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Jewish Federations, Institutions Ranked Among Top Philanthropies

A strong economy revved up philanthropic giving last year — and Jewish philanthropies were among the beneficiaries.

Some 27 Jewish organizations made it into the Philanthropy 400, the annual listing of America’s most popular charities, which is compiled by The Chronicle of Philanthropy, a biweekly newspaper of the nonprofit world.

Included are 15 local Jewish community federations, two Jewish defense organizations, two American universities and three “friends” of Israeli universities.

At No. 44, the top Jewish philanthropy on the list is the UJA-Federation of New York, which last year ranked one notch higher at 43.

This year the powerhouse social-service and fund-raising organization brought in just over $156.9 million in private support, and a total income of just under $202.6 million, according to its entry in the Chronicle.

This year’s list, which covers funds raised in 1998, reflects “the best year many fund raisers have seen,” according to the Chronicle. The journal attributes the success to the stock market’s strong performance overall and the beginning effects of what is expected to be the largest intergenerational transfer of wealth in American history.

Bequests provide tax benefits for donors, including a way to protect assets from what is known as the “death tax” on the estates of the wealthy, the Chronicle explains. Citing a Boston College study, it says that charities stand to gain $6 trillion to $25 trillion in bequests over the next 50 years.

Rankings on the 400 list are based on income from private support, which refers to funds raised from individuals, foundations and corporations. A separate entry gives the charity’s total income, which includes investment income and other appreciated property as well as deferred giving arrangements and certain government grants.

To be included on the list, organizations must raise at least $22 million from private sources.

Organizations can get a boost from one or more major individual gifts, which account for the soaring income of some already strong charities, such as the Jewish Communal Fund, a charitable fund, loosely connected with the UJA-Federation of New York, that provides individuals and families with an alternative to establishing their own private foundations.

The fund ranks No. 55 on the current list, with income from private sources of more than $137 million of a total income of more than $168 million, which represents more than $30 million more than was raised in 1997, when the fund came in at No. 69.

“If someone has a particularly good year,” the fund benefits, said Susan Dickman, the communal fund’s executive vice president.

The Chronicle compiles its list from data gathered, in most cases, from informational tax returns and from a survey and annual reports.

Nonprofit organizations employ different means of expressing their annual incomes: Changes in the way Hadassah — the Women’s Zionist Organization of America reported its income in 1998 propelled it to No. 133 from No. 169 the year before.

The organization — which raises funds for health care work in Israel and health, Jewish and Zionist education in the U.S. — in 1998 included endowments, contributing to a $22 million increase — to $74 million — in private support.

Rankings may also vary from year to year also because fund-raising campaigns do not correspond to the calendar year or because they cover multiple years.

This phenomenon explains in part why “friends of” organizations experienced a drop in both rank and income. The American Society for Technion — Israel Institute of Technology went from No. 132 to No. 224, with a decrease of about $20 million in both private and total income.

But the group just completed a three-year campaign ahead of schedule, which at $210 million exceeded its goal of raising between $175 million and $180 million.

American Friends of the Hebrew University — which this year ranked No. 264 — raised $36 million in private income in 1998, down from more than $51 million in 1997.

Adam Kahan, the executive director of the American Friends of Hebrew University, said that because his group does not run an annual campaign, “some years we close a major gift; other years we don’t.”

Because total income also includes income from investments, he added, that figure can fluctuate from year to year.

Jewish organizations appearing on the 1999 list but absent in 1998 are the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington (No. 334), the Jewish Theological Seminary (No. 347), P.E.F. Israel Endowment Funds (No. 351) and the American Jewish Committee (No. 359).

At least one federation official believes the rankings on the Chronicle’s list do not tell the complete story.

A different kind of study could be done of “the vitality of the Jewish community,” said Ted Farber, the executive vice president of the Washington federation, which in 1998 raised close to $28 million in private support out of a total income of more than $32 million.

Farber said he is sure that Washington would top that list.

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