A Jewish World GDP

Gary Rosenblatt in The Jewish Week

Creating a Jewish GDP

Think of the American Jewish community as a business – a more than $10 billion annual business.

If our organizations and leaders made programming decisions based on that notion, perhaps they would be building a stronger, larger and more effective Jewish community.

With that thought in mind, Mark Pearlman, an experienced business strategist (CBS Inc., Fox TV) and MIT graduate, spent weeks researching how much money Jewish organizations take in and spend each year, analyzing what categories get the most attention, and which the least.

The results, he readily admits, are incomplete, in large part because religious organizations are exempt from filing tax reports available to the public. But what he has found makes for some fascinating study and discussion points in our community – for instance, that the Jewish GDP is $9.7 billion, with most funds going to social welfare (25 percent), followed by education (20 percent).

Twelve percent of services provided go for communal life, with 3 percent for advocacy, 1 percent for the arts, and less than 1 percent for Arab-Israel relations.

More than 25 percent of all funds come through the Jewish federation system, and 33 percent of all revenue is concentrated among the top 10 nonprofits, including UJA-Federation of New York, the Jewish Agency for Israel, Hadassah, American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Yeshiva University, FEGS Health and Human Service System, Jewish Geriatric Center.

Perhaps most surprising is that no Jewish organization has undertaken this kind of data gathering, which could create a clear and standardized annual snapshot of how many – and how – Jewish nonprofit dollars are generated in this country.

You can read Gary’s complete column here.