LETTER TO THE UNION OF ORTHODOX JEWISH CONGREGATIONS OF AMERICA
|12 Tevet 5757 (December 22,1996)
RE: Restoration of the Holy Half-Shekel.
Dear Rabbi Stolper,
Shalom Aleichem. My name is Reuven Prager. My work of the last thirteen years has been to research and restore ancient Israelite customs. My work represents the next generation of religious Zionism, where the emphasis moves from pioneering the Land to pioneering our culture to be in harmony with being on that Land.
I invite you to view my work on the Internet at: israelvisit.co.il/beged-ivri.
Our current project is to restore the ancient custom of giving a pure silver Holy Half-Shekel to Jerusalem, on Purim, to coincide with the fiftieth year celebrations in 1998. A complete archive of the project is available on our website.
The Half-Shekel comes to teach the unaffiliated that they are at least Half a Shekel, and the ultra-religious that they are only Half a Shekel. The rich can not give more and the poor no less. Whether that speaks of material wealth or Mitzvah observance, every Jew's fulfillment of this Mitzvah is equal, whether that person finds him/herself sitting in jail or on the throne of a Chasidic dynasty. There is not even room for an hidur.
The ceremonial coins are to be minted by the Israel Government Coins and Medals Corp. Ltd. and will be sold through participating existing Jewish Institutions worldwide. Brink's will handle the safe transportaton of the coins from and to Jerusalem. All the details can be obtained on our website.
I am turning to you to enlist the many institutions of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations in North America to serve as points of sale and collection of the Holy Half-Shekel. For a Jew living outside of Eretz Yisrael, this will enable everyone to have a participatory relationship with Jerusalem on an annual basis. It will greatly increase Purim attendance at all your participating institutions, and I can envision school children putting quarters in special cards, like we used to do to plant trees, saving up all year to buy a Half-Shekel to donate on Purim.
At this time, following so many tragedies, so much pain, and so many divisions amongst our people, we could use a real Simcha; one that does not come on the backs of any vanquished. A universal Simcha such as the restoration of the ceremony of giving an Holy Half-Shekel that unites our people and sets everyone on an equal footing. Especially at this time, when we are forced to give up something so precious to our people, it would behoove us to restore something equally as precious to offset the loss.
Can we count on the Union of Orthodox Congregations of America to help realize this? I am available to answer any and all questions you may have. I will be in the US later this winter and would welcome meeting you face to face to further discuss this project. In the meantime, we want to establish a database so that anyone, anywhere in the US can check in to see what participating institution is closest to their home. Can you provide me with a potential list of all Orthodox institutions which could be utilized as points of sale and collection.
Thank you in advance.
Mr. David Bar Ilan, Prime Minister's Office