Thursday, June 17, 2021

Who Are The Most Charitable Jews?

Twenty-seven years ago, when I was searching to define my place in Orthodoxy, there was one raw fact that made it clear to me that charedi society is the ideal community. And I read it in The Jerusalem Post. I don't remember the exact numbers any more, but it was a statistic about charitable giving. It demonstrated that charedim give far more to charity than do national-religious Jews, who in turn give far more to charity than do secular Jews.

There you have it. A black-and-white statistic, in a non-charedi publication, showing that charedim are the most charitable Jews. Is this not clear evidence that theirs is the right path?

Eventually, over the years, I came to realize that there are many other issues to take into consideration. But in this post I would like to address this very statistic, which I recently saw quoted as praise for the charedi way of life. Because what many people don't realize is that it is a fundamental distortion.

Put very simply, the problem is that the larger amount of charity that charedim give is vastly offset by the lower amount of taxes that they pay and the higher amount of welfare that they draw.

As discussed in the anonymous guest post on this blog, Do Charedim Live Off The State?, the average charedi household pays only 34% of the income tax, national insurance and health insurance paid by the average non-charedi Jewish household. The average charedi household also spends 16% less on taxed goods and services, despite the much larger number of people living in it. And then the average charedi family receives 66% more in welfare and support payments than that received by the average non-charedi Jewish family.

It is abundantly clear that the charedi community’s relative contribution to Israel’s economy falls significantly behind that of its non-charedi Jewish counterpart. And when all is said and done, the average charedi household does receive considerably more funding from the state than it pays in taxes.

In other words, it doesn't help when people give more of their earnings to charity, if their earnings are incredibly meager and they are living off the state. (Not to mention that much of these charitable donations are going to supporting charedim who are willfully needy, rather than to those who cannot do anything about their situation.) Medical services and defense forces and welfare benefits and all the other things that the country needs to survive and help the unfortunate are not paid for by tzedakah donations; they are paid for by taxes. 

Furthermore, all these essential services are run by people with professional careers - i.e., not by charedim. You need doctors and weapons experts and engineers and scientists, along with the money to pay for employing such professionals. Otherwise, you end up with a third-world country in which there is immense suffering - which is what economists warn that Israel is heading towards, and rare sensible figures in the charedi world are raising the alarm about. Remember, people in charedi kollels are not just making a personal lifestyle choice - they are also raising their children without any serious secular education or desire for professional careers.

What about the chareidi charitable contributions to society, in terms of chessed organizations? Charedi apologists like to boast about Hatzala, Zaka, Yad Sarah, Ezer Metzion, and Masbiya. These are indeed wonderful institutions. But it's a drop in the bucket compared to the contributions that non-charedim make to society, in terms of army service and sherut leumi. Army service is three years, plus annual reserve duty. And again, the most important contribution to society is to actually build up the economy.

Judaism teaches that it's not enough to have a good heart; one must have a good head, to ensure that one's good deeds are being done correctly. And it doesn't help to blind oneself to the problems that exist. Only if we are honest about the problems can we begin to address them.


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65 comments:

  1. I would like you to pull statistics of the Arab population. Why the same leftists who love to bash Haredim wont say a drop in the bucket against the Arab enemies?
    Also take into account crimes rates in different sectors especially the Arab's. How many of them build illegally and dont pay taxes? How many of them dont serve? How many of them want Israel destroyed?

    Ssvi.

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    1. Arabs? Irrational obsession much? What do they have to do with this? Are they going around boasting that they are the best Jews?

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  2. Simpler statistic: 9/10 Haredi families receive more financially from the state then they put in

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    1. Statistics you just made up as a mere restatement of your prejudices are often simple, but are not actually statistics.

      Here is a real statistic. The top 1 percent of US taxpayers account for 40 percent of tax revenues. I suspect rather more than 90 percent of taxpayers take out more than we put in.

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    2. You're objectively wrong

      https://m.facebook.com/DiscussingEconomics/photos/p.650572638963687/650572638963687/?type=3&source=47

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    3. But that chart fails to apportion out the missing 15%+ percent of public expenditure attributable to the military and debt interest. So you are comparing 97 percent of income (missing a few taxe receipts) to around 85 percent of expenses. If you adjust for that by spreading those expenditures evenly across all groups you'd see that I'm pretty much right.

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    4. No idea what you said, what I've posted is based on statements by leading Israeli economists, who back it up with actual facts.

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    5. In saying, Isaac, that according to the legend on that chart, only spending on health, education and direct payments are accounted for. Spending on things like infrastructure, military, bribes for large submarine contracts, debt interest are not accounted for.

