Yom Kippur Appeal Speech

I have known Rabbi Katz a long time, and have noticed that every time he gives a sermon, he first pauses and meditates a few moments before he begins. In those few quite personal moments he makes a deep and heartfelt prayer to Hashem asking G‑d to give strength to his voice and meaning to his message so that it connects to each person in the audience. He also prays that above all else, Hashem please help him remember the punch lines!

OK, Let me tell you how this process works. Each year there are literally hundreds and hundreds of people pleading with Rabbi Katz to be able to stand up here and deliver a few words to each of you, pressing you for continued financial support and commitment. It allows the person, chosen from a pool of so many applicants to know what it must feel like to be a social pariah. So, I join my friends who have stood in this spot and officially welcome you to the Five Thousandth Seven Hundred and Seventy Second Annual Yom Kippur Appeal!

Hello, My name is Steve Korol and I apologize in advance if what I am about to share with you causes any of you to take offense or make you uncomfortable. In fact, if I truly upset anyone with my words, if I am despised and vilified then let me correct my earlier statement, Hello, My Name is Gary Korol!

I guess the big question of the day is to ask ourselves is why are we here? Why are you here?

I suspect everyone has a different response to that question. Some of us are here because we come here out of a deep sense of obligation or tradition, some of us because we appreciate and value that the power of community during this time of reflection is vital to convey our hopes and prayers to Hashem. Some of us, have yet to figure out why we are here. These are all good reasons why we have come here.

Let me tell you the short explanation of the meaning of Yom Kippur. Rabbi’s don’t generally like to let you in on this secret as it cuts into the wealth of good sermon material. But the essence of Yom Kippur is really all about two things, just two simple things. 


We are here desperately trying to get ourselves and those we love written into the book of life. It is serious stuff, Hashem explicitly tells us that he will decide who will get what they want, who will get what they need and reverse, who will not. He even tells us that once he makes his final decision about who will have that type of year, he seals it. We all want in!

Nobody prays with his or her heart and soul to be written into the book of Mediocre. Nobody wants to be sealed into the book of Meh. No, we are asking G‑d to remember us, LISTEN to US, and Act on our behalf to be written in the book of Life for Good year, a sweet year a wonderful year!

there is no secret on how we can improve the odds. In fact in the world of Sports and in the Casinos of Las Vegas, hundreds of Millions of dollars are spent on trying to increase the odds in ones favor even by a tiny tiny amount. And here, as we are approaching the final hours of Yom Kippur before our year is sealed, we are told in very easy to read FONT how we can easily improve our odds

Hashem tells us Prayer, Repentance and Charity will significantly influence the outcome.

In fact, the prayer book tells us that over and over and over again. It cannot be anymore clear. All we have to do is to Listen and to Act.

Now, ultimately Prayer is between you and G‑d, and repentance is to an extent the development of a stronger relationship between yourself and Hashem. It is between you, those you Love and G-D.

But Hashem has given us a means to do better, be better

And that is through Charity, through the Mitzvah of Tzedakah,

And there are many worthwhile charities that can donate your money to, they are noble and worthy causes and would be extremely fortunate for your attention and affection. 

However, we are here now on this day at a Chabad service, because to an extent we have a connection to Northwest Suburban Chabad. and I hope to illuminate of why this Chabad is very special and very deserving of your Tzedakah,

Many people assume, falsely, that there is a central bank of Chabad. That whenever Northwest Suburban Chabad needs cash, that there is an oversight organization that funds them. I can tell you that no such place exists.

Actually, there is a bank of Buffalo Grove Chabad. And you are in it right now. In fact, you are in the Vault. And deep in this vault exist the only two assets that make up our Chabad’s balance sheet.

Those two assets are The Torah behind me, and the community in front of me. And while these two are uniquely priceless, their value skyrockets when they connect. For a Torah scroll that is not loved, not studied and ignored is nothing more than an oddly shaped parchment and a community that does not have a blueprint to follow, a foundation to live on and a set of ideals to pass from one generation to the next is forever lost.

This vault is filled with so many people that are so much more precious than money, although the reality in life is that we all need funds to survive. We are caught between the realities of modern Jewish life and its significant fiscal demands

And the very survival of our Chabad is currently at stake.

And while I had some misgivings even discussing $ today, I realized that we ultimately are not discussing money, but what I am really talking about are Mitzvahs.

The annual financial budget required to just run Chabad is over $340,000.00

And while that is a large sum, it is not considering how many services, how many life events, how many children taught in Hebrew School or tutored for their B’nai Mitzvah, it is not considering daily minyans, High Holiday services, as well as all the other holiday services, it is not a large sum considering crisis counseling, adult education classes and the womens retreat, koshering homes and installing Mezzuzahs, the list goes on and on. And it is all effectively run by only 2 people. You cannot imagine how effectively this Chabad is able to stretch a dollar. I am not aware of any other Tzedakah were virtually 100% goes to Philanthropy. I promise you that your Tzedakah donation goes farther here than just about anywhere else,

Unfortunately, this year the expenses are coming in faster than revenue.

