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Thirty thousand and One: A personal story from Dov Goodfriend, director of “Bank Zahav”

July 1, 2018

 

The request from the bank manager was brief. He wanted "to speak to the treasurer of the Holyland organization, whenever he can give me a moment."

 

When such a request arrives, all other errands fade into the background; you simply have to come. "There’s a certain person," the bank manager said slowly. "Joseph Elmaliach (alias). A good guy, he just needs some help...."

 

 

"What sort of help does he need?" The treasurer was painfully aware of the story. A whole host of complications had led this man to an unfortunate economic situation, landing him with a truly huge debt to the banks. It wasn’t his fault, since he had made his decisions judiciously. But he fell deep... His debt to Bank Zahav (alias) alone was about $250,000. His household had been plunged into poverty, with barely anything to eat.

 

 

How was he going to return those $250,000? Joseph Elmaliach was sitting at home, knowing that time was running out… "How can we help?" the treasurer asked. "Are you asking the Holyland organization to give him two hundred and fifty thousand dollars?"

"They should help as their charity committee decides. I’m asking them to hold a special meeting, and determine what they can do to help." The bank director was familiar with Holyland’s protocol. Sometimes he attended their committee meetings himself, and had a part in allocating sums of money to needy recipients. He was not scheduled to attend the upcoming meeting, so he did not name a sum.

 

 

The treasurer left with a sense of relief. Whatever the committee decides. Fine. What a terrible burden was removed from his heart... the burden of these persons and their lawsuit. "We’ll have a meeting, and the committee will decide… it'll be determined there…" He kept thinking: "They will never approve a grant of $250,000 for one family…

 

“It’s crystal clear. Even if they agree to allocate twenty or thirty thousand, that won’t satisfy the bank. It’ll just be money down the drain." The treasurer quieted these thoughts. After all, faith in God was the foundation of the organization and its essence.

 

Prior to the next charity meeting the story of Joseph Elmaliach was prepared. All the information and details were verified and cross-referenced: the financial downfall, his part in it, the consequences. All this data would be presented in full at the meeting.

 

Many applications were discussed at the monthly committee meeting. 

The tension and pain in the air were palpable. Another suffering family… and another… and another. Additional orphans had been added to the list since the last meeting. More families that had barely made ends meet to begin with were no longer able to do it.

 

Among the names listed was "Elmaliach." The treasurer silently asked the Lord to put the right words in his mouth, and to present the situation concisely, in the correct tone to reflect the reality as it was. He then briefly told the story, summarizing all the information collected.

 

The committee members began to discuss the case among themselves. "One-time support, 30 thousand,” was their verdict. “It is your responsibility to do with it what is most effective." They, too, knew that $30,000 would never satisfy the bank, which demanded not a penny less than $250,000. But that's what the organization was able to offer at that time. Beyond that – the Lord would give his blessing. How exactly? Time would tell. God has endless ways of helping those who turn to Him. The miracle would arrive – this we shall see with our own eyes.

 

Meanwhile, the thirty thousand dollars lay on the table. The treasurer couldn’t figure out an effective way of using that sum to help Mr. Elmaliach. It was clear that transferring this money to the bank would be a totally foolish act – it would not change a thing regarding the lawsuit.

 

Months passed. The bank had initiated procedures: letters, and then even more severe letters, warnings, letters from lawyers.... Joseph Elmaliach felt like he was sitting on a ticking time bomb. Disaster seemed inevitable. The bank director really wanted to help, and Holyland organization wanted to help, but it appeared that the Heavens had decreed grief and suffering on him. Then he received an official announcement which stated that if the debt were not settled in full by a certain deadline, strong measures would be taken against him.

 

He knew exactly what that meant, and his heart was crying out. Another day went by, and another and another. Only one day was left and no solution on the horizon.

 

Mr. Elmaliach found himself staring into space. Suddenly he remembered something he hadn’t tried, and Who he could always turn to for help. "Lord,” he prayed. “Today I am giving a small donation to the Holyland organization, to pray for me at the Western Wall. If the prayers are accepted and things work out, I promise to donate a large sum to Holyland.”

 

He was crying, his wife was trembling, his children begging in their stormy hearts. A large contribution would definitely choke them economically, and yet – this was what he had promised to the Lord. "I will make a large donation if You will get rid of this debt for me. Please, my Lord, save me."

