Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Blessing of the Unearned Shekel

I have been among the lucky olim who, since finishing ulpan, has had work for most of the time I've been in Israel. Sometimes more, sometimes less. It's a blessing to have the ability to earn shekels and I never want to take that for granted. After I received it, I took a picture of the first paycheck I earned in Israel, skimpy though it was, to always remember my humble beginnings as a worker here.

So I have paid work, thank G-d, even though I don't yet have paid work that delights my soul.

More and more, I think that my real work is what I do for others. Kol haKavod to people who are, but I was never the "let me make you a meal and watch your children" kind of person. That didn't change when we made aliyah. But every day, Hashem sends me opportunities to help others in ways that are a better match for my skills and my nature.

Sometimes these opportunities are relatively small, such as answering questions about Israel for prospective olim or connecting one person to another or giving someone a phone number or lending new olim an air mattress until their lift arrives or teaching someone how to do a particular task on the computer.

And sometimes, they are as big as organizing an event that raises many thousands of shekels for tzedaka while helping the English speakers in my neighborhood find new books to read at very affordable prices.

As a major bookaholic, when we made aliyah, I came to Israel knowing I was going to have trouble finding enough English books to read. I did what most English speakers in Israel do. I bought a Kindle, borrowed books from friends and had family visiting from America bring books. But it wasn't enough to keep my book addiction fed. I went into a few used book stores in Jerusalem, but the books there were too expensive for me to consider that as a viable, long-term option.

I thought perhaps I would organize a small book swap. I imagined getting together about 20 women with 100 books so that we could trade with each other. Everyone would get something new to read and it could be a fun evening. I put out a call for people who had English books to donate to the swap.

In the first hour, I already had 100 donated books and I realized that this idea had much more potential than I had, at first, imagined.

The idea has grown to a major community event that takes place twice a year. I call it the Great Ma'ale Adumim English Book Swap and Sale. We collect book donations (we had 3000 books at the last swap), organize them by category and charge just a few shekels for each book. All the proceeds go to tzedaka.


But even more, as the event has grown, more hands were needed. There are now dozens of volunteers who help along the way - collecting book donations from those who don't have a car, bringing boxes from the local grocery to pack the books in, schlepping hundreds of cartons full of books, setting up tables, sorting the books into categories, cashiering and breaking down the displays. It's a great event that attracts a high percentage of the English speakers in our city, so it becomes a social outing as well. And everyone finds great bargains while raising thousands of shekels for tzedaka.





The night of the Book Swap, people always thank me and my partner for organizing it. But it's impossible for the Book Swap to happen without help from literally hundreds of people in our community - book donors, book buyers and the dozens of volunteers - working together to make it happen.

I don't earn a shekel from the work I do to make the Book Swap happen. But it's a blessing nonetheless. 

The blessing of the unearned shekel. 

4 comments:

Andy Levy-Stevenson said...

Suspect it may have recently happened, since you just wrote about it ... but just in case ... when is the next book swap? We have to move this summer, and hope to trim down our book collection substantially.

Bat Aliyah said...

With Gd's help, The Great Ma'ale Adumim Book Swaps happen every May and November. This was our fifth one.

Ruti Mizrachi said...

And since imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, your idea has mushroomed in other places in Israel. I am grateful to you that the Gush has also gotten on board.

I'm continuing to daven that you get a parnassa that delights your soul.

In the meantime, I am glad that your nature won't allow you to grow mossy hindparts. ;-) (Oh, I had fun with that one...)

Bat Aliyah said...

Ruti - Your tefillot are much appreciated. As was your literary euphemism.