What Is a Jewish Foundation

We speak about Jewish philanthropy, Jewish giving and often about Jewish foundations. But what is a Jewish foundation? Can we really discuss what Jewish philanthropy is and will become without a core definition of its evolution. How have family foundations changed the American philanthropic world and what is in store, especially for the UJC/Federation system, with the significant transfer of generational wealth taking place in the early parts of the 21st century.

Some food for thought from Jewish Foundations by Jeffrey Solomon (published 2008 by the The Center for the Study of Philanthropy in Israel):

“Because there are serious definitional problems in creating a taxonomy for Jewish foundations, there is a paucity of reliable data as to numbers, dollar values, and impact of these foundations. Among these issues are those having to do with the definition of a Jewish foundation. Is it a foundation whose principal is/are Jewish? Whose board is primarily Jewish? Whose historic giving patterns were primarily to the Jewish community? Exclusively? Somewhat? Must its charter specify a Jewish purpose? Is a foundation Jewish if founded be a Jewish principal whose distributions throughout the first generation were for the benefit of Jewish causes but today is governed by the heirs who are no longer Jewish and who no longer support Jewish causes? What if that foundation gives exclusively to Israel causes? What if those Israel causes support the 18 percent of the Israeli population who are Arab?

Organizational definition problems also create a barrier to full understanding. Should we consider as Jewish foundations those donor-advised funds that sit either at federations, federation supported community foundations? These donor-advised funds are no longer the assets of an entity controlled by the donor, but rather are the assets of the community foundation. However, the foundation has indicated that it would generally follow the advisor role given to the donor or his or her designees. With federation related foundation assets exceeding $4 billion, the relevance of these questions becomes clear.”

image: UJF Pittsburgh