Will Israel's Crisis With World Jews Spur More Donations to Jewish State?

Judy Maltz. July 10, 2017, Haaretz

Outraged by recent Israeli government decisions viewed as hostile to them, Diaspora Jews have been threatening to reassess their ties to the Jewish state. Might this ultimately take the form of a significant cut in donations to Israeli nonprofits and institutions committed to social change. At least one leading expert on Jewish philanthropy thinks not. In fact, he is inclined to believe the bad blood flowing between the Israeli government and the Jewish world could trigger the opposite effect.

“Maybe some programs, in which the Israeli government is heavily involved, like the Jewish National Fund, will be hurt,” said Andres Spokoiny, the president and CEO of the Jewish Funders Network, a group that represents 1,800 foundations and individual donors in 11 countries, the overwhelming majority from the United States. “But I think it’s going to be the other way around. I think people are going to invest more in organizations that promote causes to which they are emotionally tied – religious pluralism and civil society, for example.”...

...To date, said Spokoiny, none of his member organizations have discussed with him the possibility of withholding contributions to Israel due to this crisis.

“I haven’t experienced it, and frankly, I don’t think it’s going to happen,” he said. “After all, nobody gives to Israel as such. Rather, they give to nonprofits in Israel with which they have a strong connection. People understand that by withholding donations, they’re not hurting the Israeli government – instead, they’re hurting the nonprofits that they love. So those who are upset are going to choose carefully where they invest in Israel, but they are not going to stop investing.”

The recent crisis, Spokoiny said in a phone interview, has caused many Jews around the world to realize that their Israeli counterparts apparently don’t feel as strongly about the issues of mixed-gender worship at the Western Wall and conversion as they do. Part of the reason certain Israeli nonprofits could benefit now, he noted, is that “Diaspora Jews will try to change that.”

Spokoiny estimates that the nonprofits receive an estimated $4 billion a year in donations – about half of that from outside the country. The Jewish federation system, which raises about $900 million a year, is the largest Jewish philanthropy in the world. The share of its funds earmarked for a range of organizations and projects in Israel, however, has declined sharply over the years. In recent years, only about 20 percent of the money raised by the federations is invested in Israel...

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