Posts Tagged ‘philanthropy’


WorthRight Israel: Fund Interfaith Couples and Families Israel Trips

Posted on: June 2nd, 2014 by Hayim Herring


Imagine what would happen if funders created a variety of high-quality Israel trips that were free or heavily-subsidized for interfaith couples and families.


Question to funders and philanthropists: What about making a heavily subsidized trip to Israel available for interfaith couples and families? Here are the arguments for it:


“Israel-alienated” Jews constitute about 20% of the young Jewish population, to use Professor Steven Cohen’s term in a recent analysis he prepared for The Jewish Daily Forward. Not just hawkish Israeli government policies, but intermarriage also has emerged as an “indicator of alienation” from Israel.


Any rabbi or other educator who has taught an Introduction to Judaism class with non-Jewish learners knows that it’s impossible to give them the experience of pride, love and passion for Israel simply by talking about the Jewish state. They can experience a Shabbat or holiday meal locally, they can experience being a part of a Jewish family locally, but they can’t feel the complexity and depth of emotions about Israel from a classroom in the Diaspora.


Interfaith family in Israel


The Charitable Deduction and the Jewish Community

Posted on: November 10th, 2011 by Hayim Herring
Form 1040 Magnified

From Jeffrey Hamilton/Getty Images

Note to reader:  Preston Neal is a principal consultant for the Herring Consulting Network.  He is guest-authoring this week’s blog post.

The amount of the charitable deduction allowance in the Federal tax code for high-income taxpayers has been the subject of much debate in recent months.  At the crux of the debate is a conflict of two competing Jewish values:  empowerment of the individual and encouraging tzedakah (righteous giving).

For those who are unfamiliar with the issue, when President Obama introduced his American Jobs Act in September, he proposed paying for the measure, in part, with a 28% cap on itemized deductions, including the charitable deduction, for taxpayers earning over $200,000.  The lower cap on the charitable deduction has already met stiff opposition in congress, but the so-called “Super Committee” of 12 congressmen tasked with reducing the budget deficit may yet decide to include the cap in its recommendations to Congress and the President scheduled for the end of this month.

Even if the cap were to pass Congress and be signed into law (which looks unlikely), does that necessarily mean that there would be a negative impact on giving?  Not necessarily.  According to a survey of 502 American donors by Fidelity Charitable, “Two-thirds of donors (64 percent)…agree that charitable tax deductions have no impact on their giving.­”

Yet philanthropic organizations, including Jewish ones, are staunchly opposed to the capping of the charitable deduction tax at 28% for the fear that it will negatively impact their missions.

Thus, we have a competition of different Jewish values in this debate.  On the one hand, the mitzvah (commandment) of tzedakah is of great importance in our tradition.  On the other hand, the commandment of tzedakah comes from the Torah, which does not say anything about needing tax incentives from the IRS.  Furthermore, the president proposed this cap on the charitable deduction to help pay for his jobs plan, which also includes tax incentives for non-profits who hire long-term unemployed individuals and veterans.  Surely, job creation and the empowering of the individual is a value upheld in our tradition as well.

What do you think about the proposed cap on the charitable deduction?  Should Jewish organizations support the cap for its potential to help create jobs or oppose it for its potential to negatively impact tzedakah in our philanthropic institutions?  Please share your thoughts in the comments.


Preston Neal

Donors: To Publicly Recognize or Not to Publicly Recognize?

Posted on: January 20th, 2010 by Hayim Herring

Difficult issues, those which involve competing values, can be argued persuasively from either point of view. In this post, I want to raise one of those issues: should congregations specially recognize donors who contribute significant funds or should all financial gifts be treated equally? In the former case, there are many different forms of public recognition, ranging from permanent naming opportunities to publicity in a synagogue publication. In the latter case, where all gifts are treated equally, that would mean that donations of any amount are either recognized the same way or not recognized at all. 

When it comes to giving philanthropy or tzedakah to a needy person, an authoritative Jewish source ranks completely anonymous giving—where neither the donor nor the recipient know one another—as one of the highest forms of philanthropy/ tzedakah (Rambam, Mishneh Torah Hilkhot Tzedakah 10:7-14). Yet, while this source preferences anonymous giving, it doesn’t dismiss the value of giving in cases where the donor knows who the recipient is, the recipient knows who the donor is, or in which they both know who is the giver and who is the receiver. The issue at stake is preserving the dignity of the recipient. Clearly, when the donor is at arm’s length from the recipient, the recipient’s dignity is better-respected. But even if this condition can’t be met, giving tzedakah is still considered a noble and required act. And this is one of the sources that has more generally influenced the way in which people should ideally donate money, if not anonymously, then at least quietly.

Ideally, synagogue leaders try to embody the highest level of values. While in most of the synagogues that I know the preferred notion of anonymous giving is preferable, publicly recognizing donors is more practical.  Some of the arguments against public recognition are:

On the other hand, there are strong arguments in favor of public recognition of significant gifts:

I know colleagues who have educated their volunteer leaders about not specially acknowledging major contributions to their synagogues. But they are in the minority. While we’re trying to puzzle through these tough financial times and we’re assessing and revising what the new “normal” is in giving, what do you think about this issue? Should congregations acknowledge major gifts, or avoid doing so? Also, share your stories about how congregations have made this decision.

Thanks for helping to create a rich discussion (pun intended).

Rabbi Hayim Herring

Where’s the Game Changer in Fundraising?

Posted on: January 10th, 2010 by Hayim Herring

The proliferation of social media tools has fundamentally changed organizations. (Not all organizations have grasped this reality!) Specifically, sites like Google, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr have enabled and empowered individuals to deeply influence organizations-to highlight their relevance or their superfluity, to engage with them or to bypass them. (For more about this, see Individuals can organize in, through, around and across organizations in ways which were unimaginable only a decade ago.

While I’m not a professional fundraiser, my impression is that non-profit fundraising has not caught up with the Web 2.0 era. And there’s special opportunity for churches and synagogues to benefit from social media tools. Even in this environment, where public charities have seen a decline, the one sector that hasn’t felt this impact relative to other causes is religion ( ). True, many faith-based organizations allow members and supporters to donate funds online. They may even announce special campaigns and provide updates on them through their websites, Twitter and Facebook. Maybe some are even using video testimonials to promote fund development. But, the underlying methods of fund development appear to have remained the same: dues for synagogues and donations for churches, special appeals or campaigns, endowments and bequests, annual fundraisers, etc.

What would be some game changers for congregations?
• Within the mission of the congregation, allowing groups or individuals within congregations to determine what they want to contribute to (perhaps once a minimum amount of funds was raised for operations).
• Inviting people who are not members to financially support a cause in which they believe.
• Creating a flash fundraising campaign to support an emergency need (like a flash mob) and then disbanding when the goal is met.
• Providing congregants with opportunities all-year long to offer ideas about how to maintain the financial health of the congregation.
• Adding an on-line component to all ongoing fundraising activities.
• Involving those who are more tech-savvy in discussions about social media fund development.

Maybe I’m off-base, but it seems like we’re still at the stage where we’re using unconventional tools in conventional ways when it comes to fundraising. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one!

Rabbi Hayim Herring, PhD