Illustration by Adi Emanuel for the Federation Files. Haaretz, 2017.
Illustration by Adi Emanuel for the Federation Files. Haaretz, 2017.

At the heart of American Jewry is the net of Jewish Federations. Existing twice as long as the State of Israel itself, the federations' overarching purpose is to promote Jewish life and values. Over generations, a sprawling system of 148 Jewish federations, ten in Canada and 138 in the U.S. was created, plus about 300 network communities. These foundations in turn support thousands of institutions and nonprofit organizations in America, from schools and libraries to welfare and culture centers to synagogues. Their total combined assets are about $16 billion, just like a small country.

These organizations collect donations, distribute the money, and support their own mechanisms. How much do the federations spend on the greater good of Judaism and Israel, and how much on themselves and their own staff? The raw data is available through their tax records, which are in the public domain. Less obvious is how their affairs are governed.

Now for the first time the federations' finances and practices have been mapped by Haaretz investigative reporter, Uri Blau, in collaboration with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and its researcher, Akela Lacy. Figures from four years of tax reports by every Jewish Federation in the United States, and dozens of community foundations, have been concentrated into interactive maps.

What they show may not always be what you expect, including some salaries that seem to be beyond the norm among American nonprofits, duplication in efforts that might seem to achieve little beyond the employment of friends and family, support to settlements in Israel and other potentially problematic practices.

Over a year-long research and reporting helped to shed light into this complicated net of organizations. The findings are presented in a special hub created by Haaretz English edition and were published in the Hebrew edition as well.


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