Sixteen years ago I came across an article from the Jewish Week from a Binyomin Jolkovsky which seriously downplayed Chaim Prussman of Beth Shifra’s efforts. I found it interesting, especially when someone from Shul at that time presented me not only with his own personal experiences, but also asked how Beth Shifra compared to other name-brand anti-missionary organizations such as Jews for Judaism. I had no answer. I also wondered why a shul on Kings Highway and East 17th street that Rabbi Prussman claimed residency, which was right across from a church, merely picked up Rabbi Prussman’s mail and nothing else. I also wondered why Rabbi Prussman’s Beth Shifra tape (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VfuAx2_NZyw), circa 1979, focused over 80% of the film on promoting missionaries flaunting J.C. Penney and only 20-30 seconds on Rav Miller ZT”L.
That said, based on the interesting content of that article, I decided to post it as it was already “old news.” Little did I realize that even this old news would actually hurt someone even today.
I recently received a phone call from someone at Beth Shifra, practically crying, asking me to take that piece off, that Beth Shifra was Rabbi Prussman’s life work. Considering where it was coming from, I realized my mistake. I noticed that unlike many other organizations claiming they have no money, Beth Shifra is drastically low on resources. This explains a lot in terms of them barely having the bare necessities to produce Matzah for Pesach and Neironim for Chanuka (which I remember selling to Jews on Chanuka for $0.25 while in High School many years ago). However, they have recently undergone a drastic turnaround. I felt really bad about it and took it off my blog.
That said, I realize that, after a few years of wisening up, the broken Passover promises aren’t due to Rabbi Prussman at all. Rather, it’s moreso due to factors such as noncommittal volunteers, weather, and just plain bad Mazal.
The reality is, Beth Shifra in essence stands for very pure, good and holy things. They try to get non-affiliated Jews even today (and there still are many non-observant Russian Jews in Brooklyn as of this post) to at least keep something Jewish. That’s something I stand by 100%.
Fighting for bringing Jews closer to Torah and Mitzvos? Now that’s a promise worth keeping!