Erev Yom Kippur Appeal 5768
by Marc Mangel
Usually a member of the board of directors speaks now, but this summer I have been reading the Memoirs of Elias Canetti, a Sephardic Jew of the last century and winner of the Nobel Prize in literature. Because of that asked if I might deliver this appeal.
Here is how Canetti describes pre WW I Vienna, where one of the passions of his grandfather was collecting tzedaka:
“I often saw him in Praterstrasse, accosting some one for money for this purpose. He was already holding his red-leather notebook, in which the name and contribution of each donor were recorded. He was already accepting the banknotes and stowing them in his wallet.
“He never got no for an answer; it would have been scandalous saying no to Señor Canetti. Prestige within the community hinged on this; people always had cash on them for the not-so-small contributions; a ‘no’ would have meant that a man was on the verge of being one of the poor himself, and that was something no one wanted to have said about himself.
“I do believe, however, that there was also true generosity among these people. Often, with restrained pride, I heard that so-and-so was a good person, which meant that he was lavish with donations.”
The world has changed. It is probably hard to find somebody today who thinks of giving Tzedaka in this way – as a means of demonstrating that he or she is not on the verge of poverty. But how many of us give to demonstrate that we’ve had a successful year?
Yes, the world has changed. Tonight, we begin a day that celebrates our ability to change. And tonight, I invite you to join the Canetti Conspiracy (something that Dan Brown will not write about).
As we reach into our pockets to support this synagogue – and other Jewish causes during the year – let us not think of it as obligation or even duty or even righteousness. Rather, let us reach deeper and remember Senor Canetti. Let us think of it as a way of showing thankfulness for the bounty that we enjoy.
Have an easy fast.