November 2, 2006
‘Top 400’ misses full picture of Jewish philanthropic giving
(Page 2 - Previous Page)"There is value in brand identity on the local level," he said. "In case of New York and Chicago, they are among the most prominent charities in the U.S., period."
The 72nd-ranked UJA-Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York raised nearly $197 million and the 141st-ranked Jewish Federation/Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago took in more than $111 million.
But that arrangement helps skew the landscape of Jewish giving, Tobin said.
"You have this huge network of federations operating year in and year out through regular and special and emergency campaigns and building and philanthropic funds. It is a huge enterprise, and it doesn't show up on this list," Tobin said.
Another issue in using the list is that religious groups are not required to file 990 forms. So while some religious groups are included on the list because they submitted information to the Chronicle, according to the report, they are not well represented in general.
Tobin noted that excludes some significant Jewish groups, including the vast network of Chabad-Lubavitch. The Chabad-run Federation of Jewish Communities of the CIS, which supports Jewish life in the former Soviet Union, made the list at No. 383 after taking in almost $40 million. But that money is just a fraction of the money that Chabad outposts around the world raise.
Though the outposts do not generally funnel money back to Chabad headquarters in Brooklyn, worldwide they are collectively raising more than $1 billion, according to Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky, the chairman of Chabad's educational and social service arms.
The Chronicle reported a 24.2 percent increase in religious giving in 2005. That does not include money that the federation system took in; rather it reflects gifts to organizations that "are focused on spreading the religious message," Hall said.
But this definition is at odds with many Jews' definition of religious giving, Tobin said. For many secular Jews, giving to a federation or to an Israeli institution, such as the Technion or Weizmann institutes -- both of which made the list -- is religious giving.
In the end, though, even if the Philanthropy 400 raises some serious questions, it is still worth its mettle, Tobin said. "It is a flawed document, but it's all we've got, and it is the best research on the philanthropic landscape that we have," he said.
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