Your Daily Phil: Ariel Zwang on the Joint’s core mission + David Harris to step down as AJC CEO
Good Friday morning!
American Jewish Committee (AJC) CEO David Harris announced yesterday that he will leave his position in May 2022 after 31 years at the helm, and 42 years at the organization.
Under Harris’ tenure, the AJC became known for the depth and breadth of its relationships with foreign governments on which the organization could draw to advocate for Jewish and Israeli interests, said Steven Windmueller, an emeritus professor of Jewish communal service at Hebrew Union College’s Los Angeles campus. “If you don’t have those relationships, it’s not easy to turn to them in times of crisis or when you need support,” he added.
In its statement announcing Harris’ decision to step down, the organization also announced that it had hired executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles to help it find a “visionary leader.”
“The question is what the AJC is looking for,” Winemueller said. “It’s interesting how many institutions have changed leaders and gone in a different direction.
JDC’s new CEO, Ariel Zwang, reflects on its core mission
When Ariel Zwang, the CEO of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), talks about her job, she goes back to her great-grandparents, who immigrated to the United States for a better life at about the same time that JDC was founded to help Jews around the world. The organization’s mission has broadened since that time, but it hasn’t changed, Zwang told eJewishPhilanthropy’s Helen Chernikoff in a Zoom conversation from a balcony in Jerusalem, where she was ending a five-week tour of JDC’s Israel operations.
Leading the Joint: “My ancestors came from Eastern Europe in the 1920s, and they were hoping that I would have the life that I have had,” said Zwang. “I grew up with a tremendous sense of gratitude.” The Joint, as it was historically known, and as Zwang calls it, was founded in 1914 to help Jews living in present-day Israel under the Ottoman Empire, after which its work expanded to assist European Jews during, between and after World Wars I and II. Decades later, it supported Eastern European Jewish communities in the former Soviet Union. Today, the Joint still provides humanitarian assistance to the European victims of Nazism and Communism, and spent 44% of its $340 million budget in the former Soviet Union in 2020.
A new career: Born in New York City and raised in Connecticut, where her father was the principal of Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Hartford, Zwang focused as an undergraduate on applied math at Harvard’s John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and received an MBA from Harvard Business School in 1990. She became a management consultant, but decided in her late 20s that she wanted to help Americans living in poverty, which led to a career in the nonprofit sector. She started in the New York City Department of Education, and became the executive director of the volunteer organization New York Cares in 2001. In 2008, she became CEO of Safe Horizon, the largest U.S.-based nonprofit serving victims of crime and abuse. Her hire at JDC, where she replaced interim CEO Asher Ostrin, was announced in October 2020.
Deeply Jewish: Before taking the job at the Joint, Zwang had never worked in the Jewish world, but “lived a deeply Jewish life from birth,” she said. “I went to Jewish day school and Jewish camps, my children went to Jewish day school and camps,” she said. “I met my husband through the New York federation. Shabbat is a sacred time for our family.” Zwang is vice president of the synagogue to which her family belongs, B’nai Jeshurun, on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.
Looking beyond the horizon (Tisha B’Av 5781)
“The word ‘horizon’ is tricky. We generally refer to the horizon as an indication of expansiveness, even limitlessness. But etymologically, the word means exactly the opposite. It comes from the Greek word ‘horizein,’ which means ‘limit.’ The horizon is, in fact, the limit of our vision — in Hebrew, as well, where the word for horizon, ofek, has the same root as ‘restrain, constraint, limit,” writes Andrés Spokoiny, president and CEO of Jewish Funders Network, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.
Boundaries: “The horizon tells us clearly that there’s a boundary to our field of vision and even a limit to our imagination. And we experience that in physical, emotional, and spiritual ways.”
Tisha B’Av: “Tisha B’Av is an invitation to embrace grief as part of our twisted road towards our full realization, but also an encouragement to transcend it, to see beyond that pain. It invites us to remember, even in the darkest of times, that a better future is possible and that our lives, individually and collectively, have a role to play in the magnificent drama of redemption.”
Not yet: “Maybe Tisha B’Av teaches us to use ‘not yet’ instead of ‘no.’ Is the world at peace? Not yet, but it will be one day. Is antisemitism a thing of the past? Not yet, but we believe it will be. Are disease and suffering eradicated? Not yet, but we can do it and we will. This day of sadness challenges us to keep moving the goalposts of human growth forward, to labor towards making our world worthy of that Messiah born in the gloom of this day.”
How do you make grantmaking easier for foundations and nonprofits? Ask the Propel funders.
“As the director of The Hadassah Foundation I often consider how our foundation and the entire philanthropic field can be more collaborative and strategic. An answer on how to accomplish this came from a very unusual place, a foundation in its infancy,” writes Stephanie Blumenkranz in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.
How it began: “It started with an email in the fall of 2020: ‘We would like to know more about how your foundation operates.’ The email was from a member of a newly reconstituted Jewish women’s fund based in San Francisco, now called Propel, a successor to the San Francisco Federation Jewish Women’s Fund. The 12 women who made up the fund already knew who they were and what they wanted to achieve.”
