With the calendar pages flipping quickly and as we approach the fourth quarter of the year — a period when Jewish organizations of all types and sizes report on their successes with major donor prospects and all types of capital and endowment campaigns — we reviewed the constantly-updated List of Million Dollar Donors.  We specifically wanted to tabulate year-to-date reported gifts by Jewish donors to Jewish nonprofits in 2016.

Through August, the listing contains 517 gifts of at least $1.0 million that America’s nonprofits have already announced this calendar year. The aggregate value of all gifts totaled almost $5.3 billion.

However, we counted 109 gifts for 2016 from Jewish philanthropists (with four of the gifts from people we were not able to verify as Jewish but whom we believe at least had Jewish ancestors) and collectively they totaled more than $2.5 billion.

The largest single gift came as a $400 million bequest from Holocaust survivors Lottie and Howard Marcus to the American Associates of Ben Gurion University of the Negev. I highlighted this gift in a previous blog on eJewishphilanthropy in July when applauding their generosity to the university’s program in desalination.

Our tabulation of the gifts includes a significant observation that four professions of the donors dominated the listing:  technology, Wall Street, real estate, and entertainment.

Eight Jewish organizations, led by the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. which announced three very significant gifts, received at least one million dollar pledge, bequest, or gift. Two Jewish federations – South Palm Beach, Florida, and Cleveland, Ohio – each tallied a gift of $1.0 million. Other major Jewish organizations included in the recipient list of seven-figure gifts are: Yeshiva University, the 92nd Street Y in New York, the Jewish Studies Program at Rice University, and the Mandel Jewish Day School in Cleveland.

Six major universities and a cancer-focused research effort also received major Jewish support this year, with the University of California receiving eleven very significant gifts from Jews; the Smithsonian Institution in Washington secured five major gifts; Johns Hopkins University, Harvard University, and the University of Chicago each formally announced three very substantial commitments; Barnard College got two large gifts, and the BRCA Foundation received an eight-figure gift from its founding donor.

Collectively, the various campuses of the University of California received the largest dollar amount of Jewish philanthropy this year: $553.4 million from eleven Jewish donors, with the largest — $200 million – coming from Larry Ellison.

We note sadly that:

  • No U.S. synagogue or rabbinic seminary has announced major donor support in 2016. . . yet;
  • No large gifts have been reported from three of the best-known American Jewish philanthropists: Sheldon Adelson, Michael Steinhardt, or Harold Grinspoon.

Following is the listing of Jewish support for Jewish organizations that we uncovered in our research and analysis:                 

American Associates, Ben Gurion University 

Lottie &Howard Marcus

$400 million

Yeshiva University                   

Monique & Mordecai Katz    

$25 million

U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum

Shelley & Allan Holt

$20 million

92nd Street Y (New York) 

Lawrence Belfer

$15 million

Rice University (Jewish Studies & Music School)

Goldye & Samuel Spain 

$4.1 million

Mandel Jewish Day School

Aliki & Peter Rzepka

$1.5 million

U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum

Rita Stern

$1.2 million

U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum 

Eugenie Fromer  

$1.0 million

Jewish Federation of Cleveland 

Lois Davis 

$1.0 million

Jewish Federation of S. Palm Beach County

Barbara & Ted Wolk

$1.0 million

The annual listing is the only publicized and free record of publicly reported gifts of $1 million or more since 2000. It provides a clear picture of the philanthropic landscape, revealing patterns and trends in million dollar-plus giving. Million dollar gifts comprise a key part of charitable giving and represent an important threshold for donors. Information and increased knowledge about these gifts provide greater insight into giving at this level, and offers donors and their advisors a new resource as they consider strategic approaches to their giving.  

Giving USA last year re-defined “mega gifts” as ones that are at least $300 million.

Visit Philanthropy.com to view the entire list of million dollar donors.