Jewish philanthropies didn't raise much more money last year than they did the previous year, but the American Jewish community remains numerically over-represented among America's top charities, an examination of a recent ranking of philanthropies demonstrates.
Of the 400 top charities included in The Chronicle of Philanthropy's annual "Philanthropy 400" list, a just-released who's who of American nonprofits, some 26 were Jewish.
"The Jewish community raises a lot of money. Its philanthropic system is pretty strong," said Gary Tobin, director of the Institute for Jewish & Community Research.
If Jews make up 2.5 percent of the population, he said, "there should be no more than 10 Jewish organizations on this list."
At the same time, Jewish groups that made the list did not see the same boost in giving in 2004 that general philanthropies did.
The Jewish groups appearing on this year's list, which looks at fundraising in fiscal year 2004, raised more than $2 billion, about the same as in 2003. Two more Jewish groups appear on this year's list than on last year's -- although this number is still two fewer than the 28 that made the list for fiscal year 2002.
Observers say this year's rankings don't offer a significantly different picture of the American Jewish philanthropic world than last year's did.
"I think there's no good news and no bad news here," Tobin said.
The United Jewish Communities (UJC), the umbrella organization of Jewish federations, held on to its ranking as the top Jewish charity this year, having raised $251.9 million. The UJC finished 42nd overall, a drop in ranking from the 25th spot last year, as its fundraising went down by 26.9 percent.
The decline, UJC officials say, can be attributed to the fact that in 2003 the group was running its Israel Emergency Campaign, which brought in a large sum of money.
Although the UJC figures provided to the Chronicle of Philanthropy did not include money raised by local federations, some of the money reported did include funds from those federations and, therefore, essentially was double-counted. The UJC said that the total campaign of the federations raised $850-$860 million.
The other top Jewish groups are:
• The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, which dropped from 54th place to 60th, although it raised 7.8 percent more private money;
• The Jewish Communal Fund, the New York group that manages the philanthropic funds of individuals and families, which finished in the 82nd spot, up from 103rd last year with a fundraising increase of 29.8 percent;
• The UJA-Federation of New York, which raised 1.4 percent less money in 2004 and went from the 74th spot in 2003 to 83rd this year; and
• The Jewish Federation/Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago, which landed this year in the 133rd slot, down from 86th, with a drop of 23.8 percent in funds raised.
Eleven other Jewish federations made the top 400 as well.
The American arm of the Federation of Jewish Communities of the CIS, a Chabad-led group working to revitalize Jewish life in the former Soviet Union, made the list this year for the first time, ranking 391 and raising $35.8 million.
"We have been working and developing our U.S. office in the last four years and many prominent Jewish philanthropists have come to recognize the mainstream work that we are doing for Jews across the former Soviet Union," said Rabbi Avraham Berkowitz, executive director of the federation in Moscow.
Over the past year, Berkowitz said, the federation has constructed $25 million worth of buildings.
Several Israel-related organizations made the list this year, including Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America, which was ranked 183; the P.E.F. Israel Endowment Funds, which directs the distribution of funds to charitable organizations in Israel, at 229; the American Society for Technion-Israel Institute of Technology at 247; and the American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science at 263.
On the whole, donations to American philanthropies shot up by 11.6 percent in 2004, the Chronicle said. That increase dwarfs the 2.3 percent increase between 2002 and 2003. The first part of this decade, they say, proved tough for many charities hit hard by the post-Sept. 11 economic downturn.
"Philanthropy in general had a banner year," said Heather Joslyn, a senior editor at the Chronicle. "The economy is recovering, and the stock market has been recovering compared to two to three years ago. That's a big thing. This is definitely good news."
United Way of America was No. 1 in the overall rankings this year. Its 1,350 United Way groups raised $3.9 billion, up 0.4 percent from 2003. Next in line at No. 2 was the Salvation Army, down from the No. 1 spot last year, followed by Feed the Children, up from the ninth position last year.
For the first time since the survey's inception, the American Red Cross did not finish in the top 10, although it is expected to appear among the first 10 next year, when it will report some $532 million raised for Asian tsunami relief.
While the Chronicle list shows no commensurate leap in Jewish philanthropies, Mark Charendoff, president of the Jewish Funders Network, said the list doesn't capture the full picture of Jewish giving. A large part of that giving, he said, goes to synagogues, day schools, Jewish community centers and even non-Jewish groups like the United Way.
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