“Revolutionary Parnes Batei Knesses Program Places Parnassah Assistance in Every Kehilla”
It was opening night of the 92nd annual Agudath Israel of America convention.
The hour was late, but a large crowd gathered inside one of the Hilton Woodcliff Lake ballrooms. The parnassah crisis was high on the minds of convention attendees, and they were eager to hear from the Agudah’s special guest speaker who was requested to discuss and help solve this pressing issue: Reb Duvi Honig, founder and director of Parnassah Network, Parnassah Expo and Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce.
On the dais were the venerable maggid Rabbi Paysach Krohn and Reb Duvi. At the lectern, Rabbi Krohn passionately related the challenges that our community’s breadwinners have in supporting their families, and the painful side effects that this phenomenon can inflict. Then, pointing to the man several feet nearby, Rabbi Krohn exclaimed, “Just listen to what this tzaddik has done about it!”
The Latest Parnassah Initiative
“Every shul should have two gabbaim who see the livelihood of every member as their achrayus.”
To the concerned audience, Reb Duvi Honig’s “Parnes Batei Knesses” was music to the ears. No longer is the parnassah crisis under the rug. No more side glances and whispers of pity towards your suffering neighbor. The time has come when we are all given the opportunity to step up to the plate and do something about it.
As revolutionary as the program is, the concept behind Parnes Batei Knesses is remarkably simple: Each Parnes, or gabbai, will serve as the point person on the ground for parnassah in their kehilla – just as there is a Rav, gabbai and other positions to fill other needs. Each shul, and its Rav and other leaders, are encouraged to focus on helping their members with parnassah by implementing this program. “How come no one thought of this before?,” was the reaction of many members of the audience.
One major responsibility for the Parnes will be to help those who are out of a job, and looking to work, on their two feet. However, more than being reactive, the Parnes’s goal will be to be as proactive as possible. He will work to familiarize himself with the vocation and economic situation of all kehilla households – and work to help everyone improve their success in every way possible.
Why is this initiative necessary? Won’t those in need naturally turn to the proper resources for help?
The answer to this is multifold. Firstly, even those in need will often not know the proper address to turn to, or will be too complacent or ashamed to do so. Reb Duvi was visibly emotional as he recounted a story from his early activism days: A yungerman was at a local parlor meeting and saw a friend of his eating in a very desperate and aggressive manner. He realized that this was very out of character for this friend, who was always very dignified and polished. Sensing that something was amiss, he pulled him over to the side and inquired about his wellbeing. The friend burst into tears and whispered, “I have no food at home.”
Realizing the severity of the situation, this yungerman began a campaign amongst local donors to support his friend’s family during this period. Subsequently, he guided the suffering friend towards the Parnassah Expo, one of Reb Duvi’s top projects. At the expo, he networked with several people and companies of interest and landed an upper-middle income job as a result.
If there had been a Parnes in this man’s shul, how much earlier would he have been helped? How much pain would his family have been spared?
More importantly, how many people like this are walking around in our neighborhoods in a similar situation and have yet to be helped?
The Parnes’s task will be to proactively fill this gaping void. Additionally, the Parnes will be on the lookout to help even those who are earning a reasonable parnassah to do even better. “The world would be an entirely different place if individuals in every one of our communities join in this effort and do whatever they can to help others – and themselves – in the area of business and parnassah,” says Reb Duvi.
The world is already a better place in this regard and will, b’ezras Hashem, be getting even better in the months ahead. Immediately after concluding his address at the Agudah convention, Reb Duvi was approached by several members of the audience who volunteered to assume the Parnes position in their shuls. Phone calls and emails from others, in other communities, looking to do the same, streamed in to Reb Duvi and the Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce over the subsequent weeks.
A great many shuls from across the region, including some highly prominent ones, are already registered to be part of the program. A special online signup page is being worked on in order to help the additional shuls sign up.
Gathering the Tools
Who can be a Parnes?
The Parnes does not need to be a professional headhunter, business or employment coach, or member of a social service agency. All that is necessary is the talent and motivation to undertake this lofty effort, along with the approval and partnership of the shul’s Rav and other leaders.
Thankfully, Reb Duvi and the myriad branches of Parnassah Network and the Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce offer a slew of resources that help those at any age and stage – in any industry or professional sector – succeed towards their highest goals. The Parnes Batei Knesses program itself will offer the gabbaim the infrastructure to network with each other, and exchange ideas and resources.
Gabbaim will receive professional training on how to identify the parnassah needs of members of their community; how to help them; and, most importantly, how to do so with the utmost sensitivity and respect. Gabbaim will have the resources to identify and network with the Parnes in other shuls if they can be of help to anyone they know. The gabbaim will also hold monthly Melava Malkas or Sunday networking breakfasts which will be dedicated towards this crucial networking.
One key facet of the gabbaim’s resources will be the focus on the members of their community who are successful in their business or professional endeavors. These individuals will be encouraged to utilize their talents, experience and contacts on behalf of others looking to advance in their industry or area of expertise. There are so many around us who have so much to offer others when it comes to parnassah. The Parnes helps put these priceless resources to use.
“Baruch Hashem, this program has gotten off to an amazing start, with phenomenal public enthusiasm,” says Reb Duvi. “I look forward to this revolution continuing to the benefit of klal Yisroel.”
For more information or to have your shul join the Parnes Batei Knesses program, please email email@example.com.
By: Shimmy Blum