Jewish Charities Fare Well; UJA Places Sixth, Survey Says

Giving to Jewish charities remains strong despite a drop in overall giving to human services, according to a newly released annual survey by The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

The giant of them all, the United Jewish Appeal, holds sixth place among the top 400 U.S. charities in the United States, despite a decline in reported income from 1994 to 1995.

UJA, which ranked fourth the year before, runs behind only such lions as the Salvation Army, the American Red Cross and the American Cancer Society.

Sixteen local Jewish federations made the 1995 top-400 list, along with Hadassah, the Anti-Defamation League and other Jewish non-profit organizations.

This is good news, according to Gary Tobin, a Jewish philanthropy expert and director of the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University.

“That there are so many Jewish philanthropies in the top 400, given the 2 percent [Jewish] population, is always a remarkable story in and of itself,” he said.

The survey found:

Overall charitable giving in the nation was up 5 percent, enough to make a difference with an inflation rate of 2.8 percent.

The 138 colleges and universities on the list were the largest beneficiary group as a whole.

Community foundations saw the biggest rise in income, more than 93 percent.

Museums and libraries saw a 25 percent income increase over the previous year, while educational and public broadcasting groups saw a rise of 17 percent.

Public affairs groups experienced the biggest drop of 8.2 percent.

Indeed, donations to human service and international organizations fared relatively poorly, declining 5.3 percent and 2.2 percent, respectively.

In this context, Jewish federations held their own.

Debra Blum, senior writer for The Chronicle of Philanthropy, said in a telephone interview that UJA and the 16 federations on the list showed virtually no change in their “aggregate,” or total income, from 1994 to 1995.

But the Chronicle’s inclusion of the incomes of UJA and the federations on the same list is misleading.

In concert with UJA, local federations run the central annual Jewish fund- raising campaign. Federations keep some money at home for local service programs and allocate the rest to UJA for Israel and other overseas programs.

Federations report on their tax forms their total fund-raising income, and then allocate part of it to UJA. UJA in turn includes those federation dollars as income reported on their own tax forms.

This is all perfectly legal. But the Chronicle’s survey, which relied on these tax forms for their data, has the effect of inflating some Jewish charitable dollars and underestimating others.

For Don Kent, the associate executive director of development at the Council for Jewish Federations, the survey is confusing and does not do justice to actual Jewish giving.

It “does not reflect the full fund-raising achievement because it is inconsistent,” he said.

In particular, Kent pointed out that roughly half of the 16 federations on the list have some or all of their endowment funds in separate corporations, which are not included in the tax forms from which the survey data were drawn. He called the endowment funds “the fastest-growing part of federation income.”

The survey, he said, is therefore reporting “a false low.” For its part, UJA reported a 9.3 percent decline from 1994 to 1995, when total income declined from $382 million to $346.7 million.

But as with last year’s reporting, which saw a 6 percent drop from 1993 to 1994, UJA officials said the figure reflects the drop-off in receipts at the conclusion of the special five-year $900,000 Exodus campaign to resettle refugees.

And an upward trend is already apparent, said Gerald Nagel, UJA spokesman. The 1996 campaign, which is not accounted for in the survey, rose from $346 million to $359 million, while the 1997 campaign, begun in June, already shows an increase, he said.

For his part, Tobin was optimistic. “The federations are going through a fundamental reassessment and if they hold their own over the next five years, they will come out much stronger.”

“If they don’t go up significantly while they are repositioning themselves, it is not a terrible story,” he said. “They’ll have to seize issues that matter most to Jews” who show that they still have a “tremendous interest in Israel and in building Jewish communities and education here.”

At the same time, Tobin was keen to emphasize the importance of the annual campaign as a vehicle for people “to participate in the culture of annual giving and a way of touching their Jewish identity.”

The survey intended to show how successful charities are in attracting private dollars and do not reflect public money that may be provided.

The top federations on the list and their rankings in 1995 compared with 1994 were:

New York: 29 (down from 25)

Chicago: 65 (up from 73)

Detroit: 148 (up from 216)

Boston: 166 (down from 159)

Pittsburgh: 172 (up from 243)

Los Angeles: 177 (down from 151)

Cleveland: 189 (down from 142)

Philadelphia: 213 (down from 167)

San Francisco: 227 (down from 225)

Baltimore: 249 (up from 255)

Miami: 291 (up from 332)

Atlanta: 327 (up from 362)

Metro West, N.J.: 328 (down from 286)

Milwaukee: 336 (on the list for the first time)

West Palm Beach, Fla.: 350 (down from 307)

Washington: 351 (down from 333)

Other Jewish non-profits on the top-400 list included:

The Jewish Communal Fund in New York: 96 (down from 93)

Hadassah: 120 (down from 114)

Yeshiva University: 193 (down from 104)

The Anti-Defamation League: 194 (down from 177)

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum: 201 (down from 157)

Jewish National Fund: 258 (down from 251)

The Jewish Theological Seminary of New York made the list for the first time at 287.

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