Jewish charity is, mathematically speaking, a problem of limited resources. Sure, we would like to cover every need: give excellent health-care to young and elderly alike, help Jewish mothers, provide free schooling for Jewish children, and so on. The problem is that the available funding is limited. So what do we do?
First, do the commandment. The Torah requires tithe on the basic foodstuffs. Hebrews had smiths among them, and potters and other professionals, but only the staple foods are commanded to be tithed. The idea is clear: the poor share in our food but not in luxuries or surplus. In modern terms, that includes a food allowance, and probably hostel housing. It is highly dubious that the poor should be provided with free medical care on public account: it goes beyond the Torah and brings daunting moral questions. Health-care is tremendously expensive today, and there is no limit to how much can be expended on any given patient. So shall we provide the best health-care to some of the poor, or mediocre health-care to all? Should we finance hugely expensive surgeries or split the available funds evenly among patients for relatively inexpensive non-emergency treatment? Should we make saving of elders or youngsters a priority? Should we spend a lot trying to save people in situations when a positive outcome is unlikely, or abandon them and concentrate the money on patients with better chances? These ethical problems are not for the government to resolve. They should be left to private Israeli charities, some of which specialize in the young, others in the elderly, and so on.
Obviously, we want to spend the limited resources efficiently. In the sphere of Jewish charity, what is efficiency? I believe, the definition is this: the number of Jews a century from now. That is, if we are to spend a million dollars, we want to ensure that it produces the maximum number of Jewish lives in the future. This is very harsh, but very efficient.
In terms of efficiency, I cannot suggest using charity funds for old Jews in general. We won’t get any more Jews with that money. It also makes little sense to spend on American or Ukrainian Jewish youngsters: more likely than not, they or their grandchildren will assimilate. Especially absurd are hyper-expensive Jewish schools in the Diaspora which breed Jewish anti-Semites—or at the very least, leftist cosmopolitans of interfaith persuasion.
That’s why I like Friends of Efrat: it is cost-efficient. Not only are those people honest—a rare thing in the world of charities—and truly maintain their overhead close to zero, but they bring up additional Jews at rock-bottom prices. Basically, they look in Israel for Jewish (not Arab) women who have registered for abortions and dissuade them, promising social support from volunteers and token aid, capped at $1,000 per child. The efficiency is enormous: a $1,000 donation brings a Jewish child into the world. And he is an Israeli child, so he will not assimilate. Fascinatingly, a $1,000 donation produces, on the average, five Jews in the third generation (the saved child’s grandchildren). As Efrat’s operation is now in its fourth decade, the third generation is really coming up.
Frankly, many of our readers, assimilated Jews, have no Jewish grandchildren. Bringing up a few Jewish children in Israel is the next-best option. It allows you to fulfill your duty to the Jewish people.
Also, there are a number of causes which are not really charities but have great political impact. There, with small money, we can achieve disproportionate political results, and assure that more Jews will remain Jewish. Such programs include Avodah Ivrit (Buy Jewish-made), the outposts, Mishmeret Yesha (teaching Jewish villagers self-defense), and a few good religious outreach programs.