(JTA) — Jews made up nearly half of America’s biggest philanthropic donors last year, according to a calculation by Forbes of who gave the most money away in 2022.
In a year that saw their fortunes take a hit amid declines in the stock market, America’s 25 “most generous givers” donated a collective $27 billion, up from $20 billion in 2021, for a lifetime total of $196 billion, according to Forbes. They included 12 billionaires with Jewish backgrounds — a dramatic overrepresentation when compared to the proportion of Jews in the overall U.S. population.
The Jews on the list include financier George Soros, who gave away at least $300 million to racial justice and humanitarian work in Ukraine and other causes; businessman and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg with $1.7 billion in donations to charter schools, clean energy, and fighting heart disease; and Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, whose charity donated more than $900 million, with much of the money going to fund research into artificial intelligence and genomics at universities.
One thing that stands out about these Jewish philanthropists is that almost none focuses giving on the Jewish community. Only Lynn and Stacy Schusterman of the Tulsa oil dynasty, who are paired together on the list, are prominent donors to Jewish causes.
To be sure, many, if not all of the others have given at least small amounts to Jewish charities. In 2021, for example, Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, announced $1.3 million in gifts to 11 Jewish groups; last year they distributed more than $900 million in total, according to Forbes. Meanwhile, former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and his wife, Connie, have donated at least $1 million to the Jewish National Fund; they gave away more than $800 million last year. And Michael Dell, the founder of the Dell computing company, donated the land for a Jewish community center in his home of Austin, Texas, and supported a recent renovation.
But only the Schustermans, who donated $370 million last year, have prioritized Jewish giving with hundreds of millions of dollars over their decades of involvement in the Jewish communal world.
It’s hard to make comparisons to the past and say whether Jews at the apex of philanthropy ever tended to focus on Jewish causes because the level of wealth today is almost unprecedented, according to Andrés Spokoiny, the president and CEO of the Jewish Funders Network.
“Historically, individuals, except for during the Gilded Age, perhaps, didn’t amass these types of fortunes, and there weren’t many Jews at this economic caliber,” Spokoiny said.
As to why many of the philanthropists don’t dedicate themselves to the Jewish community, Spokoiny offered three explanations. One is, simply, assimilation. “They don’t necessarily have a strong Jewish upbringing or Jewishness does not play a major role in their lives, and in that way they are not different from the rest of us,” Spokoiny said.
Another reason is that, given their immense resources, some prefer to tackle massive global issues such as climate change or pandemics. And lastly, Spokoiny said, some philanthropists think that being associated with Jewish causes might not fit with their political aspirations or personal brand.
Mark Charendoff, who ran the Jewish Funders Network before Spokoiny, is now president of the Maimonides Fund, which has emerged as a major Jewish charity in recent years. He echoed some of the same explanations as Spokoiny. He also said that in past generations, wealthy Jews who wished to enter philanthropy didn’t always have the option of donating outside the Jewish community.
“Universities, hospitals, symphonies weren’t always excited about having Jewish donors, particularly active ones,” Charendoff said. “Now you would be hard-pressed to find a not-for-profit that isn’t eager for Jewish representation.”
Successful fundraising by Jewish recipients in what Charendoff calls the “more competitive landscape” of today will require long-term investments in fostering Jewish identity, he said.
“If we want the biggest philanthropists to give more Jewishly then we need to invest more in Jewish education and engagement for all Jews,” he said.
Here are the philanthropists with Jewish roots who made Forbes’ “America’s Most Generous Givers” list.
George Soros: +$300 million in 2022
Michael Bloomberg: +$1.7 billion
Jim & Marilyn Simons: +$1.9 billion
Mark Zuckerberg & Priscilla Chan: +$900 million
Edythe Broad & family: +$340 million
Steve & Connie Ballmer: +$800 million
Sergey Brin: Newcomer to the list
Lynn & Stacy Schusterman: +$370 million
Michael & Susan Dell: +$177 million
Donald Bren: +$470 million
Dustin Moskovitz & Cari Tuna: +$670 million
George Kaiser: +$120 million
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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
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