Wednesday, December 17th, 2008
The crisis now unfolding in philanthropy can be seen as nothing less than a volcano eruption that will cause both immediate and long-term destruction to the cause of promoting Jewish identity and continuity.
For proof look no further than the case of the Robert I. Lappin Charitable Foundation, which shut down operations this week as a direct result of the unfolding Madoff scandal, and says so on its Web site (which may well be taken offline before you read this). According to its mission statement, the foundation’s programing was aimed at:
• Providing a variety of programs for children, teens, parents, and others, which:
° Enhance Jewish pride
° Convey the beauty, joy, and fun of being Jewish and the richness of our Jewish heritage
° Develop a connection to and love of Israel
° Instill a feeling of being a member of the Jewish family, a great and unique people
° Connect Jews from one generation to the next—l’dor va-dor
° Imbue our children with the desire to stay Jewish and marry Jewish
I don’t know the scale of this particular foundation’s work, but it’s fair to say this is only the tip of the iceberg. The recession has already wrecked the landscape for non-emergency, non-medical philanthropy. Whatever dollars donors have left to give will surely be more focused now on responding to crises and funding research. Yeshiva dinners and educational fundraising events will suffer this year as never before and possibly over the next several years. And how many programs will be dropped or kids forced to leave yeshivot day schools and camps before then?
Funding for Jewish continuity was an uphill battle even in better economic times. There is good reason for concern that this may be a crippling, even lethal blow.