Your Daily Phil: Analyzing the new Pew + Jewish groups address Gaza flare up
Good Wednesday morning!
As some of the most intense fighting between Israel and Hamas in years continued on Tuesday, American Jewish groups issued statements of solidarity and sympathy with Israel. The Jewish Federations of North America called on the Palestinian Authority to end any incitement to violence, and said that North American Jewry stands with Israel.
The Orthodox Union shared a video dispatch from Rabbi Moshe Hauer, who is in Israel, about running from Jerusalem Day celebrations into a sealed safe room after hearing air raid sirens. “We pray for effectiveness to the soldiers of the IDF who defend the land,” he said.
The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) condemned Hamas’ rocket attacks and the Palestinian Authority’s incitement, and also urged Israel to protect Muslims’ freedom of worship during Ramadan. The URJ also criticized Jews who had marched with Israeli flags through Jerusalem chanting “Death to Arabs,” concluding, “The voices and actions of extremists who seek to polarize — Jewish and Palestinian alike — must not prevail.”
The Jewish Funders Network (JFN) has named Rabbi Rebecca Sirbu as its executive vice president. Sirbu, who comes to JFN from Hadassah: The Women’s Zionist Organization, will help Jewish foundations form partnerships and coalitions with other organizations. At Hadassah, she served as director of the engagement division and oversaw programs for over 300,000 members.
Pew’s 2020 survey shows a diverse and divided American Jewry
The first major survey of American Jews since 2013 puts the Jewish population at 7.5 million, or 2.4% of the U.S. population, compared with 6.7 million, or 2.2% of the population, estimated in Pew’s “A Portrait of Jewish Americans,” published in 2013. “This is corroboration that the Jewish community is growing, not shrinking, and that there’s diversity in how people express their identity and where they come from,” Len Saxe, director of the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies and the Steinhardt Social Research Institute at Brandeis University, told eJewishPhilanthropy.
Measures of health: The 2013 study was received with distress by a number of leading academics and pundits who read it as an indication of apathy to Jewish life. This report reveals a population that is growing and increasingly diverse both religiously and politically — to the point that some American Jewish communities feel they have no connection to others. Some see the new data as evidence that efforts to build Jewish community and identity outside the synagogue are working. Others see those efforts as fragile. The debate hinges on the question of how to measure Jewish vitality.
New data on race: The new survey, released Tuesday, found that 92% of American Jews identify as white, while 8% say they identify with another ethnic group, including 1% who identify as Black, less than 1% who identify as Asian and several other groups and combinations of groups who comprise 1% or less of the total. This data shows a 1% increase in the population that identifies as non-white, compared with the 2013 report. In 2019, the Jews of Color Field-Building Initiative estimated that 12% to 15% of the American Jewish population was Jews of Color. Other estimates, including one by Saxe that put Hispanic Jews who identify as white at 6% and all other racial groups at 5%, and another published in the 2019 American Jewish Yearbook that indicates Jews of Color make up 6% of the population, are more in line with Pew’s numbers.
Should ‘thought leadership’ be explicitly Jewish?
“Days away from the release of my new book, I was feeling the expected torrents of emotion, from cautious optimism to relief that the project was done. One emotion I was not feeling, however, was shame over crafting an explicitly Jewish book,” writes David Weitzner in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.
Outsiders: “As Rabbi Jonathan Sacks observed, Jews can be blamed for all of the varying grievances held by those who prefer a world that does not change. As the archetypal outsiders, Jews are easy scapegoats. And while Rabbi Sacks never wavered in his bravery, it is perhaps understandable why others feel that when Jewish people offer thinking which advocates for change, it may be best that we not do it in explicitly Jewish terms.”
Arguments and language: “The great American philosopher Richard Rorty argued that liberal societies would be better served by being more ethnocentric and less universalist when making arguments for change. More importantly, he noted that we should never use the vocabulary of people we disagree with in order to convince them. We should use our own language, our own concepts, our own ideals to shine forward a light.”
How to read the giving of the Torah like an experiential educator
“If you are an educator reading [Exodus 19] you may notice that the opening verses are a model for how to begin a powerful experience: In fact, the instructions given by God and the preparations made by the Hebrews are the perfect educational warm-up. You will suddenly start to pay attention to all the different ways Moses and the Hebrews warm up for the momentous experience that awaits them,” write Clare Goldwater and Kiva Rabinsky in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.
Establishing credibility: “[First] the goal and value proposition is established, and the elders are gathered to share the lesson plan with everyone in attendance: God will appear before them ‘in the thickness of a cloud’ to give the Hebrews the Torah, and they will become a new nation.”
Boundaries: “Physical boundaries are established in order to set the rules and norms for the experience to come: ‘Beware of ascending the mountain or touching its edge; whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death.’ Don’t go near Mount Sinai, don’t even let your animals graze nearby, until you hear the shofar sound.”
