Study finds most Jewish money going to non-Jewish causes.
Jewish Telegraphic Agency
San Jose, Calif.
n his 74 years, Arthur Sackler made a fortune
in medical book publishing and amassed a
collection of rare art and sculpture. In 1999,
his family foundation gave $100 million to
the Smithsonian Institution, where an Asian art
gallery bears Sackler's name.
That extraordinary donation was among the top
handful of 188 "mega-gifts" of $10 million or more
that the nation's 123 wealthiest Jews handed out
between 1995 and 2000, amounting to $5.3 billion.
But while the country's wealthiest Jews may be
generous philanthropists, few of their biggest gifts go
to Jewish causes, a new study shows. The study
comes as Jewish institutions are struggling to fund a
multitude of causes amid a weakened economy. And
it raises questions — and some debate — over why
so many major Jewish philanthropists are overlook-
ing Jewish causes.
The report by the Institute for Jewish Community
& Research in San Francisco found that of the $5.3
billion that major Jewish philanthropists dispersed —
22 percent of the $29.3 billion in big-ticket giving
overall — only $318 million of their gifts went to
The $318 million, trarismitted through 18 mega-
gifts, accounted for nearly 10 percent of all philan-
thropy to Jewish causes during that period, including
to Jewish federations.
Compared to the amount of Jewish money non-
Jewish charities received, the Jewish community got
"virtually nothing" from Jews, said Gary Tobin, pres-
ident of the institute and an author of the study.
"There is clearly a huge disconnect between the
major donations and the Jewish community."
Tobin released the study this week at the confer-
ence of the Jewish Funders Network, which serves as
the unofficial umbrella for family foundations and
independent philanthropic ventures operating out-
side the Jewish federation system.
According to Tobin's study, the majority of mega-
gifts from Jews and non-Jews — 80 percent — were
distributed in the areas of education, health, and arts
and culture. Jewish giving to higher education —
nearly $2.6 billion, 61 percent of all their gifts —
was consistent with the trend in philanthropy in gen-
Fifty-six percent of mega-gifts from all philanthro-
pists went to colleges and universities. Some of those
gifts went to Jewish institutions of higher learning,
including the Technion-Israel Institute of
Technology, the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, the
University of Judaism, Brandeis University and
The findings raise many questions for those who
are involved in Jewish philanthropy. Tobin cautioned
that the study does not say the Jewish community is
not philanthropically healthy. After all, the annual
North American federation campaigns totaled more
than $900 million and Jewish family foundations
gave $2 billion in grants last year.
Perhaps the biggest mystery, Tobin said, is what
motivates major Jewish philanthropists to ignore
their own community. Philanthropies are supposed
to "connect" Jewish donors to causes, he said, but
"something's wrong with the facilitators," he said,
referring to Jewish institutions.
Tobin's report suggests the need for follow-up stud-
ies to explore these issues more deeply. He has
'already begun interviewing philanthropists — Jews
and non-Jews — about their giving habits.
Jeffrey Solomon, president of the Andrea and Charles
Bronfman Philanthropies and a co-author of the
study along with the institute's Alex Karp, said one
problem could be "structural" — that Jewish institu-
tions are not designed to capture higher-end dona-
Solomon posed a basic question: "Are we asking?"
Mark Charendoff, executive vice president of the
Jewish Funders Network, put the onus on Jewish
organizations and institutions to convince the big
donors to give — and to give more. "The two
biggest challenges the Jewish community has vis-a-vis
funders is inspiration and trust: It can't be one or the
other, it's got to be both," he said. And in this rocky
economic climate, he said, Jewish institutions must
approach givers with solid business plans.
"More and more, people are looking at major char-
itable" efforts as "investments and not gifts," he said.
Brian Gaines, executive director of the San
Francisco-based Joshua Venture, which funds young
Jews launching innovative programs, said he has suc-
ceeded in winning support from such mega-givers as
Steven Spielberg's Righteous Persons Foundation; the
Rhoda Goldman Fund, the Walter & Elise Haas
Fund and the Bronfmans' fund. Still, he said, "people
are concerned about their money, and rightly so.
They want to see results, they want to see impact."
Claire Ellman, of La Jolla, Calif., whose family
launched the Jeremiah Foundation to focus on
Jewish day school education as a vehicle for Jewish
survival, says much bigger challenges lay ahead.
Mega-donors such as the Bronfmans and Michael
Steinhardt are "the old guard" of givers who repre-
sent a generation that is expected to transfer an esti-
mated $1 trillion to $3.5 trillion to the next genera-
tion in the coming years. Steinhardt is chairman of
Jewish Renaissance Media, the parent company of
the Detroit Jewish News.
"Younger funders are not so committed to Jewish
education" and other Jewish issues, Ellman said.
"Who's going to fund the Jews if the Jews don't?"
Sanford Cardin, executive director of the Charles
and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, said
Jewish philanthropists who give to non-Jewish causes
"should be applauded." Even so, he said, his founda-
tion, which gives an unusually high 75 percent of its
funding to Jewish causes, believes that "people of sig-
nificant Jewish wealth should also be giving signifi-
cant amounts of money to Jewish causes."
Israel restores some funding to free-trip program for diaspora students.
New York Jewish Week
Neu) York City
he popular Birthright Israel program, which
has brought 40,000 college-age students to
Israel in the last three years, narrowly avert-
ed a funding crisis last week.
The Israeli Cabinet restored much of the $14 million
the Finance Ministry had proposed eliminating as part
of the government's emergency budget plan. Had all
the money been cut, it may have forCed the end of the
"It's encouraging to see that the Israeli leadership rec-
ognizes the importance of its role in the Birthright
Israel program for world Jewry," said Marlene Post,
chairman of the organization.
She credited Natan Sharansky, the Israeli minister
who oversees Diaspora affairs, with working with the
office of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Finance
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to restore the money.
Sharansky said his success came after daylong negoti-
ations during the March 25 Cabinet meeting, which
eventually approved by a vote of 21-2 an emergency
economic plan that calls for slashing in midyear $2.34
billion from Israel's budget to pull the country from
the deepest recession in more than 50 years.
Israel is currently running a deficit of $6 billion. The
economic plan, motivated in part by U.S. pressure in
return for military aid and loan guarantees, calls for
slashing expenses and welfare benefits, firing state
employees and making other cost-cutting measures
that are so deep that they sparked a strike by Israel's
major labor federation, the Histadrut.
The Knesset's 17-member Fimmce Committee must
now approve the proposal and then submit it to the