It’s hard to remember a “good year” in Jewish philanthropy, because needs always seem to outstrip even the most abundant resources. But this past year surely has been one of the most trying in recent memory. The global recession and the collapse of Bernard Madoff’s financial investments delivered a one-two punch with enough strength and velocity to leave the community battered and stunned.
Rather than dwell on the tribulations of the past, the Forward asked a few people for their ideas on the future of Jewish philanthropy. After all, it’s a very Jewish impulse to believe that a time of chaos and loss can somehow be redeemed with new energy and direction. But the truth is, even if the economy hadn’t collapsed, even if donations hadn’t shrunk, philanthropy would have to change to meet emerging needs and the predilections of younger Jews who live and give differently than their elders.
We hope these essays will prompt a broader conversation on not just how we give, but why, and for whom, and for what purpose, to reimagine giving as both an obligation and a joy.