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May 17, 2022 3:03 pm
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What American Jewish Organizations Need — and Value — Today

avatar by Mark Silberman

Opinion

Ohel Menachem Riverdale Jewish Youth Library Lubavitch, where glass windows were smashed in New York on April 25, 2021. Photo by Lev Radin/Sipa USA

It began with a simple question: what would Jewish nonprofits do with more money? As chairman of the Jewish Future Pledge, I was curious. So, we asked some of our partner organizations what it would look like if more money was truly set aside for our collective Jewish future?

The question was simple. The answers were not.

The organizations we queried were diverse in mission and approach. Yet, three themes consistently stood out.

Security

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No Jew in 2022 should fear embracing their identity. As antisemitism returns to the mainstream around the world, so too does the Jewish community’s need to invest in security at synagogues, community centers, and institutions.

The organizations that we spoke with repeated this sentiment.

For example, the Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi) said that with additional funding, it would expand the presence of Jewish organizations at universities, combat campus antisemitism, and provide a place on campus where Jewish students can feel comfortable being Jewish. Similarly, Jewish National Fund-USA’s JNFuture initiative could provide Israel-advocacy training to every young Jewish professional in America.

Other groups expressed similar alarm at the rise of antisemitism and the growing cost of security, particularly in the wake of the tragic Colleyville, Texas hostage standoff in January 2022, and other recent acts of deadly violence against Jews. Many indicated that they would use extra funds to invest in efforts to help Jews live without fear of prejudice or violence.

Scholarships 

From summer camp to Hebrew school, opportunities for immersion in Jewish culture and tradition are endless—and expensive.

Many Jewish families are struggling to access the funds necessary to allow their children to participate in youth programming like the B’nai Brith Youth Organization or NFTY, the Reform Jewish Youth Movement. There’s no question that philanthropic funds can make Jewish life more affordable and more connected.

When asked about hard numbers, the TOP Jewish Foundation — which manages $66 million in assets from the communities of Tampa, Orlando, and Pinellas, Florida — pointed to a few ways that increased access to funds could invigorate local Jewish communities. TOP said that with an additional $50,000, it could offer Jewish summer camp scholarships to 50 local children, making this staple of Jewish childhood accessible to more South Florida families.

The Birmingham Jewish Foundation noted that charity funding could make Jewish life more accessible to Jews of all ages. They noted that summer camps — seen by many in the Jewish community as a highlight of their youth and a reinforcement of their faith — as one major recipient of funding.

The Foundation also said that additional dollars could help Jewish communities grow by providing essential pre-professional training, like summer internships and young adult programming. Philanthropic funds could help make these aspirations a reality — not just at the Birmingham Jewish Foundation, but for Jews all around the world.

Opening Israel to All

Visiting the home of Jewish culture is a transformative experience for Jews, no matter their age. Yet, North American teens and adults who fall outside the age range covered through Birthright Israel often find the prospect of affordably traveling to Israel unattainable — unless the funds exist elsewhere.

For example, TOP said that with additional funding, it could bring roughly 50 individuals outside of the Birthright age range on a trip to Israel for the first time.

In addition, the Jewish National Fund (JNF) said that extra funding would allow them to bring more Jews to Israel through their various programs, ultimately strengthening bonds between the Diaspora and Israel through lifelong connections.

The Birmingham Jewish Foundation highlighted the “uncomfortable position of choosing between community building here or helping out our mishpacha (family) in Israel.” It also cited its yearning to be able to help families with expensive life cycle events, like burials — or, on a more hopeful note, helping couples have children by contributing to their IVF costs.

Hearing the ideas and themes was inspiring. Knowing that an organization has a clear purpose in mind for my donation, makes me want to give. I’m thrilled that, through the Jewish Future Pledge — a worldwide movement working to ensure that money is set aside for future Jewish generations — I’ve earmarked charitable dollars from my estate to help these causes, and I hope that in reading this, others feel the same.

If we all come together, we can create a brighter Jewish future — our organizations are ready for it!

Mark Silberman is a partner and co-owner of Refrigiwear, the world’s leader in cold weather industrial work clothing and accessories. He is the Chairman of the Jewish Future Pledge and serves on the board of Hillel’s of GA, the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival, and the Alliance Theatre.

The opinions presented by Algemeiner bloggers are solely theirs and do not represent those of The Algemeiner, its publishers or editors. If you would like to share your views with a blog post on The Algemeiner, please be in touch through our Contact page.

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