Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Hammerman on Ethics: The Ethics of Giving: Jewish vs. Non-Jewish?

Q: My wife and I disagree about charitable giving. I believe most of our charitable dollars should go to helping our own Jewish people; she wants to give to local non-Jewish groups, like the homeless shelter and food bank. What's the magic formula about Jewish v. non-Jewish giving, according to Jewish law?

A. Nothing magical, but the Talmud actually does give us a formula for prioritizing our giving. It’s in Bava Metzia, page 71a, where Rabbi Joseph states that, in lending money, Jews take precedence over non-Jews, the poor over the rich, your relatives over the general poor of the town, and the local poor over the poor of another town.

That’s all fine and good, but what happens when we live in a more assimilated society, one where the lines separating Jew from non-Jew have blurred considerably?
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