Did you hear the public debate that was raging in recent weeks about the presidential elections? Before folding to pressure from the media and the other candidates at the debates, Mitt Romney was arguing that he should not have to release his tax returns so early in the Republican primary. Governor Romney ended up releasing the returns, and aside for the revelation about his business ventures a lot of information about his charitable giving (average of 14% of his annual income) was disclosed. Other public officials’ returns indicate a much lower(sometimes even NO) level of charitable contributions.
The Christian Science Monitor ran an interesting article that indicates the typical American gives between 2 and 3 % of their earnings to charity. I don’t believe that that it would be right to generalize and say a certain amount or percentage is the ethical or moral obligation, as this is something so sensitive to families earning and other obligations. The Torah legislated that Jews give 10 percent of their earnings to the poor every third year (Deuteronomy 26:12), and an additional percentage of their income annually (Leviticus 19:910). Hundreds of years later, after the Temple was destroyed and the annual tithe levied upon each Jew for the support of the priests and Levites was suspended, the Talmud ordered that Jews were to give at least 10 percent of their annual net earnings to tzedaka (Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, "Laws Concerning Gifts for the Poor," 7:5).
In recent years of tough economic times, hardest hit are charitable causes and the needy who desperately rely on the services they offer. Of course, this comes at a time when these charitable organizations have to identify ways to expand their services to accommodate a sadly growing clientele.A recent study found that American Jews are coming up short on charitable giving,
Everyone has a cause or way that they can support local organizations. I will let others debate the future of philanthropy, but I do think everyone can give 10% of their week, earnings or some other form of charity. As I wrote in a recent blog entry, the highest form of charity is helping one’s fellow earn their own livelihood.