 

That was all he could do in his situation – and that was what he did. Everyone was worried. Everyone was anxious about the future, but no one could help.

 

On the same day when Joseph made his pledge to donate, his brother Jacob met an old friend.

  

They were chatting and exchanging old childhood memories. Among the things discussed were figures from their pasts. "This woman who helped you so much back then… Goodfriend – did you know her son became a big banker? He’s now the director of Bank Zahav," Jacob’s friend told him.

 

 

"What?!" Jacob was electrified. "What did you say? The CEO of Bank Zahav?! Mrs. Goodfriend's son?! Dubi?! Is that him?! I can’t believe this – I’ll be seeing you!" And to his friend’s surprise, Jacob ran off without even stopping to explain what he was so excited about.

 

In no time, Jacob Elmaliach was on the phone with Dov Goodfriend, director of the bank. "This could work… if the Lord wills it…" was his only thought.

The conversation between the two was brief… As their family name suggested, Mr. Goodfriend’s mother was a woman full of grace and compassion. Her "hobby" was to identify abandoned children, take them in and nurture them, showering them with all the love she could give.

 

One of the abandoned girls she found was the mother of Joseph and Jacob Elmaliach. This little girl had faced adversity in her life, traveled from one place to another, and was basically abandoned, until she found a place in Mrs. Goodfriend's warm heart. Over the years, this compassionate woman gave the little girl everything a mother and a home can give.

 

She sat beside the child when she cried out at night with bad dreams, gently holding her hand. She was at her graduation party, applauding with full confidence in her foster child’s abilities. Step by step, the young girl was healed of the stinging wounds that constricted her soul.

 

She thrived, grew up, got married and established a home, and raised good, healthy and happy children. As for Mrs. Goodfriend, this was the best reward she could ever want for all her kindness. "Dubi, on behalf of all the good deeds your mother did for my mother... Joseph is drowning in debt, please help him!" The bank manager was shocked. He had no idea that this Joseph Elmaliach was the son of the little girl he’d known all those years ago! He’d been only a little boy himself then.

 

He realized he must complete what his mother had started. But how exactly? He didn't know. That day, he made a phone call to Holyland's treasurer. "Tell me what I can do. I mean… I am not the bank, of course, but… you know... there are procedures… I really want to help."

 

"Well, as you said, the charity committee would decide in their monthly meeting what they could do. They decided on a one-time grant of $30,000, and that’s that.”

 

"But how could $30,000 be any help? The debt is $250,000! It’s a joke!”

 

"What can I tell you, Dov? You weren’t present at the meeting, and you clearly said you were leaving it up to the committee to decide. I made a good presentation of the case to them, and they conferred and made their decision. I’m afraid it’s too late for you to take part in the deliberations now. And you know that they do God’s holy work, and the spirit of the Lord helps them to make the right decisions... There’s no more I can say about this. Thirty thousand is all we can offer!"

 

Dubi Goodfriend, the CEO, had no answer.

 

 

There was just one thing he could do: submit a "Executive Application to the Bank Directorship" – a very rare step reserved for emergencies. He handed over this application with tears in his eyes, thinking of his mother, who did all she could for the sake of that poor little girl who grew up, matured and flourished thanks to her. The outcome was surprising.

 

The bank management deducted $200,000 from the debt! Two hundred thousand! Nobody could believe it. Thrilled and excited, Jacob took upon himself to raise an additional twenty thousand, and the bank agreed that the remaining sum would be paid in by Joseph in small installments. The huge debt was removed to the last penny. "I would really like to know: how did you find me, out of the blue?" asked Mr. Goodfriend, when everyone gathered in his office. "How did you reach me all of the sudden, out of the blue? How did you know I was the son of the woman who helped your mother back then? You've been holding this debt for years now! How did you find this way, at the very last moment?" All eyes were on Joseph, who was completely relaxed, as if all the excitement had nothing to do with him.

 

"I honestly don’t know why you’re all so amazed. The explanation is simple. I pledged a big contribution to the Holyland organization. I cried out from my heart and the Lord heard and answered me. Is that really so surprising?”

 

My email:  judimouzes32@gmail.com

 

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