NEW YORK - Israeli philanthropy contributes very little to funding Israeli organizations that provide aid to developing countries, a survey on global Jewish service and international development released on Monday by the group OLAM, revealed.
Founded in 2015, OLAM is a coalition of 48 organizations Jewish organizations providing humanitarian aid and development to disenfranchised populations worldwide. The umbrella group aims to promote the impact of these organizations in helping communities in need.
The survey, which was released at OLAM’s annual conference in New York, is the first of its kind and looks at the field of global Jewish service, its funding and the current state of overseas volunteers. It included the participation of 30 of the member organizations of OLAM. According to the data, wide gaps exist between Israeli aid groups and their Jewish counterparts in the Diaspora. The findings showed that while Jewish aid groups in the US, the UK and Australia raise at least 97% of their funds locally, in Israel a mere 3% of the total donations to Israeli humanitarian aid and international development organizations came from within the country. Additionally, while many the International groups are supported by their local governments, or at least have an open door to lobby for their causes, the Israeli ones receive little of either.
Executive Director of OLAM Dyonna Ginsburg however told the Jerusalem Post that there is a logistical explanation for this gap. “Up until 2016, there was a structural or legal reason that made it very difficult for these Israeli organization to raise money within Israel and that was Israeli organizations that were doing a significant percentage of their work outside of Israel, could not qualify for tax deductible status within Israel,” she said. “And so basically it was very hard to turn to Israeli donors because those who are giving a large enough donation are interested in getting tax deductions.”
This reality is starting to change now that the law has been adjusted, Ginsburg told the Post. “The legal impediments now no longer exist and Israeli philanthropy needs to step up to the challenge.”
Global Jewish service is a relatively young field. According to the OLAM study, 67% of the responding organizations were founded after the year 2000. Despite how new they are, their activity is very geographically diverse, service some 70 countries across the continents. “There was a sense that this is an emerging field with increasing momentum and excitement, but there is a lot more that could be done,” Ginsburg said. “In order to set aspirational yet realistic goals, you have to have a baseline. Without hard data, hard to come up with goals for the field.”
The organizations surveyed by OLAM operate in various areas ranging from women’s empowerment and gender equality, to community development, access to education and disaster relief, among others. According to Dyonna Ginsburg, engaging in global Jewish service is a “win win” all around.
“There are people in the world who lack access to basic services or have basic needs that are currently not being met and we, as the Jewish community, have the resource, the knowledge, the expertise that emerge from our own experiences and can actually be of benefit to larger issues that the world is facing,” she said. “At the same time there are added benefits that we believe come to the Jewish community or to Israel as a result.”
The data presented on Monday estimates the total budget of all responding groups at $125 million a year. While it is still unclear whether this number is sufficient for their work, for lack of comparative research, the study also shows that half of the organizations have a yearly budget of only $1 million. In addition, the groups who reach the most people worldwide are those with the most funding. When looking at volunteering in those organizations, OLAM found a surplus of volunteers who are being turned away, in large due to lack of funds needed in order to run programs for these individuals. “Based upon this data, we can actually move this field forward and advance of work of everybody,” Ginsburg told the Post. “If this research succeeds, it will seed a conversation that had not existed before, but more importantly, actually give birth to a couple of concrete ideas that enable us to work together to bring more funding and more volunteers to this field.”