Your Daily Phil: Chabad and YU partner on Israel advocacy + Saving San Francisco’s JCCs

Good Friday morning!

In today’s Your Daily Phil, we report on a partnership between Chabad and Yeshiva University, and feature an op-ed by Taube Philanthropies’ Shana Penn and the Koum Family Foundation’s Yana Kalika on a community network supporting JCCs. Also in this newsletter: Yael EisenstatDebbie Lebrett, MacKenzie Scott, Sandy Gottesman and Charles Kadushin. We’ll start with Duke University giving an award to a pro-Israel philanthropist, months after the school’s student government was accused of anti-Israel bias.

For less-distracted reading over the weekend, browse this week’s edition of The Weekly Print, a curated print-friendly PDF featuring a selection of recent stories from eJewishPhilanthropy and Jewish Insider, including: This group wants to make Tulsa a hub for young Jews; Meet the cycling activists taking on Jerusalem’s hills; Amb. Mike Herzog uses his peace negotiating skills to break D.C.’s partisan divide; Lakewood’s Yehuda Tomor is reinventing the frozen cocktail; In new museum exhibit, a rare journey into Samaritan life and religious practice; Gulf-Israel train project chugs into political, financial obstacles; and ‘Thinking of Polishness in different terms’: New book examines Poland’s Jewish revival. Print the latest edition here.

Ari Ackerman attended Duke University in the 1990s, and recalls it being a space of fierce debate where he, as a Zionist student, felt welcome.

Recent events on campus signal that that atmosphere may have changed in the intervening decades. In February, Students Supporting Israel, a campus group, won student government recognition months after the student government president had vetoed a vote recognizing the group. About a month later, following debate in the student senate, the Arab Students Organization and campus chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine hosted Mohammed El-Kurd, a Palestinian writer and activist who has been accused of “unvarnished, vicious antisemitism” by the Anti-Defamation League.

Now, Ackerman, an entrepreneur and philanthropist who supports pro-Israel student activism, among other causes, is receiving the Beyond Duke Service and Leadership Award from Duke’s Alumni Association, a branch of the university. He’s one of five recipients of the award, which honors “service to their community, their country or to society at large.”

He feels heartened that he’s receiving the award, in light of the recent events on campus as well as what he calls “antisemitism and anti-Zionism on the rise.” Citing the incoming Hurricane Ian and other campus events, a Duke spokesperson did not comment on the award when reached yesterday.

“I wear my Judaism and my Zionism on my sleeve,” Ackerman told eJewishPhilanthropy. “And Duke chose to recognize me for this Jewish advocacy work I do.”

Ackerman is the founder of Bunk1, a platform that allows parents of overnight campers to see photos of their children and send them messages. More recently, he founded Tribe, a Jewish dating app, and is a partner in the group that owns the Miami Marlins.

While he found success in the startup world, Ackerman’s Jewish philanthropy tends toward the traditional. He’s a recent addition to the board of the Jewish Federations of North America, and has also been active in the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, UJA-Federation of New York, Hillel International’s Office of Innovation and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. He ran a fellowship in past years that sponsored students attending AIPAC’s annual Policy Conference.

When he views what he feels is a changed campus discourse on Israel, he applies a lesson he has learned in the business world: “Adapt or die.”

“You can’t have the same message now that you did when I was in college,” he said. “The reality is way different. It’s acrimonious. There’s a fight. It was an open debate when I was in college… I just want to be there for the students who are supportive of Israel and give them the tools that they need.”


Chabad and YU are partnering to teach college classes and Israel advocacy

A man walks by the exterior of a Yeshiva University building in 2022.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

For a little over an hour per week, teens across the country will gather in Jewish youth group spaces to stare at a screen. But they won’t be leveling up in a video game. Instead, they’ll be earning college credits in a program jointly administered by two of the most prominent organizations of American Orthodox Jewry: Chabad and Yeshiva University. The program, run through CTeen, the Chabad youth group, is called CTeenU and offers Jewish studies classes to high schoolers across the country, reports Lev Gringauz for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Common ground: For those familiar with American Orthodoxy, it’s an unlikely partnership. Chabad is likely the most well-known Hasidic movement in the country, while Yeshiva University is the flagship institution of Modern Orthodoxy. Its roots are in the world of the Lithuanian yeshiva, not Hasidic mysticism. But after launching at the start of the 2019-2020 academic year, the Chabad-YU partnership has offered accredited classes on Jewish law, business ethics and philosophy to nearly 1,000 teens.

