Jewish Teaching Doesn’t Command a Welfare State

Letters to the Editor in today’s Wall Street Journal. I agree…and it frustrates me when Judeo-Christian values are distorted to prop up welfare state initiatives.

I am a proud Jewish conservative who took part in the Sept. 12 march on Washington. I take exception to your Sept. 14 letter writers, responding to Norman Podhoretz’s “Why Are Jews Liberals?” (op-ed, Sept. 11), who use the Jewish religion to explain their extreme liberalism.

My religion teaches that the highest form of charity is giving a person independence (work) so that he or she will not have to depend on charity. Creating a government that makes people dependent on a nanny state from cradle to grave is far from what my ancestors had in mind.

Rita Lilie, Huntingdon Valley, Pa.

It is true that social justice and compassion are deeply rooted in Judaism, but not in the way modern liberal thinking would have you believe. Giving charity is a Jewish tradition, part of a large body of commandments in the Torah called mitzvahs. What the secular Jewish world seems to misunderstand is that mitzvahs are responsibilities incumbent upon each and every Jew, and are personal ones. They are not responsibilities that can be delegated to an agency, like the government. One cannot perform a mitzvah by having the government take one person’s property and give it to another. That is not charity or a mitzvah, even though it may make a liberal person feel good.

And there is no argument in the Torah that requires that all people be made materially equal. On the contrary, the Torah recognizes and promotes the value of individual excellence and achievement and requires that those who achieve make provision for those unable to achieve, but the requirement of equality of result is not found in the Torah. The Torah demands personal responsibility from all Jews at whatever station they hold in life. Thus, socialist and statist arguments, while often espoused by secular liberal Jews, represent a misunderstanding of the Torah and Jewish values.

Paul C. Ross, Rydal, Pa.

All of the letters essentially state that Jews are liberal because the religion teaches concern for the poor and disadvantaged. I agree but strongly contend that the policies suggested and currently being enacted by the government will in the long run do just the opposite.

Over the past 150 years classical liberalism and free-market capitalism revolutionized economies and did more to improve the conditions of the poor than any other competing system. Many of the current proposals are undermining the economy and will adversely affect all segments of society.

A basic religious teaching is that we should learn to control our appetite for immediate gratification in order to gain extended benefits.

Abraham Irwin, Passaic, N.J.

Nowhere does the Bible instruct us to tax others and rely on government to feed the hungry and clothe the naked. In fact, the able-bodied are required to work for the aid they receive. The Book of Ruth says the poor are to gather the after-gleanings left in the field, not wait idly for someone else to do it for them.

If the modern welfare state operated this way, the result would be less poverty and a lower cost to society.

Ken Powell, Munster, Ind.


2 Responses to “Jewish Teaching Doesn’t Command a Welfare State”

  1. 1 Michael Griffith
    September 17, 2009 at 9:12 pm

    I agree 100%- when there's jobs available.

    Take a trip to the mid-west and you'll find plenty of hard working people looking for jobs but not finding any. Unless you're feeling particularly charitable and want to take on providing health care for a 53 and 60 y/o, I think I'll be glad that the stimulus included subsidies for COBRA for my parents.

  2. October 8, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    I guess I don’t understand how it’s a typical stereotype that Jews are liberal but Christians are conservative. Aren’t Christians are called to the same charity and care for the forgotten ones just as the Jews are? Do the articles go into that? (I doubt it, but I didn’t read the original articles these letters are responding to). I guess it would have been interesting if that were analyzed & discussed, but it would probably have to be done among religious leaders who will be respectful of the theology.

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