In just over one year of its quiet existence, the Jewish Effective Giving Initiative can already safely say it is well on its way to saving many lives and meaningfully helping countless people around the world.
After a few months dedicated to setting the project up (constructing this website, building partnerships, finding funding, getting some wonderful leading thinkers, guest speakers, and the first rabbis on board, and figuring out what works and what doesn’t), a defining moment for our project came about six months ago, when we introduced our 'life-saving congregations' pledge and started consistently contacting several leading rabbis weekly.
Since then, we have introduced the project and the idea of effective giving, through 1-on-1 Zoom presentations, to over 80 congregations, the clear majority of which have expressed interest in collaborating with the initiative and incorporating giving to the world’s most life-saving charities into their future social justice activities.
The project’s most meaningful achievement to date is getting over 30 of these communities on board our list of life-saving congregations, all of which have pledged to save at least one life each by the end of 2022 by raising at least $3,000-5,000 for GiveWell’s top four charities.
Considering that none of this existed a short while ago, that we are operating on a very lean budget, and that congregations were introduced to the project in the midst of a difficult COVID transition period, that’s quite a promising start.
But this is really just the very beginning of a project that truly has the potential to save thousands of lives in the long run.
I’d like now to outline what the initiative’s priorities are going forward, in a way that gives an idea of where this project is headed and what kind of opportunities there are here:
1. Deepen Our Engagement with the Communities Involved
Just the synagogues already on board our list of life-saving congregations serve over 30,000 member families. Many of these congregations have dozens of Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremonies and weddings every year, and a whole host of social justice activities.
Our initiative has a lot to offer these vibrant communities, starting with ‘Life-Saving Families,’ our ambitious plan for life-cycle events, which will invite families to celebrate their moment of joy by pledging to find a way to save a life together in the next 10 years through the world’s most effective charities. In the coming year, we hope to introduce effective giving directly to as many Bar/Bat Mitzvah families and couples ahead of wedding as we can and to encourage them to join us and save lives together. It wouldn’t take more than an average of 3-5 families from every congregation involved to get 150 ‘life-saving families’ on board by this time next year.
2. Engage Institutional Jewish Philanthropists and Donors with the Project to Save More Lives
Up until now, our project has focused on introducing effective giving to rabbis and showing them how they can save lives with their congregations.
We believe that the idea of the project, our early achievements, and all the lives these congregations and families will save are going to resonate with serious Jewish philanthropists and donors beyond these congregations, especially of the kind that take a universalist approach to Jewish ethics.
In the coming months we plan to find philanthropists that want to be involved with the first project in the Jewish world that has the potential to save the lives of thousands of non-Jews, with the aim of amplifying the achievements of the congregations and families involved.
3. Share Our Model with the World
If you look carefully at our initiative's early accomplishments thus far, it's quite clear that they are highly translatable to many other types of communities beyond the Jewish world. It’s very easy to imagine similar lists of life-saving Methodist Congregations, Life-Saving Anglican Congregations, Life-saving Quaker congregations, etc.
In fact, a very similar model could be applied, with some adjustments, to different kinds of cultural institutions as well—think networks of life-saving orchestras, museums, private schools (even law firms!)—and we’re determined to make it happen.
We are already conspiring to help launch, mentor, and build websites for other independent life-saving initiatives in the coming years based on the JEGI model and strategy. Stay tuned!
4. Get More Congregations and Communities on Board
This one is quite self-explanatory. The more congregations join, the more suffering prevented and lives saved.
That being said, I’d like to stress that it’s not just the number of congregations we’d like to expand, but the type of congregations and communities involved in the project: in the near future, we look forward to getting congregations on board from more geographical regions around the Jewish World; we’d like to do our best to help smaller congregations join our effort; and we are looking forward to incorporating effective giving to the Word Union’s youth education programs.
So, as I hope you see, there’s a lot of work to be done here, and many exciting, realistic new ways for our project to grow and do exponentially more good in the coming years.
I’ll end by breaking the fourth wall and saying that if you, dear reader, have had any insights on how to help us develop in any of these avenues, or if you can think of any specific person, foundation, or organisation that would like to be involved in the early days of potentially the most life-saving Jewish effort in recent memory, don’t hesitate to contact us!