Founded in 1979, the New Israel Fund was designed to expand the work that the United Jewish Appeal was then doing. It sought to protect Israel's strength by protecting democracy, human rights, justice, and equality for all Israelis – Jews and Arabs. An international partnership of Israelis, Americans, Canadians, and Europeans, NIF pioneered the funding of Israel's social change organizations and advocacy groups, and is widely credited as the founder of much of Israeli civil society. NIF has funded more than 750 Non-Government Organizations with approximately $200 million in 26 years.
From minority rights to religious pluralism, NIF is widely recognized to be on the "Dovish," "leftist" spectrum of Israeli and American Jewish politics. It perceives itself and structures itself in the vanguard of fighting for social change in Israel. NIF grantees work in three core areas: (1) civil and human rights: Flagship NIF grantees such as B'Tselem and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel have won court battles on issues ranging from the prohibition of torture in civilian interrogations to changes in the route of the separation fence to respect humanitarian concerns. Other grantees work on issues ranging from evenhanded urban planning and land sales to women's and minority rights; (2) social and economic justice: As a nation with many disadvantaged minority groups, from citizen Arabs to Ethiopians to Oriental Jews, Israel has a special responsibility to observe its founders' vision and values of "freedom, justice, and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel." Racism, injustice, and fanaticism defile Jewish values and threaten Israel's long-term security. NIF grantees organize communities, advocate for equitable government policies, and empower disadvantaged Israelis to help their communities and themselves; (3) religious pluralism and tolerance: NIF has long been a principal supporter of a pluralistic and tolerant Israeli culture that includes diverse approaches to Judaism and Jewish identity. NIF grantees are in the forefront of the struggle for civil marriage and other life-cycle events, recognition of non-Orthodox conversions, and the equal and unbiased allocation of government resources.
Through Shatil, the Empowerment and Training Center for Social Change Organizations, NIF provides grantees and other social change organizations hands-on assistance and training in the basics of nonprofit management. Widely regarded as one of the world's most successful capacity-building organizations, Shatil regularly originates and discovers
The New Israel Fund also partners with other philanthropists in joint initiatives, including a multiyear program funded by the Ford Foundation to promote peace and social justice in Israel. Another joint program, the Green Environment Fund, is the first funding collaboration in Israel to protect and preserve the environment. NIF is also partnering with another U.S. foundation and with the Joint Distribution Committee to advance infrastructure development for the Negev Bedouin.
The NIF is headquartered in Washington, D.C., and employs people in the United States, Canada, and the U.K., as well as in four Israeli offices – in Jerusalem, Haifa, Beersheba, and Lod.