By Rabbi Shawn Zevit
And if your brother becomes poor and his means fail him with you, then you will strengthen him, be he a stranger or a settler, he shall live with you.(Leviticus 25:35)
In response to this verse from Leviticus, I'd like to share two quotes, the first by Dr. David Teutsch of the RRC:
Jewish Tradition understands human beings to be b'tzelem Elohim, made in the divine image. Humiliating a person denigrates the Divine Presence in the world, so Jewish tradition emphasizes the importance of k'vod hab'rioyt, honoring each individual and protecting people's dignity. Judaism has long recognized that dignity depends in part upon sufficient food, clothing and shelter, as well as honorable work. If someone is living in dehumanizing conditions, then immediate tzedaka is needed. The way tzedaka is given should help people to preserve their dignity. (From A Guide to Jewish Practice: Tzedaka, pp. 16-17, Dr. David A. Teutsch, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College Press, 2005, http://www.rrc.edu.)
The second is from my recent book:
In the social system of giving in Jewish life and law, both giver and receiver are seen as partners in living out godly action in the world. Circumstances and roles may change in an instant, but the commitment to the mitzvah of tzedaka goes unchanged. Jewish sources tend not to deal with "the poor" but focus on the individual (the widow, the orphan, the sojourner, etc.). The Sages go as far as to state, "Better no giving at all than giving that humiliates" (B.Talmud, Hagigah 5a). In other words, giving that comes with stereotyping, judgment, or condescension towards a group, or that undermines the recipient's sense of self, is seen as equally or more destructive than allowing someone to suffer due to lack of material resources. (From Offerings of the Heart: Money and Values in Faith Community, p. 83, Rabbi Shawn Israel Zevit, Alban Institute, 2005.