[eJP note: This post, by Gidi Grinstein, was originally published on May 13, 2008, as part of a series on Philanthropy in Israel. With this year’s Jewish Funders Network conference taking place in Israel, we thought it would be timely to rerun the series.]
As I mentioned in the first post of this series, my perspective in writing this series is that of a Jew and an Israeli, in that order (for a more elaborate discussion, please see the first post of my blog A Link in the Chain). I am also a grantee that has realized a dream and a vision due to the generosity of time, spirit, trust and money by lay leaders, Jewish professional, rabbis, communities and organizations from across the Jewish world.
Why should we – Israelis – care? My answer is that we should care as both as Israelis and as Jews for a number of reasons (with no particular order of importance).
First, as Israelis we should have the most practical urge to see a billion dollars per annum of philanthropic giving being put to the best possible use in the service of prosperity and security of our country. A billion dollars of do-good money is a lot even in our present economic state.
Second, there is a lot that we can learn from world Jewry in the areas of management both in the nonprofit and business worlds. In many of these areas, Jews have risen to global leadership while their Israeli siblings still struggle with mediocrity. I believe that many businesses, nonprofits and individuals have much to learn from this relationship.
Third, such relations are important in the context of Israel’s ‘soft power’ and international standing. The existence of Israel as a state where Jews exercise their right of self-determination is increasingly questioned and challenged. Closer ties between Israel and Diaspora Jewry will prove critical to sustaining an effective response to this trend.
Fourth, as Israeli Jews, the interaction with world Jewry is very important for the evolution of our own Jewish identity in the State of Israel.
Finally, closer ties between Israel and world Jewry are important to counter the trend of a widening gulf between Israel and Diaspora Jewry. Philanthropy is one of the most powerful vehicles of Jewish peoplehood. If overhauled, it can offer a powerful platform for a wealth of connections that would strengthen Israel-Diaspora relations and enrich both world and Israel Jewry.
To conclude: I believe that any Israeli that sees him or herself as a part of global Jewish peoplehood has a direct interest in a robust answer to the question why should we care. As Jewish-Israelis, our national identity can only be explained by our Jewish heritage and belonging. We have a direct collective interest that our relationship with our Diaspora is mutually enriching and that the platforms for this relationship are well established. Philanthropic giving is one of these platforms. Its robustness is our collective interest.
Gidi Grinstein is the Founder and President of the Reut Institute.