Your Daily Phil: Beating back burnout: Nonprofit workers weigh in from ‘The Red Zone’

Good Thursday morning.

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on a new initiative by the Claims Conference to connect students with Holocaust survivors and a massive letter-writing campaign by the Orthodox Union on behalf of the hostages held in Gaza. We feature an opinion piece by a group of nonprofit professionals responding to Barry Finestone’s call in eJP last month to move out of the “Red Zone.” Also in this newsletter: Rachel PritzkerCindy Golub and Nachman Shai. We’ll start with an Israeli aid group traveling to Taiwan after the island was rocked by an earthquake.

Following yesterday’s devastating magnitude 7.4 earthquake near the city of Hualien on Taiwan’s eastern coast, SmartAid, the Israeli tech aid charity, is dispatching a relief team for immediate assistance to help in the recovery, reports Judith Sudilovsky for eJewishPhilanthropy.

At least nine people have been killed and hundreds more injured after the country’s largest earthquake in 25 years. Dozens of people are missing and hundreds are still trapped more than a day after the tremor.

Shachar Zahavi, founding director of SmartAid, told eJP that the nonprofit is working closely with local partners, evaluating the integration of solar power units and telecommunications systems to address the widespread power outages affecting over 91,000 households. Additionally, a major highway closure due to landslides and rockfalls has exacerbated the situation.

We specialize in integrating tech and humanitarian disasters,” he said. “The whole idea behind SmartAid is we take the ‘startup nation’ into the humanitarian sphere. Now in Taiwan we have tens of thousands of people without electricity. We know the process and as we have done in other countries we will install solar microgrids so that these people will at least have access to electricity and communication, and medical care can continue.” 

Zahavi said SmartAid normally partners with international aid groups, governments and multinational corporations, where most of their funding comes from.

“We are in the very early hours of trying to determine what is needed. It usually takes 24 to 48 hours until we can know what is happening. In 48 hours things will be clearer. Everything is fresh now so everyone is trying to understand what is going on and how they can help,” said Zahavi.

Read the full report here.


Claims Conference launches first-of-its-kind speakers bureau, making it easier for students to hear from Holocaust survivors

LOS ANGELES, CA – OCTOBER 26: Semira Tesfamariam, 15, a sophomore at Lawndale High, poses with a photo of Joseph Alexander, 99, a Holocaust survivor from Poland who was in 12 different concentration camps, after Alexander shared his story to a group of Lawndale High School students at the Holocaust Museum LA on Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2022 in Los Angeles, CA. Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany launched the Survivor Speakers Bureau today — a first-of-its-kind initiative to allow students around the world to hear testimony from more than 270 Holocaust survivors, eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen reports. The speakers bureau, which will allow institutions to book a speaker at no cost for a virtual or in-person event, will launch first in the U.S. and Germany before rolling out over the coming year in other countries, according to the organization, better known as the Claims Conference.

‘Even one person’: “It is one thing to read about the Holocaust in a textbook, a few paragraphs about the global politics of World War II and the history of Europe. It is another thing altogether to sit with someone who was deported from their hometown, stripped of everything they own, made to live in hiding or to endure a concentration camp,” Hanne Holsten, a Holocaust survivor living in the U.S., said in a statement. She added that she was “more than willing to participate” if the project had the potential to make “an impact for even one person.” 

Never forget: The launch comes on the heels of a nationwide survey conducted by the Claims Conference, which found that 64% of millennials and Gen Z over the age of 18 believe that Holocaust education should be compulsory in school, and that 80% of all respondents believe that it is important to continue teaching about the Holocaust — one reason being to prevent it from happening again. A separate poll last December found that one-fifth of U.S. citizens between the ages of 18 and 29 believe that the Holocaust is a myth.

Win-win: “At a moment of dramatically rising antisemitism, this program tells the history and educates for the future,” Gideon Taylor, president of the Claims Conference, said in a statement. “A Holocaust survivor speakers bureau of this scale and reach is unprecedented. Holocaust stories remain as important as ever, for both ends of the generational spectrum. Survivors continue to feel the enormous need to share their harrowing stories, and, encouragingly, schools continue to want to fill their rooms with living, eyewitness testimony.”


