Your Daily Phil: Budget crisis at Brooklyn’s Maimonides + 10 years of a synagogue startup

Good Friday morning!

In today’s Your Daily Phil, we cover the crisis at Maimonides, a large Brooklyn hospital in a heavily Orthodox neighborhood, and feature a reflection by Rabbi Steven Philp on the growth of Mishkan Chicago. Also included in the newsletter are Daniel Lubetzky, Garry Kasparov, Col. Alexander Vindman, José Andrés, Yanky Meyer and two late British leaders: Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks and Queen Elizabeth II. We’ll start with some news about an unusual grant for small nonprofits. 

A recent set of Jewish grants was relatively open-ended, allowing nonprofit applicants to make their cases for a range of proposals. But one clause was out of the ordinary: The money couldn’t be used on the group’s programs or operations.

Rather, the $70,000 in Wellness Grants from UpStart that were disbursed to 16 organizations earlier this summer, and are being reported for the first time here, are meant to provide personal care to employees at Jewish nonprofits with budgets under $500,000. The grants ranged from $4,000 to $5,000.

UpStart, which provides training, resources and networking to early- and growth-stage Jewish groups, felt the grants were necessary after the transformations of recent years. It’s the latest sign that after spending years addressing the COVID-19 pandemic itself, Jewish groups and funders are pivoting to reckoning with the world it created.

“It’s been a stressful period for every human,” Aliza Mazor, UpStart’s chief field-building officer, told eJewishPhilanthropy. “People are becoming disenchanted with work, and I think that gets exacerbated at smaller nonprofits where the compensation is just not competitive. And so, I think this trend is really about putting people at the center of what we do.”

The accepted proposals included yoga, massages, manicures, a day at the beach, spa treatments and gift cards. At Svivah, a Jewish women’s community organization with a budget under $200,000 and one full-time and two part-time employees, a chunk of the $5,000 grant went to providing childcare for its founding director, who works mostly without a salary.

“For those of us who are working hard to keep our lights on and to grow and keep our venture sustainable — we put every dollar toward our work,” said Ariele Mortkowitz, the founding director. “They clearly understand that to keep the work going and the people who give everything to the work going you have to nourish those people too.” 

UpStart also awarded 12 Collaboratory Challenge Grants — each to a team of multiple organizations that will work on a project together. The grants are an outgrowth of the Collaboratory, UpStart’s conference this past spring for its network, and are collectively worth $195,000.

One of the grantee pairs is Keshet, the Jewish LGBTQ organization, and Gateways, which provides educational opportunities to Jewish children with disabilities. The two groups will train each other on LGBTQ inclusion and disability inclusion.

“We are both organizations that are about attention to historically and currently marginalized constituencies within Jewish life and the broader world,” said Idit Klein, Keshet’s president and CEO. “What we hope we gain through this partnership is a more profound and comprehensive understanding of people with disabilities who are within the constituencies that we work with.”

Read the full story here.


The battle over Brooklyn’s Maimonides Medical Center – a guide for the perplexed

People walk into Maimonides Medical Center in April 2020, at the beginning of the pandemic.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

In May 2021, Maimonides Medical Center seemed like it was riding high, with an expansion and a naming rights deal at a local stadium. Sixteen months later, the hospital in the heavily Jewish Brooklyn neighborhood of Borough Park is in crisis, having lost $145 million last year amid complaints of poor patient care, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Ben Sales.

A year of bad news: The loss of $145 million is just the latest piece of bad news to emerge for Maimonides, Brooklyn’s largest hospital, which mostly serves low-income patients. The year has been punctuated by news stories detailing overcrowding, alleged malpractice, employee protest and questionable financial practices. The coverage came after the hospital received poor ratings from the state Department of Health and another government agency.

A growing protest: In light of these reports, a protest movement seeks to oust the hospital’s management and improve its conditions. Called “Save Maimonides,” the group, founded earlier this year, is based locally and held a gathering late last month in Borough Park that reportedly drew more than 1,000 people.

Maimonides responds: Maimonides has responded to the complaints by telling eJP that its budget gap is narrowing and its care is top-notch. It has expressed confidence that a state government funding program for hospitals that rely on Medicaid, which it became eligible for late last year, will help get it back to a surer footing.

Read the full story here.


