December 27, 2020

Teaneck Bergenfield Tzedakah Committee FAQ

Below, we have listed many of the common questions that are asked of committee members.

Q. What should I do if someone comes to my home without a certificate?

A. Please encourage them to call the Tzedakah Committee to request an application. The Tzedakah Committees’ phone number is (201) 343-5190 or via email. You should speak to your personal Rav regarding giving to those individuals without our certificate. You can be helpful by favoring those that have our certificate.

Q. What should I do if someone has an expired certificate?

A. Without an appropriately dated certificate, you should follow the same process as if someone comes to your door without our certificate. We review each case every time a person requests our certificate. For example, if an individual is collecting for an organization, we verify that the person is still authorized to collect on behalf of the organization before issuing a new 

Q. People come to my home and say they applied for the certificate months ago. Why does it take so long?

A. We process applications on average in about one week. If someone says this to you, please take their name and cell number and contact our office. Their application could be lost or you may be speaking with a person that has not responded to our request for additional information or documentation. Please remember, without a valid, dated certificate, you cannot be assured of the individuals need to collect.

Q. What about all the meshulachim that comes around in shul during davening?

A. This is an issue that each shul must address individually. We believe that every person collecting in our community should have our certificate. You can be helpful by favoring those that have one. Please speak to your personal Rav about this issue.

Q. The same people come every few weeks to my home. What am I to do?

A. Each family should establish their own policy in consultation with their personal Rav.

Q. Often, three or four people come at the same time. Only one has a certificate. Are all the people in the group approved by the committee?

A. Only the person whose name and picture appear on the certificate has been screened and approved by the committee. You should check the picture on the certificate carefully to be sure that the person collecting is the person that has been approved by the committee. Be sure to check the date and never accept a photocopy of our certificate. All certificates have two signatures and a raised seal to ensure its authenticity. Check it carefully!

Q. Who are these organizations that the meshulachim request the checks be made out to? When reviewing my canceled checks, often the endorsements don’t match.

A. Unfortunately, many of the meshulachim that come to our community with a real need to collect do not have a formal way to cash checks. Therefore, they might use a 3rd party to cash their checks. Also, you may have chosen to make the check out to an authorized tax-exempt organization so you receive a tax deduction. These are two situations where you might not recognize the endorsement. We recognize that this is not the optimal situation; however, the committee is unable to address this issue at the present time.

Q. I understand that the drivers often receive a large percentage of the proceeds. Is this true?

A. We have spoken to most of the regular drivers that come into our community. Our investigation found that many of them receive up to 33% of what is collected. Some, however, are paid an hourly basis. Frankly, we have been unable to develop an efficient alternative to the current driver situation.

Q. Is there a published list of individuals that have been reviewed by the committee and their application denied?

A. No, this information is not currently available. We cannot provide this information as that would cast aspersions on someone who simply did not respond to our requests for references. If you have questions on a specific individual, you may contact Tzedakah Committee for more information.

Q. Are certificates from other communities valid? Why does each community have to have its own process? Why cant there be one committee that does the approval for all of New Jersey/New York metropolitan area?

A. In our investigation, early in the committees work, we contacted nearly a dozen communities to learn how their verification process was done. Several have impressive processes in place. Yet no other committee that we contacted requires personal contact with references, a process that is the foundation of our approval process. We share information when appropriate and respond to alerts and other common concerns that the other communities address. We continually learn from each other. However, every community has developed a system that services their needs depending on the available manpower. We felt that we could enhance the process with a verification that included personal contact with the references. We very much support a universal approval process, but to date, although we have spoken about this to other communities, no one or organization has addressed this need. Due to the diligent work of our volunteers, our certificate is highly regarded in many cities and sometimes forms the basis for their committee’s approval. Having many well-networked committees with different approaches has served the community well in the past in alerting us to questionable situations.

Q. How many requests does the committee reject? Are there really frauds trying to collect?

A. The overwhelming majority of people that apply are approved. We have found that due to our reputation and our detailed review process, this discourages fraudulent visitors from requesting our certificate. Every family can help us in limiting fraudulent collectors by respecting the system and favoring individuals that have our valid, dated certificate.