Your Daily Phil: Funders and Israel’s government + Recapping the Prizmah conference

Good Wednesday morning!

In today’s Your Daily Phil, we examine how funders are responding to the opening days of the new Israeli government and talk to Prizmah CEO Paul Bernstein about the day school group’s conference, which concluded yesterday. We also feature an op-ed by Sinai Temple’s Rabbi Erez Sherman on sports and religion. Also in this newsletter: Carly Maisel, Steven Spielberg, Julia Garner, Damar Hamlin and Hannah Henza. We’ll start with a report from March of the Living’s gala last night in Miami.

The 35th anniversary gala of the International March of the Living in Miami last night saw a rare instance of bipartisanship when David Friedman, the U.S. ambassador to Israel during the Donald Trump administration, announced that he would be leading the next march at Auschwitz in April alongside his successor, Ambassador Tom Nides, who was appointed by President Joe Biden.   

“This year, there’s not just going to be a government delegation leading the March of the Living, but there’s going to be a true U.S. bipartisan delegation of Democrats of all stripes and Republicans of all stripes, and a bunch of celebrities,” said Friedman, who was a co-chair of the gala. “And we are going to tell the world not in words but in deeds that all of us… no matter what our political views, we all stand together in remembering the Holocaust, in committing to ‘Never again,’ and in committing to fight against antisemitism.”

The main honorees of the night were Ron Dermer, who previously served as Israel’s ambassador to the United States and now serves as the Israeli minister of strategic affairs, and his wife Rhoda. The event also included a tribute to Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, the former Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Israel.

Speaking at the gala, Dermer recounted an instance when, while serving as ambassador, he visited Majdanek, the Nazi death camp, which he called “the most surreal moment that I’ve had… in my entire life.” While outside the camp’s crematorium, he received a secure call from Israel’s and the United States’ national security advisers about an impending American airstrike in Syria and how Israel would be involved in the operation.

“While this call is happening, and while we were talking about who’s going to bomb what when, I had an image of a five-story chimney to my left and a three-story mound of human ash to my right — the ultimate symbol of Jewish powerlessness — and here I was, privileged to be the ambassador of the sovereign Jewish state of Israel, speaking to the most important ally that we have.”

Later, he added, “What is the lesson of the Holocaust to the Jews? Is the lesson that we have to teach tolerance? Did we need 6 million to die to teach tolerance?… We didn’t need the Holocaust to teach tolerance. The lesson of the Holocaust is that the Jewish people need power. That’s the lesson of the Holocaust.”

Dermer — who has served for decades as a close adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — said that his top two priorities as minister were ensuring that Iran does not obtain the means to destroy Israel, and to “expand the circle of peace” between Israel and countries in the Arab world that grew out the 2020 Abraham Accords. He also hopes that Israel “will be the most important ally of the United States in the 21st century.”

“??Prime Minister Netanyahu is determined to expand [the circle of peace], and we hope to work very closely with the Biden administration,” Dermer said. “I think the policy towards Iran is a critical part of expanding that because I think it opens the space for Arab leaders to move into a public alliance with Israel as we face this common enemy together.”

new era

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds a cabinet meeting at the Knesset on Jan. 8, 2023.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds a cabinet meeting at the Knesset on Jan. 8, 2023.

When he looks at Israel’s new government, Honeymoon Israel co-CEO Avi Rubel isn’t afraid that its proposed policies will alienate the core funders of his organization, which brings young Jewish or intermarried couples on group trips to the Jewish state. But he does worry that the policies of the new right-wing government may dissuade people who could be new donors, he told eJewishPhilanthropy’s Ben Sales. “We have funders who are concerned about whether Israel and North American communities are drifting too far apart, but mostly that points to the need to put even more emphasis on doing the work that we’re doing,” he said. “But there are new people who we might want to bring in, which becomes even harder.”

Wait and see: Funders and organizational leaders in the U.S. and Israel, speaking to eJP, said they’re largely taking a “wait-and-see” approach to the government, which is led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and was sworn in on Dec. 29. They said they are keeping their eyes on which proposals from the coalition partners become enacted into law, and which promises do not come to fruition.

In-between: “When new governments and coalitions come into place, it’s always this in-between period of knowing what the campaign promises are, if you will, versus seeing what policies are in place… It makes it a little harder to organize until you know exactly where things land,” Sheila Katz, the CEO of the National Council of Jewish Women, told eJP. “When elected officials say they want to take away our rights, we have to take that very seriously and we have to organize.”

