Your Daily Phil: 2022 in Jewish philanthropy
Good Friday morning, and happy fifth day of Hanukkah!
Ed. note: This will be the final Your Daily Phil of 2022. The newsletter will return on Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023. Chag sameach, and happy new year!
In today’s Your Daily Phil, we recap the year in Jewish philanthropy, and feature a column by Y.U.’s Erica Brown on the weekly Torah portion as well as a reflection on Hanukkah by Robert Lichtman. Also in this newsletter: Brian L. Roberts, Jeff Carr, S. Ty Steinberg and Rabbi Yael Buechler. We’ll start with a delegation of Israeli school administrators touring New York City Jewish day schools.
For less-distracted reading over the weekend, browse this week’s edition of The Weekly Print, a curated print-friendly PDF featuring a selection of recent stories from JI, eJewishPhilanthropy and The Circuit, including: The White House gelt peddler; Hanukkah comes to Audrey Gelman’s Six Bells; Brazilian database records, historian cast doubt on Santos’ claims of Jewish ancestry; ‘Fragile Beauty’ exhibition connects Jewish artists with the environment; Meet the L.A. rabbi who found a national stage for her support of the Iranian protests; How ‘GirlWithNoJob’ raised $50,000 on Instagram for Holocaust education in one day; Dead Sea rebounds from pandemic slump as tourist magnet for Jordan; and UAE offer for Israeli insurer paves way for more deals, minister says.Print the latest edition here.
As she embarked on a tour of Jewish day schools, synagogues and communal institutions in New York City this week, Noga Mor, the principal of a secular Israeli public elementary school, had a question: Why haven’t American Jews, who face rising antisemitism, packed up and moved to Israel?
Over the course of the itinerary, she heard an answer. “They said something beautiful — that we don’t need to feel like victims of antisemitism, but rather need to strengthen our Jewish identity and be proud of who we are,” Mor told eJewishPhilanthropy. “That moved me. Now I understand what their approach is.”
Mor is one of 11 Israeli educators on the weeklong trip, which aims to expose the Israelis to American Jewish day school education and to connect them with their peers in those schools. The trip is run by TALI (a Hebrew acronym for “enhancing Jewish study”), a pluralist Jewish educational organization that implements an expanded Jewish studies curriculum in nearly 100 secular schools, mostly elementary, and in 200 preschools. The organization is part of The Schechter Institutes, an Israeli educational institution, and was founded by Conservative Jews but is not affiliated with the movement.
The trip took the participants to the pluralist Heschel School in Manhattan, the Hebrew Language Academy Charter School in Brooklyn, the Hebrew school of the Reform Congregation Beth Elohim, also in Brooklyn, and Schechter Manhattan, which is Conservative.
The delegation has also visited a variety of synagogues and other organizations, including the UJA-Federation of New York, which provided funding for the trip. The itinerary opened with a walk down Fifth Avenue and then Manhattan’s heavily Jewish Diamond District, to show the contrast between celebrations of Christmas and Hanukkah.
The choice not to visit an Orthodox school was deliberate, said Peri Sinclair, TALI’s director general, because the organization wanted to “find schools and institutions that cater to the same population that comes to TALI schools” in Israel, which is largely made up of non-Orthodox Jews.
“The first [goal] is to just see what goes on in the Jewish community in New York, because there’s so much diversity,” Sinclair told eJP. “The second is to see what it means to have to actively be engaged and create, and choose to be Jewish.”
The trip is the capstone of a two-year seminar on Jewish textual literacy and peoplehood, and Sinclair feels that a firsthand look at Jewish schools can illuminate the similarities and differences between Jewish education at TALI schools and American Jewish schools.
“We want to ask them how they deal with their challenges and share how we deal with our challenges, and try to learn from each other,” she said, adding that in Israel, her mission in secular communities is sometimes to say, “Let’s look what our tradition says, and try to learn from it, and not feel like we’re being oppressed by political groups,” whereas in the United States, “You’re living in the land of the free and everything is open. And in order to live in a Jewish community, you have to make sacrifices.”
The trip also emphasizes the day school as a hub for community, something that Sinclair said is often missing at Israeli public schools. In addition, the group met with a multi-denominational panel of rabbis, which Mor said she enjoyed, adding, “There’s also a lot of appreciation for the creative things developing here.”
