May 22, 2024

How Jewish Views On Poverty and Protecting the Poor Inspire Charity

The National Project for Food Security Card

Is poverty a choice? Anyone who has ever experienced it first-hand will tell you that the answer is no. We’re all susceptible to tough times and therefore all have a reason to help the poor. Jewish philanthropy stems from this principle, which holds particular value in the Chabad movement. Keep reading to learn more about Jewish views on poverty and the actions they inspire.

Jewish Views On Poverty

In Judaism, poverty is seen as a societal issue that requires communal responsibility. It’s not a result of personal failures or choices but rather a test from G-d. Jews believe everything in the world belongs to G-d, and that we have a duty to take care of His world and each other. This includes helping those in need, regardless of their circumstances.

The Origins of Charitable Giving In Judaism

Acts of charity have held significant meaning throughout Jewish history. The Torah mentions numerous commandments that emphasize the importance of giving to those in need, such as leaving part of one’s harvest for the poor (Leviticus 23:22), helping widows, and supporting orphans (Deuteronomy 14:29).

Giving As Defined By Jewish Beliefs

The word tzedakah comes from the Hebrew root word tzadei-dalet-qof, which translates to “righteousness” or “justice”. A mitzvah (commandment), it reflects the core Jewish belief that it is our moral responsibility to do good.

Giving Funds

Halacha (Jewish law) stipulates that individuals are obligated to give a portion of their income to the poor with guidelines for how much to give and when this should be done. Ma’aser Kesafim, the practice of committing 10% of one’s income to charity, has been carried on for centuries and continues to be upheld by many Jewish communities today.

Giving Loving-Kindness

The idea of tzedakah goes beyond simply giving money or material possessions. It also encompasses the act of performing kind deeds and helping those in need through acts of service. The Eight Degrees of Giving outline different levels of tzedakah, with the highest being to give someone a job or help them become self-sufficient.

Jews are encouraged to embrace peripheral elements of philanthropy such as chesed (loving-kindness) and compassion when giving to others. These concepts can be similarly applied to more than tangible donations to charities for the poor; Bikur Cholim (visiting and caring for the sick) is an honorable mitzvah (good deed) with the potential to impact someone’s life in a positive way.

How Helping the Poor Means Helping Everyone

Chabad rebbes constantly promote community-wide philanthropy for its direct connection to collective prosperity. The phrase ‘Kol Yisrael Arevim Zeh Bazeh‘ isn’t just an ancient call to come together in support of your fellow neighbor, but a perspective that’s helped our people survive times of immense struggle.

How Everyone Can Help the Poor

Cultural traditions in Jewish charity can be found throughout the calendar year and likewise practiced by individuals of all ages.

Giving during Jewish holidays, for example, is defined by customs like maos chitim (wheat money) on Passover and matanot la’evyonim (gifts for the poor) on Purim. These traditions have been passed down through generations and serve as a reminder of the importance of tzedakah in Jewish culture.

Youth involvement in charitable giving starts from an early age with programs like Tzedakah Boxes that encourage children to save money for a good cause. Many young boys and girls also use their Bar/Bat Mitzvah as an opportunity to fundraise for a charity of their choice.

What Makes Contributions to the Poor Meaningful?

Donating to charities for food insecurity and non-profit healthcare initiatives doesn’t make someone a good person by default. The most impactful Chabad leaders have always been clear that it’s not the quantity of what you give that matters, but the place in your heart it comes from. Prayers and blessings, volunteer work, and moral support all have the power to be equally meaningful forms of tzedakah.

The poor need more than money; what the poor also require is genuine empathy and understanding. This can manifest in many forms, including:

Volunteering With Jewish Non-Profit Organizations 

Whether they’re serving meals at a soup kitchen, tutoring children in low-income neighborhoods, or participating in a charity run to raise awareness and funds, helping hands have immense charitable value. Jewish non-profit organizations offer volunteer opportunities to individuals and groups looking to make a real difference in the lives of others.

Supporting Local Jewish Businesses

Buying from Jewish small businesses keeps money circulating within the community while providing a source of income for families and individuals who may be struggling financially. It doesn’t even have to cost you – just switch out your usual coffee shop for a Jewish-owned one or buy your groceries from a local kosher market. Every little bit counts.

Colel Chabad Puts the Jewish Concept of Protecting the Poor Into Practice

Caring for the poor and needy is a fundamental practice that’s as old as Judaism’s history. That’s a large reason why there are so many well-established Jewish non-profit charity organizations in the world today. Colel Chabad stands apart from them all as the best Jewish charity to give to for its extensive track record of making an impact by providing immediate assistance to the most vulnerable populations in Israel.

Colel Chabad was founded over 200 years ago and remains one of the oldest continuously operating charitable organizations of its kind. There are several initiatives that need your support:

  • Many Jewish people struggle to get enough food, especially babies. Babies need lots of vitamins, minerals, and proteins to grow strong and healthy right from the start. No baby or child should ever go hungry. That’s why we’ve teamed up with the government of Israel to run the baby formula program. It’s a straightforward but powerful initiative that gives reassurance to mothers in need, knowing they can provide nourishment for their babies.

  • Soup Kitchens provide warm meals and essential community support to thousands of Israelis and families in need, offering hope and solidarity during difficult times.

  • Colel Chabad’s Big Brother/Big Sister program pairs young mentors with at-risk Jewish children, fostering meaningful relationships that offer guidance, support, and inspiration.

  • Through the Pantry Packers program, Colel Chabad provides healthy and nutritious food to struggling families in Israel, alleviating hunger and offering hope for a better future.

  • Colel Chabad’s dental clinics offer free or low-cost dental care, ensuring individuals in need can maintain good oral health and lead healthier, happier lives with confidence.

We recognize the definition of poverty has changed over this long period of time – Israeli families often fall through the gaps because they struggle with specific ills like food insecurity, medical care, housing, and childcare. Get involved with Colel Chabad, promote economic justice by signing up for regular donations, or help bridge the gap between poverty and opportunity by signing up to volunteer your time. 

As a supporter, you will witness firsthand the impact of our support network as we strive to uplift communities and individuals from all walks of life. Every contribution goes towards meaningful change that’s as long-lasting as it is sustainable.

Don’t delay – take action by supporting Israeli charitable organizations like Colel Chabad today.


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