In Response to Trump, Some Jewish Donors Refocus Grantmaking Support

The election of Donald Trump as president of the United States has spurred some Jewish foundations to step up their support for progressive causes, the Jewish Telegraph Agency reports.

The Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah in Akron, Ohio, for example, has long focused its grantmaking on the local Jewish community and national initiatives focused on religious education. But since the election of Trump, the foundation has broadened its focus to include issues related to refugees, voting rights, and civic engagement. "When it's time to step up, we have to step up," said LKFLT founding director Marcella Kanfer Rolnick.

That sentiment also was evident at the Jewish Funders Network's recent annual conference, where several panels addressed the challenges of bridging political divides and promoting civil discourse. Other sessions focused on the spike in anti-Semitic incidents nationwide and the need for increased security at Jewish organizations and institutions, while still others addressed how draconian cuts in federal domestic spending could spell trouble for Jewish as well as nondenominational social service groups.

At the same time, some proposals floated by the new administration could serve the interests of Jewish groups by, for instance, promoting the use of tuition vouchers for private Jewish day schools. "The burden is to use this moment to help create the space for young funders," said Michael Littenberg-Brown, president of the Council of Young Jewish Presidents, a grantmaking group. "Young people see themselves as global citizens, and that becomes a very important identity to them in addition to their Jewish identity."

Indeed, rather than attempt to fill gaps created by cuts in federal funding at a later date, some Jewish funders already are focusing on advocacy efforts aimed at minimizing those cuts. The Nathan Cummings Foundation, for example, is working to encourage minority advocacy groups to unite around a common agenda. "Philanthropy can't replace the [National Endowment for the Arts]," said NCF president Sharon Alpert. "What philanthropy has always been poised at is creating partnerships with government that demonstrates how important government action and programs are to our lives. We need to engage even more deeply in making that case."

Jen Sales. "Trump Era Prompts Jewish Donors to Step Up Giving to Liberal Causes." Jewish Telegraph Agency 03/21/2017.