Study: Synagogue-goers more likely to give to Jewish causes

Orthodox Jews give higher amounts to congregations and Jewish organizations than both Conservative and Reform Jews.

Synagogue prayers (photo credit: Reuters)
Synagogue prayers
(photo credit: Reuters)

Those with stronger ties to the Jewish community are more likely to give to Jewish causes, according to a new report on Jewish philanthropy in the United States that was released on Wednesday.

According to the study, while 62 percent of overall Jewish giving goes to Jewish organizations, Jews who are members of a synagogue or affiliated with a religious movement are significantly more likely to donate to Jewish causes.

“Most giving by American Jewish households comes from synagogue members, and most synagogue members are affiliated with a religious movement,” the report states. “Of all funds donated in 2012 to Jewish organizations, 79% came from synagogue members, even though they constitute just 38% of the adult Jewish population.”
Those belonging to a synagogue donate six times as much to Jewish organizations as do those who are not members, according to the findings.
“Connected to Give: Synagogues and Movements” is the fourth in a series of reports by the philanthropic research center Jumpstart based on data collected during the 2012 National Study of American Jewish Giving.
“It is a fund-raiser’s adage that the first rule of giving is asking,” the report explains. “As incubators for Jewish identity and philanthropy, congregations also are connection points across multiple types of personal networks, including family members, friends and acquaintances, co-workers and professional colleagues, and members of other voluntary organizations, both Jewish and non-Jewish.”
In the study, Jewish connectedness, and thus the likelihood of donating to Jewish causes, was measured through four indicators: family status (exogamy versus endogamy), number of close Jewish friends, synagogue attendance and volunteerism.
The report shows a direct correlation between these factors and donating to Jewish causes.
The Orthodox, according to the study, have a higher level of Jewish social engagement than those who are affiliated with the Conservative movement, who in turn have a higher level of engagement than do members of the Reform movement. This assertion is in line with the results of last year’s Pew Research Center report on North American Jewry, in which the findings indicated that the Orthodox community was growing while the other two major denominations were losing ground.
However, the authors of “Connected to Give: Synagogues and Movements” said, “membership in a congregation is more closely associated with higher rates of giving to Jewish organizations overall than is identification with a religious movement.”
One of the report’s main claims, that “the greater the variety of relationships – familial, professional, and social – within which American Jews are asked to give, the more likely they are to do so, and the more they give,” is well known to those familiar with the work of co-author Steven Cohen, a sociologist at Hebrew Union College and NYU.
“The future of giving depends on Jewish connections.
Those who care about Jewish giving should care about connecting Jews to one another,” Cohen told The Jerusalem Post after the release of the report, which claims that younger Jews are “less likely to give to Jewish organizations.”