Your Daily Phil: Ethiopian olim arrive in Israel + Sheryl Sandberg to leave Meta, focus on philanthropy
Good Thursday morning!
For the past three months, The Jewish Agency for Israel has garnered attention for helping to resettle the 20,000 Ukrainians and Russians who have streamed into Israel — shifting its immigration apparatus into overdrive. But on Wednesday, the quasi-governmental agency celebrated a very different kind of aliyah — one on a much smaller scale, and a long time coming.
Jewish Agency staff spent the past few days accompanying 181 Ethiopian immigrants from the northern city of Gondar to the capital of Addis Ababa and, finally, to Ben Gurion Airport, where they landed yesterday. It’s the first group of Ethiopian immigrants to Israel in more than a year, and the first of at least 3,000 who are slated to arrive.
The immigrants will live for two years in government-run absorption centers, where an older generation of Ethiopian-Israelis, who came in the mass immigration waves of the 1980s and 1991, will help teach them Hebrew, provide employment training and acclimate culturally.
In a way, Jewish Agency COO Yehuda Setton told eJewishPhilanthropy, the Jewish Agency’s experience acclimating Ethiopian immigrants helped lay the groundwork for absorbing the tens of thousands of Ukrainians and Russians who’ve landed in Tel Aviv. To help the Ethiopians succeed in Israel, the Jewish Agency designed an employment training program that helped them get jobs in tech, in part by learning English. The agency also created a system to identify Ethiopian immigrants’ talents in order to match them with jobs. These programs are now being adapted for the new Ukrainian residents.
“You have to build unique models for them,” he said. “You work with them on language, and also culturally. We began with Ethiopia and it was easy to expand to Ukraine.”
The two waves of immigrants — from Ethiopia and Ukraine — are handled by two separate teams of the Jewish Agency, and pose challenges that are at once very different and somewhat similar, Setton said.
“The difference is that most of the Ethiopian immigrants have dreamed for years of reaching Jerusalem, reaching Israel — whether it’s to reunite with their families or because of their religious Zionist feeling,” Setton said, whereas many of the Ukrainian arrivals “didn’t have it on their agenda, and simply wanted to save their own lives.”
In both cases, however, “you’re absorbing two populations that at this point, materially, don’t have anything — two populations that, mentally, need a lot of social work,” Setton said. “In Ukraine they’re coming from a war, and in Ethiopia, the cultural gaps… are vast.”
Setton accompanied the Ethiopian immigrants from Gondar to Israel, and said the experience gave him “chills.” He described one immigrant who hadn’t seen his mother, who lives in Israel, for 15 years. He was afraid to tell her he was coming until he got on the plane. “You can see,” Setton said, “that they’re ready for this emotionally.”
SIGN ME UP
Why two federations 500 miles apart spent $3 million on a Jewish Eventbrite
In 2019, Scott Kaufman, then the CEO of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, gave a series of talks about how to increase local Jewish engagement. His set of proposals included an idea for a Jewish event-management platform, in the vein of Eventbrite, called Jlive. When he gave his speech in Montreal, he met a donor who was interested. Three years later, Jlive is used by 90 organizations across Montreal and Detroit, where it has advertised more than 1,200 events, reports Lev Gringauz for eJewishPhilanthropy.
Eliminating overlap: Before Jlive, to register for programs, “We [made] people fill out the same form. And if they go to a different organization, they fill out another form,” Kaufman told eJP. “It feels like medical records, you’re always filling out the same thing over and over again.”
Granular data: Alongside standard event management and registration features, Jlive is also a reflection of the Jewish community’s focus on data-driven decision making. By hosting organizations on a platform that is specifically for Jewish events, Jlive can aggregate and analyze granular demographic trends for individual agencies, like the age and location of attendees, as well as for entire communities.
That price tag: The project has cost $3 million so far, and most of the budget has come from private donors from around the world. Kaufman said the spending hasn’t eaten into the Detroit federation’s social service allocations. In 2021, according to its annual report, the federation had $38 million in total allocations, including more than $20 million that went to community service and a category called “additional local support.”
LAND OF ISRAEL
Shavuot made me a Zionist. Here’s why.
