Your Daily Phil: Bronfman Fellowship acts to ease tensions among alumni + JFNA’s big data project

Good Thursday morning!

Ed. note: Continuing the celebration of Sukkot, Your Daily Phil will return on Monday.

At The Well, which helps women access Jewish ritual, is launching an effort to reach a broader range of ages, founder Sarah Waxman told eJewishPhilanthropy.

Waxman secured a $100,000, two-year grant from the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles to better reach women over age 45, who were already making up a third of the group’s 2,000 participants. The grant will help At The Well pilot its signature program — monthly “well circles” — for older women.

The nonprofit had already updated its logo and website with the help of an outside firm. “We moved away from millennial pastels,” Waxman said. “We wanted to give the look more richness, and not be cheeky or brash.”


Bronfman Fellowship looks to ease tensions among alumni

The Bronfman Fellowship

As a youth fellowship program and alumni network that has been grappling with religious differences, Zionism and other “stimulating, existential questions,” since 1987 the Bronfman Fellowship has seen its share of heated discussions. Yet not until this past year has the staff witnessed such extreme ideological tensions, both online and in person, that they were forced to make programmatic interventions, Becky Voorwinde, the fellowship’s executive director, told eJewishPhilanthropy’s Helen Chernikoff.

Several tactics: The group is now offering enhanced training in pluralistic practices and has developed a working group to propose solutions for an increasingly contentious listserv. To help the fellows better practice pluralism, staff developed its own curriculum. For alumni, they hired an outside expert to deliver an online discussion series titled “Where Pluralism Thrives.” The fellowship has also created affinity groups with their own listservs for alumni who are LGBTQ, Mizrachi, Sephardi, Jews of Color or parents who might have specific interests, concerns or perspectives that they feel less comfortable expressing in the main forum. 

Widening tensions: “Some of the areas of disagreement got hotter, more personal,” among the 2020-2021 fellowship class of 26 high school juniors, Voorwinde said, with the participants becoming more likely to attribute ideological opponents’ views to malign motives. The fellowship’s staff also started to observe disagreements between its 1,400 alumni — both on campus and on its alumni listserv — that seemed to produce increased polarization and hurt feelings instead of insight and understanding, she said.

Part of the landscape: Many organizations support alumni networks, from Birthright to Camp Ramah to ROI Community — with the goal of supporting the program and staying engaged with past participants. Disagreements among alumni have flared and subsided over the years, said Ryder Kessler, an alumni of the 2003 Bronfman Fellowship. “Some conversations have gotten tough. Some people have quit the listserv. Others have said there should be moderators, or certain topics should be off-limits.” On the whole, though, the listserv remained an asset that enabled various community members to productively disagree with each other, he said.

Read the full story here.


When is a man like a starfish?

Timo Wagner/Unsplash

“What happens if male CEOs actively champion, mentor and support women colleagues towards CEO roles?” asks Mark Gurvis, former executive vice president of The Jewish Federations of North America, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Power of being mentored: “Having recently conducted interviews with more than 35 CEOs of Jewish communal organizations, it was striking to hear how many attributed their becoming a CEO to having been mentored by a CEO for whom they worked. Their CEO had championed their leadership growth, given them learning opportunities, raised their visibility with board leadership and coached them along the way.”

Change of thinking needed: “If most current CEOs of our larger communal organizations – the organizations with the greatest status and clout – are led today by men, and if we hope to change that balance, we need more male CEOs to champion the growth, development and advancement of women who work for them.” 

Read the full piece here.


Big data can help us build flourishing Jewish communities


“When Eric Fingerhut asked me to join his leadership team at JFNA [The Jewish Federations of North America], his message was clear: we should bring more private sector practice into the federation community, and we need to partner with local communities to achieve this,” writes Ruth Raskas, chief impact and growth officer at The Jewish Federations of North America, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy. 

Data collection: “We started with a data coalition (Project Kinneret) that is a proof of concept [POC], and is a national/local partnership. As we gather data from Boston, Atlanta, Memphis, Buffalo and Houston, we are building a denominator, using data that represents more than a half-million Jews and more than $100 million in philanthropy. We are looking at changes in donors, gift sizes, transformation of donors over time, and we are mapping connections to programs so we can better understand and engage individual market customers.”

