Your Daily Phil: EarlyJ looks to boost Jewish preschools in Bay Area
Good Wednesday morning!
In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on the Biden administration’s avoidance of Israel-related issues in the rollout of its national strategy to combat antisemitism, and feature an op-ed from Rabbi Carrie Vogel. Also in this newsletter: Mel Brooks, Sandra Fox and Jeff Poulos. We’ll start with a new Jewish early childhood education initiative, EarlyJ, launched in the San Francisco Bay Area.
With the goal of transforming the reach and quality of Jewish early childhood education (ECE) across the San Francisco Bay Area, The Rodan Family Foundation and The Koum Family Foundation have teamed up: the two foundations recently announced EarlyJ, a new joint philanthropic venture aimed at transforming the reach and quality of Jewish ECE across the Bay Area, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Esther Kustanowitz.
The foundations have seeded this work, which launched in April, with a combined $12 million over five years, in addition to $2 million raised for early East Bay pilot projects, some of which are still running. The initiative seeks additional funding partners to contribute to a $13.5 million balance, to fully fund this work over the next five years.
“We see this as a national, very urgent and pressing need. Every community is facing some of these challenges in one way or another,” Elana Rodan Schuldt, president and CEO of The Rodan Family Foundation, told eJP. Transforming early childhood education, she added, means tackling several problems at once: enrollment, teacher compensation and retention, accessibility and family engagement, and testing the holistic model “within one hyper-local community to create change” in the early childhood field.
Yana Kalika, president of The Koum Family Foundation, stressed the partnership’s collaborative approach to remaking the field, adding that the foundation has invested “a lot of time to meet with funders and communities” about projects that have worked and the challenges they’ve faced. “It’s going to take us all coming together” to try new approaches and “thoughtfully investing in the work to transform Jewish ECE, but it can be done.”
Consultant, researcher and former Brandeis professor Mark Rosen told eJP that such substantial funding would be best allocated to creating new locations that are close to where parents live, and hiring trained staff at competitive salaries.
“If you can use philanthropic dollars to increase salaries to attract staff and also lower tuition costs to attract families, you have the potential to really enhance enrollment. That’s where the philanthropic dollars will make the biggest difference,” Rosen said.
In rollout of antisemitism strategy, White House steers clear of the Jewish state
On a windy, sunny summer morning in Colorado, two senior White House officials – Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff and White House Homeland Security Advisor Liz Sherwood-Randall – joined a panel conversation at the Aspen Ideas Festival about combating the rise of antisemitism, where they promoted the Biden administration’s National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism. The nearly hour-long conversation did not mention one issue that, despite its appearance in the 60-page strategy, has been absent from White House public messaging on the document: Israel, and the ways that anti-Zionism can translate into antisemitism, reports Gabby Deutch for eJewishPhilanthropy’s sister publication Jewish Insider.
What the text says: In an interview last week with JI, a senior White House official who worked on the strategy declined to specify how matters related to anti-Zionism would be handled in the strategy’s implementation in the coming year. (In the month since the strategy was published, the White House has declined to make anyone available for an on-the-record interview about the plan.) “How long is the report? There’s a lot in there on all of this,” said the official. “We refer you to the text.” They then read from the section of the document that refers to Israel: “When Jews are targeted because of their beliefs or identity, when Israel is singled out because of anti-Jewish hatred, that’s antisemitism. That’s unacceptable.”
For example: In late May, a student speaker at the City University of New York Law School graduation delivered a commencement speech attacking Israel and Zionism that was widely condemned as antisemitic by Jewish community officials, New York politicians and the CUNY board of trustees. The White House official declined to say whether it was concerned about, or aware of, the incident at CUNY. The official pointed to a letter that the U.S. Department of Education’s assistant secretary for civil rights sent to college administrators across the country last month, alerting them to “nationwide rise in reports of antisemitic harassment, including in schools.”
Making it an issue: The best prism through which to view the strategy’s success — and the hardest to measure — is to examine whether it resonates with everyday Americans, the official suggested. “It makes reference, again and again, to our commitment to use the bully pulpit to address antisemitism,” said the official. “We understand that this is critical, that we come together as a whole nation to address this problem. This is a problem for everyone. It is not simply a problem for the Jewish community.”
Hebrew School done differently
Revolutionizing Jewish education for teens
“‘But you always hated religious school.’ This was my parents’ response when I told them, at the age of 21, that I wanted to become a rabbi. To this day, I am honestly not sure if their response reflected their annoyance or relief, thinking about all the time they spent arguing with me about going (likely a bit of both!). I quickly responded, ‘I didn’t hate all religious school, I just hated the parts that weren’t very good’… And now here I am, with 14 years as a professional educator under my walkie-talkie-adorned belt, doing my best to ensure that we don’t offer anything that ‘isn’t very good,’” writes Rabbi Carrie Vogel, recently named director of undergraduate initiatives at American Jewish University, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.
Not all is lost: “Just recently, the Jewish Education Project released new data about supplemental education, and in the first webinar to discuss the report, David Bryfman, who heads the group, began by acknowledging that the religious school model of 30 years ago is not one that fits the reality of our world today. Today’s students and families have different interests and needs. They are busier than we were, and they have different demands placed upon their time. And yet, that doesn’t mean that today’s teens aren’t also seeking a meaningful and formative Jewish experience.”
Success story: So, when Rabbi Daniel Sher of Kehillat Israel (KI) in Pacific Palisades, Calif., came to me five years ago and said, ‘I want to create a program where our teens can learn Jewish content with us and earn college credit,’ I said, ‘Yes’… In its first year, the Jewish Learning Experience (JLE) program at AJU has proven itself as a success, offering relevant and valuable experiences for the teens at KI, achieving each of the goals that Rabbi Sher and I set out from the start… And the clearest way to know that it’s working? Our teens (and their parents) are already asking which classes the JLE will offer next fall.”
