Monday, May 20, 2024

Will Smith Hedges All Bets with Charitable Giving: Holocaust (Spielberg), Scientology (Cruise), and an Evangelical Ministry


I like Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, but their personal foundation has always bewildered me. It’s hard to say what the purpose of it is, especially since they started a school in Calabasas, California that teaches, among other things, Scientology curriculum. Their personal foundation gives nothing to the school.

But every year they  give a lot of money to Yesha Ministries of Philadelphia, an evangelical Christian church with strong ties to the black community.

Altogether, they gave away $411,020 in 2011. The Smiths’ biggest donee was Yesha, for $100,000. But then, strategically, they still manage to spread around a few dollars to Hollywood leaders’ favorite charities and funds. For example, Will and Jada gave $25,000 to the Simon Wiesenthal Center and $10,000 to Steven Spielberg’s Shoah Foundation. They even gave a nod to The Friends of Yitzak Rabin ($250).

The Smiths gave $1,000 to a Scientology fund, thus taking care of Tom Cruise. It’s a steep drop from their initial checks to the cult back in the mid 2000s.

I give a lot of credit to the Smiths for how they spread the money around. The total is a lot of money. And even thought we think of movie stars as having zillions of dollars, Will hasn’t released a blockbuster in several years. Not that the Smiths are hurting for funds. But that they thought this out so carefully speaks volumes about them- -even if you don’t agree with all their choices.

They are loyal to charities in the Baltimore-Philadelphia area. They support black causes, and those in the arts–like $25,000 to Debbie Allen’s vital dance academy and $10,000 to the Tyler Perry Foundation. And they are really into education: money to Harvard Foundation and a bunch of smaller groups.

There’s also no bloat. The Smiths pay Jada’s aunt, Karen Evans, $68,000 as administrator–and the sole employee. Evans suffers from Lupus, so donations are made to fight that disease. But otherwise expenses are small– they only paid $400 in legal fees in 2011.



Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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