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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

A Viral Opportunity: Let RCBC Take the Lead

Gershon Distenfeld’s recent article (“A Viral Opportunity,” April 23, 2020) has struck a chord, and seems to be generating a groundswell of support in the community. Many of us agree that a lifestyle where a family needs to be in the country’s wealthiest 2% just in order to meet the basic necessities is inappropriate and unsustainable. Yeshiva tuitions must be lower, simchot less opulent, and resources allocated more in accordance with modesty and Torah values, with a greater emphasis on tzedakah.

If left to individuals, no fundamental changes are likely to ensue or endure. However, the response to COVID-19 may demonstrate the most effective approach to this problem. The RCBC showed great and bold leadership in being one of the first organizations to take the painful measure of shutting down local shuls. The community then responded exceptionally well, with overwhelming support for this extreme measure and virtually total compliance with the lockdown and social distancing rules. This clearly slowed the spread of the virus, and saved lives.

In a sense, lives are at stake with the financial sustainability crisis too—families cannot afford to have as many children as they would like, children sent to public schools could result in a greater proportion going off the derech, and lack of adequate funding adversely affects the ability of charitable organizations to do their (often lifesaving) work.

We therefore again need bold leadership from the RCBC, this time to take the lead in tackling the financial sustainability crisis head on. They are the only established local body with the moral and ethical standing to enlist adequate support within the community. I therefore call on them to directly confront this problem, probably in conjunction with a group of lay leaders. A multi-faceted approach is required, including elimination of some bells and whistles (and waste) within the educational system, promulgation of greater tzedakah guidelines for those that have the means, recommendations regarding the order of priorities for personal charitable giving and allocation of resources and strict community standards and limits on simchot. If the RCBC disseminates comprehensive guidelines, I believe that the community will welcome and support this initiative, hopefully as completely as they did with regard to the pandemic.

Michael Karlin
Teaneck
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