From 2010 to 2011, the number of New Yorkers living in poverty rose from 2.8 million to 3 million. More than 866,000 children live in poor households and nearly twenty percent of families with children in New York State live in poverty. The federal poverty line is defined as just $18,310 for a family of three and drastically effects the Hispanic and African American communities across New York State (24.4% and 21.3%, respectively, live below the poverty line).
The federal stimulus program, enacted in February 2009, provided funding through September 30, 2010 for welfare programs, food stamps and expanded unemployment insurance benefits. The expiration of that program does not eliminate our need to protect the neediest among us; it makes it all the more urgent.
There are many issues that often fall under “Economic Justice,” including the budget, the minimum wage, food assistance programs and public assistance grants, among others.
For more on the minimum wage, check out our issue page.
Reform Jewish Values and Policy
The Bible does not merely command us to give to the poor, but to advocate on their behalf. We are told in Proverbs 31:9 to “speak up, judge righteously, and champion the poor and the needy.” Judaism teaches us that poverty is destructive to human dignity, and that helping people in need is a matter of fundamental principle, not an act of charity. From the time of the prophets, we have acted upon this principle and adhered to the dictate, “There shall be no needy among you.” (Deuteronomy 15:4). Helping people in need, tzedakah, is not simply a matter of charity, but of responsibility, righteousness and justice.
Jewish history also provides us with an example for helping the needy. During Talmudic times, much of tzedakah was done through tax-financed, community run programs that provided for the poor, the hungry, the ill, and the children—a close parallel to the entitlement security we fought, and continue to fight, to preserve in our society today.
The Reform Movement has advocated on behalf of anti-poverty causes for nearly a half century.
Resolution on Economic Justice (1976)
Resolution on Economic Justice for Women (1983
Resolution on Confronting and Combating Poverty in the United States (2003)
Resolution on Principles of Economic Justice in a Time of Fiscal Crisis (2011)
Learn more about related issues here: