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Sunday, March 25, 2012

US Jews' donations to Israel double in 12 years

From Ha'aretz:
Donations by U.S. Jews to Israeli nonprofits have doubled during the past 12 years, according to a first-of-its-kind study conducted by professors at Brandeis University.

The study, scheduled to be completed in late April, disproves the widely held view by many Israelis that philanthropic donations from the United States have dropped over time due to economic and political reasons. In fact, the study - previewed last week during a hearing by the Knesset Subcommittee for the Relations of Israel with World Jewish Communities - suggests quite the opposite.

In 2007, various Israeli organizations received $2.1 billion from U.S. donors through the Jewish Agency and various "friendship" associations, according to findings by professors Theodore Sasson and Eric Fleisch, of the Cohen Center of Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University in Massachusetts. This is double what U.S. donors contributed 12 years earlier, when only $1.08 billion was raised in the United States for Israeli organizations.

"Most of the income of the leading organizations in Israel increased also when adjusted for inflation," Professor Sasson said in an interview with Haaretz. There has also been an increase in the number of U.S. organizations supporting Israel, he said, with the emergence of some 150 new pro-Israel groups in the United States in the 1990s, and some 280 emerging during the past decade.

While the research indicates that there was a 10-25 percent drop in donations during 2008 and 2009 - during the period of severe economic crisis in the United States - it suggests there was a substantial rise in donations in 2010, when the crisis began to subside.

Because of a drop in contributions to the Jewish Agency in recent years, "It was thought that Jews care less about Israel, but the situation suggests that U.S. Jewry is deeply committed to Israel," he said.
One of Peter Beinart's major points is that US Jews are not as engaged with Israel as they used to be, especially young people. The proliferation of pro-Israel groups in America suggests the opposite.

Incongruously, Ha'aretz writes:
Sasson says the main reason for the increase in contributions is not necessarily linked with a rise in Zionism, but to the increase in the number of donor collectors and their improved professionalism over the years.
You can almost imagine how the Ha'aretz reporter asked that question in order to elicit that answer. While it is possible that professionalism increased the amount of donations, all charities in the US have become more professional at the same time. Unless one can prove that the amount given in donations doubled across the board, it is hard to interpret this in any way besides saying that American Jews are more engaged with, and emotionally connected with, Israel than they were in the past - the exact opposite of the conventional wisdom.