Sunday, November 18, 2007

Last week was Margalit's appearance in B'nai Akiva's yearly production. This year was "Mulan"; I still haven't figured out why Bnai Akiva always does Walt Disney-like productions, but they do. Has nothing to do with B'nai Akiva, nothing to do with Judaism, nothing to do with anything. Never mind...the kids like it
anyway, with that, the balagan of B'nai Akiva's "Chodesh Irgun" has finished; that, and this week's production in the other B'nai Akiva branch, where my kids went to see their friends. Why none of my children have seen fit to attend the branch that's right up the street from me, but instead, need to trek up the hill (often necessiating a ride back home) is beyond me, but the tradition started with Avishai, and has continued down the line. They like the farther branch.
We had guests in our guest room for 3 nights -- hurray! Lovely people from South Africa. They paid us for the third night, even though they didn't stay (though they'd reserved it), and even left a bit extra. When my son asked me "why?" I said "because they're not Israelis! In other parts of the world, people try to be nice and fair". Unfortunately, my son understood exactly what I meant. And he's Israeli! Anyway, we had them for Shabbat lunch, which I really enjoyed -- too often, we have people staying in the room downstairs that I'd love to get to know better, but there's no opportunity, so when a Shabbat meal is available like that, it's great. We also had a neighbor join us which was fun -- she's great at keeping the conversation moving.
Just got a letter from one of the Tzfat tzdekka organizations. Unfortunately, I am aware that every word that they say is true -- the situation these days is horrendous. Last week, food prices began to shoot up on staples like milk products and bread, meaning that everything with wheat will be rising soon. On my weekly shopping trip, I saw the increase reflected immediately -- my bill was about 50shekels above what it had been. this city has already seen the opening of 2 new soup kitchens over the past year, and tzdekka organizations are struggling to simply get people some basics, like fruits and vegetables, bread, eggs, etc. I was able to send my friend in Jerusalem a few hundred shekels, so I feel like I'm doing something, but I know what it means to raise a family, and a few hundred shekels is a drop in the bucket.
Anyway, for anyone who wants to put a damper on the day, here's the letter. I'm thinking of tring to send it out to various community's newsletters...don't know if it'll help. And from what I hear, American Jewish community's are struggling with unprecedented poverty rates too,
Lev U'Neshama's newsletter:
TZFAT INSIGHTS:Keeping your eyes "open" is a good idea in Tzfat for several reasons. One is for safety. You can be walking along and suddenly the walkway narrows to allow for a stairway going down. Light poles often are located in the middle of a sidewalk; nasty things to bump into. Last week, at twilight, we were driving down one of the many steep streets in Tzfat when realized that there was a herd of cows coming up the road. The cows moved over to allow the slow passage of our car. Occasionally they wander into town from their pasture in the valley below. The police with experience in herding would soon be on the job and the cow’s owner would be called to retrieve his herd. Also, when I keep my eyes "open", I see many other interesting things and some I want to share with you.

Recently I saw two girls, about 8 years old, rummaging through clothes they had plucked from a large garbage bin. These bins are about 4 feet high and look like a small, green tank with hatches on top and an open area on one end to receive large items. One girl clutched their few "finds" while the other piled the unwanted items into a nearby carton.

A man with whom I was casually talking to mentioned that he sees small children climbing into these garbage bins and how unhealthy it is to be in such a filthy place. I told him that the children climb into the bins to extricate anything they can find that can be of use for their families; clothes, food, broken furniture, etc. He was shocked. Not too much shocks us, anymore.

The store owner of our neighborhood vegetable/fruit store puts boxes on the ground outside the store door into which he puts damaged, partially spoiled vegetables and fruits. People come and select for free what they want and salvage what they can eat.

The City of Tzfat hires men to clean the sidewalks and gutters. They push a large plastic bucket, or pull a rope attached to the bucket to drag it behind them. They also carry a broom and a shovel to do the cleaning. One such gentleman, Uri, an elderly fellow, works in our neighborhood. I see him in all kinds of weather pushing or pulling the bucket and sweeping carefully to clean up. In the winter, often in rain and fog, he goes about his work, looking completely soaked. He wears several sweaters and an old, frayed jacket. This week I asked if he would like a warm coat for the winter. He eagerly answered yes. Later that day, after finding one in the Lev U’Neshama Clothing Gemach that I manage, I found him on the street and he got a "new", warm ¾ length, fully-lined, hooded coat. He was so delighted that he couldn’t have smiled any broader. A gift from friends from America.

Families are "living on the edge". Some have "fallen off" the edge. It is not uncommon to dial a phone number and learn that it is disconnected. Phone service is the first thing to go when you can’t meet the bills. Additionally, electricity costs have escalated and I shudder to think of the countless families in Tzfat who have no heat in their homes. Even those with heaters often turn them on only in one room where the family gathers and the door is kept closed. Fuel costs have escalated, as well. The Lev U’Neshama Discretionary Fund is used to help extreme cases and as money allows.

