Your Daily Phil: Dan Elbaum on first six months at Jewish Agency North America + Honeymoon Israel to restart trips
Good Thursday morning!
Honeymoon Israel, a U.S.-based nonprofit that takes young Jewish and interfaith couples to Israel, will restart its trips in November, bringing participants who had signed up for the 18 tours postponed by the COVID-19 pandemic, CEO Mike Wise told eJewishPhilanthropy. “People have been cooped up for a year and a half, especially young people, they want to travel,” Wise said.
The organization hopes to maintain its itinerary, but might be challenged by the costs associated with both testing requirements and a dollar that has weakened against the shekel, he added.
Honeymoon Israel will begin offering trips to Miami, Houston and Dallas when new tours start again in January, bringing the total number of Honeymoon Israel cities to 23, Wise said. The organization had to lay off about a quarter of its 28 of its employees during the pandemic, and is hiring to refill those positions.
ON THE JOB
Six months in, Dan Elbaum speaks about leading Jewish Agency for Israel North America
Dan Elbaum’s job description is different — bigger — than that of his predecessors charged with leading the Jewish Agency’s North American arm. They focused mainly on fundraising, while he is responsible for a wider portfolio that also includes programming, administering North American immigration to Israel and oversight of the 1,500 shlichim, or emissaries, the state of Israel sends to North America each year. The new vision for leadership at the Jewish Agency for Israel North America (JAFINA) signals changes as to how the organization will do the work of connecting American Jews and Israel, Elbaum told eJewishPhilanthropy’s Helen Chernikoff.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Helen Chernikoff: You’re about six months into this job. How would you describe your learning curve thus far, and your plans going forward at this point?
Dan Elbaum: I’m nearing the end of my official listening tour and now people are looking to me for an overall plan. I wanted to deeply understand what we’ve been doing, and what works and what I need to focus on. Now what I’d like to do is present things that we should do immediately; others will be six months down the road, and we’ll make longer-term plans from there.
HC: It’s a much bigger job than it was in the past. Are you making other organizational changes in order to be able to do it all?
DE: I think it is fair to say that I will be recommending changes, because it is a different position, and there’s a lot to do. There was one change that I made immediately around the time I was hired. We gave our netzigim, our highest-ranking emissaries in the largest communities, responsibility for fundraising in their local federations. We are trying to integrate our programming and fundraising. The people who are working on the programs should be working on the funding for the programs. That’s a new way of looking at how we secure funding from our largest partners — the federations.
HC: The Jewish Agency is an institution with a lot of history. How would you describe its mission today?
DE: We need to bring more American Jews to Israel and more Israelis to America. More contact will strengthen the relationship. At its core, that’s what the Jewish Agency is doing, and that’s the right solution. But the Jewish Agency needs to better own the work that we do. Even I, when I started this job, didn’t know that my kids’ Israeli counselors were there under the auspices of the Jewish Agency. I have a friend who is hosting an emissary in his house — he didn’t know about the connection with the agency.
AS SEEN ON TV
A Black Jewish filmmaker brings her dual identities to BET
The filmmaker Lacey Schwartz Delgado believes conversation — the tougher the better — can bring about change. She directed “Black x Jewish,” a 30-minute TV special that premieres tonight on BET and explores the intersections of antisemitism and racism, along with the decades-long relationship between Black and Jewish communities to confront hate. “It was really exciting and interesting to think through how to have that conversation in that space for that audience,” Schwartz Delgado told Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch. “Obviously, there are people of all different backgrounds who are going to be tuning into BET — but it was really created for a Black audience.”
Highs and lows: “Black x Jewish” starts with an exploration of the contrasts of January 6: The night before, Georgia elected its first Black and first Jewish senators; several hours later, white supremacist rioters invaded the U.S. Capitol. “I think that framework really sums up the highs and lows. The high is when these communities come together and can achieve incredible things, and then the lows are when the hatred against both communities collectively comes out,” said Schwartz Delgado.
Not political: Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, is the only politician to appear in the film, but that’s less about politics than it is the unique demographics of his Brooklyn district. “All roads lead to Brooklyn,” Jeffries jokes. Schwartz Delgado observes that he “successfully navigates a place where Black folks and Jewish people have both lived for generations,” and that Jeffries is “on a mission to see how Black and Jewish communities can look at their own experiences to find common ground and build alliances.” (Schwartz Delgado is married to Rep. Antonio Delgado [D-NY], who represents parts of the Hudson Valley and the Catskills.)
