Your Daily Phil: An interview with Irina Nevzlin + Ari Simon to head Pinterest’s philanthropy


 Good Monday morning!

Pinterest has named Ari Simon its first head of social impact and philanthropy. Simon, who will oversee a $17 million fund, was chief program and strategy officer at the Detroit-based Kresge Foundation.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen argued for President Joe Biden’s proposed $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package in an interview yesterday with CNN’s Jake Tapper. The CNN anchor raised former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers’ concern that such a massive amount of relief would trigger inflation. “Inflation is a risk we need to consider,” Yellen acknowledged, but argued that problems of unemployment and hunger require the bigger bill.

The ultimate size of the bill will have an impact on the policy priorities of several Jewish charities, from the funding for parochial schools sought by the Orthodox Union to an increase in security grants for houses of worship, a goal of the Jewish Federations of North America.

At the end of the year, fundraisers were confident about reachingtheir goals for 2020, but less optimistic about 2021, according to a survey by the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Major donors are getting “tapped out,” wrote one respondent.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres named Michael Bloomberg his special envoy for climate, working toward the goal of leading “more ambitious climate action” at the U.N.’s climate change conference, scheduled for November in Scotland. Bloomberg Philanthropies has an environment program that funds such initiatives as “Beyond Carbon,” whose goal is a U.S. economy that uses only clean energy, like wind and solar.

The Israeli government has extended the closure of Ben Gurion Airport at least until Feb. 21. Providers of group travel programs like Birthright and RootOne are watching the airport’s status closely as an indicator of whether they will be able to bring students and tourists to Israel in 2021.


What drives Irina Nevzlin?


As a child in Moscow, Irina Nevzlin knew she was Jewish but had little idea of what that meant. When she visited Israel for the first time at 13, with her grandmother, she became emotional when they arrived at the Kotel but didn’t know anything about the sacred site or why it moved her. “I had no previous knowledge or historical understanding, but I cried because I felt a deep connection,” Nevzlin told Jewish Insider’s Debra Nussbaum Cohen. Now 42, an Israeli citizen and one of the most prominent female Russian-Jewish philanthropists, Nevzlin is driven by her Jewish identity, which has led to a reimagining of the Museum of the Jewish People at Beit Hatfutsot, whose board she chairs.

Reimagining history: Beit Hatfutsot opened in 1978, focusing on the history of Diaspora Jewry, and culminating with aliyah, or immigration, to Israel. “The story that was told was outdated,” Nevzlin said. “I’m all for continuity. When the museum was conceived in the 1950s to open in the 1970s, it was [telling] a different story. The idea behind it was to keep the memory of the Diaspora and [then] we come to Israel” with everyone making aliyah, she said. “In 2006 the reality was that half of Jews lived outside of Israel and didn’t plan to change that.” Nevzlin led the $100 million fundraising campaign enabling the total transformation of the museum, which is located on the campus of Tel Aviv University. Almost everything about the museum — from the concept to its exhibits, from its floor space to technology and appearance – has changed.

New name: The museum will soon drop the ‘Beit Hatfutsot’ part of its name. Beit Hatfutsot, or Diaspora House, “is offensive and outdated. We are dropping it now. Do you want to be a Diaspora Jew or part of the Jewish people?” asked Nevzlin. She said that the new name will not honor a museum donor — though auditoriums inside the museum do — “because [the museum] is the story of the Jewish people, not the story of a donor.” The new name will be unveiled on February 21 at an event honoring both Nevzlin and her father, Leonid Nevzlin.

Home life: Nevzlin lives in Herzliya Pituach with her husband, Israeli Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, who is a former refusenik, and her two sons from a previous marriage. But it is the Museum of the Jewish People which occupies most of her time and energy. “When people ask me about my babies, first I mention the museum and then my two sons,” who are ages 9 and 12, she told JI with a laugh. 

Singing praises: Misha Galperin, philanthropy advisor to the Nevzlin family, said Irena “is the sort of person most of the Jewish world has been pining for. She is young, charismatic, committed to Jewish causes, yet very open-minded. She gets things done; that’s probably the most important thing about her. That’s true of her work in philanthropy and business. She is going to be an extraordinary leader in the Jewish world and maybe beyond.” 

Read the full interview here.


3 lessons I learned as a nonprofit CEO made me a smarter and more effective philanthropic consultant


Moving from his experiences as a nonprofit CEO to philanthropic advisory work with families and foundations, Ami Nahshon shareslessons learned.

Background: Every nonprofit executive and fundraiser carries around the exhilarating memories of closing that first mega-gift, of surpassing a campaign goal, of getting that big-name celebrity to headline your event, or recruiting a top-tier company or foundation to endorse your effort. But not all my fundraising memories are awash in sweetness and light. I spent too many sleepless nights to count between Thanksgiving and New Years — not because of what I ate, but because fundraising goals are typically made or missed during those final, anxiety-laden weeks of the year.

Lesson #1: If you trust the organization and its CEO enough to write them a big check, you should trust them enough to decide how to best use the money. While knowing precisely — at least in theory — where your funding is being directed can provide a satisfying intellectual and emotional way of connecting your gift to a specific purpose or client group, it is a bit naïve and perhaps disrespectful to substitute your impulses for the knowledge and lived experience of professionals who spend every day meeting needs and identifying gaps. 

