Implementing the Buffett-Gates Initiative in the Jewish Community

Two weeks ago I reported on a philanthropic initiative developed by Warren Buffett and Bill Gates to bring together mega-wealthy people to join them in signing a Giving Pledge that they would set aside a majority of their assets for use in philanthropic ventures. I thought that their idea had relevance for the Jewish community. In response to the posting I received a number of inquiries that endorsed the idea and asked how could such an idea be implemented in Jewish communities. In response, let me suggest guidelines and steps for developing a philanthropic initiative that would involve the wealthiest people in our Jewish communities around the world. Obviously, these are not written in stone, and they would need to be adapted to the culture of giving in each of the individual communities. The … [Read more...]

If It’s Good for Buffett and Gates, It’s Good for the Jewish Community

By Stephen G. Donshik Several weeks ago I watched the most amazing interview with Warren Buffett and Bill Gates on the CBS news magazine program, 60 Minutes. Many of you may have seen it as well. While watching it I immediately thought of Jewish philanthropists who contribute and support nonprofit organizations in their local communities and in Israel. In the TV interview, Buffett and Gates delivered two major messages to philanthropists and donors. … [Read more...]

Confronting Difficult Conflicts: This Is the Time of Year for Organizational Introspection

During this past year Jewish communal and Israeli nonprofit organizations experienced some trying times. Unfortunately there were several extremely negative examples of how nonprofit agencies should not function. In a number of cases the problems revolved around the position of the CEO and behavior that was either inappropriate or illegal or both. These cases raised many of these or similar questions: How did this happen to our organization? What were we doing or not doing? What were we doing wrong? How could it have been prevented? What should we do now to regain the confidence of the community and to reestablish our credibility as a communal organization? Among the most striking problems that confronted some nonprofits were CEOs having extramarital affairs with their staff members, … [Read more...]

Do Israeli Nonprofits Really Have U.S. Counterparts in Friends Organizations?

There is a double-edged sword to continually looking for outside support for Israeli organizations. By Stephen G. Donshik In an article in The Jerusalem Post of September 9, 2014 - “Israeli Nonprofits Look to US Counterparts for Funding” - Niv Elis discuss how Israeli organizations are seeking funding in the United States by creating American-based nonprofits that raise money and then transfer the funds to their Israeli counterparts. He extensively quotes Tidhar Ofek, a board member of American Support for Israel (ASI). According to its website ASI is the first organization that enables Americans to donate online, tax-deductibly, to any nonprofit organization in Israel. We do this in partnership with When you make a donation through these websites, the funds are transferred … [Read more...]

Compounding One Mistake With Another Mistake


The failure of Israeli politicians and bureaucrats to fully appreciate the complicated voluntary [philanthropic] system in the Diaspora will only alienate current donors and fail to attract new ones. By Stephen G. Donshik If it were not so sad, it would seem be a comedy of errors. First the Israeli government announces the initiation of the World Jewry Joint Initiative (the Initiative), to be developed by it in a partnership with The Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI). The next thing we hear is that the government is moving ahead on its own and does not seem to be engaging JAFI in planning the strategy and the developing the Initiative program. Using a tongue-and-cheek perspective, you could say that one mistake is being compounded by another mistake. The entire Initiative process seems to be … [Read more...]

Don’t Take the Money and Run: How Israeli Nonprofits Should Respond to Donations

Many Israeli board members do not understand the board’s role in financial resource development. Sure, they are willing to serve on a board of directors and offer their counsel and advice. But rarely are they interested in participating actively in raising funds for the agency’s annual budget or for special projects. By Stephen G. Donshik While Israel is now in limbo - waiting to find out whether the present conflict with Gaza is over or whether there will be another round of Hamas rockets - Israeli nonprofits are continuing to provide services to diverse populations affected by the conflict. They range from Holocaust survivors, who live in the South and are reliving the trauma of an earlier time in their lives, to families who evacuated border communities in search of safety. These … [Read more...]

A New Paradigm for Israel-Diaspora Philanthropic Ventures

The present system of raising funds in the Diaspora and providing services through The Jewish Agency, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), and a small number of Israeli nonprofit organizations should be restructured or a new infrastructure created that would make possible a different approach to seeking philanthropic donations and implementing programs. By Stephen G. Donshik The fighting in Gaza has been accompanied by fundraising events in Jewish communities around the world. Once there is a sustained ceasefire, if it happens, Diaspora Jewish communities will both continue to raise funds from self-generated local campaigns and will respond to the call for targeted campaigns initiated by national institutions - The Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI), Keren Hayesod, and Jewish … [Read more...]

The Surrealism or Resilience of Israel Society and The Role of the Diaspora

Large numbers of people who have postponed and canceled trips have both given a victory to Hamas and communicated the weakness of their solidarity with Israel. By Stephen G. Donshik For those of us who are in Israel during this military conflict with Gaza, there is a very surrealistic feeling to the war. That is because there are two realities to the present situation. Those of us who have children, family relatives, or close friends involved in the Israel Defense Forces actions in the Gaza Strip or along the Strip are living in a continual state of tension and anxiety. In a small country such as Israel, that includes a large part of the population. Almost all Israelis, whether they are in Israel or somewhere else around the globe, are glued to the television, the radio, or an electronic … [Read more...]