“Shavuot made me a Zionist… Well, maybe it wasn’t just Shavuot, but that holiday played an important role. Why? Because when you grow up in the Southern Hemisphere, the Jewish holidays make you keenly aware of being in the wrong place; especially those that, like Shavuot, have a strong seasonal component,” writes Andrés Spokoiny, president and CEO of Jewish Funders Network, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.
Growing up: “In my Jewish school, we carried baskets with bikkurim, the first ripe fruits, in the dead of winter and sang joyful songs of harvest when the wheat was months away from maturity. We marched in the schoolyard wearing the kova tembel (the slightly ridiculous Israeli pioneers’ hat) and sang ‘make way, we bring the first fruits from the confines of The Land!’ For better or worse, it instilled in us the idea that there’s something irretrievably lost in your Judaism if you are far from the Land of Israel. It was as though our kindergarten teachers wanted to show us how ridiculous a Jew is outside of his homeland.”
Connection to the Land: “To be sure, most Jewish holidays have a connection to the Land of Israel and its cycles of nature. It wasn’t less disorienting to celebrate Passover as the holiday of spring amid falling leaves and autumn storms, but there was something unique about Shavuot that made evident the incompleteness of a landless Judaism.”
Closer Look: MacKenzie Scott’s generosity is to be commended, especially when she supports groups with undeniably worthy missions, such as New City Kids, a New Jersey-based foundation that combats child poverty and delinquency, writes Aron Ravin in National Review. Yet many of her donations — like those that support land reparations to Native Americans — are more political, less traditionally philanthropic and also unlikely to actually achieve real change, Ravin states. “Charity has stopped being something we volunteer for our communities or to people in desperate need. It’s just becoming yet another low-risk method for people to engage in politics.” [NR]
Is it Closing Time?: There are more than 1.5 million nonprofits in the U.S., which means there’s a lot of duplication of efforts, Wayne Elsey writes in NonProfitPRO, and nonprofit leaders need to know when it’s time to shut down. “Closing a nonprofit for the right reasons isn’t easy. It all comes down to assessing your organization and determining if you’re going in the right direction. The best way to do this is by conducting a thorough self-evaluation for your organization. Should you decide to close your nonprofit, you should do so before the end of the year to save yourself the regulatory headaches of unwinding the organization in the following tax year…Nonprofits exist to help society, and if they don’t reach their goal, people need to move on. Some nonprofits can achieve their goals within a specific time frame, but typically it takes longer than that. Nonprofits need to stay relevant and continue growing to maintain donors’ trust in them.”[NonProfitPRO]
Welcoming Refugees: Jewish communities and individuals are mobilizing resources to help refugees who are resettling in the United States, Rahel Musleah reports in Hadassah Magazine. One such effort comes from three New Jersey synagogues in the South Orange-Maplewood (SOMA) area — Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel, Beth El Congregation and Congregation Oheb Shalom — which host a Welcome Circle for an Afghani family affiliated with HIAS, the Jewish refugee aid group. “Rabbi Daniel Cohen of South Orange’s Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel noted that ‘The Torah mentions welcoming the stranger over 36 times, and frequently adds ‘because you were slaves in Egypt.’ It’s clear that those who know the pain of being powerless, and have suffered as a result, have a responsibility to help and uplift others once they are in a position to do so. We consciously wanted to do this work as a synagogue community.’ The SOMA group previously welcomed Soviet Jews and, five years ago, two Syrian and one Iraqi family. One of the Syrian daughters now teaches in Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel’s preschool. Cohen said he has a personal obligation, too. His grandfather escaped Lithuania in the early 1900s. ‘No one helped him then. For his grandchild to be in a position to help is really powerful.’” [HadassahMagazine]
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Word on the Street
Meta COO Sheryl Sandberg announced in a Facebook post on Wednesday that she would be leaving the company after 14 years, a job she called the “the honor and privilege of a lifetime” while acknowledging that “The debate around social media has changed beyond recognition since those early days. To say it hasn’t always been easy is an understatement.”
Sandberg, who will remain on Meta’s board, wrote that she will be focusing on her philanthropy moving forward, which centers on women’s empowerment. Sandberg signed the Giving Pledge in 2014, and in 2016 donated shares of Facebook stock worth $31 million. Last September, she told a Jewish talk show that “??The value of tzedakah runs deep within our faith and within my home.”