Teaching Israel advocacy: This semester, CTeenU’s course listing is marking another shift for Chabad, as the program offers a class called “Israel and Me,” billed as a way to teach teens about the Jewish connection to the land of Israel and how to understand media discourse around the Israel-Palestinian conflict. An overview of the final lesson in the course also takes its curriculum beyond that of a regular history class. The class is titled “Stand for Israel,” and is described as “an in-depth training on how to become the Jewish homeland’s most articulate and confident advocate, on campus and beyond. Because if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.”

Read the full story here.


How a special community partnership saved our JCCs (and can save yours)


“In times of scarcity, we typically turn inward. The start of the pandemic, though, was anything but typical. Many Jewish organizations found themselves working and learning together through unprecedented times… In the Jewish community of the San Francisco Bay Area, our collaboration went one step farther, toward financial interdependence among our six Jewish Community Centers and between JCCs and philanthropists. Our work saved our JCCs and propelled them into a new era,” write Shana Penn, executive director of Taube Philanthropies, and Yana Kalika, executive director of the Koum Family Foundation, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Code blue: “The JCCs’ financial losses were deeper than those sustained by any other local Jewish organizations. Before the pandemic, the agencies collectively served more than 4 million people each year, often in fee-for-service programs, with earned income comprising up to 80% of their budgets. They were forced to slash their budgets between 50% to 80%, lay off up to two-thirds of their staff and shutter popular programs. Bay Area Jewish community chatter questioned their very viability.”

National help was forthcoming: “The JCCs found lifelines in JCRIF, the Jewish community’s national emergency response fund, and forgivable federal loans that kept their doors open from 2020 through 2021. Their own donors stepped up with some critical financial support. But when the government indicated that the federal loan program would come to an end, the six JCC leaders knew more would be needed.”

Collaborative philanthropy: “They reached out to local funders, led by Taube Philanthropies and the Koum Family Foundation, and together created the Power in Partnership Fund, a community-wide base of philanthropic support grounded in collaboration that helped rescue our JCCs when they needed it most. This collaborative effort, its success in producing support for the JCCs and also in creating efficiencies in their efforts, can serve as a blueprint for others.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Are You ‘Too Busy’?: “I’m too busy” is a phrase we often thoughtlessly use to give ourselves a pass, and which we should work to eliminate from our vocabulary, Rittu Sinha writes in Forbes: “‘I’m so busy’ to me is a euphemism for ‘I don’t care enough.’ It could be that you are not prioritizing a commitment to yourself — such as a walk/workout, eating healthy or taking a break — or a commitment to another person: a person who wanted to connect, a family member you were meant to call, a friend you had to visit or a loop you were meant to close. Now, whenever I feel compelled to use the ‘I’ve been so busy’ response or any of its variations, I dig deeper and think hard about my real motivations. It’s now important for me to fully understand what it is that I am too busy for: to care, to commit, to make time? Doing this has helped me prioritize my actions better, weed out nonpriorities with honesty and integrity and forge stronger connections and bonds. Remember, you are never too busy for people and things that matter to you, people or things you care about, or people or things that you might not care for but hold importance to those around you.” [Forbes]

Community Comms

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Word on the Street

The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity, an organization established by the late Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize laureate and his wife, Marion, and the HOW Institute for Society announced this year’s winners of the Elie Wiesel Prize in Ethics Essay Contest…

Yael Eisenstat will join the Anti-Defamation League as vice president, where she will lead the Center for Technology and Society. Eisenstat most recently served as the senior advisor for tech and democracy at the Institute for Security and Technology, where she co-chaired the Digital Cognition and Democracy Initiative…

Debbie Lebrett, head of the Hasmonean Boys’ School in London, has been named chief executive of employment charity Work Avenue, effective in January…

The first Scripted Israel summit, a four-day event promoting Israeli television on the global stage, ran Sept. 19-21 in Hollywood, Calif. The gathering paired 28 Israeli delegates – selected by partners at Jerusalem’s esteemed Sam Spiegel Series Lab and the Israeli Producers Association – with development and content executives in Hollywood…

The National Alliance on Mental Illness announced a $30 million gift from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott. As part of that gift, $5 million will be set aside for the organization’s  grassroots affiliates to maximize their ability to support their local communities…

Equinix, a digital infrastructure company in Redwood City, Calif., launched a corporate foundation focused on the advancement of digital inclusion. The company has committed $50 million in Equinix shares to serve as an endowment and source of funding for grantmaking, employee donation matching and crisis response donations…

Bard College announced gifts totaling $50 million from the Gochman Family and Open Society Foundations to expand the school’s Native American and Indigenous studies programs…

Billionaire investor and philanthropist David “Sandy” Gottesmandied at 96…

Charles Kadushin, one of the founders of the social network field who was a professor emeritus of sociology at the City University of New York, died at 90…

Pic of the Day

Byron Smith/Getty Images

Orthodox Jewish pilgrims in between prayers earlier this week in Uman, Ukraine. The city contains the burial site of a revered 18th-century rabbi, Nachman of Breslav. Despite the ongoing hostilities in Ukraine, a reported 23,000 adherents made the trip this year.


