As a Jewish fundraiser there are two major events of the year: the semi-formal and the prom. And by this, I mean the General Assembly of United Jewish Communities in Nashville in November and the Jewish Funders Network annual conference in Jerusalem in March.
Alas, my love has eyes for another.
The GA is too far for travel and the JFN conference is for donors only. Therefore, with my nose to the glass, I will eagerly await all media on these seasons highlights.
In the meantime, there are three pieces of critical knowledge about Jewish fundraising that you simply cannot live without. You must know the difference among the United Jewish Communities, the Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, and the Jewish Agency.
- The United Jewish Communities (also known as the UJC or federation system) is the primary fundraiser for capital in the Jewish world. It is the largest Jewish organization in the world and typically raises $2 billion through its Annual Campaign.
- The Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (also known as the JDC or “the Joint”) responds to and supports Jewish communities in crisis, as well as non-Jewish communities in times of catastrophe (natural disaster, etc)
- The Jewish Agency for Israel (also known as JAFI or the Sachnut) does Israel and worldwide Jewish and Zionist education, as well as supporting immigrant absorption and major Israel programs
Hungry for more? Keep reading.
The United Jewish Communities
The UJC is the largest Jewish philanthropic organization in history. It provides community services and acts as a fundraising conduit between Jews in North America and the rest of the world.
The UJC was created as an umbrella organization out of three primary Jewish organizations to form a unified fundraising and support body:
- United Jewish appeal
- United Israel Appeal
- Council of Jewish Federations
It’s founding mission was the following:
- To improve the quality of Jewish life worldwide
- To nurture Jewish learning
- To care for those in need
- To rescue Jews in danger
- To ensure the continuity of the Jewish people
The federations are staffed by a number of key individuals who take on subject areas (e.g. Israel, women’s philanthropy, overseas giving). The rest of the work is done by laypeople. There are 189 Jewish federations serving 400 Jewish communities in North America.
The UJC’s primary donation destinations are:
- Strengthening and sustaining local federation offices– local community initiatives to revitalize Jewish communities in North America
- Emergency relief to Jewish communities in need (the UJC raised significant funding last year to aid Israel in the time of war)
- Support for JAFI and the JDC
- Support for Jewish communities around the world
- Israel advocacy
The Jewish Joint Distribution Committee
The JDC’s mission is to serve the needs of Jews throughout the world, particularly where lives are threatened or challenged. The JDC provides primary support in the way of relief, rescue, and renewal to the Jewish communities most in need in the world.
Note its primary actions in the last 15 years:
- Rescue: 15,000 Ethiopian Jews in the early 1990s
- Relief: food, clothing, and medicine to 25,000 Holocaust survivors in the Former Soviet Union in the early 1990s
- Renewal: revitalizing Jewish communities in the Former Soviet Union at the end of the Cold War to present day
- Israel: supporting vulnerable populations, children at risk, struggling immigrant populations, the elderly, and disabled
- Non-Jews: emergency relief in times of war, famine, and natural disaster in the spirit of tikkun olam (healing the world)
The JDC was founded in 1914 to help Palestinian Jews (ah, those were the days) and Jewish communities in distress worldwide. They have an amazing history of rescue and relief which I very much recommend learning about further. This article is a good start.
The Jewish Agency For Israel
The primary purpose of the Jewish Agency is to support Jews in making aliyah (immigration to Israel), facilitate immigrant absorption, and provide Zionist and Jewish education programs to Jews in Israel and around the world.
They have a broad list of programs under their umbrella and if you’ve been to Israel under the age of 30, you’ve likely benefited from their services. The Jewish Agency sponsors ulpans (Hebrew language classes), youth programming and volunteer opportunities (learn more in my upcoming second installment of “Get Thee to the Holy Land”), and academic study programs for foreign students.
They also support weak populations in Israel, such as:
- Adolescents at risk via the Youth Futures program
- Ethiopian immigration via Operation Promise
- Gush Katif (Gaza) evacuees– yes, this is still a major problem for the Israeli economy and society
- Sderot residents, particularly children with summer camps and holiday programming– if you don’t know about what his happening in Sderot, you MUST educate yourself. I recommend starting with YNetNews or the Jerusalem Post
- Sudanese refugees (see my post on “Jewish News and Jewish Responsibility”)
It is also crucial that you know about MASA. MASA is a branch of the Jewish Agency that provides Jewish programming to 18–3o year olds. It has had a huge facelift in the last year and is being relaunched with full force. If you want to get to Israel for free or very little money, MASA is your destination.
Well, that’s the central nervous system, peripheral nervous system, and spine of Jewish philanthropy. I hope this post has been useful in providing essential material on this subject.
Links for Further Reading
Want to learn more? Click on these links.
- “Jewish Federation 101: A guide to your Jewish Federation,” courtesy of the Columbus Federation
- “Frequently Asked Questions: Defining the UJC-Federation System,” courtesy of the Cincinnati Federation
Ohio is representing!
Please comment with other things you always wanted to know about Jewish philanthropy. I am at your service and look forward to discussing these issues with you further.