Special interview with the accountant of the tzedakah fund of the Gedolei Hador shlita, Reb Hillel Greenbaum
Have you ever asked yourself, “How does it work?” How it is possible that millions of shekels flow in from so many campaigns, and yet not one shekel is lost?
At Vaad Harabbanim, we always say that every shekel is important. But how, exactly, does it work? Well, today you will get the answers.
“Vaad Harabbanim has many, many volunteers besides the 200 Rabbanim who serve their communities on a strictly non-pay basis. All volunteer work is supervised by the leading Rabbanim who are appointed by the Gedolei Hador. Also, there are a few professionals who work for Vaad Harabbanim, providing special services, and who receive a salary.” Reb Hillel smiles – yes, he is one of them.
Do you work directly with the banks ?
“Not exactly. There are two volunteers who handle the money matters with the bank. My role is to make sure that they did their job correctly. I have already discovered some bank errors a few times. I’ll give you an example. Since Vaad Harabbanim deals with large sums of money, the bank has agreed to waive certain fees for us. Sometimes the bank does not honor that agreement, and they charge us by mistake. We have to make sure that the bank gives us the discounts that it has promised us.
Once, I uncovered something unbelievable! During a routine check, I noticed that there was a deposit for 50 million NIS. Vaad Harabbanim actually deals with much higher figures, but such a large deposit at one time and without a known source was suspicious. I asked the bank to send me copies of all the checks that were deposited that day. Then I discovered the mistake. The check had actually been deposited by a different organization that also works with the same bank. The bank made a mistake, and gave us 50 million NIS that did not belong to us. Obviously, we returned all of the money.”
It is clear that Vaad Harabbanim is run under the constant supervision of the Gedolei Hador to guide the spiritual and the Halachic aspects of its work – as well as the top-notch and professional supervision this organization enjoys.
Tell us, do you personally know Rav Ezriel Auerbach and the other Gedolim who head Vaad Harabbanim ?
He answers that he does indeed. “In fact, the professionals follow his orders to a tee. I have approached the Gedolei Hador many times for clarification or for advice.”
And do they give you specific instructions?
“Absolutely. Furthermore, the Gedolei Hador have emphasized again and again that since the money is not ours, but rather it is the community’s tzedakah money, we must be extremely careful with it. Every expense, no matter how insignificant, must be handled legally, and when in doubt, we must be strict.
“In each country where it operates, Vaad Harabbanim keeps the local laws. I should point out that we have a treasurer who very carefully supervises all of the funds coming into Vaad Harabbanim. Of all the organizations that I am familiar with, and I have worked with many, I have never seen such order in every aspect of the money management.”
We wondered if there is someone who looks over the work a second time, after him.
Reb Hillel admits that there is; “After all, no one is immune from making mistakes. Once a year, all the books are given to an independent accountant who reviews everything in detail.”
Reb Hillel wants to add something. “When I see all the thank-you letters that constantly flow into Vaad Harabbanim’s office, I feel tremendous satisfaction from my work. The knowledge that every line in the books is another family that is being saved from poverty – a father, mother and children who finally got some relief – this gives me simchah shel mitzvah!”
This is real avodas hakodesh. Do you sometimes feel as if you receive special siyata Dishmaya ?
“I don’t feel it – I actually see it. And I always have a good feeling when I complete a day of work at Vaad Harabbanim.
But aside from the regular feeling, there is tremendous siyata Dishmaya which is the only way I can explain certain things that happen. Many times, it happens that the bank is late in sending me a certain statement that I had requested. Then, exactly on the day that I need it, it arrives in the mail. And sometimes certain procedures at the Tax Bureau end up taking just a few days instead of a few weeks. In general, I feel Hashem’s help with every step.”
We glance up at the clock and see that our time is almost up, so we are already in a rush.
But Reb Hillel wants to add something else: he explains that there are certain donors who want to contribute money exclusively for the publications. “They make a simple calculation: through their donation of a single shekel, they can generate hundreds of thousands of shekels. All the proceeds that we receive in donations stemming from a certain publication are in their merit.”
To conclude, do you have a message to pass on to the donors ?
“When I review the books at the end of the year, and I see all that you have contributed, I can testify that many thousands of families are being helped to buy their basic day-to-day needs. They also celebrate the Yamim Tovim at a decent standard, unlike before. This is all in your merit. Tizku l’mitzvos!!