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01370--Write a short note on G’milut chasadim in America.


   Peter Stuyvesant, governor of New Amsterdam, was instructed by the Dutch West Indies Company in 1654 that the 23 Jews who had arrived from Recife, Brazil, could disembark if they agreed to take care of their poor. Thus, the medieval tradition of community support was imposed as a condition of residency in the New World.

 As Eastern European Jews immigrated in the final decades of the 19th century, the German Jews who were relative old-timers in America, established clinics, hospitals, old-age homes, orphanages, vocational schools, settlement homes, and free-loan societies.

      1. Free loan societies, beginning in the 1880s, were unique to the Jewish community.

      2. The biblical prohibition against charging interest in loans to other Jews (Exod. 22:24, Lev: 25:35–7, and Deut. 23:20) developed into the virtue of providing capital, free of interest, for those struggling to start a business. Maimonides codified this type of giving or loaning as the highest level of tzedakah (see Mishneh Torah, Gifts to the Poor, 10:7).

Reform Judaism embraced the Social Gospel in its own 1885 Pittsburgh Platform: “In full accordance with the spirit of Mosaic legislation which strives to regulate the relation between rich and poor, we deem it our duty to participate in the great task of modern times, to solve on the basis of justice and righteousness the problems presented by the contrasts and evils of the present organization of society.”
   
Reform Judaism, emphasizing the prophetic tradition, sometimes to the exclusion of the ritual aspects of Judaism, promoted g’milut chasadim and explicitly extended those deeds of loving kindness beyond the Jewish community.
[Courtesy : Professor Shai Cherry]

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