Your Daily Phil: As they wait out the pandemic, Israel trip providers brainstorm and strategize together

Good Thursday morning!

An interfaith alliance of Catholic, Jewish and Lutheran leaders in the Chicago area is attracting attention for its plan to vaccinate 6,300 educators and employees in their respective private schools. The program emerged from a group of educators serving grades pre-K through 12 that’s working with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Rabbi Shlomo Soroka of Agudath Israel told eJewishPhilanthropy.

Agudath Israel, a member of the coalition, started its effort Tuesday night, administering 150 shots at a Bais Yaakov elementary school in the city. “We also feel a moral obligation to vaccinate the elderly and vulnerable,” Soroka said, adding that Agudath Israel will also use the school site to vaccinate those populations, whom they reached mainly through synagogues.


The new Israel Travel Alliance helps trip providers plan — and wait

A year ago it didn’t exist, but today the Israel Travel Alliance hosts about 40 trip providers and up to 10 foundations on regular Zoom calls. The virtual meetings used to focus on how to sustain connections with Israel during the pandemic. Now they focus on if, when and how the country will begin admitting tourists and students again, reports eJewishPhilanthropy‘s Helen Chernikoff.

Tough Questions: Nobody knows the answers to those questions, but it’s helpful to gather to think about all the variables, said alliance co-founder Mike Wise, CEO of Honeymoon Israel, and Rina Goldberg of the Jewish Federations of North America’s (JFNA) Jerusalem office. To learn anything definitive, they will likely have to wait until after the Israeli elections, called for March 23, which will reshape the government and determine its policies, Wise said. 

Waiting game: The first iteration of the alliance emerged out of a flurry of WhatsApp messages last March between Israeli leaders and travel providers, all of whom were perplexed by the pandemic, said Wise. Now the alliance represents operators collectively responsible for about 90,000 trips a year, Goldberg said, and they’re focused on how travel to Israel might change. Variables could include everything from whether Israel requires vaccination or testing for entry; whether each trip will need to reduce its capacity; whether foreigners will be able to interact with Israelis; and the timing of when Israel makes these decisions and announces them. “How many people can be on a bus?” Wise said, pointing out that if a trip provider is only allowed to put 20 people on a bus instead of 40, that will raise costs. “How many people can be in a pod? Will we have to mask? Will we have to quarantine?”

Political angle: The alliance is focused on staying in touch with the Ministry of Tourism, Goldberg and Wise said. Their strategy is to emphasize the fact that trips like these — compared with travel by individuals — are easier to control. “It’s coordinated; it’s organized,” Goldberg said. “They arrive together, they travel together, the staff is trained. You can maintain the pod.”

Read the complete piece here.


No one left behind


As we celebrate Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance, and Inclusion Month, Park Avenue Synagogue’s Rabbi Charles Savenor writes that inclusion is not a finite sprint, it’s a marathon with no end.

Beginnings: On Shabbat Zachor, Amalek’s unprovoked brutality is not the only thing we remember. Deuteronomy 25:17-19 underscores our responsibility to one another, especially the most vulnerable.

Action plan: Creating a more inclusive community requires as much peer-to-peer relationships as dedicated leadership. At Park Avenue Synagogue, our goal is to change the culture of our community with welcoming and acceptance as our default mode. To focus our efforts, we created an “inclusion checklist” for planning all synagogue events. This ever-evolving document ensures that gatherings are mapped out with inclusion at the forefront of minds. 

Outcome: With the inclusion checklist guiding our planning and implementation, our clergy, lay and professional leadership can focus on welcoming anyone who walks through the door — and into the Zoom room.

Read the full piece here.

community change

Combatting professional isolation: The power of a local cohort


“Isolation, disconnection, feeling like an outsider. No, we are not just talking about the pandemic. Feelings of isolation have existed behind the scenes for Jewish communal professionals for years,” write Rabba Rachel Kohl Finegold, Joshua Rubin and Anat Toledano.

The Montreal experiment: A new 18-month fellowship brought together a diverse group of Jewish professionals, including rabbis, teachers, experiential educators, federation professionals, and entrepreneurs. Most were surprised to meet so many local Jewish professionals that they did not already know. Over time, relationships began to form across organizational lines that would have never otherwise been possible.

