This is a topic that I have found myself discussing quite a bit recently. In large part because there has a been a discussion within my shul about where and how we should best apply our philanthropic donations.
Miriam touched briefly upon this here:
“Allison links to an article I looked for yesterday while I was writing about the JNF, but couldn’t find (thanks, Allison). “According to the annual report summarizing philanthropic activity in the U.S, six out of the 10 largest donors – with donations between $100 million $375 million – were Jews, and none of them made any significant donation to Jewish needs. Only 20 percent of the donations by Jews are directed to Jewish concerns, while 50 years ago that proportion was 50 percent. ” Another reason — if another was needed — for Jewish organizations to clean up their act asap. While recent scandals have nothing to do with the stats above, tainted reputations and credibility issues aren’t going to help matters.”
There are a number of issues here that need to be addressed and like all organizational matters much of the problem revolves around politics and not altruism. To me the issue of credibility is actually secondary in nature because it is most easily solved. Develop and implement mechanisms and procedures that make it easy to see how and where the dollars are being spent.
Transparency will help restore credibility, but that is just a small part of the problem. The big issues in my book are related to the lack of connection that many Jews have for Israel and Judaism or the fear that some have that by giving to Israel/Jewish causes they have opened themselves up to questions about their patriotism.
There needs to be a focus on building a connection toJudasim, establishing lines of communication throughout the community and by that I mean interdenominationally and otherwise as well as the connection to Israel.
Too many Jews remain unafilliated and unattached because they lack the necessary education to understand fact versus fiction and where the lines of propaganda blur truth. And I mean that to cover all sides.
We can be a vibrant, active community that takes care of our own as well as one that interacts with the rest of the world and engages in Tikun Olam and social action programs that are not solely focused upon Jewish causes.
It is possible to have a balance, it needn’t be an either/or decision.