The year in Jewish philanthropy
It has been quite a year for Jews — and for Jewish philanthropy. Two weeks into 2022, a gunman took a rabbi and three congregants hostage at Temple Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas — prompting a renewed emphasis on funding to combat antisemitism. Just over a month later, Russia invaded Ukraine — sparking a transformation in American Jewish organizational budgets and priorities. The rest of the year was no less momentous — from major philanthropic news about Birthright to new efforts for reproductive rights to, recently, the allegations against Sam Bankman-Fried. As we head into 2023, here are 10 trends and topics that defined the Jewish philanthropic world this year.
Fighting antisemitism and funding security: Following the Colleyville attack, the Jewish Federations of North America accelerated a program that would inject up to $126 million over three years into security. Jewish groups began a full-court press that led to the government providing $305 million for securing religious institutions and other nonprofits, though that number was short of the $360 million the groups requested. Antisemitism on campus remained concerning, and a coalition of nine groups at the University of California, Berkeley Law School agreed to bar events with Zionist speakers. Late in the year, antisemitism again dominated the headlines — this time accelerated by Kanye West.
Coping with inflation: As inflation climbed in 2022, Jewish nonprofits and funders tried to remain optimistic. Still, rising costs impacted institutions across the Jewish world. Camp tuition is slated to jump 6% to 8% this year to cover the gap. During the High Holiday season, synagogues reconsidered their membership dues, budgets and financial models. Some JCCs, already hammered by the lockdowns of the pandemic, reframed their value — downplaying membership fees and emphasizing that donations are an investment in the community. Cost of living has also risen in Israel — and led to a short-lived resuscitation of the tent protests on Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard.
Aiding Ukraine — and immigration to Israel: Arguably the biggest disruption to Jewish philanthropy came on Feb. 24, when Russian troops invaded Ukraine. Jewish organizations that had invested in the country for decades — and that had centuries of lineage there — were well-positioned to help, and during the 10 months since, Jewish organizations have collectively sent hundreds of millions of dollars of aid to the country. Hillels in Ukraine were hit hard, and at least one Hillel student was killed in battle. Tens of thousands of Ukrainian and Russian Jews fled their homes and, in many cases, streamed into Israel, and Israeli entrepreneurs tried to leverage their expertise to help refugees and provide aid. The donations began as emergency funding, but have become a long-term priority for federations, aid groups and synagogues
the torah of leadership
Attracted to problems: Parshat Miketz
“Sometimes it’s hard to understand what activities and traits distinguish a leader from a follower. This is especially true because the very word ‘leader’ is used today to describe someone who runs a country and also someone who volunteers to run a bake sale. This indiscriminate range can lead to cynicism. If everyone’s a leader, then maybe no one is,” writes Erica Brown in her weekly column for eJewishPhilanthropy.
Leaders leaning into problems: “In the years I’ve been working in leadership development, I’ve noticed anecdotally an unmistakable character trait that runs deep in high-impact leaders and is, I believe, a defining feature of leadership. Leaders are attracted to problems. They view issues and conflicts that stymie and repel others as interesting puzzles to be solved. They lean into dilemmas rather than lean back. Such attraction doesn’t mean leaders can solve problems instantly, but they aren’t intimidated by them. They don’t experience despair or helplessness when they encounter a difficult problem or regard it as intractable.”
FDR’s example: “In her 1996 book Character Above All, Doris Kearns Goodwin describes Franklin Delano Roosevelt as this type of leader; FDR was a confident problem solver and decision maker. Frances Perkins, FDR’s secretary of labor, said that FDR’s ‘capacity to inspire and encourage those around him to do tough, confused and practically impossible jobs was without dispute.’ After she met with the president, Perkins did not always have a ready solution to a problem but, Kearns Goodwin describes, she felt ‘more cheerful, more determined, stronger than she had felt when she went into the room.’ Eleanor Roosevelt said this of her husband: ‘I have never known a man who gave one a greater sense of security. I never heard him say there was a problem that he thought it was impossible for human beings to solve.’ This is the first quote to appear at the FDR Memorial in Washington, D.C. In his four terms as president, FDR faced problems on the national and world stage that may have toppled those less self-assured. (The question of whether FDR did all he could for Eastern European Jewry during World War II is, of course, more complex and has been discussed at length in Richard Breitman and Allan J. Lichtman’s National Jewish Book Award finalist, FDR and the Jews, and more recently Raphael Medoff’s book The Jews Should Keep Quiet: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, and the Holocaust.)”
