When Your Diversity Problem is Actually a Design Problem

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At the very beginning of efforts, we must gather the finest group of thinkers and planners around the table - and that group must always include the constituents we hope to serve. By Ilana Kaufman Earlier in March, I got a call from a mainstream Jewish organizational leader. She prefaced her comments by announcing that her organization was rededicating itself to their long-standing commitment to social justice, and their current focus would be on racial justice. While this organization has a reputation for being rather left in its lean, I asked, “Why now?” offering a Hillel inspired inquiry. “We have always been dedicated to social justice values,” she said. “But why this specific time to focus on racial justice?” I wondered out loud. “Because this is the time. The modern Civil … [Read more...]

Fundraising and March Madness: You’ve Got to Want the Ball!!

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By Robert Evans Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting with an old friend, who happens to be a rabbi of a mid-sized congregation on the East Coast. In the late 1990s, I “coached” his synagogue through a successful multimillion capital campaign. We’ve kept in touch, but hadn’t seen each other for a long time. As we settled in to his office, surrounded by tomes of Jewish wisdom, a flood of memories returned to each of us. As we engaged in spirited banter, it was almost as if no time had passed, except where we might once have spoken about our children, the conversation now gravitated toward grandchildren. But soon, the conversation reverted to the work we did together, to the campaign’s one honest-to-goodness, moment of reckoning. Forgive me for having March Madness on the brain: This is the … [Read more...]

This Year I am Bringing Myself to the Seder

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By Ilana Fodiman-Silverman Do you remember the day your child was born? Or when you first discovered your life’s passion? There are moments in life that change the course of the way that we live and the way that we see the world. On the seder night, we travel back in time to re-experience one such moment when we transitioned from slaves to a nation redeemed. Before even leaving Egypt, the narrative itself records the slaves instruction to bear witness to this story for future generations. The seder night is the fulfillment of that charge. As the inheritors of this narrative, we are asked to tell the story as our own. With all of the focus before Passover around cleaning and preparing a meal, serving as gracious hosts and guests reading a text, perhaps the hardest part of the holiday is … [Read more...]

Pesach and Abraham Lincoln’s 150th Yahrzeit: Reflections on God’s Role in History

Photograph taken by Jewish photographer-friend of Lincoln, Samuel Alschuler, who lent Lincoln his own velvet-trimmed coat for the occasion. Urbana, Illinois, April 25, 1858, Courtesy of Library of Congress.

By Yossi Prager A new exhibit on Abraham Lincoln and the Jews, paired with a beautiful new book by Jonathan Sarna and Benjamin Shapell, has refocused Jewish attention on Abraham Lincoln. The proximity to Pesach is appropriate, as both the Jewish Exodus and Civil War are freedom stories. The connection is even deeper, however. Lincoln and Pesach became forever linked when, in 1865, John Wilkes Booth shot Abraham Lincoln in Ford’s Theater on the eve of the fifth night of Pesach, making this Pesach (2015) Lincoln’s 150th “yahrzeit.” In honor of the occasion, I invite you to reflect this Pesach on God’s role in human history, a theme common to the Haggadah and Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address. The Haggadah is a story of the increasing revelation of God’s hand in history. God informed Abraham in … [Read more...]

Bring on the Matzah

By Maya Bernstein Matzah is a pretty big deal on Passover. In fact, so much of this holiday is focused getting rid of chametz and making space for the matzah to reign for a week. I loved cleaning for Passover even as a child. My favorite part was going through the coat closet, which smelled of my parents, the winter, secrets, and possibilities. As a young girl, it was my job to check each pocket of every coat in the house. You never knew what you were going to find, coins, slips of forgotten paper, candy wrappers, and, most excitingly, morsels of chametz. It was doubly rewarding to pull out real food. It made the search worthwhile, confirming that the task wasn’t mere theatrics, and, best of all, we had a finders-keepers (as long as it’s eaten before Passover) rule. Yum. If you think about it, … [Read more...]

Anybody’s Judaism

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Anybody’s Judaism: If new media offer a platform to anyone with an opinion, whose opinion counts? By Maayan Jaffe eJewishPhilanthropy.com For generations it has been clear who sets the Jewish agenda and trends: A group of older men in a boardroom backed by major funders and philanthropists. This packaged Judaism wasn’t unique to the Jewish people. Trends - be they in the automobile or clothing industry - were for generations set by major retail establishments that had the funding necessary to access advertising venues and reach the masses. Similarly, the news we read was that which appeared on the front page of the New York Times. The world has changed. The model of the all-knowing leader and the passive constituent has come to an end and in its stead is a “me model,” a model of the … [Read more...]

From Europe’s Rabbis, the Lessons of Exodus and Passover

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After sunset on Friday evening, the Jews of Europe whose lives are disparate and experiences multitudinous will find themselves, if only for a few hours, bound together by ritual and contemplation. 1.1 million members of the Diaspora will partake is what is considered the oldest continually practiced ritual in the Western world and retell one of the Western canon’s best known stories. At a time when many questions surround the fate of Europe’s Jewish communities, eJewish Philanthropy asked a number of European rabbis: What can we draw or learn from the Passover holiday and the story of the Exodus that is relevant to European Jewry at the present time? Here are their responses. * * * The Pesach story, more than any other, remains the inexhaustible source of inspiration to all those who long for … [Read more...]

Israel: Connecting to Timely Issues Through Timeless Values

By Shalom Orzach Pesach, perhaps more than any other festival, embodies true experiential education. Among the key requirements of the Festival as referred to in the Tractate of Pesachim (116b), and the Haggadah itself, is the obligation to see ourselves as coming out of Egypt. “In every generation a person is obligated to see themselves as if they came out of Egypt.” It is not a celebration of someone else’s journey or long walk to freedom but our very own. The audacity of this revolutionary concept defines our very Jewishness, our identity and core values. It does so not just cerebrally but experientially, by creating a living bond with our story that endures, both in time but also beyond time. This idea is evoked in our discourse with God at Sinai where we committed to do and to listen, … [Read more...]