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The Jewish community's response to extreme poverty


Tzedek's vision is of a Jewish community actively involved in the reduction of extreme poverty. 

We educate the UK Jewish community through a uniquely Jewish lens, so that we can act together to reduce poverty worldwide. We actively invest in projects that increase the sustainable income of some of the poorest people in the world.


Our work overseas enables us to inspire individuals and communities by telling the story of the realities of poverty, coupled with Jewish sources. Our educational work is designed to invite the community to take significant steps themselves in achieving these goals.

Individuals or organisations alike can:

  • Fundraise for overseas projects in Africa and Asia
  • Donate to Tzedek to support our work
  • Volunteer, whether in the developing world and in the UK
  • Take part in our events
  • Use our extensive free educational resources

As a Jewish charity, we are motivated by core Jewish teachings, and value our tradition's approach to complex injustices.

Tzedek (justice, charity) We believe that extreme poverty is man-made and can be solved through action, not as charity (tzedekah), but rather seeking to increase justice (tzedek). Our responsibility is to bring greater justice to the world.

Ahavtah et HaGer (you shall love the stranger) Jewish traditions teach us to see the world globally in ever-widening ripples of responsibility. Our family lies closest to us, our community next, and so on. Tzedek believes that the ripples don’t stop at a certain point - beyond which we have no responsibility. Our belief in repairing the world stretches beyond racial or religious boundaries.

Naaseh v’nishma (we will do and we will understandAwareness, knowledge and learning lead us to deeper commitments, which in turn drive us to behave in certain ways. And when we act we also learn. The cycle of learning and doing is never-ending; Jewish tradition teaches us and we firmly believe that the two go hand-in-hand.

Shutafut (partnership) In our overseas projects we simply listen to our partners  - and so help them to help themselves. That, after all, is what Maimonides defined many hundreds of years ago as the ideal form of Jewish charity: “The highest form of charity is to take a poor person into partnership.”

Lo Alecha HaMelacha Ligmor (It is not your duty to complete the work) It remains our responsibility to keep working towards a better world. It may not be within our grasp to eradicate poverty, but it is our responsibility to be part of activities which work towards doing so.


Our roots go back to Band Aid in 1984, which moved millions of people across the globe, including the British Jewish community. In the spring of 1990 a small group of activists led by Steve Miller held a series of open seminars on global issues called 'Tzedek'. These seminars set the tone for the organisation – rooted in Jewish values and engaging with the reality of development work. In the autumn of 1990 Tzedek was formally launched as a charity to fulfil this mandate.

Initially, money raised and projects supported were in South India, Zimbabwe, Sudan and Swaziland and public seminars were held for the UK Jewish community.

In 1995 we took a major leap forward. We expanded the Board of Trustees (chaired by Clive Lawton), employed a part-time development officer and began a volunteering programme in Zimbabwe. Five volunteers (mostly graduates of Jewish youth movements) took part in the first scheme co-ordinated by a long term volunteer, Jonny Persey, in Zimbabwe.

The following years saw continued expansion and development. Volunteers increased in numbers each year and, when political circumstances limited our activities in Zimbabwe, new programmes and partnerships were established in West Bengal, Kenya and Ghana. New overseas projects developed in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Uganda, Nigeria and Ghana. Each project brought new relationships, partnerships and friendships in those countries.

We employed our first full time director in 2007, Dan Berelowitz. In that year we won a significant three year grant from DFID for our education work, matched by the Pears Foundation. Soon afterwards Tzedek was accepted as the first resident of the Pears Foundation’s JHub in West Hampstead. Tzedek called JHub home until the end of 2012 and through that residency we continued to expand in resources, staff programmes and of course impact.

The Pears Foundation has been instrumental in our story of growth and continued success. They are our key partners in bringing our message to the Jewish community in the UK.

Tzedek now boasts a unique set of programmes operating within the Jewish community and growing programmes of development overseas, including an education programme in Ghana co-funded by Comic Relief. We are currently a small staff team of four full time staff working from our new office in Marylebone, London.

What does freedom mean when you live in poverty?

Last month in Ghana I heard how head teachers valued our programme School for Life and how it helped children learn to read and write and do sums. The incredible commitment of the head teachers to their pupils is demonstrated by one head teacher, Mr Saaku, who told me he had just returned from one of the local villager's homes.

A girl of seven had been off school for two days. Mr Saaku takes a personal interest in all the children and wanted to know why. He had left school to track her down. When he found the found girl at home, she had explained that she had no shoes and felt embarrassed to come to school without them. He was very clear with her, ‘You always have to come to school with or without shoes.’ So now she was back at school and for the moment without shoes. He said he was going back to her home after school to talk to her parents about buying shoes for her.

Mr Saaku has a deep commitment to teaching the young people in his charge how to read and write because that’s the best escape route for them, their community and even he says, for Ghana, from crippling poverty.

These are day-to-day stories of people in the north of Ghana. It is literally a struggle to get to school. But the head teachers like Mr Saaku understand that freedom from poverty is best achieved thorough an education. You and I know that ensuring those children an education gives them a real chance to escape poverty, for good.
On Friday night as we replay our collective liberation, re-teaching the lessons of freedom and justice to our families, we move from our particular story to a universal hope. A hope that Others in the world find freedom in the coming year.

Chag Sameach!

Jude Williams

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News and blogs

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Schlep* to School with Tzedek

Why Schlep to School? Across the world, children living in poverty often walk miles to get to school. Take the challenge yourself. Sign up by emailing education'at' It can take them more than two hours…
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Article 2

7 Reasons to Do FTFY (Fix That For You)

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Chief Rabbi Mirvis visits ERDS in India

How incredible that last week, Chief Rabbi Mirvis visited Tzedek funded project, Economic Rural Development Society (ERDS) in Kolkata, India. Chief Rabbi Mirvis spent time speaking with beneficiaries about how the programmes changed their lives.…
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