The Righteous Persons Foundation – the foundation established by Steven Spielberg to help bridge divides between people of different backgrounds; galvanize the power of the arts, media, and storytelling; preserve Jewish history and traditions and make them accessible for generations to come; build on the Jewish value of justice to inspire social activism; and ensure that the moral lessons of the Holocaust are not forgotten – announced this week seven new grants.
Facing History and Ourselves
FHAO is a leading educational organization empowering students across the United States to confront bigotry by teaching them what it means to be an “upstander” – rather than a bystander – to history. Forty years into this work, FHAO is updating its curriculum to meet the needs of educators navigating modern-day issues ranging from the normalization of hate to freedom of the press. This renewal grant from RPF will enable the organization to help more than 100,000 educators address stereotyping, hate speech, and questions of intersectionality, identity, and group membership in their classrooms. FHAO will also produce and disseminate rapid response resources tied to lessons on the Holocaust, human behavior, and the fragility of democracy – all tools to help students explore the complexities of the past, make connections to current events, and consider how they personally can make a difference today.
History is filled with examples of Jewish individuals and communities standing up to injustice and hate – for themselves and for others. Yet, outside of what is now an old image of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel marching with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., many young Jews know little of this heritage. To shine a light on this important past, Reboot is partnering with the Yiddish Book Center to launch a unique fellowship. Reboot will invite 10 creatives (artists, writers, designers, journalists, tech developers, and more) to dive into the largest archive of Yiddish literature in the world and transform it into projects that are accessible and meaningful for large audiences today.
Interfaith Youth Core
Working in deep partnership with nearly 350 U.S. college campuses across the country, IFYC is rewritting the narrative around religion in public life. The 15-year-old organization brings together students whose faiths, while diverse, distill in them a shared moral imperative to make the world better for everyone. By tackling community issues together, these students debunk the myth that religious differences only ever create conflict and are helping to strengthen interfaith cooperation. This grant builds on RPF’s fall 2016 support of Auburn’s senior religious fellows, a cohort of rising and established interfaith leaders pursuing social justice.
In today’s world, where social justice issues are at the forefront and the topic of the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict has become so charged it has split communities, the need for informed and nuanced leadership on Israel is critical. That is where Encounter steps in. An apolitical organization, Encounter believes that American Jewish leaders must be deeply informed about what is happening in the Middle East regardless of their political views. To that end, the organization takes rabbis, educators, and other influencers on immersive excursions to the West Bank and East Jerusalem where they meet Palestinians and learn about issues first-hand.
With the number of displaced people at its highest in recorded history, the Jewish mandate to care for “the stranger” is more pressing than ever. HIAS – the oldest refugee resettlement agency in the world – is responding by doubling down on its work advocating for refugees and assisting with their resettlement. (HIAS has helped settle more than 4.5 million people, including mostly non-Jews in recent years, since the early waves of Jewish immigration.) With support from RPF, HIAS will: engage growing numbers of American Jews in the refugee crisis, connect thousands of interested volunteers to opportunities assisting refugees on the ground, build on grassroots advocacy campaigns, and directly help 3,000 people reach safe haven in the U.S. this year.
In 2016, 2.6 million Tweets contained anti-Semitic content, a disturbing fact that points toward the ways in which hate exists and spreads online. With support from RPF, ADL will study the impact of technology on civil rights and work with major online platforms including Google, Facebook, and Twitter to prevent and root out online hate. This work, which will be undertaken by ADL’s new Silicon Valley-based Center on Technology and Society, will coincide with the organization’s larger efforts to track and combat anti-Semitism and hate and protect American civil liberties.
Carl Laemmle is best known as the film industry pioneer who founded Universal Pictures and produced All Quiet on the Western Front. But the movie mogul’s legacy extends far beyond Hollywood. Directed by James L. Freedman (Glickman), the feature-length documentary Uncle Carl tells how, among other accomplishments, Laemmle led on progressive issues – first by providing hard-to-come-by opportunities to female directors and African American actors, and later by helping to rescue more than 300 Jewish families from Nazi Germany. Laemmle didn’t just write affidavits and sponsor visas; he helped refugees find homes and jobs and provided them with financial support. In a time of renewed global crisis, this film about Carl Laemmle’s forward-thinking humanitarian efforts serves as both a history lesson and an inspiration.