TWO VOICES: Do we have a responsibility for child poverty outside the community?

TWO VOICES: Do we have a responsibility for child poverty outside the community?

Two Voices
Two Voices

Two Voices

Rabbi Alexandra Wright says…38 Rabbi Alexandra Wright

Here’s THE thing about child poverty: you can’t see it.

It’s hidden behind the pride of a mother who goes without a meal in order to feed her children; inside the mouth of a one year old whose teeth aren’t through yet because he’s not getting enough to eat and is on the lowest centile of growth for a child his age.

It is out of sight within the four walls of a one-room hostel where two parents and four children live together, the bathroom down the corridor.

Perhaps it is hard to believe child poverty exists in Britain. But one-in-four children do not receive adequate nutrition; they may be homeless, living in inappropriate accommodation or in hostels.

These hidden children are growing up unable to be integrated into society because their parents or parent do not earn the living wage, wages are stagnating and the cost of living is too high.

That is why, in the Speaker’s Rooms in the Houses of Parliament in January, 60 rabbis launched Tzelem, a rabbinic call for social and economic justice to address some of the most critical social justice issues in the UK.

Tzelem will ally itself with the Child Poverty Action Group to campaign for an end to child poverty.

Freedom from poverty is a human right which we must all combat so that children can grow up in dignity.

•Alexandra Wright is senior rabbi at the Liberal Jewish Synagogue

38 Rabbi Sandra KviatRabbi Sandra Kviat says…

I look at this question in the opposite way, not why should we care about child poverty outside the Jewish community, but why should we not.

The real question is why should we not give charity to non-Jews?

Why should we look after only those in our own ranks?

We have a principle called Darchei Shalom, or ‘paths of peace’, which originates in Proverbs and is explained in the Talmud: “Support the non-Jewish poor with the Jewish poor… visit the non-Jewish sick with the Jewish sick, and bury the non-Jewish dead with the Jewish dead” (Gittin 61a).

Historically, relationships between Jewish communities and surrounding societies have been difficult and the wish to support anyone outside the communities challenging. Some, therefore, say we do this out of fear and self-preservation to avoid furthering anti-Semitic views.

I was one of almost 40 rabbis who wrote to this newspaper and The Guardian to express concern that measures to tackle child poverty were left out of the budget. As we wrote: “Soon Jewish people will be celebrating Passover. We will eat ‘the bread of poverty’ and consider how to transform it into the ‘bread of freedom’.

Freedom from poverty is a basic freedom – one which should be part of the birthright of every child in Britain.”

•Sandra Kviat is a member of the Outreach Team for Liberal Judaism



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