Your Daily Phil: Federations and the crypto crash + Harvard Chabad’s $5 million endowment
Good Friday morning!
In today’s Your Daily Phil, we report on a rare $5 million endowment for a campus Chabad, and feature a column by Y.U.’s Erica Brown on the weekly Torah portion. Also in this newsletter: SBF, Jeff Bezos and Lisa Armony. We’ll start with some reactions to the recent upheaval in the crypto market.
In early February, a webinar called “Let’s Decrypt Crypto!” gave some 70 attendees a primer on what cryptocurrencies were, how they worked and what costs and benefits they presented when given as donations. It was sponsored by the Jewish Federations of North America and Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies and at the time, JFNA told eJewishPhilanthropy, a handful of federations accepted donations in bitcoin and other digital currencies.
Nine months later, the crypto market is in chaos. Since the February webinar, bitcoin has lost more than half of its value and Three Arrows Capital, a major crypto hedge fund, has been liquidated. Last week, FTX, a major crypto exchange founded by former billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried, filed for bankruptcy after a liquidity crisis prompted by allegations of questionable business practices. Charities supported by SBF, as he is known, may lose out on grants they were expecting.
In light of this new reality, should federations and other nonprofits still pursue donations in cryptocurrency? Andrew Epstein, the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey’s managing director of finance and administration, told eJP in February regarding bitcoin, “It’s worth it to test it, because we do want to reach a broader audience.” Prior to the webinar, the federation had received more than $1 million in crypto from a 32-year-old, with the money split between a direct donation and a deposit into an account at a donor-advised fund.
Speaking to eJP yesterday, Epstein said the decline of bitcoin hasn’t hurt his federation, as it accepts its crypto donations through the Giving Block, a service that takes in the donation and immediately exchanges it for dollars. Because of that, he said, he sees no reason to remove the option of giving via crypto, though he acknowledged that “we might slow down our activity.”
“It’s no different than what happens if someone donates stock to us,” he said. “It’s a good way to still attract younger donors or a different group of donors… I would advise you to get the money in cash, just for ease. That keeps you out of the crypto business.”
JFNA is taking the same approach, though its director of communications, Niv Elis, told eJP local federations haven’t inquired about it since the crash began. “The systems we advised local federations to use… converted crypto donations to cash upon receipt, so we haven’t been holding onto crypto assets or anything like that,” he told eJP. “As such, we haven’t had to change anything about our approach, though with the crash of some of these markets we expect less enthusiasm around cryptocurrency and, thus, fewer donations in terms of that particular asset.”
The Giving Block says its system remains safe for the 2,000 nonprofits that use it. Co-founder Alex Wilson told the Chronicle of Philanthropy that the FTX collapse reflected “one bad actor” and not a larger problem with “crypto itself.”
But even as his federation has continued to accept bitcoin gifts, Epstein is cautious. “I would never take my federation’s money and say, ‘Let’s hold it in bitcoin for the next year and see what happens,” he said. “We’re not about to invest our endowment in bitcoin.”
Harvard Chabad, a citywide Jewish empire, gets a new endowment
In September, 25 years after Rabbi Hirschy Zarchi and his wife Elkie established a Chabad center at Harvard, they received a $5 million donation that will become a rare endowment fund for a campus Chabad, called the Endowment for Jewish Leadership, reports Gabby Deutch for eJewishPhilanthropy.
The details: The gift came from Omri Dahan, a Bay Area-based Harvard Business School alum who has held executive positions at several successful startups, and his wife Jackie. The donation will endow Zarchi’s position and establish the Dahan Fellowship for Leadership, a yearlong leadership and educational program for Jewish students. A pilot program this year will include up to six fellows, but Dahan hopes that in a decade, there will be “several hundred fellows who’ve gone through this program.”
A growing presence: Since they arrived in 1997, the Zarchis’ domain has grown from the classic campus Chabad house setup — a mom-and-pop operation that hosts Shabbat dinners and offers other religious and social events for students — to an empire of sorts, with three other Chabad centers for students, four preschools and a new Jewish day school that will soon run from kindergarten through second grade.
Coming full circle: “I don’t think that you can call us just a campus Chabad,” said Elkie Zarchi, who is the head of school at Preschool of the Arts, which has 215 students — many of them the children of Harvard graduate students, alumni or faculty — in day care through pre-K at locations across Cambridge. “It just feels like a full circle. It just feels like you’re dealing with the same community at different ages and stages in their life.”
the torah of leadership
‘I Will’: Parshat Chayei Sarah
“I once tasked a group of leaders to come up with a six-word mission statement in the spirit of Ernest Hemingway’s famous six-word short story. A person in the back of the room shared, in six words, a life lesson he carried with him from his father: ‘Always do the right thing. Period.’ These six simple words continue to give him moral clarity. Rebecca, in this week’s parsha, has her own two words of clarity: ‘I will,’” writes Erica Brown in a column for eJewishPhilanthropy.
