When Leaders Make Bad Decisions

from the cover of the authors' latest book, Leadership in the Bible: A Practical Guide for Today; courtesy.

By David Arnow and Paul Ohana Jacob acquires Esau’s birthright for a bowl of stew. Jacob, the home-body buys; Esau, the hunter, sells. Twin brothers - very different decisions. The story has a lot to say about what goes into making a good long-term decision. We can assume that as a good hunter Esau possessed a number of physical skills along with other abilities - the capacity to anticipate his quarry’s moves, to bide his time, to strike at the opportune moment and an element of guile as well. Later in life, Esau amassed great wealth and commanded a force of four hundred men (Genesis 33:1, 9). All this suggests that there was more to Esau than impulsivity. But when he sold his birthright, he had clearly fallen under the spell of his passions. Shouldn’t a grown man have known that the … [Read more...]

Abraham’s Tent: How a Voluntary Contribution Model Creates a More Open Synagogue

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By Charles Cohen Last week I had the chance to hear leadership from Temple Beth Am, in Jupiter, Florida, and from Temple Beit HaYam, in Stuart, Florida, share their experiences about switching to a “voluntary contribution” membership model. In this dues structure families and individuals are informed about the membership donation amount that would cover expenses, but are invited to simply pay what they feel they can afford, or what they want to contribute. The Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County’s Synagogue Institute organized the event so other local congregations had a chance to learn about how this transition was going, and ask any questions they had about the financial implications, the response from donors and the community, and evaluation. Both synagogues used these initiatives to be … [Read more...]

Preserving Cemeteries in Europe, Saving Jewish Heritage

Matzevot in cemetery wall; photo by Virtual Shtetl.

By Liam Hoare Last month, I found myself walking through the abandoned and desecrated Jewish cemetery in the Bródno district of Warsaw, on the east bank of the Vistula, with my guide Paweł Bysko, a specialist with the social communication office at the Jewish Community of Warsaw. Active up until 1939, Bródno was subsequently plundered and destroyed, first by the Nazis, then by the communists, who used the cemetery as a quarry, taking the matzevot - some dating back to 1780 – and using them in the construction and reconstruction of Warsaw. As he was showing me around the site - the stoneless spaces carpeted with trees and the grey-black mounds of recently-returned markers - Paweł acknowledged, “I’d rather talk about the living Jewish community than the dead.” But talk about it one … [Read more...]

It’s Okay to Seek Credit for Giving: Now Give And Go and Study!

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Tzedekah, Philanthropy and Giving in America Part 2 of 2 By Robert Evans and Bryan Schwartzman Most major donors are looking for some type of recognition for their generosity, but many feel guilty about their desire, perhaps their need, for public kudos. However, our ancient sages understood that people often do the right thing for a complex mix of selfish and altruistic reasons. Giving for the right reasons is not necessarily juxtaposed with giving for the wrong reasons. From the Mishnah to Maimonides, classic Jewish sources pay a great deal of the attention to the role that ego plays in philanthropy. Yes, donor recognition has a basis in Judaism. The key, for many people with means, is to direct their ambition and desire for public recognition for good rather than for ill. Remember the … [Read more...]

A Backstage Experience

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By Steven Green and C. Casper Casparian Who would have the audacity to think it is a good idea to bring 36 camp and school directors to the most magical place on earth, Disneyland, and not allow them to go on any rides? No Space Mountain; no Soarin’; not even a glimpse of the digitally re-mastered Captain EO. As a training exercise, the Foundation for Jewish Camp oriented professionals from Jewish summer camps, day schools, and religious schools to some of the marketing, business, and operational strategies implemented by the Disney Company, through a program known as the Disney Institute. … [Read more...]

This Thanksgiving, Foster an Attitude of Gratitude

By Stefanie Zelkind ‘Thank you’ is the best prayer that anyone could say. I say that one a lot. Thank you expresses extreme gratitude, humility, understanding. Alice Walker Gratitude. We learn from an early age that it is important to be grateful, to appreciate what we have - to say thank you. Indeed, a national survey on gratitude found that more than 95 percent of Americans consider it “somewhat” to “very” important for mothers and fathers to teach gratitude. It’s only polite, after all. Yet it goes beyond good manners; one recent report shows that that among early adolescents, gratitude serves as an important motivation to contribute to society. Another report shows that grateful people give, on average, 20% more time and money to charity (see this and other key findings on this … [Read more...]

Love Among the Irises

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By Robert Lichtman Unlike some love stories that are best kept discreet, this one should to be told … and re-told. It’s all true. It’s a love story about a woman and some teenagers. The story started when the Iris Teen Tzedakah Program was established in 2006 at The Partnership for Jewish Learning and Life by Milly Iris, family and friends in memory of Milly’s late husband, Herb. It was not enough that Milly and her posse funded the program through the Herb and Milly Iris Youth and Family Philanthropy Endowment of the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater MetroWest NJ, providing money to guide 40 high school-aged teenagers along a two-year curriculum of learning and experiences that would expose them to philanthropic challenges and opportunities; it was not enough that Milly et al provided … [Read more...]

‘Let’s Build a More Inclusive Community’: Jay Ruderman’s Call to Action

By Jacob Kamaras JNS.org The Ruderman Family Foundation is known for its work to advance the inclusion of people with disabilities, but at the 2014 General Assembly (GA) of the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), the foundation’s president used the concept of inclusion to issue a broader challenge to the Jewish community. “I think that we look at people and we label them very quickly,” Jay Ruderman told me Nov. 11 on the stage of the GA’s “press pit,” a section of the exhibition hall where conference attendees got the chance to listen to journalists interview various Jewish leaders. “[We’ll say] ‘You’re in a wheelchair,’ or ‘you’re a different color,’ or ‘you have a different orientation.’ And that’s not what we should be about. We should be about saying, ‘Okay. You’re Jewish. You … [Read more...]