New study finds that Jews who experience antisemitism, have strong Jewish identity are more likely to make charitable gifts

The research, the first of its kind in 10 years, was conducted by the Ruderman Family Foundation and Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy

Jews who personally experience antisemitism were far more likely to donate to charity, particularly to religious charities, than those who have not, according to a new study of Jewish giving released on Tuesday by the Ruderman Family Foundation and the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, in partnership also with Giving USA.

According to the study, the first survey of its kind in 10 years, respondents who said they or someone in their household experienced antisemitism gave, on average, $35,425 to charity, compared to $3,726 by those who said no one in their household personally experienced antisemitism. The median amounts are less dramatic — $2,290 compared to $1,150 — but still indicate that experiencing antisemitism makes someone more likely to make charitable gifts of all kinds. The findings hold true when accounting for differences in Jewish engagement; that is to say, it is not that people who are more likely to experience antisemitism (those who are more visibly Jewish) are just more likely to be generous.

The white paper — “American Jewish Philanthropy 2022: Giving to Religious and Secular Causes in the U.S. and to Israel” — looks at philanthropic trends in the Jewish community from 2022, both comparing the giving trends of Jewish Americans to non-Jewish Americans and examining differences in charitable donations within the Jewish community. It is the first study of its kind since Jumpstart’s 2013 “National Study of American Jewish Giving.” The study was conducted by the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy’s Patrick M. Rooney and Jon Bergdoll, as well as Hanna Shaul Bar Nissim, who serves as deputy director U.S. at the Ruderman Family Foundation and as a visiting scholar at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

The survey found that Jewish households have at similar rates as non-Jewish households (74.3% compared to 72.3%) but gave larger amounts ($7,646 compared to $5,676). However, these differences disappeared once socioeconomic differences between Jewish and non-Jewish households were taken into account. Jewish households were also more likely to give to non-religious causes compared to non-Jewish households, but this difference also fades away “after controlling for income, wealth, educational attainment, and other socioeconomic factors,” the researchers found.

The most likely recipient of a Jewish household’s largest gift is a Jewish congregation. This was the case for 32% of respondents. The next most likely recipient is a charity that provides basic needs (15%), followed by healthcare or medical research (12%).

The differences within the Jewish community are more significant. How strongly people identify as Jews, if they are married to Jews, how frequently they attend synagogue services, how wealthy Jews are and if they are Ashkenazi or Sephardi all correlate with differences in giving in general and to Jewish or Israel-related causes in particular.

The study found that “strong identification” with Jewish identity is associated with increases in giving. This is true regardless of levels of religiosity and is true for all types of giving: total giving, donations to religious organizations, to non-religious organizations and to congregations.

Ashkenazi households were found to be the most likely to give, but Mizrahi households were found to give more than Ashkenazi households, both on average and in terms of median gifts. Mizrahi households were also more likely to give to Israel-related causes than Ashkenazi households.

The survey did not find a significant difference in levels of charitable donations between people who are married compared to those who are single. It did, however, find differences between households in which both partners are Jewish and interfaith households.

“Jewish survey respondents who have a Jewish partner are more likely to give and give more generously than respondents with a non-Jewish partner,” the researchers wrote. “This applies to all donations reported and to Jewish congregational giving. Additionally, Jewish households with children at home are more likely to give and give more generously than households without children at home.”

The researchers also found that households in which both partners are Jewish give to Israel-focused causes at nearly five times the rate of interfaith households.

More than a quarter of Jewish households reported that they took part in volunteering. Of these, roughly half — 52% — said they volunteered for five hours per month or less, approximately a quarter volunteered between five and 10 hours a month and 23% volunteered more than 10 hours per month, approximately a quarter of whom volunteered more than 20 hours per month, according to the study.

The survey found that people who attend religious services at least monthly are more likely to volunteer in general and more likely to volunteer for more hours than those who attend services less frequently.

Breaking down the recipients of the donations, the researchers found that 25% of American Jewish households gave to Israel-focused organizations in 2022. (The survey did not look at data from the past year, when donations to Israel-focused organizations increased dramatically after the Oct. 7 terror attacks.)

The study found that the mean value of the donations was $2,467 and the median value was $400. The 2013 Jumpstart study found that 30% of American Jewish households gave to Israel-related organizations. This may represent a dip in donations to Israel-focused groups, but since the two studies are based on slightly different data sets, the researchers could not say definitively.

Of those who give to Israel-focused organizations, the most likely recipients of their donations are United States-based organizations that advocate on Israel-related policies.

The researchers did not find significant differences in giving between different denominations overall, but they did find that Orthodox and Conservative Jews donate a higher percentage of their gifts to Israel-focused organizations than Reform Jews.

Single men were also found to be “more likely to give and give more to Israel-focused organizations than single women or married couples.”

The study also found that those who cited “Jewish and community heritage” as being their primary reason for giving — over social reasons, altruistic reasons and to advance their viewpoint — are more likely to donate to Israel-focused organizations and to give a larger donation. Those who gave for altruistic reasons are also more likely to donate and to give more, but not necessarily to Israel-related causes.