OU gathers more than 180,000 letters to Biden to commemorate 180 days of Hamas hostage crisis

Rabbi Shay Schachter, Rabbi Yisrael Motzen, and Nathan Diament (left to right) carry boxes of letters to the White House. Courtesy/Orthodox Union

To mark the 180 days that the 134 hostages who remain in Gaza have been in Hamas custody, the Orthodox Union collected more than 180,000 letters to President Joe Biden urging the administration to work toward their release, and hand-delivered many to the White House on Wednesday, reports Marc Rod for eJewishPhilanthropy’s sister publication Jewish Insider.

Speaking for themselves: “Hundreds of thousands of members of the American Jewish community have spoken on their own behalf,” Rabbi Moshe Hauer, the executive vice president of the OU, said in a press conference blocks from the White House on Wednesday. “We need the president and his administration to do more.”

Won’t quit: Maurice Shnaider, the uncle of hostage Shiri Bibas and great-uncle of her small children, who are also hostages, also spoke at the press conference, criticizing the United Nations and the International Red Cross for a lack of action, as well as the media, for allowing the hostage crisis to fade from the headlines. “It’s been 180 days too many,” he told Jewish Insider, noting that the letters were a message that “we are not giving up, we will fight until the last hostage [is] back home. It’s not only about my family. It’s about the 134 that are left.” He added: “We don’t want to get to 360,000 [letters], but we’ll do it if necessary.”

Read the full report here and sign up for Jewish Insider’s Daily Kickoff here.


The grassroots efforts to tackle anti-Israel activity as it spreads to communities

A Bakersfield City Council meeting in Bakersfield, Calif., on February 28, 2024, to encourage the representatives to adopt a ceasefire resolution. Jacob Lee Green/Sipa USA

Nearly a decade ago, student activists met for the annual National Students for Justice in Palestine conference. Titled “From Campus to Community: Building a Vision for the Future,” the 2015 gathering focused on strategies for moving anti-Israel activity off into the broader community. Efforts to mobilize activists to challenge their municipalities to pass anti-Israel legislation faced significant hurdles for years, but exploded in the wake of the Oct. 7 terror attacks. Since Oct. 7, some 70 U.S. cities, including Chicago and Seattle, have passed resolutions on the Israel-Hamas war with most calling for the Biden administration to broker a cease-fire. At least 48 cities have passed symbolic resolutions calling for a halt in the war, eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen reports for Jewish Insider.

Getting triggered: Mika Efros doesn’t consider herself an activist. But when her “small, close-knit” Southern California town of Claremont became the center of a proposed cease-fire resolution — which called on Israel to immediately end its war in Gaza without defeating Hamas —  the mother of two “had 10 days to react and do something. It started with a group chat [among neighbors] with everyone who was Jewish,” Efros recalled in an interview with JI. “We basically said let’s meet up and strategize… We just said we need to get together and figure this out because now it’s coming to our backyard,” she said of the suburban Los Angeles city.

Not our fight: On Feb. 27, the Claremont City Council joined a fast-growing group of local legislative bodies to vote on a cease-fire resolution in the Israel-Hamas war. The vote was actually on two resolutions: one that called for neutrality on social and political issues not local to Claremont, and another that called for a cease-fire in Gaza. The first resolution passed, negating a vote on the second, and local residents chalk up the victory to a grassroots effort led by about 20 people — previously politically disengaged Jews who took a stand against more than 300 college students, SJP members and local community members. Their winning campaign slogan was “Claremont: Stay local.” As cease-fire resolutions continue to jump from college campuses to local city councils, a long-term SJP goal, Efros said that other towns could use Claremont as a model for what “worked” in the deep blue town to combat the resolution.

Read the full story here.


We’re permanently seeing red

Thomas Ulrich from Pixabay

“Red Zones and Blue Zones: it sounds like an election year struggle, but instead it’s a Jewish communal one,” write Sara Shapiro-Plevan, Dr. Aimee Friedman Baron, Jamie Allen Black, Rabbi Jessy Gross Dressin, Dale Glasser, Sarah Livingston, Elana Merzin, Nicole Nevarez, Ari Polsky, Rabba Melissa Scholten-Gutierrez, Dana Sheanin and anonymous contributors in a joint opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

A resounding yes: “Many Jewish communal professionals were deeply affected by Barry Finestone’s thoughtful piece ‘Getting the Jewish workforce out of “The Red Zone”’ [eJewishPhilanthropy, March 11]… We confirm that working in Jewish communal organizations is unsustainable, stressful and exhausting. We are constantly seeking wins in terms of funding, increased capacity and recognition and working to achieve ambitious, aspirational but often impossible missions in service to a thriving Jewish people… In Leading Edge’s 2019 ‘Gender Equity in Leadership’ report, one of the overarching themes is the awareness that even the top leadership jobs, structured most efficiently with the most resources and highest salaries, are unsustainable for any one person, even in the most organized and supportive workplaces.”

