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 understand) Awareness, 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. Inspired by Maimonides’ definition of charity many hundreds of years ago, we believe the ideal form of Jewish charity is to take a poor person into partnership and give them a way to support themselves.
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.