Your Daily Phil: Funding women’s health in Ukraine + Kosher food assistance

Good Monday morning!

In today’s Your Daily Phil, we report on a new mobile aid effort in Ukraine, and feature an op-ed by Randy Spiegel on nonprofit governance. Also in this newsletter: Michael Bloomberg, Yossi Sagol, Secretary of State Tony Blinken and Mikhail Fridman. We’ll start by explaining why Jewish groups are celebrating an update to a government food-assistance website.

In the wake of a White House conference on ending hunger earlier this year, Jewish groups that work on the issue said one of their priorities was that Jews who keep kosher and receive government assistance be able to obtain foods they can eat.

Those groups are now celebrating a small step in that direction. About two weeks ago, the U.S. Department of Agriculture published a complete list of the foods it offers through TEFAP, a program that supplies food banks and pantries, and noted which ones are kosher and halal. In addition, its website has a list of foods on the list that, according to many opinions, do not require certification — such as fruits, vegetables and milk, and provides an explanation of what kosher observance involves.

“We are grateful that the Biden-Harris administration is using so many tools and resources to help those facing food insecurity, including members of the Jewish community,” Abby Leibman, president and CEO of Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hunger, one of the groups that consulted on the issue, told eJewishPhilanthropy. Leibman also called for the government to “strengthen” other food-assistance programs.

But while the list of kosher foods is now public, it remains short. Only eight of 126 items are certified kosher, while 31 others are generally acceptable without certification.

David Greenfield, CEO of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, which also consults with the USDA, told eJP that the publication of the list was an “important recognition by the Biden administration and the USDA of the needs of people who rely on kosher food,” but added, “without more culturally responsive food available through TEFAP, kosher pantries in New York and throughout the country will continue to struggle.”

According to the Jewish Federations of North America, the USDA will increase the list of kosher food products by 50% in 2023. Darcy Hirsh, JFNA’s associate vice president of public affairs, said her organization was “grateful to the USDA for being so attentive to the concerns we voiced about the lack of nutritional kosher meals available to families in need in the Jewish community.”

In addition to those groups, the USDA site directs users to a handful of other Jewish organizations that have advocated on the issue, including the Haredi organization Agudath Israel; Masbia, a food-assistance organization based in New York City; and the Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies.

crisis intervention

The trailer that will soon become the health clinic.
The trailer that will soon become the health clinic.

In the middle of the summer, Brian Abrahams, CEO of American Friends of Sheba Medical Center, received a call from the large Tel Aviv-area hospital with an unexpected request: to purchase a trailer from Ohio that will soon become a women’s health clinic in Ukraine, reports Lev Gringauz for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Compact facility: The clinic is being organized with Corridor, an Israel nonprofit providing aid to Ukraine, and Kvitna, a Ukrainian reproductive health fund. It will include two examination rooms in the space of a small mobile home, and its Ukrainian staff, comprising an OB/GYN, a psychologist and a nurse, will be able to treat roughly 20 patients a day. The clinic will also offer telehealth appointments with Sheba doctors in Israel.

Addressing violence: The clinic will also provide abortions — an operation that an increasing number of Ukrainians need, according to the clinic’s founders. Early on in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, “there appeared women and girls who, after the bomb shelters and bombings… were in a terrible state,” said Uriel Shtern, the founder of Kvitna, “with a variety of reproductive health issues brought out by the war, as well as rape.”

Bureaucratic hurdles: The clinic is about to begin operating. In mid-November, the trailer was shipped to the Polish-Ukrainian border, where the organizers have been waiting to finalize operating permits with the Ukrainian government. One of the organizers expects the last of the bureaucratic hurdles to be cleared and for the clinic to be treating patients this month.

Read the full story here.

local leaders

Program for Israeli mayors finds unity where national politics has failed

Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) speaks during annual Jerusalem Post conference at Gotham Hall.

