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The Most Famous Jewish Philanthropist You Never Heard Of

Posted by Anna Burnstein Gilette on 1/14/2021 to Jewish Values

Does the name Judah Touro sound familiar? If your answer is no, you are in good company. Judah Touro was the greatest Jewish-American philanthropist of the 1800s, having donated huge sums of money to hospitals, orphanages, schools, churches and synagogues, organizations to help the poor and homeless, as well as countless other causes.

His one stipulation, however, was that he never wanted anyone to know.

The famous Jewish philosopher Maimonides defined eight levels of charity (tzedakah). The lowest form of charity is to give begrudgingly or shaming the person receiving the charity. The highest forms of giving, on the other hand, include giving to a person so that they can be self-reliant, and giving when neither the donor nor the recipient are aware of the otherís identity.

For Judah Touro, tzedakah was the central guiding philosophy of his life. Despite his immense wealth, he lived modestly and was always careful with his finances. He never sought fame or prestige.

Given that a large portion of his charity was anonymous, we might never know the full extent of Judah Touroís legacy. Upon his death in 1854, he left endowments for nearly all the Jewish synagogues in the United States. Walk through the door of an old American synagogue and your name is added to the long list of people benefiting from Judah Touroís generosity.

Read more about this inspiring life in Judah Touro Didnít Want to Be Famous.

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