Forward Thinking

U.S. Groups Raise $40 Million for Settlements

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

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American Jewish not-for-profits raised $40 million for Israeli settlements in 2007, about the same amount they raised for progressive groups in Israel, a new Brandeis University study shows.

The study, released April 27, is the first comprehensive study of the rapidly growing field of Israel-focused “American Friends” organizations, U.S.-based not-for-profits that send funds to Israeli charities. Researchers surveyed over 700 U.S. organizations sending money to Israel, and zeroed in on the years before the economic meltdown of 2008.

The report found that American Jewish groups raised $2 billion for Israel in 2007, more than doubling the $770 million raised in 1994.

The researchers broke up the Americans organization by category and ranked the categories by the amount raised. Zionist groups like the Birthright Israel Foundation and the Jewish National Fund were the best-funded, receiving nearly $500 million in 2007.

Other top categories raised funds for social welfare and secular education.

Progressive groups and settlement-oriented groups were at the bottom of the ranking, raising similar amounts in 2007: $46 million and $40 million, respectively.

The study was conducted by Theodore Sasson, a senior research scientist at the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies and the Steinhardt Social Research Institute at Brandeis University, and by Eric Fleisch, a Ph.D. candidate at Brandeis.

The study found growth in the number of American groups raising funds for settlements. Though the exact figures are not reproduced in the report, a chart indicates a near-doubling of the number of settlement funders between 2000 and 2010.

Amidst the growth, the proportion of American Jewish funds sent to Israel that go to the Jewish Agency has dropped drastically, from substantially all donations in 1975 to just 16% of donations in 2007.

“(The Jewish Agency is) still perhaps the biggest organization,” Fleisch said in an interview with the Forward. “But their share of the total pie is nothing compared to what it was.”


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