Utah’s Daily Herald Newspaper ran the following story on July 22nd:
My mother who is 77 years old was lucky to meet an LDS family physician at the BYU center in Jerusalem. He promised to treat her condition at no cost. Her treatment was successful and she was ready to come back home. At the Greyhound bus station she noticed her purse was missing. She called me crying because she had no other money than the cash which I saved for her trip.
She broke my heart because being miles away I was helpless of assisting her. I Googled Jewish organizations in Utah and found Chabad of Utah. I explained to her how to walk there — about seven miles from the bus station. When she arrived there, she was sent to the Jewish Family Services — Chabad said they were not in a position to help her. She was not offered food or water.
The comments on the article were obviously disparaging to the Chabad Shliach, and to Jews in general, with some recommending she take the story to the local TV stations to present her story.
The newspaper did not bother contacting the local Chabad Shliach and asking him what happened, a courtesy offered by newspapers worldwide before publishing disparaging articles about anyone, and instead just waited a week to publish a letter from a local resident who did what is expected, and contacted the Shliach to find out the story:
Being familiar with the good work and stellar reputation the Chabad Lubavitch of Utah has, and having known Rabbi Benny Zippel for well over a decade, what we read confused us. We know the Chabad Lubavitch of Utah, and those associated with it, care about all of God’s children and are very involved in the community. We personally have witnessed Rabbi Benny’s kindness and generosity on many occasions with at-risk populations. He is a man of honor. Questions surfaced as we read the letter, which seemed to take the Chabad of Utah, Jewish Family Services, and Utahans to task…
We contacted Rabbi Zippel of the Chabad of Utah and learned the following: An elderly woman came to the Chabad claiming to be Shimon Peres’ right-hand adviser. She also said she had lost her purse, and needed to get to Mexico for medical treatment. She requested cash for a Greyhound bus ticket to do so.
The Rabbi at the Chabad told her they would be unable to provide transportation to Mexico, but gave her a drink of water, a bottle of water to take with her, and money for bus fare to Jewish Family Services.
This story reminds us of Tom Stoppard’s famous quote: “Never believe in mirrors or newspapers.”