Poverty: Trade, Aid and Debt


AJWS believes that the alleviation of poverty around the world is an integral part of Jewish life and responsibility. Jewish tradition recognizes poverty as one of the greatest threats to human dignity: “Our teachers have said: If all the sufferings were assembled on one side and poverty on the other, poverty would outweigh them all.” (Shemot Rabbah 31) This recognition flows from an understanding that without fundamental economic security, the security of other human rights — education, access to healthcare, political freedom — is at risk.

Beyond working to ameliorate poverty, AJWS aspires to a particularly Jewish ethic of giving - one that is grounded in respect for the poor person and recognition of the shared humanity of giver and receiver. In the words of Jacob Neusner: “When we give to the poor, we must do so in such a way that the equality of the giver and the receiver is acknowledged. This is not an act of grace or an expression of affection. It is an act of respect, an expression of duty.” AJWS’s grantmaking and service work in the developing world is informed by this ethic; our grantees are our partners in a shared endeavor and we look to them to guide our practice and animate our work.

AJWS Resources for Educators

Addressing Global Poverty: International Aid, Debt Relief, and Trade Justice
This comprehensive educational resource offers an overview of global poverty and Jewish responses to it.

Related Resources


www.oxfam.org Oxfam, an international humanitarian organization working to fight global poverty, has resources on trade, aid and debt on its website and available for order.

www.afsc.org The American Friends Service Committee, the Quaker service organization, has materials on trade and debt.

www.worldbank.com The World Bank’s website.

www.one.org The website of The One Campaign “to rally Americans — one by one — to fight the crisis of global AIDS and extreme poverty.”

www.somethingjewish.co.uk/community_corner/make_poverty_history/index.htm Information on the UK-based “Make Poverty History Jewish Coalition.”

www.globalissues.com Privately maintained web resource that includes overviews of key issues from a liberal perspective, as well as links to many other documents and useful websites.

www.faireconomy.org United For a Fair Economy offers popular economics education from a progressive viewpoint.


Darwin’s Nightmare, 107 min, Mille et Une Productions, 2005. This documentary explores the impacts of resource exploitation in the fishing industry around Lake Victoria in Tanzania.

Life and Debt, 80 min, Tuff Gong Pictures, 2001. A that uses excerpts from the award-winning non-fiction text "A Small Place" by Jamaica Kincaid and tells stories of individual Jamaicans whose strategies for survival and day-to-day existence are determined by the U.S. and other foreign economic agendas.


Mountains Beyond Mountains, Tracy Kidder, 2003. A biography of doctor and global public health visionary Paul Farmer.

Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights and the New War on the Poor, Paul Farmer, 2004. Paul Farmer’s indictment of the "structural violence" perpetrated against the people of the developing world by the world’s powerful people and nations.

Development as Freedom, Amartya Sen, 2000. Winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize for Economic Science, Sen argues that open dialogue, civil freedoms and political liberties are prerequisites for sustainable development.

Globalization and Its Discontents, Joseph Stiglitz, 2003. Explores globalization's unrealized potential to eradicate poverty and promote economic growth.

Small is Beautiful: A Study of Economics As If People Mattered, E.F. Schumacher, 1976. Series of essays on “humanistic economics” that offer a critique of globalization.

The Better World Handbook: From Good Intentions to Everyday Actions, Ellis Jones, et al, 2007. Guide to incorporating everyday activism into even the most mundane areas of our life (e.g. grocery shopping, banking, eating, reading the newspaper and working).

Whose Reality Counts?: Putting the First Last, Robert Chambers, 1997. Critique of development practices arguing that many past errors have flowed from domination by those with power.

The End of Poverty, Jeffrey Sachs, 2006. Celebrated economist Jeffrey Sachs’s plan to eliminate extreme poverty around the world by 2025.

The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good, William Easterly, 2007. Easterly, an NYU economics professor and a former research economist at the World Bank, critiques the West’s utopian international development efforts.