Making progress: Schwartz Delgado has worked on issues relating to diversity in the Jewish community for many years, including a long stint as national outreach director for Be’chol Lashon, a San Francisco-based organization that fosters discussion of inclusion and race in the Jewish community. Fifteen or so years ago when she started working in this field, “we were still constantly doing panels where it was just even talking about the existence of people of color who are also Jewish,” said Schwartz Delgado. “I’m not saying that never happens in any spaces anymore, but now we are evolving into having more of a conversation about what actually needs to happen in the Jewish community to be inclusive.”
Family secret: All of this is personal for Schwartz Delgado. At age 18, she learned that her biological father was not the Ashkenazi Jewish man who raised her but actually a Black man with whom her mother had an affair. It had been explained to her throughout childhood that she was simply dark-skinned, a trait she was falsely told she inherited from her Sicilian Jewish grandfather. She chronicled the journey of racial self-discovery that followed this revelation in her acclaimed 2014 documentary “Little White Lie.”
COVID and gender
“What is the ongoing impact of gender as we emerge from COVID lockdown?” asks Dr. Betsy Stone in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.
Challenge to come: “As our society reopens, I expect we will see conflict between senior management and lower-level employees, between those who manage businesses and those who manage families. How we invite people back into the workforce and how we help them manage their lives will have a huge impact on the numbers of women who can hold on or return to their jobs.”
The need to listen and hear: “[A] real recovery has to involve all of our voices. We need to make space to listen and hear the experiences of all of us – and to truly consider why differences exist. Don’t simply create space, but ask questions – listen to the answers and really HEAR them.”
Can online experiences impact Jewish outcomes? New data says yes
“The pandemic may be receding, but the continuing expansion of Jewish life online — from classes to family activities to prayer services — will continue,” writes 70 Faces Media CEO Ami Eden in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.
The importance of data: “Is there really any lasting value in visiting a website, opening an email or interacting on social media? How can online activity influence Jewish choices?… Luckily, new data has come to light. And the underlying message is a powerful one — not only does digital media have the ability to reach unprecedented levels of people in a highly cost effective manner but online Jewish content has the potential to meet a wide range of needs and impact people in many different ways.”
Communal lessons: “While this research was focused exclusively on our own brands and channels, 70 Faces Media and Rosov Consulting believe the results — and our overall process — provide lessons for the wider field of online Jewish education and engagement.”
Exit Interview: In an interview with Jewish Insider, Rabbi Michael Miller, the longtime CEO and executive vice president of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, reflects on the change he has seen in three decades at the organization as he looks toward the future. “People say you love your job,” Miller said. “It’s impossible to love this kind of a job. The weight of the responsibility isn’t enjoyable. But it’s more of a mission, and that’s what I’ve committed myself to.” [JI]
New Measures: The federal government has not changed its method for defining poverty, which multiplies the cost of a minimally adequate diet for a family of four for a period of year by three, since the mid-1960s, writes Mark Robert Rank in The Conversation. Families today must spend much more on things other than food than they did in the 1960s, however, leading most analysts to consider the official poverty line to be an extremely conservative measure of economic hardship. “Many Americans in the past have been rudely surprised at just how inadequate America’s safety net is, at least in part because it’s based on outdated federal poverty thresholds,” Rank notes. “Broadening the definition of poverty would ensure it’s more likely to be there to support people in a crisis.” [Conversation]
Fewer Tears: Writing in Lehrhaus, David I. Bernstein reflects on changes he’s observed in 30 years of guiding Modern Orthodox American students on the trips to Poland that have become a rite of passage in that community. As Poland has become more philo-Semitic and educators like Bernstein have gained a more nuanced picture of Polish-Jewish relations, students tend to have an experience that’s less emotionally wrenching, yet inspires an increased sense of communal responsibility and an appreciation of the blessings of family and freedom. “While Poland heritage trips are seen as educating toward Israel and the Zionist narrative – and they still do, despite the dinimishment in student knowledge about Zionism and Jewish culture – they are increasingly impactful in other ways,” Bernstein concludes.” [Lehrhaus]
