My name is Devorah Heshelis, and I live in Yerushalayim. I'm a speaker and author.
About three years ago I read a flier about a woman in Bet Shemesh who died, leaving behind eight orphans. The flier, which was trying to raise money for the orphans said that the woman had been divorced and had no family to help her. In addition to trying to raise the children, she cleaned a school at night for income. She also received some help from tsdaka funds but it wasn't nearly enough. She begged the gabai tsdaka for help, saying that if they didn't raise the money for her, they would have to raise it for her orphans, but nothing helped. There simply wasn't enough money to go around. Then, one night it happened. She went out to clean and never came back. They found her dead body in a field.
The story shocked me to the core of my being. Over and over again I asked myself how our Jewish society could allow such a thing to happen. Yes, there is a recession. Yes, people give lots of tsdaka to many different worthy causes. But many people still have money for good food, cars, nice furniture, and even vacations. And even those who have less are still buying ice creams, pizzas, and an extra pair of shoes to match a new outfit. Why didn't people help? Why, why, why??? The story gave me no peace. I kept thinking about it, over and over, and over again.
A few days later a woman knocked on my door asking for help. She was divorced with eight children. Two are already adults, two live with their father, but four of them live with her. She got no support from the father. Although she received welfare, it didn't nearly cover the basics. The main problem was her rent which was $400 a month, a relatively small amount, but totally beyond her capacity to pay. I felt as if Hashem who had read my thoughts was saying to me, "Well, here's your chance to act differently. See what you can do about it."
I called former students, especially one who had gone to America and worked as a lawyer. For a couple of years I was able to help her. Then my sources dried up, each for their own reason. I went abroad to speak about my book and was able to raise some more money for her. She also began to receive some government help for rent payments, although still too little. She was even offered a rent free apartment from the government, but there was a condition that she pay 6000 shekels (about $1700) for security. She didn't have the money, and so lost the apartment. She has now been placed again on a waiting list for an apartment and her case should be reviewed in about three months, but she still has no money for the security payment. Furthermore, she now has nowhere to live. She has been evicted from her previous apartment and is staying for a few days with a friend, while the children were sent to their father - who doesn't want them! In order to rent another apartment she must give two months payment in advance, which means at least $900. She also must pay $1000 for what she owes her former landlord. Her landlord's lawyer sent her a letter stating that if she doesn't pay the sum immediately the case will be taken to court and she will have to pay the court expenses. Furthermore, each letter from the lawyer is billed to her, for an additional 100 shekels. (I read the lawyer's letter.)
I went with her to the Va'ad Harabonim Li'inyonei Tsdaka who said they would consider the case after Rosh HaShonoh. But what is she supposed to do until then? And even if they do help her it will be a maximum of 2000 shekels, (about $480). I am not blaming the va'ad hatsdaka. They get thousands of requests which they cannot cover. But how is this woman going to survive? She is out on the street and her children are in a different city with a father who can't care for them. And where will they go when school starts? How can we let this happen?
I am trying desperately to get help for her. Yes, everyone has expenses, times are hard, etc., but most of us have comfortable homes and all our basic needs. What will HASHEM say about us if we don't help?
I personally went from door to door raising money, but it isn't nearly enough. I gave my own money as well, but we have very little and I can't help her on my own. Please, please, help!
P.S. Anyone wishing to verify this story can e-mail Dixie Yid, who will forward the message to me.
Tax deductible checks can be made out to Tsedaka V'chesed and mailed to Mrs. Manne, 1433 East 16th Street, Brooklyn, NY 11230. I will make sure it goes to help this family.
Please donate to my son's cheder by going to minivanraffle.org to buy a raffle ticket. The drawing for a new minivan, car, or $20,000 cash will be IY"H Chanukah time. $100 for 1 ticket. $360 for 5. Where the form says "Referred by," please write "Dixie Yid." Tizku l'mitzvos!