Forward Thinking

Fundraisers: Young Jews Donate, But Not To Israel

By J.J. Goldberg

  • Print
  • Share Share

Leaders of federated Jewish philanthropies agree almost unanimously that younger, under-50 Jewish donors—even those already committed to giving to Jewish causes—have little interested in giving to Israel, reports Haaretz’s Chemi Shalev in a blog post from the General Assembly of Jewish federations, now meeting in Denver.

There is a general unease about giving to Israel, because it’s hard to tell what its needs are these days, said one. The younger donors don’t understand why we need to be giving to Israel, which has its own rich people and which is described, after all, as having one of the healthiest economies in the world, said another. Political disagreements, said yet a third, are increasingly influencing people’s choices on where to direct their money.

The discussion took place during a Monday-morning round-table discussion of the so-called Global Planning Table, a proposed reform in the system by which the Jewish federations allocate donations to Israel and other overseas causes, described earlier today by the Forward’s Nathan Guttman in a blog post from Denver.

What Shalev turned up today is more than another round of bureaucratic in-fighting, though. It’s an important new clue in the still-raging battle that Peter Beinart touched off with his June 2010 article in the New York Review of Books, “The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment.”

Beinart, you’ll recall, argued that young Jews are turning away from Israel because its policies toward the Palestinians conflict with their liberal values. Steven M. Cohen replied in a ForeignPolicy.com symposium on the topic that the evident distancing of young Jews from Israel was a result of general distancing Judaism and Jewishness, particularly among the intermarried.

Cohen’s argument drew heavily on his own research with Ari Kelman, published in 2007 by the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Foundation as “Beyond Distancing.” That was countered in 2008 by another research paper, “American Jewish Attachment to Israel,” by Theodore Sasson, Charles Kadushin and Leonard Saxe of Brandeis University’s Steinhardt Center, which attempted to show that the purported distancing of younger Jews from Israel isn’t so clear-cut.

So, three positions: Beinart says young Jews are growing away from Israel because they’re offended by its policies (and, he adds, the too-defensive Jewish Establishment declines to offer alternative models of attachment to Israel that allow for political and moral criticism). Cohen says the distancing results from deeper cultural processes related to the declining attachment of Jews to Judaism. Saxe and company argue that the distancing isn’t all it’s cracked up to be in the first place. If you want to look at the debate more deeply, Cohen compiled links to a lot of the main back-and-forth in a single web page.

The next major aftershock was Daniel Gordis’s June 2011 article in Commentary, “Are Young Rabbis Turning on Israel?” in which he upped the ante: It’s not just that more marginal Jews are growing away from Israel, whether for cultural or political reasons. Young rabbis—the people who are supposed to be holding the line on community loyalty—are turning away from or even against Israel and finding alternative forms of Jewish attachment that don’t include Israel. That’s sparked a whole new round of back-and-forth, which Gordis has duly collected for your reading pleasure on this blog post.

And now Chemi Shalev has live reports from the field. Like Gordis, his sources are reporting the distancing not just from the marginally attached but from the heart of the establishment—serious Jewish philanthropic donors who want to give to Jewish causes, but don’t see the point in Israel. Is it political, a la Beinart, or sociological, a la Cohen? Too early to tell.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Steven M. Cohen, Steinhardt Center, Peter Beinart, New York Reviwe of Books, Nathan Guttman, Leonard Saxe, General Assembly, Jewish Federations, Daniel Gordis, Commentary, Chemi Shalev, Beyond Distancing, Charles Kadushin, Brandeis University, Theodore Sasson

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.