Should the Jewish People and Israel actively care and become urgently involved with issues of
extreme poverty in the developing world? Don't we have enough on our plate already? The author, the founder of a Jewish-Israeli NGO whose raison d'etre is to create just such involvement, often encounters people who argue that we should not. "The poor of your own city take precedence," they say, quoting a Talmudic dictum, usually with some degree of indignation. The use of this quotation would be problematic even if our reality were the same as in the days of the Talmudic sages. The Talmud says to give precedence to the local population only when all else is equal, not if the poor of your city, for example, are hungry, but the foreign poor are starving. In today's world, moreover, the notion of the local--of what constitutes "your own city"-- has itself been transformed. Today, the economy of all the worlds nations are inextricably entwined and interconnected to a degree that even 20 years ago would have been hard to imagine.
As full participants in the contemporary economic system, which is global in every respect, we cannot make ethics the single exception. Instead, it behooves us to become active participants in shaping the moral contours of our world. The capitalist system that has pushed globalization forward--creating much prosperity and also much suffering--often presents itself as the natural result of the free market. Yet the unification of all the world's markets into a single global system has been the result of laws and treaties that have been advanced through a concerted strategy based on specific ideas about human nature that has identified a certain form of economic growth as its supreme value.