Your Daily Phil: FIDF tweaks message ahead of fundraising bulk up + American students welcomed back to Israel


Good Tuesday morning!

Alexander Muss High School has welcomed a planeload of 241 American high school and college students back to Israel, Rabbi Mitch Malkus, the head of the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville, Md., told eJewishPhilanthropy. The high school has two locations, one in a youth village near Tel Aviv and one outside Be’er Sheva, that typically host students from all over the world. It operates under the auspices of the Jewish National Fund-USA (JNF-USA).

The CESJDS seniors were among the other students on an El Al Boeing 787 chartered by JNF-USA. All of the students were required to be tested for COVID-19 on April 2. They wore masks on the plane and will quarantine for 10 days after arrival in Israel. Unvaccinated students might be able to receive their shots in Israel, Malkus said.

The website and app KAHAL, which connects students traveling abroad to Jewish experiences, has announced that Arya Marvazy will become its next CEO in mid-May. Executive director Alex Jakubowski, who founded the Chicago-based organization seven years ago, will take a spot on the organization’s board of directors. Marvazy comes to KAHAL from a job as managing director at JQ International, an LGBTQ Jewish group in Los Angeles, and has also worked at Hillel of San Diego and Hillel International’s Washington, D.C. headquarters. 

Former New York City mayor and billionaire philanthropist Michael Bloomberg is cheering the reopening of the Tribeca Film Festival, which will hold its 20th annual event outdoors in June, when the weather is warmer, instead of earlier in the spring, as usual. “Just as we’ve done from the start, Bloomberg is glad to support this great tradition, which will once again help lift our city’s spirit,” a statement from Bloomberg Philanthropies said.

Most people do not have a clear definition of the word “charity,” according to a survey of 1,000 Americans by Grey Matter Research, which discovered that most people believe a charity is something supported only by donations. That definition would exclude institutions like schools, which receive tuition and federations, which receive government funds and museums. While 90% of people believe homeless shelters are charities, only 10% believe universities are.

Soldiering On

FIDF to bulk up its fundraising staff, tweak message


The Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) is expanding its fundraising staff and broadening its message in an effort to reach younger donors and reverse a sharp decline in fundraising revenue that predates the coronavirus pandemic. “People think we are a military organization, but we’re not,” Rabbi Peter Weintraub, FIDF’s board chair, told eJewishPhilanthropy. “The focus of the FIDF is the welfare of Israeli soldiers, but the army in Israel has a very unique role in the development of Israeli society. The army is the melting pot.”

A level playing field: FIDF helps active-duty Israeli soldiers by building housing and recreational centers on military bases. It also supports programs that try to harness the army as a force for equity and diversity, said Rabbi Steven Weil, who became the group’s CEO this past September. One program, Magshimim, aims to help soldiers who come from difficult backgrounds gain access to elite units, such as those that work on cybersecurity; a newer program, Mamriot, is designed to help disadvantaged young women. The FIDF’s ability to create a more level playing field is a winning pitch to Jews in their 40s and 50s, staffers believe. They are now putting a new emphasis on programs that help ensure that kind of equality. 

New priorities: The Israeli government determines the organization’s fundraising priorities by telling the FIDF what it needs, Weil said, but this year, the group may not be able to fulfill the government requests due to the plunge in fundraising. Due to the impact of the pandemic on the economy, the number of soldiers entering service from families under the poverty line jumped from an average of 8,000 annually to 35,000. The government has asked FIDF for $8 million — which the group has not yet been able to raise, Weil told eJP — to help keep those soldiers enlisted instead of leaving in order to help support their families.

Read the full article here.

COVID reflections

We’re never going back

Elizabeth McGuire Photography

“It has been a year since my office was relocated to my home, my children’s education became an online experience, and Zoom became my son’s bar mitzvah venue,” writes Jennifer Zwilling in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

At home: “While I miss my colleagues and the company of friends, these shifts in our lives – both big and small – have also brought new opportunities and traditions, including regular hikes and nightly dinners together, that my family will likely not leave behind once we emerge from our homes.”

At work: “Similarly, when college campuses emptied last spring, every Hillel altered its approach to meeting the organization’s mission of enriching the lives of Jewish students. Gone were chance meetings on the quad, welcome weeks, festive Shabbat meals and trips to Israel… The transition was arduous and disrupted how Hillels have operated for most of the last century. But at the same time, a year without a traditional game plan for student engagement led to some great creativity and experimentation.”

Read the complete piece here.


Poems that exceed the limits of language: A review of: ‘Poems Born in Bergen-Belsen’


“The Holocaust, it has been said, exceeds the limits of language. Capturing the horror, the trauma, the indelible scars and guilt can often be accomplished solely by poetry. This is what Menachem Z. Rosensaft masterfully does in his stirring new collection,” writes Michael Oren in a review of Rosensaft’s recently published Poems Born in Bergen-Belsen

The poet: “Born in the Bergen-Belsen Displaced Persons camp in 1948, Rosensaft was raised by survivor parents, both of whom had lost their entire families in the Holocaust. This instilled in him a deep sense of loss and commitment to memory that has guided him throughout his life. As associate executive vice president and general counsel to the World Jewish Congress, teacher at Columbia and Cornell Law Schools, and a member for many years of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, he has been at the forefront of efforts to fight racism, anti-Semitism, and genocide. But now, drawing on his emotional reservoir, he has produced a compelling collection of verse.”

Read the full review here.

