In the twelfth century, Maimonides developed his “Ladder of Tzedakah.” Understanding that giving was a process, he offered “rungs” to ascend in our increased engagement with the needy. While grudgingly giving was a minimal requirement and anonymous generosity a higher calling, the top of the ladder was to help increase self-sufficiency. This flies in the face of American “boot-strapism” which assumes self-sufficiency is a self-realized goal. But this is a fallacious and ultimately dangerous claim.
Thousands in Baltimore City and across Maryland struggle with deep and endemic poverty, many single parents juggling multiple jobs just to make ends meet. Low wages mean time away from family, rest and recreation. An increase in the minimum wage to $10.10/hour and tip wages from 50% to 70% as a new bill in the Maryland legislature will require would allow more families to stay financially solvent. Together we can raise pay for 472,000 working Marylanders and the parents of 350,000 children.
One way societies are judged is by how we respond to those who struggle. Maimonides understood this responsibility falls to us; breaking the cycle of poverty is a privilege and burden for the self-sufficient. The New Jewish Neighborhood calls on each of us to respond to the other across religious and class lines. Communities must work to grow and prosper together.