The experience: “Now, we recognize that the Giving of the Torah is a sui generis experience. And certainly, while the experiences we bring to our learners are important, they may not be quite as significant! However, how we design an educational experience does matter. How can we do it most effectively? Launching into a new – and challenging – topic without preparation is risky – and might even prevent our students from engaging deeply with what’s to come.”
Lean In: Most nonprofits had to reimagine ways to connect with donors during the last year, which means they might be tempted to resume pre-pandemic methods as the United States slowly reopens, but that would be a mistake, urges Donella Wilson in a post for the PhilanTopic blog. She suggests that organizations redouble the digital operations and communications efforts inspired by the pandemic, devising a long-term digital strategy that maximizes its ability to help them tell their story and create innovative virtual programming. “In a digital-first environment, nonprofits must be able to leverage data to inform decision making, reach new audiences, personalize communications, and make accurate fundraising forecasts. And with a reasonable investment in a virtual platform, there’s no reason to restrict outreach and programming to an organization’s local geography,” Wilson concludes. [PhilanTopic]
Numbers Game: In ProPublica, Lisa Song and James Temple investigate the concept of carbon credits by looking at the example of the Massachusetts Audubon Society, which received $6 million from California by becoming a participant in the state’s forest offset program in 2015. The Massachusetts Audubon Society had promised to preserve 9,700 acres of Audubon property in western Massachusetts, but they had never intended to do anything else with the land, which meant that there were no carbon savings, except on paper. “The nearly universal pattern we see in the data,” said Danny Cullenward, policy director at CarbonPlan and a coauthor of a study on California’s program. “Those projects are not delivering real climate benefits.” [ProPublica]
Fundraising Event: Ade Adeniji interviews Bob Westfall, one of the name partners in the Atlanta-based consulting firm Westfall Gold, in InsidePhilanthropy, revealing a fundraising guru whose central insight is that nonprofits have untapped major donor giving capacity within their own donor bases. A self-described salesman by nature, Westfall consistently tops his clients’ fundraising goals by creating a weekend retreat experience around the cause for donor families. “You know, it’s a community building experience. And what we do is, we want to immerse those givers in community with the organization. We want to kind of inspire them,” Westfall said. [InsidePhilanthropy]
Turn It Around: As the director of the Lake Institute on Faith and Giving at Indiana University, David P. King is often asked to make the case for religion as an important part of charitable giving, he writes in the Insights newsletter of the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. Because that argument is so easy to make, he challenges his readers to take it a step further and ask themselves why the answer still isn’t so obvious to the philanthropists who are leery of supporting faith-based organizations. Religious groups are often tempted to think of themselves as having singular, faith-driven missions, but that prevents secular funders from connecting with them. “How can we remain true to our distinctive mission and identity as organizations grounded in faith and at the same time become more active partners in learning and action with our colleagues in the social sector?” King asks. [Insights]
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Word on the Street
UJA-Federation of New York has, to date, approved $53 million — $27 million for grants and $26 million for interest-free loans from their endowment funds for COVID-related needs… Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg Philanthropies announced the launch of the Vivien Thomas Scholars Initiative devoted to addressing historic underrepresentation in STEM fields… Marie van der Zyl has been re-elected president of the U.K.’s Board of Deputies… The Bank of Israel published a model draft detailing possible issuance of a “digital shekel”…
Pic of the Day
Eliran Douenias, operations director of JDC-GRID, the Joint Distribution Committee’s disaster response arm, examined ventilators bound for India with the help of an employee in the Flight Medical Factory last week in Petach Tikvah, Israel.
Philanthropist and co-founder of Home Depot, Bernard “Bernie” Marcus…
One of the earliest women in the comic-book industry, she escaped Nazi-occupied Austria on the Kindertransport, Lily Renée Willheim Phillips… Composer, singer songwriter, and record producer, Burt Bacharach… Israeli agribusiness entrepreneur and real estate investor, he was chairman and owner of Carmel Agrexco, Gideon Bickel… World renowned architect and master planner for the World Trade Center site in Lower Manhattan, Daniel Libeskind… Former member of the California State Senate and California State Assembly, Lois Wolk… Chief investigative correspondent for Yahoo News, Michael Isikoff… Former Washington correspondent for the Miami Herald covering the Pentagon, James Martin Rosen… Former member of the Knesset for the Meretz party, Ilan Gilon… Professor at Emory University School of Law, Michael Jay Broyde… Actress known for her role as Lexi Sterling on Melrose Place, Jamie Michelle Luner… Founder of strategic communications and consulting firm Hiltzik Strategies, Matthew Hiltzik… Communications officer in the DC office of Open Society Foundations, Jonathan E. Kaplan… First-ever Jewish Governor of Colorado when he was elected in 2019, previously a member of Congress, Jared Polis… Principal at New Heights Communications, Joshua Cohen… Author of Politico’s Morning Tech newsletter, Alexandra S. Levine… Director of member relations at the National Association of Manufacturers, Amanda Schechter… Civics outreach manager at Google, Erica Arbetter… Haifa-born actress, Odeya Rush…
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