Your Daily Phil: A Jewish rally for reproductive rights + rethinking building campaigns

Good Wednesday morning!

A festive mood pervaded the flagship institution of Conservative Judaism yesterday as it formally installed its newish leader in a renovated building. Shuly Rubin Schwartz was inaugurated as the first female chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary in Manhattan at a ceremony full of pomp and circumstance in the school’s skylit, 7,000-square-foot atrium.

Schwartz took the helm of JTS nearly two years ago, but that transition wasn’t formally celebrated until yesterday due to the pandemic. When she began the job in July 2020, Schwartz joked, “I was still sitting in my second bedroom on the same Zoom, probably with the same pair of pants. Maybe I changed my shirt.”

Speakers at the event — from Schwartz to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to New York City Comptroller Brad Lander — alluded to the reality that all is still not well in 2022. Speakers referenced domestic political conflicts, antisemitism, the recent shooting in Buffalo and controversy over Israel.

Lander, a fixture in local Jewish progressive circles, drew murmurs from the crowd of more than 100 when he said, “Jews who don’t consider themselves Zionists, and who love our people… Those are folks that need to be inside the boundaries of our community.” (Schumer’s remarks, delivered by video, were briefer and played to the crowd — wishing Schwartz hatzlacha, Hebrew for “success.”)

But little could disrupt the good feeling in the crowd; Lander got a hearty ovation, and the rest of the program celebrated Schwartz, a scholar of American Jewish history who has previously served as JTS’ provost and as dean of the school’s List College, a dual-degree undergraduate program.

In her address, Schwartz called for a “vigorous exchange of ideas” and for people to “appreciate life’s complexity,” as well as for JTS to make its resources and classes accessible to a wider range of people. Echoing Conservative Judaism’s historical reputation as a middle ground between Orthodox and Reform Judaism, she said JTS should prioritize intellectual, religious and emotional nuance.

“That is our task as a people and as an institution: to educate ourselves and others, to probe our tradition for new meaning that will engage our minds and our souls, to provide nourishment that will give us hope in a promising future, to cultivate nuance and mature insight,” she said. “And most of all, to educate the next generation of Jewish leaders who will carry on this tradition for generations to come.”

Read the full story here.

SCene yesterday

Jewish women gather in Washington as Roe reversal looms

Marc Rod

Following a weekend of pro-choice rallies that drew hundreds of thousands of people nationwide, several thousand American Jews gathered in front of the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday morning at a rally with a similar message that was organized by the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW)“We feel that for too long, Jewish voices have been left out of the national conversation on religion and abortion,” NCJW CEO Sheila Katz told Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch after the rally.

Additional activism: The Jewish Rally for Abortion Justice, which capped off NCJW’s first in-person conference in three years, had been planned for months — well before Politico published a leaked draft of a Supreme Court opinion overturning Roe v. Wade earlier this month, and before the weekend’s events that saw a groundswell of abortion activism. But that didn’t stop the more than 2,000 people who showed up Tuesday at the Capitol, many of whom also attended rallies on Saturday, to protest in a Jewish context.

Jewish angle: Jews support abortion rights more than any other single religious group, according to a 2014 Pew Research Center poll that found that 83% of American Jews think abortion should be legal in most or all cases. Different Jewish denominations approach abortion differently, but even many Orthodox interpretations find that it is acceptable in certain situations.

New fund: Donations to NCJW have increased since news of the Roe v. Wade draft opinion broke, although Katz declined to offer specific figures. The organization also announced this weekend the launch of a fund that will support women who want to get abortions.

Read the full story here.


Edifice Rex


“Building campaigns dot the American Jewish landscape, with opportunities for major donors to emblazon their names upon synagogue, day school, federation and organizational buildings. Some of these campaigns collect tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars for cathedrals to our Diaspora’s ascendance. They represent the aspiration of permanency for American Jews, a display of financial investment in a bright future, and the embrace of norms set by American universities and, yes, those set by American churches,” write Rabbi Benjamin Spratt, senior rabbi of Congregation Rodeph Sholom in New York, and Rabbi Joshua Stanton, senior fellow at CLAL – The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

We’ve built expensive spaces: “Our own communities are blessed to reside in beautiful spaces. These buildings gift us with safety and belonging, fill us with awe and connect us to the past… Yet our communities pay an extraordinary price for these awe-inspiring spaces, diverting resources from the human-centered projects of our shared future. The funds, time and energy devoted to constructing and maintaining them require making them budgetary priorities. This drives organizations to focus on the value proposition of the building to justify the costs, which in turn places more financial burden on congregants.”

Read the full piece here. 


Looking to make your giving more inclusive? Try participatory grantmaking.


One of the most famous lines from Pirkei Avot, the compilation of Talmudic wisdom that it’s customary to read at this time of year, is Bar Zoma’s question: ‘Who is wise? He who learns from all people’… This teaching is at the heart of participatory grantmaking (PGM), an inclusive philanthropic approach that encourages funders to learn from – and in some cases share decision-making power with — the individuals and communities that the funding is designed to benefit,” writes Tamar Frydman, senior program director of Jewish Funders Network, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

New guide available: “Because we believe more Jewish funders should know about and consider this approach, my organization, Jewish Funders Network, recently published Participatory Grantmaking in the Jewish Community and Beyond, the latest in our series of Guides for Intelligent Giving (formerly called Greenbooks).”