With Israel’s national political system increasingly polarized after five general elections in less than four years, a recently launched program to train local-level political leaders aims not only to bring together mayors and municipal heads from Israel’s various sectors, but give them the tools and skills needed to soothe social divisions, deliver more equitable public services and provide a crucial link between citizens and the national government. “In Israel, the [national] government does not have a direct impact on the individual. It creates policy on a national level, but the bottom line is that local leaders such as mayors are the contact between the citizen and the government,” professor Moshe Zviran, head of the Bloomberg-Sagol Center for City Leadership at Tel Aviv University, told Jewish Insider’s Ruth Marks Eglash.

Background: ??Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Sagol family launched the new center at the Coller School of Management at Tel Aviv University earlier this year with the aim of strengthening local leadership across Israel. The yearlong program was inspired by a similar initiative run by Bloomberg Philanthropies at Harvard University, and culminates in a trip to Boston and New York City.

Taking on the challenge: Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, “The Bloomberg-Sagol Center builds on all the work Bloomberg Philanthropies is doing to help local leaders around the world innovate, lead effectively, and share ideas for tackling complex problems.” Yossi Sagol, chairman of Sagol Holdings Corporation, said the Bloomberg initiative at Harvard University made him realize the need for a similar program in Israel, and hopes that “we will be able to bring best in class skills and advanced doctrines from the business world to the local authorities and its leaders.”

Read more here.

charity check

“‘If it’s too good to be true, then it is too good to be true.’ ‘Let your conscience be your guide.’ ‘Don’t eat yellow snow.’ Passed down from generation to generation, these simple lessons are essential. Just as we educate ourselves to protect against unwanted consequences of other decisions, with the right guidance and experience, we can educate ourselves to avoid disaster when it comes to charitable giving,” writes Randy Spiegel of R&D Philanthropy, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Show me your papers: “More than 85,000 charitable organizations registered in Canada (with a charitable registration number) and 1.8 million in the U.S. (with 501(c)(3) status) are eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions. Charitable organizations should provide you with confirmation that the charity return has been filed and all filings are up to date. If you have other questions, ask them, to ensure that your gift is used as intended. You have every right to request the tax returns, the 990s or in Canada the T3010 returns of an organization, to satisfy yourself that there are no issues or surprises.”

Who’s the boss: “Charitable organizations do not operate in a vacuum; governing volunteer bodies, frequently called a board of directors, oversee and approve organizational strategy, policy and operational activities. Responsible charities have accountability and operational rules in place to mitigate risk (i.e., fraud, unapproved purchases) and to ensure that the objectives of the charity are always being met. Directors have a fiduciary responsibility and are trustees, serving for the good of the community. If it is not immediately evident, never hesitate to ask who is on the board and who — lay or professional — you can speak to about your gift.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Letters to a Young Philanthropist: Bloomberg’s Mark Ellwood gathered wisdom from 18 philanthropists, including 21/64 founder Sharna Goldseker, in the form of letters written to their 18-year-old selves: “Historically, people became ‘philanthropists’ at the sunset of their lives. Yet the needs are great, and problems take time to address, and only youth can afford that luxury of time. So this is what I would whisper into your ear if I could, with 30 years of hindsight: ‘You won’t be able to change the world overnight, but you have decades ahead of you in which to make an impact, and you have the access to philanthropic dollars that can help fuel that change. Work hard and humbly, earn your right to a seat at the table, but don’t wait until you retire to become a philanthropic change maker. Start now.’ ” [Bloomberg]

Defending EA: 
The New York Times’ Ezra Klein writes in defense of effective altruism following the collapse of Sam Bankman-Fried’s FTX. “And if the fortune was fake, what then of the ideals that supposedly drove it? Did effective altruism help rationalize or even motivate the risk taking and boundary crossing that vaporized billions of dollars? How can a movement that prides itself on long-term thinking and constant risk analysis have been so clueless about its golden child? These are reasonable questions, but I worry about overlearning the lessons of what is, in truth, an old story: A young, brash financier in a basically unregulated market made a fast fortune playing loose with his customer’s deposits and then blew up after a bank run. I’m skeptical that effective altruism deserves much blame for that, and I don’t want to see the mounting backlash overwhelm a movement that has done, and could do, much good.” [NYT]

