Today’s Challenges Demand a More Collaborative Jewish Philanthropy
By Tad Taube and Shana Penn
Collaborative philanthropy is today a popular subject of articles and speeches, which we have advocated for years. Tad’s business background in real estate, where collaboration is the prerequisite to success, taught him the skills of organizing people, ideas and funding. Only with the right people and resources working together can we build our dreams and our successes.
Today it is important that we dream big. We are living in a period of unprecedented change, when new possibilities are all around us and, at the same time, traditions and values that have underpinned our lives are in jeopardy. Big dreams, however, are often elusive. They can require years to bring to fruition. They need professionals, equipment space, and funding.
To some degree we all walk together. Similar ideas can germinate from a variety of sources, all at the same time. Suddenly, we all seem to be concerned with an issue, idea or cause that a decade earlier may have not even been a part of the public discourse. Then in a moment of synchronicity, the gestalt shifts. Philanthropists have a special role at these moments.
That does not mean abandoning long-held perspectives and commitments. We consider ourselves responsible for supporting the resolution of problems and issues that require decades or lifetimes to resolve. In an era of opportunity, we are the community’s idea-investors.
Today’s accelerating pace of new demands amid ongoing challenges makes this a prime time for collaboration among funders. When we collaborate, we can better recognize how to align resources to bring new ideas to fruition.
Choosing to live a life of Jewish values means choosing a rich tapestry of old and new.
The Bay Area is a mature philanthropic environment. Hospitals, universities, cultural organizations, and social services have been established and supported by private donors for more than a century. It is also an environment where recent spectacular-sized fortunes dot the rosters of philanthropic foundations, in a climate of new issues and social problems that demand attention.
Our challenge is to find balance between welcoming the future while addressing the past. We should listen to new ideas and share what excites us and what we believe can make the world better. But we must also remember what long-term problems our world has not yet solved.
No individual philanthropist or philanthropy can help everyone, but together we can build the costly infrastructure of ideas, people and resources that our imaginations can envision and our world requires.
Collaboration has opened new and expansive ways of learning, leading us to support and innovate a diverse range of community and civic institutions. Through our work, we seek to retain the traditional core of Jewish philanthropy in not only invigorating and strengthening Jewish life but also in advancing our Jewish culture, education, and physical well-being. Choosing to live a life of Jewish values means choosing a rich tapestry of old and new. Choices of projects and institutions to sustain and advance are based on our vision of how best to secure the Jewish future that we believe reflects the mosaic of our heritage.
For more than ten years, our foundation has focused our Jewish grant-making through the lens of Jewish peoplehood, whose principles were first articulated by Mordecai Kaplan, the 20th-century Jewish thinker. Kaplan understood our heritage as an historically evolving cultural experience that touches the lives of individuals and opens Judaism to everyone who seeks to engage with it. Since 2009, Taube Philanthropies’ Jewish Peoplehood Initiative, begun in collaboration with the Koret Foundation, has supported Bay Area programs such as at our six JCCs that accept and celebrate the variety of ways that individuals identify as Jews. Traditional foods and music, a shared literature, congenial politics, and social relationships bind people together and accommodate differences in theological perspectives, religious practice, and spiritual experiences.
The projects we support at Taube Philanthropies are investments in the future. In contrast with commercial ventures, our standard of value is positive change, not profit in the San Francisco Bay Area, where we live, in Poland, where we have our historical roots, and in Israel, our spiritual home.
Tad Taube is a Bay Area businessman, chairman of Taube Philanthropies, president emeritus of the Koret Foundation and honorary consul for the Republic of Poland in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Shana Penn is the executive director of Taube Philanthropies.
This essay originally appeared in J. The Jewish News of Northern California (jweekly.com)
eJewish Philanthropy is the exclusive digital publisher of the individual Peoplehood Papers essays.