Tzedakah is a Hebrew word that resonates for most American Jews. Perhaps you remember collecting coins in a blue and white pushke as a kid. Or maybe you learned about mitzvot as a young adult on a Birthright Israel trip.
The closest English translation is philanthropy, but tzedakah also ties into justice and righteousness. Pursuing social action through mitzvot like tzedakah is considered to be a form of tikkun olam, or healing the world.
Perhaps due to our charitable culture, American Jews rank as the most philanthropic religious community in the country. Many Jews find themselves struggling to prioritize non-profit Jewish organizations they support, including Birthright Israel Foundation, while others heal the world in different ways outside of charity.
According to an article in The Conversation, Jews give more to charity than just about any other ethnic or religious group in America. We give to causes we care about regardless of our economic status:
- 60 percent of Jewish households earning less than $50,000 a year donate to philanthropic causes while only 46 percent of non-Jewish households donate.
- The average Jewish household donates $777 more to charity each year than Protestants and $1,384 more than Catholics, according to data from Giving USA.
- Many Jews donate to non-Jewish causes as well.
Charitable donations are only one part of the equation. Many in the Jewish community also work for or volunteer their time to worthy causes.
“As Jews, we are all too familiar with the consequences of inaction,” said Maya Horowitz, who works for Smart from the Start, an organization helping young kids in low-income areas. She is a prime example of a Birthright Israel alumna who goes above and beyond to practice tikkun olam.
“It is important that during our times of prosperity we recommit to the foundations of our faith and culture and support not only our Jewish communities, but the greater communities we are a part of,” she said. “In supporting others, we strengthen ourselves.”
Prioritize Jewish Organizations
We know there are a lot of worthy Jewish organizations out there in need of support. Many of them even work together to support one another financially. In the wake of COVID-19, for instance, Jewish Federations of North America and other philanthropic agencies launched the Jewish Community Response and Impact Fund, providing $80 million in interest-free loans and grants for Jewish life across the U.S.
The Jewish Federations are also among the donors who help support Birthright Israel Foundation. We are truly thankful for their help in paving the way to providing the gift of Birthright Israel to Jewish young adults, however their generous support is not enough.
The donations we receive each year toward our $172 million annual budget break down in the following way:
- 67 percent comes from worldwide donors (nearly 40,000 in the U.S.)
- 27 percent comes from the government of Israel
- 3 percent comes from the Jewish Agency for Israel
- 3 percent comes from Jewish Federations
We aim to gift 50,000 Jewish young adults with a Birthright Israel trip every year, but a very small percentage of the funding we receive comes from Jewish organizations. Donations from the Jewish Federations, for example, would only gift 2,000 Jewish young adults a year with their birthright.
The young Jews we aim to send to Israel each year are just a tiny fraction of the estimated 1.6 million Jewish children under the age of 18 who will eventually be eligible for Birthright Israel. That means our fundraising efforts must continue every year, year after year.
Prioritize the Future of the Jewish People
Birthright Israel Foundation may seem like just another organization on a long list of important causes, but our mission to preserve the vibrancy of the Jewish people means that donations are a gift that keep on giving.
Many established organizations are crisis-based and reactive, but the goal of the Birthright Israel Foundation is more proactive. Every cent we receive helps send Jewish young adults to Israel, introducing them to their home and their heritage while ensuring the continued practice of tikkun olam.
So far, we have sent over 750,000 Jewish young adults to Israel with amazing results. According to a study by Brandeis University, 85 percent of our participants call it a life-changing experience. They not only return with an increased connection to the Jewish state but many go on to marry Jewish, become more observant, get involved in the Jewish community, and work for Jewish organizations.
In other words, when you give tzedakah to Birthright Israel Foundation, you’re not only observing one of the most important mitzvot out of 613, you’re also helping ensure the vibrancy of the Jewish people for generations to come. There is, in fact, no better choice for tzedakah, according to Birthright Israel CEO Israel “Izzy” Tapoohi. “If our community, our people and our homeland matter to you, there is no better investment than Birthright Israel,” he said.
Birthright Israel alumna Chloe Meinert, who became a bat mitzvah at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, called Birthright Israel magical and emotional. “I’m truly blessed to have had this experience,” she said. “Without the donations, I wouldn’t have had the most memorable experience I’ve had in my life.”
Prioritize Birthright Israel Foundation
When it comes to prioritizing the Jewish organizations you support, we know you have a lot to consider. We hope you will also consider this: By donating to Birthright Israel Foundation, you’re not only making an immediate difference but also improving life in the long term.
It doesn’t matter how much you donate. The more we raise today, the more Jewish lives we can change tomorrow.
Every cent will go toward the cost of a transformational trip to Israel.