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Jewish donors top Forbes Magazine's ‘Most Charitable Donors in 2022’ list

Facebook Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg addresses the audience at a forum hosted by Georgetown University's Institute of Politics and Public Service (GU Politics) and the McCourt School of Public Policy in Washington, DC, Oct. 17, 2019. (Photo: REUTERS/Carlos Jasso)

Forbes Magazine’s top 25 donors in the United States in 2022, a list released this week, included 12 individuals from a Jewish background, though their recipients are mostly do not represent Jewish causes or organizations.

Only Lynn and Stacy Schusterman, wife and daughter of late oil billionaire Charles Schusterman, prioritized giving to the Jewish community. Other Jewish donors on the list gave only a small percentage of their total donations to Jewish charities or causes. 

The total lifetime giving for those on the list was $196 billion and, despite an economic downturn nationally, Forbes’ top 25 donors gave more money collectively last year than in 2021, $27 billion up from $20 billion.

Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, gave $1.3 million to Jewish groups last year, out of $900 million total in donations.

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and his wife Connie gave around $1 million to the Jewish National Fund, out of about $800 million total. 

Andrés Spokoiny, president and CEO of Jewish Funders Network, provided several explanations for the donors’ lack of focus on Jewish causes. 

“One reason is assimilation. Many of these donors did not necessarily have a strong Jewish upbringing or Jewishness does not play a major role in their lives,” Spokoiny said. 

He stated that some donors prefer to focus on global issues, recognizing the larger impact their wealth can make on issues of concern, such as pandemics, disease or climate change. According to the website eJewish Philanthropy, “impact investing” was a growing component of Jewish philanthropy in 2022 .

A second reason, according to Spokoiny, is that some Jewish donors do not see a match between their political interests or personal brand and Jewish causes. 

Maimonides Fund President Mark Charendoff said that, in the past, wealthy Jews did not always have the option of donating outside the Jewish community, but that long-term investments in growing a Jewish identity would be necessary to guarantee philanthropy toward Jewish causes. 

“If we want the biggest philanthropists to give more Jewishly then we need to invest more in Jewish education and engagement for all Jews,” he said.

The Birthright Foundation, a not-for-profit education organization that sponsors free heritage trips for young Jewish adults, reported a drop in funding last year. The announcement followed a decision by the Adelson family, one of Birthright’s largest donors, to reduce their annual funding to the organization. The Adelsons stated that they wished to see other donors take ownership of the foundation. 

“We are creating space for others to commit, to re-commit or to increase their commitment,” Miriam Adelson said, addressing a Birthright board meeting in November. “Birthright is not an Adelson family investment. It is an investment in us all, in our collective, communal future.”

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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