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Will the Giving Pledge affect Jewish causes?

Jews on the Giving Pledge list: How have they given ‘Jewish’?

This is what we know so far about the Jewish giving of the Jews who have accepted the Giving Pledge, according to searches of their foundations’ 990 tax forms and media reports:

Michael Bloomberg: Already one of the world’s most generous givers, the mayor of New York City has been ramping up his charity in recent years. His foundation does not yet have 990 forms that show where his money is going, but according to a New York magazine profile he is a major donor to New York’s Jewish Museum.

“Being charitable is an important part of Jewish identity,” Joan Rosenbaum, director of the museum, told the magazine. “And Michael has been an extraordinarily generous supporter of the museum since 1988.”

Eli and Edythe Broad: The Broads, who have made their biggest splashes of late in education and by practically singlehandedly building the art scene in Los Angeles, seem to get a bad rap in the Jewish world. The foundation gives away from $60 million to $400 million in a year, but only about $1 million goes to overtly Jewish causes. Still, its 990 tax forms show a bevy of four- and five-figure gifts to Jewish causes, including the American Jewish Committee, the American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, the Anti-Defamation League, and B’nai B’rith.

In 2006, the largest Jewish gift was a $100,000 grant to Friends of Israel Arts. The same year, the Broads gave more to the United Way than to the UJA-Federation of New York.

In 2002, the foundation gave away about $2 million of the $360 million it pledged to Jewish causes, but Broad had this to say about his Jewish giving: “If I had only a little to give away, my emphasis would be on Jewish and Israeli causes,” he told the L.A. Jewish Journal. “Once you get beyond several hundred thousand dollars, you become a better and more respected citizen if you also give to the Music Center and universities. If I would donate only a million dollars, I would split it between Jewish and general community projects.”

Barry Diller and Diane Von Furstenberg: The DDVF foundation does not yet have any 990 forms available, but the foundation’s website does list a number of Jewish organizations among its grantees: Temple Sholom in New Milford, Conn., The Henry Street Settlement on the Lower East Side of New York, American Friends of the College of Judea, the Anti-Defamation League, and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Larry Ellison: In 2007, the founder of Oracle gave $500,000 to fortify Sderot while on a mission to Israel organized by the Israeli Foreign Ministry.

Joan and Irwin Jacobs: Qualcomm founder Irwin Jacobs is one of San Diego’s most generous men, but aside from propping up the San Diego Symphony with a more than $100 million gift last decade, the Jacobses have decided to give away most of their money through a donor-advised fund at the Jewish Community Foundation of San Diego. Last year, according to The Chronicle of Philanthropy, they gave the fund $24 million.

George Kaiser: The Tulsa billionaire, the son of refugees from Nazi Germany and worth about $9 billion right now, is one of the pillars of the Oklahoma Jewish community along with Lynn Schusterman. Kaiser, who gives millions to Tulsa causes — about $100 million in 2007 — also gives to Jewish causes. Among his 2007 gifts were five-figure amounts to B’nai B’rith, Cong. B’nai Emunah, the Illinois Holocaust Museum, and the Jewish Federation Foundation, according to his foundation’s 990 form for 2008.

Lorry Lokey: Lokey says he wants to die broke or close to it. Among his largest gifts was a $33 million pledge to the American Technion Society. He also has given heavily to the Leo Baeck School in Haifa, one of Israel’s two Reform Jewish schools. He also has given to Ben-Gurion University. Lokey told JTA last week in an interview that while he has already pledged away most of his $700 million fortune, he expects to make another few hundred million dollars before he dies, and the next $60 million or so would go to Israeli education.

Bernie and Millie Marcus: Bernie Marcus, the co-founder of Home Depot, spent some $200 million in building the Aquarium in Atlanta, where he is based. The aquarium and Marcus hosted an evening event at the annual conference of the Jewish Funders Network back in 2008, and the Marcus foundation also has a branch dedicated to Jewish giving. The foundation’s 990 tax form for 2008 shows only two gifts to Jewish causes — $4 million to the Jewish Federation of Atlanta and $250,000 to the Institute for Jewish and Community Research in San Francisco.

Bernard and Barbro Osher: The Oshers have two foundations, the Bernard Osher Foundation, which gave away more than $100 million to general causes in 2007 — many of them $1 million-plus gifts to universities — and the Bernard Osher Jewish Philanthropies Foundation, which is run by the Jewish Federation of San Francisco. The latter gave away $4 million in 2007 to an array of groups ranging from the Jewish Music Festival in San Francisco to the Osher JCC in Marin County. The largest gift that year was a $2 million capital grant paid in shares of Wachovia to Cong. Beth Sholom in San Francisco.