Scholarly Critique: In HistPhil, Sarah C. Haan and Faith Stevelman criticize the Supreme Court’s decision in Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Bonta, which invalidated the state of California’s right to require nonprofits to disclose their top donors on the grounds that it violated donors’ First Amendment right to free assembly by potentially jeopardizing their safety. The decision elides the question of whether think tanks like Americans for Prosperity Foundation should be considered charities with educational missions: “AFPF has undermined the authority of state governments to create a record—even one that will never become public — of the people and organizations that use “charities” to shape major political initiatives and influence political actors,” Haan and Stevelman write. [HistPhil]
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Word on the Street
Bloomberg Philanthropies announced a $30 million initiative to bolster the recovery of U.S. and U.K. nonprofit arts and cultural organizations in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic by strengthening their technology infrastructure… Jeff Bezos pledged $200 million to the Smithsonian Institution to benefit its National Air and Space Museum… Fidelity Charitable donor-advised funds awarded $4.3 billion, a 27% year over year increase, in the first half of 2021… Arthur Blank was named ESPN’s 2021 Sports Philanthropist of the Year… A thousand England football fans watched the Euro 2020 final from Hilton Beach, Tel Aviv, helping to raise £8,000 for a charity supporting sick children…
Pic of the Day
Comedian Eitan Levine performed last Friday night at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan’s “Shabbat in the City: Comedy Night,” along with Drexton Clemons, Emma Jayne and others.
Senior correspondent at New York Magazine and a CNN contributor, she is a co-author of Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Irin Carmon…
President and chairman of the board of the Annenberg Foundation, Wallis Annenberg… Member of the British House of Lords, he is a professor, medical doctor, scientist, television anchor and Labour Party politician, Baron Robert Maurice Lipson Winston… Professional sports bettor and poker player, he is a four time winner of the World Series of Poker, Mickey Appleman… Physician and life fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, father of Politico’s Daniel Lippman, Dr. David H. Lippman… Rosh Yeshiva of Beth Medrash Govoha in Lakewood, NJ, Rabbi Dovid Schustal… Former congresswoman (89-19), she was Chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen… EVP at the Aspen Institute responsible for its policy and public programs, he was a Rhodes Scholar and clerked for Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, Elliot Gerson… California-based appellate attorney, Feris M. Greenberger… National grassroots director of the Orthodox Union’s Teach Coalition, Miriam Baron “Mimi” Jankovits… Recent board chair of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, she is also the national campaign chair of The Jewish Federations of North America, Julie Beren Platt… Professor at the UCLA School of Law, expert in human rights, international criminal law and international trade, Richard Harold Steinberg… Political news director at Bloomberg, Jodi Schneider… Member of Congress since 2011 (D-Rhode Island-1), previously mayor of Providence, his mother is Sabra née Peskin, David Nicola Cicilline… Anchorage-based attorney, a member of the Alaska House of Representatives since 2012, Andrew Lewis “Andy” Josephson… Former UK Labour Party member of Parliament (2001-2013) including three years as Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, now CEO of NYC-based International Rescue Committee, David Miliband… Co-founder and chief investment officer of Toronto-based EdgeStone Capital Partners, one of Canada’s leading private equity firms, Gilbert S. Palter… Israeli actress and singer, she is the 1991 and 1998 winner of the Ophir Award (Israel’s Academy Award) for Best Actress, Dafna Rechter… Senior advisor at investment bank Greif & Co., he is also the CFO of Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles, David S. Felman… On-boarding specialist at MyChargeBack, he served for eight years as the Florida synagogue initiative director of AIPAC, Sam Kalmowicz… Rabbi, blogger and attorney, Eliyahu Fink… Israeli actor, he played Boaz in Season 1 of “Fauda,” Tomer Kapon… Bloomberg reporter and team leader covering mergers and acquisitions, Liana Balinsky-Baker… SVP of the Milwaukee Bucks and a 2022 candidate to be a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, Alex Lasry… Denver-based senior Israel Education Director at Hillel International, Jonathan Steven “Jon” Falk… Fund director of the Membership in News Fund at the Membership Puzzle Project, Ariel Zirulnick… USA Today NFL reporter covering the Dallas Cowboys, she is also the author of a biography of a Holocaust survivor, Jori Epstein…Email Editor@eJewishPhilanthropy.com to have your birthday included.