Rabbi Jill Jacobs on Tzedakah

Rabbi Jill Jacobs writing on jspot.org

Tzedakah, philanthropy, and tax breaks

In the Jewish world, we often speak of tzedakah as interchangeable with philanthropy. We classify as tzedakah gifts to synagogues, JCCs, cultural institutions, and schools, as well as gifts to social service agencies, community organizing groups, and anti-poverty advocacy initiatives. This slippery use of language probably owes a lot to the IRS’s lack of distinction among different kinds of non-profits. We are used to itemizing all deductions to 501(c)3 organizations, and therefore begin to think of all of these deductions as tzedakah.