Jewish mega-gifts fund secular nonprofits

Over the past decade, Jewish individuals and institutions in the U.S. have directed their largest charitable donations to secular causes, a recent report says.

Virtually all gifts of $10 million or more from Jewish Americans go to nonprofits working in higher education, the arts or health services, says Mega-Gifts in Jewish Philanthropy: Giving Patterns 2001-2003, a report by the Institute for Jewish & Community Research.

In comparison, only 5 percent of those dollars go to Jewish causes.

And the divide is a remarkably stable one: An earlier Institute report examining mega-gifts by Jewish individuals and foundations from 1995 to 2000 says the amounts directed towards religious causes were higher by only one percentage point.

“While Jewish organizations do a reasonable job attracting smaller mega-gifts, those from $1 million to $2 million, they are failing dramatically to attract the biggest gifts that Jews make to nonprofits,” Gary A. Tobin, president of the Institute, says in a statement. “The trends over eight years are remarkably consistent.”

Gifts to Jewish causes may account for over two in 10 Jewish American donations over $1 million, yet they make up only one in 10 of their total donated dollars, the report says.

Higher education, arts and culture, and health and medical establishments, on the other hand, receive over two-thirds of all gifts and over eight in 10 of all dollars.

Federated charitable appeals and human services receive just over 1 percent of total dollars from gifts of $1 million or more and no gifts of $10 million or more, the study says.

The report analyzed over 1,000 Jewish mega-gifts of $1 million or more, utilizing IRS records and other sources. The study is on-going and findings will be released every two years.

The Institute for Jewish & Community Research in San Francisco is a think-tank focusing on Jewish racial and religious identity, philanthropy and higher education.

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