April 1, 2008 at 5:40 am 2 comments

A while back I watched a documentary on PBS called “The Jewish Americans“. It was a fascinating show, detailing the struggles of Jews to be accepted in American society and the major role they have played in social justice movements, entertainment, business and many other aspects of American culture. One concept discussed in the documentary that I was really struck by was that of tzedekah– charity. The word in Hebrew actually means “righteousness”. One of the people interviewed explained they believe that what we have is not really ours- that it is “on loan” from God. I thought that was an interesting way to look at it. Of course charity is emphasized in many religions but I liked the way it seemed to framed in Judaism.

Too often charity has the connotation of pity, giving to those less fortunate because you feel sorry for them. Instead I think we should shift to viewing charity in the context of working for social justice. Charity often helps people only temporarily, whereas social change of a deeper sort removes or reduces the problems that cause them to need charity in the first place. The two should be interconnected. I find that charity efforts especially by religious groups have a tendency to be rather de-politicized. In part this is to make them less controversial but I think when we go off to work at the soup kitchen, we should be asking why people are in a position where they need soup kitchens.

Charity or tzedekah also does not have to be giving money. It can also be volunteering or sharing/donating other resources. I do not have much money but I frequently volunteer for various causes.


Entry filed under: Concepts & Definitions, Ethics, Interfaith, Judaism. Tags: , , .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Robert Michel  |  April 1, 2008 at 5:50 am

    I just stopped by your blog and thought I would say hello. I like your site design. Looking forward to reading more down the road.

    Robert Michel

  • 2. caelesti  |  June 13, 2008 at 9:28 pm

    Thank you! I write about many topics, hope you find it interesting. Your blog on social networking looks like it could be quite helpful to me, as I am currently job seeking.

    By the way, I can’t take credit for the design of this blog, it is a WordPress template.


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