the future of philanthropy

Introducing Racial Equity-Informed Philanthropy: A Funder Resource From a Jewish Perspective 

In Short

A new guide produced by the Jews of Color Initiative in partnership with Slingshot provides resources for helping funders of all ages, foundations, giving circles and grantmakers across the United States new ways to engage in philanthropy. 

Let’s travel into the future: It’s 2050 and there’s every reason to feel hopeful. Acts of antisemitism and racism have slowed to a trickle. Our planet is healthier. The economy is thriving. Jewish art, Jewish culture and Jewish music are flourishing like never before. Children of all ages are finally getting the education they deserve.

In 2050, it’s not that the Jewish community looks radically different than it looks today, it’s that finally Jewish communal leaders understand that the U.S. Jewish community is multiracial. More than 25% of Jews in the United States are people of color, and almost half of Jewish families are multiracial. Jews of color are well-represented as CEOs leading American Jewish organizations and foundations and as rabbis and cantors. Synagogue pews, Jewish day school classrooms and summer camp cabins are full of children of color who see themselves reflected in their teachers, counselors and mentors. Simply put, the tapestry of Jewish communal life in 2050 is powered by Jews of every color — and that tapestry is beautiful. It has existed since the beginning of time, but never in full view. Now we finally see what’s possible — and it is a blessing for all of us. 

Now let’s go back in time to 2020: In the midst of a global pandemic and racist brutality — including the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery — we were reeling. COVID-19 was taking a disproportionate toll on Black Americans. Jews of color, who constitute  roughly 20% of the American Jewish population, faced systemic headwinds of racism, just like other Americans of color, that impacted access to basic human services, employment, healthcare and funding for critical work. Our multiracial Jewish community of friends, families and colleagues who have long endured racism in Jewish communal life were experiencing harm within a Jewish communal system that failed to see the diversity of our people. The wounds caused by racism were deep, and we needed a pathway for learning, healing and progress. 

So we asked ourselves and each other: How would a shift in paradigm at the intersection of racial justice-informed Jewish philanthropy sharpen our communal focus on the distribution of money and power to build a truly anti-racist Jewish community by 2050? How can funders align their personal passion for racial justice with their professional influence to center the voices and experiences of Jews of color? In what ways can we activate philanthropy that is rooted in a framework of racial justice? How can we fully invest in the multiracial reality of Jewish life today?

These are the very questions that animate Racial Equity Informed Philanthropy: A Funder Resource From a Jewish Perspective  – a new guide produced by the Jews of Color Initiative in partnership with Slingshot. This guide is part of a collection of resources that Slingshot is working on and serves as a vital resource for helping funders of all ages, foundations, giving circles and grantmakers across the United States assume an anti-racist posture in their philanthropy. 

Over the years, we have become increasingly sensitized to and open to talking about the ways in which the established philanthropic systems reinforce racism and limit the ways Jewish communities invest in multiracial needs, interests and experiences. We have also learned that philanthropists of all ages are thinking seriously about how to invest in racial justice, but feel overwhelmed by how or where to start. 

This new guide is not an intellectual exercise. To the contrary, it is a vehicle for action. Informed by core values and activism, these pages offer stories, insights and tools for equity and justice-informed philanthropy. Some of the content in this guide may make you uncomfortable. We invite you to embrace that discomfort. Some of the content may make you feel defensive. We urge you to interrogate your defenses. As the co-creators of this guide, we have at times felt uncomfortable and defensive ourselves. 

We hope this guide provides a meaningful beginning, and serves as a springboard for learning and action. We hope it will awaken hearts and minds to the dynamics of race and power in Jewish philanthropy, and crack open new opportunities for structural change.

Understanding racism and building an anti-racist future is hard and messy. It’s personal and political. We don’t always get it right, and neither will you. But as Jewish tradition teaches, hafokh ba v’hafokh ba — “turn it over and over.” In other words, wrestle with what it will take to become an anti-racist Jewish funder. Commit to building a Jewish future rooted in racial justice and equity — it’s the future we all deserve. 

With this guide as your road map, let’s all get to work so that by 2050, we can be proud of the shifts we’ve made and strengthen Jewish life and the broader world for good.

Stefanie Rhodes is the CEO of Slingshot, an organization that mobilizes young Jewish philanthropists as funders and active change agents who, with their partners, shape the Jewish community to be vibrant and continuously evolving. Ilana Kaufman is the executive director of the Jews of Color Initiative, a national effort focused on building and advancing the professional, organizational and communal field for Jews of color.