      The chart data is cherry picked to make a polemic argument.

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  3. "The most important contribution to society is to actually build up the economy."

    No. The most important contribution to Jewish society is to keep Shabbos, taharas hamishpacha, and the rest of the mitzvos. Something which chareidim do and the vast majority of Israelis don't.

    This is an INFINITELY bigger problem than chareidim not performing national service or contributing enough to the economy. And as you say in your last paragraph, it doesn't help to blind oneself to the problems that exist. Only if we are honest about the problems can we begin to address them.

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    1. I was talking about material society, not spiritual society. But if you want to talk about that, fine. I'm just astonished that you seem to think that only charedim keep Shabbos, taharas hamishpacha, and the rest of the mitzvos. Everyone in my dati-leumi community also does that, while simultaneously working for a living.

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    2. Great, good for you. So do we American Ultra-Orthodox.

      But you should focus your efforts on calling out the extremely horrible problems of the vast majority of Israeli society, who get almost everything wrong. That is, everything that matters. Rather than the comparatively tiny problems of the chareidim, who get it mostly right.

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    3. Yes, all religious Jews keep Shabbat all the same but Charedi society do more Torah study than the rest of the vast majority of Jews, and which, according to Charedi society, keeps the whole world afloat. Without one Jew studying Torah the world would cease to exist (according to mystics) and thus, Charedi Jews, who have more time to study Torah via the kollel system, are studying Torah more than any other Jews, thus keeping billions of humanity alive every day. What a huge service!

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    4. According to the Neviim, those things are unimportant, and actually disgusting to Hashem, if they are not accompanied by proper interpersonal treatment.

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    5. Avi, you have been reading the wrong "Neviim". Jesus, Peter, and Paul are not considered Neviim. The true Neviim don't say that it's unimportant to keep Shabbos and the rest of the mitzvos if one doesn't join the army or improve the economy to first-world standards. In fact, to the contrary, they are quite clear that neither armies nor wealth will help if the Jews don't keep the Torah. Never confuse the New Testament with real Neviim.

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    6. Why isn't risking your life to protect all the residents of the country in the IDF also a contribution to society?

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    7. David, it is a contribution to society, but an infinitely smaller one than keeping the Torah. And in fact, even the mightiest army in the world won't help us if we don't follow the Torah, which is the Word of Hashem. As Moshe told the army, that was contributing to society by marching against the Amalekites and Canaanites, למה זה אתם עברים את פי ה' והיא לא תצלח.

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    8. About the contribution of "learning to support the world":
      What started out as an indicator of spirituality has evolved to be a drain on society. The idea of learning Torah being something that we should do to upkeep the world was promulgated when nobody was doing it. When everyone was on their farm or manning their shop, scrabbling out an existence, it was important for some people - for everybody - to take time out to perpetuate the rules, ethics, and traditions of the society. One of the stories about the Baal Shem Tov's birth was that his father was zocheh to have him as a son because there was one day that he was the only one in the whole world who was learning (I think it was a Purim). That idea is impossible today, with all of the people who sit and learn today. What was the exception has now become the norm, and it is not sustainable.

      (I'm also uncomfortable with the topic of the post though. I agree societally, that the chareidi society is willfully poor and this is a problem, but Mrs. Chassid's contributing to the baby clothes gemach I think is still a great zechus and mitzvah.)

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    9. "And in fact, even the mightiest army in the world won't help us if we don't follow the Torah, which is the Word of Hashem"

      The data really doesn't back you up, just look at the past 70 years.

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    10. Jewish history didn't start 70 years ago. The wicked Jewish kings also had mighty armies. And they lasted considerably longer than 70 years.

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  4. The reason charitable giving is a metric at all, is not because of net contribution to society.
    People who pay taxes are not selfless, even if they had a way out of paying it. People who earn more and therefore need to pay taxes, are certainly not selfless people.

    But people who give away of their own time and money for others, especially when both are quite limited, have acted selflessly. They were not required to do so, yet do it anyway. A society that promotes such activity has elevated itself from the natural animalistic greed that unchecked capitalism has taught us.
    No, not every Charedi is an altruist, and capitalism has perverted us too. Charitable giving is not the sum total of a society, but it is a metric of a certain value.
    Taxes is just not the same thing

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    1. That's why I wrote about how being a good person is not just about having a good heart but also a good head. A society of people who don't pay sufficient taxes but give lots of tzedakah might have acted selflessly vis-a-vis the heart, but they have failed in their moral obligations to society.

