Your Daily Phil: An interfaith experience in the UAE + Digital trends for the new year

Good Monday morning!

Adina Lichtman spoke to CBS New York about her organization, Knock Knock Give A Sock, which hands out socks to the homeless in New York. Lichtman founded the group in college after learning that socks were the most requested — and least donated — item at shelters.

Since founding the nonprofit, she has gone on to write two children’s books on the need for socks. “Knock Knock Give A Sock is an organization that focuses on humanizing homelessness, one sock at a time,” Lichtman told CBS.

Last month, a few hundred people in Israel ventured deep into the Negev Desert to witness the “Burning Bush” phenomenon, an annual occurrence on the winter solstice when sunlight reflects off the side of a cave on Mount Karkom in a pattern of flickering light.

The yearly observation, first rediscovered (as evidenced by the thousands of surrounding ancient rock art and engravings) in 2003, has bolstered claims that Mount Karkom is the site of the Biblical Mount Sinai.

JQY (Jewish Queer Youth), a nonprofit that supports and empowers LGBTQ youth from Orthodox and Sephardic/Mizrahi homes, received a $1 million donation from Toronto-based real estate developer Paul Austin, CEO of the Salpam Group, and his partner, Dalip Girdhar, that will enable the organization to expand its outreach.

JQY Executive Director Rachel Fried told eJewishPhilanthropy the organization’s expansion plans include locations in Boca Raton and Miami, Fla.; Bergen County/Teaneck, N.J.; Baltimore and Silver Spring, Md.; and West Rogers Park and Skokie, Ill.

Fried added, “I was surprised by how much this news [of the $1 million donation] impacted our teens. On the day of our announcement, we had our weekly Fireside Chat virtual event and had double the amount of participants show up with incredible enthusiasm, asking questions and sharing all their thoughts and ideas for how to use the funds.”


Visions of Abraham group offers Jewish tourists to UAE an interfaith experience


Tens of thousands of Israelis and Jews from around the world have visited the United Arab Emirates following last year’s historic signing of the Abraham Accords, many of them coming with a desire to learn about the intersection between the two cultures. Visions of Abraham, a new U.S.-based nonprofit, is spearheading the effort to create and promote educational initiatives relating to interfaith programming between Muslims and Jews, Rebecca Anne Proctor reports.

What it does: Visions of Abraham (VOA) seeks to provide an experience that looks at the impact of the landmark agreement through the creation of bespoke and immersive tours of the UAE and its Jewish community. “Visions of Abraham encourages all levels of Jewish travel to the UAE,” Eli Epstein, the organization’s co-founder, told JI. “We believe that experiencing the UAE allows for discovery of the people and the UAE and their values as well as the many amazing activities.”

On the ground: Most recently, the UJA-Federation of New York and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee collaborated with VOA to offer customized tours of the Gulf nation for their delegations. During their stays, individuals from both delegations met with notable UAE personalities from the nonprofit, business and education sectors, including Sarah Al Amiri, minister of state for science and technology; Israeli Ambassador to the UAE Amir Hayek; Ambassador Marcy Grossman, Canada’s envoy to the Gulf nation; Ali Al Nuaimi, chairman of Hedayah; Mohammed Alabbar, founder and chairman of Emaar Properties; and Tahnoon Saif, CEO of Dubai South, among others. The delegations also toured the Abrahamic Family House, the interfaith complex on Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island, scheduled to open in 2022. 

Breaking stereotypes: “Most on the trip were seeing the miracle called the UAE for the first time, with most preconceived notions shattered by the reality of what they experienced,” Jeff Schoenfeld, a delegation member, told JI. “I have been traveling to the UAE for over 30 years, and I found myself elated by the consistency and intentionality of the pro-women, pro-equality, pro-pluralism, pro-growth narrative that guides the country today. The pace of change is exponential now, with the Abraham Accords just the latest manifestation of the leadership that the UAE is bringing to the entire Gulf region.”

Read the full story here.


Digital media trends Jewish nonprofits should watch for in 2022


“Digital behavior – information consumption, social interaction, even Jewish life – was rapidly evolving pre-pandemic. But today, those that used what we hoped was a short-term blip in our reality to experiment in the digital universe out of sheer interest have quietly accepted this new reality and are now immersed out of sheer necessity,” writes Jamie Geller, chief media & marketing officer at Aish, and founder and CEO of Kosher Network international, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

The task ahead: “Making it easier to ‘do Jewish’ from your mobile, whether it’s ordering kosher food, an ugly Hanukkah sweater or attending a class on a Jewish topic, is the smartest next step for Jewish sites and brands.”

We live in a digital world: “Eight in 10 people now see the world as all digital. Consumers expect everything to be available online, including previously offline experiences like attending services, classes, seminars, conferences and social events. This translates into consumers’ expectations of a smooth, streamlined and state-of-the-art, well-working digital experience. ” 

New investments will be needed: “Organizations that saw the writing on the wall at the onset of the pandemic quickly pivoted their focus to provide new digital experiences. As that trend continues in 2022, we will see a healthy scale-up of Jewish portals of every kind, from higher quality virtual events and easier online class registration to effortless information gathering. Smoother experiences can be expected to translate to increased engagement, and organizations must be ready to invest in the upfront and ongoing costs in order to reach consumers competitively.”    

