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Ezras Torah Makes Waves in Bergen County

(Courtesy of Ezras Torah, part II) Once, an American rabbi visiting Tzfat was stopped by a wizened old Jew. “Send regards to my father in America!” said the old man emotionally. “Your father?” asked the rabbi in bewilderment. The man was surely old enough to be a grandfather; how could he have a father living in America? “Yes, Rabbi Yosef Eliyahu Henkin of Ezras Torah! He supports me like a father!”

Rabbi Henkin has long passed away, but his legacy of giving lives on through Ezras Torah, the charitable organization he so selflessly led, which has assisted thousands upon thousands of poverty-stricken Jews, first in Europe and later on in Israel, ever since it was founded in 1915, over a hundred years ago. In America, Ezras Torah is widely known for its Jewish pocket calendar (in both Hebrew and English) filled with pertinent halachos, and poster-sized Hebrew wall calendar for shuls with comprehensive information about synagogue customs and services plus zmanim for many American cities. However, in Eretz Yisrael, Ezras Torah is known to many Torah Jews and their families as a refuge in times of financial need.

Throughout a typical day, the busy Ezras Torah office in Jerusalem is deluged with requests for assistance. An orphan comes in to beg for financial help to make her wedding. A family calls in desperation—both parents are unemployed and there is no money left to buy food for the upcoming holiday. A third calls with an urgent request: Their child has just been diagnosed with a serious illness and they cannot afford the expensive medical treatment required. And the last may simply request a short-term loan to repair a broken fridge. All are helped through Ezras Torah’s trademark caring and compassion. Currently, Ezras Torah assists over 6,500 Torah Jews in Eretz Yisrael per year.

Ezras Torah’s generosity is dependent solely on its many donors and supporters. People can either donate to Ezras Torah directly or invest in an innovative endowment fund program. These endowment funds can be established in memory of a loved one, or in honor of a special person or event, and can be started with a minimum pledge of $1,000. Each endowment fund is individually named as per the specifications of the donor. Donors can choose to direct their endowments to the Free Loan Fund, to be available to the poor in the form of interest-free loans with favorable payment terms. Or they can choose to have their endowment funds securely invested in the United States, with all income sent to Israel monthly as outright grants to the poor. This way, monies are safeguarded in U.S. currency and protected from the vacillating value of the Israeli shekel. When a fund is established in memory of a loved one, Ezras Torah will arrange for yahrzeit, Kaddish, Mishnayot and other memorial services upon request.

Throughout the many vicissitudes of life in Israel, Ezras Torah is there to lend a helping hand. Over 85 percent of the money Ezras Torah raises goes directly to its programs, which include:

Hachnosas Chasan v’Kallah: Wedding Fund for Orphans. Often, when a new couple is engaged, their time of joy turns into a time of stress and sorrow as they worry about covering the myriad costs associated with a wedding. This stress is magnified in the case of an orphan groom or bride, as they have no parents to turn to. Ezras Torah gives sizable financial grants to orphaned brides and grooms to help them prepare for their weddings or set up new apartments.

Keren Refuah: Emergency Medical Fund. Many families struggling with serious illnesses are simply unable to pay for the exorbitant medical costs needed for proper treatment. This program offers financial help to those who cannot afford the medical treatment, testing, surgery and rehabilitation they so desperately need.

Jewish Holiday Grants: While the advent of the Jewish holidays, such as the Yomim Noraim, Sukkos and Pesach, is meant to be a joyous time, the poor desperately wonder how they will be able to afford all the costs associated with the holidays—building a sukkah, finding an esrog and lulav and buying matzos and food. New clothing and shoes is dismissed as an unimaginable dream. Ezras Torah provides financial aid to needy families so they too can enjoy the holidays.

Housing Grants and Loans: The cost of a new apartment in Israel is exorbitant. In worst case scenarios, families may live in basement bomb shelters for lack of a better alternative. Ezras Torah offers interest-free loans and, when necessary, outright grants to help growing families purchase new apartments or expand current homes.

Free Loan Fund: Ezras Torah offers interest-free loans to thousands of people annually. Such loans help tide struggling families through challenging periods while keeping their pride and dignity intact. Once these loans are returned, the monies are again recycled to lend out to other families in need.

A 2017 national survey revealed that nearly two out of five Israeli children live in poverty, making Ezras Torah’s aid more urgent than ever. Ezras Torah needs your assistance in order to keep supporting Israel’s poor Torah families. Rabbi Yosef Eliyahu Henkin, zt”l, and the wizened old Jew of Tzfat who considered him a father may have both long passed away, and HaRav Dovid Lifshitz, zt”l, and Rabbi Emmanuel Gettinger, zt”l, past presidents of Ezras Torah, have passed away. But let us show our Israeli Torah brethren that they still have compassionate brothers and sisters in America.

There will be a fund-raising event in Bergen County with refreshments served on 10 Elul/August 21, with Mincha at 7:30, in the home of Dr. & Dr. Zvi Loewy, 4-50 Lyncrest Ave, Fair Lawn, New Jersey. Please attend and contribute generously. Contributions can also be sent to Ezras Torah, 1540 Route 202, Suite 2, Pomona, NY 10970 or online at www.ezrastorah.org.

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