I am doing some research on the giving habits of various religions and population groups. This information will be helpful in my giving the Kol Nidre Appeal for my synagogue this year. Unfortunately, the level of giving in my synagogue is dismal and I want to try and educate our congregation (800 families) as to where we stand versus other religions.
The Aish Rabbi Replies:
Jewish charitable giving is something that Jews take for granted. Back from the time that Abraham welcomed the strangers into his tent (Genesis ch. 18), charity has been a foundation of Jewish life. Based on Leviticus 25:35, Maimonides lists charity as one of the 613 mitzvahs.
Here are some sources I was able to locate:
Studies conducted in 1986 and 1988 found that a higher percentage of Jews, regardless of their socioeconomic background, give to charities more so than non-Jews. (see: M. Rappeport and G. Tobin, A population Study of the Jewish Community of MetroWest New Jersey; V.A. Hodgkinson and M.S. Witzman, Giving and Volunteering in the United States: Finding from a National Survey Conducted by the Gallup Organization)
According to a 1951 report on American philanthropy, "Jews, who constitute less than 4 percent of the total population, undertake campaigns for their welfare funds which exceed the totals raised by all the non-Jewish Community Chests in the country." (Maurice J. Karpf, "Jewish Social Service and Its Impact upon Western Civilization")
Today there are many Jewish billionaires who give generously to charity. Unfortunately, the vast majority of that money goes to non-Jewish causes: universities, hospitals, libraries, etc. While these are certainly worthwhile charities, in the meantime Jewish educational programs are struggling to survive, and as a result many young Jews are missing out on a proper Jewish education.
Perhaps you could emphasize the need to take care of our own communal needs first, and with that the Jewish people can get a real boost toward fulfilling its role of tikkun olam and serving as a light unto the nations!