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Wise Charitable Giving

Wise Charitable Giving

The Rebbe responds to a Charitable Foundation

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Mr. Irving I. Stone
Mr. Irving I. Stone

In the correspondence below, the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory, states his opinion on how a charitable foundation should distribute its funds. The Rebbe's two primary concerns are the amount of time it takes (spent on studies, surveys, etc.) before funds are actually distributed, and the common approach of not dipping into a foundation's principle.

The letters are addressed to Mr. Irving I. Stone, of blessed memory, the eldest son of Jacob Sapirstein. Jacob founded the American Greeting card company in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1906, selling picture postcards from a horse-drawn wagon. Together with his two younger brothers (all of whom Americanized their surname to Stone), Irving transformed American Greetings from a small family business into the world's largest publicly owned greeting card company.

Mr. Stone was a staunch supporter of many Jewish organizations and was scrupulous in ensuring that his funds were properly spent.

A short while after the passing of the family patriarch, the Stones established a fund in his memory. Their goal was to educate the educators in Jewish schools. In 1973, Mr. Stone, who greatly admired the Rebbe and had supported many Chabad-Lubavitch institutions, wrote to the Rebbe.

Thank you to Moshe Cohen and Hensha Stone Gansbourg for their assistance in preparing this correspondence for publication.


July 25, 1973

Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson
770 Eastern Parkway
Brooklyn 13, New York

Dear Rebbe:

I am writing to you for your advice and guidance on how to solve a problem we are confronting in distribution of funds from our Foundation. One of the chief objectives of our Foundation is to further Torah True Jewish Education, through Hebrew teacher training, regardless of the philosophy so long as it is Torah True.

Over the years we want to transfer funds from our Foundation and put them somewhere where all facets of Torah Judaism can be aided on a proportionate basis according to training programs. If the proper program can be inaugurated — one which is effective, meaningful, and will guarantee that our aims will always be followed, we contemplate marking periodic gifts which eventually may total several million dollars. The principal at all times is to be retained intact, and the income is to be used to aid Torah True teacher training institutions, regardless of philosophy. Present institutions should be helped as well as new ones which may be established in the future, and should institutions change in philosophy or effectiveness, they no longer receive aid.

We feel a strong responsibility to set up the proper program to further teacher training at Torah True institutions in perpetuity. How to set up the correct program is of deep concern to us. Any help and suggestions you can give us in solving our problem will be greatly appreciated.

Sincerely,

Irving I. Stone

By the Grace of G‑d
Rosh Chodesh Menachem-Av 5733 [July 30, 1973].
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Mr. I. I. Stone
The Jacob Sapirstein Foundation
Cleveland, O.

Greeting and Blessing:

After not hearing from you for some time — though I have been receiving indirect regards through mutual friends — I was pleased to receive your letter of July 25th. I hasten to reply, because of the obvious importance of the subject matter, which has to do with the problem of how best and most effectively to distribute funds from your Foundation to further Torah true Jewish education, and you ask for advice and guidance on the matter.

Permit me, therefore, first of all, to point out some of the pitfalls which have hampered such highly desired objectives on the part of similar foundations. For the avoidance of these pitfalls is the first step in meeting the urgent needs.

It has often happened, unfortunately, in various areas of philanthropy, that before actual distribution of funds is commenced, a preliminary and lengthy research or study program is initiated. While this approach is generally motivated by a desire to distribute funds more effectively, and may be commendable theoretically, the net result has all too often been to delay actual distribution of funds urgently needed immediately, quite apart from the fact that substantial funds have thus been diverted from their main purpose. In our day and age, considering the state of emergency prevailing in Torah Chinuch [education], the delay is even more deplorable than the diversion of funds.

A further point, which is also mentioned in your letter, is the prevalent policy of foundations not to touch the principal at any time, but to make distributions from income only. This policy, too, may be commendable in normal times, but in times of emergency such as now exists, I believe that a more flexible policy is clearly called for. Obviously, however substantial the income may be, it is only a fraction of the actual reserve; and where there is a case of life-saving, some of the reserves should also be brought into play.

I repeat, I fully appreciate that both guiding principles mentioned above, with which I take issue, are unquestionably businesslike and well-intentioned. But they are sound only in normal times.

The reality of the situation is, however, that we live in abnormal times, and the abnormality of the situation has two facets, one negative and one positive.

On the negative side, we see to our deep sorrow and dismay how a large and growing segment of our Jewish youth is utterly confused and alienated to such an extent that it is being written off in some quarters as a lost cause, G‑d forbid. Such a view is, of course, quite at variance with the Torah view, unequivocally expressed by our Sages of the Mishnah: "All Jews have a share in the World to Come, as it is written, but all your people are righteous. . . the work of My Hands." In other words, the eternal destiny of each and every Jew is assured by G‑d Himself, regardless of the present state in which the individual may be.