Propel’s need: “The Propel funders were particularly interested in learning about The Hadassah Foundation’s process for selecting Israel grantee partners. Propel sought to fund Israel-based organizations that utilized a gender lens, but they are a small, start-up fund without the resources to conduct their own competitive RFP process. Even more so, they didn’t want to task organizations with completing yet another grant application, especially in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
What we did: “The decision was for The Hadassah Foundation to reach out to its 11 current grantee organizations in Israel to ask if we could share their grant application, interview recording, and in some instances, grant reports… Within 48 hours, all 11 grantee organizations enthusiastically responded that we could share their grant application materials… Utilizing the application materials of our grantee partners, Propel went about their grantmaking decisions.”
Meaningful Problem: Only $1.5 billion of the nearly $12 billion that was pledged to racial justice in the aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd in 2020 can be tracked to charitable recipients, which complicates efforts to track the effectiveness of the donations, reports Haleluya Hadero in the Associated Press. Another difficulty is one of definition, as there is no sector-wide agreement on what “racial equity funding” means, and advocacy efforts aimed at influencing public policy might not fall under traditional activities of tax-exempt nonprofits. “There may be a need for more systematic definition because this work is boundary spanning,” said Una Osili, the associate dean for research and international programs at the Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University. [AP]
Pretty Penny: In South Korea, where the early adoption of AI and related automation is replacing jobs, one province is calling its experiment with universal basic income (UBI) a success, reports Fan Li in the Stanford Social Innovation Review. Researchers were surprised by UBI’s popularity, given that South Koreans have traditionally been ashamed to rely on the efforts of others, but the gap between rich and poor and the entrenchment of social classes has compelled skeptics to appreciate UBI as a vehicle that promotes social mobility. “Freedom and security cannot be achieved without one another,” said Lee Wonjae, a proponent of UBI in South Korea. “I believe that universal basic income is not just a distribution scheme, but a vision of our ideal future to be explored by all members of society.” [SSIR]
Turning Point: Writing in Inside Philanthropy, Katharine Don explains that a larger proportion of Bill and Melinda Gates’ $130 billion in wealth will likely be diverted to gender equity and women’s empowerment as the two pursue separate philanthropic paths, and that the result could be transformative. Don hopes that Melinda Gates will seize this turning point to adopt trends in philanthropy, like prioritizing direct funding to community-led organizations, and paying more attention to the larger political issues that also drive inequity. “Meeting the urgency of the moment would mean funding a range of progressive groups fighting to expand voting rights, fight voter suppression and eliminate gerrymandering. Many of these groups received large infusions of grant money from MacKenzie Scott in 2020, but still need greater resources,” Don notes. [InsidePhilanthropy]
Word on the Street
Blue Meridian Partners, the Ford Foundation, and the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies have announced a fund with initial commitments totaling $250 million in support of efforts to strengthen the economic mobility of people involved with the criminal justice system… The Richard King Mellon Foundation in Pittsburgh announced a $1 million “pitch competition” for for-profit companies — to be judged on the basis of potential social impact… Israel’s Ministry of Defense recruited the Jewish National Fund (Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael) to purchase hundreds of dunams of private, Palestinian-owned land in the West Bank for settlers… Foreign nationals seeking permission to enter Israel as visitors can now send their application through the Foreign Ministry’s official website… The SRE Network has refreshed their guide “Standards for Creating Safe, Respectful and Equitable Jewish Workplaces and Communal Spaces”…
Pic of the Day
Genesis Philanthropy Group, in collaboration with the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, opened the exhibition “Picasso to Kentridge: Modern Masterpieces on Paper,” which celebrates the art of drawing through 130 examples of 20th-century works on paper.
