Don’t Take the Money and Run: How Israeli Nonprofits Should Respond to Donations

Many Israeli board members do not understand the board’s role in financial resource development. Sure, they are willing to serve on a board of directors and offer their counsel and advice. But rarely are they interested in participating actively in raising funds for the agency’s annual budget or for special projects. By Stephen G. Donshik While Israel is now in limbo - waiting to find out whether the present conflict with Gaza is over or whether there will be another round of Hamas rockets - Israeli nonprofits are continuing to provide services to diverse populations affected by the conflict. They range from Holocaust survivors, who live in the South and are reliving the trauma of an earlier time in their lives, to families who evacuated border communities in search of safety. These … [Read more...]

A New Paradigm for Israel-Diaspora Philanthropic Ventures

The present system of raising funds in the Diaspora and providing services through The Jewish Agency, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), and a small number of Israeli nonprofit organizations should be restructured or a new infrastructure created that would make possible a different approach to seeking philanthropic donations and implementing programs. By Stephen G. Donshik The fighting in Gaza has been accompanied by fundraising events in Jewish communities around the world. Once there is a sustained ceasefire, if it happens, Diaspora Jewish communities will both continue to raise funds from self-generated local campaigns and will respond to the call for targeted campaigns initiated by national institutions - The Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI), Keren Hayesod, and Jewish … [Read more...]

The Surrealism or Resilience of Israel Society and The Role of the Diaspora

Large numbers of people who have postponed and canceled trips have both given a victory to Hamas and communicated the weakness of their solidarity with Israel. By Stephen G. Donshik For those of us who are in Israel during this military conflict with Gaza, there is a very surrealistic feeling to the war. That is because there are two realities to the present situation. Those of us who have children, family relatives, or close friends involved in the Israel Defense Forces actions in the Gaza Strip or along the Strip are living in a continual state of tension and anxiety. In a small country such as Israel, that includes a large part of the population. Almost all Israelis, whether they are in Israel or somewhere else around the globe, are glued to the television, the radio, or an electronic … [Read more...]

A Text for the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, JCRCs, and Israel Advocacy Organizations

If you have not heard of, seen, or read the book, Roadblock to Peace, by David Bedein, do so immediately. It is a remarkable piece of work and essential reading for all those involved in Israel advocacy. This book is a primer on how the United States and the United Nations are supporting armed conflict with Israel through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNWRA). UNRWA (founded in 1949) is a UN agency established specifically to provide direct relief and work programs for Palestinian refugees. It was a response to the plight of hundreds of thousands of Arabs who left their villages during Israel’s war of independence in 1948. The circumstances surrounding UNRWA’s founding and the role of the United States’ funding of it are key to why I so strongly recommend Roadblock to Peace for those … [Read more...]

Israel, War and The Diaspora

How should Jews in the Diaspora (those who themselves are not under threat, as in some cities in Europe) respond to Israel’s needs, and what specific activities should they engage in? by Stephen G. Donshik This time, just like every time there is an armed conflict between Israel and its Arab neighbors or the indigenous Palestinian community, there has been a strong response from Jewish communities around the world. In some cases, as in a number of European cities during the last two weeks, the Jewish community is being forced to defend itself. We have witnessed stronger displays of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel behavior than we have seen in years. There is a thin line between anti-Semitism and the anti-Israel sentiments expressed by Moslem citizens and Arab and Palestinian expatriates … [Read more...]

Roman Vishniac (Re)Discovered in Amsterdam

Roman Vishniac
[Girl in plaid dress, Mukacevo], ca. 1935–38.
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

Roman Vishniac is most famous for his photographs documenting Jewish life in Eastern Europe in the 1930s, but his career and the impact of his work are much broader. In 2013, the International Center of Photography in New York exhibited a collection of his photographs that spanned a period from the early 1920s until the late 1970s. The same collection is now being shown until August 28 at the Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam. If you did not see this exhibit in New York, then make the trip to Amsterdam: it will be well worth the trip. Vishniac was born in 1897 near St. Petersburg; his family soon moved to Moscow where he spent his childhood and completed his university education, earning an MA in zoology. After the Bolshevik Revolution, like many wealthy business owners, his family emigrated … [Read more...]

Does the [Incoming] President of the State of Israel Really Care About Jewish Unity?

Recently Israel has made a demand of the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and, in essence, as the state of the Jewish people. I must admit I find this demand by a Likud government to be somewhat amusing. You may wonder why. It is because the Knesset just elected a president of the State of Israel, Reuben Rivlin, who does not recognize Jews who do not uphold the Orthodox line of Judaism. He will not recognize Conservative and Reform Jews or other Jews practicing their own, non-Orthodox form of Judaism. In April 1989, following a visit to a Reform synagogue in the United States President Ruby Rivlin shared the following thoughts with a reporter from Yediot Aharonot: “As a Jew who does not observe 613 commandments and perhaps not even 13 ... I discovered what kind of worshiping … [Read more...]

Education for Practice in Jewish Communal Service

We are in the month of June when university students are graduating from their baccalaureate and master degree programs. There was a time when the entrance degree to organizations in Jewish communal service was a social work degree and preferably an M.S.W. However, it has been years since that was the union card required to enter a Jewish communal organization. Over time educational institutions of higher learning granted degrees in Jewish communal service, management of Jewish nonprofit organizations, and programs that focused on public policy and governance. The field of Jewish communal service has become more and more open to focusing on who the person is, rather than what degree he or she holds from which university, and on how the educational experience prepared the graduates to work in their … [Read more...]