David M. Rubenstein: The billionaire behind the Carlyle group is perhaps best known for his recent mammoth gifts to the Lincoln Center in New York Cit, but he has given to Jewish causes as well. In 2008, for instance, he pledged $500,000 to help establish a $1.5 million professorship in Jewish studies at the University of North Carolina. More interestingly, in talking about his philanthropy, he has a knack for bringing up his Jewish identity.

Herb and Marion Sandler: The Sandlers, the philanthropists behind ProPublica, also seem to have gotten a bad rap in the Jewish world — perhaps because some do not appreciate their liberal views on Israel. A look at the 990 tax form shows that their foundation “made grants in support of the charitable, educational, scientific, or religious purposes of the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, Marin, the Peninsula, and Sonoma Counties.” The foundation gave away $94.5 million in 2007, with $65,000 going to the New Israel Fund and $1.3 million to the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco.

Jeff Skoll: Those looking for overtly Jewish gifts in the philanthropic portfolio of this Jewish-born Canadian eBay executive are going to be disappointed. There’s nothing in the $28 million in giving listed in his 990 tax form that suggests any overtly Jewish giving. But Skoll has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to organizations such as Common Ground that are working toward better understanding and peace in the Middle East.

Shelby White: Although we are not sure if White is Jewish, her late husband Leon Levy was, and the foundation of which she is the trustee has given seriously to Jewish causes. Most recently the foundation, which is heavily into archeology, history and the arts, gave $860,000 to the Center for Jewish History for an archival project. According to its latest 990 form, in 2007 the foundation gave $90,000 to Harvard’s Ashkelon archeological dig, $220,000 to the Center for Jewish History, $1.3 million to the Harvard Semitic Museum and $3.5 million to the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Sanford and Joan Weill: Sanford Weill, the Citibank mogul, is most philanthropically famous for his $250 million gift to the Weill Cornell Medical Center. He was honored with the Center for Jewish History’s Emma Lazarus Award during the mid-1990s, which means he likely has given there, but according to a CJH source it has not been for quite some time.

(This article was adapted from JTA’s philanthropy blog, Fundermentalist.com.)

 
 

Will the real Imam Rauf please stand up?

Who is Feisel Abdul Rauf?

Initially the controversy over building a $100-million Muslim community center and mosque two blocks from Ground Zero was about location, location, location. Increasingly, however, attention has turned to the 61-year-old Sufi imam behind the project.

Depending on whom you ask, Rauf — currently in the Middle East as part of a U.S.-funded outreach program to the Muslim world — is a dedicated interfaith activist, a stealth apologist for Islamist terrorism, or something else.

Those looking to defend Rauf in Jewish circles have a new card to play: It turns out that the imam delivered a moving speech at the 2003 memorial service held in a Manhattan synagogue for Daniel Pearl, the journalist murdered by Islamist terrorists in Pakistan.

Invoking Pearl’s final words before his beheading, Rauf declared: “If to be a Jew means to say with all one’s heart, mind and soul, ‘Sh’ma Yisrael Adonai Elohenu Adonai Ehad — hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One,’ not only today I am a Jew, I have always been one.”

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Supporters and detractors are debating whether Imam Feisel Abdul Rauf is a dedicated interfaith activist, a stealth apologist for Islamist terrorism, or something else.

The speech was cited last week by Jeffrey Goldberg on his influential Atlantic.com blog, and then mentioned on one of journalism’s biggest stages: Frank Rich’s lengthy Sunday column in the Week in Review section of The New York Times.

On his blog, Goldberg called Rauf “a moderate, forward-leaning Muslim,” and said the imam’s words showed courage because “any Muslim imam who stands before a Jewish congregation and says ‘I am a Jew’ is placing his life in danger.”

Rauf’s other supporters note that he is a frequent participant in interfaith dialogues, who condemns terrorism and fanaticism.

His critics, however, paint a different picture, accusing Rauf of paying lip service to such sentiments, while either failing to offer strong criticism — by name — of foreign governments and organizations engaged in terrorism, or making common cause with anti-American Islamists.