Speaking out: “What we’re thinking of is not abandoning any programs, but really leaning into making sure that we’re investing in Israeli society, making sure that our partners on the ground are thinking about these issues, making sure that we’re doing all we can locally to bring as many young people to Israel as possible,” Lonnie Nasatir, president of the Jewish United Fund, Chicago’s Jewish federation, told eJP. But he added, “If there are going to be some issues that come down the pike that we think are going to inflame or potentially set back relationships between Israel and the Diaspora community, we will exert our voice when appropriate.”

Read the full story here.


Takeaways from Prizmah’s first in-person conference since 2019

Attendees at Prizmah's 2023 conference.
Attendees at Prizmah’s 2023 conference.

At Prizmah’s three-day biennial conference, which concluded yesterday in Denver, the more than 1,000 participants were bullish about attendance figures at Jewish day schools that have remained high after two years of gains during the pandemic. Now, the umbrella organization for those schools is turning its attention to an area where, its leaders say, numbers are flagging: among the educators themselves, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Ben Sales.

Working group: Prizmah announced at the conference that, in partnership with the Jewish Education Innovation Challenge, it will be convening a working group of school administrators, teachers and other practitioners in the field to meet over the course of a year and come up with solutions to increase recruitment and retention among Jewish educators. One priority is “making sure that a career as a Jewish educator is really a valued and rewarded career,” Prizmah CEO Paul Bernstein told eJP. “There is clearly a compensation issue that affects teachers as well.”

Overview: The conference’s sessions concerned everything from Israel education to tuition affordability to increasing diversity in schools. Breakout sessions covered topics including, “Girls + Computer Science = A World of Opportunities,” “Making a Big Bet on Day Schools: A Funder Conversation” and “The Numbers are Low: How to Quickly and Strategically Grow Your Applicant Pool.” The keynote speaker was Tal Ben-Shahar, a lecturer on positive psychology who spoke to the audience about ways to improve mental health and address trauma. The conference also featured a group of educational futurists from Stanford University.

Read the full story here.

play ball

“As 2022 was coming to a close, Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff convened an important roundtable to tackle antisemitism in the United States. And just a week later, the Biden administration committed to address this rapidly growing problem at the highest level of government, establishing an interagency committee aimed at combating antisemitism. As federal leaders set out on this essential work in the new year, there is also an opportunity — for faith leaders, nonprofits and entire communities — that involves the positive power of sports to unite, rather than divide,” writes Rabbi Erez Sherman, a rabbi at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles and host of the podcast “Rabbi On The Sidelines: The Intersection of Sports And Faith,” in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Sitting out Shabbat: “As a rabbi for the last 13 years in Los Angeles, home to the second-largest Jewish population in the United States, my equal passions for sports and faith go hand-in-hand. Growing up an observant Jew in Syracuse, N.Y., I played varsity basketball. My teammate — and co-captain — was an African-American Seventh Day Adventist. The two of us were of different religions and races but shared a common ritual; we would not compete on the Sabbath. When game schedules could not be changed, our teammates would visit us in our respective faith communities and learned our customs. It strengthened their own faith and commitment to what they believed, a mutual respect that built deep relationships that endure decades later.”

On and off the court: “When you spend your childhood on a basketball court, on a baseball diamond and in a sanctuary, you meet people of different races, people of different religious beliefs, and people who you would otherwise never interact with in daily life. Differences disappear when the game is tied, and the ultimate goal of winning causes color blindness. Participating in sports provides this unique space. And when the game ends, and we return to our homes, schools, houses of worship and insular communities, we have an opportunity, an obligation actually, to continue this work off the court as well.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Form and Function: The IRS Form 990, which most nonprofits must complete annually, can be “a comprehensive guide to running an effective nonprofit organization” and “a predictor of future funding success,” Pete Kimbis writes in NonProfitPRO. “To put the 990’s importance into context, it is arguably more important than your credit report, line of credit and social media postings. It is not something to get out of the way or to do because it needs to be done. Its content has a legitimate and significant impact on your organization’s future revenue and viability… Use the 990 as a guide as you run and operate your business. Set it on your desk. It’s a reminder that what you do will be communicated to the world. It can speak to your accomplishments for your largest program services. The 990 can serve as a guide to best practices as you run and manage your organization. It is the best way to position yourself for philanthropic funding as well. Granted, the 990 reflects what you do every day, so if your organization is a mess, then the 990 can’t clean that up for you. You’re not going to approach a commercial lender with a poor credit score. Neither should you expect financial funding with a subpar 990.” [NonProfitPRO]

