I do not work or volunteer for Tomchei Shabbos of Bergen County. Indeed, I am a recipient of their services.
For many years, to the best of my knowledge, Tomchei Shabbos prided itself on being a “no questions asked” organization. If someone was referred to them by a trustworthy source, e.g., a shul rabbi, a social service worker, Project Ezrah etc., then that individual/family was added to the recipient list. Case closed.
Pretty recently, Tomchei Shabbos recipients were notified that, going forward, their needs would be re-evaluated on a “regular basis.” A form was sent out, asking many questions about income, expenses, and other such things. Editor’s note: According to Tomchei Shabbos, this re-evaulation process began in 2015 and is now 85 percent complete.
Many recipients already have to disclose their finances to other organizations every year: YeshivaAid, camp scholarship applications, health insurance subsidies, the WIC (food stamps) program etc.
Now, it may be argued that despite the headache of recipients having to fill out yet another form to “prove their relative poverty,” it is a financially responsible decision on the part of Tomchei Shabbos to require this. And perhaps they should have been doing so all along.
Yet it seems to me (and this is only my opinion, I have no access to Tomchei Shabbos’s financials) that the reason they felt they had to start doing this now is because they do not have enough funding to help all those who are in need of it.
In the greater Bergen County area, there are many “haves” and many “have-nots.” Beth Aaron’s Rabbi Rothwachs, in a shiur on health habits of Orthodox Jews (available on YU Torah online) quoted “finances” as one of the primary causes of unhealthy stress amongst our community. He stated that in order to live “comfortably” in our neighborhoods, a family needs to be earning some $240K yearly, which is a salary that sits within the top five percent of the nation’s earners. Obviously, not everyone living in Bergen County is bringing in that kind of money.
The halachot of tzedakah stress that “the poor of your city” have priority. If you are blessed as being one of the many “haves” in Bergen County, please—make contributions, regularly, to Tomchei Shabbos. Help them be able to continue helping those for whom living a Jewish life is significantly more challenging.
Name Withheld Upon Request