Your Daily Phil: Creating stock images of religious women + Highlights from Israel trips

Good Wednesday morning!

Since the gradual reopening of Israel to tourists starting in late May, American Jews across the communal and religious landscape have flocked to the country to show solidarity… and to drink coffee. Returned travelers basking in memories both simple and sublime talked to eJewishPhilanthropy about what they most missed when they couldn’t visit.

“The buffet is back,” said Herb Block, CEO of the American Zionist Movement, which is sponsoring a delegation of foreign ambassadors on a tour of Israel that started on July 16. He was thrilled to reacquaint himself with the lavish breakfast spreads on offer in Israeli hotels.

Some travelers couldn’t single out a specific aspect of Israel to name as a highlight. Ivy Harlev, CEO of the Siegel JCC in Wilmington, Del., returned on Monday from her tenth trip to Israel, a “Solidarity Seminar” hosted by the JCC Association of North America. “The main idea is showing support, because of COVID and the Guardian of the Walls operation [that defended against Hamas rockets]. It was just to show up,” she said.

Both Tamar Remz, director at the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, and Rabbi Josh Weinberg, the Union of Reform Judaism’s vice president for Israel and Reform Zionism, evoked the pleasure of being with loved ones in-person after a year of Zoom. Remz saw her niece and was there for the birth of another one. “It’s the pace of life there,” Weinberg said, “being able to do Shabbat. The cadence of life in Hebrew. That’s the beauty of a Jewish state and a Jewish society.”

Rabbi Ari Rockoff, the executive vice president of Religious Zionists of America, led one of the first post-pandemic tours. He also evoked the gestalt of the place. “The people, the land, the Torah, the weather and the aroma were so powerful,” he said.

Chief external officer for Hebrew Public, the charter school organization, Valerie Khaytina stood with students in Caesarea and relished the relative lack of crowds in these early post-pandemic months. And the one who missed his Israeli coffee? Stan Steinreich, CEO of Steinreich Communications: “The aroma and slow drip taste of the coffee there… wow,” he said. “And for me, no cappuccino will do, compared to a rich, frothy café hafuch [with a thick layer of milk on top].”


Shoshanna Keats Jaskoll leads effort to create stock photos of religious women


As the owner of a public relations firm and an Orthodox Jewish woman, Rachel Moore considers the practice of not printing photographs of women in some newspapers, magazines and advertisements that serve a religious audience both a professional and a personal problem. So she was thrilled to help when Shoshanna Keats Jaskoll, a leader of the Orthodox feminist organization Chochmat Nashim (Wisdom of Women), contacted Moore to ask if she would support an effort to create a photo bank of images of religious women, Moore told eJewishPhilanthropy’s Helen Chernikoff.

Possible slippery slope: “The brands I represent need stock photos that portray people in a way that is sensitive to religious sensibilities without being photos of only men and boys,” said Moore, founder of Moore Connected Communications. “As a religious, empowered female, I respond personally to the [project’s] agenda.” The practice of not depicting women in some publications has long concerned Keats Jaskoll, who said it reflects a trend in Orthodoxy to discourage or forbid women’s participation in public life, such as on boards of directors or synagogue committees.

Debate over origins: Proponents of the practice say it is rooted in halacha, or Jewish law, but Keats Jaskoll and other critics, including Leslie Ginsparg Klein, a historian with a specialty in the education of Orthodox girls in America, say it has no legal basis. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when the practice started, said another historian of American Orthodoxy, Rabbi Zev Eleff, the new president of Gratz College near Philadelphia. The notion that images of women are forbidden first arose in Israel’s Haredi community and migrated to the U.S., he said. Eleff also said the prohibition has no basis in Jewish law.

Changing practices: Mishpacha magazine adhered to this practice in its print version, Keats Jaskoll said, and other publications have tried to avoid using images of women, but have done so when they deemed it absolutely necessary. Mishpacha’s website does carry images of women, and in 2018 it used a photograph of women as part of its announcement that it would be heightening its presence on social media. Earlier that year, it had come under heavy criticism for pixelating the face of a female Holocaust survivor in an archival photo. The magazine did not respond to a request for comment.

Read the full story here.


How the five-legged table holds up during the pandemic


“During one of my first trips to Israel in the early 1990s, I had the opportunity to learn from Avraham Infeld. He inspired thousands of people with his vision of Jewish life standing strong like a five-legged table. He suggested that the more legs of the table that one has, the more connected one will be with the Jewish people,” writes Rachel Alexander Levy, a 25-year veteran of communal organizations, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Pandemic-inspired thinking: “Last year when the pandemic spread across the globe and everyone was forced to shelter in place, I had a lot of time to consider the definition of Jewish life and the ways to celebrate Judaism during a year of social isolation… The lessons that I learned from Avraham inspired my thinking in my role consulting for small Jewish communities across the country. I challenged myself to consider the role of the Jewish community towards individuals, towards one another and towards the people of Israel [and developed] my twist on the five legs during the pandemic.”

Read the full piece here.


