Albert Vorspan and David Saperstein, Jewish Dimensions of Social Justice (New York: UAHC Press, 1998), p. 94.
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The practices and theories of Jewish philanthropy that evolved in the second century C.E. anticipated many of the most advanced concepts of modern social work. Every Jewish community had four basic funds. The first was called the kuppah (“box”) and served only the local poor. The indigent were given funds to supply their needs for an entire week. The second fund was called tamchui (“bowl”) and consisted of a daily distribution of food to both itinerants and residents. The funds’ administrators, selected from among the leaders of the community, were expected to be persons of the highest integrity. The kuppah was administered by three trustees who acted as a beit din (“court”). They determined the merit of applications and the amounts to be given. The fund was always operated under the strictest regulations. To avoid suspicion, collections were always made by two or three persons. They were authorized to tax all members of the community, including tzedakah recipients, according to their capacity to pay—testimony to the principle that no individual was free from responsibility for the welfare of all. If necessary, they seized property until the assessed amount was paid. In most countries, clothing funds, burial funds, and schools to which everybody in the community could go — rich and poor alike — were also found.
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Suggested Discussion Questions:

1. In what ways does the structure here offer us a model for how we should structure our care for those in need? What is this model missing?

2. In the model described here, participation in communal welfare was required and enforced. What can we learn from this model in a context where giving is generally voluntary?

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Time Period: Contemporary (The Yom Kippur War until the present-day)