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Thursday, December 29, 2005

Chinese Auctions

I was fortunate to grow up in a small town, where everything was usually a few years behind fashion and materialism wasn't as important. (That's my disclaimer so I don't sound high & mighty and judgmental, it's just where I'm coming from...)

When I first came to NY, I was very surprised by the Chinese Auction phenomena. Organizations that imparted Torah and Judaism or espoused the Torah way of life, a life where the material is supposed to be used only in service of the spiritual, were conducting Chinese Auctions as fundraisers, appealing to the materialistic side in us, and making us feel more materialistic. Hmmm... let's see... I'm going to win the sheitel and the iPod and wouldn't it be nice if I got the helicopter lessons and the make-up gift certificate... Oohh! And trip to Florida for winter break! That would be nice. I never thought I needed that stuff (well, except for the wig) but now it gets me thinking. And wishing.

Chinese Auctions are very successful, and its not too hard to understand why. Besides, it even makes you feel good - its tzedaka so everyone's a winner! I doubt that an auction of Artscroll Shases and Kiddish cups would bring in as much money.

It's natural for individuals to want nice things and most people aren't ready for the bread and salt life, but it doesn't seem right when Torah organizations, our beacons of light, take advantage of this human weakness. Or do the gains, the operating funds the organizations receive which allow them to continue their good works, justify the means?

14 comments:

  1. It's interesting to note that Lakewood Yeshiva had recently came out with a Chinese Auction with an "over the top" gashmius angle. I, for one, was shocked and I co-chair a chinese auction. I had a discussion with my wife and a few friends. My position was that it wasn't proper for a Yeshivah like Lakewood that attempts to build talmidim that sacrifice gashmius for ruchnius to promote such overt gashmius.

    Whadya know, this week the Yeshivah printed a public apology along the same lines and, to their credit, pulled the whole auction and returned everyone's money.

    Sometimes we loose sight of the big picture and it's heartening to see that some people are still willing to admit when they are wrong.

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  2. I wonder: Do you think they have American auctions in China?:)

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  3. I thought relying on gambling for ones income was usur.

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  4. The halachic definition of gambling isn't so simple...I think there are a lot of "chance/skill" games that do not constitute gambling (ie. Poker tournaments for a charity). It would be nice if someone posted detailing the halachos of gambling etc.

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  5. I also presume you guys have seen the hilarious ebay auction for 10,000 Lakewood auction brochures. I have the link on my blog at www.jewishpros.blogspot.com.

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  6. We have Chinese auctions here in Cleveland too. We have sheitels and silver menorahs and computers as prizes as do all the books we've gotten from the big cities. The grand prize is usually a trip to Israel. As a matter of fact, our recliner is a prize Daddy won at a Chinese auction in town. But most of the prizes are smaller items and I haven't seen a new kitchen or dining room set here yet. We get the mailings from the big places and I'm shocked at how ostentatious the prizes are! Yes D.I.L., I agree with you! Kitchens, dining room or bedroom suites fit for royalty, vacations in the Swiss Alps, shopping sprees in the fancy Boro Park shops! It espouses a materialism that is contrary to our teaches of tznius in our actions. The fundraising aspect of any institution is tremendously difficult and I know the people who work on these Chinese Auctions do a most impressive job, but perhaps they could still get the tickets sold with items that are more befitting a torah oriented home.

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  7. I guess they can always go back to just asking for money.

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  8. I've always been a fan of the WITS raffle, which seems to do pretty well. Very simple: One grand prize of $10,000, which you need to pay $200 just to have a shot at. It's clear that your chances of winning are small, and the costs heavy: And that the intention is to simply raise money for the yeshiva, not suck people into putting more in just for chances to "win".

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  9. I to was shocked by the lakewood brochure. I'm hoping someone donated the money for making it. That brochure must have costed a fortune!

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  10. Well, I don't see what harm it would do if it's for a good purpose... I think it's more important to raise money for good works even through materialistic ways than not get enough to get anything accomplished... I guess this is an inevitable compromise with modernity.

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  11. Hey, i put in for the helicopter lessons! And I'm still upset that I didn't win 'em because I really do need them. ;) p.s. what does S.I.L. stand for, anyway?

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  12. -->"materialism wasn't as important"

    **cough**beachwood**cough**

    That was too easy ;)

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  13. G: LOL. But a) I grew up in the Heights. And b) I didn't write this, SIL did. :)

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