Dec 19, 2013

Socialist Chesed

In one of Mishpacha's Succos supplements, there was a piece about cost price catering in Gateshead, England.  A team of ladies does all the catering for local weddings and it can be as elegant or as simple as you are willing to pay for. 

I don't get it.

This chesed began 30 years ago when there were two caterers in the community who made a living (i.e. their service was not at cost price) from catering simchas.  A doctor in the community asked two women if they would be willing to arrange cost-price simchas to provide an option people could afford.  Once this became standard for every couple getting married in Gateshead, naturally the caterers went out of business.

So regardless as to what you can afford, you get a cost-price wedding catered by six ladies out of a list of volunteers.  Why would they want to cook for someone who can afford to pay for a caterer? I don't know.  Why was it a good thing that caterers were put out of business? I don't know.  Why is this done for everyone, no matter the need? Someone suggested it's because England is a socialist country so this is the mentality.

Toward the end of the article it says the waiters and waitresses respect the frum lifestyle but they can't always understand it.  One of these non-Jewish waitresses couldn't believe that no money is made off of catering these weddings because "as far as she's concerned, if people can't afford it, why are they having 300 guests at their wedding?" Uh, right. 

If weddings had fewer guests eating at the meal, we could bring the caterers back because weddings would be affordable.  The caterers would make a living, the volunteers could turn their attention elsewhere, and even the gentile waitress would see that Jews know to pay for what they can afford.


  1. Are you trying to say that it is acceptable in frum circles to say that something is too expensive? I thought that saying that you could not afford something was admitting a lack in emunah.

  2. You didn't really think that, did you ...
    Whether it's the socialist mentality in England or our democratic values in the US, it's just not like it was in the shtetl where the cobbler and water carrier did not dream of making a wedding like the merchant. The thought is, we are all created equal and our simchas will be equal too, and even the do-gooders operate as though everybody, rich and poor and in-between must receive the same favors or people will be embarrassed. So people who are not in need are given handouts too.

    1. Giving equally to everyone might be great if there is plenty of money to go around. I have not found it to work in my community. Our community gives gift showers to kallahs. It started years ago when they were only for poor kallahs from the community. Then it was felt that all kallahs should get the same thing and then it became common to make showers for out-of-town girls who were marrying local boys. If a woman had 10 children, all 10 had showers, even if some of them, or all of them were boys. Eventually, this caused the givers to have to give less to each kallah and more givers had to be found. Lately, our Chabad shul decided to give a nice gift certificate and sheva brachas rather than try to make a shower for couples who are not planning to live in the community. Everyone will receive the same favors now but the favors will involve less money and effort.