Unleashing the power of philanthropy for climate action

As inheritors of a profound tradition and culture, Jews have long held the responsibility of being shomrei adamah, guardians of the earth. From dedicating trees in Israel to celebrating Tu B’Shevat, our connection to the environment runs deep. This Jewish Earth Day, as the roots of new trees embed themselves in the soil, it’s time to acknowledge the urgent threat of human-induced climate change — and to act.

Recent polls show that Jews are the most concerned among all faith groups in America about the perils of climate change. While it might be easier to hope that others address the crisis, the reality is that time is running out. It is for this reason that our family’s philanthropy — the Mizrahi Family Charitable Fund, our volunteer engagement and impact investments — has pivoted to address this critical issue. Indeed, there is space and there is a need for everyone to play a role, beyond direct contributions to climate-focused nonprofits.

For instance, by educating the nonprofits we support, including Jewish institutions, we can amplify the impact of our contributions. Jewish organizations like Adamah offer wonderful tools for improvement, yet there’s a need for wider adoption within the community. 

Impact assessment is also important. To that end, our family used a simple Google document to survey 58 grantees on their climate practices. Grantees were asked to report on their climate change practices by checking all that apply from this list:

  • We have intentional policies and practices to minimize our negative impact on climate change.
  • Our climate goals are specific and measurable, and someone is assigned to both measure our effectiveness and support our success in reducing any negative environmental impacts.
  • None of the above.

Shockingly, only 54% of the climate change-focused organizations we support have both institutional practices and measurable goals for minimizing their contribution to climate change. 69% of our Jewish community-focused grantees and 79% of the grantee focused on disability advocacy and support reported that they have neither practices nor measurable goals in place.

While admirable work is being done by our grantees, implementing climate goals remains a challenge. Many organizations, even those dedicated solely to climate impact, lack specific, measurable goals and mechanisms of accountability. This underscores the tremendous growth potential within the Jewish and nonprofit sectors to become leaders in environmental stewardship.

This Jewish Earth Day, let’s embrace our duty as guardians of the earth. By aligning philanthropy with climate action, we can foster positive change within our community and beyond. It’s time for Jewish philanthropists to lead the way, ensuring a sustainable future for generations to come.

Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi is the co-founder and director of the Mizrahi Family Charitable Fund, a donor-advised fund. She serves as a representative of philanthropy on the Maryland Commission on Climate Change and on the climate task force for Maryland’s state comptroller.