“Anticipate charity by preventing poverty” ~ The Rambam
Since 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 schools of thought.
Reviewing the Issues
Gary Tobin and Aryeh Weinberg recently released “A Study of Jewish Foundations” through the Institute for Jewish and Community Research. That report stated that Jewish foundations (organizations founded by a Jew) were giving only 20% to the Jewish community.
In my post, “Jewish Foundations and Their Philanthropic Giving,” I provided a list of the top Jewish foundations and what percentage they were donating to Jewish causes, with the reminder that a lower percentage from a large foundation could still amount to millions in aid.
The Jewish philanthropic community is a proud supporter of people in need from every religion, ethnicity, and culture. This sense of social responsibility to all of society is a key aspect of Jewish values.
Including Israel in Jewish Communal Giving
While acknowledging the generosity of the Jewish community both in the United States and in Israel, I want to return to the idea of including Israel in Jewish communal giving.
While the American Jewish community is thriving, many Israelis are still struggling to survive at a basic level.
I urge American Jewish foundations to remember Israel in their giving and not to assume that all is well and stable quite yet. The stereotypical wealth of Jews in America is not yet a reality here.
News reports remind us that:
- Israel has the highest rate of child poverty in the Western world
- 33% of Israelis believe that fighting poverty is the most urgent issue in society
- 28% of Israeli citizens are living in poverty (1.6 million people)
- 618,000 Israeli children don’t get enough to eat on a daily basis
What People Are Saying
“It is interesting that Israel is not seen as the primary donation destination. At least not as much as it was in the past. Maybe it is a good sign of new Israeli prosperity and less of a need for philanthropy. But I keep seeing signs on the roads here ‘A million people hungry in silence’ (translated from Hebrew) ~ maybe with less tourism from world Jews, less awareness of what is going in in Israel on a daily life, we can call it one contributor.
Anyway, there are still lots of Israelis who do not have the ‘good life’. Now that Israel is a little quieter in the press, specially in the Jewish press, maybe it’s time to make some noise. ps. Israel is certainly getting to be a nicer place all the time, but there are still some people who need help.”
On JSPot.org’s article, “More on Jews and Money,” Rabbi Jill Jacobs responds to my question, “Are we doing so well as a people that we can turn our support elsewhere?”
“As ‘integrated’ members of American society, we cannot help but notice that members of our larger community often have greater needs than our own communal institutions.”
“Jewish giving, then, involves not only giving to Jews, but also asking ourselves which needy should take precedent. There is no simple answer to this question, but the question itself is a Jewish one.”
User, Zahav, comments on Rabbi Jacob’s article, saying:
“Yes, we are a largely integrated Jewish community, and our giving reflects that – as well it should. We give because we share common interests and needs with other Americans…
What a narrow, miserly world we would live if we chose to benefit from institutions such as museums, hospital, libraries and universities, but only gave to institutions that provide services to Jews. We are not ‘directing wealth away from the Jewish community,’ but acknowledging in a very material way that we are an integral part of the fabric of the American and world community. If giving to universal causes is defined as ‘non-Jewish,’ then what is universal about Judaism?”
Gary Tobin, the study’s author, responds in the JTA:
“Foundations make their grants because of compelling moral and ethical reasons. They are operating within the most important guidelines of Jewish law and tradition to help all people in need. Our research on Jewish foundations should spur discussion and debate, but also should be a cause for celebration for how well Jews have integrated into and succeeded in American society. Moreover, Jews are involved global citizens and many feel they can express their Jewish sensibilities by serving the larger society.”
“The information about Jewish foundations is an opportunity to think about how best to build the Jewish community, offer great programs and send a message of hope to achieve a vision for the Jewish future.
This certainly will serve us better and encourage more of our young Jewish entrepreneurs and businesspeople to engage in Jewish grant-making than bad-mouthing the foundations that give so generously to make a better world.”
These are excellent issues for us all to ponder as we envision the future of the Jewish community and Jewish communal giving.
Look for an upcoming guest entry by Tsvi Bisk, author of the recently released book, The Optimistic Jew. Mr. Bisk is the director of the Center for Strategic Futuristic Thinking and will be adding his perspective to these important questions.
If you liked this entry, you might also enjoy:
- “Jewish Philanthropy and the Role of the State of Israel”
- “Olmert Undermines American Giving to Israel: What Was He Thinking?!”
- “Jewish Volunteering: Social Justice in Nepal, AIDS Education in Africa, International Health in Be’er Sheva”
- “A Personal Manifesto: My Path to Jewish Communal Work”
- “Slingshot Releases ‘Resource Guide to American Jewish Innovation, 2007- 2008′”