Jewish Philanthropy

What are the tough questions Jewish philanthropists must ask themselves? And what should the Jewish community ask of them?

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The Jewish communal world has questions to ask as well: Do we have claim to a portion of the personal wealth of any self‑identified Jew.? How do we evaluate the expenditures of private philanthropists? Can we understand the desire of a “mega‑donor” to leave a profound legacy that serves the greater interest of society? Do we respect the added value that donors bring to organizations through their intelligence and experience, their passions and choices? Will we respect these motivators and help them achieve realistic goals? Can we accept that they are seeking to work with us in the communal interest and not for their own benefit? Can we find ways to address the power dynamic that is created between funder and grantee in an honest and constructive way?

Our challenge is to put forward questions that explore how the philanthropist and community each define and establish identities that reflect a changing Jewish community. Do we have the maturity as a community to allow such a process to unwind? Will we engage in honest dialogue on complicated matters of self‑examination? Will we respect the changing nature of individual affiliation and allow funders to ask these questions and find their answers in their own time and at their own pace?

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Jeremy Burton

Jeremy Burton is chief of staff at Jewish Funds for Justice. He previously served as Executive Director of Amos: The National Jewish Partnership for Social Justice and Associate Executive Director of the Jewish Funders Network.