Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

Should the Jewish Laws on Charity Change with the New Tax Laws?

December 28, 2012 11:26 am 2 comments

A Tzedakah (charity) box. Photo: WMPearl.

If one accepts that Jewish law is immutable and applicable at all times, than surely one should also believe that those charged with overseeing and safeguarding those laws (Halacha) must constantly review and analyze Halacha in order to be sure that it’s interpretations account for modern advancements and the norms of the age. With this in mind, perhaps the laws on charity (Tzedakah) need a second look, and possibly an overhaul.

Tzedakah is a fundamental mitzvah (commandment) within Judaism – the requirement to tithe one’s after-tax income.   However, in light of changes in tax laws perhaps adjustments should be made to the tithing formula. At what point should (even the wealthy) be given a break on the 10 percent?

France’s affluent have recently been hit with a new 75 percent income tax.  Should Jews who meet that criteria then be expected to give another 10 percent? Is the intent of Tzedakah for one to work hard, sacrifice, succeed and be left with just 20 percent of their income after taxes?

Tzedakah does not mean charity, it is a word derived from the Hebrew word Tzedek, justice. Is only being allowed to keep but a small percentage of one’s income justice?

A New York resident who makes more than $250,000 is paying somewhere in the neighborhood of 50% of his income in taxes to the City, State and Federal governments.  After all those taxes, should one be expected to give more money away? Perhaps specified requirements should be established for Jews who live in states with low or no income taxes to give Tzedakah at a different rate than those who already have the government as a majority partner in their income.

To maintain Jewish life and to help preserve continuity, many Jews believe that sending their children to a Jewish school is not a luxury, but a necessity.  Yet, at $25,000 per child each year, plus the cost of camps, kosher food and for many, living in a Jewish community which carries higher property values and taxes (as is often the case), preserving Jewish life is expensive. Can people then give away another 10 percent? Should they be expected to?

My company 5WPR employs over 100 people.  A few years ago I created the Ronn Torossian family foundation through which charity is given. Due to the death tax, upon my passing one day my family will have to pay more than 50% in estate taxes. The foundation was established to make giving easier, and as way of preserving my values and affirming the importance I place on giving Tzedakah. But when is enough enough?

While charity is fundamentally an obligation, as a very hard-working entrepreneur, my motivation is drained by the government’s constant taxes. I wonder how much my family and children should benefit from my hard work. Is the number 40%? 30%?

In the meantime there are many important charities with very real and important needs. America (and many other countries today) penalizes people for being successful through higher taxes. People deserve to benefit from their hard work, sacrifices and success.

There has to be a new understanding of the successful and their charity, with an accommodation for the beast that is never satisfied – the taxman. The current way certainly isn’t justice.

Food for thought.

Ronn Torossian is an entrepreneur, author and philanthropist.


  • Besides, the question is what percentage of the income tax and other taxes can be rendered as ‘Tzedakah’ or social justice. ‘Tzedakah’ is not “Charity”, it’s root word comes from ‘Tzedek’, meaning Justice. ‘Tzedakah’ is a feminine attribute of justice, meaning “receivable justice” or “distributive justice”. The correct word for “Charity” is ‘Chesed’, which is a voluntary attribute, not ‘Tzedakah’.

  • France had a “projet de loi” in congress and it was never hit with a new 75 percent income tax. That’s bad journalism, calumny and lashon harra.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.

Current day month ye@r *


  • Arts and Culture Features Jerry Seinfeld to Make Comedy Debut in Israel

    Jerry Seinfeld to Make Comedy Debut in Israel – Famed Jewish-American comedian and actor Jerry Seinfeld is slated to make his comedic debut in Israel later this year. Seinfeld, who was born in Brooklyn to Jewish parents from the Ukraine and Syria, will perform in Tel Aviv’s Mitvtachim Menorah Arena on Dec. 19 as part of a world tour. The comedian is most known for his enormously popular NBC sitcom Seinfeld, which ran from 1989-1998 and is widely considered one of the greatest TV series of all time. […]

    Read more →
  • Features Food American Kids Taste Israeli Food, Offer Tidbits About the Country (VIDEO)

    American Kids Taste Israeli Food, Offer Tidbits About the Country (VIDEO)

