design. (I read via GReader and haven't commented for a while.) They may be cursing you out, but at least in Israel the tzedakah marketers are getting a commission, and who knows if they even care. I think that some of these organizations are founded to generate income for kollel wives.

JS said...

You have a lot more patience than I do. I never give money over the phone since I have no idea who is really calling me or how reputable they are. I always ask for a solicitation by mail. Amazingly (in my opinion) most organization refuse to send me something by mail and start to argue with me. The second someone argues with me I just hang up. If they won't say what they're calling about or what organization they're from I just hang up as well. Also, any patronizing or long-winded solicitation and I just hang up. If you want money, just say so, don't pretend you're calling to have a conversation and don't treat me like I'm an idiot who can be tricked into giving money.

I don't know what happened to the "Hello, my name is so and so and I'm calling from such and such organization." Nowadays any solicitation I get begins as if we're best friends and I called them first and they're extending a courtesy by returning my call.

I just find the callers to be uniformly rude. They don't just want you to give money, they want you to give it in the manner they want.

A Fan said...

B'H I've never been solicited by phone. I've only had the guys knock on my door (and always after 8 pm!) We have the organizations we regularly give to- Tomchei Shabbos, Rofeh Cholim Cancer Society (they were there for my family when one of my parents was sick), the Yeshiva my husband went to etc. When the meshulchim come to our door collecting for some little yeshivah no one's ever heard of, or for their daughter in Israel getting married, I give a dollar or 2 out of the pushka next to my Shabbos candles. The guy generally asks for more, to which I say, look, this is what I've got. My checks/cc info go to established organizations I know I can trust. If you'd rather not take my dollar... They always take it. And it's usually a while before we get another one, word of mouth travels that you can't expect much from our address.

tesyaa said...

I don't know what happened to the "Hello, my name is so and so and I'm calling from such and such organization."

They avoid this approach because it doesn't work as well as the friendly conversation. A lot of people don't want to just hang up on a friendly Jewish caller. Also, they try to get the man of the house on the phone since they generally believe the husband is more likely to give. (The wife knows about the day-to-day bills and is more tightfisted - that is the reasoning). Again JS, you go against the grain :)