Unwittingly, this negative impression remained in my mind until one of my older sons went collecting for his own yeshivah (both on Purim itself and on regular days).
He spoke about all the wonderful families he encountered this way, including poor families who felt so strongly about supporting Torah, they warmly gave generous donations—a very humbling experience for the boys collecting.
He described dancing in their homes on Purim and the whole atmosphere of love for Torah.
He also mentioned how he felt about those who received them kindly, offered them a drink (non-alcoholic)—even if they gave a tiny donation—versus those who just handed them the money and then shut the door.
(Of course, it's still easy to view them positively, that they felt pressured or harassed at that moment, and despite their situation, they still gave something.)
Because of his experiences collecting for his yeshivah, my son started relating to tzedakah collectors with friendliness & concern.
If he's at home when a collector comes knocking (whether for a yeshivah or any other reason), my son treats them with warmth & friendship, offers them something to drink or eat, and gives them as much of a donation as he can.
And hearing about his experiences also changed me.
One Change of Heart Leads to Another
Especially the younger ones collecting for the first time, they can feel very vulnerable.
For example, one showed up at my door last week, stammering through his mask and temporarily forgetting the name of his yeshivah, for which he was collecting.
I pretended not to notice his awkwardness, and treated him warmly while giving him a donation. He looked grateful & relieved.
It felt like I was "passing it forward"—meaning, I was merely doing for someone else's son what others had done for mine.
While I was always polite to collectors and wished them well, I learned from my son how important it is to put even more heart into it.
Women at Home When Collectors Come Calling
I hold back.
If my husband or an older son is at home, I might politely (withOUT a big warm smile) offer them a drink.
It's important for women to realize that without a sturdy teenage or adult male at home, she has NO obligation to open the door to tzedakah collectors.
If she does, she has NO obligation to smile or offer refreshments, nor any other behavior that could be interpreted as inviting.
Even if he claims to be desperate to use the facilities, the answer is...NO!!!!!!!!!!
I could tell you stories about that. Here they are...
Scary Story #1:
Years ago, a recently widowed thirtysomething friend of mine, who was experienced in self-defense techniques (which she had used successfully against predators), opened the door to a tzedakah collector in a frum neighborhood and found herself with a knife pointed at her stomach accompanied by a demand for her valuables.
Despite her confidence & experience in self-defense, she could not utilize her skills with the knife pointing where it was.
After taking her valuables, he left—with her in hot pursuit. She felt sure she could successfully attack him from behind.
But he got away.
I'm including this story because the "Blazing Brunhilda" archetype has gained so much popularity, but women's best self-defense & self-protection always has been & still is: Avoidance. Prevention.
Despite my friend's assertive personality & effective self-defense skills, she still got mugged.
It's not a common occurrence (especially with the knife), but because it can happen, it's so important to encourage women to FEEL GOOD ABOUT PROTECTING THEMSELVES and NOT performing the wonderful mitzvah of tzedakah unless it's absolutely safe to do so.
Scary Story #2:
A friend with numerous small children at home opened the door to an apparent tzedakah collector who requested use of the facilities.
She felt uncomfortable because her husband wasn't home. But at the same time, she pitied the guy who seemed desperate.
Without going into detail, let's just say he ended up flashing both her & her young children, but made it seem unintentional.
(It doesn't matter if it was intentional or not. A man who cannot or will not behave appropriately has no business being in your home or around your children.)
NEVER let a strange man into your home UNLESS you have a sturdy male around!!!
(Little boys—no matter how many—don't count.)
If a man desperately needs the bathroom, let him go to a nearby supermarket or shul, or knock until he finds a home with a sturdy male in attendance.
Any normal man understands this. Men have wives, sisters, and mothers whom they would not want them to let in strange men.
So any normal man understands why you are denying him entrance.
If he doesn't understand & even gets upset, then that means he's a pompous jerk (or a predator) who doesn't deserve any favors from you anyway.
(On the contrary, he deserves a good kick.)
You are worthy & good and deserve to protect yourself.
UPDATE: Please see that Jewish Law supports the woman's right to safety:
So that's how my son collecting for his yeshivah pinpointed a prejudice I didn't even know I had, and changed both my attitude & his...plus the bonus piece on how, despite the praiseworthiness of giving tzedakah, a woman must put her own safety & that of her children first—and she should fulfill that priority with confidence & conviction.