Poverty And The Obligation To Help


Two articles in the June 14 issue (“Study: One In Five NY Jews In Or Near Poverty” and the Opinion piece, “Rising Jewish Poverty Redoubles Obligation To Help”) discuss a sharp rise in
poverty in the Jewish community in New York. This is a distressing topic and
certainly comes under the religious principal of all Jews being “arevim zeh
la zeh” — we Jews are all responsible for each other.

But there is, I
believe, an exception to this rule. As pointed out in one of the two
articles, a large part of this increase in poverty rates is due to a large
increase in the population of the fervently Orthodox. We are facing the same
problem as our brothers and sisters in Israel. Namely, are the liberal and
Modern Orthodox populations of the community obligated to financially support
those who are capable of supporting themselves but choose not to? Are those
of us who have smaller families at least in part so that we can afford
to provide for our children obligated to support those who don’t
take that factor into consideration?

In fact, is it even moral to divert the
limited resources of the Jewish community from those who genuinely need its
help to those who make the decision to study instead of to work? As the joke
goes in Israel: “one-third of the country does the work, one-third of the
country pays taxes, and one-third of the country risks their lives defending
the others. Unfortunately, it’s the same third.”

Somers, N.Y.