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Make Poverty History

Last updated: 2005-06-17

The MAKEPOVERTYHISTORY Jewish Coalition is an exciting, unprecedented venture for the UK Jewish community.

The coalition has forged a unified group of many varied sectors of the UK Jewish community including most of the larger synagogue movements, youth and student groups and civil society organisations in the Jewish community. This sort of cooperation is not unprecedented, however it is amazingly rare.

We have had to be creative in addressing the fact that the rally on 2 July is a Saturday which has made it difficult for some people to participate as enthusiastically as they would have liked, due to Sabbath observance rules.

As the focus of the campaign is outward looking, it has enabled many organisations to overlook the theoretical difficulties involved with cooperation and coordination. The coalition meetings have become a real melting pot of opinions, argument and debate which have been stimulating. Where ideologies have differed, the differences have been dealt with humorously rather than antagonistically.

The UK Jewish community is overwhelmingly based in London, and so the opportunity to give the Edinburgh Orthodox and Liberal communities centre stage has been welcome. They have both provided great support, and it was gratifying to see that Midge Ure, when calling on all religious groups to open their doors to people coming to Edinburgh, called on synagogues to activate their support. We can assure him that the Edinburgh synagogues have done just that. Go to http://www.eljc.org/mph/ to see how well organised the Edinburgh communities have been.

We have kept the organisation of the coalition fairly loose which has advantages and disadvantages. It has had to be a loose coalition, as none of the organisations involved really has the capacity to lead a campaign. This has meant that in some cases there has been a lack of momentum, but in other cases it has meant that the loose nature of the coalition has enabled different people to take the lead.

We handed in a very large postcard to Downing Street where we were joined by Louise Ellman MP. She has been supportive of the Jewish coalition and we are hopeful of getting more Jewish MPs involved in lobbying the right people. Many of the Jewish community have started to engage with the issues, and if we can get down to the general Jewish public then I think that the MPH Jewish Coalition will have done its role in ensuring that the casing of making poverty history is being aired in the Jewish community.

The aims of the MAKEPOVERTYHISTORY campaign are part of Jewish tradition. The coalition has adopted the phrase from Deuteronomy “Justice, Justice, Shall you pursue” as its logo. The word for justice in this case is Tzedakah, and the same word is commonly used in Jewish circles to denote charity. Its true meaning embodies both charity and justice. The eminent twelfth century philosopher Maimonides, when talking about Tzedakah explains (in his Eight Degrees of Charity) that the most effective way to help the poor is to empower them to overcome their poverty, just as the MAKEPOVERTYHISTORY campaign is trying to do.