So, you know those "Save the Children"-type commercials? (YNSHC can hear his faithful readers' collective intake of breath: "Oh, God. Where's he going with this?") The ones where adorable fly-covered, distended-bellied tykes are pimped by Sally Struthers or Maureen McCormick or some other pudgy starlet relic from the '70s? (You were warned!)
(Digression: Yes, yes, Maureen McCormick went on "Celebrity Fat Club" [sic] and lost the weight, but if the Solipsist is going to go to Hell anyway, y'know, why be kind now? "In for a penny, in for a pound," and all that. End of digression.)
You know how these things work: You send a small monthly payment--less than the cost of a cup of coffee! (Not that that's saying much in the age of $5.00 lattes.)--and in return you get a photo of "your" starving Ghanaian along with monthly updates on the kid's progress. Well, OK: Overall a worthy cause, and YNSHC would not wish to discourage anyone from doing whatever s/he feels is right in this cold, cold world.
Anyhoo, last night, YNSHC was watching TV when one of those ads came on. Or, at least, that's what he THOUGHT came on. Onscreen, an earnest pitchman stood in an obviously foreign land, surrounded by rundown hovels. OK. So far, no surprises. But then the Solipsist noticed that the pitchman was wearing a yarmulke. Well, why not? We Jews are charitable sorts. Stands to reason that some Jewish organization would take notice of the plight of starving children and take steps to solve it.
Imagine the cognitive dissonance, then, when the expected starving child was replaced with the image of Great-Aunt Rivke! This organization, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (Christians AND Jews?!? Come on! Pick a side!) (Boy, it's getting hot in here!)--as Solipsist was saying, the IFCJ is soliciting donations to "sponsor" elderly Jews in the former Soviet Union. Specifically, the Rebbe asked for a $25 donation to provide a "Passover Kit"--a jug of wine, a pallet of matzoh, and thou--so these folks could have a proper Seder.
Now, God bless these people. Many of them are Holocaust survivors; they have been through things that the rest of us should pray we never have to imagine. And it is terrible that they are living in penury, unable to afford the basics of a Passover meal--or any meal, frankly. There is certainly nothing wrong with an organization collecting funds to help these people. (In a small act of atonement, YNSHC has attached a link to IFCJ's website [www.ifcj.org] to this post should anybody wish to contribute. If you click the title of today's post, you will be taken to IFCJ's website.)
There is, however, something jarring about elderly Jews being marketed in the same way as starving children. If we contribute, do we get a picture of our Babushka, along with monthly letters on her progress? On the upside, this is likely to be a much SHORTER commitment than sponsoring a toddler.
(Sorry, sorry, YNSHC is soooooo sorry.)
The point, if we may try to redeem ourselves with a bit of possibly helpful commentary for the folks at IFCJ, is that they are taking the wrong approach. You can rightly chastise Solipsist for making tasteless jokes about an undeniably serious and somber subject. But let's face it: If HE's having these thoughts, somebody else is, too--probably several somebodies. And we're not talking about anti-Semites, here. Hell, the Solipsist IS Jewish--he's your target audience! If you can't get HIM to take the plight of these folks seriously, what hope do you have of reaching the masses?
Seriously, IFCJ: Take a different approach. Elderly Jews may be cute and cuddly (sorry), but you shouldn't try to market them in the same was as you would hungry babies. If your earnest appeals smack of satire, you're probably not doing as much good as you would hope.