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    Telemarketing & charity – Sh’kalim

    Telemarketing must achieve something or else it would cease. For most people it is a sheer nuisance. The telemarketers are usually given a hard time and blamed for disturbing our lives when they are simply trying to make a living. We even give a tongue-lashing to the telemarketers employed by charities to solicit donations. The causes are mostly genuine, but the calls intrude upon our private lives and require personal details to be given over the phone to a stranger. The ends are good but the means are questionable.

    In Jewish thinking there are two categories of giving, and Shabbat Sh’kalim is a good time to ask about the ethic of philanthropy. Donations that are essentially voluntary show you are a good person. Some, like the law of the half-shekel (Ex. 30), are compulsory: they are a mark of identification. In both cases our tradition insists that the dignity of the donor is respected, but the integrity of the collector is also important.

    There is an old story about the Hebrew teacher (there are so many stories about Hebrew teachers that someone should study and record them). When the teacher came to give a lesson, the child hid. When the teacher came for his money, the parent hid. When the parent came to check up on the lesson, the teacher hid…

    When it comes to charitable giving, no-one should hide. Nor should anyone be humiliated or browbeaten, neither the recipient nor the donor nor the collector.

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