Israeli former professional tennis player Anna Smashnova…
SATURDAY: Travel writer and the founder of the Frommer’s series of travel guides, he is a graduate of Yale Law School, Arthur Frommer… Israeli politician and historian who served as a member of Knesset (1996-2002), Minister of Foreign Affairs (2000-2001) and as ambassador to Spain (1987-1991), Shlomo Ben-Ami… Emmy Award-winning play-by-play announcer for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Charley Steiner… Retired assistant general counsel of The Hartford and former chairman of the Board of the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford, he is now a lecturer at UConn law school, Robert K. Yass… HUC-JIR educated rabbi at Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel in Elkins Park, PA, Lance Jonathan Sussman, Ph.D…. Managing general partner and co-founder of Pitango Venture Capital, he serves as chairman of The Peres Center for Peace & Innovation, Nechemia “Chemi” J. Peres… Chair of Samson Energy Company, co-founder of Granite Properties and co-chair of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies, Stacy Helen Schusterman… Business development officer at Quorum, Steven Lebowitz… Treasurer of Australia, he has previously served as Minister for the Environment and Energy, Joshua Anthony “Josh” Frydenberg… Founder and CEO of Zeta Global, David A. Steinberg… Stand-up comedian, he was a finalist on the NBC reality-talent show “Last Comic Standing” in two seasons, Gary Gulman… VP of strategic action programs and communications at Hillel International, Matthew E. Berger… Former CNN and NPR producer, Shannan Butler Adler… Member of the Knesset for the Yesh Atid party, Boaz Toporovsky… Healthcare reporter for Barron’s, Josh Nathan-Kazis… Senior associate at Institutional Shareholder Services, Jared Sorhaindo… VP at JPMorgan Chase, Melanie Beatus… Arabella Rose Kushner…FRIDAY: Former State Department official under JFK and LBJ, later VP of Continental Airlines, and then Managing Editor of the NYTimes, James L. Greenfield… Billionaire real estate developer and former member of Knesset, Ze’ev Stef Wertheimer… One of the three co-founders of Comcast Corporation, he served as its chief financial officer and vice chairman, Julian A. Brodsky… World renowned violinist, violist and conductor, Pinchas Zukerman… Co-creator of the first-ever spreadsheet program (VisiCalc), he currently serves as the Chief Technology Officer of Alpha Software, Daniel Singer “Dan” Bricklin… Former high ranking civilian official in the Pentagon during the Bush 43 administration, now a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, Douglas J. Feith… Senior Rabbi since 1997 at Temple Beth Avodah in Newton Centre, Massachusetts, Rabbi Keith Stern… Los Angeles-based attorney, she is the president emerita of the LA chapter of the Jewish National Fund, Alyse Golden Berkley… Chair of United Israel Appeal and the Immediate Past Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees of The Jewish Federations of North America, Cynthia D. Shapira… British solicitor advocate known for his outspoken opposition to antisemitism, Anthony Julius… Pulitzer Prize winning playwright and screenwriter, Tony Kushner… Former U.S. Ambassador to the EU and a witness at the Ukraine impeachment inquiry against Donald Trump, Gordon David Sondland… Retired airline executive at Northwest and Delta, Andrea Fischer Newman… Former president of Viacom Music and Entertainment Group, Doug Herzog… Businessman and philanthropist, owner of interests in many Israeli firms including IKEA Israel, Matthew Bronfman… Canadian journalist, he worked for CNN International for 30 years, Jonathan Mann… Chairman of the Israeli digital advertising company Kendago, earlier this year he was Israel’s Minister of Science and Technology, Yizhar Nitzan Shai… Chief of staff of the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago, Jim Rosenberg… Former NFL offensive lineman (1991-1996), he is now a division manager at Cherry Creek Mortgage in Boulder, Colorado, Ariel Mace Solomon… Founder of Pinkitzel, a cupcake cafe, candy boutique and gift store located in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, Jonathan Jantz… National political reporter for The New York Times, Shane Goldmacher… Co-founder of Los Angeles-based Meteorite Social Impact Advisors, Steven Max Levine… White House staff assistant and liaison to the Jewish community in the Bush 43 administration, now managing partner at Arogeti Endeavors, Scott Raymond Arogeti… Features reporter for Jewish Insider, Matthew Kassel… Founder and managing partner at Vine Ventures, Eric M. Reiner… VP of strategy and operations for healthcare legal solutions at Guidepoint, Chantal Low Katz…
SUNDAY: Cognitive therapy psychiatrist and Professor Emeritus at the University of Pennsylvania, Aaron Temkin Beck… Hidden with his mother in a school attic in Poland during WW2, theoretical chemist who won the 1981 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Roald Hoffmann (born Roald Safran)… Founding partner of NYC-based law firm Davidoff Hutcher & Citron, Sidney Davidoff… President of the Jewish Genealogical Society of the Conejo Valley and Ventura County, Jan Meisels Allen… Former mayor of Edmonton, Alberta, Stephen Mandel… Former Prime Minister of Peru, Yehude Simon Munaro… Executive director of the MLB Players Association and then later at the NHL Players Association, Donald Fehr… Beverly Hills resident, Felisa Bluwal Pivko… Attorney and nursing home executive, Leonard Grunstein… Former Israeli Police spokesman, he is now a senior national radio broadcaster in Israel, Elihu Ben-On… Seattle area consultant, Elihu Rubin… Former deputy finance chairman of the RNC, Elliott B. Broidy… Former Israeli ambassador to Belarus, Martin Peled-Flax… Partner at Clifford Chance, Philip Wagman… Creative director and co-founder at Let’s Bench, Yitz Woolf… Assistant professor of cybersecurity law at the U.S. Naval Academy and formerly an attorney at Covington & Burling, Jeffrey Michael Kosseff… Deputy director of the White House National Economic Council, David Kamin… Writer and the co-CEO of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, Alexander Ryvchin… Senior creative strategist at MissionWired, Lauren Friedlander… EVP of Hazon, Shuli Karkowsky… Communications director at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Julia Krieger… Content writing lead at Gemini, Philip Rosenstein…
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