Dream reader: “Parshat Miketz, this week’s Torah reading, offers us a glimpse of this problem-solving capacity in Joseph. Joseph was a dreamer, but his salvation and that of his family actually came through dream interpretation. No one else had the confidence, expertise or temerity to help Pharaoh understand his inner confusion.”
Miracles believe in us
“The Red Sea was turbulent and unforgiving before Nachshon defiantly entered it, daring the waves to make way for the Jewish people until the waters, indeed, parted. Haman flawlessly engineered the political machinery to unleash destruction on the Jewish people until Esther challenged him, leaving him dangling in history. A tiny band of Maccabees revolted against a world power and heroically carved a path for renewed Jewish sovereignty in Israel. And a lone priest in Jerusalem’s Temple had no reason to believe that the small jar of oil he found would fuel the holy menorah for more than one day, until he had faith that it would, and it did,” Robert Lichtman, Jewish learning officer of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest, N.J., writes in an opinion piece reflecting on Hanukkah.
Human action: “In any recounting of miraculous events throughout our history, every instance of a miracle was preceded by human initiation. The sea would not have yielded without Nachshon. The Purim genocide would not have been thwarted without Esther. The menorah would have been dark without the nameless priest who enabled a miracle to be drawn into it.”
Buzz Buzz, It’s 2023: Fediverse. Attack philanthropy. Regenerative (fill in the term here). All of these are buzzwords to look for in the new year, Lucy Bernholz writes in The Chronicle of Philanthropy, citing information from her just-released report, Blueprint 2023: Philanthropy and Digital Civil Society. “This year’s buzzwords reflect a changing and increasingly unpredictable world. The news has tilted away from the pandemic to an unknown future shaped by other major events such as climate change and the ongoing war in Ukraine. Two tech stories reared up at the end of the year and continue to make headlines — Elon Musk’s tumultuous takeover of Twitter and the implosion of the cryptocurrency exchange FTX, whose founder Sam Bankman-Fried was a vocal proponent of effective altruism. All of this has implications for philanthropy, which seeks to address the world’s most challenging problems but is entangled with the tech and finance sectors in increasingly murky ways. These entanglements include debates over the source of philanthropic wealth, how technology is used by and for philanthropy, and donors’ blending of politics and giving. As always, some of the latest buzzy lingo and the trends those words represent will be lasting and meaningful while others will be little more than passing fads. But for the present, they are part of the zeitgeist that is shaping philanthropy.” [ChronicleofPhilanthropy]
Around the Web
The Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia announced that Brian L. Roberts, chairman & CEO of Comcast Corporation, will receive the 2022 William Penn Award, the highest honor bestowed on a business executive in Greater Philadelphia. Roberts also won a gold medal in squash at the Maccabiah Games in Israel, in addition to multiple silver medals…
Jeff Carr, who served as chief of staff to former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, has been appointed CEO of Jewish Vocational Services SoCal…
S. Ty Steinberg of Elkins Park, Pa., who ran a regional paint and wallpaper business, was a backer of charitable causes and led a weekday morning service at his synagogue for more than five decades, died at 94…
Correction: An earlier edition of Your Daily Phil misspelled the name of the late Canadian businessman and philanthropist Albert Reichmann.
Pic of the Day
Rabbi Yael Buechler surveys the successes and failures of Hanukkah merchandise displays in a video series during this holiday season. In the photo above, she visits a Party City store that includes a Seder plate in its array of offerings.
