OpinionArts & Entertainment

Broadway Cares cares about Gaza, but not Israel

The charitable organization must be honest with donors about where their donations go.

Street signs on the corner of Broadway and 44th Street, New York City. Credit: Juan Carlos Alonso Lopez/Shutterstock.
Street signs on the corner of Broadway and 44th Street, New York City. Credit: Juan Carlos Alonso Lopez/Shutterstock.
Susan B. Tuchman. Credit: Courtesy.
Susan B. Tuchman
Susan B. Tuchman is the director of the Zionist Organization of America’s Center for Law and Justice.
Morton A. Klein
Morton A. Klein is the national president of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA).

If you’re a Broadway theater fan, you’re probably familiar with Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. It’s a nonprofit organization that, as its name reflects, helps to mitigate the suffering of individuals affected by HIV/AIDS and other life-threatening illnesses. Broadway Cares describes itself as “the philanthropic heart of Broadway, helping people across the country and across the street receive lifesaving medications, health care, nutritious meals, counseling and emergency financial assistance.”

Donations are often solicited at the end of a Broadway show: A cast member makes a compelling speech about helping people in need in the theater community. Audience members then leave donations in collection buckets stationed at the theater’s exits. Sometimes, posters signed by the show’s cast are available for purchase, with the proceeds purportedly going to support the organization’s stated mission.

You may be surprised to learn that even though Broadway Cares claims to focus on helping people in the United States who are struggling with serious health issues, the organization has directed substantial funds elsewhere for other purposes.

Last month, Broadway Cares gave two grants totaling $400,000 to those in need in the Hamas-controlled terrorist enclave of Gaza. In publicizing the grants, the organization’s executive director said, “As those in Gaza continue to face seemingly endless devastation and loss, their rippling heartbreak resonates across the world and in our corner in the Theater District.”

The Zionist Organization of America immediately contacted Broadway Cares and questioned the grants. We asked whether the organization would also be providing financial support to address the devastation, loss and heartbreak that Israelis have endured since the mass slaughter, rape and displacement of the Oct. 7 massacre perpetrated by Hamas.

We received an immediate and respectful response from Broadway Cares’ executive director, though not one member of the board of trustees ever reached out. We felt the organization’s reaction was deeply troubling.

Broadway Cares identified the two organizations that received the grants: Doctors of the World and the International Rescue Committee. It is implausible if not impossible that either one is directing any of its grant money to Israelis in need.

The website for Doctors of the World identified the places in the Middle East in which the organization does its work. “Palestine” is among them. Israel is not.

The website for the International Rescue Committee does not list Israel either. In October 2023, just after the Hamas massacre, the IRC issued a press release about it that failed to condemn the massacre in any way.

The ZOA urged Broadway Cares to take two steps. First, we asked the organization to make similarly generous grants to groups that are helping and supporting Israelis. We provided Broadway Cares with the names of Israeli hospitals, emergency service providers and mental-health organizations that provide grief and trauma counseling and support.

Second, we demanded transparency from Broadway Cares. It must fully disclose where donations may be directed when it solicits them from Broadway audiences. Continuing to tell audiences that their donations are going towards helping people who are battling HIV/AIDS and other serious illnesses is misleading and inaccurate. Jewish and non-Jewish theatergoers should not be deceived into financially backing causes they do not support.

Instead of responding to our requests, Broadway Cares provided us with the statement that the organization had posted on social media immediately after the Oct. 7 massacre. “As you might imagine,” Broadway Cares informed us, “we took a good deal of heat for this.”

The statement condemned Hamas and the massacre. It also expressed Broadway Cares’ “steadfast” commitment to “standing against antisemitism, terrorism and the hatred directed at the Jewish people.”

While the statement was appropriate and commendable, there was nothing particularly courageous about it. Broadway Cares simply took the right and moral position. If it “took heat” for the statement, then that is a horrifying and pathetic commentary on those who criticized it.

The statement did not address the fact that, through misleading appeals for donations, Broadway Cares is directing its financial support to Gazans, but not to Israelis who are Hamas’s victims.

A complaint was recently filed with the New York State Attorney General’s office against Broadway Cares for allegedly misleading theatergoers. So, Broadway fans, beware. Think twice about supporting Broadway Cares until the organization demonstrates equal concern and financial support for those affected by Hamas’ atrocities and makes equally generous grants to groups that are helping and supporting Israelis in this unprecedented time of need and crisis.

Listen carefully to Broadway Cares’ appeals for donations. Solicitors should make it clear to the audience that their donations are not only going to individuals with life-threatening illnesses here in the United States. They are going to Gaza, too—but so far, not to Israel.

If Broadway Cares does not stay true to its mission and come clean about where donations are directed, theater-goers will have to decide whether this is an organization they can in good conscience support.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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