Ancient and Modern Conceptions of Charity: Orthodox Judaism and Effective Altruism

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Judaism has a strong commitment to charity, and both serves as an inspiration for many effective altruists, and is an inspiration for the concept of tithing, which has been adopted by and adapted to effective altruism. At the same time, the Orthodox Jewish structure of Halacha has complex boundaries and requirements which at least appear to be at odds with key tenets of effective altruism, including consequentialism and effectiveness. This chapter explores those tensions, especially between the individual obligations posited by Judaism and those imposed by strict utilitarianism. While Halacha is unyielding to fundamental change, it is also relevant to and often compatible with concerns which inform effective altruism, including consequentialism and prioritization. Other key points of disagreement, such as placing priority on supporting basic needs of family before those of strangers, are irreconcilable in theory but seem to dovetail with the practice of effective altruism. The chapter concludes with thoughts on how ideas about evaluation and effectiveness are both compatible with and should inform the practice of Orthodox Jewish charity organizations in the future.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEffective Altruism and Religion
EditorsDominic Roser, Stefan Riedener, Markus Huppenbauer
Number of pages20
StatePublished - 2022


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