One of the attributes that I greatly admire about truely religious Jews is that they will put their principles before their self interest, and prioritise their religious deeds above financial gain.
Having financial resources and applying them towards “purchasing” the influence of others is a way of the world in which we live. It happens within commercial and political sectors, and within the “status” ranks of the Jewish community.
Torah law does not ignore this, nor does it discard the virtue of wealth. When honestly brokered, and applied to good purpose, there is a place for financial gain and the associated work ethic.
There is an increasing polarisation of wealth in the Perth Jewish community. Jewish Care WA gets over 1,600 requests for assistance per annum. Whilst in New South Wales it has been statistically determined that 20% of the Jewish community live below the poverty line, no comparable figure is available for Perth. However it would be well within reason to suggest that the figure for our community is as great, if not higher.
The real influence that money buys is when it is applied practically and modestly to helping people in need. That is where the difference is made.
All too often we are caught up in a culture that values plaques on buildings, and capital infrastructure contributions higher than it does the social support of people in need. So too, the political and educational markets are becoming increasingly reliant on “supporters donations”. For this there is an expected payback. In the same way that a commercial sponsor seeks to value their sponsorship through exposure, relationship building and brand awareness, so to, the donations that flow to political movements come with a clear agenda.
The biggest example of this is the funding of NGO organisations in Israel. Billions of dollars worth of funds go to poitical organisations, ostensibly disguised as charities. These organisations have professional people who create social disruption and transform this into negative media coverage. The organisations commission research, that take a given conclusion and then works backwards to verify it through academic means.
The Australian political system is very susceptible to donations at Federal, State and Local level that are ridden with self interest. There is no way of reversing this without a public revolution. But just imagine if political donations were removed from our electorate and instead applied to other causes, such as poverty relief. What a real difference that would make.
As far as Perth Jewry goes, philanthropy in its pure form is about as dead as chivalry. There are families here who cannot afford to provide their children a Jewish education. At the next level, there are also families amongst us who cannot put a roof over their head, cannot put a loaf of bread on the table, and cannot afford basic medical care. Our community has the population and the economic means to establish social structures on a greater scale than currently exist to address this issue.
Step one is to recognise the extent of the problem. Step two is to rise to the challenge with innovative solutions that redistribute philanthropic contributions that flow out of our community to where they are needed the most. Step three is to demonstrate the true value of social welfare such that the level of contribution increases. Only in this way can money truely buy influence.