Moment of truth: “Rebecca had a moment when a complex decision suddenly became abundantly clear. Eliezer, Abraham’s servant, was tasked with finding Isaac a wife. He traveled to relatives of the family and devised a test of kindness. This, above all other qualities, was essential for a member of Abraham and Sarah’s household. Rebecca’s kindness, we are told, took the form of watering Eliezer’s many camels. Camels consume great amounts of water; the offer to provide them with water was a sure sign that Eliezer had identified Isaac’s future soulmate. Later, Rebecca rode one of those camels to meet Isaac. She was kind to the camels, and one of those camels, it seems, reciprocated. Rebecca was so taken with Isaac upon first sight that she actually fell off her camel!”
Forward thinking: “Later, after negotiating with the family, Eliezer wanted to take Rebecca back to his people. The group sought out Rebecca’s opinion, and with that same confidence and clarity she displayed earlier, Rebecca responded. She was asked, ‘“Will you go with this man?” and she said, “I will”’ (Gen. 24:58). Rashi explains Rebecca’s assertion; she would go of her own accord even if her family did not consent. Rebecca knew her own mind. Rashi’s grandson, Rabbi Samuel ben Meir, known as the Rashbam, adds that it was common courtesy to ask the bride if she wanted to spend her engagement period with her family or go to her new family. In saying ‘I will,’ Rebecca was confirming her desire to make her future happen rather than waiting for it. Rebecca looked forward. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, whose yahrzeit was this week, advises us to always do the right thing. Period. ‘Don’t wait for the world to get better. Take the initiative yourself. The world is waiting for you’ (Covenant and Conversation, ‘The World is Waiting for You’). When you have lucidity on the course of action before you, don’t wait another minute. And Rebecca didn’t.”
‘Effective Altruism’ Anxiety: The Washington Post’s Nitasha Tiku spotlights the concept of “effective altruism,” promoted by FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried, and questions its future in the wake of FTX’s collapse. “Now EA is at a crossroads. Money expected to fund the next phase of growth has evaporated, while questions have arisen about whether money already donated to speculative EA projects was unethically obtained. EA leaders also face questions about what they knew about the business dealings of a billionaire whose reputation they helped burnish. Meanwhile FTX’s collapse has raised existential concerns: In its current state, would EA survive its own calculation as a force for good?” [WaPo]
Giving (Most of) It Away: CNBC’s Tom Huddleston Jr. looks at Jeff Bezos’ pledge to give away most of his fortune, and the challenges the Amazon founder may experience in attempting to do so. “‘To the extent that he has a lot of money, it’s a big deal,’ Benjamin Soskis, a senior research associate at the Urban Institute’s Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy, tells CNBC Make It. Soskis points out that Bezos’ announcement still leaves a lot of questions unanswered. The billionaire and Amazon founder did not offer many specifics on how he plans to divvy up his massive wealth or which issues and charitable causes he might favor over others. If anything, Bezos admitted that he’s still working out the details — and he implied that he wants to ensure he can get bang for his buck. ‘The hard part is figuring out how to do it in a levered way,’ Bezos told CNN.” [CNBC]
Around the Web
The Jewish Community Free Clinic in Santa Rosa, Calif., was awarded a $100,000 grant from a local giving circle that it will use to upgrade its recordkeeping system and expand outreach.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundationplans to spend $7 billion on projects in Africa, focusing on health, gender equality and farming.
Hillel International has hired Lisa Armony as executive director of its Campus Climate Initiative, which aims to keep students safe in the face of antisemitism. Armony comes to the job from the Jewish Federation of Orange County, Calif., where she has served as chief impact officer and director of its Rose Project, which also focuses on Jewish campus life.
The Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles awarded $2.5 million to 10 organizations focused on combating hate and antisemitism; supporting mental health; reaching out to diverse audiences; and supporting vulnerable populations.
Pic of the Day
Actor Julianna Margulies appears at an event last week at New York City’s Museum of Jewish Heritage, where she has given a donation that will fund a new program to train Holocaust educators.
