Your Daily Phil: Celebrating 125 years since the World Zionist Congress + Thrifting for a cause

Good Friday morning! 

In today’s Your Daily Phil, we cover how Jewish organizations are using thrift stores to support their communities. Below, we preview the World Zionist Organization’s conference to celebrate 125 years since Theodore Herzl convened the first World Zionist Congress.

More than 1,200 philanthropists, leaders, politicians and entrepreneurs from 38 countries will gather in Basel, Switzerland, on Sunday and Monday to celebrate 125 years since Theodore Herzl convened the first World Zionist Congress there and set in motion a movement that would result in the modern-day State of Israel.

“Words cannot describe the excitement and emotion,” Yaakov Hagoel, chairman of the World Zionist Organization, which is hosting the conference, told eJewishPhilanthropy. “We’re not only going to be dealing with the historical facts, but we are going to be looking into the future…of the Zionist movement.”

Herzl, the Austro-Hungarian Jewish journalist and father of Zionism, didn’t live to see his efforts culminate in Israel’s founding in 1948. But he recognized the power of the 1897 congress, involving more than 200 participants from 17 countries, which outlined Zionism’s aim and methods to create a Jewish state.

“Were I to sum up the Basel Congress in a word, which I shall guard against pronouncing publicly, it would be this: At Basel I founded the Jewish State,” Herzl wrote in his diary. “If I said this out loud today l would be greeted by universal laughter. In five years perhaps, and certainly in fifty years, everyone will perceive it.”

The gala for this year’s conference will be held at the Stadtcasino Concert Hall, where the original World Zionist Congress met. The rest of the conference features a variety of panels and speakers, ranging from Yossi Cohen, former director of the Mossad and current head of Israel investment for the Japanese firm Softbank, to Judge Ruchie Freier in Brooklyn, dubbed the “hasidic superwoman of night court” by The New York Times.

Another speaker, professor Yedidia Stern, president of the Jewish People Policy Institute, looks forward to exploring the lessons that Jews should take away from Herzl’s original congress: namely, how to address widespread divisions in Israel and the broader Jewish world over matters of Jewish identity, Zionism and politics.

Herzl managed, “despite all the disputes, to reenergize the idea…that Jews can act together to achieve their goals,” Stern said. “The main lesson is commitment to democracy, commitment to rules of the game in an era of disputes.”

Stern hopes the conference can build new partnerships between Israel and Jews in the rest of the world. If it’s “just for [public relations] a few days, it’s nice, but it’s not good enough,” he said. “I really hope that we’ll be able to create some kind of new collaborations between Jews around the globe as Herzl did then.”

Hagoel also sees Jewish unity as a defining issue for this year’s conference, alongside concerns about antisemitism; encouraging Jews worldwide to learn more Hebrew and move to Israel; and countering what he sees as Jewish assimilation and loss of identity.

Hagoel recognizes that not all Jews see the world, and the future mission of the Zionist movement, as he does – which is precisely what the conference is for. “I will have an opportunity to hear from those attending what they feel are the challenges that face the Jewish people,” he said. “I’m not Herzl. But, it is my responsibility to see how we continue today in the footsteps of the dream of Theodore Herzl.”


Thrifted belongings providing a fresh start to those in need

Esther Kustanowitz

Searching for unique pieces of clothing; finding fashion that’s affordable; keeping old belongings out of landfills: whatever your motivation for shopping secondhand, thrifting is on the rise. In the realm of social media, thrift influencers build platforms on their dedication to “sustainable and ethical fashion,” protecting both the producers of fashion garments and the environment, eJewishPhilanthropy’s Esther D. Kustanowitz reports

Fabulous finds becoming philanthropy: According to NARTS: The Association of Resale Professionals, there are currently more than 25,000 resale, consignment and not-for-profit resale shops in the United States. Online resale companies like ThredUp give clothing, shoes and more a second life; for fancy events you can order from Rent the Runway or check out TheRealReal for designer duds. There is even a National Thrift Store Day (Aug. 17). And while thrift stores online and off can offer deep discounts, some stores are using those fabulous finds as philanthropy: funding nonprofit programming to improve their local communities.

Supporting programming, advancing economic justice: The National Council of Jewish Women is deeply involved in the charity thrift market — the 130-year-old organization’s local sections run thrift outlets to generate programming income that is used for educational service and advocacy efforts in the community.  Lindsay Morris, director of engagement and leadership at NCJW, told eJP that the shops serve as an opportunity for low-wage earners and people struggling to make ends meet to shop for free or with vouchers. “Decades ago, post-World War II, [the stores] also served as a way for women to gain employment skills and get into the workforce. Economic justice has always been an NCJW core value,” Morris said. 

Read the full story here.


A ‘happily ever after’ Is-real?

Rebecca Lewis

“Growing up in the U.K. my experience with Israel education was utopic; just like Cinderella and Snow White, Israel had a fairy-tale story,” writes Rebecca Lewis, the U.K. program coordinator of Diller Teen Fellows, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Damaging approach: “Of course, I now realize just how damaging this approach to Israel education is. With negative rhetoric surrounding Israel often hijacking many news outlets and social discourse in the U.K. and other Western societies, some Israel educators feel a responsibility to present a utopian narrative in order to encourage young Jewish people to build a meaningful relationship with the State of Israel. However, in doing so, this completely ignores the nuances, complexity and sensitive topics surrounding the Jewish state.”

