Quick revise

Millions of people in the world find day to day life hard due to a lack of the needs of life. Approximately 1.3 billion people have less than US$1 per day to live on and half of the world’s population (about 3 billion) has less than $2 (£1) per day.

Many say that the gap between rich and poor people is getting wider. LEDCs (Less Economically Developed Countries) often have huge debts which need to be paid off and which use up all of their income from other sources.

These countries do not have (adequately) the six basic needs – food, water, shelter employment, education and healthcare.

The effects of poverty

It is hard to imagine the effects of poverty and the misery it causes.

  • Adults, children and babies are malnourished.
  • Life expectancy is low.
  • Diseases spread easily.
  • People have to travel a long way to fetch water.
  • Poor education means that the next generations are not equipped to tackle the problems in the future.
General Jewish Beliefs

Wealth comes from God but there are many warnings that it is wrong to be greedy. We should be guardians of our wealth for God just like we are stewards (or guardians) of the world.

Charity is zedekah (justice, sometimes spelt tzedekah) and a duty for Jews. Giving should be done in secret and sensitively (so the poor don’t lose any self-respect).

Many Jews give one-tenth of their disposable income to the poor (this is called tithing). Many homes have pushkes – collection boxes for change.

Specific Teachings

‘When you reap the harvest for the poor and needy do not reap to the very edges of your field … do not go over your vineyard a second time … Leave them for the poor and the alien.’ (Leviticus 19:9-10)

Leave the harvest of the seventh year for the poor (Exodus 23:11)

‘Give with an open heart … always be open-handed with … anyone in your country who is in need and poor'. (Deuteronomy 15:10-11)

‘Blessed is he who considers the poor’. (Psalm 41:1)

We must support the poor among the Gentiles, even as we support the poor of Israel … all in the interests of peace. (Talmud)


The charity Tzedek was founded in 1990. It aims to provide direct support to the developing world and to educate people about poverty.

It organises a volunteer programme. In 2007 they were in particular supporting women’s projects in Africa and India. Because of cultural reasons, women often do not have the skills they need to help the development of the countries they live in. These projects aim to help overcome this.

What can Jews do?
  • Support agencies that work to fight poverty (e.g. Tzedek, World Jewish Relief).
  • Encourage governments to cancel the debts of the poorest nations.
  • Educate people about the needs of the poor and why they should support them.
  • Encourage their local MPs to vote for policies that will help the poor.