Jewish aid to non-Jewish causes bothers me. Look at the Israeli government, which “economically develops” Palestinian areas while lacking adequate funding to fortify Sderot schools.

The issue of government funding is never clear cut. Is it moral to pay for infrastructural projects while the same money can directly save lives if invested in healthcare? At least, such questions pit Jewish life versus the quality of Jewish life. Often enough, it is Jewish life versus the quality of the others’ lives.

The Torah law is straightforward: we only aid fellow Jews and proselytes (gerim, which is often mistranslated as strangers). The legist does not indulge in political correctness. We don’t need his omniscience to understand that any money devoted to foreign causes is money taken from Jewish ones. In effect, aiding foreigners means robbing Jews.

This logic is particularly relevant to Jewish charity organizations, whose donors count on their money being spent for Jewish causes. Robbery or breach of trust, you choose. The charities often misrepresent that their large, politically motivated donors are content with aiding foreigners. In truth, the large donors are really small. For many years the Bronfmans posed as the financial pillar of the World Jewish Congress, which allowed the alcohol manufacturers great financial clout. Not long ago, internal strife in the WJC brought out the ugly fact that Bronfman donations accounted for only a small percentage of the budget, with most of the money coming from the very small donations of hard-working Jews. Had they wished to support foreign causes, they had plenty of appropriate charities to give to. The fact that they gave money to Jewish charities confirms beyond doubt their intention to subsidize Jewish causes only.

The rabbis expanded the law a bit. First they allowed foreign visitors to Jewish towns to benefit from local charity—but only after Jewish needs were satisfied. Perhaps that was their tongue-in-cheek way of saying, “never.”

The Exile necessitated further expansion: Jewish charity funds were made available for gentile neighbors. Permission for this was nominal at best: in their closed communities, Jews rarely interacted with gentiles on social matters. More important is the rabbinical reasoning behind the permission: we only give money to gentile paupers lest they harm us. The harm might stem from the paupers themselves or from their communities.

The criterion for aiding the foreign poor is this: they will harm us unless we aid them. Thus, we don’t give money to nations at war with us (like Indonesian tsunami aid), neutral nations (like Brazil), those unable to realize their hostility (like Poland), or nations where we don’t fear violence even if we refuse donations to local gentile causes (like the United States). Certainly we should not donate to Israeli Arabs. If there is the slightest reason for Jews to fear them, the commandment tells us to expel them.

Charity to hostile gentiles is appeasement at best, extortion at worst. The rabbinical view on extortion is clear: we don’t ransom Jewish hostages because that endangers other Jews. Channeling Jewish charity funds to Israeli Arabs increases their demands and induces them to stay in Israel, endangering many Jews. A strong Jewish state has no reason to submit to extortionists.

Jewish charity to others is immoral, as it leaves needy Jews without aid. Hundreds of Jewish organizations aid thousands of irrelevant causes while many American Jewish families cannot afford to send their children to Jewish schools. To me—indeed, to any normal Jew—a Jewish child’s education is more important than any number of people left homeless by the tsunami in Muslim Indonesia. Consider the impropriety of taking money from the United States government and pro-Israeli Christian organizations while spending Jewish money on Muslims and pagans.

If that sounds rude, think of the good Christians who bequest their money to specifically Christian causes, from churches to orphanages. The exclusion is offensive; inclusion is not. It would be offensive, though not necessarily wrong, for a Christian to be willing to help any group except Jews, or for a Jewish charity to aid anyone but Poles. It is normal to benefit one’s own: Christians help Christians, and Jews help Jews.

Aiding one’s own is charity’s raison d’etre: we help those who are statistically likely to help us.