Mishkan Chicago: The growing pains of a synagogue startup

Courtesy of Mishkan Chicago

“One of the climactic moments of the Torah comes at the end of the book of Exodus when, after a long process of assembling the materials for and constructing the mishkan, the presence of God comes to fill this sacred meeting place that the Israelites have created in the center of their camp. One could make a compelling case that we should end the story here. From the middle of Genesis to the closing chapters of Exodus, our ancestors have transitioned from a small, extended family to a relatively large, multiethnic people – a ‘mixed multitude’ that has journeyed from slavery, to redemption, to revelation,” writes Rabbi Steven Philp, associate rabbi at Mishkan Chicago, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

mishkan in Chicago: “Ten years ago, I was asked to help build another kind of sacred meeting place for Jews and their loved ones. Mishkan Chicago was founded on the idea that our ancient tradition could be a relevant and meaningful source of comfort, inspiration and justice for the modern world. Guided by the principle of radical inclusivity, we became the spiritual home for many who had felt marginalized by institutional Judaism: LGBTQ+ folk; interfaith families; progressive activists and community organizers; people with complicated feelings about Israel and Palestine; individuals exploring Jewish spaces for the first time; and more. Our first Friday evening service was held in a living room. Within a few years we had moved from people’s homes, to bars and social halls, to 1,000-seat theaters. We had built our own mishkan, a mobile space for people to come together and encounter the sacred in a new way. We moved into the next chapter of our communal story, a Levitical process parallel to the one outlined in the Bible as the Israelites wandered in the wilderness. We had to create the rules and regulations that would sustain us through the journey ahead.”

Growth and change: “In 2014, I left Chicago to attend rabbinical school… When I was asked to come back to Mishkan last year to serve as their third rabbi, we had transformed from a volunteer-driven startup to a community of over 600 households with a full-time staff of 15 people… Being away from Mishkan for seven years and now returning as a member of the rabbinic team allows for a unique vantage point. There has been phenomenal growth, both in terms of numbers of people and in terms of the quality of the programming. But I also see what gets lost in the process of such dramatic growth.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Royal Report: In Jewish Insider, Jenni Frazer looks at Prince Charles’ relationship with the U.K.’s Jewish community. “The new king’s long relationship with the Jewish community can perhaps best be viewed through the lens of tolerance. As the Prince of Wales, a title he assumed in 1969, Charles had almost no official or unofficial links with the Jewish community in the early years of his adult life. But lately, it is a rare communal event that is not blessed with the prince’s presence, such as direct, hands-on patronage of charities such as World Jewish Relief (the humanitarian arm of British Jews), the Jewish Museum, the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, or the youth movement, the Jewish Lads’ and Girls’ Brigade. He made history in 2013 by attending the installation of Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, with whom he has a relationship, at a London synagogue, becoming the first royal to participate in such an event.” [JI]

Beating Inflation: 
When inflation is high, foundations should increase payments during the latter years of a grant, write Adam Simon and Steven Laufer of the Aviv Foundation in The Chronicle of Philanthropy: “When inflation is high, costs outpace the expected grant income, undermining the reason for making a long-term grant in the first place. That’s why we have come to believe that in times of unexpected inflation, foundations should increase payments during the latter years of a grant. The Aviv Foundation recently did just that, increasing the 2022 payments on most of our U.S. multiyear grants by 4 percent. This means that a $200,000 grant we made in 2021, with expectations to pay $100,000 in 2021 and $100,000 in 2022, is now a $204,000 grant, with the 2022 payment increased to $104,000. .… We realize that this one-time increase will not on its own solve the problem of rising costs. We hope, though, that it serves as one small piece of a larger puzzle and that other foundations will follow a similar course.” [ChronicleofPhilanthropy]

Ditch the Swag: 
With the return of in-person conferences, new companies — like Givsly, which helps organizations gain brand awareness through charitable giving, rather than swag, and sustainable swag company Merchery — are entering the market to replace cheap and wasteful conference swag, Elizabeth Segran reports in Fast Company: “[Givsly’s] idea is to give recipients an opportunity to give money to a cause instead of receiving a material item. At first, companies were hesitant to do this, for fear that recipients wouldn’t find a donation compelling or memorable, so [Givsly CEO Chad] Hickey encouraged companies to give them a choice between the two. Givsly tracked the outcome and found that between 40% and 60% of people chose the donation over the swag item… Merchery has launched a platform that allows companies to create a simple website where people can choose from a couple of gift options to find one that they want. This works particularly well for things like holiday gifts for clients or employees. ‘Even if a company creates a beautiful Yeti water bottle or Patagonia jacket, the employee may not want that item,’ [founder Simon] Polet says. ‘So, why not give them the choice, so they can get something they will actually use for a long time? In the end, coming back to a product over and over is the way to really cultivate loyalty.’” [FastCompany]