U.S. ambassador to Germany after 18 years as president of the University of Pennsylvania, Amy Gutmann celebrates her birthday on Saturday…
FRIDAY: Roberta “Bobbie” Goldstein… Israeli theoretical physicist, who at age 27 became a professor and then later president of the Weizmann Institute, Haim Harari… Potomac, Md., resident, Richard Gorman… National director of major gifts for the American Committee for the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, Paul Jeser… Lecturer at Boston University School of Law, Eric D. Roiter… Atlanta resident, Lynda Wolfe… Israeli cantor and actor, known for his Broadway performance as Jean Valjean in “Les Misérables,” David “Dudu” Fisher… Professor of immunology at Columbia University, Walter Ian Lipkin… Former U.S. ambassador to South Africa, she is a luxury handbag designer, Lana J. Marks… Singer-songwriter, he is also the author of a popular Passover Haggadah, Barry Louis Polisar… Longtime former play-by-play sportscaster for the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers, Marc Zumoff… Former mayor of Dallas, Laura Miller… SVP and general counsel of HSP Group and ARF Financial, Robert Bruce Lapidus… Moroccan-born, member of the Knesset since 2003 for the Shas party, Yaakov Margi… NYC-based writer, activist and performer, Shira Dicker… Washington correspondent for The New York Times covering health policy, Sheryl Gay Stolberg… Retired Baltimore attorney who devotes her time to philanthropic and pro-Israel activities, Laurie Luskin… Rabbi of Burbank Temple Emanu El and national coordinator of Rabbis Without Borders, Tsafreer “Tsafi” Lev… Member of the Knesset for the Yesh Atid party, Michal Shir Segman… Real estate agent at Coldwell Banker Timberland Properties in the Catskills, Talia Fadis… Israeli singer-songwriter and music producer, Elisha Banai…
SATURDAY: Retired New York State Supreme Court judge, whose tenure on the television program “The People’s Court” was far shorter than that of his wife “Judge Judy,” Jerry Sheindlin… Attorney, investment banker and former U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom, Louis B. Susman… Professor of chemistry at Stanford University, Richard Neil Zare… Fifteen-term member in the U.S. House of Representatives (D-NY), since 2018 he is a partner in Gotham Government Relations, Gary Ackerman… Fashion designer Calvin Klein… Founder and president of the Washington-based Arab American Institute, James J. Zogby… Los Angeles-based real estate investor, Sydney Ilene Cetner… Owner of Patty’s Piano Studio in Santa Monica, Calif., Patricia Fiden… Cosmetic dentist and chairman of Akelos, Inc., Steven Fox, DDS… California State senator, Robert Myles “Bob” Hertzberg… Dean and professor of Jewish history, literature and law at Yeshiva University, Rabbi Dr. Ephraim Kanarfogel… Hollywood screenwriter, producer, director and lyricist, best known as the writer of “Being John Malkovich,” Charlie Kaufman… Angel investor and president of Sunrise Financial Group, Nathan Low… Retired member of the Knesset for the Kulanu party, he served as Israel’s minister of finance, Moshe Kahlon… Co-president of NORPAC New York and a partner in a Brooklyn-based law firm, Trudy Stern… Co-president of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, Lisa Eisen… Founder of World Values Network, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach… Director of state and local government affairs for SAIC, Eric Finkbeiner… Director of Forbes Impact Lab and assistant managing editor at Forbes, Seth Cohen… Member of the New York State Assembly since 2005, Andrew D. Hevesi… New York Times best-selling novelist, she is also a professor at Rutgers University-Camden, Lauren Grodstein… Digital director and executive editor of Time Magazine, Samuel P. Jacobs… Associate director at Northwestern University Hillel, Rachel Hillman… Senior account director at Sunshine Sachs, Michael Dale-Stein… Managing director at Climate Power, John D. Axelrod… Bloomberg News correspondent until earlier this month, Ivan Levingston…
SUNDAY: Art dealer and former owner of MLB’s Miami Marlins, Jeffrey Loria… President of the United States, Joe Biden… Singer and songwriter best known for writing and performing the song “Spirit in the Sky,” Norman Greenbaum… Former national security advisor in the Trump administration, John R. Bolton… Major-general (reserves) in the IDF, he is a former combat pilot and head of Aman, Amos Yadlin… Long-time spokesman (now emeritus) to the foreign press at the Jewish Agency for Israel, Michael Jankelowitz… Pulitzer Prize-winning national affairs writer for The Wall Street Journal, Ronald Steven “Ron” Suskind… White House official in both the Bush 41 and Bush 43 administrations, now a partner at Kirkland & Ellis, Jay P. Lefkowitz… Pianist, composer and author, Robin Spielberg… Fashion designer, hotelier and real estate developer, active in his native Buenos Aires and Miami Beach, Alan Faena… Vice chair of the board of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and a trustee of the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles, Heidi Monkarsh… Deputy assistant director at the National Science Foundation, Graciela Narcho… American-born former member of Knesset for the Likud party, Yehudah Glick… Rapper and founding member of the hip hop group the Beastie Boys, Michael Louis Diamond, better known as Mike D… Founder and president of Greenlight Capital, David Einhorn… Boston-based real estate attorney at Goulston & Storrs, Zev D. Gewurz… Anchor for Yahoo Finance, Julie Hyman… Opposition research specialist and founder of Beehive Research, Devorah Adler… Executive director at Aish HaTorah, Rabbi Benjamin Gonsher… Outfielder for four MLB teams, he played for Team Israel at the 2017 World Baseball Classic, he is now the general manager of the Philadelphia Phillies, Sam Fuld… Director for North America at the Saban Family Foundation and the Cheryl Saban Self-Worth Foundation for Women & Girls, Jesse Bronner… Actress and writer, Margo Stilley… Actress and playwright, Halley Feiffer… Deputy health care editor for Politico, Dan Goldberg… Alexis Weiss…
Email Editor@eJewishPhilanthropy.com to have your birthday included.