What can each of us do to help alleviate a communal cash crunch?
1. Simcha Sanity
The first step we can take is to choose to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. There’s been a lot of conversation recently about lowering the bar for simchas. Lowering your lifestyle standards—by choice, not by necessity—is a gift to the entire community. But even if you’re not ready for that, at the very least, don’t raise it. If you’re about to make a simcha and you know many of your friends are struggling with their parnassah right now, this is not the time to make a scaled-up affair for the sake of impressing the chevrah. Very possibly, many will actually thank you for not serving deluxe cholent or Scotch at your kiddush and raising the standard for everyone else even if you can afford it—and certainly, if you can’t.
2. Fiscal Discipline
This is not the time to max out your credit cards by making major purchases you can’t afford (not that there’s ever a good time to do that). With our communal organizations reeling from struggling families turning to them for assistance, each of us should be making an extra effort to practice responsible budgeting and not end up as yet another family forced to rely on communal coffers.
3. Setting Kids up for Success
Yes, as Jewish parents our instinct is to do absolutely everything we can to make our children happy. But spoiling our children by buying them everything they want is not in their best interests, nor will it lead to their ultimate happiness.
Maybe you’re lucky enough to be earning $500K annually and can afford to buy your children whatever they want. But do you really expect all of them to earn enough to maintain that standard when they get married? Or even 10 years down the line? What will happen if their expensive taste and material expectations, which you’ve been cultivating all these years, suddenly hit against a much lower income? Best case scenario, they’ll go through an intense emotional struggle as they endure a crash course in budgeting and delayed gratification. Worst case scenario? Mountains of debt and the next generation’s parnassah crisis.
Our askanim work very hard on the political front to get programs passed that will financially benefit our community, such as school vouchers and funding for our mosdos. But their political strength depends on us. We need to go out and vote for the right legislation and for the right political figures to make these programs happen. Even if you think these programs won’t benefit you directly, they benefit our community as a whole, and ultimately, that benefits each of us. It only takes a few minutes of our time to vote, but doing so establishes the strength of our political clout.
5. Shop Locally
Keep our money in our community by shopping at local, frum-owned stores. True, it’s not as cheap as Costco or Target, and halachah does not necessarily obligate us to buy from a frum Jew if it’s significantly more expensive to do so (although within certain guidelines it may be possible to use ma’aser money to make up the difference—of course, ask your rav for guidance). But surely if you have the spare funds to indulge in other small luxuries, consider “indulging” in this chessed as well. Think about how far-reaching this one small purchasing act can be. By buying from your local kosher grocery, you’re helping the store owner pay tuition, clothe his children, and buy his wife a piece of jewelry for Yom Tov. In other words, your purchase has just gone to support the grocery store owner, the clothing and shoe store owners, the jewelry store owner, and the children’s rebbe’im. Quite a lot of bang for that extra buck or two it costs to shop local.
6. Keep it in the Family
The chessed of buying from a frum store owner applies even more to your own family member’s store. This should not come as a surprise, but for some reason, many of us are wary of doing business with relatives, worried that if something goes wrong, “it can get uncomfortable.” Yes, it would be uncomfortable to return the suit you bought from your brother-in-law because the tailoring was shoddy, or if the mortgage he’s helping you with hits a snag. But, that’s a risk you might choose to swallow and live with, because, well, he’s your brother-in-law. Who, if not you, should go out of their way to help him in his efforts to support his (your!) family?