Streaming Philanthropy: 
Millennials who grew up playing video games are joining nonprofits’ livestreams and contributing to streaming fundraisers, Emily Haynes writes in The Chronicle of Philanthropy. “Anthony Marinos, director of business development and partnerships at the nonprofit Charity: Water, grew up playing video games and pushed the charity to experiment more with fundraising on streaming platforms. Now 38 and still gaming, Marinos says plenty of other adults like him first picked up a Nintendo controller as a kid and never looked back. In total, streamers have raised $2.5 million for Charity: Water. The nonprofit marked its 16th anniversary in September by launching Stream for Clean, a monthlong campaign to raise $500,000 — a ‘stretch goal,’ according to Marinos. The charity fell far short of that and lowered its target, aiming to raise $200,000 through streaming by the end of the year. Still, Marinos is no less bullish on streaming — in part because of its broad appeal… ‘Video games are practically a universal language,’ says Marcus Howard, a consultant who helps nonprofits and companies run esport events. ‘They transcend age, race, gender, and geography.’” [ChronicleofPhilanthropy]

Around the Web

The JCC Association of North America has launched the Martin Pear Israel Fellowship, an 18-month program designed to strengthen JCC employees’ connection with Israel. The fellowship has an initial cohort of 19 early tenure employees from across the network of Jewish community centers, and  includes a year of education as a cohort, along with a group trip to Israel and six months in which the fellows will implement projects focused on Israel programming…

The Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County received a $10 million donation from Stacey and Mark Levy to create a Center for Israel & Overseas in their name. The Levy Center will focus on the federation’s programming and funding related to Israel and international Jewish communities…

The City University of New York has given the Bronx Community College $24,000 to address discrimination, including antisemitism, on campus

Steven Spielberg‘s “The Fablemans,” loosely based on his life and family, won the award for Best Motion Picture – Drama, and he won Best Director — Motion Picture, at last night’s Golden Globes ceremony in Los Angeles. In his acceptance speech for best director, Spielberg told the audience, “I think … there’s five people happier than I am. There’s my sister Anne, my sister Sue, my sister Nancy, my dad Arnold and my mom. She is up there kvelling about this right now.” Jewish composer Justin Hurwitz also took home the award for Best Original Score — Motion Picture for “Babylon,” and Jewish actress Julia Garner won Best Actress in a Limited Series for “Ozark…”

Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin, who suffered a cardiac arrest in the middle of a game last week, plans to use the $8.6 million raised by a GoFundMe campaign to support young people through education and sports. He will also sell T-shirts to raise money for the trauma center in Cincinnati that treated him. Hamlin is still hospitalized, but is in “good spirits,” according to the team

Kirsh Foundation Global CEO Carly Maisel discussed the “Shine a Light” campaign on the latest edition of the Jewish Funders Network’s “What Gives?” podcast…

Hannah Henza was named director of networks and leadership at Limmud North America…

Pic of the Day

Participants gather for the iCenter’s January 2023 seminar titled “Creating a Culture of Israel Education,” which met earlier this month in the Chicago suburb of Northbrook, Ill.


WASHINGTON – MAY 01: Wolf Blitzer and Lynn Blitzer attend Jason Binn’s Niche Media’s WHCAD after party with Bing at the Renaissance Washington D.C. Hotel on May 1, 2010 in Washington City. (Photo by Paul Morigi/WireImage For Niche Media)

Noted gardener and florist, pictured here with her husband, Wolf, Lynn Blitzer

Psychologist and the author of 26 books, he lectures at NYU, Michael Eigen… Retired judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago, author of 40 books on jurisprudence and economics, Richard Posner… Violinist and music teacher, Shmuel Ashkenasi… Film, television and theater director, Joel Zwick… Las Vegas resident, Stephen Norman Needleman… Economist and professor of banking at Columbia University, he was a member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, Frederic Stanley “Rick” Mishkin… Professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and chief of experimental medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, he is the author of five books, Dr. Jerome E. Groopman… Former member of the Canadian House of Commons, Susan Kadis… Former director general of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Avi Gil… CEO of Sense Education, an AI company, Seth Haberman… Attorney, author, speaker and activist, Brian Cuban… VP at Republic National Distributing Company and a former president of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans, Alan Franco… Rabbi at Beth Avraham Yoseph of Toronto (BAYT), Rabbi Daniel Korobkin… Actress, socialite and reality television personality, she converted to Judaism in her 20s, Kyle Richards Umansky… Defensive tackle in the Canadian Football League for twelve seasons, he is a co-owner at Vera’s Burger Shack based in Vancouver, BC, Noah Cantor… Film, stage and television actress, Amanda Peet… Former goaltender with the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes, Josh Tordjman… Member of the Knesset for the Labor Party, Naama Lazimi… Executive chef and restaurateur, Yehuda Sichel… VP and head of strategic partnerships at Penzer Family Office, Michal (Mickey) Penzer… French-American actress, Flora Cross… Founder of Nannies by Noa and a senior at Brown University, Noa Mintz

CORRECTION: The name of the JCC Association fellowship, and the class of employees it is meant for, have been corrected.