Data to drive action: “The federation executives are co-designing this work – helping to identify trends in our communities that perhaps not surprisingly exist in communities of different sizes and in different areas. We are aggregating this together in technology with an excellent user experience that will enable local markets to both enhance their own data story and understand it in the context of a broader community. All of this is with a goal to drive action – enable local communities to better perform their work and enhance how they serve their local customer base.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Surprising Move: The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, known in the Bay Area for unrestricted grants, has pivoted toward the prescriptive by adding $17 million to its annual $20 million arts allocation with the stipulation that grantees spend the funds on making their pandemic-era adaptations permanent, reports Lily Janiak in the San Francisco Chronicle. Recipients include CounterPulse, the Imaginists, El Teatro Campesino, Brava! for Women in the Arts and Destiny Arts Center. “These Adaptation Grants are intended to absorb the risk that comes with change. Planning, testing is inherently messy,” said Emiko Ono, who directs the foundation’s performing arts program. [SFChronicle]

Think Again: In The Conversation, Lis Ku challenges the notion that less work equals greater happiness, noting that people planning to leave their jobs in the “great resignation” of 2021 might be risking more unhappiness if they base their decision on a fantasy of what unlimited free time feels like. While leisure time can lead to positive feelings such as cheerfulness and the relative scarcity of stress and anger, studies show that well-being begins to decline if people have more than five free hours a day. “Researchers have demonstrated not only that labor leads to validation but that, when these feelings are threatened, we’re particularly drawn to activities that require effort because these confirm our identities as competent individuals,” Ku concludes. [Conversation]

Community Comms

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Word on the Street

A new survey from the Brandeis Center, which polled members of the fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi and the sorority Alpha Epsilon Phi, found that nearly 70% of the students who responded personally experienced or were familiar with an antisemitic attack, with more than 65% of them feeling unsafe on campus and one-in-10 fearing physical attack… The Wende Museum near Los Angeles will establish the Robin Center for Russian-Speaking Jewry to preserve the history of the Soviet Jewish experience with support from Edward Robin and Peggy Robin… With a new $37 million gift from Lowell Milken, the UCLA School of Law announced the formation of the Program on Philanthropy and Nonprofits, devoted to research, training and policy in the area of law and society… Alumna and former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker made a $100 million gift in support of Harvard University’s department of economics, part of the school’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences… The Bezos Earth Fund pledged $1 billion to create, expand, manage and monitor protected and conserved areas as part of Jeff Bezos’s $10 billion commitment to fight climate change and protect and restore nature… A new survey by Fidelity Charitable finds 27% of U.S. adults who donated to charity in 2020 gave significantly more last year than they did the previous year, and 26% plan to give more in 2021 than they did in 2020… Malka Leifer, former principal of Melbourne’s Adass Israel School, has been ordered to stand trial on 70 child sexual abuse charges in Victoria County Court, Australia…  Jeffrey Leader, the director of the U.K. Board of Deputies-run inspection service for Jewish studies in schools, will step down at the end of December… Cantor Richard Kaplan of Temple Beth Abraham and co-leader of the Shir Hashirim Minyan in Berkeley, Calif., died at 73…

Pic of the Day


Members of the Bnei Menashe community in northeastern India built a sukkah to commemorate the holiday.


NEIL RASMUS/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Vice chairman of the board of French fashion house Chanel, Arie L. Kopelman… 

Sarasota Jewish Federation executive, Richard Bergman… CEO of the American Jewish Committee, David Harris… President at Trendlines America, Mark J. Dollinger, Ph.D… Co-chairman and COO of Chesapeake Realty Partners, he is also a founding partner of Boulder Ventures, Josh E. Fidler… Senior analyst at AIPAC, Colin M. Winston, Ph.D… Partner at Steptoe & Johnson, Darryl Nirenberg… Business manager for Los Angeles Cardiovascular Medical Group, Angela Maddahi… Former vice chair of the Board of Trustees of The Jewish Federations of North America, Sheryl W. Kimerling… Co-owner of Major League Baseball’s Chicago Cubs, he is the RNC’s finance chairman, Todd M. Ricketts… Former U.S. Ambassador to the EU, now EVP for policy at the Business Roundtable, Ambassador Kristen Silverberg… President of Santa Monica-based PR firm Tower26, Naomi Seligman… Executive director of the Foundation at Alpha Epsilon Pi, Jay Feldman… Author of Moonwalking with Einstein and co-founder of the nonprofit Sefaria and the design competition Sukkah City, Joshua Foer… Two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington bureau reporter for The New York TimesMichael S. Schmidt… Global head of news curation at Facebook, Gabriella Schwarz… VP of sales at Idomoo Personalized Video, Abby Glassberg… Saber fencing champion, he represented the U.S. at the 2016 and 2020 Summer Olympics and the 2017 Maccabiah Games, Eli Dershwitz… Record-setting powerlifter, Naomi Chaya Kutin… Recent charge d’affairs for the Embassy of Israel in Australia, Jonathan Peled… Israeli-American venture capitalist and head of Zeev Ventures, Oren Zeev… 
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