Rewarding Not-for-Profit Employees

By David Werdiger These pages have again seen the re-ignition of the longstanding debate over commission-based fundraising. Opinions have been expressed by industry consultants and fundraiser industry bodies. I’ve chosen, at my own peril, to dip into the discussion with the perspective of a funder and (social) entrepreneur. The objections to commission-based fundraising are essentially (a) that it encourages the wrong behaviour from fundraising professionals, and (b) that the practice conflicts with the ‘charitable purpose’ principle of not for profits. Certainly it is true that commissions (and especially salary as commission-only) can encourage staff to do the wrong thing. This is not just the case for fundraisers; the behaviour we get from employees is the behaviour that we reward. The … [Read more...]

Eleven years in. Teens’ Engagement Starts Every Day

Eleven years in. Teens’ Engagement Starts Every Day - from Akiva Hebrew High School to @Akiva Teen Center and Back Again By Amnon Ophir and Dr. Jeffrey Schein For eleven years now we have been working very hard to transform the Akiva Hebrew High School into @Akiva, a center for teens. The transformation is ongoing. Ironically, the tale ends with a major project of @Akiva to further Hebrew literacy, professional development, and advocacy in the academic year 2015-16. In a certain, way it marks a curious coming full circle to the “hebraic home” of the project. Like all journeys, the path of innovation is more than linear. Akiva, the High School, had an honored niche in the landscape of Cleveland Jewish education. Like many of its counterparts - community High Schools across North America - it … [Read more...]

Isn’t It Time?

isn't it time for change

Can people leave their “institutional hats” at the door in order to consider what is best in the larger communal picture? By Allan Finkelstein Forty-five years ago, as an undergraduate student, I wrote a thesis entitled "Duplication of Services in the Twin Cities Jewish Community." I am to this day that same student, except that my lens for observation has a wider angle, as I have since served as a local professional in four cities, and as the chief executive for 21 years of a continental Jewish organization. It won’t surprise anyone to know that very little has changed! Our local Jewish communities have held on for dear life - wanting to preserve "legacy institutions,” traditional campaigns, membership structures, and more - while at the same time, the society around us has moved on. So … [Read more...]

The State of the Federation System

3 questions

Perhaps one of the most frequently heard refrains regarding any existing organization, initiative or program is that “if it didn’t exist, we would need to create it.” It is spoken in boardrooms and parking lots, by professionals and volunteers alike. [Last Friday, Seth Cohen posted the following three questions on FaceBook. With his permission, we are sharing them with our eJP community.] After reading several recent essays in eJewishPhilanthropy about the state of the Federation system I am thinking of three key sets of questions: Is it even relevant to discuss a "central address" for Jewish communal leadership in a local community, and if so, do federations have the principled or practical capability to even serve that role? In other words, is all of the focus on federations and the … [Read more...]

The Secret of Programming for the Big Mission … with No Budget


The Secret of Programming for the Big Mission … with No Budget: How YJLC connects young professionals By Lou Balcher To get synagogue rabbis, lay leader's, and organization director's attention, my lead question is ... "What is the Greatest Challenge to the American Jewish Community?" By the way, I have been presenting this same question for the past forty years. Knowing that I have at most twenty seconds before the "brush off" I give the answer, and most everyone nods in agreement. "How do you connect post-college age young adults with each other, and with the Jewish community?" I quickly mention that I met Stephen M. Cohen when he came to Philadelphia's Gratz College nearly two years ago to explain the Pew study and the 72% intermarriage rate for non-Orthodox. Prof. Cohen invited … [Read more...]

Time to Discomfort the Comfortable Teen?

By Billy Planer "One who gains strength by overcoming obstacles possesses the only strength which can overcome adversity." Albert Schweitzer It is natural for teachers and parents to want to make life comfortable, easy, and pleasant for their students and children; natural to feel we are helping build their self-esteem by having them succeed in their endeavors. Our attempts, as well-intentioned as they are, may be creating young people who don’t have the necessary tools and confidence to handle life when it takes a hard turn. In medicine, there is a concept called Wolff’s law. It basically states that bones adapt to pressure or lack of it. Like muscles, bones strengthen under pressure and weaken when not put to use.  In the past 30 years of working with Jewish youth, I have seen a shift to … [Read more...]

A Day Like Today in Jerusalem

temple destruction

As funders, we need to stop watching [the] deterioration of civility from the sidelines. We certainly are part of the problem, but we are also part of the solution. By choosing who, what, and how we fund, we can reward or punish specific behaviors. We need to realize that we don’t just fund projects; we exercise moral leadership. By Andrés Spokoiny It all started with name-calling, demonization, and polarization. It ended in twenty centuries of tragedy. We are now in a period that Jewish tradition calls “the three weeks,” marking the terrible times of the siege of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 C.E. The “three weeks” refers to the time elapsed between the first breach of the city walls (commemorated by the fast of 17th of Tamuz) and the destruction of the Temple on the 9th of Av. Many … [Read more...]

Direct Discussion: The Only Way to Enhance the Relationship between Members of Knesset and the Global Jewish Community


By Stephen G. Donshik The latest Israel-Diaspora religious crisis was caused by the Religious Services Minister of Israel, David Azoulay from the Shas Party, when he said during a recent radio interview that he could not refer to Reform Jews as Jews. As in the past, when these kinds of statements were made by Israeli leaders, this comment sparked a flood of phone calls and emails to Jewish leaders in communities in North America and other places. Their tone was a mixture of criticism and hurt. How could it be after all of these years and the ongoing support that Israel receives from Jews from all the streams of Judaism that there are still Israeli politicians who make such outrageous statements? At the 1998 meeting of the General Assembly of the Council of Jewish Federations (now the Jewish … [Read more...]