In an ever polarizing world, one would hope that a constructive force like that of philanthropy could at least serve as an opportunity for unification. Sadly, as USA Today recently reported, there are societal tensions that are now pushing philanthropists to support a specific worldview or even political ideology through their philanthropic giving. Challenging that trend can come at a significant cost socially and otherwise. We take the opportunity to profile a philanthropist who has been successful at being uniquely equitable in the way he distributes his philanthropic dollars.
As was reported by media outlets on an international scale, Shlomo stopped in Shannon, Ireland on his way to Israel with his family to treat 400 American servicemen to a warm dinner. As he noted when addressing the group of soldiers; “You guys risk your lives to protect me and my family. If I get to go out and see a whole bunch of Army soldiers and Marines, it’s something that makes me proud. I just wanted to say thank you from the bottom of my heart.” As the servicemen were preparing to eat their paper sack dinners, Rechnitz asked the commanding officer if he could purchase hot meals for each and every one of them instead. Even as the commander said it was unnecessary, Rechnitz insisted and proceeded to hand $50 out to each and every serviceman to dine out at a restaurant of his or her choice at the airport.
Direct and Individual Giving
In a heartbreaking story of love, loss and hope, a North Texas Woman by the name of Diane Aulger, was the recipient of support from Rechnitz, after he heard of her and her family’s tragic situation on the news. Aulger, a mother of five, decided to induce labor a few weeks early so that her dying husband could meet his daughter before he passed on. Her husband was able to spend 45 minutes with her before he slipped into a coma and tragically passed away. After the story received substantial coverage, dozens of people from all walks of life sent Ms. Aulger baby food, diapers, clothing and cash in the form of gifts, so that she wouldn’t feel so alone.
There was one donation however, that seemed to top all the rest. Shlomo Rechnitz, the Los Angeles businessman and philanthropist, stepped in again. In a gesture of great care and concern, Rechnitz sent Diane enough monetary funds to allow her to purchase a car large enough to transport her entire family. As Ms. Aulger commented at a later date, “I’ve received some cards from perfect strangers with $100, $200…it’s shocking enough, but enough to get myself a minivan? I’m still in shock.”
Rescuing Local Businesses
When Doheny Glatt Kosher Meat Market, a scandal-ridden Los Angeles kosher meat distributor and retailer was about to shut its doors, Rechnitz stepped in once again, to the rescue. As Rechnitz himself would later recount, “The Rabbinical Council of California approached me and said, ‘Shlomo, could this be one of your charity things? Kosher meat is expensive enough…” Less than a week later, Rechnitz closed the deal with the former owner of Doheny.
Supporting Our Nation’s Bravest and Finest
Rechnitz is well known for his willingness to lend a generous hand to those who are deserving of it, regardless of what some cultural norms might dictate. Rechnitz has long supported the Los Angeles Police Protective League’s Eagle & Badge Foundation. In fact, he commits to providing $10,000 to the families of each California police officer fallen in the line of duty. For this he was one of the many acclaimed honorees at the organization’s annual gala in 2013.
Opening His Home to Provide for Those Who Need It
Every Saturday night, you’d think you were in a Polish village in the 18th Century. A line extends outside the Rechnitz house and leads right to a dining room where Shlomo sits at the head of a long table, waiting for people to come. Each person who is in need, sits next to him for a few minutes of conversation; receives a check; says thank you, and then goes home. While there are some that may come to his home with proof of their needy state, evidence is not needed. Not a single person walks out of the home without a check in hand.
He sees about 100 people on an average Saturday night in this context. And the crowd of people are consistently diverse – Sephardic, Chassidic, Mothers, Fathers or just people out of work and down on their luck. He is intent on helping anyone and everyone that needs it; and that’s what makes him the truly special philanthropist he is.