Where’s the celeb love for Jewish charities?


Since the New York Times Magazine ran Natalie Portman’s mug on the cover of its money issue in March, which featured a story about celebrity influence on giving, it seems that the charitable world has gone a bit TMZ.

The phenomenon is legit enough that the Chronicle of Philanthropy held an interesting online panel discussion this week about celebrity involvement in charity.

That discussion turned me onto Looktothestars.com, a comprehensive Web site that provides daily updates about celebrities and their giving.

For the Jewish philanthropy-phile, it’s definitely worth a perusing.

The site has two pieces about Natalie Portman’s involvement with the micro-loan group FINCA, including a Q&A.

Did you know:

  • Adam Sandler donated 400 Playstations to Israeli families that were victims of the 2006 Israel-Lebanon war.
  • Goldie Hawn, Michael Douglas and Bill Clinton support the Jewish National Fund.
  • And Don Cheadle, who is not Jewish, is a supporter of Jewish World Watch, an organization that “works to mobilize synagogues, their schools, their members and the community to combat genocide and other egregious violations of human rights around the world through education, advocacy, and refugee relief,” according to its Web site.

Jewish celebrities have historically been involved in high-profile philanthropy, from the Jew who runs the world’s most famous telethon, Jerry Lewis, to Paul Newman, who is now giving away to charity all of the assets from his Newman’s Own line of food products.

A bevy of Jewish celebs show up on the site’s database of stars who notably give to charity. The database includes a listing of each of their causes.

But are Jewish charities missing the star-studded cruise?

Looktothestars also has a searchable database of charities that have been able to sign on celebrity sponsors, and aside from the JNF, Jewish World Watch and several foundations started by Jewish celebrities, few overtly Jewish causes show up on the list.

I know that there are some Jewish charities that have been able to enlist Jewish b-list celebs, older celebs and entertainment industry execs, but there seems to be a specific dearth of young Jewish gliterati involved in the old-school Jewish charity world.

There have been attempts to court them.

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and Gen-D, a young leadership program, drew several celebs to a fund raiser in L.A. to help Cuban Jewry earlier this month. That event attracted Mischa Barton and Nikky Hilton (pictured above at the event).

And there have been strong whispers that the Joint and the UJA-Federation of New York have been courting Portman to help them with their non-sectarian causes in Africa.

For a society that is voraciously interested in the Hollywood elite, and that is trending towards emulating their behavioral patterns – good and bad – it is safe to say that celebrity involvement in a charity can help its fund-raising effort.

Maybe it’s not shocking that old-time organizations, like the Jewish federations, the Joint, the Jewish Agency and the ADL, are absent from Looktothestars. But not even the trendier stars of the J-philanthropy scene, such as Hazon and the American Jewish World Service, show up.

What gives? Or, more appropriately, who gives?

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