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Lori Grysman

Stan Carbone

Susan Turner




by Jane Enkin, March 24, 2014

I attended two wonderful, participatory learning sessions of Limmud that I've written about below..

Lori Grysman
Who's the Boss? The Responsibilities of the Recipient of Charity

Every day, the same homeless person asks you for money, and every day you give a little cash. One day, you give the person a phone number with a lead for a job. You find out that the person did not call to inquire about the job. Are you still obligated to give the next time the person asks for charity?

That's the question Lori Grysman, a prominent teacher from Toronto, posed to open her session. She presented the thoughts of Rav Aharon Lichtenstein in a recent article on the halakha and morality of tzedaka, that is, Jewish laws and Jewish attitudes about charitable giving. She patiently led us through the Hebrew originals of R. Lichtenstein's source texts, passages from the Bible, the Talmud and Maimonides. We had the great pleasure of learning how nuances in the wording of the Hebrew, even in texts that have nothing to do with the rules of tzedaka, can contribute to an understanding of how charity functions.

“If you see the donkey of your enemy lying under its must make every effort to help him,” says Exodus 23:5. The words can also be translated “to help with him,” teaching us, says Rav Lichtenstein, that in an ideal situation, a person in need is expected to contribute to improving their lot, while receiving the assistance they request. The implication here is that if a person does not participate in bettering their own situation, they don't deserve help.

On the other hand, Grysman demonstrated, there are many Jewish texts that call for unconditional support for those in need. The temptation to judge someone as undeserving of tzedaka is huge. Too often, we simply can't tell whether an individual is in a position to contribute to their own well-being or not.

The class was a wonderful example of the ways that text study can help us to clarify our own questions, feelings and opinions about a contemporary topic, while we learn about Jewish tradition. It was clear that the Limmud audience cared about the subject. In the end I was not alone in feeling there was less clarity than I hoped on the question suggested by the title: what are the responsibilities of the recipient? Grysman explained that in terms of halakha, their only responsibility is to pass on 10% of what they receive in charity to someone even less fortunate. And what if someone requests money for food – are they obligated to buy food rather than, say, cigarettes? Not for us to judge, said Grysman; we should simply give.


Susan Turner and Stan Carbone
The Making of the Garment Exhibit “A Stitch in Time” A Walking Tour

Stan Carbone of the Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada and designer Susan Turner introduced the exhibit they created on the garment industry in Winnipeg. I loved the chance to hear from the enthusiastic descendents of garment industry workers and owners. There were tensions in Winnipeg's labour history. One union was seen as having strong ties to the employers, another to the Communist party. Both carried out a large part of their proceedings in Yiddish. We heard about negotiations for appropriate lighting for the intricate work done by glove makers -- did you know a glove has more pieces than a jacket? Most stories centred on mutual respect and the tremendous pride people took in their work.

A special period in our history came after World War Two, when Jewish and non-Jewish garment workers were recruited in Displaced Persons Camps to begin new lives in Canada. Along with Sam Herbst of Winnipeg, representing the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, my grandfather, Hamilton, Ontario manufacturer Max Enkin, was part of the small group who went overseas to search for candidates for the program. He was intensely proud that “both labour and management could work so closely together at a common level in such a humanitarian cause. It is a further tribute to the fine labour relationship that has been built up in the needle trades.” ( Canadian Jewish Review, April, 1948)
I believe this provides a model for our country now in the face of refugee crises around the globe.

Tailors, who learned their skills in the old country, were one part of the work force, but “operators”, pattern makers, pressers, the well-respected cutters, and others, learned on the job here. The exhibit includes photos of shop floors, union meetings and businesses. There are clothes and tools, and some charming newspaper ads, like the one spelling out in Yiddish letters: “Special Far Yom-Tov” at Mme Nany's Corset Shop.

Jackie Winestock told about her own experiences doing heavy factory work alongside her parents. As a teen she was a bit embarrassed to be “working class,” but at Limmud she enjoyed looking back on those days. As she pointed out her family's contributions to “ A Stitch in Time,” she happily called out , “That's my Dad!” The exhibit continues until May 4, 2014. We are encouraged to support the Jewish Heritage Centre. See


Jane Enkin Music and Story at

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