Advised by Rabbi Jacob Siegel (’16), Two Jewish Federations Divest from Fossil Fuels

April 12, 2024

BY Asaf Elia-Shalev for JTA

Oregon’s two Jewish communal federations have decided to divest their endowment funds from the fossil fuel industry due to concerns about the ongoing impact of the climate crisis.

The announcement on Wednesday makes the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland and the Jewish Federation of Lane County, which together represent approximately 60,000 Jews, the first of the 146 Jewish federations across North America to pull their investments from oil, gas and coal companies. They have more than $3 million in investment assets.

Even as many Jewish groups actively support climate action and engage in advocacy on the issue, only a handful of Jewish organizations have ever announced fossil fuel divestments. Dayenu, a Jewish climate advocacy group that released the announcement on behalf of the federations, has been encouraging Jewish groups to embrace divestment as a tactic that can help accelerate a global transition toward clean energy.

“Oregon’s two Jewish Federations are leading the way, taking this common-sense approach to aligning their investments with their values and taking meaningful action on climate,” Dayenu CEO Jennie Rosenn said in a statement. “They are the first of what we are confident will be many Jewish communal institutions to follow.”

Several other donor-advised funds, or DAFs, serving Jewish communities across the country offer fossil-fuel-free options, but the exact number is unknown, said Jacob Siegel, Dayenu’s climate finance advisor, who added that he has “had conversations” with Jewish DAFs that “either offer fossil-fuel-free investing options or are in process to create such an option.”

Siegel said that if donors request fossil fuel-free options from the organizations housing their philanthropic capital, it could persuade more DAFs to offer that choice.

“The goal is not just about the dollars represented,” he said, “but about changing the market signals more generally.”

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Photo-realistic image of the Israeli flag with a sunset in the background. An Israeli flag covers the majority of the image, it is a white horizontal rectangle with a blue horizontal stripe on the top and bottom and a blue Magen David in the middle. The flag is tinted yellowish gold by the large blazing yellow and white sun glowing on the right side. The sky behind the flag is a hazy light grey and a grey metal flagpole can be seen on the far left.Yom HaZikaron speech by Joseph Gitler, founder of Leket Israel