Culture Institutions

Study: Most Jewish charitable giving goes to Jewish groups

Magen David star glass painting at a synagogue.
Magen David star glass painting at a synagogue.

Photo courtesy of york777 /

Magen David star glass painting at a synagogue.

WASHINGTON (RNS) Amid lingering concern that American Jews are disconnecting from Jewish institutions, a new report shows that most Jewish charitable giving goes to organizations with Jewish ties.

“No matter what you’ve heard, Jews still primarily donate to Jewish causes,” said Shawn Landres, a co-author of the “Connected to Give: Synagogues and Movements” report, which was sponsored by a coalition of Jewish philanthropic organizations.

“It’s striking that even beyond congregations, Jewish households give just as much to Jewish nonprofits as to non-Jewish ones,” said Landres, who called the report the first to document where Jewish charitable dollars go.

Nearly two-thirds (62 percent) of dollars donated by American Jews goes to Jewish institutions. Breaking down the total: 23 percent goes to congregations, 39 percent goes to Jewish nonprofits, and 39 percent goes to other nonprofits. (Due to rounding, the total does not add up to 100 percent.) 

Jewish Americans give a much smaller proportion of their total giving to congregations (23 percent) than do Americans in general (41 percent). But American Jews give a slightly higher portion to Jewish-related nonprofits (39 percent) than Americans in general give to religiously oriented nonprofits (32 percent.)

Jews affiliated with the Orthodox, Conservative and Reform movements of Judaism all give at similar rates, and synagogue membership is a better indicator of higher rates of giving to Jewish organizations than is affiliation with a particular movement, the study found.

Though synagogue members represent a minority of adult American Jews (38 percent), they are responsible for 79 percent of all dollars donated to Jewish organizations.

The report is based on the National Studies of American Jewish Giving and American Religious Giving, which polled 2,911 Jewish American households and 1,951 non-Jewish households in early 2013. The margin of error for the percentage of Americans who give is plus or minus 3 percentage points.


About the author

Lauren Markoe

Lauren Markoe has been a national reporter for RNS since 2011. Previously she covered government and politics as a daily reporter at the Charlotte Observer and The State (Columbia, S.C.)


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  • More evidence that religion is little more than tribalism with money.
    What a waste.
    These ancient beliefs in Gods and demons need to go.

  • Is it any different with Jewish charities than with Catholic charities or those of any other religious group? “The Lord loves a faithful giver.” As long as that giver is dropping shekels in the plates or baskets of her/his own religious home.