The way forward: “Effort has been directed to creating programs, policies and practices that shift our Jewish communal landscape toward the Blue Zone, but many organizations changing their internal practices are finding themselves unable to sustain their work financially. Funders are willing to continue to support their work, but only to craft the newest, shiniest program — not to support organizational integrity, pay staff salaries or build internal practice and policy toward sustainability. It’s time to consider how this affects our ability to achieve our desired impact. It’s time to remake our Jewish communal workplaces anew in the 21st century.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Vitriol Extraction: Writing in The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Rachel Pritzker reckons with how fighting for her short-term political goals came at the cost of increased polarization and weakening American democracy. “Twenty years ago, in the mid-2000s, I was a partisan warrior, and my philanthropy was entirely dedicated to pursuing my ideological beliefs… But at a certain point, I came to see that my efforts, under the banner of ‘democracy,’ were actually furthering the decline of democracy. Our passionate advocacy, while aimed at strengthening the country, was contributing to mounting gridlock and toxic partisanship… In typical policy fights, advocates seek to build a coalition just big enough to achieve a policy outcome. But when it comes to protecting liberal democracy, ‘just big enough’ won’t cut it… Philanthropy must quickly reckon with this challenge. And that reckoning begins with three surprisingly countercultural lessons about democracy: Democracy is not the same thing as our preferred political or policy outcomes… Democracy is about more than voting and elections… Autocrats are modeling effective coalition-building… Pro-democracy forces need to borrow from their coalition-building strategies. This means hitting pause on internecine policy arguments and listening openly and responding to the hopes and fears of Americans outside elite circles.” [ChronicleofPhilanthropy]

An Overlooked Wellness Metric: Organizations are increasingly investing in the physical and mental health of their employees, but programs to improve financial literacy can have a major impact as well, writes Julian Hayes II in Forbes. “A GOBankingRates survey of more than 1,000 adults found that 28% of people have nothing saved for their future. The survey revealed that 39% of respondents don’t contribute to a retirement fund, while another 30% don’t think they’ll ever be able to retire… Furthermore, a 2023 PwC study found that 57% of employees identified finances as the primary driver of stress in their lives, with 47% of employees earning $100,000 or more citing finances as the primary concern. The repercussions of financial stress manifest in various aspects of [employees’] lives… Research from a 2023 Transamerica Institute report found that 77% of workers viewed financial wellness programs as an important benefit, yet only 28% of employers currently offered them. Also, the study found that employees spend an average of eight hours a week dealing with financial issues, four occurring at work. The financial benefits for organizations that commit to employee financial well-being are substantial. A 2019 survey by Salary Finance found that poor financial wellness can account for 11 to 14% of an employer’s payroll expense, further highlighting the direct impact on the company’s bottom line. Addressing this gap can further enhance employee satisfaction, retention, and productivity.” [Forbes]

Around the Web

Hunter College Hillel received its first “seven-figure gift” (it declined to specify the exact amount) from Cindy Golub, in honor of her mother, Rita Levine Rabin, who graduated from the school in 1948…

The Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights opened an investigation into Lehigh University, following complaints alleging that the school fostered a hostile environment for Jewish students. A new complaint on similar grounds has also been filed with the office by students from UC Davis

Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion appointed former Israeli Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai as dean of its Taube Family Campus in Jerusalem…

The Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity hired Eitan Troyansky to serve as coordinator of its Antisemitism Response Center, which helps undergraduate members “respond to antisemitism and to promote positive programs on campuses”…

Louis Har, an Israeli hostage who was rescued from captivity last month, and Rachel and Jon Goldberg-Polin, the parents of hostage Hersh Goldberg-Polinwill be the keynote speakers at a mass rally outside the United Nations headquarters in New York on Sunday, the six-month anniversary of the Oct. 7 terror attacks…

A new report on giving circles by Grand Valley State University’s Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy, Colmena-Consulting and Philanthropy Together found that they are the fastest growing form of philanthropy and are predominantly led and run by women…

TechCrunch spotlights Michael Granoff’s Maniv Mobility venture capital fund, which recently raised $140 million…

