When the Chips Are Down, Americans Chip in for Israel

In times of crisis for Israel, the American Jewish community, its own financial constraints notwithstanding, tends to rally behind Israel with whatever money it can find, according to the results of a new study which, as seen this week, is backed up by real-life events.

“Israel is among the strongest motivators for participation in Jewish philanthropy in times of peace and becomes even more compelling for American Jews if they feel that Israel’s security is threatened,” Gary Tobin, director of the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University, says in a statement about his study.

But the study found that the almost reflexive tendency of older American Jews to support Israel cannot be taken for granted among the younger Jews.

“Among these younger, more Americanized Jews, basic good feelings for Israel are present, but building on these feelings and translating them into financial support for Israel can be a greater challenge,” writes Tobin.

In the wake of the Persian Gulf war and the Iraqi SCUD missile attacks on Israel, American Jews have galvanized in support of Israel, holding rallies nationwide, raising cash anew for the embattled Jewish state and besieging the Israeli consulates with calls offering everything from masking tape to help for the army.

A whole new round of money hunting also has begun, with an emergency $100 million campaign for State of Israel Bonds and a move by pledges totaling $400 million. Officials say they are optimistic about the results.

MORE EMPHASIS ON VISITS TO ISRAEL

Tobin’s study, which brought earlier demographic research on American Jewish communities together with personal interviews and new research among Jewish leadership and others, found that despite people’s concern over particular Israeli governmental policies, Israel remains an important part of their lives.

According to the study, “Israel and American Jewish Philanthropy,” which appeared in the “Policy and Planning Papers” published by the Cohen Center, those interviewed said Israel made them feel stronger and prouder as Jews.

The survey found that caring about Israel remains a crucial aspect of American Jewish identity, and that overall, the stronger the tie to Israel, the larger the level of giving to all Jewish philanthropies.

Tobin’s study has isolated a few areas in which emphasis should be placed to increase American Jewish ties to Israel, with the side effect of positively influencing the rate of philanthropic giving.

The study suggests that an emphasis should be placed on visits to Israel as part of the Jewish educational program in the United States to help combat assimilation and strengthen Jewish identity.

In addition, special Israel missions must be expanded to reach a broader audience.

“It is incumbent upon the organized Jewish community to convert latent good feelings about Israel into active philanthropy and involvement,” concludes the study.

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