While at his winter home in Coconut Creek, Fla., last year, Meyer Markowitz read a small article in the local Jewish paper, about a 14-year-old girl performing mitzvahs that inspired him to take up a new hobby with his newfound retired time.
"I figured if a 14-year-old could do it, why should I not be able to do something comparable?" said the 75-year-old resident of Blue Bell.
So a "charged-up" Markowitz called the mother of the teenager to find out more information about her mitzvah project – known as "Hear O' Israel" – a program aimed at refurbishing old or used hearing aids, and sending them to the less fortunate in Israel.
Here in the United States, the devices, collected from relatives of deceased individuals or from other sources, are sent to the Greater Detroit Chapter of Hadassah in West Bloomfield, Mich., where a fund, set up by Phyllis and Albert Newman, and dedicated to research in pediatric audiology, pays all expenses to have the old instruments restored and mailed overseas to those in need.
"This is just something that is sitting on a shelf or in a box, tucked away after a person dies," explained the retired salesman. "It's so simple and so easy to help a poor soul who can't afford the ability to hear, and something that most people haven't thought about."
Markowitz started his own mitzvah quest by printing brochures and handing them out at his shul, Tiferet Bet Israel in Blue Bell. Undeterred when the response was not as great as he anticipated, Markowitz sent a brochure to "every synagogue from Atlantic City up to the Poconos."
He also approached hearing-aid salespeople, seeking their old trade-ins, which he said normally just gather dust. Slowly but surely, the apparatuses started trickling in.
He says that his skills as a salesman – tactics that come in handy when "selling" the wonders of a mitzvah – are responsible for his success rate of what he estimates to be more than 100 hearing aids collected in the last 18 months.
To emphasize the success of his powers of persuasion and the importance of giving back, Markowitz tells the story of a woman who felt that her deceased husband's hearing aid was one of the last reminders she had of him, and thus didn't feel comfortable giving it away.
"Your husband is probably looking down on us, and if he knows that it can go to a grandfather in Israel who will be able to hear his grandchild talk, what greater mitzvah can there be?" he asked the hesitant woman.
"How quickly can you come get it?"
For more information, call 610-278-1055.