One of many strategies: “We’re not highlighting PGM because we think it is always the ‘wise’ approach. The practice has its shortcomings, as well as benefits, and not all funders will feel comfortable with it or feel it is worth the effort. However, as an increasingly popular practice that addresses contemporary concerns about inequity and ensures that often overlooked perspectives are heard, it should be one of many strategies considered. It will be especially appealing for those who believe that the people on the ground – in the communities that directly benefit from funding – are the ones best equipped to decide how that money should be spent.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Cash in Hand: Efforts that give cash directly to people in need so they can determine where best to spend it are becoming increasingly popular across the United States, “fueled by infusions of donations from foundations and individuals and growing evidence that the approach is more effective than traditional social-service programs,” writes Kristen Griffith in The Chronicle of Philanthropy: “In New Jersey, the Newark Movement for Economic Equity… is in its second year of giving more than 400 residents $6,000 apiece per year. Nyerere Carter, who works for the New Jersey medical examiner’s office, is one of the program recipients. Carter used the money that he got last year for gas, food, shoes for his kids, and repairing eyeglasses. He also used it to travel to Louisiana and West Virginia when his grandmother died, to make arrangements and attend the funeral. He’s the sole provider for his household of four. His wife lost her job due to the pandemic. Applying for the cash program, he said, was a ‘no-brainer.’ ‘I had to apply for this program because I had to find a way to survive,’ he said.” [ChronicleofPhilanthropy]

Pandemic Prevention and Philanthropy:
 Bill Gates shared insights from his book, How to Prevent the Next Pandemic, in an interview with Vox’s Whizy Kim. He said, “Governments play the most critical role in protecting people from infectious diseases and other serious health risks. But I do believe there’s a role for philanthropy to play — for example, we can fund initiatives that governments or the private sector can’t or won’t. Most global health issues, like malaria, need to be solved outside of traditional market-based systems, because they’re never going to be profitable for the private sector. During the Covid pandemic, global collaboration between scientists, philanthropists, and global health institutions (like the ACT Accelerator) developed, tested, and deployed safe and effective vaccines faster than ever before. That’s a great example of how the three sectors can work together to solve these big problems.” [Vox]

Community Comms

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Word on the Street

With an initial investment of $50 million, Bloomberg Philanthropies launched the Local Infrastructure Hub, a national program to ensure that all cities and towns can access federal infrastructure funding to drive local recovery, improve communities and deliver results for residents…

Separately, Bloomberg Philanthropies announced a $242 million expansion to its efforts to help the world transition to clean energy…

The Open Society Foundations will create an independent, Europe-wide, Roma-led foundation to support the fight for equality and the political participation of Europe’s estimated 12 million Roma…  

Concerned Citizens League Shul Members, a Chicagoland group, staged a large-scale active shooter simulation involving police and fire departments intended to address shul-specific attacks and incidents. The training exercise was the area’s first large-scale synagogue active shooter drill… 

Yandex, nicknamed the Russian Google, has informed Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett of its intention to move Yandex’s headquarters to Israel…

British writer David Baddiel is partnering with the U.K.’s Channel 4 to make his book about antisemitism, Jews Don’t Count, into a documentary film…

The Jerusalem College of Technology will inaugurate a business administration degree program at its Tal Campus for women. The three-year English-speaking program will begin with the fall semester…

Kisharon, a London-based organization offering children and adults with learning disabilities education and employment opportunities, raised more than $2 million in a single weekend; the funds will be doubled through a matching program… 

Journalist and community advocate Alice S. Handelman died at 79; she was active in the Jewish community and served on several nonprofit boards including those of The St. Louis Jewish Light and Women’s Philanthropy of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis…

Pic of the Day

Screenshot from CBS

New York City Mayor Eric Adams was the guest of honor at a gala hosted by the Jewish Children’s Museum in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, last night, where he received a leadership award.



Venture capitalist and author of a book on business principles derived from the Book of Genesis, Michael A. Eisenberg

Chairman and co-founder of K2 Intelligence and Kroll Bond Rating Agency, Jules B. Kroll… Best-selling author of spy thriller novels, he has served in both the U.S. and the Israeli armies, Andrew Gary Kaplan… Retired New York Timescolumnist and editorial writer, he was the NYT’s Jerusalem correspondent for four years in the early 1990s, Clyde Haberman… Trustee of the Cheetah Conservation Fund, Gary Kopff… Los Angeles-based attorney, board member of American Friends of Nishmat, Linda Goldenberg Mayman… Washington correspondent for Newsweek focused on national security, defense and foreign policy, Jonathan Broder… Member of the Maryland House of Delegates since 1983, Samuel I. “Sandy” Rosenberg… Senior advisor at Moelis & Company, he was previously a major general in the IDF, later CEO of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Shlomo Yanai… Director of nutrition and hospitality at Philadelphia’s Temple University Hospital, Nancy Baumann… Attorney in Atlanta, Alan Kitey… Former president of MGM Motion Picture Group, Jonathan Glickman… Former CEO at Waze, Noam Bardin… Senior national correspondent for PoliticoBryan Bender… Head of development at NYC charter school system, Uncommon Schools, Sarah Danzig Simon… Author of the newsletter and blog, Slow BoringMatthew Yglesias… Director of a team of writers at Gartner in London, Eliza Krigman… Staffer for the Senate Armed Services Committee, Eric Trager… Correspondent for NBC News, Joshua Lederman… Former acting undersecretary of defense for intelligence and security, Ezra Asa Cohen-Watnick… President and co-founder of Stealth Web3, Dan Garon… Co-Founder of Rebel later acquired by Salesforce, Joe Teplow… Associate in the Washington, D.C., office of Buckley, LLP, Lauren DePinto Bomberger... Executive producer of the “Net Zero Life” podcast, Netanel “Tani” Levitt… Head of policy partnerships and social impact at Snapchat, Sofia Rose Gross

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