Jews connected to Jewish community give more to charity, study shows

Bubbles Berman and her husband, Len, call people for a Jewish Federation fundraising drive in 2002 in West Hills.
(Ringo H.W. Chiu / For The Times)

Jewish Americans give to charity at higher rates than other Americans, but they donate more often to organizations that are not Jewish than to Jewish groups, a new study focusing on the Jewish community has found.

The study, conducted by the philanthropic research group Jumpstart, provides new grist for Jewish charities trying to hang on to donors and recruit new ones. The biggest predictor of whether a Jewish person gave to charity, the study showed, was how connected they were to the Jewish community.

Not surprisingly, being involved in some way with the Jewish community -- whether attending religious services or simply having Jewish friends -- made Jewish people much more likely to give to a Jewish organization. But it also made them more likely to donate to charities that weren’t Jewish.

All in all, Jewish donors were more likely to give to organizations that were not Jewish than to ones that were. Of those who made donations, 92% gave to organizations that weren’t Jewish, while 79% gave to Jewish organizations. Only 4% of Jewish people surveyed gave solely to Jewish groups.


“The conventional wisdom is that the more embedded you are in a particular community, the more likely that your charitable dollars are directed to that community,” said Shawn Landres, chief executive and director of research at Jumpstart, which has worked largely in the Jewish community and is “informed by Jewish values.”

Instead, “we found the more embedded you are, the more likely you are to be a generous charitable givers to all causes -- not just Jewish ones,” Landres said.

The results suggest that rather than competing to win over a small pool of donors, Jewish groups should “cultivate givers” by connecting more Jews to the community, he said.

The study also found that Jewish Americans were more likely than other Americans surveyed to give to almost any kind of charity -- except for their own religious congregations.

Among Jewish donors, 39% gave to their religious congregation, compared to 49% of donors of other faiths who gave to their congregation or ministry.

The reason that Jews do not donate to synagogues as often as other Americans give to their congregations, Landres suggested, could be because Jewish identity in the United States is not necessarily about going to religious services.

Overall, 76% of Jewish people surveyed said they had given to charity last year, compared to 63% of other Americans. The giving did not rest on the wealthiest: Jewish people who earned $50,000 annually or more gave to charity at about the same rates as non-Jews at the same income levels, the survey found.

Instead, the difference surfaced among those earning under $50,000, who were more likely to donate to charity than non-Jews of the same means. The study did not delve into the reasons behind that gap.

The study was based on surveys of nearly 3,000 Jewish people and more than 1,900 other people across the country. The surveys were conducted through email invitations to online panels hosted by Mountain West Research Center, which include hundreds of thousands of Americans recruited by telephone, online advertising and through consumer databases.


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