What is Jewish Philanthropy?

Back in December, eJewish Philanthorpy asked what is Jewish philanthropy? And, why is it so difficult to define Jewish philanthropy today? We invited contributors to join an online roundtable to look at the ever-changing world of Jewish philanthropy in the 21st century.

American Jewish World Service shared pieces by Adene Sacks and Dawne Bear Novicoff (What Would Rambam Think About DonorsChoose.org?) and Erika Davis (Everyone is a Philanthropist). Both, along with other essays, appear on their blog, Where Do You Give?

And Richard Marker launched our discussion with his thoughtful essay (Jewish Philanthropy: Us, Them, – or All of Us?) in which he concluded,

“In the end, Jewish philanthropy in this era is to be defined by the intention of the funder more than by the nature of the recipient. After all, philanthropy is not the determination of values, but a reflection of them. Only by cultivating Jewish identity will support for Jewish life flourish – often hand in hand with support for universal ones as well. But it is likely, in this century of radical realignment, that even when that support flourishes, it often bypasses the institutions which defined 20th Century Jewish life. And for many, that is the most unsettling challenge of all.”

Today, we begin a month long series of essays that will grapple with the questions asked and will, ideally, spark additional conversation. Our contributors come from across the geographical and philosophical worlds, including foundation and federation professionals, academics, philanthropists and others.

We launch the discussion with a book review by Stephen Donshik on the recently released, Philanthropy in America: A History, by Oliver Zunz. We made this choice because “Zunz’s book not only documents the historical development of philanthropy, philanthropists’ involvement, and government’s role in the third sector…” but allows us to pose the question, “What are the implications of the history of the philanthropic sector’s development in the United States for Israel?” An important, and often neglected, conversation.

Feel free to join the conversation – by commenting on the individual essays or submitting separately your own response.