Your Daily Phil: A road map for saving Israel’s strained welfare system

Good Monday morning.

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on a new fundraising campaign by Americans for Ben-Gurion University to strengthen the institution and southern Israel. We also feature an opinion piece by Joshua Spinner about a surprising exchange with a fellow communal professional in one of the world’s oldest Jewish communities in the latest installment of eJP’s “The 501(c) Suite” series; and in another opinion piece, Alex Pomson highlights some distinctive elements of the Jewish leadership pipeline in Britain. Also in this newsletter: Patricia “Patty” McIlreavyNaomi Verber and Helen and Jacob Shaham. We’ll start with a new report by the Menomadin Foundation aimed at improving Israel’s strained welfare system.

The Oct. 7 terror attacks and resulting war put considerable stress on Israel’s already stretched-too-thin welfare system with both novel war-related challenges and by exacerbating existing problems. A new three-way partnership among academia, philanthropy and government is looking to bring fresh ideas to improve the welfare system in light of these additional strains, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross.

Last month, the Menomadin Foundation presented to the Israeli Welfare Ministry a report titled, “Welfare following war,” a 143-page document that was initiated and edited by Hebrew University researchers, comprising 18 chapters written by a combination of academics and practitioners. The report serves as an addendum, albeit a major one, to a similar strategic road map that the foundation presented to the ministry in 2022.

“The welfare system, in the fullest sense of the term, found itself needing to deal with levels of need that we never knew before. The system didn’t know how to deal with this number of people with those needs, not to mention the fact that the system has been underfunded for years,” Michal Almog-Bar, the head of of the Center for the Study of Civil Society and Philanthropy at Hebrew University’s School of Social Work and one of the editors of the report, told eJP.

“So we asked faculty who work with us to look at what’s happening in the field and think of recommendations, things that aren’t complicated and actually can be implemented. That’s how this document was written. It’s not an academic work,” she said. “Each chapter deals with a different field or different population that the welfare system in Israel needs to deal with.”

Haim Taib, the president and founder of the Menomadin Foundation, said it was critical to address the country’s welfare services.

“The events of Oct. 7 and the subsequent war have reshaped the urgent need to bolster Israel’s welfare system,” he said in a statement. “Today, a significant portion of our population, comprising diverse groups, depends on social services. Our collective resilience, both short and long-term, hinges on prioritizing the mental and physical well-being of all citizens.”

Minister of Welfare and Social Security Ya’akov Margi hailed the “fruitful collaboration between academia, the private sector, and the Ministry of Welfare,” saying in a statement that these types of partnerships can “play a significant role in addressing social and personal challenges, as they are rooted in research.”

John Gal, a professor and former dean of the Hebrew University School of Social Work and another of the editors, said the document exemplifies what he believes social work scholars are meant to do — to directly participate in the field and not only study it from afar.

“We expect social work academics to not only be good researchers and teachers but to contribute to social change,” he said. “Our faculty members in all the different fields were involved in one way or another in the issues of the war. So we thought, ‘People have learned things, they have gained knowledge, so they can contribute to making the system work better,” he said.

All of the parties involved said they hoped and planned to see the recommendations in the report implemented to at least some extent.

“Margi listened to us and said he’d bring it forward,” Almog-Bar told eJP. “We hope that at least some of the recommendations will be adopted.”

Read the full report here.


Supporters raise $380 million for Ben-Gurion University toward new $1 billion campaign

A bridge to Ben-Gurion University in Beersheva.
A bridge to Ben-Gurion University in Beersheva.

Supporters of Ben-Gurion University have raised $380 million toward a $1 billion fundraising campaign dubbed “Way Forward,” aimed at strengthening the university and, through it, southern Israel, which the Americans for Ben-Gurion University officially launched today, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross.

Big and small: More than a quarter of the money raised came from a $100 million pledge that real estate mogul and philanthropist Sylvan Adams made last year. The rest comes from smaller donations from individual philanthropists and charitable foundations, including $20 million from Katja Goldman and Michael Sonnenfeldt, $18 million from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust $15 million from the Diane & Guilford Glazer Foundation and $6 million from Ernest Scheller.

Diaspora’s role: “Through this historic campaign, Diaspora supporters are rallying around Israel’s essential efforts to rebuild the South, with the University leading the way forward as both the epicenter of the region and the key to its recovery,” Americans for Ben-Gurion University CEO Doug Seserman said in a statement.

Fundraising goals: Half of the $1 billion that Americans for Ben-Gurion University hopes to raise is meant to go toward physical infrastructure projects, a quarter for supporting students and the remaining quarter toward research.