    A new video circulating online shows eight American children reacting — mostly positively — to their first taste of Israeli eggplant salad/dip, known in Hebrew as “salat hatzilim” and in other parts of the Levant as baba ganoush. The clip, by, features U.S. youngsters given a plate with schnitzel, slices of pita, hummus and baba ganoush. “If someone had a name like that, they’d be so sad,” one boy said, mispronouncing it as “ba-ga-doosh.” A few of the kids were able to identify correctly the elements on the plate […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Features Pioneers/Philanthropists ‘Start-Up Nation’ Israel to Host Forbes Magazine Young Entrepreneurs Summit

    ‘Start-Up Nation’ Israel to Host Forbes Magazine Young Entrepreneurs Summit – Forbes magazine announced Tuesday that it will host its Under 30 EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) Summit in Israel for the first time in April 2016. The conference is expected to bring together some 600 young entrepreneurs, with 200 from Europe, 200 from the U.S., and 200 from Israel. The summit has been hosted in Philadelphia for the past two years. It will include presentations, speeches, a pitch competition, and cultural immersion opportunities in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Beliefs and concepts What’s That Huge White Bridal Dress Floating Over the Tower of David?

    What’s That Huge White Bridal Dress Floating Over the Tower of David? –  “What’s that huge white bridal dress floating over the Tower of David?” That’s what visitors to Jerusalem’s Old City asked last week. The wedding gown, created by leading Israeli artist Motti Mizrachi, is part of the 2nd Jerusalem Biennale for Contemporary Jewish Art, an event that blew into town as the Sukkot holiday got underway. Mizrachi, who lives and works in Tel Aviv, created the dress that floats majestically over the Tower of David, the main exhibition site […]

    Read more →
  • Features Opinion The Top 10 Places to Visit in Israel

    The Top 10 Places to Visit in Israel

    Israel is a holiday destination on many travelers’ bucket lists. No matter the style of holiday you are after, Israel has the answer. Whether you prefer to relax by the beach, hike up mountains in the desert, visit religious and historical sites, eat your way through the country or just enjoy some retail therapy, your journey through Israel will be one to remember. While there are obviously so many things to see and do, here is a list of 10 of […]

    Read more →
  • Pioneers/Philanthropists US & Canada Jewish American Fashion Mogul Ralph Lauren to Step Down as CEO

    Jewish American Fashion Mogul Ralph Lauren to Step Down as CEO – Jewish American fashion mogul Ralph Lauren announced his plan to step down as chief executive officer of the renowned fashion brand. The head of Gap Inc’s Old Navy brand will take over the position. The 75-year-old Lauren, who founded Ralph Lauren Corp. in 1967, will continue to serve as executive chairman and will continue leading the fashion house’s design team, according to a statement by the company. After the announcement, Ralph Lauren shares rose 3.79 percent while Gap shares […]

    Read more →
  • Featured Sports US & Canada Jewish Boxer Dustin ‘White Tiger’ Fleischer Scores Fourth Knockout Victory

    Jewish Boxer Dustin ‘White Tiger’ Fleischer Scores Fourth Knockout Victory

    Jewish boxer Dustin Fleischer, who said his quest is to become the first world champion descended from a Holocaust survivor, stayed unbeaten with a first-round knockout. Fleischer, nicknamed “The White Tiger,” moved to 4-0 with the defeat of Ira Frank on Saturday night in Beach Haven, New Jersey, near his home, he reported after the fight on his Facebook page. The 26-year-old welterweight has won all his bouts by knockout. Read full story at JTA.

    Read more →
  • Featured Israel Pioneers/Philanthropists Meet Israel’s Santa Claus, the Trustee Tasked With Handing Out Leona Helmsley’s Billions (INTERVIEW)

    Meet Israel’s Santa Claus, the Trustee Tasked With Handing Out Leona Helmsley’s Billions (INTERVIEW)

    Renowned New York attorney Sandor (Sandy) Frankel, one of four trustees of the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, was in Israel earlier this month to look at additional philanthropic options and to observe the progress of those endeavors already funded – to the tune of multi-millions. Frankel, who recently joined the prestigious Park Avenue law firm Otterbourg P.C., met with Israeli politicians and other bigwigs to get a sense from them about which projects in the country […]

    Read more →