Hundreds of thousands of Israelis have protested Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s proposed reforms to the judiciary and the continued erosion of Palestinian human rights for months.
It is possible that what is happening loudly and without precedent on the streets of Israel will have a quieter but significant effect in the United States – which largest Jewish community outside of Israel.
American Jews may be concerned about the reforms themselves. Moreover, the current Israeli government counts among its supporters politicians who want it tighter restrictions on who Israel considers Jewish in a way that would exclude some American Jews. Many of Netanyahu’s allies are also anti-LGBTQ. While some American Jews may share these views, they are not representative.
Billions donated every year
Israeli non-profit organizations gathered US$35.3 billion in total revenue in 2015, about $45 billion in 2023 dollars, from all sources. That total included revenues such as tuition and concert ticket sales, as well as $4.4 billion — about $5.6 billion in 2023 dollars — in donations from all sources, both domestic and foreign.
Donations from outside of Israel accounted for $2.8 billion of those gifts, about two-thirds of this kind of funding. We analysed Guidestar’s database of tax information for non-profit organizations to identify American organizations sending money to Israel.
Israeli non-profit organizations, such as Magen David Adomor Red Shield – Israel’s equivalent of the Red Cross and Red Crescent – and the Welfare of Holocaust Victims Foundationdepend on foreign donors for more than half of their philanthropic funding.
Much of this money, but not all of it, comes from American Jews and Jewish organizations.
I am a researcher which focuses on how nonprofits get the resources they need to deliver their programs and services. i have worked with Galia fact And Osnat Hazanscholars based on Tel Aviv University Institute of Law and Philanthropyto get a better picture of this funding – which we studied because it was from the most recent year for which extensive data is available.
Lots of different interests
We’ve found that the donations Israeli non-profits receive from the US are, in part, notable for the variety of donors.
Israelis who now live outside Israel, non-Israeli Jews who consider Israel a Jewish homeland, and people who are neither Israeli nor Jewish help fund these organizations.
To non-Jews, Israel represents what is known as a border object – different groups assign different meanings to the same thing. Depending on them certain religious and cultural identities, American Jews have many different ideas about what Israel represents. But almost all of these ideas differ from Israel’s idea of say evangelical Christians.
Regardless of the motivation or rationale, the end result is that funds in support of Israel go to a wide variety of non-profit organizations in the same country.
Collect and analyze data
The first Extensive study assessing donations to Israel focused on Jewish philanthropy. Published in 2012, based on data from 2007, the authors estimate that 774 organizations raised $2.1 billion, which would be about $3.06 billion in 2023 dollars.
a study of evangelical Christian giving to Israeli non-profit organizations over a longer period – from 2008 through 2016 11 organizations donating an estimated total of $50 million to $65 million over the entire period — less than $82 million in 2023 dollars. While this is less than 3% of all funds raised in foreign donations by Israeli nonprofits, we think it’s worth keeping an eye on this trend, in part because the amounts grew over the period we reviewed.
From this research we were able to identify 1,179 subsidy-providing organisations a total of $1.8 billion to Israeli organizations.
3 main types of financiers
We have divided funding organizations that support Israel into three main categories and one collective name.
These are large lenders outside of Israel who distribute aggregated funds from multiple individuals and Jewish organizations. These include national organizations such as the Jewish National Fund and the 146 local Jewish federations based in places like Cleveland, New York City and Los Angeles funding local causes such as Jewish summer camps and education about Israel and the Holocaust as well as sending money abroad.
Other examples include BBYOa national pluralistic movement for Jewish teens where I used to work; Hillel International, which allows Jews to worship on college campuses, connect with each other, and do service projects; And Birthright Israelwhich offers free travel to young Jews to help them forge ties with Israel.
Have centralized organizations historically channeled the bulk of the funds donated to Israeli organizations from abroad.
The 43 funders in this category represented only 4% of all funders, but gave $707 million to Israeli non-profit organizations – 39% of total donations.
‘Friends of’ organizations
These groups are smaller than centralized organizations. They mainly raise money to support a single Israeli non-profit organization such as the American friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestrathe American Friends of the Hebrew University and the North American Friends of Israel Oceanographic Survey.
The 349 funder friends we identified accounted for 30% of all funders and $752 million, or 41%, of donations.
These charitable trusts are usually founded, funded and managed by members of a single family. Examples include the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation and the Bloomberg Family Foundation. Family foundations represent 25% of all funders and donated $87 million in 2015, but only 5% of all the funds we reviewed.
About 15% of donations to Israeli nonprofits from the US organizations we studied did not appear to come from any of these three main categories.
4 categories of Israeli non-profit organizations
There is less data on the Israeli groups receiving this funding than on the foreign groups making the donations, but we found enough information to identify four main causes based on the identity of the financiers themselves or of the groups they finance.
Jewish religious institutions
Israeli synagogues and yeshivas – Orthodox rabbinical seminaries – received $266 million, about 15% of all funds.
Donations to Israeli colleges and universities totaled $206 million, about 11% of the total.
Hospitals and medical research centers such as the Hadassah Medical Center and the Western Galilee Hospital received $81 million in donations, about 4% of all foreign philanthropic funds.
Christian-oriented organizations, such as Outreach Foundation of the Presbyterian Church and the International Community of Christians and Jewsdonated $56.4 million.
This picture has undoubtedly changed. For example the Central Fund of Israel is reportedly one major funder of the Kohelet Policy Forum that pushes a lot of judicial reform. However, that charity failed to provide this detail in the mandatory 990 form it filed with the Internal Revenue Service for 2015.
We are beginning to review data from 2017 and 2019, which are only now becoming available. A group called the American Friends of Kohelet Policy Forum does appear in the newer data. Its connection to the Central Fund of Israel is unknown, but its inclusion is notable because it illustrates the influence U.S. organizational donors can have in Israel.
There are signs that donations from Jewish organizations to causes in Israel are declining, while donations to Jewish causes outside Israel are increasing. The The Jewish Federation of North America’s Shifting View of Ukraine is an example of that. Rather than viewing the war as a short-term emergency, the organization plans for long-term, ongoing support.
And many of the nonprofits in our study were subject to the the same pressures and problems many nonprofits around the world are experiencing at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic: increased demand for services conflicts with a reduction in donations, loss of volunteers, and a scramble for new ways of working when personal operations are limited or became impossible.
Between heightened concern about Israel’s policies, growing number of anti-Semitic incidents and increasingly pressing social justice issues domestically, we believe that Jewish federations and other local funding groups that have traditionally made fundraising for Israeli causes a high priority may experience more pressure from their donors to instead support groups working closer to home .
We have no doubt that the political situations in both Israel and the US will only reinforce these trends. Support for local communities and centralized organizations is possible shift along with changing political winds if American Jews face phone calls Unpleasant taking sides in current Israeli affairs.
What it means to support Israel, who gives and what they give may eventually change American Jews grapple with what is happening in Israel.