Outcome: Over the year that we have spent learning and growing — and navigating a pandemic — together, we have discovered new possibilities present in our own roles and in our city as a whole. The voices have changed; the isolation diminished. 

Read the full piece here. 

Worthy Reads

 Sweet Home: Abby Falik, the founder and CEO of youth service program Global Citizen Year, was sure that her inability to travel during the pandemic would disrupt her fundraising and relationships, she writes in the Chronicle of Philanthropy. Yet she found that the soaring stock market spurred donors to reach out to her, and that COVID-19 helped many to embrace the uncertainty in life that people try to deny in normal times. [ChroniclePhilanthropy]

 Trailblazer: In Inside Philanthropy, reporter Holly Hall eulogizes a source she adored: Naomi Levine, who died last month at age 98 after a glass-ceiling-shattering career. Levine was the first woman to lead the American Jewish Congress, in 1972. Later, she became a fundraiser who turned a “then-struggling” New York University into the elite institution it is today by raising more than $2 billion over 20 years. The first three words of the piece say a lot: “She was salty.” [InsidePhilanthropy

 Financial Aid: After an initial round of state budget cuts related to the pandemic in 2021, higher education is braced for more in 2022, which would put additional pressure on philanthropists who fund colleges and universities. However, the picture might not be as dire as feared, reports Emma Whitford in InsideHigherEd. State of the State addresses have historically served as reliable indicators of state priorities, and governors in 19 states — including New York and New Jersey — have mentioned finance for high education in their speeches. Some states, such as Georgia, might make further reductions, however. [InsideHigherEd]

Community Comms

Apply! Want to join the team at Jewish Insider/eJewish Philanthropy? We’re looking for a top-notch philanthropy editor. Learn more here.

Be featured: Email us to inform the eJP readership of your upcoming event, job opening, or other communication.

Word on the Street

The Natan Fund has announced that Adina Poupko will become its executive director while Felicia Herman will transition to the role of president…. The University of Maryland has received a $9 million gift from Michael and Eugenia Brin and the Brin Family Foundation to establish the Maya Brin Institute for New Performance… Silicon Valley philanthropist and entrepreneur Nahum Guzik has gifted Ben-Gurion University of the Negev $25 million for the new Guzik Cultural Center…Israel’s Ogen Group has received a $1 million impact investment loan from Google… Rabbi Gershon Mendel Garelik, the head Chabad-Lubavitch emissary in Italy, has died at age 88 … Jewish Women International has announced the 2021 Cohort of JWI’s Jewish Communal Women’s Leadership Project…

Pic of the Day

Michael Jankelowitz

After Jerusalem received a late evening snowfall yesterday, the Gilo neighborhood saw a rare wintry mix.


Regina Spektor performing live at the Hammerstein Ballroom on 2006-10-16; credit: Eric Skiff / Wikimedia Commons

Singer-songwriter and pianist, Regina Spektor.
Rosh Yeshiva at Yeshiva University, Rabbi Hershel Reichman… Former U.S. Representative from New York for 32 years until earlier this year, Eliot Engel… LA resident and former national and Washington correspondent for The New York TimesMichael Janofsky… Chairman of the World Congress of Russian Jewry, Boris Spiegel… Principal at BYC-based Liebman Advisors, Scott Liebman… Israeli singer and actress, Ilana Avital… Portfolio manager at Capital Group and board member at Hillel International, Hilda Lea Applbaum… Co-principal of the Institute for Wise Philanthropy and founder of the Jewish Earth Alliance, Mirele B. Goldsmith… Executive vice president of donor experience at The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, Lori Tessel… Israel’s ambassador to Romania, David Saranga… Author and school safety activist who had a daughter, Meadow, who was killed in the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, Andrew Scot Pollack… Chair of the chemistry department at Stony Brook University and recent Congressional candidate in New York, Nancy Sarah Goroff… CEO of an eponymous branding, marketing, PR, advertising and design firm, David F. Warschawski… Actor, screenwriter and comedian, Isaac “Ike” Barinholtz… Co-founder of StockX, Joshua Eliot “Josh” Luber… VP of development for J Street, Adee Telem… Instagram celebrity known commonly as The Fat Jewish, Josh Ostrovsky… President of baseball operations and general manager of MLB’s Milwaukee Brewers, David Stearns… Partner at Globatec Digital Integration, Larry C. Leider