Turning Point in Jewish Philanthropy?
New Perspectives in Community Giving
At the dedication of a synagogue not long ago in a certain American city, a community leader prominent in overseas philanthropy arose and smote the congregation hip and thigh. He expressed the hope that the spiritual solace they might derive from the new edifice to God would compensate the worshipers for the guilt they must surely feel for spending on brick and mortar money which could have gone instead to save lives in embattled Israel.
Now there have been passionate disputes before in Jewish charity. Philanthropy is a realm where the benevolence of the aims does not seem to insure an atmosphere of kindliness and serenity. Year after year, for instance, the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and the United Palestine Appeal (UPA) have dickered strenuously over their respective shares of the total raised by the United Jewish Appeal (UJA) for acts of mercy abroad. There has been a steady undertow of strain in the relations between local institutions and the community welfare funds which contribute to their maintenance, between the welfare funds and the national agencies which they support, among the national agencies themselves, and between them and overseas agencies. Who can forget the Silver-Montor struggle which two years ago nearly sent UJA, American Jewry’s major apparatus for support of Israel, crashing to the ground? And who except the incurably naive can fail to see that even now—behind a screen of honeyed words and amicable treaties—a stern jurisdictional contest is raging between the Jewish Agency and the government of Israel?
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