Jewish Foundations Give Only 20% of Funding to Jewish Causes

Chagall Rabbi

According to a new report by the Institute for Jewish and Community Research, a scant 20% of Jewish foundations’ dollars go to Jewish causes. More specifically 21% go to Jewish causes and 7% to Israel.

How does that work? Are we doing so well as a people that we can turn our support elsewhere? My sources say otherwise.

Gary Tobin, chief statistician of the Jewish people, as well as president of the Institute and co-author of the study, states: “It is what you would expect from a really integrated Jewish community. They are giving money in an integrated way.”

I guess it’s all how you see the purpose of the Jewish organizations. The People of Israel have a proud history of supporting those in need, but these figures go beyond that. If you were to read the annual reports of various foundations, surely their disbursements would seem justified. Certainly no one is trying to sabotage their efforts at goodwill in the community, but one has to wonder what could (or should) be more important to the Jewish people than their own continuity.

I can’t stop thinking of Rabbi Hillel, who said: “If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, what am I?” I hope that while we are loving our neighbor as ourself, we are not loving her more than ourself.

Tobin explains: “The further the foundations get from the founding donor, the more likely it is that they will move away from the wishes of the founding donor. The founding donor might care a lot about Jewish causes, but his grandchildren or spouse or children might not.”

Jeffrey Solomon, president of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Foundation adds: “It is a well-known and sad fact of philanthropy that donor intent cannot be managed from the grave.”

These are crucial thoughts to keep in mind as we envision the future of the worldwide Jewish community as well as the role Jewish philanthropy plays.


For more information on systematized Jewish giving, please see my post, “Know Your Jewish Philanthropy: the Federations, the Joint and the Jewish Agency.”

10 Responses to Jewish Foundations Give Only 20% of Funding to Jewish Causes

  1. Dan says:

    I believe there is a language problem here which can lead to confusion.
    When a Jewish individual begins an organization, say a theatre company, we do not refer to it as a Jewish theatre (unless the content is). Hence, we should not call foundations started by Jews Jewish Foundations. The general reader will assume these are communal groups.

    I realize you are not the only one doing this. In fact, Gary Tobin’s report is in fact titled A study of Jewish Foundations. But Tobin correctly refers in his press release to this as, “foundations established by Jewish Americans”.

    From my experience, most Jewish Foundations (specifically those established by the Jewish community) make almost all their gifts back to the Jewish community and/or Israel.

    Just my 2 cents.

  2. thenewjew says:


    I think you make a good point. I was wondering about terms as well, but as the JTA article did not define its parameters, this was my source.


  3. […] Jewish causes receive the largest chunk of these foundations’ money). In the blogosphere, New Jew asks, “Are we doing so well as a people that we can turn our support […]

  4. […] week I wrote a post on Jewish Foundations Giving Only 20% to Jewish Causes.” A number of people were nice enough to comment and e-mail to let me know that when the report […]

  5. […] my original post “Jewish Foundations Give Only 20% to Jewish Causes,” there has been a lot of great discussion. I’d like to use this post to review the different […]

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  7. […] October of this year, the Institute released similar findings that only 20% of Jewish foundation dollars go to Jewish causes. In the debate that ensued, there was a heated discussion about what this […]

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