Your Daily Phil: An interview with the CEO of the Pittsburgh JCC + Michael Oren on Israeli sovereignty
Good Friday morning!
Ed note: In celebration of the upcoming Shavuot holiday, the next edition of Your Daily Phil will arrive on Wednesday morning.
Shortly after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that children ages 12 to 15 are now eligible for vaccination, the national director of the Conservative movement’s Ramah camp network said on CNN on Wednesday that even though more children will be vaccinated, camp will still likely “look a little different” this summer due to COVID-mitigation practices such as social distancing and masking.
Rabbi Mitchell Cohen told John Berman on “New Day” that the camp community was hoping for a “liberalization in the rules,” but said that camps need to take their cue from health officials. “We are not going to get out ahead of our state departments of health or the CDC guidelines,” he said. “Right now there’s a great debate going on about whether or not there needs to be masking outdoors,” for people who aren’t vaccinated.
As rocket fire from Gaza continued, the Israeli-American Council, local federations and community relations councils held Israeli solidarity rallies in 19 cities on Wednesday, including New York, Boston and Los Angeles as well as Cleveland, Las Vegas, Seattle and Washington, D.C., Rabbi Erica Gerson and Mark Gerson are offering a $1 million match to encourage donations to United Hatzalah of Israel, the country’s volunteer first responder corps.
Over half of donors with a net worth of $1 million or more maintained their charitable giving to human-services nonprofits, while 37% increased it, according to a new study from the Bank of America and the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. Almost three-quarters of affluent donors do not expect the pandemic to permanently change their philanthropic behavior.
John Prizker and Lisa Stone Pritzker have made a gift of about $60 million to support the fall opening of the University of California San Francisco’s Nancy Friend Pritzker Psychiatry Building, named for John Pritzker’s sister, who died by suicide at age 24.
The Pittsburgh JCC’s CEO on vulnerability, humility and Jewish divides
As the CEO of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh, Brian Schreiber helped lead his community after an avowed white supremacist massacred 11 Jews at prayer on Shabbat in the Tree of Life-Or L’Simcha Congregation, of which Schreiber and his family are members. He was central to the crisis response, to the year of mourning that followed and to the healing process that continues today and overlapped with a second crisis — the coronavirus pandemic. “The last two and a half years feel like a blur,” he told eJewishPhilanthropy. “It’s helped me to understand as a Jew and a professional what really matters.”
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Helen Chernikoff: How did you come to make the JCC movement your career?
Brian Schreiber: My path into the Jewish community was non-traditional. I’m not a product of Jewish camp or school. I thought I would go to law school, but I started procrastinating, and I’m not a procrastinator. I just tried it, almost blindly. When I started working, I was focused on the federation system. I had misconstrued the JCC. Like many people, I was thinking only of the fitness side of things; I had judged it from the consumer side — not the essence of what a JCC can be, day in and day out. I got called to interview for a job here and now it’s been almost half my life. Pittsburgh had a tremendous amount of Jewish infrastructure and depth, but also some intimacy. It’s like America’s last shtetl.
HC: What did you realize about JCC work once you put your misconceptions aside?
BS: I was on a path in the federation system to senior leadership, but I love direct service work. Even when I was working in federation, I was volunteering for a crisis hotline. At the JCC, there’s that opportunity to provide leadership, yet never be too far away from service delivery. I didn’t know if I could have that in the Jewish world and that has never disappointed. We have Jewish core values, and we serve the community as a whole, and if we can integrate that well, we serve the Jewish community and make the world a better place.
HC: How did the Tree of Life shooting change the culture at the JCC?
BS: We’ve been very influenced by the 10.27 Healing Partnership and its concept of post-traumatic growth. The partnership is a healing center housed in the JCC that’s funded by the federal government’s Antiterrorism and Emergency Assistance Program. It has a victim-centered approach, and teaches that a trauma has layers of impact and that it affects an entire community. It focuses on the families, and then, in our case, moved into the congregations, and the first responder community, and then the broader community. I’m a licensed social worker and I watch the difference between the victim-centered approach and traditional mental health work. This is really different.
Israel – the sovereign state
“Sovereignty, as the dictionary defines it, is a ‘supreme and independent power or authority in government as possessed or claimed by a state,’” writes former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. and former Knesset member Michael Oren in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.
Negev Bedouin: “Take, for example, the Negev, accounting for 62% of Israel’s territory. The Bedouin population, once nomadic and now almost entirely sedentary, numbers roughly 230,000, double what it was in 2000. I lived in the Negev for five years and watched as the landscape literally disappeared beneath squatters. This natural increase, the world’s highest, is the result of advanced Israeli care and the virtual elimination of a once-notorious infant mortality rate. It is also the product of the polygamy practiced by 30% of Bedouin males.”
