Sitting in his Miami Beach office, Norman Ciment is an accomplished man. Dashing on the political scene in Miami Beach back in 1967, Ciment quickly rose in political rank from commissioner, to judge, and ultimately, in 1981, to Mayor of Miami Beach. But if you were to ask him what his greatest personal accomplishment is to date, you won’t hear something in the political arena. Instead, the answer can be summed up in just one word: refrigerators.
It all started about 15 years ago when Ciment read how terrorism in Israel was not only killing and disabling people, but killing their economy as well. In an effort to both stimulate the Israeli economy as well as lend financial and emotional support to fellow Jews, Ciment came up with a plan. Never one to “just write a check and hope for the best,“ he decided to contact social services in Israel.
What he found out surprised him.
“Nothing could truly prepare us for what we saw. Climbing 4 flights of stairs and entering a small 2 bedroom apartment with 5 children sleeping on mattresses sprawled out on the floor was hard enough. The furniture was old and broken, and the refrigerator was 17 years and barely working. The oven was barely functional with only two burners. The children, donning old hand me down clothing, lovingly smiled as they showed us their “art”, which consisted of drawings decorating their walls. We simply scratched our heads wondering how literally 5 minutes from our hotel, people could live in such conditions. As we soon discovered, there were many more families who lived even worse.
While Jerusalem is one of the most expensive cities in Israel, it also as one of the highest poverty rates in the country. Families with 5, 6 or even more children are barely surviving, lacking lifes most basic necessities. Ciment’s plan is simple. Any family with two working parents and still legitimately in need of financial aid is eligible to receive a new refrigerator, oven, or stove. The response was overwhelming, partly because even government agencies do not pay for things beyond food, and rent. In addition, by purchasing directly from Israeli manufacturers, the Israeli workforce and economy is stimulated. Plus, by cutting out the middleman, every single dollar goes directly to a family in need. And at an average cost of $700 per appliance, you can really make a huge impact.
Rabbi Dovid Shlesinger, who heads a separate organization Baruch Umarpeh, heard about this project and decided to assist Ciment without compensation by finding more people in need of assistance. To quote him ” It is difficult to describe the intense gratification and true joy experienced when these destitute families realize they are going to be receiving a new fully operational appliance.”
Most charities have high administrative costs. As a result, for every dollar spent, at least half never makes it to the end user. Ciment explains, “There is nothing more gratifying than being able to give someone something so basic and necessary, and knowing that you have made a family’s life that much better.” The truth is, I”m not sure who receives more fulfillment, the giver or the receiver.”
To find out how you can get involved in this most unique and gratifying opportunity,