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    2. According to my Charedi Rav, it is not Tzedakah to give money to people who are willfully poor. Thus, Charedim giving each other money isn't Tzedakah to begin with, most of the time.

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    3. Both of these answers ignore the point that I made.

      The issues isn't how it should be done, neither is the point the mitzva of tzedaka. The point is that the society promotes selflessness as a value, and people are personally better people because of that. That is why charitable giving is a metric, not the mitzva involved.

      There may be other communities that have such values, it may not be exclusive to Charedim. But the point stays the same. People give without nitpicking, without getting involved in the petitioner's life, because giving is a natural state of being.
      And that is a beautiful thing.

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    4. "They were not *required* to do so, yet do it anyway"
      So are you claiming that tzedaka is not a mitzva? And anyway much of taxes goes towards the same kinds of social services that tzedaka supposedly supports: medical care, education, food and housing for the poor, etc.

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    5. Reb Gili - you are missing the point. Nobody who pays taxes is expressing any kind of altruism. He is doing what he is forced to do.
      A person who gives a quarter to a beggar in Shul is overcoming his nature and displaying an altruism that is not the same as taxes. Taxes may benefit society more, but the person who gives Tzedaka has done a greater deed.

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    6. Chazal stated plainly that it is wrong to rely on society to support you. That is a Torah value which is being negated here.

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    7. "A person who gives a quarter to a beggar in Shul is overcoming his nature and displaying an altruism"
      I disagree. He is displaying shame, guilt, conforming to peer pressure, etc. If he wants to give tzedaka altruistically there are better ways. Give anonymously. Give the guy a job. See the Rambam

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    8. Slifkin - you are insisting on sidestepping the point. The issue is the person reaching into his pocket to give a shekel/quarter/50 pence to a collector. When a society sees that as a value, it is a society that respects altruism. And altruism is a value. Some people only follow society's values out of shame. But that shame is still reflective of a society's values.

      And the idea that the people collecting are 'relying' on society to help them is wrongly judgmental. In almost all cases that I know of, there is a serious issue behind the individual person's need to collect from people. I have personally never seen a beggar stretch out his hand for coins to support his learning in Kollel.

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  5. And their charity mostly stays within their community. I contribute to Zaka, Hatzalah, Yad Sarah, and to American insitutions, Jewish and non-Jewish, educational, cultural,medical, etc. And the occasional schnorrer who comes to my door. Many years ago my husband was an inpatient over shabbat at a major NY teaching hospital, in the heart of a chassidic community. Friday afternoon they came to deliver shabbat meals. When I enquired, I was told it was only for members of their community.
    S Tanenbaum

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    1. That's too crazy to believe!
      There must have been a major misunderstanding.
      I'm not particularly fond of certain extreme chasidic groups, but the bikur cholim food handouts for the sick in hospitals is phenomenal. Even or should I say especially Satmar Bikur Cholim.
      Anyone frum regardless of religious flavor, they hand out gobs of food more than you could ever eat.

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    2. I believe that 95% of people in this situation will share a different story, almost all chasidic bikkur choilims provide for every religious yid

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    3. That is most definitely not true of any bikur cholim organization I have heard of.

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    4. I am sorry about your experience. I have used satmar bikur cholim at Mt Sinai and bikur cholim at various Israeli hospitals on numerous occasions.

      Have refereed many people too.

      Have never seen any jew turned away

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    5. It seems that some people think that for the greater mitzva of shutting down charedi society, it is permitted to lie about them too.

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    6. You do realize that Hatzalah ZAKA and Yad Sarah are all Chareidi run organizations? That is a clear ccontradiction to there chessed and tzedakah staying in community

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  6. If we are discussing certain segments of society as a whole and measuring different statistics, can we also look at white collar crime stats, that is also a measurement of a good head

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  7. https://www.businessinsider.com/how-billionaires-avoid-paying-federal-income-tax-2021-6

    The rich have the laws crafted in a manner that enables them to pay very little or no taxes. Bezos even got child credit of $4,000 from the government. I, a little guy, have no intention to pay a penny to the government if I can avoid it. This applies to both US and Israel. We, the people, owe the government nothing. Yes, the billionaires do it legally, but ask me if I care.

    And again haranguing against the charedim. The chilonim are no better in this matter.

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    1. It's a fact that in Israel 9/10 Haredi households receive more from the government than they give, while only 4/10 non-Haredi Jewish household do. So clearly chilonim are better in this matter.
      Won't bother responding to the rest of the drivel.

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    2. Source? (I suspect 9/10 is an underestimate for both categories)

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    3. Between 2014 and 2018 Jeff Bezos paid 973 million dollars in taxes. This does not include State tax only Federal. The child tax credit was available and he took it.

