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"Humanity progresses because of attempts to serve. and the more you serve others, the more you're serving yourself." - Aniekee Tochukwu Ezekiel
American Jews are known for their generosity to all charities, including Israeli charities such as Yad Ezra V'Shulamit. They support causes in Israel, the USA, and other places via a collective mechanism using large grant-making organizations.
However, in her article, Hanna Shaul Bar Nissim, “Why Jewish giving to Israel is losing ground,” noted that the “proportion of Jewish institutional giving to Israel causes has fallen since 2009.”
The reasons for this, according to Nissim, include “demographic and social changes, a diminishing perception of Israel as being in need, and concerns over the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.” Finally, Israel’s official political stance has become increasingly conservative over the years, resulting in an ideological disconnect between American Jewish donors and Israel.
Unfortunately, the need for philanthropy and generous giving has exponentially increased, especially as a consequence of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Thus, the question that begs is, how do you justify the need to donate to all charities, especially Israeli charities.
By answering this question, let’s consider the following points.
A history of American Jewish Philanthropy
Statistics quoted by Hanna Nissim demonstrate that American Jews were a significant source of philanthropic support throughout the twentieth century. There is a network of Jewish fundraising groups and advocacy organizations that collectively work together to organize donations from individuals.
These groups and organizations then distribute funds to smaller charities on the ground in Israel.
Data collected by the Brandeis University reports that circa $1.05 billion (USD) was donated annually to Israeli causes in 1975 and it increased by $1 billion to $2.05 billion by 2007. Finally, data from the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics showed that organizational giving to Israeli charities and philanthropic organizations from the USA and other countries, started at $1.95 billion in 2009 and rose to $2.91 billion in 2015.
Why American Jews are reducing their charitable donations to Israeli charities
The USA and Israel have always enjoyed a close relationship, even under harsh criticism by many of the world’s nations. The Institute for Policy Studies notes that this relationship has been the cornerstone of US foreign policy for almost 35 years. Apart from the philanthropic funds sent to Israel by American Jews, the US federal government sends well over $3 billion in economic and military aid annually to Israel. While almost all Western governments share the United States’ support of Israel’s legitimate right to exist in peace and security, they will not provide monetary support for the Israeli government of the day while Israel continues to occupy lands seized in the 1967 war.
Many Jewish people across the world, including in Israel, do not support the current Israeli government’s occupation of the Palestinian territories and its oppression of the Palestinians.
In 2019, Donald Trump, the 45th president of the USA, moved the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city. And he has showered Netanyahu, the current Israeli prime minister, with “foreign-policy favors.” This has not endeared him to the American Jews. While the November 2020 US presidential election has occurred, and Trump lost to the Democrat candidate, Joe Biden, only 27% of American Jews were expected to vote for Trump.
This figure provides the raison d’etre for why the American Jewish charitable giving amounts have dropped. The majority of American Jews do not support Trump’s foreign policy with respect to Israel. Nor do they support Netanyahu’s stance on and treatment of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
Reasons why continuing to give to Israeli charities
Giving to Israeli charities is fundamentally bound up with the Jewish culture and tradition. The Jewish people see Israel as their homeland. It is rooted in their culture and religion. Zionism is the “religious and political effort that brought thousands of Jews from around the world back to their ancient homeland in the Middle East and reestablished Israel as the central location for Jewish identity.”
Not only is Israel seen as a Jewish homeland, it is also seen as the origin of Christianity.
Wikipedia.com describes the origins of Christianity as follows:
“Christianity originated with the ministry of Jesus, a Jewish teacher, and healer who proclaimed the imminent kingdom of God and was crucified c. AD 30–33 in the 1st-century Roman province of Judea,” modern-day Israel.
Thus, irrespective of the geopolitical and socio-economic difficulties perceived by many global Jews and Christians, both ultimately see the nation of Israel as fundamental to their religious and cultural identities, especially Judaism. Many Jewish people make Aliyah, especially those from countries where Judaism and Jewish people are not tolerated. Many arrive with very little and need financial support to start their new lives.
Thus, it is critical to continue giving generously to Israeli-based charities to help new immigrants start their new lives and give charities that support the existing poor and needy Israelis.
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