The Jewish imperative of helping the needy, known as tzedakah (derived from the Hebrew word for justice), is among the most cherished Jewish values. The ancient rabbis taught that the value of tzedakah is equal to all the other commandments in Judaism combined. The importance of helping the poor is reflected today in the vast number of Jewish organizations that address this need, both in the Jewish community and beyond. Here are a few that one can support.
American Jewish World Service
Founded in 1985, AJWS works to alleviate poverty and human rights abuses in the developing world. The group funds over 450 social justice organizations in 19 countries and advocates for government policies that promote human rights abroad based on the belief that inequality and injustice are primary drivers of global poverty. The group is also one of the most prominent Jewish organizations involved in disaster relief around the world.
American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee
The JDC, also known as the Joint, is a century-old Jewish organization founded to help needy Jews in pre-state Israel. Today, the Joint is among the leading Jewish organizations helping needy and at-risk Jews around the world and responding to global emergencies. The Joint’s My JDC Mitzvah project allows Jewish teens to pick one of the organization’s humanitarian programs and create a customizable online fundraising platform to support it.
Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty
Founded in 1972 in response to two academic studies estimating that 300,000 Jews in the New York area were impoverished, Met Council today serves over 200,00 clients annually in New York City, regardless of race or religion. In 2017, the group spent over $8 million in food assistance, while also providing crisis intervention services, addressing family violence, and assisting clients gain public benefits.
Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hunger
Mazon is an advocacy organization working to end hunger among people of all religions in the United States and Israel. The group focuses on advocating for policies that alleviate hunger and educating the Jewish community and the wider public about the prevalence of hunger. The group has been particularly focused of late on the Farm Bill, working to protect its support of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), one of the country’s crucial bulwarks in the fight against hunger.