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The Phone Solicitation
Mom with a View

The Phone Solicitation

I was so frustrated by the intrusion, I hung up the phone.


I was preparing a class the other day when the phone rang. I was just elaborating on the idea that we should live each day as if it's our last and what that means for our character and behavior. I ran to get the phone, unable to ignore its insistent ringing, yet preoccupied with my thoughts.

It was a phone solicitation. I was so resentful of the interruption, so frustrated by the intrusion into my time and space and so annoyed by the break in my train of thought that I barely listened before I muttered, "I'm sorry, I can't help you," and replaced the receiver. (Trust me, it sounds gentler than it really was.)

But I had heard just enough to know that the request for money came from an organization that provides food for the needy in Israel. My mind could fill in the blanks -- the poverty, the illness, the broken homes.

I had heard just enough to appreciate the irony of my reaction -- and to be humiliated and ashamed.

I was so busy preparing these lofty ideas to impart to my eager students, so conscious of the merit of the information (and my merit in communicating it!) that I completely lost touch with the fact that there was a person on the other end of the phone, a real human being with needs and emotions, to whom I had been gratuitously nasty.

And what was his crime? He was trying to raise money for needy families, families I should be anxious to help, families I am anxious to help -- if only I could be bothered to listen.

But I was busy, I had work to do. And he spoke so slowly and haltingly. He didn't even pronounce our name correctly. I felt justified in being dismissive.

I couldn't return to preparing the class. My faux pas lingered in front of me, mocking my arrogance, the idea that I was qualified to communicate important goals and qualities.

I'm grateful that I had just reviewed the idea "Repent one day before your death" and its implication that therefore we need to repent every day since we don't know when we'll die. I'm grateful it was that particular piece of Torah that I was learning. Because now I know exactly how to fix my mistake -- and how to prevent it in the future.

August 30, 2008

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Visitor Comments: 21

(21) Goldie C., June 2, 2009 11:34 PM

I personally work in a calling center that calls for many Jewish charities. There is no commission involved. I get all the abuse and know all the excuses people say in my sleep. "I don't pledge over the phone or I don't make phone solicitations-send it to me by mail." I can't explain how irritating it is to get the same excuses over and over again!! I look at it as raising money for poor, needy families and for students who cannot afford tuition. Many people accuse me of being pushy even when I speak in the nicest, softest way. I don't mean to be pushy. It's just a part of the job to get donations for charities and asking different ways in order to get a pledge. It's not nice when people are mean. Even if they don't want to do it, they can say nicely over and over that they can't do it. They have to respect people who are raising the money. People have a job to do out there and everyone should respect everyone. Soo..Mrs. Braverman I understand that you were having a rough day trying to come up with something to teach your students, but remember that people have got a job to do to raise funds...It's only fair to listen and give the person your time of day or otherwise don't pick up the phone. I don't get these sorts of calls at home at least I don't think so... We have caller i.d. But I decided that G-D Willing when married and I get these kinds of calls I will donate to every Jewish charity at least $10. It's important to give tzedaka. Think how much money we spend on clothing or on makeup-more than $36. Surely we can spend the same amount and more for charity and helping others.

(20) Mary, September 7, 2008 10:15 AM


I feel badly when I receive charity calls in Hebrew with a message left and since I don't speak Hebrew, I presume the call came from Israel but maybe it came from New York, and I have no way of reaching the people to tell them that they would be more successful if when calling someone in a land that speaks English, that their solicitation should be in English. I am assuming the calls were in Hebrew. Maybe they were in Yiddish. A foreign language is a foreign language is a foreign language. I didn't spend much time listening. Spread the word. Maybe they'll get the message.

(19) Shira Twersky-Cassel, September 7, 2008 1:19 AM

Approac for Tzedaka should be via mail solicitation

Tzdaka is not the only important Jewish value. Hassidut, the movement of Rav Yisrael Salanter,z"l and many other streams of Judaism speak clearly of consideration for the needs of others. Although I am not not well off, I have been donating to various causes for chizuk Eretz Yisrael and other Tzdakot for years as it is very important to me. My name appears on many listings and I respect any mail request that I receive. However for the past five years the American approach of "hard sell" has taken over in Israel. These oganizations have decided that only the phone [nudnik] approach will satisfy them and now I should hire a private secretary to man my phones so that I can get on with my life. No hour is "holy" for them, whether it be work hour, mealtime, family time, and especially during preparations for Shabbat or Chag. Not only do they blatently ignore one's personal needs but I find this approach personally offensive. It means quite literally, "We don't trust you and will pick at you until you come through." If the organization phoning is one that I trust and respect, I explain gently that I will only respond to mail and they should not phone again. Usually they understand and say they had not thought of that aspect of their behavior. [A fundamental lack of "derech eretz" !!] Other wise I just hang up. Thank you for allowing me to express these thoughts which have been disturbing me for a long time now. Shira Twersky-Cassel

(18) Aryeh Siegel, September 4, 2008 12:16 AM

Phone solicitation

Thank G-d there are a lot of charity organizations out there, and I believe that a lot of them are doing a lot of good (although not all as SarahRachel pointed out). If they all were doing phone solicitation, we would all be on the phone with them all day. There are other ways to raise money, and calling on the phone is invasive chutzpa. I believe in the importance of maaser kesafim (see, but I make a point not to give to organizations that repeatedly call to get donations.

(17) ruth housman, September 3, 2008 5:08 PM

phone solicitations

This is the most difficult "call" of all, meaning how to turn down the zillions of calls I receive so constantly that are about valid needs, of people who are suffering, for organizations that do need money to keep going. There are so many charities and I would say most of them, seem quite legitimate and worth supporting. What does one do? How does one feel less guilty about turning truly genuine and loving people down..because, this is a void that one person cannot possibly fill, or one family, and often giving a little to each is not necessarily how we want to proceed. Also, when we give, it seems we are asked almost immediately, for more, from so many organizations. I always say, and I say it with sincerity, that I want to receive something in the mails and that I do pay attention though I cannot give to all. I say this respectfully. I also keep a vast tzedakah list and I do spend a dollar or two every week, mostly on Quick Picks because that money, if I do win, will go to these charities. I wish I could do more, and even if I don't win, and so far I haven't, I give judiciously and respectfully as best I can. In other ways, so many others, I feel I have already won the lottery, because I am so grateful for being here at this time of sunsets, of grandchildren, of friendship and such great outpouring of love. Yes, I want to give back! Thanks for your article. It's deep, it's sincere and I feel your angst.

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