Few are better equipped than Professor Eliezer D. Jaffe to comment on the nature of Israeli giving. An expatriate American, Jaffe was instrumental in founding Israel’s first school of social work at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University. In addition to his work at Hebrew U., Jaffe was a consultant to Israel’s Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs and sat on numerous ministerial committees including the Prime Minister’s Committee on Children and Disadvantaged Youth, the President’s Committee on Outstanding Volunteers, and the Committee to Determine Israel’s Poverty Line. Today, Jaffe is Professor Emeritus at The Hebrew University’s School of Social Work and Social Welfare.
In 2002, Jaffe published a paper called The State, Volunteers and Nonprofit Organizations: The Nature of the Relationship. This work sets out to do some serious myth-busting about the nature of Israeli philanthropy. Jaffe describes a perception he says is completely erroneous of Israel as a poor and desperate nation dependent on donations from American Jews in order to subsist as a nation. This perception, says Jaffe, is due to the many nonprofit campaigns soliciting funds from abroad, which lend an impression of Israel as needy.
Indeed, Jaffe states it’s a false stereotype – and does a grave injustice to Israeli philanthropists and philanthropic bodies that give donations and offer grants to a great many different types of charities and programs. Jaffe’s paper backs this assertion in part by citing a study performed by researchers at the Israeli Center for Third Sector Research at Ben Gurion University. This study found that 77% of all adult Israelis, over 1.75 million people, at that time, had contributed to charity.
These Israeli contributions went to benefit organizations offering welfare services (40%), healthcare (20%), religious services (25%), and education (14%) with the remaining 1% going to miscellaneous other services.
College-educated Israelis were found to give mainly to health and welfare services, while those Israelis without a formal education split their donations equally among health, welfare, and religious charities.
These statistics say something very important about Israeli society and the varied sectors that populate this proud young state. Charitable giving, it seems, is one of the pillars of Israeli society, and the more religious the person, the more he gives to charity, regardless of income.
Helping those less fortunate has always been a part of Jewish life in the Diaspora, and undoubtedly will also increase in Israel. Maybe you won’t hear the omnipresent Kars For Kids jingle on Israeli radio as you would in the U.S., but then again, maybe Israelis don’t need a reminder to give.