Should Jewish philanthropy focus more on helping needy Jewish people?

Jack Wertheimer, a history professor at the Jewish Theological Seminary, raises this question in an opinion article in Commentary magazine.

“At a time when Jewish communal institutions are failing to attend to the needs of Jews at home and abroad, the hot trend in Jewish philanthropic and organizational circles, incredibly, is to channel ever more of their resources to nonsectarian causes,” he writes.

In particular, he criticizes Repair the World, an organization started last year to encourage young Jews to help others, though not specifically other Jews.

“No one in a position of responsibility in Jewish organizational life has suggested that Jews should be indifferent to the plight of their fellow human beings, and all the evidence suggests that American Jews engage actively in civic and philanthropic activities,” he says. “Why, then, the incessant barrage of exhortations to do more for the world, even as Jewish needs go unmet?”

Jon Rosenberg, chief executive of Repair the World, defends the work on his organization’s blog.

He says the professor “fundamentally misunderstands and mischaracterizes our mission,” saying that the group works closely with Jewish charities and does promote service opportunities to help disadvantaged Jews.

“His broader theme—that service outside the Jewish community is in some way illegitimate, and that we should instead be focusing all of our service inward—sells short a substantial part of Jewish tradition,” Mr. Rosenberg writes.

What do you think of the debate? Should Jewish philanthropic efforts be more focused on helping Jewish communities?