Alex Shapiro was named the chief philanthropy officer of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra

Sammy’s Roumanian Steakhouse will host two Passover Seders this month ahead of a fuller grand re-opening in June, after the famed Manhattan restaurant closed in 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic…

The Chronicle of Philanthropy identifies 10 common philanthropy-ese terms (sorry, concretize) that you may want to remove from your organization’s vocabulary…

Thabet Abu Rass is leaving his role as co-CEO of the Israeli shared society-focused Abraham Initiatives after a decade in the role. Shahira Shalaby has been appointed his successor, serving alongside Amnon Be’eri-Sulitzeanu

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency looks into how demographers of American Jews used 29 surnames to pick Jews out of the phonebook for studies…

Karen Cinnamon, the founder of the Jewish wedding media platform Smashing The Glassbecame the 50,000th signer of the Jewish Future Promise, pledging to give at least half of any charitable donations she makes after her death to Jewish or Israeli causes…

Vandals attacked the tomb of Queen Esther and Mordecai in Hamadan, Iran, with firebombs, setting ablaze the pilgrimage site for Iranian Jews…

Jack Prince, who fled Poland at age 11 just before World War II and became a major donor in the Canadian Jewish communitydied last month at 96…

Pic of the Day

Yehuda Ben Itach/KKL – JNF Photo Archive

Some 850 campers — a mix of Israeli children and teens with and without disabilities — attend a performance by singer Benaia Barabi in Eilat, Israel, on Tuesday. The concert was the climax of a five-day spring camp experience, organized as a collaboration between Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael (KKL-JNF), JNF-KKL Germany and Simcha Layeled, an association dedicated to improving the quality of life and social welfare of disabled and seriously ill children in Israel. Camp staff included social workers, medical teams, volunteers and KKL-JNF guides, and activities include water sports, beach parties, a pajama party, a sunrise trip and a memorial ceremony for those who fell in the war.


Annie Liebovitz smiles
Jamie Chisholm/Getty Images

One of Israel’s top men’s tennis players until he retired, David “Dudi” Sela

Author of books about her childhood experiences as a Jewish girl in the Netherlands during the Holocaust, she is a longtime NYC resident, Johanna Reiss… Retired MLB player for the Orioles, Senators, Athletics, Rangers and Angels, Mike Epstein… Southern California resident, Gloria Margulies… French-German politician who is a Green Party leader in Europe, Daniel Marc Cohn-Bendit… Hungarian dramatist, novelist and essayist whose recent works are focused upon Jewish characters, György Spiró… Professor of history at American University in D.C., Allan Jay Lichtman… Poet and professor emeritus of English at the University of Pennsylvania, Charles Bernstein… Visiting fellow at the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, he is also chief of staff to the former Australian prime minister, Bruce Wolpe… Petah Tikva-born, Emmy Award-winning film director, producer, freelance journalist and writer, Simcha Jacobovici… Retired partner from the M&A group at Skadden, David J. Friedman… Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, William J. Burns… Director of the Center for Energy, Climate and Environment at the Heritage Foundation, Diana Furchtgott-Roth… Former commander of the Israeli Air Force and director-general of the Defense Ministry, now a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Maj. Gen. (ret.) Amir Eshel… Founder and president of Stutzman Public Affairs in Sacramento, Calif., Robert Stutzman… Chairman of The Western Wall Heritage Foundation and rabbi of the Kotel since 1995, Shmuel Rabinovitch… Tel Aviv-born animator and film director, now a freelance director in NYC, Tatia Rosenthal… Former member of the Knesset, he last served in 2019 as a member of the Hatnua party, Yoel Hasson… Journalist and author, he is a great-grandson of famed Talmudist Rabbi Yehezkel Abramsky, Sasha Abramsky… Israeli social activist promoting the rights of disabled people, Hanna Akiva… NYC-based artist and founder of the Midnight Society, an artist-run curatorial project, Abshalom Jac Lahav… Actress since she was 6 years old, appearing as Natasha Lyonne, Natasha Bianca Lyonne Braunstein… Israeli journalist who serves as the senior analyst for The Times of IsraelHaviv Rettig Gur… Actress and YouTube personality, Lisa “Lisbug” Schwartz… Fashion editor, Daisy Melamed Sanders… Consulting producer at HBO Max, Leslie Schapira… Figure skater, he competed for Israel at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, Ronald Zilberberg… Phyllis Wilner…