A lesson from Jewish Rome

The sanctuary of the Great Synagogue in Rome, Italy, pictured in 2015. sarahtarno/Flickr

“About 15 years ago, I was sitting in a nondescript room in Rome with a handful of colleagues from the Jewish philanthropic world, most of us Americans. We had gathered to discuss issues of shared interest and dedicated a session to learning about the local Jewish community — one of the oldest in the world,” writes Joshua Spinner, executive vice president and CEO of the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation, in the latest installment of eJewishPhilanthropy’s opinion column “The 501(c) Suite.”

A baffling exchange: “One of the Roman Jews we met was a young woman, introduced to us as the representative of students and young professionals. She began to criticize local Jewish life in language that seemed familiar: the community is closed and too traditional, the rabbis obscurantist and so on. After about 10 minutes, we queried whether she was the only person in her circle who felt this way. No, certainly not, she said, many of her friends feel this way too… My colleague responded with enthusiasm: Create a new group or space, break away from the community, get active — in short, change something! Our interlocutor was silent. She was clearly thinking. Then she smiled broadly and said: ‘You misunderstand. I have been complaining for 2,000 years! This is my role! I do not want to change anything.’ We were stunned. It took me a long time to understand what this Roman Jew said that day, and what I could learn from that ancient community.”

Read the full piece here.


Jewish leadership, made in Britain

British teens involved in the Bnei Akiva youth movement, pictured at an event at Kinloss Synagogue in London, England, in 2016. Bnei Akiva UK/Facebook.

“Born and raised in the U.K., I left Britain almost 30 years ago and have been fortunate to live in Israel for the past 20 years. I go back to the U.K. often for business and pleasure, but until now I was never asked to study the settings and circumstances that contributed to who I am today — and who I might have become, had I remained there,” writes Alex Pomson, principal and managing director of Rosov Consulting, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy

The mission: “About a year ago, United Jewish Israel Appeal (UJIA) and the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC) — two of the U.K.’s premier cross-communal bodies — asked the team at Rosov Consulting to help take stock of Jewish leadership in the U.K. today and to identify the leadership structures and supports that can help the community thrive in the future. Specifically, the study’s goal was to construct a portrait of those who serve as Jewish leaders today or might do so in the future, what has shaped or empowered them, how effective they are perceived to be and how prepared they are for the tasks that lie ahead.”

Fresh perspective: “Drawing on my knowledge of Jewish communal and educational leadership development in North America helped me make sense of the place I once called home. It was truly a case of going back to the future — even the familiar was now different. It was a chance to answer the question: ‘What is distinctive about the Jewish leadership cultivated in Britain?’” 

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Frozen in Time: In the Washington Post, Shira Rubin and William Booth write about the struggle of Israelis from the country’s southern and northern borders — some still displaced, some returned, but none with a restored sense of security. “Six months after Oct. 7, Israelis are struggling to recover their bearings, their core, their belief that Jews are safe in Israel. In Israel’s south and north, more than 120,000 people have been evacuated, their neighborhoods transformed into front lines. The homes sit empty, toys still scattered in front yards. In the southern kibbutzim, where 3,000 Hamas-led fighters launched a surprise assault on that indelible Saturday morning, the residents return not to live but to serve as guides for visitors from abroad. They give heart-rending tours, recounting how 1,200 people were slaughtered and 253 hostages were dragged into Gaza, according to Israeli government figures. Evacuees fear that their communities are becoming places frozen in time and loss. They worry that if no solution is found for them — if security is not restored along the borders they share with their enemies — the rest of the country will remain exposed, in a permanent state of existential danger.” [WashingtonPost]

Think Long Term: In a blog post on the organization’s website, Center for Disaster Philanthropy President and CEO Patricia “Patty” McIlreavy offers recommendations for how donors can better respond to disasters by thinking about long-term needs rather than short-term catharsis. “It is said that the first 48 to 72 hours after a disaster strikes are often the most critical for life-saving efforts. Consequently, the intensity and scale of giving in the early days of crises are the norm for a positive and valid reason: an intense desire to help. The empathy and ensuing generosity on display are to be celebrated. However, there is a flip side to this emotive, immediate giving: that of centering ourselves in our donation. It is natural to wish to see the impact of our giving. Yet this desire creates a drive toward short-term quantifiable projects over long-term qualitative ones, even when the former are no longer needed… This tendency hinders genuine recovery efforts and diminishes the ability of communities to lead their recovery… Instead of solely focusing on short-term relief efforts, prioritize investments in the capacity-building of local organizations and communities. Empower local entities with the skills, resources and infrastructure needed to not only address the immediate aftermath of a disaster but also to foster community resilience and sustainable recovery… Our truest impact as disaster philanthropists lies in the long-term transformation of communities toward independence and prosperity.” [CenterforDisasterPhilanthropy]

