In 2001 I published a book called Stigma: How We Treat Outsiders. The word Stigma is Greek and means “to prick with a needle”. In ancient Athens, 115,000 of the 315 thousand inhabitants were slaves. These slaves were forced to wear a stigma introduced into their skin so that their owners could be identified.
In more recent times a stigma was a sign sewn on a garment. Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote a novel called The Scarlet Letter which describes the fate of Hester Prynne, who lived in 17th Century Puritan Boston. A married woman who became pregnant while her husband was in England, she was denounced as an adulteress and forced to wear the letter A on all her clothes. She was also excluded from the Puritan community and had to live in a cabin alone with her child.
Today, we no longer sew letters on the clothes of stigmatized people. We do, however, still use verbal stigmas and exclude those who carry them. In the Jewish community, “Holocaust Survivor” or “German Jewish refugee” are stigmas which cannot be overcome. Like Hester Prynne, those who are so stigmatized are excluded by the Jewish community and kept at a distance, only to be interrupted on occasion by demands for money.
It has now been 60 years since the end of the Second World War. Therefore only a few Jews who actually saw the Nazi horrors are still with us. They are so old that the stigma imposed on them by the American Jewish community cannot be reversed, so that we can say with confidence that the survivors were never welcome here and that to the end they are viewed as an opprobrium or people who bring disgrace on the natives.
Those of us who have traveled somewhat in this country are of course aware that strangers are seldom welcome in our synagogues. I have experienced this from San Diego to Palm Beach. No one greets a stranger who visits a synagogue. This kind of rejection is therefore not limited to holocaust survivors. Years ago I was even ejected from a Philadelphia synagogue because I had no money.
What is true of our synagogues is also true of our Jewish organizations. They collect money all the time. Strangers telephone and demand money for all kinds of obscure causes. No one is told what happens to all the money collected. It seems to disappear just as the United Way money disappears. Neither the poor nor the sick nor the needy get one cent. So where is the money? If we ask ,we are told the “the funds have been allocated” to this or that agency. Now, what do the “agencies” do with the money collected under the guise of charity? Well, the truth is that is goes to the vast salaries of elitist insidious sycophants.
For example, Steven Hoffman, executive of United Jewish Communities in New York City, was paid $491,000 in 2003. His predecessor, Stephen Solender, received “only” $450,000. Robert Aronson, CEO of the Detroit Jewish Federation, “earned” $381,000 last year and the lifelong boss of the ADL, Abraham Foxman, was paid $379,000 in ’03. Even Rabbi Marvin Hier, the executive of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, took $450,000 from the collections for himself last year. Therefore Rabbi Hier earns the same as the President of the United States, who is paid a salary of $400,000 and in addition receives a $50,000 expense account. The other executives mentioned here earn more than the President of the U.S. U.S. Senators and Representatives earn $150,000 a year.
We could go on and on and list innumerable other vast incomes collected by the CEO’s and others “working” for our charities.
It should be known that the “lesser” lights in these organizations earn very little. Even in expensive Los Angeles, the social workers in Jewish organizations are the working poor who earn $15,000 a year if they are lucky.
Here are the salaries of non-Jewish organization executives. American Red Cross, $201,516. Goodwill Industries, $209,153; CARE $232,213; UNICEF, $208,000 and Boy Scouts of America, $328,098, etc., etc., etc.
Add to these salaries the income of all the assistant executives, the fancy office rents, travel and other expenses, and it is evident that there is next to nothing left for the poor and the truly needy among us.
It is of course true that one cannot be Jewish if one does not contribute to the community. We must give to synagogues. This is not for us to chose; this is our duty as the Torah commands. It ought to be understood, however, that the Torah prohibits the poor from giving charity. Someone who is exceedingly poor may not give his “last cent”. That is a sin and the organizations ought not to accept money from the poor. Our duty is to give to the poor. Not to building programs and certainly not to outrageous salaries. We do not owe our money to those who dine out at expensive kosher restaurants nor to “expense accounts”.
Therefore, we need to deliver our gifts to the poor themselves. Here is how it is done. Get the address of a poor Jew and during the night leave a box of food or clothes at his doorstep. If he lives in an apartment house, leave the box, then ring the bell and run out of there as fast as possible so the recipient cannot know who gave the contents of the box. Never reveal that you gave anything. Keep it anonymous.
We must also support synagogues since Judaism cannot exist if we have no Beth Hamidrosh. Here anonymous giving is also of great help.
Think about this and act accordingly.