Community Comms

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Word on the Street

Yeshiva University’s Sacks-Herenstein Center for Values and Leadership has named the Sacks Scholars Graduate Fellows in Ethics and Entrepreneurship for 2022-2023. The Fellowship honors the memory of Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, the ethicist and former chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the British Commonwealth…

Candid has released the “2022 Nonprofit Compensation Report.” Based on IRS data, the report shows compensation trends from the past five years and compares executive compensation by gender, organization budget size, cause area and location. The report found that the gender pay gap is slowly declining, but median compensation for female CEOs still trails median compensation for male CEOs in all budget groups. It also found that the percentage of female CEOs grew in all budget groups, but female representation declined as organizations’ budget size increased…

The Blackbaud Institute, the research division of nonprofit software provider Blackbaud, has released a new guide, “Philanthropy Through Recession: How Savvy Organizations Weather Uncertain Times.” Evaluating data from 11 U.S. recessions, the guide identifies trends and potential implications to help charitable organizations navigate the uncertainty that accompanies occasional economic downturns…

The Latino and Jewish communities that make up New York’s Washington Heights neighborhood held an event Thursday evening at Yeshiva University’s Weissberg Commons. In addition to an art exhibit showcasing paintings by renowned Latino artists depicting the historic and modern connection between Jewish and Latino culture, the evening featured remarks by Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-NY) and a musical presentation by the Jazzphardic Project with Yehonatan Elazar and Grammy Award-winning jazz pianist Tal Cohen

A group of philanthropists, businesspeople and democracy advocates have launched an effort to simultaneously help Ukrainian students and shore up American democracy. The Global Democracy Ambassadors program will provide scholarships and stipends to Ukrainians to study in the United States, provided they “evangelize” their American counterparts in support of democratic governance and values. It is a project of Daniel Lubetzky, the founder of Kind bars and the son of Holocaust survivors; Garry Kasparov, the Russian-American chess grandmaster turned political activist; Col. Alexander Vindman, the Ukrainian-born former U.S. national security official; and celebrity chef José Andrés. The program is being launched with $1 million. It will be run by the nonprofit Institute of International Education and will select its first 20 students this fall…

The University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy announced a $5 million gift from the James M. and Cathleen D. Stone Foundation. The donation will establish a new interdisciplinary center bearing their name that will advance research on socioeconomic inequality and barriers to mobility…

After 40 years, John Hancock has chosen not to renew its contract as principal sponsor of the Boston Marathon following next spring’s event…

Princeton University announced that beginning in fall 2023, most students from families making up to $100,000 will be eligible to receive financial aid covering all expenses to attend, and the student contribution requirement of financial aid packages will be eliminated. The expansion of the available financial aid is expected to allow more than 25% of undergraduates to attend Princeton free of cost…

Yanky (Jack) Meyer, the founder of Misaskim, a Jewish crisis response and bereavement services organization, died at 58. An active member of his community in the New York City neighborhood of Borough Park, Brooklyn, Meyer was known for his volunteer work with Hatzolah, the NYPD and the Port Authority…

Pic of the Day

MATT DUNHAM/AFP via Getty Images

Flashback: Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II (right), who died Thursday in Balmoral, Scotland, at 96 after a 70-year reign as monarch, is shown the Codex Valmadonna I book by Jewish guests Vivian Wineman, president of Board of Deputies of British Jews (left); Maurice Ostro, chairman of Ostro Minerals Schweiz AG; and Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth Jonathan Sacks, at a Diamond Jubilee multifaith reception at Lambeth Palace in London on Feb. 15, 2012.


Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images for The B Team

Israeli businesswoman and philanthropist, Shari Arison

Friday: Beverly Hills resident Barbara Schechter… Former president of Israel Reuven “Ruvi” Rivlin… Real estate investor and hotelier, Harris Rosen… Senior fellow emeritus in the foreign policy program at The Brookings Institution, Kenneth Lieberthal… Former administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Donald M. Berwick… President of the Middle East Forum, Daniel Pipes… President emeritus of Yeshiva University, Richard M. Joel… A founder of the Shas party, he served as deputy mayor of Jerusalem, Nissim Mordechai Ze’ev… Founding president of Shalem College in Jerusalem, Martin Kramer… Brooklyn educator, Steven Elworth… Editorial director of Schocken Books, the Judaica imprint of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Altie Karper… Suzanna Stone… D.C.-based communications strategist and tactician, Jeffrey Weintraub… Founder and managing member of Alternative Asset CFO Services, Lloyd Eric Appel… U.S. Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE)… Professional golfer on the PGA Tour and now on the Champions Tour, Jules Ira “Skip” Kendall… Actor, comedian, screenwriter, creator of “The Chanukah Song,” Adam Sandler… Author and senior national correspondent at HuffPostJonathan Cohn… Former member of the Knesset for the Yesh Atid party, Dov Lipman… Partner and associate director at Boston Consulting Group, Sacha Frédéric Litman… New York City-based freelance journalist, David Freedlander… Israeli entrepreneur and the CEO and co-founder of Lightricks, Zeev Farbman… Global lead of digital assets at Amazon Web Services, Michael B. Greenwald… Leadership program advisor at California State University-Sacramento, Carla Hashley… Head of Google Cuba, Brett Perlmutter… Digital and data operations manager at Academic Engagement Network, he is also the D.C. chair of B’nai B’rith Connect, Trey Meehan… Fourth overall pick by the New Jersey Devils in the 2021 NHL draft, Luke Hughes… Founder of International Hummus Day, now working on Notion, Ben Lang

Saturday: Energy investor, his name appears on the Houston Jewish day school and the tennis center at Harvard among many others, Robert M. Beren… Chairman of Shamrock Holdings, Roy Disney’s private investment company, Stanley Gold… Huntington Beach, Calif., resident, Dianne Varon… Former EVP and general counsel at Chicago’s futures broker Rosenthal Collins Group, Gerald Fishman… Past president of Congregation Ahavas Israel in Passaic, N.J., Howard Penner… Retired coordinator of the Youth Advisory Council at Truman Heartland Community Foundation, Henri Goettel… Houston attorney, and GOP activist, Gary M. Polland… Denver attorney and politician, he served in the Colorado House of Representatives, Joel Judd… Executive assistant to the office managing partner of the E&Y office in Tampa, Nancy Carol Finkel… U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY)… Vice president at Goldman Sachs, Matthew Fried… Real estate attorney in South Florida, Steven A. Greenspan… Editor of Mideast DigRichard Behar… Founder and managing director at Beacon Global Strategies, Andrew Shapiro… New York City trusts and estates attorney, Lawrence I. Garbuz… Founder and CEO of New York City-based hedge fund JS Capital Management LLC, Jonathan Soros… Television writer and producer whose work includes “The Big Bang Theory,” Eric Kaplan… Director of the Mid-Atlantic Region of Agudath Israel, Rabbi Ariel Sadwin… Principal at Blue Zone Partners, Charles Szold… PR strategist Josh Nass… Jennifer Meyer…

Sunday: Three-time winner of an Academy Award as a lyricist and songwriter, Alan Bergman… Wisconsin resident, Janis Kohlenberg… French physicist who was awarded the 2012 Nobel Prize for physics, Serge Haroche… Senior U.S. District Court judge for the Southern District of Ohio based in Cincinnati, Judge Susan J. Dlott… Pediatric nephrologist, Dr. Jonathan Heiliczer… Member of the New Jersey General Assembly, where he is the first Orthodox Jew in the New Jersey legislature, Gary Schaer… Television producer and executive producer, Jon Meyersohn… Global real estate advisor at ONE Sotheby’s International Realty, Rosy Lofer… Owner of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers, he is the founder and president of global hedge fund Appaloosa Management, David Tepper… Director of sales and marketing at Hillcrest Royale Senior Living, Marian Rubinstein… Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court judge, Ellen Ceisler… Co-founder of the U.K. hedge fund, Brevan Howard Asset Management, he is a former director of the Conservative Friends of Israel, Alan Howard… London-based CEO and founding partner of Stanhope Capital, Daniel Pinto… CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Mark Dubowitz… Israeli journalist and political commentator, Raviv Drucker… CEO of New York City’s 92nd Street Y (now 92NY), Seth William Pinsky… Executive director at JP Morgan Chase, Daniel E. Berger… Former member of the Illinois legislature, now the CEO of New York City’s Chevra Hatzalah Volunteer Ambulance Service, Yehiel Mark Kalish… Arbi Tatevosian… Jessica Sebella Setless Spiegel… Writer and rebbetzin of the Altneu Synagogue, Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt… Director of partnerships at Masa Israel Journey, Gali Gordon… Udi Ben Zeev