June 21, 2024

Jewish Charities: A History of Generosity

Members of Colel Chabad Charity Discussing

Judaism is built upon acts of loving kindness and the value of Chesed. The faith encourages individuals to be charitable, both through donations of money and through volunteering their time and energy to those in need. Philanthropic giving has been an integral part of Jewish culture for centuries, and today, there are many different options to consider when it comes to how to get involved with Jewish charities.

As the events overseas continue, charity for Israel is of paramount importance as we discuss the history of Jewish charities and why they’re so important.

Forms of Jewish Philanthropy  

Within Jewish philanthropy, there are two main concepts: Tzedakah and Chesed. Together, they form the foundation of Jewish philanthropic traditions, reflecting a deep commitment to both individual and communal well-being.

Learning More About Tzedakah

The concept of Tzedakah is central to the Jewish way of life and the history of Jewish charity; the term encompasses all forms of charity and righteousness. 

Tzedakah includes not only financial support but also can refer to any acts that help another person in need, such as providing emotional or physical assistance. All Jews are encouraged to give Tzedakah each day and on special occasions such as Shabbat (Sabbath). 

One question often comes up with Tzedakah: how much should I give? This depends on what you’re able to give. For some Jewish people, this means giving up to 20% of their income.

Understanding Chesed

The concept of Chesed, or kindness, is another important aspect of Jewish charity. Chesed is the act of performing an act of good without expecting anything in return. If you are unable to give financially, Chesed also offers a way to give back that does not rely solely on financial donations. These acts often involve helping other people in need, such as providing food to those who are hungry or clothing to those who are cold. 

Jews believe that we must treat others with respect and love–regardless of their background–and that it can be just as virtuous to give someone a smile or kind words than it is to give money.

Jews are also encouraged to perform mitzvot “or mitzvah”, and deeds that help improve one’s spiritual life and bring them closer to God. 

These can include such activities as praying regularly, studying Jewish scriptures, observing the Sabbath (Shabbat), or doing volunteer work in a synagogue or other Jewish organizations. These are all important ways to help Israel now.

Now, charity for Israel is an important good deed, as support has never been more important.

Maimonides, Rabbi Meir Baal Haness and other Jewish leaders purport the highest level of charity as helping people become independent. Providing education, job training, and other resources are considered being ideal acts of Chesed – topping the eight degrees of Jewish giving.

A History of Jewish Charities

Charitable giving is deeply ingrained in the Jewish faith, so much so that in Israel, charity organizations are as ubiquitous as grocery stores. The history of Jewish charity spans thousands of years, tracing its origins back to biblical times when giving alms (Tzedakah) or helping those less fortunate was considered an essential expression of righteousness.

Throughout the ages, Jewish charities have provided a platform for Jews to manifest their religious beliefs and values by aiding those in need within the broader community. This commitment has found diverse expressions, from funding medical care for the elderly or disabled to assisting Jewish refugees, from providing essential food and clothing to supporting educational opportunities.

Historical Giving in Jewish Culture

Historical giving in Jewish culture holds a significant place in Israel’s rich tapestry of traditions and heritage. This philanthropic tradition can be traced back to the earliest Jewish settlements in the region, forging a connection between the land, its people, and their commitment to helping others.

During the late 19th century, a time marked by the presence of the Ottoman Empire in the region, Jewish communities were already actively engaged in charitable activities. These efforts were multifaceted, with a focus on both internal community support and broader communal welfare. Jewish individuals and organizations understood the importance of collective responsibility, which extended to helping their fellow Jews and the surrounding non-Jewish population.

The British Mandate period further solidified these charitable endeavors. Jewish communities recognized the need for organized assistance, not only for their members but also for the diverse communities living alongside them. This period witnessed the development of numerous Jewish charitable organizations and initiatives aimed at providing essential services such as medical care, education, and social welfare to those in need.

Throughout these historical eras, Jewish charitable giving in Israel was not only a means of addressing immediate material needs but also a testament to the enduring values of Tzedakah and Chesed. These values emphasized the importance of justice, compassion, and loving-kindness, and they guided Jewish philanthropy in Israel, ensuring it remained a cornerstone of the Jewish identity.

Contemporary Charitable Organizations in Israel

In contemporary times, Jewish charitable organizations in Israel continue to evolve and adapt to the changing needs of society. Some focus on supporting Israel as a whole, while others are dedicated to specific causes, such as aiding widows, combating hunger, or promoting children’s education.

Notably, there are organizations devoted exclusively to performing acts of Chesed, emphasizing kindness, compassion, and selflessness in their charitable endeavors. Many synagogues also play an active role, with committees dedicated to seeking out individuals in need and providing them with assistance.

Getting involved with Jewish charity initiatives couldn’t be easier, either. Some of the best ways to donate include through non-profit fundraising, volunteering, or regular online donations. Individuals can make a habit out of Jewish philanthropy by acquiring a Pushka, a Tzedakah box that is kept in the home and into which one deposits coins each day..

Colel Chabad: A Charity for Israel with a Big Impact

Colel Chabad is an Israeli nonprofit organization that has been helping the people of Israel since 1788. Our Jewish charity serves as one of the oldest welfare societies in the country, giving charity to the poor in all its forms, from meaningful Tzedakah contributions to the everyday, simple act of intangible kindness.

Choosing to donate to the poor in Israel is an honorable decision regardless of how you choose to give. Those who want to help Israel now can make a transformative impact by donating to Colel Chabad’s medical services and nutrition security initiatives

These charitable programs, in addition to childcare, widow and orphans support, and other special services, ensure that every vulnerable person in Israel has access to the fundamental support they need to thrive.

When you donate to Jewish charities like ours, you’re making sure that resources are available for every person in need, no matter their background or beliefs. We rely on our generous supporters to help us make a difference and improve the lives of Israeli citizens across all sectors.

Donate to Israel, Make a Difference

As a leader among Jewish non-profit charity organizations – and Israel’s oldest Jewish charity – Colel Chabad is one of the best Jewish charities to donate to if you’re really looking to make a difference.

Help Israel and support the Jewish community by donating today.


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