April 22, 2024

Famous Jewish Philanthropists Who Shaped Charitable Giving

People at the Western Wall in Jerusalem

Charitable giving is a Jewish tradition as old as the faith itself. Throughout Jewish history, generations of inspirational individuals have dedicated their lives and resources to helping those in need, leaving behind a legacy of philanthropy that continues to this day. Colel Chabad is proud to continue the Jewish tradition of giving back as an organization that supports healthcare, education, and social services programs in Israel.

Jewish Philanthropy In a Nutshell

Philanthropy is a concept that is deeply rooted in the Jewish faith and belief. It is based on the principle of Tzedakah, which translates to “righteousness” or “justice.” This principle teaches that it is not only a moral obligation but also an act of justice to give back to those in need. The Philanthropic concept of Tzedakah goes hand-in-hand with Chesed – an act of kindness or compassion.

Neither idea is exclusively focused on giving money. The Eight Degrees of Giving stipulate the many levels on which someone can practice philanthropy and act as a guide when determining how to get involved with Israeli charitable organizations. You might choose to support Jewish charities that help the poor by fundraising, signing up to volunteer, or donating goods. No matter the form, philanthropy in Judaism is seen as a sacred duty and an essential part of living a righteous life.

Famous Jewish Philanthropists Over the Ages

The strength of the roots of Jewish philanthropy can be attributed to key Chabad figures, Chabad Rebbes, and leaders who cultivated beliefs in their communities long ago. Read below to learn more about famous Jewish philanthropists and how they’ve contributed to the Jewish diaspora at large.

1. Rabbi Meir Baal Haness

Rabbi Meir Baal Haness (Rabbi Meir the Miracle Worker) was a scholar and teacher who lived during the second century. He was known for his generosity and selflessness, always putting the well-being of others before his own. He is said to have performed many miracles, including multiplying food for the poor and healing those who were ill.

Most Jews are familiar with Rabbi Meir Baal Haness through the ‘Lost Item Prayer’ which is often recited when one has lost an important possession. This tradition is an integral part of how many practice Tzedakah and trust in God. It is believed that Rabbi Meir’s soul has a special connection to finding lost items, as he himself was known for his honesty and for returning lost possessions to their rightful owners.

2. Beruryah

Rabbi Meir’s wife, Beruryah, is one of many women famous Jewish philanthropists have turned to for inspiration in their own charitable endeavors. She was known for her knowledge of the Torah and her generosity towards those in need. Beruryah’s influence extended beyond just financial support; she also inspired others with her dedication to learning and teaching Jewish values.

3. Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi

Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, also known as the Alter Rebbe, was a prominent leader in the Chabad movement during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. He is renowned for his teachings on Jewish mysticism and philosophy, but he was also a strong advocate of philanthropy. Rabbi Schneur Zalman believed that giving money to those in need was a fundamental duty and even wrote extensively about it in his works, such as Tanya and Siddur Tehillat Hashem.

4. Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn

Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn played a significant role in promoting philanthropy during the Second World War. He is recognized for establishing one of the world’s most prominent non-profit organizations for education, the National Committee for Furtherance of Jewish Education (NCFJE) in 1940.

Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak’s mission was to ensure that Jewish children would receive a proper education, regardless of their financial background. He tirelessly worked to provide scholarships and funding for schools in need, as well as establishing new ones in underserved areas. His initiatives help orphaned children receive a quality Jewish education, preserving their heritage and identity for future generations.

5. Rabbi Sholom Duchman

Rabbi Sholom Duchman was appointed to continue the work of the last Lubavitcher rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, in 1978. He has supported a number of initiatives both in Israel and abroad that aim to spread the teachings of Chabad-Lubavitch and improve Jewish communities around the world. Rabbi Sholom Duchman currently serves as the Director of Colel Chabad and recently became the United Arab Emirates’ first official shliach.

How Colel Chabad Is Continuing the Legacy of Jewish Philanthropists

The teachings of giving back and helping those in need have been passed down through generations in the Chabad community. Today, the Chabad movement is known for its philanthropic efforts and has established numerous charities and organizations worldwide.

Colel Chabad stands as the oldest Jewish charity of its kind in all of Israel. Founded by Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson in 1788, our charitable organization helps widows in need, operates charitable food programs for impoverished families, and supports the elderly through community outreach efforts

Our mission is rooted in the belief that every person, regardless of their background or circumstances, deserves to live with dignity and have their basic needs met. This belief has fueled our history, and we continue to strive towards making a positive impact on the lives of those in need by offering various ways to donate and get involved. 

Why donate to a Jewish charity that solely fights hunger or an organization for those who meet the definition of ‘poor’ on paper? Colel Chabad operates initiatives to help everyone in need. Help us make a difference by signing up for monthly online donations today.


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