When Israel was just born, when it was a fledgling state, it relied on the financial support of Diaspora communities. Today, Israel has a booming economy. It can, theoretically, “fend for itself.” Why, then, should the Diaspora continue to give to Israel? The answers begin with a story.
In 2003, three years after immigrating to Israel from the United States, Joseph Gitler founded Leket Israel – The National Food Bank, and Israel’s largest food rescue and redistribution organization. His experiences running Leket and in fundraising on its behalf over the past eleven years has given Mr. Gitler unique insights into the Israel-Diaspora philanthropic paradigm – and the need for a shift in that paradigm. As Mr. Gitler’s recent ELI talk suggests, it’s not just about the money. In the talk, Mr. Gitler gives an inside look into Jewish philanthropy in Israel and abroad. He addresses the critical question: if it’s not about the money, why is it important for Diaspora Jews to continue to invest in Israel?
According to Gitler, it is the duty of all Israel’s supporters to remind people that contributing to Israel is the key to connecting with our dream of a Jewish Homeland. If you invest in Israel, you will ultimately want to see it succeed. When you pay close attention to where you give your money, you therefore form a connection. You invest in the relationship.
There are at least five ways in which Israeli organizations can help implement this idea:
- Partnership: A rising tide lifts all boats. Israel philanthropists should be visible, spreading the word of Israeli philanthropy, and forming a partnership. The message should not be “Give to Israel”- it should be “Give to – and with – Israel”.
- Equality: Approach your Diaspora funders as partners. At Leket we value our partners’ input – if they are interested in offering it. Make this an option.
- Transparency and Information: Diaspora Jews want to ensure that they are seeing the ROI on money that is being sent to Israel, especially in light of increasing needs at home. Provide succinct and interesting information. Israeli organizations should be answering the questions, “Where do funds come from?” and, “What is the real impact of donations?” without even having to be asked.
- Giving Back: Israeli know-how and expertise is valuable throughout the world. Israelis should be actively involved with Jewish communities in the Diaspora.
- Volunteer Opportunities: Allow donors to not only contribute money but also their time and skills. Hands-on volunteer opportunities enable supporters to become part of the vision, and to remain connected to Israel.
Investing in the relationship is a crucial element to maintaining a strong State of Israel, and instilling a lasting connection for Jews in the Diaspora. Giving to Israel is an investment in the entire Jewish people.