Photo Credit: IsraAID
IsraAID helps make sure doctors have a place to treat wounded after a natural disaster.

The first ever survey results on global Jewish service and international development were released at the OLAM Focal Point annual conference in New York to an audience of global Jewish service leaders, international humanitarian organizational leaders and philanthropists, on Tuesday.

The survey was conducted among OLAM’s 48 coalition partners, whose aid, development and humanitarian projects span 69 countries, whose projects benefit three million people with and a combined budget of $125 million dollars.


The results demonstrate wide gaps between Israeli aid organizations and Jewish organizations in the Diaspora in numerous ways which hamper the ability of those involved in global service in the Jewish State.

In the U.S. and UK, more than 97% of the funds of organizations headquartered in those nations are raised locally, and in Australia it is 100%. However, in Israel a mere 3% of the total donations raised by Israeli humanitarian aid and international development organizations came from within the country.

Additionally, while many international Jewish aid organizations are supported by their local governments, or at least have an open door to the portals of power to advocate for their causes, their Israeli counterparts receive little of either.

“With constraints on their ability to raise money at home and abroad, Israeli aid organizations face a more difficult than usual fundraising challenge,” said Dyonna Ginsburg, Executive Director of OLAM. “In many cases, this stymies their impact in the world.”

“The results of this survey tell a story of a young, diverse and growing field. We hope that Israeli and Diaspora Jewish philanthropists alike will take a look at these figures and, inspired by how much is being accomplished despite constraints, step up their support of the crucial work being done by Israeli and Jewish organizations across the globe.”

The survey also points to sources of income, with 44% of total funding provided by Jewish foundations or philanthropists, and that only around a third of applicants for long-term global volunteer projects are accepted, largely because of a lack of funds. The overwhelming majority of volunteers are Jewish (95%) and around two-thirds of the service programs reported having explicit Jewish content, with 70% having a professionally-trained Jewish educator.

The Focal Point conference included the CEO’s of over 40 organizations such as the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), American Jewish World Service, Energiya Global Capital, HIAS (formerly the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society) and AJEEC-NISPED, an Arab-Jewish non-profit based in southern Israel, which is dedicated to strengthening active citizenship through education and economic development. The conference also included leaders and senior figures from UNICEF, United Against Genocide, Office of the Chief Rabbi, Repair the World and major Jewish foundations and organizations.

The attendees participated in sessions such as “How do Jewish communities discuss global challenges in 2017?” and “What does a global Jewish citizen look like?”

The conference honored the first ever winners of the Leonard and Tobee Kaplan Award, given to outstanding young Jewish adults who have demonstrated a dedication to international development and global service. One of the awardees was Hannah Gaventa who works for Tzedek, the UK Jewish community’s response to extreme poverty, who spent 6 months volunteering in Ghana and then volunteered for 1 year as the JDC-Pears Fellow after Typhoon Haiyan.

“For me, global Jewish service means that the Jewish community can have a significant impact in helping to resolve the challenges we face as global citizens,” Gaventa said. “At the heart of Judaism is the idea that we are all responsible for each other. We are all part of the community of the world, interconnected and interdependent, and we have a responsibility to help those in need regardless of race or religion and in whichever way we can.”

The second awardee was Liat Rennert, from Haifa who works with the NALA Foundation, an organization based in Israel which works towards eliminating the root causes of Neglected Tropical Diseases, leading to sustainable poverty reduction, and healthier livelihood.

“To me global Jewish service means the moral obligation to come together and support people in need around the world,” Rennert said. “The ability to see ‘the other’ and relate to his pain, no matter how far or foreign, is the key for committed global service. For me, being a mere bystander is not an option.”

“Volunteering with HIV positive orphans in Ethiopia has opened my eyes to the immense vulnerability of children in some parts of the world. During my months spent at the orphanage I developed a deep commitment for bettering the lives of children who are unable to fend for themselves and whose well-being and safety are so often in jeopardy.”