Jun 1, 2004
Proposal for RCA National Charity Registry
Rabbi Yaakov Luban
The meshulachim phenomenon in America has reached crisis proportions. Probably every Rabbi can write a book of horror stories relating to this topic. It is not uncommon for ten meshulachim to visit in one evening, even into the late hours of the night. Because of the economic depression in Israel, many worthy individuals with tragic situations desperately require our assistance. Unfortunately, a large number of these collectors are complete charlatans who fabricate stories that are not true and present forged documentation. In addition to stealing tzedakah that they do not deserve, the dishonest meshulachim divert desperately needed funds from legitimate nitzrochim. The charlatans are often rude and insulting and leave a terrible feeling in the hearts of those who generously give tzedakah.
A second problem relates to drivers. The public would be appalled and outraged to learn that many drivers take advantage of these unfortunate umlolim and rake in a whopping 33 to 50% of all solicitations.
Some large communities have addressed this problem by creating review boards to write letters of approval for collectors and drivers. However, this system has several significant shortcomings:
• Smaller communities do not have the resources to establish review boards.
• The quality of research is often poor and completely unreliable.
• There is no sharing of information between communities.
• There is unnecessary duplication of effort.
I would like to propose that the RCA establish a National Tzedakah Registry for solicitors and drivers. Only a national organization such as the RCA carries the prestige necessary to undertake a project of this scope and magnitude. (Perhaps this effort can be done in conjunction with the OU as well.) This board would perform thorough and extensive research and compile accurate in-depth computer records on individuals and organizations. Worthy parties would receive a certificate which would be recognized and respected nationwide. If done properly, Rabbonim would encourage their congregants to only give tzedakah to legitimate individuals who bear proper approval. The registry would also serve as a central location for other Vaadim to funnel relevant information. A system to control drivers can also be developed.
Funding for this effort can come from one of two sources: a) the solicitors and the drivers who will benefit from the letter of approval, and b) membership dues of participating communities.
Though the exact details need to be carefully formulated, this memo serves as a general proposal for this concept, and is intended to stimulate discussion and consideration.