Explorations in Contemporary European Jewish Philanthropy

The Center for the Study of Philanthropy in Israel has published Explorations in Contemporary European Jewish Philanthropy: The Italian case in context (by Luisa Levi D’Ancona, PhD).


The purpose of this paper is to start exploring the under-researched area of European Jewish philanthropy. Because of the difficulty of thinking of European Jewish philanthropy as a monolithic phenomenon, the paper focuses on one country, Italy, as a starting point to examine challenges and developments of contemporary European Jewish philanthropy, with a vision of further research on Jewish giving in other European countries. This paper explores Italian Jewish giving both diachronically and synchronically. The background on the history of giving by Italian Jews explores the long-term dynamics of Italian Jewish giving and contributes to a better understanding of the contemporary dynamics of Italian Jewish giving. The section on contemporary Jewish giving in Italy presents findings on philanthropic trends within the main Jewish organizations in Italy and examines the profiles of Italian Jewish donors. As data is incomplete, this paper is limited to a qualitative analysis which shows how Jewish philanthropy in Italy exists and is at the beginning of a process of change similar to that which is occurring elsewhere in Europe.

The main findings include:

Italian Jewish Organizations

  • Absence of professional fundraising and platforms for donors.
  • Increasing importance of project-focused donations.
  • Competition between organizations, low degree of partnership or collaboration.
  • Majority of Jewish giving to Israel through the central organization of Keren Hayesod, but challenged by an increasing number of more focused organizations for Israel and for local Jewish causes.

Italian Jewish donors
On the basis of our limited sample of donors interviewed in 2009 regarding their donations in 2008.

  • 56% of interviewees defined themselves as secular and 28% traditional: for these donors priorities of giving were: 1) Israel, 2) local Jewish causes 3) local non-Jewish causes.
  • 16% of interviewees defined themselves as Orthodox: these donors preferred to give to local Jewish causes, while their donations to Israel were decreasing.
  • 60% of donors were over 65 years old; 40% between 35 and 65; younger cohort of donors is absent. Of the eldest cohort: 70% give more to Israel; 20% is engaged actively with the institution, while 80% gives without being personally involved in the organization or in how their money is spent.
  • All of the donors between 35 and 65 years old were involved directly with their particular project. In most cases these donors were involved with central organizations like Keren Hayesod or Keren Kayemet le Israel in the past, but decided to set up and/or focus on one organization for which they volunteer and to which they give.
  • 72% of Italian Jewish donors give to Israel; 61% of these give mainly through Keren Hayesod.
  • 48% of Italian Jewish donors also give to non-Jewish causes.

The complete paper is available for download.