It is no surprise that due to the weak economy, donations are currently at a low point. At this time, we anticipate a shortfall of close to $75,000 unless we as a community step up and do what is right and help reduce some of the stress placed on the Rabbi and Chanie.

Running the White House is a tremendous challenge and it doesn’t matter whether the address is on Pennsylvania Avenue or Aptakisic

And as a community when we stand together when we rise up and say, this is important to me, this is important to us. we prioritize our faith to the community and to the world. We become proud of who we are. We are Jews and the continuation of Judaism in our homes and in our community is vital to our very existence.

Each year, I make the following financial suggestions to Rabbi Katz:

I say, “How about this year we start charging for High Holiday services like every single synagogue or Temple in the world does.”

He tells me that this Chabad has never and will never charge a single dollar for any High holiday admittance. And while that is a beautiful gesture, I remind him how many thousands of dollars it costs to host services for free to anyone and everyone and that it will cost him dearly.

He smiles and tells me it would be a higher cost to him if even one Jew chose not to attend services.

Each year, I tell him “then raise the cost of Hebrew School tuition” which should be acceptable considering that if you had sent your child to Hebrew school at any other synagogue or temple there would also be the additional charge of membership and building funds and it would require them to spend thousands and thousands more than if they had sent them to Chabad. And he refuses to be anything other than the lowest cost Hebrew School option in the area. I remind him that it will cost him to not charge more, and he smiles and tells me it would cost him more if even one Jewish kid were denied a quality Jewish education.

This Chabad exists to facilitate our connection to Judaism, to Hashem and to one another. 

Chanie and Rabbi Katz take that directive, that responsibility very seriously; it defines who they are as human beings. They truly work Non stop, every single hour of every single day to help us better appreciate the simple gift of being Jewish. In fact, if I took the time to list and detail all they do for us each day, this speech would never end, They help us appreciate the rich heritage of our faith and to make us better appreciate the sacrifices that those who lived before us made to allow us to live our lives as free Jews.

It has not always been that way, in fact many of the people here in this room today who were born the former Soviet Union can attest that enjoying life as a Jew, following traditions, simply keeping the faith was a constant and difficult struggle.

They had to live a Jewish life at great personal risk. We take for granted the simple fact that a Yom Kippur service exists for free, all we have to do is just attend. They had to worry that someone would take them away in the night for having practiced even the simple basic acts of Jewish life, and today when we have an open and free weekly Shabbat service & Kiddush, all we have to do is just attend. 

In the United States when we send our 18 & 19 year children to College we kiss them and say, “we hope you come back having learned something at your University”

In Israel, when parents of 18 & 19 year olds send their children to the Army, they kiss them and say, “We hope you come back”.

The threat to Israel is real and constant and is the direct result not because Israel has what its neighbors do not, not because it has a stronger economy, Israel is hated by its 21 Arab neighbors because Israel if filled with Jews.

And what history has taught us, after far too many exiles and massacres and pogroms and at almost successful attempts at our complete annihilation is that Jews have always had to take care of Jews. Nobody else will.   I will say that again, Jews have always had to take care of Jews. 

And while we in the United States are not under the barrage of Kassam rockets and missiles, anyone who thinks Jewish life at home is not at risk, is foolish. With approximately 50 percent of American Jews today marrying non-Jews, and only 33 percent of these dual-faith couples raising their children as Jews, intermarriage poses a serious threat to Jewish survival. That is a staggering and frightening statistic. This is a very existential and real threat.

I am Jewish because for thousands of years my ancestors continued having Jewish families. There is a continued link that has been forged from one generation to next and I do not want that link broken on my watch.

I want Jewish Grandchildren. I want Jewish Great Grandchildren. I make that statement unabashedly, unapologetically, I want everyone in this room to hear this, I want G‑d to hear this, I want Jewish Grandchildren!

And at the end of my life, when I look back I will have decided my own personal net worth not on what is sitting in my bank account but rather on how many brisses I have attended, or baby naming’s or watched my nephews smash a glass under a chupah or my daughters and nieces becoming Jewish brides.

But merely wanting it, hoping for it, wishing for it does not magically make it happen. You must work at it.

My wife and I know that we cannot do this work all alone, we realized earlier on we had to call in people who were gifted in connecting to young families and we were fortunate the Katz’s were those people. 

Effective Jewish education starts early. And Nobody, I mean nobody works harder or cares more about the Jewish education of your children than Chanie Katz. And if you are unsure at shul if applause are appropriate, I assure you than in Chanie’s case it is very appropriate and long overdue. Chabad is investing into the future of our children every time they have a Purim carnival, or Bar or Bat Mitzvah lessons or Sunday School. Every time our children our exposed to Yiddishkeit in a caring and loving manner, it increases the chance dramatically that that link is further strengthened.

The Hebrew school is working, it reaches out to the kids whose time and attention compete with school and sports and activities. Chanie and her amazing staff create a curriculum that is fun and engaging and frequently results in getting the parents involved. You want to know a wonderful statistic, this year every single child that had not graduated, came back to enroll again in Hebrew school, every single one, I cannot think of a better vote of confidence than your kids telling her that they want more, they need more. 

