Is Haiti a Jewish Cause?

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haiti2By Tzvi Freeman

Question: I would really like to send a check to help the people suffering after the earthquake in Haiti. But some of my friends say: how could I do that? They say, look there are children going to sleep hungry in Israel. There are families from Gush Katif still waiting for proper housing. The rest of the world isn’t rushing to help them. All they have is us. Shouldn’t we be helping our own before we help others?


It depends. If the entire mandate of the Jewish People is to preserve itself, then it makes no sense to squander valuable resources on saving other people’s lives.

But let’s ask a question: When G‑d promised Avrohom, “In your children will be blessed all the nations of the world,” is this what He had in mind? Was this what Avrohom envisioned, that in 3700 years time he would have a museum to preserve his relics?

Or was it Avrohom’s dream-and Moshe’s vision, and G‑d’s destiny for us to be a force of goodness and kindness in the world, proclaiming to the world that all of humanity is a single family, descended from one human being, the handiwork of one G‑d, all charged with building a world of harmony and peace?

We are not a museum. We are a living, dynamic legacy with a mission of leadership, couriers of light. Today in Haiti, there is no rescue and medical team comparable to the Israeli contingent, the only ones with a complete hospital on the ground with advanced equipment caring for 500 patients at a time. There is no country in the world that has provided as much aid per capita (anywhere close) as Israel. Outside of Israel as well, you will find Jews at the forefront of every organization that is out there to care.

That is our mandate and that has always been our destiny. And we have done a job of which we can be proud.

Halachically speaking, see Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 151, where we are told to provide for the needy, even in the case that they are idolaters, because such are “the ways of peace.” As the Rambam wrote, “The Torah was given for one reason only. To make peace in the world” (Hilchot Chanukah 4:14).

Give to our grand extended family in Israel. You’re right: if we don’t help them, no one else will. Give to the worthy causes in your own community. That’s all part of being Jewish. And so is giving a hand to the little boy in Haiti who was just pulled out from under the rubble, just because he’s a fellow human being. Because that’s the message our Torah has for the world.

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  1. The question is, if you do NOT give to Israel and local needs, who will?

    If you do NOT give to Haiti, wont the US, UN, and other nations of the world step up?

  2. I agree with you. Id just like to point out that money that goes to Haiti is after you give Maaser. Your Maaser money must go to Yidden. Whatever you give after you have fulfilled your obligation of Maaser is still a big Mitzvah and giving to Haiti is a Mitzvah and Kiddush Hashem. Just be careful who you donate to. A lot of them are crooks. Give to the OU fund or some other Jewish fund that is helping the Haitians. Do NOT give the American Red Cross. They are a money making business and are sitting on Billions of dollars that they collected from 9/11 that have NOT made its way to victims families.

  3. Beautiful article. Would Avraham Avinu given for the children of Haiti? Of course.

    We are rachamim bnei rachamim. Our first obligation is to our Yiddishe needy, but that doesn’t prevent us from sending a check for Haiti of whatever size we think is appropriate.

  4. It is embarassing that this question even needs to be asked. Have we lost touch that we need to look out for people other than ourselves. The Jewish outpour has been a huge kiddush hashem, one we should be proud of. WE are a true Ohr Lagoyim.

  5. For me the logic is if someone was starving at your door would you not give hime because its what’s expested. Would you not even think twice if they were dieing at your door. Well as a Jew these people are dieing at the door Don’t Think just do what’s expected.

  6. It’s hilarious that the editor changed the original answer from Abraham to Avrohom to make it sound more frum. I don’t think it’s a problem, just really funny.


  8. How about a source in Shulchan Aruch? Why a Rambam in Hilchos Chanuka. How about a Rambam in Hilchos Tzedaka (look in Zrayim) or something else more relevant? Darchei Shalom? Does giving money to Haiti increase peace. Maybe, but I would not assume it so. The Pashut pshat is peace with the people in your neighborhood that you live with every day. And then it is also to keep the peace, but other than that – there would not be a mitzva. Bkitzur – I would not rely on this article or it’s authors. I would ask a competent talmid chochom. The suffering may be terrible – but do some real research into what the torah says before jumping to conclusions based on vague concepts such as “light unto nations” which could be taken a lot of ways. Chabad is into that, but the mainstream has not adapted Chabads shita on being a light unto nations in general.

  9. >>I would ask a competent talmid chochom.<<

    And just who are you to question the scholarship and the piety of others?

    Just what are your qualifications to belittle others, “What”?

  10. I don’t think Rabbi Freeman was giving a halachic psak about whether giving to Haiti qualifies as ‘maaser’or tzedakah al-pi-halacha (it likely does not). Rather, he was framing a the issue in terms of general social values from the Torahs perspective, which he did quite well.
    It boils down to a question of priorities – obviously aniyei Yisroel and aniyei-EY kodmim, and that is where we focus first, but in a situation like this, ‘mipnei darkei sholom’, “mefarnessin aniyei akum….”

  11. #12- Congratulations! Your parents have been chosen for a total refund of their tuition funds! If you think it is refreshing to see 200K dead, please let your yeshiva know because your mom & pop deserve every hard-earned penny back.

  12. shmuli, when there a disaster for jews or a chas vshaolom the holocaust, or an attack in israel or a fire in flatbush, dont be surprised when people of means not to far from you will say “i wouldnt give those jewish vermin a dime”
    especially if that person had read your vile comment since anyone in the world can see this.
    i hope my children never suffer from the pathetic education you obviously received .

  13. Hello English Yid and Others.
    My qualifications are 25 years learning full time and being in charge of the Ask the Rabbi forum at a well known Yeshiva answering hundreds a questions a week, for about 1/2 year till the program was closed.

    Now I had a chance to look up Shulchan Orach.
    See Yoreh Deah 151 11 and 12. Quoting now from memory of what I looked up at home:
    Sief 11 – Osur litain lakum she’aino makiro.
    Sief 12 – Mutar lfranes etc. mshum Darchei Shalom.
    Mdivrei haTaz sham – Kshen darchei Shalom – Osur litein!

    Yesh ladun bmkom she’osei kidush Hashem – kmo bhashavas Aveida.

    I generally do not partake in such discussions because they are so often against the torah and talmidei chachamim and it does not make sense to debate with people with whom you know nothing about. (for example I would not take part in a medical forum of doctors since I am not an expert) But this was too much for me to bear. I also did not intend to belittle anyone – I am not sure what you mean at all. Are you belittling me?

  14. On second thought – you are correct. What I wrote is belittling the scholarship of others. (Not that this is a bad thing). You ask what are my qualifications to do that. Do I need to have qualifications to see fuzzy use of sources? I think not. One does not need qualifications for that.

    All I asked for is for solid sources, which I have pointed to in the second post, so you can come to your own conclusion based on sources instead of gut reaction. I hope you can look up the sources yourself and form an opinion.

    You also say I was belittling someones “piety” – I do not know why you say that. I apologize if it seems that I mock someone sincerity. I do not doubt the sincerity of anyone taking part in this discussion, although I think that they may not be al pi torah.

  15. Comments 7, 12, 13, 17, and 19 are totally against what our Torah teaches us and are an extremely horrific Chillul HaShem!! And that they are posted here in a public place where everyone can see them can, Chas V’Shalom, put a lot of our people in grave danger.


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