What’s in it for Me? Selfishness in Philanthropy

Is altruism the best reason for giving? Yossi Prager argues that, in fact, selfishness is a better motivator for giving. Walking us through Jewish sources that demonstrate how self-interest can be properly harnessed to increase giving, Prager demonstrates how mixed motives, personal drive, and the desire to grow spiritually are not only accepted, but also promoted by Jewish thinkers as motivators for philanthropy.

Yossi Prager is the Executive Director for North America of The AVI CHAI Foundation, a philanthropy founded by Zalman C. Bernstein. Under Prager’s leadership since 1994, AVI CHAI has invested over $300 million to develop a wide variety of programs to benefit the Jewish education and summer camping fields. He has significant expertise in strategic planning, non-profit management and capacity building for non-profits. Prager is a graduate of Yeshiva College and Yale Law School, and practiced law at Debevoise & Plimpton in Manhattan before joining AVI CHAI. Prager also serves in a lay capacity in communal and public policy organizations and served on The Governor’s Study Commission on New Jersey’s Nonpublic Schools. He lectures and writes frequently, and is Adjunct Assistant Professor of Public Service at New York Univeristy where he teaches “Foundations and Social Change.” He is the editor of a book on Judaism and philanthropy, Toward a Renewed Ethic of Jewish Philanthropy, and has been published in The Forward, Jewish Action, Philanthropy Magazine, eJewishphilanthropy.com and other publications.

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