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    4. Bezos, like everyone else, pays when he has no other choice. There is no fundamental difference between secular and religious in this respect. The rich and the poor pay the least, the middle is soaked. This is just how the life is. I hadn't made those rules, have no commitment to them and therefore not following them isn't cheating on my part. This is very simple.

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  8. The charedi charity is coming from the ones that pay more taxes. Also, in america where it’s not like you described the chareidim also give more charity

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  9. Back to our regularly scheduled programming...

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  10. ALL insurance, not just national insurance and health insurance, is a form of charity. The premiums I pay now go to help someone who is in need now. When I need help, someone else's premiums will help pay for me.

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    1. Well, it's charity with a self-driven goal. I may never need to claim the insurance (and IY"H I will not), but the whole reason I buy into it in the first place is because I might need it someday.

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  11. You seem to have a very materialistic view of the world, in any case based on your argument the chardal communities on average contribute less than a high tech transgender couple..

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  12. No offense, bro, but you sound really really insecure.
    I'll keep checking back every few months to see if you ever get back to the topics and discussions that got me here in the first place. I hope everything works out for you

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  13. "Only if we are honest about the problems can we begin to address them."

    Who's "we", buddy? You don't get that you're no longer on the team? You have about as much chance of "addressing" the "problems" you perceive in religious Jews as any other less religious Jew - which is to say, none at all. If they read you at all - and lets be honest, they don't - they would have the same takeaway as I do: that your irrational perspective only confirms exactly what they're thought all along.

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    1. Actually, I have a lot of influence, in all kinds of ways.

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    2. Delusional. The Rabbi Dr has as much influence in the same kind of ways as I do.

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    3. Juror, why is there a difference if someone's
      "on the team"? The rabbi says, "It's important to remember that to the extent that the problem of child molestation is at all taken seriously in the charedi world, this is primarily because there was some "nasty" blogs insisting on calling it out. Even Agudas Yisrael admitted this." Were the nasty blogs "on the team"?

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  14. As a follower and admirer of you and your blog, I have to say that this post really is beneath you. It's simply not necessary to disparage others in this way. Neither is it fair.

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    1. It us both necessary and fair when people are obfuscating the truth.

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  15. "As discussed in the anonymous guest post on this blog, Do Charedim Live Off The State?, the average charedi household pays only 34% of the income tax..."

    So you write a blog post, some anonymous guy comments on it, and then you use his comments to make yet another blog post. Where's the laughing/crying emoji?? C'mon, Nate. Can't you see you've become a farce? Listen to this anonymous guy instead. Get off this pointless stupid crusade against charedim, cut your losses, and get back to what you started the blog for in the first place.

    Shabbat shalom.

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    1. Huh? He's not anonymous to me. He spent many years in charedi yeshivos and works in finance.

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    2. And besides, he's simply quoting facts from the very study that the charedi apologists arr quoting.

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  16. I think this post misses the markm It conflates generosity and Societal Awareness/citizenship. Charedim are good in the former and awful at the latter.

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  17. https://vinnews.com/2019/02/06/jerusalem-study-charedim-more-likely-to-volunteer-donate-to-charity-than-other-jews/

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  18. Many decades ago, I lived in a hareidi village. When a young father died suddenly in a city 25 km away, I impulsively decided to go from door to door to collect tzedaka on behalf of the grieving family, though no one in the village knew the man who had died. What was fascinating is that the poorest families were the most generous. It wasn't because they lived off the State and therefore had more money to contribute. It was because they intimately knew tzaar and what it meant to be poor, and were both empathetic and filled with compassion. While this very small example is anecdotal, it is instructive. P

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  19. The income tax etc. of an average household is taken by the state authorities by force and against their will. Praising for the income tax paying is like accusing a rape victim for whoredom.

    The IDF service is a different story. First of all, the attitude towards the secular Jewish state as a riot against The One Older is well based on the authentic Jewish tradition, and although there is a undoubtedly room for the opposite view, this one deserves respect too. There is a couple of additional reasons, but this one should suffice.

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  20. If there's one thing that the shoa proved to us, is that Torah and mitzvos done in a isolated manner is worth nothing. When we don't share ourselves, have ahavat chinam on both sides, then Hashem brings a non Jewish leader as wicked as a Haman to unite us again erasing all of our man made societal divisions and hopefully make us realize that unity is essential to survive physically and spiritually. I hope our present day arm chair and real politicians are listening.

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    1. Not to belittle ahavat chinam, have you done a survey of all the sins happening before the Shoah that you know that none of them had any part in causing it?

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