Can You Guess the Donor?
Let’s play a guessing game. It’s called “Can You Guess the Donor?” I’ll give you some of the foundation’s recent donations and you determine its priorities.
- $15 million to the Jewish Agency for Israel to help with immigrant absorption
- $6 million to help needy children in the Former Soviet Union
- $6 million to help elderly Jews in the Former Soviet Union
- $2 million to aid Persian Jews’ immigration and absorption into Israeli society ($10,000 per person x 200 immigrants, offer is open to all Jewish immigrants coming from Iran in the coming years)
TOTAL: $29 million (2007– 2010 and counting)
The Answer and The Catch
Have you figured out who it is? These donations all source from the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ).
So what’s the catch? It’s a slippery one. Each major donation from this evangelical Christian organization comes with the agreement that the IFCJ will have a say in how the money is spent.
Got that? It’s not how the organization is run, but how the money they donate will be spent. (The crux being that we’re talking about so much money.)
We’ve been having an ongoing discussion about the ethics of these donations and whether they imply that the organization is buying its way into controlling a large portion of the Jewish philanthropic world.
The donations to the Former Soviet Union will be channeled through the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and all absorption related donations will be through the Jewish Agency.
What would Maimonides say? Keep reading to find out.
Rambam’s Tzedakah Ladder
While these dealings don’t disturb me specifically, there has been something goading me since hearing about the IFCJ’s negotiations. Finally I realized– something about the relations seems counter to Maimonides’ principles of giving.
The great rabbi Maimonides (lovingly called The Rambam) offers the following hierarchical order for valuing giving:
|1. Giving a poor person work so that he will not have to depend on charity
2. Giving charity anonymously to an unknown recipient
3. Giving charity anonymously to a known recipient
4. Giving charity publicly to an unknown recipient
5. Giving charity before being asked
6. Giving charity after being asked
7. Giving willingly, but inadequately
8. Giving unwilling
Source: Wikipedia: Tzedakah
While no one can claim that the IFCJ is not funding generously, their giving seems contrary to Maimonides’ principles. Now I’m not naive in thinking that giving doesn’t come with interest added, but such large giving and such controlling requests?
What Are Your Thoughts?
So what’s your opinion? Does the good these donations will create come at too high a cost in the world of Jewish philanthropy or is the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews doing the best it can at protecting vulnerable Jewish communities around the world as best it knows how?
I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts.
Learn more about the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews Jewish philanthropy:
- “Trend Alert: Christian Philanthropy to Israel: Jewish Agency Invites Christian Members to Board”
- “Israeli Philanthropy Update: 40 Iranian Jews Arrive in Israel with Help of Jewish Agency”
- “Iranian Jews Offered $10,000 Each to Immigrate to Israel”
Learn more about the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee:
- “12 Jewish Charities Featured on Forbes’ Top 200 List”
- “Know Your Jewish Philanthropy: the Federations, the Joint, and the Jewish Agency”
Learn more about the IFCJ’s campaigns to support vulnerable Jewish communities (external links):
- “Winter Survival 2008: Helping Elderly Jews Survive a Harsh Russian Winter”
- “Christian Group to Give $3 Million for FSU Kids” (JTA)
- The IFCJ’s Stand for Israel blog (featuring Dimona, Sderot, and decrying unfair practices against Jews and Israel worldwide)
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