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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Authenticity: How Jewish American families sustain philanthropic values and behaviors across generations
by Silberstein, Debra Rahmin, Ph.D., Brandeis University, The Heller School for Social Policy and Management, 2009, 429; 3369936
Abstract (Summary)

There is evidence that the landscape for philanthropy is changing. Experts express concern that younger generations will be less generous, and giving appears to be shifting away from traditional organizations. Among Jewish Americans, there now appears to be a decline in giving to Jewish causes, exacerbated by the overall economic climate. Although the big picture for philanthropy remains positive, the implications of these trends are unclear.

The primary aims of this descriptive study are to identify and explore generational differences in philanthropic values and behavior, and to understand how philanthropic values and behavior are sustained between generations within wealthy Jewish American families. To address these research questions, semi-structured interviews were conducted with multiple generations of 24 Boston-area Jewish American families whose net worth ranged from $8 million to over $100 million. Sampling was purposeful.

Schervish and Havens's identification theory was used as a conceptual framework. This theory posits that philanthropic behavior is a manifestation of caring and that caring behavior reflects donor identification with others. Four pathways representing processes through which philanthropy is developed and sustained were investigated: the family, Jewish connectivity, assimilation, and generational ethos. Interview transcripts were coded line by line to identify pervasive themes across families and generations related to these pathways.

The findings are positive with respect to philanthropic giving. Younger generations within Jewish American families are generous and exhibit traits of generosity and ambition with regard to philanthropy perhaps even beyond the generations that came before them. Authentic lives of caring by older family members and family tradition have a significant and sustained impact on the philanthropic values and behaviors of younger members. Philanthropy brings significant meaning to individual lives of all ages and is a value that all generations want to sustain and transmit to younger family members. Family foundations play an important role in sustaining philanthropy across generations within families.

The findings suggest that more ethnically-based and multi-generational research on philanthropy is needed.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Saxe, Len
Commitee: Hahn, Andrew, Hill, Anita, Schervish, Paul G.
School: Brandeis University, The Heller School for Social Policy and Management
Department: The Heller School for Social Policy and Management
School Location: United States -- Massachusetts
Source: DAI-A 70/08, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Philosophy, Individual & family studies, Judaic studies
Keywords: Authenticity, Generations, Generosity, Jewish, Jewish American, Philanthropy, Wealth
Publication Number: 3369936
ISBN: 978-1-109-32666-6
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