What’s Jewish about Calling for Tax Fairness?

Here are two of the many sources in Jewish texts which call on us to care for the poor and share our resources equitably: 

“Seek the peace and prosperity of the city in which you live. … If it prospers, you too will prosper.” – Jeremiah 29:7

“G-d says to us, ‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of the field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest.  Do not go over your vineyard the second time, or go over the grapes that have fallen.  Leave them for the poor and the foreigner.” – Leviticus 19:9-10.

Rabbinic tradition is very clear that confronting the challenges of poverty is not a personal choice but rather a communal obligation.

In describing how taxes are assessed on city residents, the third century Mishnah (Peah 8:7) makes explicit the standards expected of the community in combating poverty. Support for communal kitchens, burial societies, and infrastructure were all included. This is not an isolated commentary, but rather a thread that is carried through in the Talmud (Baba Bathra 7b-8b) and codified in the medieval law codes (Maimonides, Laws of the Obligations to the Poor, Chapter 9). 

We assert our interdependence, both as a Jewish value and as a fact of life: poor education, lack of access to health care, elimination of basic services to children and the elderly and cuts to public safety endanger all of us and compromise California’s future.

The Jewish community has a key role to play in this fight.

By partnering with allies of different backgrounds we are helping to develop new voters, encouraging infrequent voters to become more involved, and encouraging voting by immigrant communities – thereby helping to build a more representative electorate.  Having the Jewish community visibly in support of this agenda echoes our historic support for voting rights and will have a significant positive effect on our state. 

The faith community provides powerful voices to life up the moral and pragmatic aspects of tax fairness and the need to reinvest in California’s future.  Jews, including middle class and wealthy Jews, have consistently shown strong support for tax fairness and acted to protect the most vulnerable. We ask our friends and community members to turn out at the ballot box in November and vote for fairness and investment in California’s future.