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Generational Giving: In Forbes, Shelley Hoss, president and CEO of the Orange County Community Foundation, proposes suggestions for engaging millennial and Gen-Z donors. “Younger generations are shaping a new course for philanthropy. As emerging philanthropists become the next generation of nonprofit board leaders and major donors, they will likely continue to challenge convention and historical practices, raising the bar from charitable giving to charitable living — and I believe that our sector will be stronger, more resilient and better prepared for the future as a result.” [Forbes

Making an Impact: Writing in Politico, Washington Free Beacon editor-in-chief Eliana Johnson looks back on the outsized impact hotel magnate Sheldon Adelson’s giving had on the U.S.-Israel relationship and on the Republican Party. “In these pages and much of the rest of the media, Sheldon Adelson — an up-by-his-bootstraps casino magnate who reinvented Las Vegas and the world of gambling across Asia — made headlines largely for giving hundreds of millions of dollars to Republican political candidates. That’s true enough. But it misses the singular intensity of Adelson’s giving, which was focused on the U.S.-Israel relationship and Jewish causes more broadly. That focus, combined with the scale of his generosity, suggests Adelson, who died in January at 87, belongs in the pantheon of great Jewish philanthropists like the Rothschilds and the Montefiores — and, indeed, among the great American philanthropists like Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Mellon.” [Politico]

Building Big: The New York Times’s Adam Popescu looks at the story behind the building of a new community center attached to Los Angeles’s Wilshire Boulevard Temple, which was backed by the late philanthropist Eli Broad and which houses Wallis Annenberg’s senior center. “The pavilion, a futuristic, three-story trapezoid with a wood-paneled event center, sunken garden and rooftop terrace in the center of the city, will serve Koreatown, which is among the city’s densest and most diverse neighborhoods. It is first, though, a community space for the Wilshire Boulevard Temple, the Byzantine-Romanesque domed synagogue next to the pavilion — the final piece of the temple’s long expansion plan.” [NYTimes]

Safe Space: Forbes‘s David Bloom speaks to comedian and actress Leah Lamarr about her online comedy club success in the COVID-19-safe confines of the Clubhouse audio app, which she sometimes used to fundraise for Jewish and other causes, including an event to raise money for a fellow comedian who died from the virus earlier this year. “‘The production cost was my time; that was the production cost: zero,’ Lamarr said. ‘And I was able to raise $40,000 from the comfort of my home, everyone else was in the comfort of their homes. When you think about (traditional) charity benefits, there’s always so much money that goes into the production of it. And we were able to donate the whole thing to his GoFundMe page.’” [Forbes]

Community Comms

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Word on the Street

Israel’s population stands at 9.449 million, according to estimates released by the Central Bureau of Statistics. The bureau figures indicate that approximately 74% of Israel’s inhabitants are Jewish, 21% are Arab and 5% are neither…

Emily Lawson, the British scientist who masterminded the U.K.’s vaccine rollout, has been made a dame in this year’s Queen’s New Year Honours list, which also includes Rabbi Albert Chait of Leeds’s United Hebrew Congregation, whose online presence went viral on social media during the early days of the COVID pandemic, and nine people recognized for their efforts to promote Holocaust education… 

Hermione Gilpin has been named chief advancement officer of the Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee, Fla… 

Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates’s $15 billion gift to their foundation this past July tops the list of U.S. philanthropic gifts made during 2021…

The DC Public Library Foundation received a $2.7 million gift from Jeff Bezos in support of a new reading and literacy program for children in the Washington region… 

The Barr Foundation approved new grants of nearly $12 million, totaling $43.2 million in grants awarded this quarter… 

Based on an analysis of data from nearly 10,000 U.S.-based nonprofits that raise between $5,000 and $25 million annually, the “2021 Third Quarter Fundraising Report estimates that total donations through September increased 1.4% compared with the same period in 2020. The number of donors, however, fell 1.7%…

Pic of the Day


More than 250 runners, including nearly 180 North American gap-year students studying at Israeli yeshivot and seminaries, participated in last week’s first annual 2.5 kilometer Race for Inclusion in support of ADI Negev-Nahalat Eran, a rehabilitation village for disabled adults and children in southern Israel.


Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Israeli-born basketball player now on the Washington Wizards, he was a first round pick in the 2020 NBA draft, Deni Avdija… 

Former treasury secretary under President Carter, followed by 17 years as director of the Jewish Museum in Berlin, W. Michael Blumenthal… Computer scientist and computational theorist, Richard Manning Karp… Professor of medicine and chairman of the medical ethics committee at Columbia University Medical Center, Dr. Kenneth Prager…. CNN legal analyst, formerly a Watergate prosecutor and later a member of the 9/11 Commission, Richard Ben-Veniste… Former legal affairs reporter at The New York TimesDavid Margolick… Professor of molecular biology and microbiology at Tufts University School of Medicine, Ralph R. Isberg… Justice of the Ontario Superior Court and former national president of the Canadian Jewish Congress, Edward M. Morgan… Director of the year-in Israel program at HUC-JIR, Reuven Greenvald… Investor and former U.S. ambassador to Costa Rica, S. Fitzgerald Haney… Graduate of West Point and a senior partner in the NYC office of the Boston Consulting Group, Neal Zuckerman… Senior correspondent for Kaiser Health News after 17 years at The Los Angeles TimesNoam Naftali Levey… Attorney in Minneapolis and former member of the Minnesota House of Representatives, Jeremy N. Kalin… President at Kiosite, LLC, Michael Novack… Founder and president of Golden Strategies, Jenna Golden… Executive director at Guns Down America, Igor Volsky… Former child actor who starred in “Home Alone 3,” he is now a planning assistant for the city of Los Angeles, Alexander David Linz… Senior intelligence analyst at Argyle Consulting Group, Alana Aliza Herbst

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