Who really gives?

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10 Responses

  1. SM says:

    Community is a incredibly powerful force and I suspect that is so whatever its motivation. I think you could add to your list of reasons the fact that people who are attached to a community have experience of things being done for them by others. Who hasn’t had a Shabbat meal delivered at some stage? So the urge to reciprocate is there. Also – these people tend to be your friends and as a consequence you have a large group of people you can trust. I suspect that outsiders who lack that experience tend to excuse themselves from giving by making reference to the perceived untrustworthiness of either the charity or the ultimate recipients.
    I would be interested to see, amongst the non-givers, what percentage of their giving went to school/college/regiment benevolent fund etc. All of those causes replicate the community which we take for granted.
    And finally, whilst I agree that actions count – that includes allowing people to do their own thing and not being overly prescriptive. Charity can’t ever become a way of buying behaviour. True charity includes granitng people the freedom not to give.

  2. Jewish Observer says:

    “WHY ARE religious people more generous”

    – maybe it’s generous people that are more religious

  3. GB says:

    I can’t speak for the general liberal/Democrat non-Jewish population, but amongst the very liberal, affluent Jewish/Democrat population in which I was raised, the amount of money given to charitable causes was staggering and generous beyond belief. Reform and Conservative Judaism subscribes heavily to the “tikkun olam” concept; it is their raison d’etre (at the expense of Jewish ritual observance). I believe that non-observant Jews are every bit as generous as Orthodox Jews, however misdirected and inappropriate the causes they choose to support. If only these same do-gooders could be convinced to give their well-intentioned donations to Jewish education, they’d be less focused on saving whales and Palestinian terrorists and more concerned with saving and insuring the survival of the next generation of ever-assimilating Jews.

  4. DMZ says:

    “True charity includes granitng people the freedom not to give.”

    Yes, and some day schools need to learn this lesson. But at the same time, it’s entirely appropriate to laud people who do give more than those who don’t.

  5. Shalhevet says:

    To GB:
    When I mention to non-Orthodox Jews, of any affiliation, the fact that I give over 10% of my income to charity, as a matter of course (it’s a commandment in the Torah), the reaction is always shock and – how can you do that? Somehow, it doesn’t seem to me to be the way of most people. This article is discussing percentage of income given, not actual dollars.

  6. hp says:

    “I believe that non-observant Jews are every bit as generous as Orthodox Jews”

    I don’t see Orthodox giving as any reason for self-congratulations- we don’t consider ourselves special for giving charity; it is part and parcel of the fabric of our lives.

    However, the Conservative, affluent, and very liberal people that I interact with think giving 10% is simply lunatic. It’s nice to hear of a non-observant community with different giving habits, but I do not think it’s the norm by any stretch.

  7. Charles B. Hall says:

    This report seems to support conclusions opposite to that of Rabbi Rosenblum:


    When the District of Columbia is included, 9 of the top 10 voted for Kerry; 8 of the bottom 10 voted for Bush. The methodology apparently differs from that cited in Rabbi Rosenblum’s report by adjusting for cost of living, including tax burden.

    I’m not a demographer; I’m a statistician. But I would hesitate before making generalizations based on either report, as Rabbi Rosenblum and some commenters are doing.

  8. katrina says:

    What motivates someone to give charity may not always be noble and pure. Charity could be a way of “buying” a place in heaven or for lessening one’s “punishment”. Charity can be given in order to feel good about oneself or to prove one’s “moral superiority”. It can be a way of creating an appearence of “goodness” thus deflecting any criticisms;like in a court of law one could say, “see how much I give to charity, I can’t possibly be a murderer and a thief!”. Charity can be condescending and an insult to the recipient. The giver is in a “one up” position from the receiver”. It can make the giver feel important. It can make the giver feel kind. Sometimes charity can just be a way for someone to feel useful-which is fine, but it is still self satisfying.
    The highest form of charity is the anonymous kind in which the giver takes no credit. The fact that any group trumpets and brags about their charity makes the charity itself into an ego trip. “See, I’m a child of light and yer not “nyaa nyaa!”. Charitable but certainly not humble.
    Can charity itself be taken as “proof” that capitalism is better than communism? And who cares anyway? Neither of these things are Judaism. I’m all for giving. Better to give tzdakka than not to. I just wouldn’t get all puffed up about it.

  9. Jonathon Ament says:

    As a follow-up to Charles B. Hall comment on stats:

    I’ve been heavily involved in work on the NJPS and for the most part JR’s allegations do not withstand stronger scrutiny.

    It is true that Jews who identify as “secular” or “just Jewish” are on average much less likely to volunteer overall than Jews who identify with a particular Jewish denomination.

    But Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist and Orthodox Jews all score about the same (roughly 50%) in terms of overall volunteerism rates. The main difference is that virtually no Orthodox (4%) volunteer for a non-Jewish organization, while anywhere from 30% to about 50% of the other denomination volunteer totals are efforts for a non-Jewish organization.

    It is true, as JR notes, that attending religious services is strongly correlated with volunteer rates. But this only holds true for volunteerism in the Jewish community, not volunteerism in general (in fact, there’s a negative correlation with the latter).

    Second, on the philanthropy piece:

    Again, Jews who call themselves “secular” or “Just Jewish” are much, much less likely to be philanthropic than other Jews.

    But once again, there’s very little difference between Reform, Conservative and Orthodox Jews in terms of giving to a Jewish organization (whether Federation or some other kind of more direct or parochial institution).

    The difference is that Conservative Jews are somewhat more likely than others to give to Federation, while the Orthodox are somewhat more likely than others to give to other Jewish organizations (presumably Orthodox on the whole–NJPS did not ask, although it’s probably an accurate assumption).

    Interestingly, Orthodox Jews are about as likely as “secular” Jews or those who call themselves “just Jewish” to give to a non-Jewish cause (a little over 50%). Conservative and Reform Jews are even more likely to do so (about 75%).

    None of these figures (except perhaps the previous paragraph) should be too shocking. Since Orthodox Jews often define their world or community as the world of Orthodox Jewry (or perhaps even a subworld within the “broader” frum world), it’s not surprising that they would devote the majority of their volunteer and philanthropic efforts to that parochial sphere.

    Jews of another denominations have more diversified interests, so that should be–and is–reflected in their volunteer and philanthropic efforts.

  1. October 2, 2007

    […] Religion is not the opposite of reason. One can be religious and rational, and one can (more likely) be atheist and irrational. It is, of course, irrational to believe, as Dawkins does, that the non-religious are more charitable than the religious. Despite all evidence to the contrary, Dawkins believes that the non-religious are more charitable, based on the idea that the non-religious don’t care. This is highly irrational, and it shows that Dawkins’ beliefs are not based on fact or logic. If you don’t know why Einstein believes a certain thing, maybe the problem is on your end. But Dawkins would choose to believe that Einstein is illogical. […]

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