Your Daily Phil: Encounter’s new program + Why Grandparents are key to a vibrant Jewish future

Good Tuesday morning!

Subscribers to Bari Weiss’s popular Substack newsletter “Common Sense” received an email last week announcing a new, as-yet-unaccredited liberal arts college called the University of Austin, supported philanthropically by Silicon Valley and Austin-based investor Joe Lonsdale.

Pano Kanelos, the school’s founding president, told Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch that the goal is not to create a safe space for conservative thinkers. “If everybody at University of Austin, or most people, are on the right or on either end of the political spectrum, if it’s so dominated in one way or the other, we will have failed,” Kanelos said. Read the full interview here.

Tikkun Olam Makers (TOM), a web platform that offers open-source solutions to difficulties faced by people with disabilities, will display the winners of its recent contest in the USA Pavilion at the Expo 2020 Dubai. TOM is a project of REUT USA, a U.S.-based charity spun off from the Reut Group, an Israeli think tank. The name evokes the Jewish value of tikkun olam, or repairing the world.

TOM operates by coordinating a network of about 70 communities that consist of people living with challenges and those trying to help them, which include communities in universities in Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. “TOM is a real on-the-ground implementation of the Abraham Accords in the area of humanitarian innovation,” Gidi Grinstein, TOM’s president and cofounder, told eJewishPhilanthropy.

The grand prize winners of TOM’s first global innovation contest include a wheelchair mount for an assisted speech device; an adaptive toilet seat; and a support for a child’s arm that enables independent drawing, playing and eating.


Encounter launches new program bringing Israelis and Palestinians together


Encounter, the organization dedicated to helping American Jewish leaders broaden their view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is broadening its own mission by investing $1 million in a similar program for Israeli Jews. The expansion will be facilitated by a logistical change — the hiring of a tour operator — that will help the group run more trips, Executive Director Yona Shem-Tov told eJewishPhilanthropy’s Helen Chernikoff.

Transplanting an American program: “The last six years, we have cultivated a network of American Jewish leaders, and we’ve been quietly positioning ourselves to do this work with Israelis,” she said. “Coronavirus put the travel on pause, and gave us time to sharpen our plans.” While Encounter used to organize its own trips, and carried about four per year, it’s now working with Mejdi Tours, which will enable it to double the number, Shem-Tov said: “We did this because we are interested in scale. We’re not a tour operator. We’re a leadership education organization. If we are going to be able to move the needle on the conversation, we need to meet that appetite.”

A new network: Founded in 2005, the group’s core program — until the pandemic hit in March 2020 — was an invitation-only trip to Palestinian communities in the West Bank and East Jerusalem for American Jewish leaders. It included webinars both before and after the trip, and encouraged post-trip participation in an alumni network, such as a circle of 30 leaders in the Boston area and another of Modern Orthodox rabbis. The trips were initially offered exclusively to rabbinical students, and over the years, the group gradually broadened the eligible population to include philanthropists, communal professionals, clergy, academics and journalists. More than 3,000 such individuals have gone on the program, but the trips for Americans have not yet resumed, Shem-Tov said.

On the scene: The organization has run two pilots for the Israeli program, one in the summer of 2019 and one in January 2020. After the violence that accompanied an 11-day conflict between Israel and Hamas in May, Encounter ran its first in-person gathering between Israelis and Palestinians, including a visit to Sheikh Jarrah, in a year and a half. A primarily Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem. The first full-length, four-day trip for Israelis took place in the beginning of October, and Encounter anticipates offering nine such trips in addition to at least four one-day programs in 2022.  

Read the full article here.

Support system

Holy work that works: A holistic approach to mental health

Foundation for Jewish Camp

“Citing a staggering 45% increase this year in the number of self-injury and suicide cases in 5- to 17-year-olds compared to the same period in 2019 — the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and Children’s Hospital Association recently declared a national state of emergency in childhood and adolescent mental health,” writes Jill Goldstein Smith, a senior program manager at Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC), in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Safe place: “As children and caregivers pushed through spring, and the one-year anniversary of this global period of upheaval, summer camp stood as a bright spot for hundreds of thousands of children and young adults – and their families – marking a monumental transition back to communal life. Jewish camps provide a place for campers and staff to feel safe, explore and be uniquely empowered to embrace their whole selves – to grow into their best selves. But even this utopia-like setting isn’t free from struggles. Gone are the days of the ‘camp bubble’ where folks could leave their worries at the gates.”

Support system: “Every week from June through August, FJC met with and collected data from mental health professionals on the ground at camps. Their reports shared many ways this summer brought joy to thousands of campers and surfaced the sizable increase in the frequency and intensity of eating disorders, non-suicidal self-injuries, anxiety around social reintegration, stress related to identity expression, social regression due to missed milestones and suicidal ideation. And yet, many camps rose to the occasion of supporting campers through this transitional period.”

Read the full piece here.

hidden treasures

Grandparents are a key to a vibrant Jewish future


“In conversations with grandparents across North America, we hear remarkable stories of their dedication to their families and of their commitment for transmitting Jewish values and traditions,” writes David Raphael, co-founder and CEO of The Jewish Grandparents Network, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Data: “These conversations bear out what past research tells us: Grandparents play essential roles in the lives of their families and grandchildren. Children, teens and young adults who have strong relationships with their grandparents are emotionally healthier; and grandparents play a major role in nurturing the Jewish identity of their grandchildren.”

New offering: “Our newest offering, ‘The Family Room,’ is a unique virtual space where Judaism and Jewish life come alive through activities and adventures for grandparents and grandkids… An essential strategy of the Family Room is to demonstrate that nearly any activity that grandparents love doing with their grandkids can include some form of Jewish learning.” 

