July 25, 2024

How the Jewish Community Benefits From Charity

Group Photo of Smiling Pantry Packers Volunteers

Every act of loving kindness makes a difference. The magnitude of that positive change, however, depends on where and how charitable efforts are focused. Jewish community organizations know this well. Our combined efforts make a sizable impact in supporting and protecting the poor, needy, and vulnerable. But even on an individual level, adopting a philanthropic system of thinking can ripple outwards to create meaningful change. 

This article explores the close ties between the Jewish community and charity, examining how our traditions, laws, and values shape the way we give.

Charity Has Been a Pillar of the Jewish Community Since the Very Beginning

The Jewish community was built upon and has long been sustained by communal responsibility (arvut hadadit). Our traditions of giving started with Abraham, who welcomed guests into his tent with humility (anavah) and hospitality (hachnasat orchim) in Genesis 18:3. Where most people today would be wary of even speaking to strangers, he actively put others’ needs first (mesirus nefesh) by both inviting them in and exhibiting respect (kavod habriyot)

Abraham’s nephew Lot similarly welcomed guests into his home in Sodom (Genesis 19:2-3), risking his own safety to protect them from the threatening mob outside. These acts of selfless kindness (chesed) underpinned Jewish values millennia ago and continue to inspire Jewish philanthropists today.

Giving Charity to the Poor Is Jewish Law

Positive commandments (mitzvot) were enshrined into law (halacha) when G-d gave the Torah to the Israelites at Mount Sinai. 3,000 years of Jewish history later, and our community has established a long list of meaningful exemplifications of compassion – from donating to nonprofits for orphans and widows’ groups to signing up to volunteer or visiting the sick (bikur cholim).

Chabad Donation Is Weaved Into Jewish Tradition

Traditions encourage us to perform work and service (avodah) on every day of the Jewish calendar year. For example, many Jews contribute a tenth of their income (ma’aser kesafim) to initiatives for children’s education, nonprofit healthcare projects, and charities that address poverty.

In ancient times, farmers engaged in a practice called pe’ah (corners), which involved leaving the corners of fields unharvested for the hungry. Now, organizations against food insecurity serve as a modern-day equivalent. There are even small traditions pertaining to specific holidays of giving, like money for wheat (maos chitim) before Pesach.

The Critical Role of Jewish Community in Charity

Of course, the significance of community in Judaism is another large reason for its characteristic altruism. Mutual responsibility, as encouraged by the well-known phrase ‘All Israelis support one another,’ or ‘Kol Yisrael arevim zeh bazeh,’ gives our diaspora strength despite millennia of oppression and ostracization. Community synagogues aren’t just places for beautiful worship, prayers, and blessings – they’re also a gathering place for art fundraisers, disaster response fundraising drives, and support networks for families in need.

Supporting the Jewish Community on an Individual Level

Compassionate giving (bitachon) is at its most powerful when done through a communal charity fund or other macro-level channel. But that isn’t to say individuals don’t have a personal role to play as well. Every Jew is expected to respect the sanctity of human life (pikuach nefesh) by protecting the poor and promoting justice (tzedek).

Not All Giving Is Made Equal

While online donation platforms offer a quick and easy way to do good, philanthropy and tzedakah can take many forms. The great medieval scholar Maimonides identified and ranked these levels in the Eight Degrees of Giving. The highest form is helping someone become self-sufficient, like through a job or loan for example. 

Giving directly is better than through an intermediary, while giving non-monetary assistance like food, clothing, and time, have the potential to be just as impactful as a donation to the best Jewish charity.

Chabad leaders and prominent rebbes teach that tzedakah is equal in importance to all the other mitzvot combined (Bava Batra 9a). Some even say that tzedakah has the power to save us from death (Proverbs 10:2).

But in the here and now, cultivating a mindset that notices the good is known to have psychological benefits for givers and potentially multigenerational impacts for receivers. This proves that the right thing to do is ultimately in the best interest of everyone. 

Support the Jewish Community Through Colel Chabad

We all strive to have a meaningful part in repairing the world. If you want to ensure your contribution goes far, work with a historic charitable organization like Colel Chabad. Our centuries-old non-profit is Israel’s largest. We combine the teachings of Chabad leaders and the principles of the Chabad movement with the ultimate goal of saving souls (pikuach nefesh) and changing lives.

Colel Chabad’s charity and compassion (kiddush hashem) touches every corner of the Jewish community through a variety of programs, such as:

After-School Programs

Peace at home is a primary ingredient for a healthy family and community. Our after-school programs provide a safe, nurturing environment for children to learn, grow, and thrive.

Educational Scholarships

The Mitzvah of Talmud Torah is in full force in Colel Chabad’s educational scholarships. This initiative strives to empower the continuity and vibrancy of our sacred traditions by providing Russian-speaking Jews with access to quality cultural schooling experiences.

Grabski Medical Center

The Grabski Medical Center is a pillar of support for members of the Jewish community living with multiple sclerosis. It provides specialized medical care and treatment programs to MS patients regardless of their income level, age, race, or background. 

Help Israel’s Needy, Donate Today

Building the world with kindness starts with action. You can wait until to give a significant amount of tzedakah on holidays – Chanukah donations and meaningful Passover donations are always appreciated – or you can get involved and begin making a difference now. Colel Chabad isn’t a communal charity fund, but rather a movement driven by male and female philanthropists from all walks of life. Join them and us in making an impact by donating online today.


Yizkor Donation

בַּעֲבוּר שֶׁבְּלִי נֶדֶר אֶתֵּן צְדָקָה