Over 90 per cent of UK Jews give to charity, with Orthodox and over-60s most generous, report finds

By Simon Rocker, March 22, 2016
JC staff volunteer during last year's Mitzvah Day

JC staff volunteer during last year's Mitzvah Day

Religious Jews are more likely to give to charity than secular Jews according to the most comprehensive report on the community’s philanthropic habits in nearly 20 years.

Most British Jews contribute both to Jewish and general causes, the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR) found.
“The more religious the respondent is, the more money they give in total to charity,” the report says.

“Orthodox and Charedi respondents are the most generous. They are more likely to give a higher proportion of their household income to charity than other denominations.”

Overall, 60 per cent of British Jews give to both general and Jewish charities; 25 per cent choose only non-Jewish charities; eight per cent only Jewish charities: and seven per cent do not donate to charity at all.

JPR executive director Jonathan Boyd - co-author of the report along with its senior research fellow David Graham – commented after Monday’s launch, that the “correlation we find between religiosity and generosity is neither new nor unique to Jews. People who are involved in some form of religious community tend to be more charitable than people who are not.

“This poses some interesting questions both for a society that is becoming increasing secular, and for the Jewish community which is far from being immune to the forces of secularisation.”

Whereas 57 per cent of people in the UK annually give something to charity , the figure for British Jews is much higher at 93 per cent.

But while the report suggests that Jews “probably” donate disproportionately more money to general charities than Britons overall, there is no hard data.

Jews are more likely to favour the arts, overseas aid, the homeless and environmental causes in their general charitable contributions than the UK population as a whole, according to the JPR report. But they are less likely to support animal and sports charities.

One per cent of Jews gave over £25,000 in the year previous to the survey; one per cent from £10,000 to £25,000: eight per cent from £2,001 to £10,000: 18 per cent from £501 to £2,000: 33 per cent from £101 to £500: and 31 per cent under £100.
High income earners – on £110,000 a year or above – were the most generous in giving away the largest proportion of their income.

But age is the most important indicator of generosity: older people donate a bigger slice of their income than younger.
Those over 60 are also more likely to give to Jewish charities than those under 40.

“It is apparent that Jewish charities benefit far more from older Jewish people than they do from younger members of the community,” the report states. “The older people are, the more they give, the more generous they are, the more likely they are to donate to Jewish charities over non-Jewish charities.”

Whereas the majority of givers under 30 – 53 per cent – donate less than half their money to Jewish charities, other age groups donate at least half or more.

While 83 per cent of those who identify as religiously Jewish (as opposed to “somewhat religious”) prioritise Jewish or Israel charities, that falls to just 22 per cent for the secular.

But compared to the 12 per cent of non-practising Jews who did not donate to any charity, less than five per cent of Orthodox or traditional Jews were non-givers.

The 2,300 Jewish charities in the UK have an income £1.1 billion annually according to Charity Commission figures. Around £500 million is voluntary income, made of donations or legacies as opposed to fees for services.

But that figure is an “over-estimate” the report cautions because it does not take account of money transferred from one charity to another which effectively is counted twice – a grant given to a foundation which is passed on to a welfare agency, for instance.

Looking ahead, the authors of “Charitable Giving among Britain’s Jews”, David Graham and Jonathan Boyd suggest that Jewish charities may enjoy an ”income boost” in the immediate future.

This is because the baby-boomer generation – “the wealthiest generation there has ever been” – will be approaching retirement and may have more disposable income. The authors recommend a push by charities to secure legacies from them.

But the longer-term outcome is more uncertain. As the baby-boomers age, they may have to spend more on providing for care in their final years.

Meanwhile, there is a higher proportion of both secular and Charedi among the religiously more diverse younger generation.
“Any communal shift towards secularism would have a greater impact on Jewish charities than it would on giving in general,” the authors say.

While Charedim prioritise Jewish charities more than other religious streams, they are economically less well off. So an expanding Charedi population could reduce the potential charity pot.

“So not only will there be less money to give away, there will also be changing, and probably, increasing need,” Drs Boyd and Graham argue.

The report was based on more detailed analysis of JPR’s National Jewish Community Survey of 2013 which initially reported the following year.

The link between strong Jewish identity and charity giving was acknowledged in responses to the report.

Kate Goldberg, chief executive of one of the major Jewish grant bodies, the Maurice Wohl Charitable Foundation, called for increased investment in Jewish education.

“There is an urgency to improve Jewish education across our schools,” she said. “Without Jewish religious knowledge, our youth have nothing on which to hang their Jewish lives.”

She also urged greater collaboration between charities to reduce costs in the wake of deepening government cuts. “We know the Charedi sector want to run their own services and provision quite separately. But there is no reason that behind the scenes we can’t work together.”

UJIA chief executive Michael Wegier commented that “we note the importance of Jewish identity in influencing Jewish philanthropy to Jewish and Israeli causes and this resonates both with our own experience and with our commitment to continue working in this critical area.”

Simon Morris, chief executive of Jewish Care, said the report was“timely and helpful. It highlights the challenge for the Jewish community if they want organisations like Jewish Care around.”

Noting the level of support among Jews for general charities, he said: “It is right and proper for British Jews to support non-Jewish activities but that needs to be done in the context of ensuring Jewish organisations are sustainable”.

Rabbi Naftali Schiff, Chairman of GIFT said: “The Jewish community is a fantastic model of that which can be achieved through charitable giving. However, we have seen a generational transformation in young people’s approach to charitable giving. Gone are the days where every family has a charity box on their window sill. For communal organisations to continue to thrive, we must instill the value and satisfaction of giving to the next generation. Along with other Jewish values, we can no longer assume that charitable giving is part of their mind-set.”

Simon Johnson, CEO of the Jewish Leadership Council also welcomed the report.

He said: "A number of the points made in the report require careful analysis and can be of great assistance to our members and all Jewish charities. In particular, the conclusions regarding the factors that cause people to give will present plenty of guidance for charities as we plan for sustainable services in the future”

Last updated: 5:43pm, March 22 2016