Fortunately, just as Divine Providence is in evidence in every thing, it is evidenced also in the fact that the negative side of the situation is compensated by the positive side of it. It is, that never before has there been a greater, more eager and honest desire on the part of our young generation to search for the truth, a desire matched by a determination and readiness to accept challenge and re-order the daily life accordingly — so long as they are convinced that they have found the truth.

The combination of the said two factors, the negative and the positive, makes it even more compelling to render the needed help immediately, without delay and in the maximum measure. There are numerous borderline cases, where it is a matter of touch or go, where every minute is of the essence: Reach out to them — and you save them; let go — and they may drift away beyond reach. For the forces pulling them in the wrong direction are many and tremendous; forces that "call darkness — light, and bitter — sweet," and many of our boys and girls are constantly exposed to them with maximum vulnerability and minimum defenses.

The above may seem a lengthy preface to my answer to your letter, but not too lengthy considering the vital import of the subject.

If you have in mind some kind of agency or program involving contingent investigative or coordinative functions — then I have already expressed my view on it above. I rather hope, however, that you would consider, instead, beginning at once with direct allocations to Torah-true institutions of Chinuch organizations which meet the qualifications you have set before you. I would also suggest, moreover, that in the next few years at any rate, some funds from the capital should augment the distribution from the income.

If the latter part of the suggestion still calls forth some hesitation, let me allay all such misgivings by the oft repeated assurance of our Sages that Tzedoko [charity] is analogous to a well, which replenishes itself. Drawing water from such a well does not decrease the supply, while depriving oneself of the needed quantity does not increase it. Even more illuminating is the analogy from the use of the mind, especially in regard to knowledge and wisdom of the Torah. The teacher who teaches Torah, the more demanding the students and the more he teaches, the more he learns and the more he deepens his own knowledge. There is no need to elaborate on this to you.

I trust you will accept my suggestions even if, at first glance, they do not appear overly businesslike. From what I have heard of you and know you, you are more concerned with persons and values than with hard business, and this is what we are concerned here with — living persons and the eternal values of Toras Chaim [Torah of Life] and Toras Emes [Torah of Truth], which must be brought together, in order to save them and their future generations.

May G‑d guide you in making the right decisions, and the Zechus Horabim [merit of the community] will be with you to do the right thing and to set a shining example to others, and to carry out your responsibilities — with the fullest cooperation and encouragement of your wife — in good health and with gladness of heart.

With esteem and blessing,

M. Schneerson

By the Grace of G‑d
13th of Cheshvan, 5734 [November 8, 1973]
Brooklyn, N. Y.

Mr. I. I. Stone
Cleveland, Ohio

Greeting and Blessing:

With further reference to our correspondence, I wish to emphasize here another point about the urgency and speed that should propel every activity for the strengthening of Yiddishkeit [Judaism] in general, and Torah Chinuch in particular.

In normal times, steady, albeit slow, progress might be satisfactory, and sometimes steady progress and speed may not even be compatible. However, we live in "abnormal" times, when things move with whirlwind speed, and we must not lag behind the times in our method of tackling problems in the vital area of Torah and Chinuch. Indeed, in light of the Baal Shem Tov's teaching that a person must learn from everything around him how better to fulfill his purpose in life, especially in fundamental matters, the present jet age and supersonic speed should inspire the idea of time-saving in the spiritual realm. A distance that not so very long ago took days and weeks to cover, can now be spanned in a matter of hours, and a message that took as long to communicate can now be transmitted instantly. If this could be accomplished in the physical and material world, surely the same should be true in the spiritual realm, whether in the area of personal achievement, or in the area of effecting a change in the environment. To be satisfied with less in the realm of the spirit would be like arguing to return to the era of the horse and buggy on the ground that this was satisfactory in olden days, all the more so since spiritual matters have never been subject to the limitations of time and space.

If anyone may entertain any doubt about his ability to meet a challenge which Divine Providence has thrown into his lap, suffice it to remember that G‑d does not act despotically or capriciously, and most certainly provides the necessary capacity to meet the challenge, and to do so joyously, which is the way of all Divine service, as it is written, "Serve G‑d with joy," and which, incidentally, is a basic tenet of the Chasidic approach to all matters.

With all good wishes, and

With blessing,

M. Schneerson

Dovid Zaklikowski is a freelance journalist living in Brooklyn. Dovid and his wife Chana Raizel are the proud parents of four: Motti, Meir, Shaina & Moshe Binyomin.
Letter of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory.
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