Worthy Reads

Timely Gift: Haleluya Hadero reports in the Associated Press that John and Laura Arnold, the billionaire philanthropists encouraging timelier donations through donor-advised funds, are modeling that behavior by committing to donate 5% of their wealth annually. The Arnolds are the first billionaires to sign the advocacy organization Global Citizen’s “Give While You Live” pledge; they have also signed Bill and Melinda Gates’ “Giving Pledge” to give a majority of their wealth away. “Right now, many charities are in danger of not surviving the pandemic. Yet more than $1 trillion promised to them remains warehoused in tax-free investment accounts,” John Arnold said. [AP]

Pandemic Profits: Vox and Data for Progress conducted a poll of likely voters in February to survey American attitudes toward billionaires — their surging wealth, philanthropic endeavors and political power, reports Theodore Schleifer. Americans tend to feel that it is not wrong to live in a society with such enormous concentrations of wealth, but that billionaires’ increase in wealth during the pandemic was unfair. “The data suggests that gone are the days when the ultra-wealthy could count on widespread admiration as job creators, titans of industry, and thought leaders,” Schleifer concludes. [Vox]

Word Association: In Tablet, James Kirchick reviews a documentary, “Mighty Ira,” about Ira Glasser, former executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a Brooklynite whose liberalism was formed in horror at the racism suffered by Jackie Robinson. Glasser’s belief in free speech was politically neutral, recognizing the rights of prisoners, welfare recipients, LGBTQ people and even Nazis. Since Glasser’s retirement in 2001, the ACLU has compromised his ideals, Kirchick concludes: After the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, the ACLU said it would not defend “speech that denigrates” and “impedes progress toward equality.” [TabletMag]

Blue Moods: Nearly 700 New York Times readers shared their experiences of pandemic-related burnout with the publication, and Sarah Lyall combines them with personal experience and data into an exploration of people’s struggles to take pleasure in the activities of daily life. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent Household Pulse Survey shows that 37% of people are feeling anxious or depressed, compared with 11% in 2019. Spiritual practice is helping people lift their moods: “I’ve come to rely very much on the story of the Exodus,” a clergyperson told the Times. [NYT]

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Word on the Street

The New York Lawyers for the Public Interest and Nonprofit New York have issued a 25-page guide to help nonprofits navigate legal questions about returning to work and best practices for maintaining a safe workplace… Israeli celebrities are using Instagram to connect Gen-Z to Holocaust stories… Ford Foundation President Darren Walker told “60 Minutes” on Sunday that inequality is “undoing the very fabric of America”… Israeli government ministers voted yesterday to extend until May 4th the requirement that travelers be tested for COVID-19 before coming to Israel…

Pic of the Day


The UJA-Federation of NY announced yesterday that it raised $50,000 for coronavirus relief over the Passover holiday through a matching grant that pledged $18 for each social media post tagged #MatzahChallenge that showcased an appetizing way to eat matzah.


David Shankbone via Wikimedia Commons

Actor and director, Zachary Israel “Zach” Braff… 
Professor of biochemistry at the University of Washington and the 1992 winner of the Nobel Prize in medicine, Edmond H. Fischer… Former justice of the Supreme Court of Israel, she is the aunt of Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, Shoshana Netanyahu… Educator often considered the founder of the modern small schools movement, Deborah Meier… Holocaust survivor, visual artist, textile designer and art teacher, Helen Berman… Professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering, Mark Mordecai Green… Head of MTV Documentary Films, Sheila Nevins… Academy Award-winning best director for Rain Man (1988), and director of Diner (1982), Good Morning Vietnam (1987), Bugsy (1991) and Wag the Dog (1997), Barry Levinson… Santa Monica-based poet, critic and teacher, Nancy Shiffrin… Founder and chairman of Cognex Corporation and a major donor to Technion and FIDF, Robert J. Shillman… Founder and CEO of Emmis Communications, and the former owner of the Seattle Mariners, Jeff Smulyan… Political activist, artist and author, Mary Fisher… Director of the digital deception project at MapLight, Ann Ravel… Los Angeles-based playwright, performer and teacher of autobiographical storytelling, Stacie Chaiken… Film director, Rob Epstein… Scholar of piyyut and head of the Fleischer Institute for the Study of Hebrew Poetry, Shulamit Elizur… Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of North Carolina School of Law, Michael J. Gerhardt… Senior political analyst for CNN and a senior editor at The Atlantic, Ronald J. Brownstein… Director, screenwriter and producer of TV comedies, Steven LevitanDeborah Granow… CEO of the Motion Picture Association, he was previously the U.S. Ambassador to France, Charles Hammerman Rivkin… Reporter for The New York Times, Glenn Thrush… Screenwriter and director, Doug Ellin… Serial entrepreneur, Richard Rosenblatt… Israel’s former Consul General in New York, now CEO of Israeli private equity fund Amelia Investments, Asaf Shariv… Founder and chief investment officer of Hong Kong-based Oasis Management Company, he serves as Vice Chairman of the Ohel Leah Synagogue in Hong Kong, Seth Hillel Fischer… AIPAC’s senior development director for the Northeast Region, Jay Haberman… Teacher of classical mandolin at Mannes College in NYC, Joseph Brent… Resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and the founding editor of National Affairs, Yuval Levin… Co-founder and executive editor of Modern Loss and story editor for Chalkbeat Indiana and New York, Gabrielle Birkner… Member of the Knesset for Likud, Shlomo Karai… Chef, best known as the winner of the second season of Bravo television’s Top Chef, Ilan Hall… Associate director of regional offices at AJC Global, Jacob Millner… Head coach of the New York Institute of Technology Division II NCAA men’s basketball team, Evan Conti