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Donating to non-Jewish Charities

In addition to giving tzedakah, and doing chessed (emotional, chizuk) support for our Jewish brethren, is it praiseworthy, (halachta b’drochov) to give charity and do chessed to non-Jews (assuming that they are not reshaim)? It is understood that our primary obligations are to fellow Jews, yeshivos, Jewish poor, etc. But is it in consonance with Hashem’s ways to give something to poor people one confronts (not talking about drug addicts), or to worthy charities in the mail (leukemia, etc.). I have always believed that doing these things was in line with Gittin 61a, and the Rambam’s commentary in Hilchos Melakhim 10:12 (Tov H’ Lakol, v’rachamav al kol ma’asav; derocheha darchei noam, v’chol nesivaseha shalom…). The reason I am asking, is because my son’s rebbe told his class (mesivta) that we should not give to gentiles if they approach; rather, you should put the money in a pushka. When I approached the rosh yeshiva, he mentioned it was a isser of ‘lo sechanim’ – to which I was shocked. Can you please let me know your answer to this. From the research I have done, it appears to me that the rebbe and menahel are mistaken. If so, I am in a quandry about how to approach this. It seems, in my limited understanding, to be a mitzvah of darchei shalom. Is this correct? Is this “halachta b’drochav”? If so, would you have any advice as to how to respectfully approach the rebbe / rosh yeshiva? Thank you very much.


It is fine to make contributions to non-Jewish charities, although it is true that one’s first concern should be for Jewish charities.

Non-Jewish charities like leukemia or cancer research are good for the entire world: non-Jews and Jews alike. They are definitely a worthy contribution.

These are of course unrelated to the prohibition of lo techanem, which refers to giving gifts to idolaters. Many authorities rule that the principle does not apply to non-idolaters, and in any case leukemia research is of course entirely different to giving gifts to an individual non-Jew.

In addition, as you note rightly the Gemara and the Shulchan Aruch rule that we give charity even to regular non-Jews (and even to idolaters), and according to the Rambam this is a principle of emulating the ways of Hashem. As note, for such charities as cancer research there is no need to reach this rationale.

I would not take the issue up with the rebbe. You can simple tell your son that according to your own halachic research (or after asking a rabbi) you have ascertained that it is permitted and worthy, and that each person should act according to what he believed right.

Best wishes.


See Gittin 61a; Yoreh De’ah 251 (one gives charity to non-Jews and Jews together). For the rationale, see Rashi; according to the Rambam, Laws of Kings, end of Chap. 10, the rationale extends beyond the simple interpretation of ‘darchei shalom’ (ways of peace), and involves emulating the ways of Hashem in being good to all.

For sources concerning lo techanem see our previous post regarding selling houses in Israel, for which many authorities (based on a responsum of the Rashba) write that the prohibition does not apply to non-Jews who are not idolaters.

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