Masorti mission reflections


“As chancellor of The Jewish Theological Seminary, I recently had the opportunity to visit Israel on a Masorti Movement mission. While there, the mission participants met with talented and devoted leaders of the Zionist movement and Masorti institutions and congregations, discussing common concerns and objectives and charting the course forward to achieve our goal of a vital, pluralistic Judaism in a thriving, democratic State of Israel,” writes Shuly Rubin Schwartz in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

The new government: “During the visit, we were privileged to meet almost a dozen government ministers and Knesset members and to hear their visions for this new government… The ministers and MKs encompass a broad spectrum of Israeli opinion and differ—sometimes vehemently—on many critical issues… And yet, we heard from them a shared sense of purpose on a number of issues. They are eager to effectuate changes that would improve the lives of all Israelis, including Arabs, and Palestinians; promote pluralistic Judaism in Israel; combat climate change; reinvigorate the democratic process; and improve ties between Israeli and Diaspora Jewry.”

Kotel Ha-mishpahot: “On Thursday, we prayed at the “Kotel Ha-mishpahot,” the family wall — where I last prayed two years ago at the bar mitzvah of my oldest grandson. This moving, egalitarian prayer experience reinforced yet again how vital it is to ensure that the Kotel remains a place where all Jews — regardless of gender — can gather together to pray undisturbed.”

Disruption: “Sadly, religious agitators had already begun their efforts to disrupt such egalitarian tefillah, setting up a mehitzah each evening to disrupt egalitarian prayer. This culminated in a concerted campaign on the part of hundreds of right-wing Orthodox Jews to overtake the space on Tisha B’av, disrupting prayer and the chanting of Eichah. The irony of this deliberate demonstration of baseless hatred on the evening where we commemorate the destruction of the Temple, which tradition attributes to baseless hatred among Jews, makes this violation all the more egregious.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

A Balanced Perspective: In Philanthropy Women, Maggie May interviews Shira Ruderman, executive director of the Ruderman Family Foundation, who said that keeping three generations of Rudermans engaged in foundation’s philanthropic work while making everyone feel valued is one of her greatest professional challenges. Ruderman cherishes the pursuit of gender equality at the foundation both in hiring and funding decisions, but also said she hopes that women will ultimately be understood as equal, but different. “As a sector whose decisions are driven by values, philanthropy can offer a conversation about balance, and how society and its values feed gender imbalance,” Ruderman said. [PhilanthropyWomen]

Cancelled Bets: The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, a primary funder of the effort to reverse the spread of nuclear weapons, will pull its funding from the field in two years after concluding that it didn’t see how it could achieve its “big bet” of stopping the production of new bomb material, reports Bryan Bender in Politico. Grantees include the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, and other funders and experts are concerned about the lack of alternative sources of support, Bryan writes. “We are at a crossroads right now,” said Emma Belcher, president of the Ploughshares Fund, a philanthropy that also focuses on the nuclear threat. “We really need a strong civil society to produce that independent analysis to inform the public and hold governments accountable.” [Politico]

Transformative Acquisition: Writing in Inside Philanthropy, Liz Longley tells the story of Mologic Ltd., a U.K.-based provider of testing and diagnostics that was acquired during the pandemic for $41 million by a consortium led by Open Society Foundations’ investment arm to form Global Access Health (GAH). A social enterprise, GAH will be dedicated to expanding access to medical technology in lower and middle-income countries, a problem that for-profit enterprise couldn’t solve, Longley writes. Sean Hinton, co-director of Open Society Economic Justice Program, described the acquisition as a “buyout for good,” and compared it to Wellcome Trust, a global health philanthropy created from the proceeds of a private company. [InsidePhilanthropy]

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Word on the Street

The chairman of Keren Hayesod, Sam Grundwerg, will remain in his position for at least another nine months as part of a court settlement reached between representatives of leading Jewish donors to Israel and the World Zionist Organization… IsraAID is sending staff members to rain-soaked areas of western Germany to provide clean-up and disaster-relief assistance… The AIPAC-affiliated American Israel Education Foundation has delayed two planned August trips to Israel due to concerns about the resurgent COVID-19 Delta variant… J Leaders, a Silicon-Valley based leadership development program for young Jewish professionals, has opened the application process for their 2021-22 Leadership Academy… Jeff Bezos awarded two $100 million prizes as his inaugural courage and civility awards… A group of philanthropic funds and investors led by the Soros Economic Development Fund — the impact investing arm of the Open Society Foundations — with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundationannounced the launch of a social enterprise that will work to expand access to affordable state-of-the-art medical technology… Younger socially conscious individuals are increasingly offering their time to causes they care about, according to “Influencing 

Pic of the Day

Rose Silverman

The Chicago cohort of Avodah’s 73-member Jewish Service Corps, who will graduate today in a virtual ceremony that will also include cohorts in New Orleans, New York City and Washington, D.C.


Amanda Edwards/Getty Images for Discovery Communications

TKTKTKProfessor of astronomy at MIT and winner of MacArthur genius award, Sara Seager… 
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