Chabad celebrates each holiday with complete Joy and total passion. Their goal is not only celebrate it but to share it with any Jew who also wants to feel the light of Judaism burn bright. 

Not all is bleak in terms of fund raising. Let me share a few examples that truly highlight the caliber of people who help make up our community.

Last year, we finally accomplished after many years of working under the burden of a difficult mortgage, a group of people who under the guidance and direction of my friend Allen Green, formed a Chabad LLC, (Friends of Chabad committee) who were able to purchase the mortgage from the bank and allow Chabad a new beginning.

And a tremendous debt is owed Allen who has worked for the past few years giving much needed financial oversight and direction to Rabbi Katz. Allen works harder than any man without a beard on behalf of Chabad and we are all better for his involvement. Gail and Allen are living proof, that many times, Rabbi Katz’s prayers are indeed answered. Plus he has found his calling in life, announcing pages #s in not one but two separate books simultaneously.

While I m not privy to the names, Allen shared an experience of one of the Chabad families who wanted to participate in helping by donating funds to the LLC. This man was unemployed at the time, yet chose to donate $1800. A large sum, considering his circumstances. His comment to Allen, was that he was sorry it wasn’t more.

Allen also told me that there was a couple who while not active in day to day shul life, singlehandedly donated the largest amount to this cause, because they wanted to ensure that while they don’t need the services of Buffalo Grove Chabad everyday, they appreciate the fact that there are those who do.

These are people who get it! They listened and they acted. They understand, appreciate and support the need to have a Chabad that teaches our kids, to have a Chabad to offer services each day, to allow someone to say Kaddish for a loved one, to teach Torah, to have a Chabad that continues the traditions that make us who we are. 

I understand and appreciate that economic times are difficult. Not only for Chabad, but for many members of this community. I fully appreciate that these challenges affect what we would like to do. However, the Torah does Not give us a pass on doing Tzedakah. The Torah does not allow us to wait to give Tzedekah until the stock market improves. Instead we should then figure out how we can give tzedekah within our means. Let me give you an example.

Before the holiday services, Rabbi Katz sends out an email asking for help in setting up for the high holidays. He broadcasts out hundreds of emails, and only 4 people showed up to help him. Even if you cannot give Chabad a check this year, at the very least please give Chabad some of your time. For those that honestly cannot afford to write a check, then please call Chanie or Rabbi Katz and lend them a hand, help take some of the weight from their shoulders. I promise you will feel better for having offered. 

So you have listened and now you ask, how can I Act. How can I help, How can I be on the winning team that supports and spreads Judaism in our community.

This year do not look at the people in the rows ahead of you, or look at the person sitting near you, and assume they will make a donation to Chabad, instead look at the person inside of you and stand up for what is right.

This year, reach into your checkbooks and wallets and help keep Chabad moving forward. I ask that you please take it upon yourselves to give as much as you can, as the needs are the greatest we have ever experienced. We appreciate your past gifts, but this year at this time we need your help to even increase your past donations if possible. Every single penny counts.

Think about the amount that you can easily pledge, and then give a little more. We will achieve our financial goals if everyone can increase last year’s donation by even a small amount.  Remember the people you love the most are watching and learning from what they see you do!

This year, we ask that if you have previously made a pledge but have not yet acted on it. Please do so as soon as possible; Chabad needs you to keep your word, because our future depends on it.

Rabbi Katz informed me that last year, a family from this congregation challenged everyone by matching their Yom Kippur donations dollar for dollar.

Fortunately, that same family is again stepping up to the plate and is offering to match dollar for dollar all the donations that are received by tomorrow. The deadline, I am told is tomorrow! The offer expires after tomorrow.

So your Mitzvah can go twice as far, last twice as long. 

If ever you could be generous, now is the time

If ever you could really increase the amount you can donate, do it now when the offer to match it will allow it to be doubled!

The need is great, the demands on our Chabad immense.

I recently learned that by giving Tzedakah we are allowed not only to ask things from Hashem but we are able to demand them.  It is my understanding that this is the only mitzvah for which we are allowed to do this.

So please, please donate generously and demand generously.

Since, we cannot accept checks today; we will have people stationed both in front of the Chabad white house as well as in front of this Jr High school from 10:00 AM to Noon tomorrow. And if you cannot make it to drop off a check, You can also log onto the website and donate directly online. The website is www.NWSchabad.org

So in the end, it is ultimately up to each of you to decide why you are here today, the same as it is ultimately up to each one of you to decide if this Chabad will be here tomorrow and the next year!

I once heard something beautiful, That G‑d’s gift to each of you is your life. How you live that life, is your gift back to him.

And as I conclude my speech and thankfully take my seat, please don’t shake my hand, don’t give me a Yasher Koach.

Instead, this year write a check and give yourself a Yasher Koach!

And May Each of us demand and deserve to be inscribed for a Good Year!   L’Shana Tova

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