Why some Jewish nonprofits stick with Giving Tuesday and others have given it up

Groups say the annual event offers an obvious chance to kick off end-of-year giving campaigns, while others eschew it to avoid getting lost in the crowd

For Hadassah, Giving Tuesday — the Tuesday following Thanksgiving — is typically a day to inspire donors with news of medical breakthroughs achieved at Hadassah’s two Jerusalem hospitals, Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem and Hadassah Hospital Mount Scopus, through stories of the patients who have found healing at the two facilities. 

“Giving Tuesday is a communal and a global experience in one,” Hadassah CEO Naomi Adler told eJewishPhilanthropy. “Our donors, and Hadassah itself, are a part of something bigger when we participate in this worldwide celebration of generosity [and] enjoy the knowledge that they are doing acts of tzedakah hand in hand with like-minded supporters from across the world.”

But this year, Hadassah is dedicating its Giving Tuesday participation to war response efforts in Israel as its hospitals continue to treat terror and war victims who need acute care for orthopedic, head, vascular and thoracic trauma, as well as short- and long-term rehabilitative and psychological care, Adler said. Additionally, Hadassah’s two Youth Aliyah villages have taken in more than 100 evacuees from southern Israel. “Donations to Hadassah fuel our ability to continue to respond to the needs of the people of Israel during this ongoing crisis,” Adler added.

Funds raised from Giving Tuesday will pay for the shorter and longer-term medical and psychological care that victims of the Oct. 7 attack will require as they heal from their wounds, Adler added.

Created as a socially conscious response to the economic overconsumption of Black Friday (and Cyber Monday), Giving Tuesday was born at the 92nd Street Y in New York in 2012 toward creating “radical generosity” — a day when making purchases takes a back seat and giving to causes that do good for the world comes to the fore. 

This year, Giving Tuesday solicitations from nonprofits are inundating people’s mailboxes as usual, trying to bring donor levels up from the past year, with added concern about how to best support crises in Israel (mostly) and Ukraine (still) along with all the other causes that they raise funds for in less tumultuous times. 

“This time of year is one when we know people traditionally want to do something to give back or show support to a cause,” Rabbi Dina Brawer, executive director at World Jewish Relief USA, told eJP. “Giving Tuesday gives donors and charities a focus point. [it is] a day for charities to really showcase their initiatives and a day when donors know they can find out more about the amazing variety of causes available to them to support.”

Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, co-founder of the Mizrahi Family Charitable Fund, generally gets “at least 30 requests for money” on Giving Tuesday every year. “I hate it as a donor but I did run such campaigns in the past — I see them as a kickoff for end-of-year giving, and not a day when I would expect to see much money.”

“The market is so flooded that it is very hard for any organization to be seen on this day,” Rachel Canar, executive director of Nature Israel: The American Friends of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, told eJP. “I received more than 100 emails on that day alone last year. So it has become something of a nuisance, and I can’t say that I love it. But I don’t feel that it can be skipped. We have to be there along with everyone else.”

One challenge that organizations may face this year is running a Giving Tuesday campaign on the heels of October emergency campaigns, in Nature Israel’s case, to fund housing and care for evacuated families from towns that either were not or are not currently supported by the Israeli government.

The organization’s forthcoming Giving Tuesday campaign will mention that ongoing emergency work for those affected by the Oct. 7 attacks. But Canar said Nature Israel will also send direct mail to donors until the end of the year, to raise money for their year-round work in nature conservation, protecting wildlife and combating climate change, in addition to the Oct. 7-related emergency work. 

Rather than contribute to the crowded communal inbox, Samantha Raizen Walsh, director of development at Denver Jewish Day School, a pluralistic community day school serving approximately 325 students (plus some visiting Israeli children), told eJP the school does its own giving day in the spring and participates in Colorado Gives Day, about a week after Giving Tuesday. The school’s year-end campaign is focusing on the financial cost to the school of welcoming the 16 Israeli students who joined the school after Oct. 7, in grades from pre-K to 12. “Some have already returned to Israel, some will stay a bit longer and then return, and some we expect will try to stay permanently,” Raizen Walsh said. 

World Jewish Relief USA also decided not to compete with the deluge of Giving Tuesday, and is launching an online appeal named Warming Wednesday, which focuses on Ukraine’s most vulnerable people, including seniors, about to face their second bitterly cold winter since the Russian invasion began in 2022. 

“By landing the day after, we won’t detract from other organizations appealing for needs in Israel,” Brawer said. WJR-USA, through its partners, is repairing windows and installing insulation to ensure Ukrainians have at least one warm room to survive the winter, she added.

WJR-USA also made direct contributions from its reserves to Israel Trauma Coalition, which provides psychological care to families and children in Israel, including in the Bedouin community, and Youth Aliyah, in particular the Yemin Orde youth village, which provides housing and education to 400-plus at-risk and immigrant youth in Israel. Eighty of the students at Yemin Orde came from Ukraine and Russia after the war started; and the youth village plans to provide food baskets and ongoing therapeutic care in Israel following the Oct. 7 attacks, Brawer added.

Laszlo Mizrahi is using GivingTuesday to investigate whether the nonprofits she supported and fellow funders — particularly those that typically stand up for marginalized people and for justice-related issues — took a stand on what happened in Israel, and/or on antisemitism. If those organizations say nothing about Israel or antisemitism, she said, “their silence is complicity.”

Denver Jewish Day School’s special campaign goes to fund many aspects of the Israeli students’ experience: increased counseling staff hours; other staff helping them with housing, visas or lunch sign-up; and increased campus security.

“Our internal (parent) community has been receiving very frequent updates about our visiting students generally (larger community updates have been only every couple weeks), and our parents will receive a separate email on Giving Tuesday outlining both the special campaign, as well as our annual teacher-appreciation appeal,” said Raizen Walsh. 

Despite any frustration with the inbox overload, organizational leaders are still able to focus on what’s important. “At this time, more than anything, we hope to show our teachers extra appreciation,” Raizen Walsh said, “as it is they (and our admin staff) who have made our Israeli visitors integrate as smoothly as possible, with varying levels of English and varying levels of trauma.”