Your Daily Phil: A shift in funding goals for Ukraine + Recruiting Reform rabbis

Good Monday morning!

When The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) announced its first allocations in March to Nefesh B’Nefesh, the Israeli immigration organization, as part of its Ukraine fundraising, the umbrella group said the funds were targeted primarily toward helping Ukrainian Jews immigrate to Israel.

Now, nearly two months later, JFNA has raised $60 million toward the Ukraine crisis, triple the $20 million goal it set when the Russian invasion began in February. But now, activity at Nefesh B’Nefesh’s special facility for processing Ukrainian immigrants has decreased as the rush of Ukrainian arrivals has slowed. So while JFNA’s latest allocation is also going in part to Nefesh B’Nefesh, it’s targeted primarily at absorbing the immigrants who have already arrived.

“There was a crazy wave of aliyah in March and April and now we’re waiting to see what the next stage is going to be,” said Yael Katsman, Nefesh B’Nefesh’s vice president of communications, using the Hebrew word for immigration to Israel. She added that the group is exploring how to best aid the Ukrainian immigrants with absorption and employment in Israel.

The subtle shift is a signal that even as Jewish donors have maintained their focus on the war in Ukraine and its victims, their money is funding changing objectives on the ground. JFNA and its local affiliates have funded 46 different groups, from Nefesh B’Nefesh to the official Jewish community of Vienna, which has taken in some 850 refugees.

Now that the initial surge of refugees has somewhat abated, JFNA is placing more focus on helping the masses that have settled elsewhere, temporarily or permanently. Another grant in the latest tranche of allocations went to the Israel Trauma Center, which it has also funded previously, to address trauma among refugees. At the onset of the war, federations were focused on funding three longtime partners: The Jewish Agency for Israel, World ORT and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. Now the funding has spread more widely.

“The needs from this crisis are going to be with us for a long time, well after the headlines fade and even after the war finally ends,” JFNA CEO Eric Fingerhut told eJewishPhilanthropy. “That’s why Jewish federations are taking a long-term view of how those needs will evolve.”


Jewish groups hope focus on Ukraine and antisemitism will draw more attention to Jewish American Heritage Month

exterior of The Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History

Gilbert Carrasquillo/Getty Images

You may not know that it’s currently Jewish American Heritage Month, but a museum in Philadelphia is trying to change that, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Ben Sales.

Low profile: The month of events and celebrations of Jewish history, a bipartisan project established by presidential proclamation in 2006, has traditionally had a lower profile than similar initiatives, like Black History Month or June’s LGBTQ Pride Month. At an event organized by the White House on Friday, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) said the goal of the event was to raise awareness of American Jewish history among non-Jews. Wasserman Schultz introduced the legislation creating the month in 2005 by appending it to a bill recognizing the importance of Christmas symbols, and worked with Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, then a Republican, to get it passed.

Spreading awareness: The Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History, which is organizing a series of events in honor of the month, is hoping to reach non-Jews and Jews alike with a focus this year on antisemitism as well as the war in Ukraine and refugees more broadly. “Jews are a tiny minority in this country, and not necessarily treated in the same way as other minorities,” Misha Galperin, president and CEO of the museum, told eJP. “You don’t want to be, sort of, bragging, and we don’t want to be in your face in any way, but we don’t want to be underrepresented and under-recognized.”

Read the full story here.


Building something together: How our new grant category supports organizations’ growth and sustainability


“For 15 years, the Jim Joseph Foundation has worked closely with grantee-partners and independent evaluators to support compelling, effective Jewish learning experiences. Our current strategic approach reflects the foundation’s learnings about grantmaking practices and the wide variety of Jewish experiences that are effective,” writes Aaron Saxe, a senior program officer at the Jim Joseph Foundation, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Current approach: “Our current strategic approach reflects the foundation’s learning about grantmaking practices and the wide variety of Jewish experiences that are effective. By publicly ‘unpacking’ our strategy, we hope to share insights about strategic philanthropy and our approaches toward desired outcomes. By no means do we have all the answers; we continue to learn and especially appreciate learning with peers in the field.”

Powerful Jewish learning experiences: “Today, one of our three strategic priorities is investing in Powerful Jewish Learning Experiences (PJLE). In this priority, the foundation grows and strengthens Jewish learning by investing in program models with deep and enduring effects on participants.”

Read the full piece here.


We need more Reform rabbis. The only answer is recruitment

HUC-JIR/Richard Lobell

“A few years ago, in the midst of a household move, I lost something very precious: my ordination diploma. I felt many twinges of sadness — remembering the many teachers who had signed it, back in May 1981… While their signatures on my life are indelible, their physical signatures in ink are gone,” writes Rabbi Jeffrey K. Salkin, rabbi of Temple Israel in West Palm Beach, Fla., in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

My journey: “I do not need a parchment reminder of the day that I first considered becoming a rabbi… It was precisely at this season in 1971. I was attending a Passover spring break program for teen religious school assistant teachers, held at the Reform movement’s Camp Eisner in Great Barrington, Mass.… A then-young rabbinical student gave a series of talks on Jewish thought. It was as if Mount Sinai had dropped into my lap. I loved being Jewish. I loved the Jewish people. But, suddenly, I experienced a sudden revelation of content and substance that I had never previously encountered.”