The critics come armed with their own set of quotes: Shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, the imam told “60 Minutes” that “I wouldn’t say that the United States deserved what happened; but the United States policies were an accessory to the crime that happened.” In a radio interview in June with WABC’s Aaron Klein, Rauf described himself as a “supporter of Israel,” but declined to label Hamas as a terrorist group, saying, “I do not want to be placed nor will I accept a position where I am the target of one side or another.” And, this week, his detractors are trumpeting a 2005 speech in Adelaide, Australia, in which he cited the impact of U.S.-led sanctions on Iraq and asserted that “we tend to forget, in the West, that the United States has more Muslim blood on its hands than Al Qaeda has on its hands of innocent non-Muslims.”

The stakes are high in the battle to define Rauf as an interfaith leader or terrorist sympathizer, as the controversy over the proposed Islamic center has quickly turned him into the most famous imam in America. How he is perceived by the wider public could play a key role not only in how Americans feel about the project — polls continue to show large majorities opposed — but also in influencing U.S. attitudes toward Islam in the years to come.

So far on his State Department-funded trip to Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar, Rauf reportedly has avoided answering questions about the controversial project, stressing instead his efforts to “Americanize” Islam and find a formula for Muslims to stay to true to their faith while assimilating into Western societies. The Bush administration sent him on a similar trip.

In an interview Sunday with ABC, Rauf’s wife, Daisy Khan, connected these efforts to the drive to build the Islamic center. She also said that her husband’s comment in 2001 about the United States being an “accessory” to the World Trade Center attacks was a reference to support that the United States provided to Osama bin Laden and the Taliban in the 1980s. Regarding Hamas, the website of Rauf’s Cordoba Initiative states: “Hamas is both a political movement and a terrorist organization. When Hamas commits atrocious acts of terror, those actions should be condemned. Imam Feisal has forcefully and consistently condemned all forms of terrorism, including those committed by Hamas, as un-Islamic.”

Khan appeared on “This Week With Christiane Amanpour” with Rabbi Joy Levitt, the executive director of the JCC in Manhattan. Both women said that Levitt and the JCC have been advising the effort to build the Islamic center. Levitt said that the JCC had invited Khan and her husband to speak at the JCC in September, and called on other Jewish and Christian community centers to do likewise “because clearly what this whole controversy has unleashed is a tremendous amount of misinformation, lack of knowledge about Islam that we need to address.”

Such appearances seem unlikely to sway at least one opponent of building an Islamic center so close to Ground Zero at this time — Judea Pearl, Daniel’s father and a computer science professor at the University of California at Los Angeles.

Pearl told JTA that while he was “touched” by Rauf’s appearance and speech at his son’s memorial, “many Muslim leaders offered their condolences at the time.” More to the point, Pearl said he is discouraged that the Muslim leadership has not followed through on what he hoped would come from his son’s death.

“At the time, I truly believed Danny’s murder would be a turning point in the reaction of the civilized world toward terrorism,” said Pearl, who engages in public conversations with Akbar Ahmed, an Islamic studies professor at American University, on behalf of the Daniel Pearl Dialogue for Muslim-Jewish Understanding. The established Muslim leadership in the United States, Pearl said, “has had nine years to build up trust by proactively resisting anti-American ideologies of victimhood, anger, and entitlement. Reactions to the mosque project indicate that they were not too successful in this endeavor.”

He views the controversy to be a vote of no confidence in the organized Muslim leadership, not specifically against Rauf.

“If I were [New York] Mayor Bloomberg I would reassert their right to build the mosque, but I would expend the same energy trying to convince them to put it somewhere else,” he said. “Public reaction tells us that it is not the right time, and that it will create further animosity and division in this country.”

Israeli scholar Yossi Klein Halevi is another journalist throwing his hat in the imam’s bio ring.

He met Rauf in September 2001 at Drew University in Madison at a symposium for “At the Entrance to the Garden of Eden,” Halevi’s chronicle of the year he spent learning about the three Abrahamic faiths.

Rauf was, Halevi told JTA, “one of the very few Muslim leaders who responded positively to my book and was willing to endorse it publicly even though it was written by an Israeli and from a Zionist perspective.”

Halevi called the stance “generous and kind,” and added “if he is not a dialogue partner for us then there is virtually no one with whom we can speak in the Muslim world.”

That said, Halevi, too, is opposed to the Ground Zero mosque, saying it is “not an effective way of bringing Islam into the mainstream, and mainstreaming Islam in America is Rauf’s goal.”

A better idea, he said, would be an interfaith center that would include a church, a mosque, and a synagogue as well as a common space for people of all faiths and none.

Like Pearl, Halevi believes focusing on the imam’s personality is misplaced.

“The question of building a mosque at Ground Zero is traumatic enough,” Halevi said. “We don’t need to create an artificial issue around the man behind it.”

JTA

 
 
 
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