April 16, 2024
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Lema’an Achai to Visit Essex Communities

The Livingston and West Orange communities will host the executive director of Lema’an Achai, Rabbi Avrohom Leventhal, on Shabbat Parshat Ki Tisa (Feb. 26/27). Rabbi Leventhal is a true ish chesed, representing the unique and effective “Smart Chesed” philosophy, which battles poverty by giving people a hand-up, not (only) a hand out.

He enlightened us about the work of Lema’an Achai with this interesting and insightful interview.

JL: What is Smart Chesed?

RAL: Smart Chesed is modern terminology for the Rambam’s highest level of charity—namely, to give a person help through providing work, a loan or providing an opportunity. Or, as the proverb so correctly says: Give a man fish, you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, you feed him for life.

JL: You have over 30 programs, too many to list. Can you name a few?

RAL: Emphasis on rehabilitative services is central to our philosophy. So we have developed quite a few excellent programs with just that goal. Which programs are most important is a tricky question. No matter what I list, I will regret not having stated other ones. But here goes: Financial counseling, therapies and vocational training. Citizens’ rights, benefits and entitlements advocacy. And last but not least, our after-school program for at-risk children.

JL: What makes Lema’an Achai different from other charity/tzedaka organizations?

RAL: Lema’an Achai’s goal is to give a hand-up, not (only) a hand-out. While other organizations often perpetuate poverty by simply providing money and/or food, Lema’an Achai helps families through, and out of, crisis. Since Lema’an Achai was founded in 2000, we have helped thousands of families in Israel become self-sufficient. The ROI (return on investment) is thereby far greater than most other charities that deal with the less fortunate.

JL: Who is eligible for assistance?

RAL: Residents living 10 percent or more under the poverty line qualify for Lema’an Achai services. A professional, multi-faceted “intake” ensures that this requirement is met and that the family is committed to take the necessary steps to independence.

JL: Where does the funding for Lema’an Achai come from?

RAL: Lema’an Achai counts on the generosity of good-hearted people throughout the world. Currently, roughly 80 percent of our support comes from within Israel and 20 percent from outside of Israel.

JL: What are your plans for growth?

RAL: Smart Chesed is a model which is needed in every community in Israel and beyond. We plan to operate mobile rehabilitation units to service places that cannot finance a local branch. After Operation Protective Edge, we opened our fifth dental clinic in Sderot. Our financial counseling and thrift shop will hopefully be replicated in other cities.

JL: Please share a couple success stories.

RAL: Wow! That will take too long for a concise piece like this. The process of rehabilitation may take up to three years, and each of our over 200 families has a different personalized plan. Email me at [email protected], write in the subject “Forklift Freddy or Rivki” and I will send you the story behind the success.

JL: I heard something about a program called ‘Get Smart’—what is that exactly?

RAL: We feel strongly that part of our mandate is to educate the next generation how to view charity and chesed. The program is designed for high school students to look at crises as an opportunity to help others in a meaningful way. The “course” further provides Smart Chesed tools.

Please attend the evening at Joe and Lori Rozehzadeh, 19 Roosevelt Ave, West Orange, NJ, on Motzei Shabbat, February 27, at 8:00 PM.

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