Jewish Philanthropy & the Role of the State of Israel

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A note on my last post, “Larry Ellison Donates $500,000 to Sderot: Thanks, but Isn’t It the Role of the Government to Protect its People?”

Bottom line: I feel bad about the title (although not the content) because it serves to undermine the generosity of Jewish philanthropy worldwide to the State of Israel.

My favorite quote is from President Dwight Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during World War II:

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.// This world in arms is not spending money alone.// It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.”

Now I’m no expert on the Israeli budget, but I do know that our military spending is for a very specific reason: our survival.

I know times are tight: there is a crisis in Israeli education, ongoing efforts to absorb new immigrants, bombardment on the Western border, Holocaust survivors begging for pennies to rise above the poverty line, and much more.

As an American, born and raised, I’m used to questioning the government’s choices about our domestic budgets in relation to our foreign spending. As an Israeli, I’m not sure that there is as much of a distinction.

The high tech sector is in full throttle, but universities decry the brain drain. We are lacking sufficient infrastructure to support and retain gifted doctors, scientists, and academics, as many of our brightest minds are forced to seek jobs overseas.

If we are in a financial crisis related to our existence that threatens our stability as the home of Am Yisrael (the Nation of Israel), shouldn’t Jewish donors who can afford to help support their brothers and sisters? Overseas Jews help with Jewish revitalization projects, support of vulnerable communities, recovery after wars, etc. Why then shouldn’t they step in, as Larry Ellison pledged to do, and offer Israel support in its time of need?

I’m not a proponent of one side or the other, but as a thinker, a writer, and someone who cares about this deeply, it is important to me to discuss these ideas and consider the range of results that each act brings.

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