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Jews take 5 of top 6 spots in annual list of top U.S. givers

By Jacob Berkman, JTA

February 8, 2011 | 2:43 pm

Top, from left: George Soros, Michael R. Bloomberg and Leonard Blavatnik. Bottom, from left: Irwin M. and Joan K. Jacobs and Eli and Edythe L. Broad.

Top, from left: George Soros, Michael R. Bloomberg and Leonard Blavatnik. Bottom, from left: Irwin M. and Joan K. Jacobs and Eli and Edythe L. Broad.

America’s most generous citizens gave less in 2010 than they have over the past decade, but Jews remained among the top givers, according to an annual survey by the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

In 2010, the top philanthropists in the United States contributed approximately $3.3 billion to charity, according to the Chronicle’s Philanthropy 50, a list that tracks the largest gifts made by individuals each year. That number is some $800 million below 2009 and less than half of the total made up by the top 50 donors when the Chronicle first started keeping tabs a decade ago.

At least 19 of the 53 individuals and couples named on the list are Jewish, including five of the list’s top six (the list included three ties). George Soros ranked No. 1 with $332 million donated in 2010, and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was second at $279.2 million. Irwin and Joan Jacobs, Eli and Edythe Broad, and Leonard Blavatnik took spots 4 through 6, respectively, with $117 million to $119 million in donations.

Jews traditionally rank high on such lists and figure prominently among the country’s elite philanthropists. Jews also make up more than half of the first 57 billionaires to join the Bill Gates and Warren Buffet Giving Pledge—a group of ultra-wealthy Americans who have pledged to give away more than half of their assets during their lifetime.

The Chronicle’s list, however, also offers more cause for concern for those in the Jewish nonprofit world who wring their hands about the lack of giving by Jews to Jewish causes. The Institute for Jewish and Communal Research has collected data showing that less than a quarter of all philanthropic dollars given by Jews go to overtly Jewish causes.

For instance, while Soros gave $1 million to World ORT in September, and Bloomberg gave a smaller gift to the Jewish Association for Services for the Aged, their gifts to overtly Jewish causes comprise only a small proportion of their overall giving.

This year’s Philanthropy 50 had one major exception: Stephen and Nancy Grand, who ranked 39th, gave more than $20 million of their $28 million in 2010 charitable donations to the American Technion Society, which supports the Technion: Israel Institute for Technology.

In June, the Grands helped the Technion finish off a 14-year, $1 billion fundraising campaign with their mammoth gift to the school, to which they also had given $10 million to create the Stephen and Nancy Grand Water Research Institute.

The Grands are very involved in the Jewish world and launched their philanthropy through the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit. Stephen Grand is a board member of Birthright Israel, while Nancy Grand soon will be the president of the Jewish Federation in San Francisco and serves on the executive committees of the city’s JCC as well as the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.

Among the other Jews on the list to watch are hedge fund manager William Ackman, who with his wife, Karen, gave away $59.3 million last year. At 44, Ackman already is one of Wall Street’s most significant players and a regular on the dais of the UJA-Federation of New York’s annual Wall Street dinner. He made his most significant Jewish contribution in the past year, leading an effort to bail out the Center for Jewish History in New York from its $30 million debt with a $6.8 million gift.

Qualcomm’s founder, Irwin Jacobs, is one of San Diego’s most generous men. Aside from propping up the San Diego Symphony with a $100 million-plus gift last decade, he and his wife, Joan, have decided to give away most of their money through a donor-advised fund at the Jewish Community Foundation of San Diego, where Joan Jacobs is a board member. Last year, according to the Chronicle, they gave the fund $39.1 million, which will be distributed to Jewish and nonsectarian causes.

Cleveland car dealers Lee and Jane Seidman gave $42 million in 2010 to land them at No. 24 on the list. Most of their giving went to University Hospitals, but Jewish charities played heavily among their contributions to more than 40 charities, including the Jewish Federation of Cleveland.

Some money came from a surprise bequeathing.

Charles Kaufman, an executive at Merck, was something of an unknown to this annual mega-donor list. When he died last September at age 97, he left $53 million to charity, according to the Chronicle. Of that, $50 million went to a fund he and his late sister established at the Pittsburgh Foundation. Jewish health care is listed among the primary concerns of the fund.

He also left $3.34 million to a variety of other charities, including those that deal with Jewish life and culture, among them $300,000 to Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Pittsburgh and $50,000 to the Jewish National Fund.

Others on the Chronicle’s list have established track records with certain Jewish charities.

Blavatnik, who came in at No. 6, sits on the board of Tel Aviv University, the Center for Jewish History and the 92nd Street Y. Richard Friedman, the head of Goldman Sachs Merchant Banking Division who ranked No. 49 with $20 million in donations, is a board member of the Central Synagogue in New York.

The biggest question may be whether the youngest person ever to appear on the list, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, will become a giver to Jewish causes.

Zuckerberg came in at a tie for No. 10 with Ackman, having made his first significant charitable donation in 2010 with a $100 million gift to his Startup: Education foundation, which will go to help the struggling school system in Newark, N.J., a non-Jewish cause.

The following is the list of Jews who appear on the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s Philanthropy 50 top givers of 2010, along with their rank on the list and their total philanthropic contributions in 2010.

•  1. George Soros, $332 million
•  2. Michael R. Bloomberg, $279.2 million
•  4. Irwin M. and Joan K. Jacobs, $119.5 million
•  5. Eli and Edythe L. Broad, $118.3 million
•  6. Leonard Blavatnik, $117.2 million
•  9. Meyer and Renee Luskin, $100.5 million
•  10. Marc R. and Lynne Benioff, $100 million
•  10. Mark Zuckerberg, $100 million
•  17. William A. and Karen Ackman, $59.3 million
•  18. Charles E. Kaufman, $53.3 million
•  24. Lawrence J. Ellison, $45.1 million
•  25. Lee G. and Jane H. Seidman, $42 million
•  28. Lin Arison, $39 million
•  29. Herman Ostrow, $35 million
•  39: Stephen and Nancy Grand, $28.1 million
•  40. David M. Rubenstein, $26.6 million
•  41. Paul and Daisy M. Soros, $25 million
•  49. Iris Cantor, $20 million
•  49. Richard A. and Susan P. Friedman, $20 million

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