A Jewish Framework for WRS Social Justice

The goal of WRS is to create a strategic plan that is based upon Torah values and concentric circles of need. This will be a 3 year plan targeting different organizations that we will support, advocate for and educate ourselves and others about.
Based upon the article “Rabbinic Law on Tzedakah Priorities” by Rabbi Arthur Waskow, tzedakah means righteousness, not charity. At its core is the concept of restorative justice, privacy and dignity for every human being. Tzedakah is a test of the values of our Torah.
  1. Who gives? Everyone, even the poorest person who depends on tzedakah is required to give a ½ schekel, so that he too is a contributor.
  2. How much should we give? The richest can give up to 20% of their income, but no more. More would get that person too much honor and power for the community’s good. Less is ok. The normal amount is 10%.
  3. How do we choose among a wide range of needs? Anyone who asks for food should receive it at once. Hunger is a powerful emergency. Strangers with less urgent needs should be queried. The community is responsible to give what they need based upon the results of the perceived need. Those known to the community should not have to wait for tzedakah.
  4. Giving is extended in a series of concentric circles. Ones own needs come first. The next priority goes to parents. Children come next, then relatives, immediate neighbors, then the needs of the town in which one lives. After that a person needs to be concerned with their country and finally the world.
  5. Jews & Non-Jews For the sake of peace, give to both. The highest communal good is a joy to help all beings.
  6. Moses Maimonides – 12th century scholar and author of the Mishnah Torah illiterated 8 steps of tzedakah. All 8 steps are built upon restoring a person’s dignity, privacy and anonymity of the giver and the receiver.
  7. We can raise a person’s dignity in their own eyes as well as in the eyes of the prosperous by involving them in the process and in the work. The highest form of tzedakah is enabling every person to be economically self-sufficient.
  8. There is a difference between acts of loving kindness and tzedakah. One is direct service and the other is capacity building which enables people to stand on their own independent of a need for tzedakah.

~Claire Mikowski

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