On April 29, 2017, Haaretz published an op-ed (“The Self-destructive Hypocrisy Threatening Jewish Philanthropy” by Joel Braunold) arguing that Jewish communal donor-advised funds (DAFs), where the local Federation passes along tax-deductible donations as recommended by individual donors, should not refuse to donate to radical, anti-Israel, pro-BDS organizations. Braunold suggests that doing so will lead donors to “remove their funds and go to a fund like Fidelity or any of the thousands of other hosting agencies for DAFs.”
This article is wrong factually, wrong legally, wrong morally, and fails to understand best practices for Jewish communal giving.
Factually, the article cherry-picks examples to create the false impression that Federations only deny donor-advised grants to groups on the far left. Presumably, since the author has not heard about it, the phenomenon does not exist. But it does. NGO Monitor is aware of multiple such examples, involving donors and groups from across the political spectrum, where the Federation refused to pass-along a donation to an entity that it thought undeserving.
Legally, “donor advised” is a misnomer. The board and executives of such foundations must approve each and every donation, and they bear legal responsibility for it. If money were sent to a terror group or otherwise used in an illegal fashion, the foundation would be culpable and could not claim “it wasn’t our money, it was donor advised.” The fund is in control and must remain in control. Hence the standard language on DAF websites, to the effect that all grants are “subject to approval” (one example here) by the DAF.
Morally, the same principle applies. Donor advisement does not excuse transferring funds to organizations and activities that the so-called pass-through considers wrong. The moral obligation is on the foundation or Federation, and they are so obligated to maintain restrictions according to their values. And to refuse to accept and transfer donations that violate those values and guidelines.
That is precisely the difference between a communal fund and giving through an investment bank.
Which brings us to Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), If Not Now, and other pro-BDS groups that provide a Jewish fig-leaf to anti-Israel demonization. Why should a Jewish community participate in supporting groups that actively try to rip it apart from the inside, to divide it, to create rifts and “wedges” (to quote JVP)? Why should a Jewish community feel compelled to fund those that violate the most basic bonds of that community, including support for Israel?
If a Jewish communal fund is so driven by greed (as suggested by the article) that it is afraid of losing extremist donors, then it should shut down.