posthumous philanthropy

Jewish Future Pledge gets 25,000th pledge, amounting to $2.4 billion to Jewish causes

As the number of pledges was continuing to climb on Tuesday, JFP’s president, Hadara Ishak, told eJP that the High Holy Day season coupled with skyrocketing antisemitism contributed to the sudden increase 

Only an estimated 11% of donations from major Jewish donors go to Jewish causes, according to a 2017 study. Since it launched three years ago, the Jewish Future Pledge has been working to increase that number by encouraging Jews of all backgrounds to commit to designate, at their death, at least half of the money earmarked for charity in their estates to support Jewish and Israel-related causes. On Tuesday, the global initiative announced it reached 25,000 pledges from an alliance of philanthropic family foundations, individuals and families promising to give a combined $2.4 billion to a variety of Jewish causes.  

As the number of pledges was continuing to climb on Tuesday, JFP’s president, Hadara Ishak, told eJewishPhilanthropy that current events contributed to the sudden increase. 

Ishak pointed to skyrocketing rates of antisemitism around the U.S., coupled with the High Holy Day season. “People are thinking about their values and getting inspired by the meaning of tzedakah,” Ishak said. “It takes time for something like this to generate.” 

Ishak said JFP is seeing pledges from “Jews from all walks of life and all around the country, some with large means and some more moderate.” Most people hear about the pledge through word of mouth, particularly through JFP’s partnerships with federations, she said. 

Contributors are given the option to donate to any Jewish or Israel-related cause. “We want people to give toward things they feel are part of their belief system, whether that’s medical, social or education,” Ishak said. 

Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, was the 25,000th person to take the pledge on Tuesday. He cited antisemitism and interfaith marriages as reasons behind his commitment. 

“With irrational Jew hatred, Israel bashing and intermarriage increasing exponentially, we need to increase our financial commitments to better fight for our Jewish people, our ancient Jewish homeland and our Judaism,” Klein told eJP. “Our kids are afraid to wear Jewish stars on campuses or express support for Israel. Our Conservative and even Reform synagogues are losing members and closing in part because 75% of our non-Orthodox Jews are intermarrying. This reduction in the number of Jews also will reduce our ability to fight for congressional support and future presidents’ support of Israel.” 

JFP’s founder, Mike Leven, said in a statement that Klein’s commitment was “an example of the power of intergenerational conversations about the impact of the Jewish Future Pledge.”

“Mort’s personal connection to the cause is profound, having been born in a displaced persons camp in Germany to Holocaust survivors. He understands the importance of a resilient Jewish identity and the State of Israel like few others,” continued Leven, a retired hospitality industry executive who founded the pledge with Amy Holtz, a strategist in both the private and nonprofit sector.

JFP debuted in May 2020 by announcing that some of the biggest names in Jewish philanthropy, such as Bernie Marcus and Charles Bronfman, had vowed to direct at least half of the charitable donations in their estate plans to Jewish and Israel-related causes. 

Forty-one family and charitable foundations have since joined the pledge, including the Charles & Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation and the Marcus Foundation. On average, these foundations have pledged to designate 30-40% of their assets to support Jewish causes or the State of Israel. 

Since its founding, the focus of JFP has shifted away from established leaders and toward younger donors and professionals who can amplify the pledge by talking about it with their networks.

Julia Holtz, a young professional in Pennsylvania, said in a statement that she took the pledge because “there is a boundless power held in the hands of my generation. With my signature I am taking on my responsibility as a young Jew. I urge others to support and sign, as the Jewish Future Pledge is necessary to the success of the Jewish future and the state of Israel.”

JFP, which does not receive any of the earmarked funds, was inspired by the Giving Pledge, which Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates introduced in 2010 for America’s wealthiest philanthropists. But Ishak noted that JFP is for everyone, whether they plan to give $10 or $10 million. 

“Consider the Jewish future as a shopping mall,” Ishak told eJP. “Some stores interest certain people and some interest others, but in order for the mall to be vibrant each store has to do well.”