Jewish Poverty

What role can religion realistically play in the eradication of poverty?

Jewish Poverty

Rabbi REUVEN BULKA is head of Congregation Machzikei Hadas in Ottawa and host of Sunday night with Rabbi Bulka on 580 CFRA. There is no responsible person who would not want the elimination of poverty.

This common desire to eradicate poverty is a meeting point between religious leaders and politicians of all stripes. Yet we are still trying to wrestle down the poverty demon. We could throw money at the problem, but there is no guarantee the problem will go away. Money will help, and help a lot, but the problem will likely be with us forever.

For example, food banks, which do a tremendous service to their communities, are reporting an increase in demand. People who never thought they would need to access the food bank are now requesting food. They may not suffer from abject poverty, but to a certain extent they fit into the category of those in a state of poverty.

In spite of the likelihood that poverty will be with us forever, we cannot allow this to deter us from having the issue of poverty occupy centre stage in our thinking. Religious leaders can help do this by making it a priority matter that never leaves the radar screen of those who are in a position to help.

Governments at all levels are in a position to help. Constant pressure on governments will certainly increase the chances that the problem will be addressed.

On the congregational level, religious leaders are uniquely positioned to make the assault on poverty a sermonic and programmatic priority. They can, and should, urge all the “haves” in the congregation to help the “have-nots,” by emphasizing that the blessing of plenty is only a blessing if the plenty is used in a constructive manner to help others less fortunate.

Then, as congregations, each leader can set up community outreach to the poor in effective ways, such as in collecting for the food bank, and having community lunches for the poor, among other activities.

With everyone doing a little bit, lots can be accomplished in this ongoing struggle.

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