Lesson #2: Don’t buy into the conventional wisdom that every grantee needs to deliver an annual performance report in order to fulfill your fiduciary responsibility. If you have questions, ask them. If you have concerns, raise them. If you need specific information in order to inform a decision, ask for responses to those specific questions. Or better yet, invite your grantee to have a conversation with you, where you can hear more, exchange ideas and satisfy yourself that your support is warranted. Or perhaps not.

Read the article here.


Taking righteous action by shopping small

Courtesy The Covenant Foundation

Continuing our conversation around Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance & Inclusion Month, Howard Blas writes, “The unemployment rate for people with disabilities – both during the pandemic and in general – is higher than for the general population.”

Background: Addressing this problem will take years of legislation, education and awareness — a real sea change. But there is a trend that gives me hope: community support of small businesses that are owned and operated by people with disabilities.

Supporting: Many Jewish organizations have already begun to undertake this righteous action. Synagogues and Jewish schools in the Washington area regularly order from Sunflower Bakery. Camp Ramah Darom recently ordered “early registration gifts” from John’s Crazy Socks — a sock company owned by a father and his son with Down Syndrome. When Friends of Access Israel organized a Kilimanjaro climb which included four people with paraplegia, it made perfect sense to order sweatshirts from Spectrum Designs in Port Washington, N.Y., a custom apparel and promotional items business, which, along with their Spectrum Bakes and Spectrum Suds (laundry business) has a social mission — to help individuals with autism obtain employment.

Ask yourself: During JDAIM, ask yourself two questions: Could I order those t-shirts, cookies or gift boxes from a business run by people with disabilities? And might my place of employment benefit from the often unique skills of a person with disabilities? If the answer is yes to either question and you take action, you are supporting a disability-run business while also attaining the highest level of tzedakah.

Read the sponsored post here.

Worthy Reads

Country Road: After more than three years of fundraising, a community fund in Meigs County in Appalachian Ohio is about to reach its $1 million endowment goal and open the county’s first food pantry. Appalachia lacks the nonprofit infrastructure that supports struggling people in other parts of the country, writes Ceili Doyle.[ColumbusDispatch]

Pigskin Ambivalence: Football fandom is a vexed question for many American Jews, writes Gabe Friedman in a pre-Super Bowl survey that found that even as the community kvells over the fact that both teams have Jewish players, some feel guilty about the serious injuries players can suffer.  [JTA]

Home Office: The pandemic has already transformed work, but this is just the beginning, said Mark Zuckerberg on the social network Clubhouse, where he predicted that individuals will soon enter virtual offices through headsets. [Forbes]

Community Comms

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Word on the Street

Ruth Dayan, the first wife of Moshe Dayan and founder of Maskit, had died at 103… In honor of the 10th yartzeit of Debbie Friedman, HUC-JIR held a kumsitz … Several national Jewish organizations have joined together to create trainings in response to increasing rates of stress, anxiety and depression in teens and young adults… Jewish National Fund-USA has launched a design competition for a $350 Million World Zionist Village in Be’er Sheva …



Founder and President of BlackRock, a recent Chair of the Board of UJA-Federation of New York, Robert S. Kapito turns 64…

Boston attorney and author, his book on Jews and baseball was turned into a play called “Swing, Schmendrick, Swing,” Larry Ruttman turns 90… Broadcast journalist and five-time Emmy Award winner, Ted Koppel turns 81… Stand-up comedian, singer and actor, Robert Klein turns 79… CFO of the Morris A. Hazan Family Foundation, Lovee Arum turns 77… Therapist and life coach based in Wake County, North Carolina, Sheila Kay turns 76… Founder and owner of the Israel-based Merhav Group, Yossi Maiman turns 75… Columbus, Ohio born attorney and president of Schottenstein Legal Services, James M. Schottenstein turns 74… Former CEO of the Jewish Federation of Northeastern New York (Albany), now an executive coach and nonprofit consultant, Rodney Margolis turns 74… Town and Village Justice in Red Hook, New York, he is also President of the New York State Magistrates Association, Judge Jonah Triebwasser turns 71… CEO of Cohen Brothers Realty Corporation, Charles S. Cohen turns 69… Private equity investor and operator, Marc Lauren Abramowitz turns 68… Chief Rabbi of the IDF, Brigadier General Eyal Moshe Karim turns 64…

Senior director of synagogue affiliations and operations for United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, Barry S. Mael turns 63… Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Hudson Institute, Sarah May Stern turns 62… British businessman and chairman of the Premier League’s Tottenham Hotspur, Daniel Levy turns 59… Former member of the Knesset for the Jewish Home party, Shulamit “Shuli” Mualem-Rafaeli turns 56… Chairman of Andell Inc. and former owner of Major League Soccer’s Chicago Fire, Andrew Hauptman turns 52… Attorney, rabbi and New Jersey political consultant, Benjamin G. Kelsen turns 49… Israeli musician, Eviatar Banai turns 48… Member of the Knesset for the Labor party until his retirement from politics a few days ago,Itzik Shmuli turns 41… Canadian jazz-pop singer-songwriter, Nicole “Nikki” Rachel Yanofsky turns 27… Pitcher in the Miami Marlins organization, he is also on Team Israel slated to play at the 2021 Olympics, Jake Layton Fishman turns 26… Strategic consultant for nonprofits and founder of Invisible Kids TLV, Michal Nordmann…