Go to the Source: In Inside Philanthropy, Jayanthi A. Pushkaran offers examples of how the attentiveness of funders and nonprofits to the needs and experiences of the people they want to help can impact the efficacy of their initiatives. “[I]n India, many girls leave school even though education is free and compulsory to age 14. Some will marry at a young age, despite national laws enacted to safeguard them. At a school in Rajasthan, girls were regularly dropping out, but it wasn’t clear why until we asked a 13-year-old girl. She revealed that a nonfunctional door on the toilet made her and other girls feel uncomfortable and unsafe using the bathroom. Simply fixing the door could have kept dozens of girls in school. Only she could explain what was truly at stake. As funders, it is not enough to declare support for youth programming and girls’ empowerment initiatives. We must invest in transformative change that starts with, and revolves around, young people’s ideas, voices and demands. This means seeing young people as the experts in their own lives. By tapping into young people’s expertise and investing in girls’ leadership, including basic skills such as communication, self-confidence, problem solving and teamwork, we can create programs that more accurately reflect and meet their needs.” [InsidePhilanthropy]

Around the Web

The British Jewish climate crisis organization EcoJudaism appointed Naomi Verber as its inaugural executive director…

The New York Times spotlights the efforts of Colby College students in Waterville, Maine, to assist the Jewish community in its effort to bring water — or blocks of ice from a frozen pond — to its new mikvah

A federal judge in New York rejected Louis Farrakhan’s $4.8 billion lawsuit against the Anti-Defamation League, which the longtime Nation of Islam leader, who has called Jews “termites” and “satanic,” accused of pushing a “false narrative” that he is antisemitic…

Helen and Jacob Shaham donated $15 million to Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami toward its cancer and blood disorders institute, which will be renamed the Helen & Jacob Shaham Cancer & Blood Disorders Institute…

The Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle profiles the Beacon Coalition, a local 501(c)(4) that assesses politicians stances on the “rights and wellbeing of the Jewish American community”…

The Jewish Home Foundation of North Jersey appointed Laurie Meltzer Bandremer as its next executive director. Until recently, Meltzer Bandremer served as the director of major gifts at American Friends of Magen David Adom

The Orthodox Union’s Teach Coalition plans to spend approximately $500,000 to mobilize voters in Pennsylvania’s Jewish communities ahead of the state’s primary later this month…

Semafor investigates Soros Fund Management’s growing investment in terrestrial radio..

The Baltimore Orioles and Ravens donated $10 million to the Baltimore Community Foundation’s Maryland Tough Baltimore Strong Key Bridge Fund in the wake of last month’s Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse…

The Wall Street Journal examines the relationship between former President Donald Trump and longtime GOP donor Dr. Miriam Adelson, who has yet to contribute to Trump’s reelection campaign…

At least 168 self-described “wealthy charitable donors have signed a letter calling for reforms to the tax code, including increasing the minimum payout requirement for foundations from 5% to 7%, excluding compensation to family members from payout calculations and requiring donor-advised funds to pay out funds within five years of receipt…

Jina Moore, the editor-in-chief of Guernicaresigned from her position and defended her decision to print an essay by British-Israeli writer and peace activist Joanna Chen about the Israel-Hamas war, which was later retracted after much of the literary magazine’s staff resigned in protest of its publication…

The New York Times’ critic at large considers the cultural impact of Larry David’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” the final episode of which aired last night..

Harvard University’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion will hold a graduation “affinity celebration” for Jewish students around this year’s commencement ceremonies, after coming under criticism last year for not having one…

Rabbi Barry Marcus, the former spiritual leader of Central London Synagogueagreed to return some $3 million to the British nonprofit Dalaid and the Schwarzschild Foundation, after an investigation by British authorities determined that he had been holding the funds in his private account for no discernible reason. Both Dalaid and the Schwarzschild Foundation are under investigation by the U.K.’s Charity Commission. No criminal charges have been brought against Marcus…

Pic of the Day

Amir Levy/Getty Images

Orly Efraim grieves next to a photo of her niece, Eden Liza Auhaion, yesterday near the site where she was killed during Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on the Nova music festival in Reim, Israel. Efraim visited the memorial to commemorate the six-month anniversary of the massacre that claimed the lives of some 1,200 Israelis and foreign nationals in communities across southern Israel. 


Annie Liebovitz smiles
Courtesy/House of Lords/CC by 3.0

Leading U.K. pensions expert and a member of the House of Lords, Baroness Rosalind Miriam Altmann

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