Haredim: “The hemorrhaging of Israeli sovereignty is not confined to Arab communities, as we’ve seen, but is endemic to Israel’s relationship with its ultra-Orthodox communities. These Haredim, as they are known collectively, account for nearly 13% of Israel’s total population, and yet they pay less than a third of the taxes paid by other Israelis. With a Haredi birth rate almost twice that of secular Israelis—by 2048, half of all Israeli schoolchildren will be Haredi—that percentage is doomed to shrink. The country will become economically, if not technologically and militarily, unsustainable.”
What’s needed: “Preoccupied with daily crises and lacking an effective framework, Israelis today rarely hold such discussions on sovereignty and other critical issues with philanthropists and other stakeholders. Needed is an initiative for assuring Israel’s future, and for forging the state we will leave to our children and grandchildren.”
A Jewish communal Zoom reset
“Every Friday morning, I journey into prehistoric times. Seventy-five families from across the hexa-state area gather together with their kids—and dinosaurs–for a Shabbat music class where I facilitate the back-end of the Zoom,” writes Rabbi Yael Buechler in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.
A chance to be seen: “Each dinosaur puppet, along with the child or grownup holding it, is momentarily spotlighted during a song about a dinosaur getting ready for Shabbat. The simple act of spotlighting gives each family a chance to be seen at a moment where feeling seen is at an all-time low—from the lack of in-person gatherings and to masks covering up much of our faces. These families transcend being multiple squares on a grid; they are an engaged part of a class community.”
Communal reset: “Having attended Jewish Zoom events in recent weeks, from small simchas hosted by families to large communal Zooms, I think it might be time for a communal Zoom reset. Since Zoom will likely not be going away anytime soon, especially for multi-generational events, here are a few Zoom tools to maximize engagement—no Zoom gurus-required!”
Gift Horse: In Recode, Teddy Schleifer uses the recent example of a $1 billion cryptocurrency donation to India that lost its values almost immediately to warn nonprofits excited about cryptocurrency as a new source of donations not to bank on their value until they have sold the gift and converted it into dollars. While donors have long made gifts in assets that are difficult to liquidate, such as art, the rise of ever-more-arcane cryptocurrencies poses unprecedented challenges to nonprofits that are favored by the tech elite. “And this is increasingly not a fringe hypothetical, given that crypto billionaires are all over the list of the wealthiest people in the world,” Schleifer writes. [Recode]
Somber Portrait: Adam Nagourney takes a deep dive into the Los Angeles art scene in The New York Times, painting a picture of a city that had established itself as an international cultural destination that is now facing an uncertain future as it attempts to recover from the pandemic without the robust support of longtime patron Eli Broad, who played a major role in the creation of many Southern California institutions, such as the Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Museum of Contemporary Art. Los Angeles has always been a challenging fundraising environment despite its wealth, Nagourney reports, citing the struggle to fund the construction of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s new building, which only ended when entertainment magnate David Geffen donated $150 million. “It’s a little scary to imagine Los Angeles without Eli Broad,” said Donna Bojarsky, the founder of Future of Cities: Los Angeles, a nonprofit civic group. [NYT]
Reaching In: The longstanding differences between private philanthropies that exercise disproportionate power over their grantees and small public foundations that give their grantees more flexibility are fading under the democratizing effects of crowdfunding, online giving platforms and other technologies, making this a prime moment to explore the phenomenon of participatory grantmaking, writes Gillian Gaynair on Urban Wire, the blog of the Urban Institute. A study of 10 foundations that invite people from the community to sit on their grant committees revealed funders who recognize that an active exchange with community members will improve their decision-making, but that even with the best of intentions, it’s hard to secure the participation of a truly diverse group of people. “This is more than grantmaking,” said Jasmine Johnson, the author of the study. “This is your whole entire organization’s approach to power sharing.” [UrbanWire]
Wake Up: The board of the Women’s Birth Project, a nonprofit in Western Massachusetts that advocated for and supported pregnant incarcerated women, failed the organization by shutting it down, confesses Lisa Ranghelli, a member of the board, in the Chronicle of Philanthropy. For years, the organization’s supporters failed to see that they were exploiting its staff — by not giving them benefits, or paying them adequately — even as its staff did the important work of helping women in prison. The nonprofit world must stop valorizing “scrappiness” and instead invest in its front-line workers: “We didn’t see the long hours they routinely worked and missed the signs of encroaching burnout. We were focused on the bottom line of the budget, not the details of how they were making it all happen.” [ChroniclePhilanthropy]
Word on the Street
Birthright participants will have a separate set of entry and travel restrictions to those agreed on by the Tourism and Health Ministries… Billionaires Craig Newmark and Michael Novogratz are part of a new effort to persuade 500 of the nation’s wealthiest to dedicate at least 1 percent of their net worth to charities and advocacy groups focused on strengthening democracy by protecting voter rights and other activities…
Pic of the Day
More than 1,700 people joined “New York Stands with Israel,” a virtual solidarity gathering held by UJA-Federation of New York, Jewish Community Relations Council of New York and the Israeli Consulate on May 12. Speakers included Eric S. Goldstein, CEO of UJA-Federation of New York; Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY); Zehava Tesfay, head of the Jewish Agency’s mission to UJA-Fed NY and Michael S. Miller, CEO of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York.
