Friday, April 25, 2008

Giving To The Homeless

They began lining up in front of the synagogue well before sunrise.

The homeless, elderly and poor of the Pico-Robertson district -- 100 of them -- held up white registration cards as they shuffled through the doors of B'nai David-Judea.

Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky, a man of 44 more prone to blue jeans than black suits, greeted each by name. One by one, he handed out $15 Ralphs gift cards to everyone except four newcomers who hadn't registered.

They swarmed him outside the synagogue after he finished with the others.

"Sir, I would like a gift card," said a man in a hooded sweat shirt.

"I'm sorry," Kanefsky answered.

"Sir, why can't you go back in there and get me a gift card?"

Kanefsky stood firm. "I can't do that," he said softly.

Like Jewish leaders elsewhere, this Modern Orthodox rabbi has long exhorted his congregants to give tzedakah, or charity.

Providing for the poor, he says, is not only a mitzvah -- a good deed -- but a holy act and a religious obligation. The message frames the holiest day of the Jewish year, Yom Kippur, when worshipers are reminded that charity is among the deeds that can avert an evil decree in the year to come. - LA Times

Simply acknowledging homeless people as human beings is a great first step for the many people who don't treat hobos with respect.

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