Just as the soaring stock market is experiencing what is being called the “Trump Bump,” a number of Jewish groups and many liberal organizations are also seeing a surge in donations as well as membership and volunteers in response to the Trump administration’s immigration policies, the rise in hate and anti-Semitic attacks and far-right rhetoric.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center’s direct mail campaign, for instance, is running $350,000 to $375,000 ahead of last year. Rabbi Marvin Hier, the organization’s founder and dean, told The Jewish Week that this is only the second time since the group’s founding in 1977 that fundraising is running two months ahead of the prior year.
“It happened only twice before — and that was during the war in Lebanon [in 2006] and during the first intifada” from the late 1980s through the early 1990s, he said.
Rabbi Hier said the Wiesenthal Center has a membership of 400,000 donors. He acknowledged there has been some attrition over the years as older supporters have died. But he said there has been a “small bump in the number of small donors, who are the mainstay of the center.”
He attributed the increase to world events and the “new president.”
“People are frightened,” Rabbi Hier said. “They see what is going on in the world with acts of anti-Semitism and terrorists everywhere in Europe. Look what happened in New York City.”
He was referring to the ISIS-inspired motorist who ran down pedestrians and bicyclists on a West Side Highway bike lane last week, killing eight.
“ People assess it and are nervous,” Rabbi Hier said. “Look what’s happening in Israel with Iran. There is a lot of concern about Israel and making sure it is strong — and that Israel is strong in Congress. I was recently in Europe and you cannot say that in the European parliament everybody is waving the Israeli flag. Jews are nervous and they demand that the Jewish defense organizations confront anti-Semitism and terrorism and speak out for Israel.”
The Anti-Defamation League reported a 10-fold increase in online donations in response to the August white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va. It began with a 1,000 percent increase in online donations during the week beginning Aug. 13, one day after the rally. This year the ADL reported receiving six times as many individual donations as during an average week, most of it from first-time donors.
The ADL reported also receiving $1 million donations from Apple and 21st Century Fox CEO James Murdoch, and JP Morgan Chase announced a $500,000 donation. JP Morgan and Apple also pledged to match donations to the ADL and other nonprofits from employees. In addition, the ADL also announced a partnership with Bumble, a dating app, to block bigoted profiles.
In 2015, ADL raised more than $52 million in contributions and grants, according to its most recently available tax filings. The organization did not provide more recent figures.
The Charlottesville demonstration also provided the impetus to raise money for the Southern Poverty Law Center. Cody Harris, a San Francisco attorney, came up with the idea after learning that a German town countered a neo-Nazi parade in 2014 with a fundraiser to benefit anti-extremist groups. Harris enlisted the help of the Jewish Bar Association of San Francisco, where he is a board member, and within days the campaign exceeded its $150,000 goal.
Another Jewish group that has witnessed growth in the past year because of the policies of the Trump administration is HIAS, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society.
“HIAS has seen an unprecedented level of engagement,” said a spokeswoman for the group, who traced the increased involvement to the September 2015 photo of a 3-year-old Syrian child whose body washed ashore when the boat he was in capsized while fleeing with his family from his war-torn homeland.
“In response to the largest global refugee crisis in recorded history, the American Jewish community has taken an active role in supporting HIAS’ mission to protect and welcome refugees,” said the spokeswoman, who noted that the Trump administration’s executive orders targeting refugees and asylum seekers has prompted “thousands of new donors, volunteers and advocates … to ensure that America remains a welcoming country.
“In the two weeks following the first refugee ban in late January 2017, 42 congregations from 20 states joined the HIAS Welcome Campaign, a national network of local communities who have committed to advocating for, and directly assisting in, refugee resettlement,” she said. “The campaign now has more than 380 members.”
The New York Legal Assistance Group, a UJA-Federation of New York beneficiary agency, reports that since June it has seen a slight increase in volunteer and pro bono calls from lawyers interested in helping with immigration matters, but a spokesperson said it would not have definitive figures until the end of the fiscal year next June.
Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice, an organization dedicated to advocating and organizing for a more just and equal society, reported that its political advocacy arm has taken off since it was founded in 2012. It was established, according to Ava Shapiro, the group’s director of development, because “we saw the GOP had a bigoted and hateful agenda … and the Jewish community cannot stand for such bigoted behavior.”
“When we saw [Donald] Trump rise to the top [in the Republican primaries], we started a campaign called, ‘We’ve seen this before,’” Shapiro said. “In the week after the election, we saw 45,000 new people sign an open letter that said the Jewish community has been and will continue to stand in solidarity with Muslims, immigrants, LGBTQ and any other group targeted by the Trump administration. That resonated with people. …We have seen trends in our growth validating our model — people realizing that we are in a moment that is not normal. People are looking for a place that is willing to speak out boldly and loudly that is authentically rooted in Jewish values.”
Shapiro noted that the organization has nearly 95,000 members – “it basically doubled in the last year” – and that 40 percent of its members increased their gifts this year.
“People realize how important it is to be working in a more overtly political way now. During the last election cycle, we sent hundreds of volunteers to five swing states to knock on doors. Our tag line was, `Jews reject Trump.’ … We are leading the Jewish resistance against the Trump administration.”
A number of Jewish organizations declined to provide information about their fundraising, membership or volunteer assistance. Among them were the American Jewish Committee, J Street, IfNotNow and B’nai B’rith International. In an email, the latter group said it traditionally does “not discuss fundraising methods and outcomes. We respect our donors and supporters who put their faith in us to fight for Israel at the United Nations, to combat global anti-Semitism, to help those in need after a disaster and to advocate for seniors, and we would not share their reasons for giving to us at any given time.”
A liberal organization, the American Civil Liberties Union, reported a record donation of $24 million on the same weekend the president announced that immigrants from six Muslim-majority countries would be temporarily barred from entering the U.S. The organization said it generally raises about $3.5 million annually.
In addition, the ACLU reported quadrupling its membership from 425,000 to 1.6 million in the first four months of the Trump presidency.
And another liberal group, Common Cause, has reportedly seen a 65 percent increase in membership.