The decision: “The rabbinical student and I took some long walks around the camp. By the time those walks were over, he had convinced me (though it took no great effort): ‘Yes, you can do this, and you should do this. You should become a Reform rabbi.’”

Pilgrimages: “Once upon a time, the Reform movement had ‘pilgrimages’ (note the word) to the HUC-JIR campus in Cincinnati. The purpose: bring Reform youth to the ‘mothership,’ and influence them to choose the rabbinate as a profession. This happened when they were in high school; in many cases, even before they had settled upon an undergraduate college. The endeavor worked; many of my colleagues first felt the stirrings of rabbinical desire through that experience.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Belated Honor: For decades, many Jewish World War II veterans have been buried under crosses because of circumstance, error or fears of antisemitic treatment; but now, Sarah Pulliam Bailey writes in The Washington Post, Operation Benjamin is underway to help those vets’ family members display Stars of David on their grave markers: “Shalom Lamm, the chief executive of Operation Benjamin, said it estimates that about 2.6 percent of U.S. casualties in World War II were Jewish, and thus, there should have been about 250 headstones with Stars of David at the Normandy cemetery, not 149….Operation Benjamin has a relationship with the commission in which they know what pieces of evidence they need to confirm someone’s Jewish identity — birth, census and bar mitzvah records, among others — and it takes about 30 days to get approval. [Lamm] said the group estimates there are about 400 to 550 veterans who are incorrectly buried under a Latin cross. Thus far there have been 19 headstone changes, and corrections for 27 more are in the works.” [WashPost]

Hit the Books: 
A new study reveals that young American women with a Jewish upbringing are 23 percentage points more likely to earn a bachelor’s degree than non-Jewish young women of similar socioeconomic status, Renee Ghert-Zand writes in the Times of Israel. The study’s lead author, Ilana M. Horwitz, an assistant professor of Jewish studies and sociology at Tulane University, said that the study’s results show the importance of religious culture when studying educational stratification: “By ‘religion,’ Horwitz did not mean religiosity or theology, but rather  religious subculture, which is a combination of ideas, values, experiences, behaviors and symbols transmitted inter-generationally by members of a religious or ethno-religious group. These, in turn, are shaped by history, demography, and politics. ‘Saying that ‘Jews just value education’ doesn’t sit well with me. Lots of people value education, but it doesn’t always happen for them…I am skeptical about the claim that educational achievement is something innate in Jews. This holding Jews up as a ‘model minority’ just perpetuates tropes and stereotypes,’ Horwitz said.” [TOI]

Community Comms

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Word on the Street

Travelers who enter Israel will no longer need to undergo mandatory virus testing at the airport starting May 20, the Health Ministry announced on Sunday…

Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund will invest $2 billion in Jared Kushner’s new fund that plans to invest in Israeli startups, the first time the Saudi fund will publicly invest in Israel…

The Ruderman Family Foundation launched the English-language version of its “50 States, 50 Communities” website, which aims to expand Israelis’ and Americans’ knowledge about U.S. Jewry beyond the best-known communities of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami and more…

A new report from Shake the Table, a group that connects donors to social justice organizations, and The Bridgespan Group has highlighted the untapped potential of feminist movementscalling them “powerhouses for social change”…

Paul Daugherty has been named CEO of Exponent Philanthropy, a member-driven support community for funders with little or no professional staff…

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative announced grants totaling more than $4 million to support education communities and to combat teacher burnout…

Pic of the Day

Hebrew Public

On Friday, fourth grade students at Hebrew Language Academy 2 in Brooklyn practiced their angle measuring skills and celebrated National Tie-Dye Day.


Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

Pianist, singer-songwriter and one of the best-selling recording artists of all time, Billy Joel

Owner of St. Louis-based Harbour Group Industries, former U.S. ambassador to Belgium, Sam Fox… Budapest-born philanthropist and social activist, she marched in Selma with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1965, Eva Haller… Academy Award-winning director, producer and screenwriter, James L. Brooks… Guitarist and record producer, best known as a member of the rock-pop-jazz group Blood, Sweat & Tears, Steve Katz… Co-founder of Yeshivat Har Etzion, Yoel Bin-Nun… Winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize in chemistry and a professor of structural biology at Stanford University, Michael Levitt… Physician in Burlington, Vt., she was the first lady of Vermont from 1991 until 2003 when her husband was governor, Judith Steinberg Dean… Sharon Mallory Doble… Co-founder and CEO of PlayMedia, Brian D. Litman… Film director and producer, Barry Avrich… Staff writer at The AtlanticMark Leibovich… Co-managing partner of Bain Capital and owner of a minority interest in the Boston Celtics, Jonathan Lavine… VP of global public policy at Facebook, Joel D. Kaplan… Deputy director of AIPAC’s leadership institute, Lesli Rosenblatt… Special assistant to the secretary of veterans affairs, Aaron Scheinberg… Founder and managing member at Revelstoke PLLC, Danielle Elizabeth Friedman… Opinion columnist and podcast host at The New York TimesEzra Klein… Jenna Weisbord… Investor for Blackstone Growth Israel, Nathaniel Rosen… J.D. candidate at Harvard Law School, Mikhael Smits

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