Color Wars and Tisha B’Av: For National Public Radio, Deena Prichep interviews Sandra Fox about her recent book, The Jews of Summer: Summer Camp and Jewish Culture in Postwar America, and the role of summer camps in creating American Jewish identity. “In the wake of World War II, when European Jewry had been decimated and American Jews were moving from all-Jewish enclaves to more integrated suburbs, American Jewish leaders worried that their culture might not have a future. And so they turned to summer camps… Summer camps became a way to hold onto and rebuild Jewish heritage. But in attempting to maintain Jewish traditions, these camps created a whole new form of it… But even with these changes – or perhaps because of them – Jewish summer camps still produce kids with a strong sense of Jewish identity who are active in maintaining Jewish tradition. And are building traditions of their own.” [NPR]
Next Time Answer the Email: In The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Theodore Wagenaar argues for better transparency and responsiveness from nonprofits, and not just for the big donors. “I am a baby boomer in my mid-70s who is passionate about supporting nonprofits that help low-income young people thrive in their education. Pitch me if you run a successful one. Eventually, most of my estate will go to organizations that do that work effectively. I have given initial donations of $1,000 to $5,000 to see how the organizations respond. I expect them to promptly acknowledge my gift, then explain how it’s being used. I have been surprised and disappointed by their responses — or lack thereof… Many people my age want to both make a difference with their donations and receive responses showing where their money is going. We want to support successful organizations and see proof that our support has contributed to success. I search for nonprofits with a clear mission tied to my goal, demonstrated effectiveness within that mission, and transparency about where they’ll direct donations.” [ChronicleofPhilanthropy]
Around the Web
The Helen Diller Family Foundation announced its annual awards to 15 Jewish teen leaders from across the United States who will each receive $36,000…
The student leaders of the Brandeis Orthodox Organization sent an email to their members saying they were “hurt and disappointed” by a recent campaign by Brandeis University, which described the institution as having been “founded by Jews. But, it’s anything but Orthodox”…
Jeff Poulos, the former CEO of Philanthropy Massachusetts, is joining Impala, a nonprofit data service, at the end of the summer as its inaugural head of partnerships…
Josh Foer, co-founder of Sefaria, appeared on the 18Forty podcast this week to discuss the digital repository of Jewish texts, including a recent controversy over its inclusion of a gender-neutral translation of the Bible…
A new survey by the Anti-Defamation League found a spike in online hate speech over the past year, specifically against the LGBTQ community, Black Americans and Muslims…
The final two days of Passover will be vacation days in New York City schools, following petitions from Jewish parents and faculty…
A Pew poll found that 87% of Israelis hold a positive view of the United States, making Israel the second-most pro-American country in the world after Poland, where 93% of respondents had a favorable opinion of the U.S.
Italy announced plans to combat antisemitism at soccer matches in the country, following calls to act from its Jewish community…
Pic of the Day
A group of Jewish Agency shlichim, Israeli emissaries, take a selfie following a training session earlier this year to prepare them to travel to North America for the summer to work at U.S. and Canadian Jewish camps. They are among the 1,500 such shlichim who are currently making their way to 158 summer camps across the continent.
“I think representing Israel abroad is such a privilege because we get to make Israel fun, positive and engaging for all those kids who may not have this back home,” said one emissary, Gily Ariely from the Israeli city of Ashkelon, who will work at Camp Louise in Maryland, in a statement. “As a shlicha, our role is so important because we have the opportunity to shape or reshape someone’s view of Israel.”
Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony Award-winning actor, director, composer and comedian, Mel Brooks (born Melvin James Kaminsky)…
Laguna Woods, Calif., resident, Saretta Platt Berlin… Owner of NYC’s United Equities Companies and retired chairman of Berkshire Bank, Moses M. Marx… Former member of Congress for 16 years and now a distinguished fellow and president emerita of the Wilson Center, Jane Harman… Political consultant, community organizer and author, Robert Creamer… Novelist, journalist, conservative commentator and senior fellow of the Claremont Institute, Mark Helprin… Author of crime fiction for both adults and children, Peter Abrahams… Documentary producer and adjunct associate professor at USC, James Ruxin… West Orange, N.J., resident, Saralee Rosen… Professor of mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley, Kenneth Alan Ribe… Shareholder in the Tampa office of Carlton Fields, Nathaniel Doliner… Rabbi and historian, author of a 2017 book Jewish Justices of the Supreme Court: From Brandeis to Kagan, David G. Dalin… Member of the California State Senate following two terms in the State Assembly, Martin Jeffrey “Marty” Block… Retired partner at Chicago-based accounting firm of Morrison & Morrison, Mark Zivin… Founding partner of NYC law firm Kasowitz Benson Torres, Marc Kasowitz… Israeli journalist for Haaretz, Amira Hass… Chairman and CEO of Comcast Corporation, Brian L. Roberts… Rabbi of the Har Bracha community in Israel, Rabbi Eliezer Melamed… U.S. special envoy for Holocaust issues, Ellen J. Germain… Principal of GPS Investment Partners, Marc Spilke… Actress and singer, Jessica Hecht… Diplomatic correspondent for Al-Monitor, Laura Rozen… Novelist and short story writer, Aimee Bender… Israeli actress residing in Los Angeles, Ayelet Zurer… Centibillionaire CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, Elon Musk… Former member of Knesset, Michal Biran… Toltzy Kornbluh… Chany Stark… Naum Koen… Associate at Latham & Watkins, Molly Rosen… Mark Winkler…