A family who gets food boxes from Lev U’Neshama was visited. The volunteer discovered that the children needed bed frames. The mattresses they had were on the floor and they were in deplorable condition. A donor supplied the funds for used bed frames to be purchased and another person donated the mattresses.

Another family was visited by a Lev U’Neshama volunteer and it was learned that several of the younger children in the family have skin problems. The mother reluctantly told the volunteer that the doctor told her that the problem was the result of vitamin deficiency. Her doctor advised her to take vitamin B, especially because she nurses the babies and the vitamin deficiency impacts the children. A donor will be supplying the vitamins. The family was put on the food delivery list and they will get, at least once a month, a bountiful amount of fruits and vegetables that perhaps will help the situation somewhat.

Bread costs have almost doubled. When Moshe and I were in the bakery buying our weekly bread, a woman shyly asked if we could give her some money to help her buy bread for her family. We gave her some money, of course, for which she was grateful. Produce has also almost doubled in cost, mainly because of the requirements for Shmita-approved produce. (This is an agricultural law that is in force every 7th year.)

Three preschool classes in absorption centers in Tzfat will be receiving winter gear in the next few weeks; hats, gloves/mittens, two pair of socks, warm jackets. For Chanukah we have a special surprise for the children of stuffed animals and dolls that were supplied by donors. We recall the children’s radiant smiles from last year’s gift giving. The smiles surpassed their verbal thank yous.

Also on the bright side, doves have taken up residency in the eaves of an upstairs neighbor’s porch. The happy couple have produced some chicks. It is pleasant to hear their cooing sounds, particularly in the morning.

The joy of singing: I watched a father pushing a carriage containing his youngest child. A toddler and another child slightly older were close behind as the father sang a simple song and the children happily sang along. When we walk to a family who has invited us for a Shabbat dinner, it brings a smile to our faces to hear families singing around their Shabbat tables as we walk past their homes.

I saw a man parking his car and when he saw an elderly man struggling to carry sacks of groceries up a steep stairway, he stopped and carried all the bags to the elderly man’s door. When I passed him, he said, "It’s a Mitzvah", and he walked down the street.

It’s a Mitzvah for those who help Lev U’Neshama supply boxes of food to 140 families (1,000 people, approximately.) Every dollar helps those in need because we are a volunteer staff. However, the food fund budget is strained and we must reach out to replenish the fund in order to maintain the food box deliveries.

Therefore, when Moshe and I will travel to visit our families in Chicago and Denver, we will try to raise funds. We will first be in Chicago and then on to Denver. We will be available in Chicago from November 27-December 6 and Denver from December 10 - 30. If you live in either of these cities and you would like to arrange for a private or public meeting, please contact us at: to get our schedule. If you can manage a donation of any amount, you can save a trip to the post office to purchase an overseas stamp and use a domestic stamp. Make your check made payable to Lev U’Neshama and send it to: Smolensky, c/o Mazel Emet Quezada, 2285 Forest Street, Denver CO 80207. We’ll happily take the checks back to Tzfat and turn them into working shekels. Together we can make it a little healthier and happier for needy families in Tzfat.



Canadian Tax Donation InformationCanadians who need a Canadian tax receipt should make their checks out to the: B'nai Torah Charity Fund. The check and a note that the donation is for Lev U'Neshama, Tsfat (special project if required such as food fund, shoes, etc) should then be sent to:Congregation B'nai Torah465 Patricia AvenueWillowdale, Ontario M2R 2N1 CanadaThey will send you a receipt.

US Tax Donation InformationDonations in any amount will help so much. This can easily be done in several ways.

(1) By going to the website: and using the system on this site for making donations. Tax receipts can be issued from here.

(2) If you don't need a tax receipt, you can send donations directly to me at:SmolenskyP O Box 6432Tzfat 13229, IsraelPlease make the checks payable to: Lev U'Neshama

(3) Checks can be sent to: To Save A LifeJerry Klinger16405 Equestrian LaneRockville MD 20855Indicate your donation is for Lev U’Neshama. Make checks payable to: To Save A Life.Tax receipts can be issued from here by request.

Checks can be sent to: Lamed VuvnikLouis Berlin19651 NE 19th PlaceMiami FL 33179Indicate your donation is for Lev U’Neshama. Make checks payable to: Lamed Vuvnik.Tax receipts can be issued from here by request.

If you wish to contact me, please use this email address: you can't make a donation, or if you do, your prayers will help us a lot.Sincerely,Moshe & Yaffa Smolensky

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