Owner/President of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings, he is the Chair of the Jewish Federations of North America, Mark Wilf on Saturday…
FRIDAY: Born in Casablanca and raised in Paris, Upper East Side hair stylist and owner of La Boîte a Coupe salon, Elie Laurent Delouya… The Green Party’s nominee for President of the United States in the 2012 and 2016 elections, Jill Stein… Professor of computer science at Technion, Orna Grumberg… Dean of UC Berkeley Law School, Erwin Chemerinsky… Los Angeles City Attorney, Mike Feuer… Author of six international bestsellers, Robert Greene… Former president of the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, Rabbi Daniel L. Lehmann… ESPN’s SportsCenter anchor and football sideline reporter, Suzy Kolber… Senior defense analyst for Bloomberg Government, Robert Levinson… Chief compliance and integrity officer at Yale New Haven Health, she is a former seven term Connecticut State Senator, Gayle Slossberg… Education program lead of Bloomberg Philanthropies and author of Your Daily Biscuit, Howard Wolfson… Managing partner of Alexandria, VA-based MVAR Media, Jon Vogel… Executive producer of CNN’s political and special events programming, David Philip Gelles… Facebook’s chairman, CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg… Bloomberg News and Bloomberg Businessweek reporter, Josh Eidelson… Actress, Sasha Rebecca Spielberg... Managing director of government relations at The Blackstone Group, he was previously a senior staffer on Senate Majority PAC and an aide and speechwriter for Senator Chuck Schumer, Alex I. Katz… J.D. candidate in the 2022 class at Stanford Law School, Andrew Ezekoye… Forward for the NHL’s New Jersey Devils, he was the first pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft and is the son of hockey star Ellen Weinberg-Hughes, Jack Hughes…
SATURDAY: Chair of the Albright Stonebridge Group, she was the first woman to serve as U.S. Secretary of State (1997-2001), Madeleine Albright… Principal of Queens-based Muss Development, a major real estate development company founded by his grandfather Isaac in 1906, Joshua Lawrence Muss… Chairman emeritus of The Raoul Wallenberg Committee of the United States, Rachel Oestreicher Bernheim… VP of the American Zionist Movement and chairman of the Religious Zionists of America, Martin Oliner… Retired major general in the IDF, now a senior fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies, Yaakov Amidror… CEO of Emigrant Bank, he has co-chaired the annual campaign for the UJA/Federation of New York, Howard Philip Milstein… Owner of Midnight Music Management, Stuart Wax… Deputy editorial page editor at The Washington Post, Ruth Marcus Ally… Five-time Emmy Award-winning journalist and marketing entrepreneur, Giselle Fernandez… Former member of the Nevada Assembly, Ellen Barre Spiegel.. Founder of Reeves Advisory, she is a senior fellow at Brown University, Pamela R. Reeves… Actor David Krumholtz… Noam Finger… Grants administrator in the Office of Crime Victim Services at the Wisconsin Department of Justice, Shira Rosenthal Phelps… Executive Director at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, Daniel M. Rothschild… Actress known for her role as Tony Soprano’s daughter, Meadow, Jamie-Lynn Sigler… Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and author, Eli Eric Saslow…
SUNDAY: Retired judge of the Circuit Court for Baltimore City (1986-2003), she has served as President and Chair of The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Ellen Moses Heller… Former special assistant to VPOTUS Walter Mondale and later Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, Bernard W. Aronson… Longest serving member of the New York State Assembly (since 1971), he was a high school classmate of Congressman Nadler, Richard N. Gottfried … Former chairman of NBC News and MSNBC, Andy Lack… Member of the House of Representatives since 2013 (D-FL-21), previously the Mayor of West Palm Beach, Lois Frankel… Harvard history professor, Emma Georgina Rothschild… Rochester, NY resident and advisor to NYC-based Ezras Nashim volunteer ambulance service, Michael E. Pollock… Real estate developer, Charles Kushner… Proto-punk singer, songwriter and guitarist, Jonathan Richman… Managing partner at Accretive LLC, previously the CEO of Warner Music Group, Edgar Bronfman Jr… Film and stage actress, Debra Winger… Publisher and editor of the Jewish Journal, David Suissa… Real estate mogul and collector of modern and contemporary art, Aby J. Rosen… Executive assistant at Los Angeles-based FaceCake Marketing Technologies, Esther Bushey… Social entrepreneur and co-founder of nonprofit Jumpstart, Jonathan Shawn Landres… Actress, television personality and author, Victoria Davey (Tori) Spelling… Author, actor and host of Travel Channel’s Man v. Food, Adam Richman… Assistant general counsel at CNN, Drew Shenkman… Senior director at FTI Consulting, Jeff Bechdel…
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