Educator’s responsibility: “By shying away from the central theme – Israel – and replacing it with an artificial fantasy, Israel educators are stunting the ability for meaningful conversations, pragmatic solutions to difficult questions and, to put it bluntly, feeding their students a delusional and harmful narrative. Israel education cannot be treated as a simple matter; Israel is multifaceted. It is the educator’s duty to explore and confront the different layers surrounding Israel education. However, this is far easier said than done.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Reuse What Works: When it comes to creative outreach and strategy in fundraising and direct response initiatives, nonprofits should recycle, reuse and repurpose, writes Erica Waasdorp in NonProfitPRO: “Often, we fundraisers and direct marketers want to try something new because we were tired of it long before the donors are. We are always trying to come up with new stories, new ideas and new approaches. But at some point, there are only so many hours in the day. The creative juices stop flowing and we’re getting closer to burnout…Look at something you did seven years ago — or maybe even more recently — and see if you can retest it. That same applies to emails and social media posts. Look at your inventory of images, videos and emails. What worked well for one-time gifts? How about trying that email to invite donors to consider a recurring gift? A few tweaks can do wonders in very short order and breathe in a whole new life without a lot of creative heavy lifting.” [NonProfitPRO] 

Big Gifts, Big Questions: MacKenzie Scott has distributed more than $12 billion in one-time unrestricted gifts to nonprofits, but the recipient organizations are often left wondering what to do with these transformational gifts, Ian Magee writes in NonProfitPRO, sharing his experience from when his nonprofit received a grant from Scott: “There is a lot to think about when you receive an unexpected influx of unrestricted cash, but you should celebrate the fact that your organization is now in a much stronger financial position. Still, you should carefully consider the various options available through consultation with your executive team, board of directors, finance committee and trusted advisers to determine the most appropriate choice for your organization at this moment in time. And, by considering these options, this exercise can also serve as a forcing mechanism to develop plans and policies that are considered financial and organizational best practices.” [NonProfitPRO]

Community Comms

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Word on the Street

Endowments at the nation’s private foundations notched their third straight year of double-digit investment gains in 2021, posting an average rise of 16.3%, a rate of return that was not nearly as strong as the 29% achieved by the benchmark Standard & Poor’s 500 index, according to a study released Wednesday. Community foundations saw assets increase 14.8%, on average… 

Friends of the Children announced a $44 million gift from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott in support of its mentoring program. The largest single gift ever received by the Oregon-based organization, which serves 26 locations across the United States, includes $15 million to expand services of the national office to serve more children at new locations…

Eileen Spencer, vice president for mobilization and generosity at Hope for New York, has been appointed executive director of the American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem. She begins her new position in September… 

Ira Berkowitz, chief operating officer at the Center for Jewish History in Manhattan, will join FCA, a human-services charity that offers services for children, older people, families and communities on Long Island as vice president and chief financial officer…

Julian Robertson Jr., the hedge-fund billionaire who co-founded Tiger Management, died at 90. He appeared on the Philanthropy 50 rankings of donors for many years…

Pic of the Day


The 47th Junior Track Cycling World Championships kicked off this week at the Sylvan Adams National Velodrome in Tel Aviv, marking the first time that the competition is being held in Israel. The competition features around 300 under-18 cyclists from 40 countries and five continents. 



Rapper, known professionally as Kosha Dillz, Rami Matan Even-Esh… 

Rabbi (now emeritus) of Congregation Beth Jacob of Atlanta, Rabbi Emanuel Feldman… Financial advisor in the Baltimore office of Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, George Strum… CEO of Siegelvision, a brand identity consultancy, he is also the founder and chairman emeritus of global brand strategy firm Siegel+Gale, Alan Siegel… Owner of You Save On Meds, Martin J. Portnoy… Mayor of Tel Aviv since 1998, Ron Huldai… Partner at the D.C. law firm of Williams & Connolly, Robert B. Barnett… Former Democratic member of the Florida House of Representatives, Irving Slosberg… Sales representative for ADT Security, Jay Caplan… Co-owner of Rochester, N.Y.-based August Moon Imports and World Tae Kwon Do Center, Jane August… Venture capitalist, social policy researcher and philanthropist, Freada Kapor Klein… Board chair of Gap, Robert J. Fisher… EVP and managing director of polling and consulting at The Mellman Group, Michael J. Bloomfield… Journalist and co-author of the Freakonomics series, Stephen J. Dubner… Member of the Maryland Senate, Shelly L. Hettleman… President of NARAL Pro-Choice America until last year, Ilyse Hogue… CFO at Cornerstone OnDemand, Perry Wallack… CEO of Fast Forward Innovations, a Canadian venture capital firm, Lorne Abony… Partner at Silly Zak’s Gluten Free Bakery in Medford, Ore., Robert Sacks… Professor at the Olin Business School of Washington University in St. Louis, Steven Malter… Deputy general counsel at ICANN, Samantha Eisner… Founder and CEO of Inside Revolution, Ariel Maurice Ratner… Member of the Knesset for Yesh Atid, she serves as minister for social equality and minorities, Meirav Cohen… John Train… Carrie Shapiro…

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