At first, I thought the return address said "CHABAD OF CRIME A" in Brooklyn, so I was wondering: What is the difference between "Crime A" and "Crime B", and what crimes do they stand for? Then when I opened the envelope, I realized it was a fund solicitation letter on behalf of Chabad of the Crimea, a place in Eastern Europe.
Anticipating the obvious question, the letter asks: "Why Chabad of Crimea?" The answer: "Yes — it’s a real place! It’s the beautiful southern peninsula of Ukraine extending into the Black Sea…and home to 40,000 of our fellow Jews!" The letter informed me that this area in the former Soviet Union is now the Autonomous Republic of Crimea.
Echoing but inverting the structure of the famous "ask not" quote from the inaugural address of JFK (the president — not the airport), the letter enjoined me to "Ask not what you can do for Chabad — ask what Chabad will do for You!"
"Here’s what Chabad will do for you," the letter said: "Please fill [your name] in the message below [asking G-d for a year of blessings], so we may personally bring it to the leader of our generation, the [deceased] Lubavitcher Rebbe, so he may petition for you before G-d’s Throne of Mercy." What a deal! Plus, the letter says, if you act "now — for a limited time only", while the economic crisis continues, God will repay you a thousandfold for your donation, which is 100 times more than the regular tenfold reward He pays when the economy is not in crisis. (The letter says to see Rashi on Genesis 26:1-12.)
Separately, I also received in the same day’s mail a large, illustrated, multi-colored fund solicitation postcard from another Chabad-connected organization I had also never heard of before: Tomchei Israel — Adopt A Family, with a Brooklyn return address. In that postcard, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Gluckowsky of Chabad of Rechovot writes that "As a Rav in the central Chabad Beis Din in Israel, I personally witness many families struggling daily to provide food for their children, and the thought of the approaching Yomim Tovim is terrifying to them. The situation is worsening and the amount of people in need is growing from year to year…
"Rapidly rising food prices and a poor economy only serve to push many struggling families further below the poverty line. This leaves many members of Anash [the Chabad-Lubavitch chassidic community] and Shluchim [official Chabad-Lubavitch representatives] confronting the prospect of suffering the fate of a ruined Yom Tov."
Shmuly Brashevitzky, secretary, and Mrs. Devorah Benjamin, treasurer, signed a solicitation letter I received on behalf of Keren Simchas Chosson V’Kallah (Fund for the Joyful Celebration of Bridegroom and Bride), also located in Brooklyn. Noting that "We live in very difficult times," the letter says "our Shluchim, the lamplighters of Yiddishkeit, are also finding it increasingly hard [financially] to marry off their children…
"Over the past few years we have had the Zchus [merit] of helping more and more Shluchim marry off their children with dignity. We are proud that we have been given this opportunity to be partners in Shlichus across the globe, but at the same time, these requests, which we cannot and will not refuse, have imposed an extra strain on our limited resources…
"The truth is, it is impossible for most of us to marry off our children without struggling. How much more so is it for Yesomim [orphans] and the needy, not to mention our wonderful Shluchim!
"As you read this letter, please immediately place a generous check in the envelope we also enclosed…"