Her charity has included donations to Jewish causes. In 2019, amid a rise in antisemitism, she pledged $2.5 million to the Anti-Defamation League — less than a year before the ADL organized an ad boycott of Facebook to protest its policies on hate speech. Last year, she gave $5 million to United Hatzalah, and keynoted its gala dinner. She followed up with an additional $1 million donation to Hatzalah in April, amid the war in Ukraine. She also participated in Hillel International’s social media campaign against antisemitism last year…
Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) sent a letter to Lufthansa questioning what he called the airline’s “discriminatory actions” after a group of Haredi Jews were not allowed onto a flight due to accusations that some members of the group were not wearing masks…
Knesset member Yaakov Litzman submitted his resignation on Wednesday, as part of a plea agreement he signed after admitting to a breach of trust in the Malka Leifer child sex abuse scandal…
Rabbi Shlomo Brody has been named executive director of the Halachic Organ Donor Society…
Kelsey Jannerson is joining the University of Arizona Hillel Foundation as assistant director…
The Ramaz School in New York City brought its entire high school student body of more than 400 students to Israel for a one-week trip…
Chaviva High School in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, received a $150,000 grant from the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Foundation for the expansion and development of its educational and administrative infrastructure over three years…
Through a new $9.6 million program, 20 frontline climate justice organizations across 16 states will receive support in hiring communications staff and training to advance narrative strategies. The Climate Justice Alliance, the Center for Story-based Strategy and The Solutions Project developed the program to help address racial and gender disparities in climate philanthropy and media coverage…
Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn., announced a $10 million gift from the family of John F. Brock III and his wife, Mary, to help accelerate the discovery and commercialization of biomedical and health-science innovations…
Ken Kramarz, the longtime, guitar-playing director of Camp Tawonga, died at 69…
Pic of the Day
German Minister of the Interior and Community Nancy Faeser lays a wreath on Tuesday during a memorial ceremony in Yad Vashem’s Hall of Remembrance in Jerusalem.
Aerospace engineer and a former NASA astronaut, he flew on three shuttle missions, Atlantis, Discovery and Endeavour and took along a memento from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum into space, Mark L. Polansky…
Former member of the British Parliament from Manchester and later a member of European Parliament from Northwest England, David Anthony Gerald Sumberg… Co-founder of ReelAbilities film festival, Anita Altman… Founder of Indigo Digital Press and The Landa Group, known as the father of commercial digital printing, Benny Landa… Johns Hopkins University professor and a pioneer in the field of cancer genomics, Dr. Bert Vogelstein… Writer-at-large for New Yorkmagazine, Frank Rich… Chief development officer at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Jordan E. Tannenbaum… Commissioner of the National Hockey League since 1993, Gary Bettman… Carla Beth Sanchez… Holiday and weekend cantor at the Los Angeles Jewish Home for The Aged, Ben Zion Kogen… Former board chair of Sapir Academic College in the western Negev, he was one of Israel’s senior peace negotiators at the Camp David summit in 2000, Gilead Sher… Founder of Newark-based IDT Corp and numerous affiliates and spinoffs including an energy exploration company, Genie Energy, Howard S. Jonas… Dinorah Cecilia Baroody… General manager of Harmonie Club, Davina Weinstein… Radio and television talk show host, Andy Cohen… President of Marvel Studios and chief creative officer for Marvel Comics, Marvel Television and Marvel Animation, Kevin Feige… Special counsel focused on land use and zoning at NYC-based law firm Goldstein Hall, Jessica Ashenberg Loeser… SVP of EnTrust Global, Jordan David Kaplan… Director of technology at Santa Monica-based Action Network, Jason S. Rosenbaum… Grandmaster chess player, she won the 2004 Israel Women’s Chess Championship, Bella Igla Gesser… Equestrian show jumper, she represented Israel at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Danielle “Dani” Goldstein Waldman… Co-founder of The Wing and owner of Six Bells, Audrey H. Gelman… Director of growth at Phantom Auto, Jared R. Fleitman… Manager for policy implementation in the New York State Office of cannabis management, Benjamin G. Sheridan… Theater, television and film actor best known for his lead role in “SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical,” Ethan Slater… Israeli K-Pop singer, whose first two songs at 17 years old both topped Israeli airplay charts, she is now in the IDF, Ella-Lee Lahav…
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