Sunday, July 12, 2009

What Is Going On With Kupat Ha'ir?

A Guest Post By E. Fink

Rafi G wrote a great post about the distancing of the Gedolim from their people due to Kupat Ha'ir. To summarize, if one wants an activist to speak to a Gadol for him, he can donate to Kupat Hair and the activist will speak to the Gadol on his behalf. Rafi G. points out that this actually distances the Gedolim from us by putting the activist as a "go-between".

I don't mean to turn into a Kupat Ha'ir bashapalooza and I hope that Kupat Hair will not turn into a punching bag, but after the advertising campaign sent in this weekend's Hamodia, something must be said.

First we get a quote from R' Chaim Kanievsky. "Kupat Hair has done well to come out with a special appeal for the bein hametzarim period". Somehow this is twisted to mean that to save yourself from danger in the 3 weeks you must donate to Kupat Ha'ir. There is even a completely convoluted explanation for how this works. Since the Temple was destroyed because of baseless hatred, we can bring the Temple back with love for one another. Giving Tzedaka demonstrates love for each other. The next page says "The best advice for the Bein Hametzarim period is to contribute to Kupat Ha'ir". What? Where? When?

Why Kupat Ha'ir over any other charity? Why are they trying to pull the wool over our eyes?

I also read, that before going on a trip R' Ahron Leib Steinmen, henceforth called Maran in the brochure, wished to give Tzedaka to Kupat Ha'ir. His handlers brought him a Kupat Ha'ir Tzedaka box and he gave a "considerable contribution" to Kupat Ha'ir. Then, "an almost magical atmosphere enveloped everyone present". (And of course the photographers were there to capture it all for perpetuity.)

Thus, the brochure says, if we wish to survive the deadly summer months we must give money to Kupat Ha'ir for any hope of being saved.

The next page tells us that before (paraphrase) "any journey... [Maran] contributes to Kupat Hair. Maran has this specific moment in mind, whenever we go on a journey we must donate to Kupat Ha'ir."

Wait a second, Maran almost never travels, he leaves Bnei Brak once in a while and this time he wished to give Tzedaka. Maran never said, we must mimic his every move. In fact he never said anything about how we should give Tzedaka. It was his personal choice. The handlers are doing all the thinking for us. "Maran wants you to give to Kupat Ha'ir." Please.

We also get some great hyperbole. Like "The best safeguard for your journey - a donation to Kupat Ha'ir." Says who? Maran never even said that! The ad says that. But there is no authority for this strong statement.

The entire ad campaign is hyperbole and misdirection. Kupat Ha'ir is a fine charity, but their campaign claiming to be the only choice of the Gedolim is disturbing to say the least.

In addition, the deifying of R' Steinman is frightening. Do I need to use the same toilet paper he uses? How about his favorite soda? Seriously, does his (alleged) flavor of Tzedaka usurp all other charities? Maran never said in any of the quotes that we should donate to Kupat Hair.

Finally, the idea that if you wish to be safe you must donate to Kupat Ha'ir smacks of scare tactics. Most people drive safely and return home safely. We do need to be careful if we are driving in the Catskills and driving recklessly is a recipe for disaster. A little Tzedaka is a wonderful idea as well. But to make them dependent on each other is not telling the whole story.

As Josh pointed out on his blog now that we have Kupat Ha'ir the Gedolim will pray for your children if you donate. But if you do not, the Gedolim will not pray for your children?

I posted (tongue in cheek) on Twitter after DovBear mentioned his Tzlafchad pet peeves, "if Tzlafchad had donated to Kupat Hair he never would have died". That is what this ad campaign would have us believe.

I fully blame the handlers for this misrepresentation of the words and actions of the Gedolim. I met R' Steinman (Maran) once and I am pretty sure he has no clue what these ads say or purport.

It seems to me that something is very wrong with the Kupat Ha'ir campaign. Do you have the same feeling? Am I wrong?

Search for more information about [Kupat Hair's disingenuous marketing blitz] at

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