Several charities rise to top of ‘begging drawer’

I have a system for monitoring solicitations. All year long, I put every request I receive into what I call my “begging drawer.” Then, whenever I feel moved to do so, I go through it and toss out duplicates (there are always many).
After Halloween, I make final determinations on who stays and who goes — not always easy — and in November, I start writing checks. By the end of December, I’ve emptied the drawer (and sometimes the checking account!) and I’m ready for the New Year and the income tax deadline.
Every year, one charity rises to the top of my pile. It’s one of the only ones that may eventually go out of business because its primary work will be done. This is the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous, a main source of support for those now-aged Gentiles overseas who put their own lives at risk to save Jews during the Holocaust. When they’re gone, there will be no further need for this kind of support.
But today, there is still much to be done. Currently, JFR sends funds every month to about 425 old and needy rescuers in 20 different countries. The money helps them pay for food, medicine and housing costs. It has distributed more than $37 million since being founded in 1986 by the late Rabbi Harold Schulweis.
I save the JFR’s Rosh Hashanah “begging letter” every year because it always highlights someone who gets the organization’s support. This year, the spotlight was on an entire family — the Voronieckys. Their home is now in Lithuania, but their town was part of Poland in September 1941. The Germans had entered that part of the world three months earlier and ordered all Jews to forced labor. Then, on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, they began liquidation. Saul Leyman and his friends, three Schneider brothers, ran for help to Maria Voroniecky, who had worked for the Schneiders before the war. She, her husband Josef and their four teenage children took the men in, and dug a hiding place in the floor of their barn. Not many days later, the men learned of the mass liquidation that had taken all of their relatives.
Talk about heroism! One night a Nazi came to the farm, accused the family of hiding Jews, and severely beat Viktor, one of the Voroniecky sons. But he refused to betray those four men, who stayed with them for three whole years until Soviet liberation in 1944. In 2000, Yad Vashem recognized all the Voronieckys as Righteous Among the Gentiles. The rest of that family is long gone, but two of Viktor’s sisters are still alive and receiving JFR support today.
There are, of course, organizations that similarly support Jewish survivors themselves. Now seeking recognition is The Survivor Mitzvah Project, which has the support of many famed names in the entertainment world, including Mayim Bialik, Ed Asner, Lainie Kazan and Elliott Gould. For those who want something more than a good feeling for their contributions, SMP is fundraising with a glitzy initiative: in cooperation with jewelry designer Dominique Cohen of Beverly Hills, it’s now offering a diamond-accented unisex bracelet, engraved with the name of one survivor; a contribution of $1,800 “buys” a bracelet and will support that survivor for an entire year. The organization’s founder, Zane Buzby, has virtually the same message about the recipients of its charity that JFR delivers with requests to fund those it helps: “These men and women, now in their 80s and 90s, are ill, isolated, and lacking the means to buy food, medicine, heat and shelter. They are in urgent need.”
However you decide on who will receive your 2016 charitable contributions, I hope you’ll remember the Holocaust and assist both Jewish survivors and Righteous Gentiles with some end-of-the-year giving.  Both the organizations I’ve mentioned here are certified non-profit public charities. For further information, go to and You will thank yourself.

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