This year, along with six other NIF New Generations leaders, I participated in a New Israel Fund Giving Circle. A giving circle is a form of collective philanthropy in which a group of people pool their money to make a larger donation than any of them could make as individuals, while developing relationships and deepening subject knowledge amongst themselves. Giving circles are increasingly popular, including within the Jewish community, exemplified by the presence of the organization Amplifier, which seeks to “strengthen and significantly expand the field of giving circles inspired by Jewish values.” The NIF giving circle was initiated and hosted by Emily Kates, who in 2016 was part of an Incubator fellowship, a training and support program run by Amplifier.
The giving circle began with only a few concrete commitments – meet 5 times; contribute $100-200 each; and donate to a grantee of the New Israel Fund. Generally, participants would expect to learn more about NIF grantees, get to know each other and build community, and make a meaningful and impactful financial contribution to NIF. Otherwise, it was up to the group how to proceed. We began by getting to know each other – basic things first, but then moving onto specific conversations on why we give our money, relationships to Israel, feminism, American and Jewish identities, and current events. We set up group rules, such as making “I” statements, and a ‘yes, fine, or no’ voting system for decision making amongst those present at a session.
The main question and biggest challenge we faced was: Where do we give our money? The New Israel Fund currently has 81 core grantees – organizations in Israel to which they have committed grant money – and we intended to designate our money to one grantee. To reduce this list, we considered various factors – size, subject area, theory of change – and discussed values and criteria important to each of us. Based on these conversations, we each picked our top 1-2 grantees, creating a short list of 9 grantees to more deeply explore.
This short list included grantees focused on the occupation, Palestinian-Israelis, women, Mizrahim (Jews from Arab countries), resource distribution/economic justice, democracy, and freedom of religion. We researched these organizations for information on funders, staff, mission statements, theories of change, and accomplishments. Aliza Schwartz, NIF’s New England Regional Assistant Director, provided additional knowledge – she answered many questions from us, gathered further information from her colleagues, and shared NIF data on budgets and recent projects. Over the course of multiple meetings, we went through an intentional and thought-out process as we reduced this list to 6, then 4, then 2 grantees.
Ultimately, we chose Achoti as the grantee to whom we would designate our total donation. Achoti’s English Facebook page describes itself as follows, “Ahoti Movement was established by Mizrahi feminist activists. … Ahoti’s primary goals are to advance economic development, personal empowerment for women and advancing a multicultural feminism from a unique Mizrahi perspective.” Mizrahi Jews are on average of a lower social and economic status than their Ashkenazi peers in Israel, coming from a history of cultural, economic, and geographic discrimination. Women, as so often happens, are further disempowered within this group. The mission and work of Achoti was powerful to our group – supporting a minority group, supporting women, and supporting grassroots action. Aliza relayed to us that “There seems to be general consensus from within the Mizrachi community that the impact of Achoti is very powerful. The organization is offering opportunities not offered in any other way, and it’s important to the larger justice landscape in Israel.”
The giving circle was a success from both the perspective of the participants and for NIF as a way to develop invested donors. Although I have been a volunteer and donor to NIF for several years already, my understanding of the organization and who it supports was significantly developed throughout this process. At the same time, I was able to make new friends, gain respect for my peers, and forge a new community. For me, learning about the grantees and where my donations to NIF go allow me to build on the deep relationship that I have with Israel – by building a better and just future for the Jewish people in an authentic way – and know that there is a role for me to continue to engage with Israel while being a Jew in the diaspora.
If you are interested in getting involved in or starting your own NIF giving circle, please contact Dalia Krusner at [email protected] or 617-467-5678.
This Boston New Gen giving circle raised $1,190 to go directly to NIF’s grant to Achoti, a Mizrahi feminist organization.
If you are interested in contributing to this giving circle or considering a full or partial match of the funds raised, please click here to make your donation.