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.”