Presley Ann/Variety via Getty Images

Actress and activist, she was elected last year as president of the SAG-AFTRA trade union, Fran Drescher

Former prime minister of Israel, Ehud Olmert… IT developer and business analyst, Sanford Kadish… Chairman and CEO of AMC Entertainment, he is a co-owner of the Philadelphia 76ers, Adam Maximilian Aron… Co-founder and CEO of hedge fund Avenue Capital Group and the co-owner of the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks, Marc Lasry… Professor of mathematical logic at Oxford, Ehud Hrushovski… Journalist for HaaretzAllison Kaplan Sommer… Professor of healthcare economics at MIT and an architect of Romneycare and Obamacare, Jonathan Gruber… Leora Lily Ihilevich Usman… Lisa K. Robbins… Israel’s U.N. ambassador, Gilad Menashe Erdan… SVP of digital product management at The Advertising Council, Anastasia Goodstein… Russia and Eastern Europe editor for The Washington PostDavid Herszenhorn… CEO of Via Trading Corporation, a liquidator of consumer merchandise, Jacques Stambouli… President and CEO of Hadar Institute in Manhattan, Eliezer “Elie” Kaunfer… Founder of Artemis Strategies, a boutique consultancy, Hildy Kuryk… Host of NPR’s “All Things Considered,” Ari Shapiro… Screenwriter, director, producer and actor, Jonathan Peter Kasdan… Computer scientist and entrepreneur, he is best known as a co-founder of Palantir Technologies, Stephen Cohen … Deputy coverage chief of speed and trending news at The Wall Street JournalSteven Russolillo

SATURDAY: MLB second baseman who appeared in 18 straight All-Star Games, he is immortalized as Jewish in Adam Sandler’s “Chanukah Song,” Rod Carew… Senior judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Andrew David Hurwitz… Professor at the Technion, he won the 2004 Nobel prize in chemistry, Aaron Ciechanover… Copy editor at PoliticoAndrew Goodwin… Film, stage and television actress and, since 2009, an ordained Jewish cantor, Lorna Patterson… The first ever Jewish chief justice of the Washington State Supreme Court, Steven C. González… Reality television personality, model and actress, Cynthia Dawn “Cindy” Margolis… Director of philanthropic partnerships at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Robert A. Rosen… Film director, screenwriter and producer, Stacie Passon… SVP at FGS Global, Robert Bennett Seidman… Deputy director at the National Security Network of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Samantha J. Greenberg… Consultant at Deloitte, Samuel Koralnik… Business development manager at Cympire, Yossi Raskas… National Director of Engagement at JStreet, Gal Peleg… Chief policy officer at Israel Policy Forum, Michael Koplow… Scott Rosenthal…

SUNDAY: Partner in Baltimore’s Workshop Development and leading commercial real estate broker, Richard Manekin… Co-chair of external relations at the Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy in Rockville, Md., Diana Ely Epstein… Bethesda, Md., resident, Samuel G. Kaplan… Fashion designer and the creator of the Donna Karan New York and DKNY clothing labels, Donna Karan… Noted portrait photographer Annie Leibovitz… Former long-time member of the Knesset for the Shas party, Rabbi Yitzhak Cohen… Israel’s minister of public security, he is the son of former IDF chief of staff and defense minister Haim Bar-Lev, Omer Bar-Lev… Former member of the Texas House of Representatives, Scott Hochberg… Israeli entrepreneur and philanthropist, Idan Ofer… Venture capitalist and former chairman of the Associated Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, Bruce Sholk… Former chief program officer of the Union for Reform Judaism, Mark J. Pelavin… Managing partner of the Fort Lauderdale-based Weinstein Law Firm, Andrew Weinstein… Former MLB left-handed pitcher with more MLB appearances than any other Jewish pitcher, Scott David Schoeneweis… Insurance agent at Herman E. Wealcatch Inc., Michael Mordechai Gottlieb… U.S. government official at the International Trade Administration, Michelle Sara King… Zionist educator at Hadassah, Diana Diner… Associate attorney at Cooley LLP, Alexander B. Fullman

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