But this is 21st century America, not 18th century Poland or 20th century Germany. Pew tells us that Americans are switching religions like never before. Do we want to enter the competition armed with our wonderful 3,000-year-old history, or kvetch about assimilation, intermarriage and our dwindling numbers?
North American federations could and should be doing much better than they are. They matter. They are important. They embody the ideas of community, common cause and the ability to respond to collective concerns. They are vital institutions, and we want them to succeed. Federations have been the hub of a vast system that involves community centers, family services, bureaus of Jewish education and so many more organizations. But this system is becoming unglued, and changes need to be made.
Jewish foundations are growing by leaps and bounds, giving away billions of dollars and supporting practically every cause and organization that you can imagine. This is good news, unless of course you are in the camp that believes Jews and the foundations they create are misguided if they give to non-Jewish, rather than Jewish, organizations.
Federations are one of the great success stories in American philanthropy.
A $100 million gift to Yeshiva University is the largest ever to a U.S. Jewish Institution. Why don't more wealthy jews give to jewish causes?