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Behind The Curtains: In The New York Times, Nicholas Kulish provides an inside look at the Bridgespan Group, the nonprofit consulting firm that was spun out of Bain & Company and now advises such high-profile individual donors and foundations as MacKenzie Scott and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, although it’s little known outside the world of philanthropy. Bridgespan got its start with philanthropists who were focused on applying business practices to their work, yet even as that paradigm is coming under question from those who espouse a “trust-based” approach that puts more funding directly in the hands of those who need it, the firm’s fortunes continue to rise as the wealthy become more so. “Bridgespan seems exceptionally able and well-disposed to take advantage of the shift from big family foundations to L.L.C.s that don’t want staff but are still giving away a huge sum of money,” said Rob Reich, co-director of the Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society at Stanford University. [NYTimes]

Bittersweet Occasion: Manny Yekutiel, the owner of Manny’s Cafe in San Francisco’s Mission District, recently hosted a fundraiser at his restaurant, raising $53,850 for local Afghan resettlement efforts — a cause especially close to his heart, because his father is Afghan, reports Lea Loeb in J.: The Jewish News of Northern California. The evening was festive, featuring Afghan music and food, but Yekutiel  shared melancholy thoughts, as well: “Obviously the evacuation of Afghanistan and the war has taken a terrible toll on that country. There are now no Jews left in Afghanistan. My culture there is over.” [JWeekly]

Sea Change: The pandemic has spurred much chatter about the “Great Resignation” — the 20 million workers who quit between May and September — but, the phenomenon of greater worker mobility was underway before the pandemic and will continue indefinitely, predicts Ian O. Williamson in The Conversation. The trend is related not to the pandemic, but to the growth of the service sector, which accounted for 86% of employment in the U.S. in recent years, and which requires only “general” skills that workers can easily transfer from one job to another. “Employers now have a greater obligation than in the past to convince existing and would-be employees why they should stay or join their organizations. And there is no evidence to suggest this trend will change going forward,” Williamson concludes. [Conversation]

Community Comms

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Word on the Street

Amy Spitalnick, executive director of Integrity First for America, joined Jewish Insider’s “Limited Liability Podcast” to discuss the lawsuit brought by Integrity First against the organizers of the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in 2017… Knock Knock Give a Sock, a nonprofit founded by Adina Lichtman when she was an NYU undergrad, won the NextGen Innovation Award from the Neighborhood Coalition for Shelter, a nonprofit providing housing and supportive services for New Yorkers… UJA-Federation of New York received a $10 million legacy gift from Jack and Shirley Silver to help lift vulnerable New Yorkers out of poverty. The gift is in addition to the Silvers’ $20 million legacy gift made in 2017 to support Jewish camping. The Silvers’ gifts are the largest estate pledge commitments made known to UJA during a donor’s lifetime… Irwin and Joan Jacobs pledged $100 million to help launch the Salk Institute’s five-year, $500 million Campaign for the Future… A new report from the Fundraising Effectiveness Project finds fundraising levels in the first half of 2021 maintained the increased levels of giving and number of donors seen in 2020… Twenty years after its founding, Nefesh B’Nefesh celebrated the inauguration yesterday of its state-of-the-art Aliyah Campus opposite the Israeli Supreme Court in the Government Quarter of Jerusalem The “History of Medicine in California,” a major art installation by the late Jewish artist Bernard Zakheim, that hung on University of California, San Francisco’s Toland Hall walls for 83 years, has been safely removed to make way for new construction on the university’s campus… Applications are open for JDC Entwine’s Global Jewish Service Corps fellowship for 2022-2023… American-Israeli journalist Netty (Cappell) Gross-Horowitz died, at age 66…

Pic of the Day

Birthright Israel Foundation

Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Gilad Erdan delivered the keynote address at Birthright Israel Foundation’s annual Los Angeles Gala last Thursday. From left: Phil and Alyce de Toledo, Shawn Evenhaim, Erdan, Dorit Evenhaim and Lexie and Michael Messinger. Phil de Toledo is the incoming board chair; Shawn Evenhaim is a board member and Michael Messinger is the chair of the Los Angeles Leadership Council for Birthright Israel Foundation.


Steven Ryan/Getty Images

American-Israeli professional basketball coach and former NBA player, Amar’e Stoudemire… 

Retired justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, Morris Jacob Fish… Director general and founder of TAV College in Montreal, Abraham J. Boyarsky… Milwaukee-based founder and co-managing director of A.B. Data, Ltd, he is chair of the Pincus Fund for Jewish Education, Bruce A. Arbit… Torrance, Calif.-based former co-chair of Jewish World Watch’s Lemkin Summit, Susan Brooks… Writer and producer, he was an executive producer of Fox’s “Fringe” and co-writer of “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” Jeff Pinkner… Executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, Matt Brooks… SVP of national programs at Shalom Hartman Institute of North America, Rabbi Justus Baird… Israeli singer-songwriter, author and travel documentarian, Gilad Segev… Author of several novels and book columnist for The Washington PostLavie Tidhar… SVP at The D. E. Shaw Group, Michael A. Levi… 1994 Olympic gold medalist in figure skating, Oksana Baiul… Stage, film and television actress, she is the older sister of actor Jake Gyllenhaal, Margalit Ruth “Maggie” Gyllenhaal… Actress, producer and TV host, Adi Ezroni… President of operations at ArtNaturals in Ladera Ranch, Calif., he is a former NFL placekicker and punter, Hayden Scott Epstein… Director of program strategy and management at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Allie Shisgal… Snowboarder for the U.S. Olympic team in 2014 competing in the halfpipe, Taylor Gold

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