Owner of The Wonderful Company, which operates POM, Fiji Water, Teleflora, Wonderful Pistachios and other businesses, Stewart Resnick celebrates his birthday on Saturday…
FRIDAY: Television producer Barney Rosenzweig… Electrical engineer, who with Vint Cerf, invented the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and the Internet Protocol (IP), the fundamental protocols at the heart of the Internet, Robert Elliot “Bob” Kahn… Emmy Award-winning actor, writer, director and producer, best known for his work on “The Simpsons,” Harry Shearer… Russian-born mathematician, living in France, Mikhail Leonidovich Gromov… U.S. district judge in the Southern District of New York, he has been on senior status since 2011, Judge Lewis A. Kaplan… Former economics columnist for The Washington Post, Robert J. Samuelson… Documentary filmmaker Aviva Kempner… Recently retired justice on the Supreme Court of Canada, Michael Moldaver… One of two Grand Rebbes of Satmar, Rabbi Zalman Leib Teitelbaum… Editor-at-large of The Bulwark, William “Bill” Kristol… Retired Israeli basketball player and coach, until 2006 she was in the Guinness Book of World Records for the most points (108) ever scored in a women’s professional game, Orna Ostfeld… Dean at Indiana University’s School of Global and International Studies, he served as the U.S. ambassador to Poland in the Obama administration, Lee A. Feinstein… Software engineer at Goldman Sachs, Bill Pinsky…
CEO of the Rabbinical Assembly, Rabbi Jacob Blumenthal… Former USAID acting mission director for the West Bank and Gaza, now mission director for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Courtney Chubb… Political technology entrepreneur and campaign finance attorney, Jonathan Eric Zucker… Israeli investor, Dan Gertler… Beverly Hills-based attorney and real estate agent, he is a supporter of pro-democracy groups in his native Iran, Pooya Dayanim… Israeli-Spanish singer-songwriter of Judeo-Spanish (Ladino) music, Yasmin Levy… Partner in the Austin office of Keller Lenkner, Zina Linda Gelman Bash… VP of strategy and mergers at the Heritage Group, Adam Milakofsky… Israeli singer, songwriter, musician and composer of the genre known as Mizrahi music, Dudu Aharon… Liberal rabbi in the city of Dresden and founder of the Besht Yeshiva, Akiva Weingarten… Executive director of the Alexander Hamilton Society, Dr. Gabriel Scheinmann… Lecturer and research scholar at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, Emil Pitkin… Senior marketing manager at Rokt until last month, Lauren Kahn… Israeli fashion model Shlomit Malka… India Goodman… Tom Epstein… Chief operating officer at Israel Policy Forum, Snezhana Valdman Orlando…
SATURDAY: Founder of Cablevision Industries, Alan Gerry… Professor of education and liturgy at Gratz College for 42 years until retiring in 2017, Saul Philip Wachs… Columnist and senior national security reporter at The Cipher Brief, Walter Haskell Pincus… Emeritus professor of English at the University of Vermont and former chief of staff to Sen. Bernie Sanders, he is the co-author of Sanders’ political memoir, Stanley “Huck” Gutman… British journalist and fashion critic who serves as an editor for 25 international editions of Vogue online, Suzy Menkes… Retired justice of the Supreme Court of Florida, Barbara Pariente… Member of the New York State Assembly representing Lower Manhattan, Deborah J. Glick… Co-founder and a rabbi of Ohr HaTorah in Venice, Calif., Rabbi Mordecai Finley… Former director of the National Economic Council under both Presidents Clinton and Obama, Gene Sperling… Founder and chief investment officer at BlueStar Indexes which is now part of MV Index Solutions, Steven Schoenfeld… Founder of Ochstein Strategies, Jodi L. Ochstein… Activist against gun violence, Fred Guttenberg… British-Israeli security consultant, Walter Zvi Soriano… Member of the U.K. Parliament since 2005, former leader of the Labour Party, Edward Samuel Miliband… Professor of Internet law and computer science at Harvard, Jonathan Zittrain… Staff writer at The New Yorker since 2008, Evan Osnos… Chief communications officer at the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, Roben Kantor Smolar… Pianist, singer and composer, at 9 years old he became the youngest artist to have his own hour-long “National PBS Concert Special,” Ethan Jordan Bortnick…
SUNDAY: Sociologist, author, fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of City Journal, Kay Hymowitz… Israeli singer, songwriter, musician and painter, Yehuda Poliker… CEO of Whitebarn Associates and vice-chair of the board of The Ohio State University, Abigail Wexner… News editor at NBC News Digital, Hilary Leila Krieger… Writer-at-large at The Bulwark, Tim Miller… Attorney in the regulatory and government affairs group at global law firm DLA Piper, Irene Beren Jefferson Sherman… Board member at The America-Israel Friendship League, Daniella Rilov…