Charitable giving: A Jewish value


If you’re thinking of charitable giving at this time of year, you’re in good company. According to widely-cited statistics, nearly one third of philanthropic donations are made in December. Here are some more statistics to think about:

If you’re Jewish, chances are you’re more charitable than your non-Jewish neighbors. Sixty percent of Jewish households earning less than $50,000 a year donate, compared with 46 percent of non-Jewish households in the same income bracket, according to eJewish Philanthropy.

The average Jewish household donates $2,526 to charity each year, compared to the $1,749 that Protestants give or the $1,142 for Catholics, according to data from Giving USA.

What explains our communal generosity? The answer is both simple and complex. There is our tradition of tzedakah, which equates charity with justice. There is also Maimonides’ principles of tzedakah, which assigns the greatest merit to giving willingly and joyfully, and enabling another to become self-sufficient. In the Jewish view, both giver and recipient gain by the act of tzedakah.

Jews also tend to have higher education levels than the general population, and are often more financially successful, so we theoretically have more money to spend and contribute.

Research also shows that the more a Jew is involved in the Jewish community, the more he or she is likely to give to both Jewish and non-Jewish causes. Hanna Shaul Bar Nissim, a postdoctoral fellow at Brandeis University, writes that “of the 33 Jews who made the 2016 Forbes 400 list of the richest Americans … an average of only 11 percent of the giving through their foundations backs exclusively Jewish causes.”

Since we’re your Jewish newspaper, here’s the ask: The Jewish Federation, synagogues, day schools, Jewish Community Centers, social-service agencies, other Jewish service and education-related organizations and programs would welcome your support. Those institutions and programs, as well as camps, holiday celebrations, preschools, adult study groups, outreach initiatives, in-reach and everything in between — are among the regular features of our Jewish community because of the donations of generous people like yourselves. Film, theater, dance and music are some of the cultural offerings in our community. There are Jewish organizations that fight hunger, support and expand opportunities for the disabled and care for the elderly.

What’s your cause? Where is your Jewish communal charitable home? Which Jewish group helped you feel part of the community? What do you consider to be your part of the Jewish “neighborhood”?

Please give now, by check or online, to support your Jewish family here, across the country, and around the world.
If you give today, you’ll be right on time.

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