Brothers in Misery: Muslim and Jewish Charities

2007 has not been a good year for charities. With the economic downturns, charities across the board are getting hit with decreasing donations.

Two types of charities stand out for losses- American Muslim and American Jewish charities. They both end the year with major losses.

Granted, Muslim charity pales in comparison to Jewish charity. Jewish charity totals in the billions, the combined budged of all Muslim NGOs and charities is probably less than 50 million dollars. All the big deal made about American Muslim charities misrepresents the reality of their being bit players in the charity business.

But despite being bit players, they brought the best in people- their small budgets made a huge difference in Gaza, Pakistan and Afghanistan where a dollar goes a long way. I have seen the Muslim working poor giving a single dollar and 5 dollar bill to help alleviate suffering overseas.

Unfortunately, this hard earned money got either frozen or got subjected to unrelated lawsuits- or spent on attorneys defending these NGOs from an assortment of charges. A number of charities got raided, prosecuted, among other legal problems.

Despite that, American Muslims kept giving and giving. Some, who never gave before the wave of prosecutions, asserted their faith, defiance and identity by giving.

Muslim charitable giving continued unabated.

Jewish charities end the year on a sour note.

In the Wall Street Journal of December 26, 08, Lucette Lagnado writes in “When Big Spenders Fail, Who Will Save Jewish Charity?” about the impact of the Bernie Madoff scandal on Jewish charities. She writes:

“The pain is being felt especially intensely in philanthropic circles, which may never fully recover. Some Jewish nonprofits- such as the Robert Lappin Foundation, which tried to enhance Jewish identity among the young; the Picower Foundation, which funded asserted Jewish medical and cultural causes; and the Chais Family Foundation, which promoted, among other endeavors, educational excellence in Israel- have shut down. Several large institutions, Hadassah and the American Jewish Congress among them, have been seriously wondered. Then there is the blow to the community’s sense of self- the confidence and prosperity that enabled it to build magnificence houses of worship Jewish day schools that rivaled the finest secular ones and, more recently, charities with impressively large endowments. "

Lagnado hopes that the tradition of more numerous small giving will return. I have no doubt that it will.

The millions lost by Muslim charities and the billions lost by Jewish charities are a true loss of hope to the most needy. Despite these challenges, giving will continue. Neither massive fraud nor prosecutions will stop people from giving. It’s an American, Jewish and Muslim tradition to help the less fortunate.


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