EA for Jews—Proposal and Request for Comment
Creating an online community for Jews—interpreted most broadly to include religious as well as secular/cultural Jews—could help grow the larger effective altruism (EA) community, leading to greater donations to effective charities and a greater dissemination of EA ideas and principles.
Therefore I propose to create a website modeled on EA for Christians (as well as a linked facebook page and group, and potentially an email newsletter). The goal of these resources would be to introduce EA principles and resources to Jews and to build a community or “ecosystem” for Jews involved in EA, ultimately leading to more people donating more to effective charities, focusing careers on EA cause areas, and/or sharing EA ideas with others. If you have feedback or would like to get involved in any way, big or small, please fill out this form.
Judaism, justice, and charitable giving
Like many other religions, Judaism calls on its adherents to help others, including by pursuing justice (tzedakah) and giving to the poor. See Deuteronomy 16:20; see generally Sefaria, Tzedakah collection. Biblical sources direct Jews to give 10% percent of their earnings to the poor every third year (Deuteronomy 26:12), and an additional percentage of their income annually (Leviticus 19:9-10). Rabbinic commentary teaches that most should give even more than 10% and has emphasized the commandment to pursue tzedakah (which encompasses charitable giving) is “equal to all the other commandments combined” Bava Bathra 9b; see also Ket. 50a; Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Gifts to the Poor.
Another theme present throughout the Hebrew Bible and commentary is that Jews should be cognizant of the oppressed, and as Jews were once oppressed as slaves in Egypt. Deuteronomy 5:15. And in modern Judaism, the concept of tzedakah is often coupled with the concept of Tikkun Olam, “repairing the world,” which is interpreted to mean the pursuit of social justice and working to “make the world more just, peaceful, tolerant, and equal, through acts of charity, kindness, and political action.” Andrés Spokoiny, Tikkun Olam: A Defense and a Critique (October 17, 2018). Distinct from these largely religious motivations, non-religious or cultural Jews (see generally Pew 2013) also have a long history of being active in social justice movements and philanthropy. These various strands have inspired many Jews throughout history to give to charity and to pursue social justice. See, e.g., An Introduction to Jewish Philanthropy; Jewish Virtual Library: Charity (Tzedakah): Charity Throughout Jewish History.
Jewish philanthropy today
Donors both small and large within the broader Jewish community today have a large philanthropic impact, donating, as best I can tell, at least $9 billion a year to charity, likely considerably more. See The Conversation, American Jews and charitable giving: An enduring tradition (estimating $9 billion a year in 2014); Inside Philanthropy, Here Are the Top 13 Philanthropists Who Support the Jewish Community (February 5, 2020); Forward Magazine, 26 Billion Bucks: The Jewish Charity Industry Uncovered (March 24, 2014). In fiscal year 2019 the Jewish Communal Fund alone recommended grants totaling $456 million to over 9,500 nonprofits. The wikipedia pages for Jewish philanthropists and Jewish American philanthropists lists hundreds of individuals. Some of these individuals have taken the Giving Pledge, committing to giving away half of their wealth. See Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Zuckerberg among nine new Jewish individuals and families to take the Giving Pledge (December 10, 2010).
Jews’ contributions to EA
Jews have also made and continue to make substantial contributions to the EA community. The intellectual underpinnings of EA are typically traced to Peter Singer, who is ethnically Jewish and whose grandparents died in the Holocaust. The site LessWrong, founded by Eliezer Yudkowsky, was also an important contributor to the early development of EA. GiveWell’s founders Holden Karnofsky and Elie Hassenfeld are also ethnically Jewish. See this Quora post. And Good Ventures, founded by Dustin Moskowitz and Cari Tuna, contributes up to 30% of total EA funds, according to one assessment.
There is currently no EA community for Jews (qua Jews)
Despite the involvement of many Jewish people in EA, and in philanthropy and social justice broadly, there is not a specific online community for Jews interested in EA, nor are there many resources directed at Jews that are interested in EA, or who are interested in effective giving but have not heard of EA. Several posts on the EA forum have directly or indirectly called for the creation of a EA for Jews organization. See, e.g., this or this EA forum post.
Proposal and Goals
As discussed in the overview, I propose to start a website, modeled on EA for Christians, and accompanying facebook group and possibly a newsletter. Specific goals include of the site and group would be to:
Introduce EA principles to Jews;
Inform giving decisions (both how much and where to give) by introducing EA principles and directing readers to EA-aligned charity evaluators and other resources (GiveWell, ACE, EA Funds, Giving What We Can);
Create a community (and “ecosystem”) for Jews already involved or curious about EA, providing resources and discussions of EA principles and Jewish teachings.
Content (specifically the blog posts) should seek to appeal to as diverse a group of Jews as possible including:
Religious Jews of all denominations
Cultural or secular Jews (the majority of American Jews, see Pew 2013)
Jews by choice
Jews of different ethnic backgrounds
Including sephardic, misrahi, ashkenazi, etc, etc
Seek funding (and/or volunteer(s)) to design the site
Seek funding to host the site
Publish the site
Publicize the site
Identify a core team of volunteers to:
(1) continue to create, solicit and/or edit content for the website, facebook page and newsletter going forward;
(2) grow the reach and awareness of the site and community by hosting events;
(3) grow the awareness of the site by participating in events organized by others (e.g., speaking at Jewish, interfaith and/or EA events, conferences, etc);
(4) connecting with other groups,
(5) [Your ideas here!]
Seek a “board” or “trustees” that would advise the volunteers and help steer the group. See EA for Christians’ advisors.
Develop metrics to track the impact of the site, including:
Evaluating site traffic to see how many people are visiting the site, spending time there, and clicking through to other EA resources
Evaluate SEO metrics to see if people who search for, e.g., “effective tzedakah” or “where Jews should donate” or something are directed to the site
[when there are enough users of the site] soliciting feedback through a survey, looking at SEO metrics.
Possibly register as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in order to accept donations to pay additional staff/organizers, if needed.
Possibly seek funding to pay a full or part-time organizer to assist with the tasks the volunteers are doing above.
Please get involved and/or provide feedback!
If you would like to get involved in any way, big or small, please fill out this form. And I welcome any and all constructive criticism and other feedback. Feel free to comment directly on this document with feedback, or fill out this form to provide anonymous feedback. I’m particularly interested in ways this proposal could go wrong or turn out not to be a good idea. I’m also not sure “EA for Jews” is the best brand. “Effective Tzedakah” or “Jews in EA” are other proposals folks have suggested but I’m open to any other thoughts. Thank you!
 See https://www.facebook.com/groups/eaforchristians. A similar group exists for Muslims as well: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1731235183840615, and for Buddhists: https://www.facebook.com/groups/buddhists.in.ea/
 It is unknown to me to what extent the people I discuss in this section self-identify as Jews, particularly as Judaism can mean either a religion, ethnicity, or culture (or combination thereof). However based on public sources I am comfortable identifying them as Jews for purposes of this post.