Around the Web

The Foundation for Jewish Camp’s ninth biennial conference, Leaders Assembly 2022, is underway in Atlanta, with more than 800 camp professionals, lay leaders and other colleagues in attendance. Sponsors of the conference include the Jim Joseph Foundation, The Marcus Foundation, Crown Family Philanthropies, The Glazer Foundation and others…

Also underway is the J Street National Conference, which brought 2,000 attendees to Washington, D.C., for the annual gathering of the liberal Israel lobby. Secretary of State Tony Blinkenwas the keynote, and said the Biden administration would judge the incoming government of Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu “by the policies it pursues rather than individual personalities.”…

And on Wednesday in Washington, the White Housewill host Jewish leaders for a roundtable on confronting antisemitism…

Mikhail Fridman, a Russian billionaire sanctioned by the European Union and United Kingdom for his links to Russian President Vladimir Putin, was reportedly detained last week in London on suspicion of money laundering…

Slivovitz, the Central and Eastern European plum brandy imbibed by some Jews on Passover, was named an item with “intangible cultural heritage” by UNESCO…

Pic of the Day

02 December 2022, Thuringia, Erfurt: Archaeologist and current Unesco representative Dr. Karin Sczech shows medieval Jewish gravestones from Erfurt found during excavations in the gravestone depot. Beforehand, she presented results of genetic studies of Erfurt excavation finds from 2013, which were evaluated by a large international research team of archaeologists, historians, anthropologists and geneticists. Photo: Michael Reichel/dpa (Photo by Michael Reichel/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Archaeologist Karin Sczech shows medieval Jewish gravestones from Erfurt, Germany, on Friday that were found during excavations leading to a genetic study of Ashkenazi Jews in the Middle Ages.


A picture taken on November 21, 2017 shows a picture posted by the Instagram profile of Sarah Idan on November 14, who holds the titles of “Miss Iraq USA 2016” and “Miss Iraq Universe 2017”, as she is seen taking a “selfie” photograph with Adar Gandelsman, who holds the title of “Miss Universe Israel 2017”, with a caption reading: “Peace and Love from Miss Iraq and Miss Israel #missuniverse”.

Israeli model, she represented Israel at the 2017 Miss Universe pageant where her selfie with Miss Iraq sparked international headlines, Adar Gandelsman

Nobel Prize-winning theoretical physicist and professor, Sheldon Lee Glashow… St. Louis-based luxury senior living developer, Charles J. Deutsch… Mount Pleasant, S.C., resident, Betti Greenstein… Professor at the University of Tennessee Knoxville, Stuart Neil Brotman… Former U.S. ambassador to France and Monaco, Jamie Luskin McCourt… Southern California resident, Esther Gluskin Winard… Mediator and arbitrator for JAMS, Michael D. Young… Golfer on the PGA Tour and later a golf teaching professional, Anthony Irvin (Tony) Sills… Venture capitalist, speaker and investment advisor, Pascal Norman Levensohn… NYC-based author and clinical psychologist with specialties in aging and cancer, Mindy Greenstein, Ph.D…. Film and television actress, Ilana Levine… Counsel for DOJ’s antitrust division, Eric A. Posner… Former manager of the Israel national baseball team including at the 2020 Olympics, Eric Holtz… Professor and dean emeritus of Columbia Law School, former CEO of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, David M. Schizer… Ontario-born supermodel and actress, Shalom Harlow… Urologist at Westchester (N.Y.) Medical Group, Judd Boczko, M.D…. President of The LS Group and political fundraiser, Lisa Spies… Co-founder and president of AxiosRoy Schwartz… Israeli-born acclaimed video game developer, Neil Druckmann… Musical songwriting and producing duo, identical twins Ryan and Dan Kowarsky… Communications and marketing consultant, Adam S. Rosenberg… Senior managing director at Liberty Strategic Capital, Eli H. Miller… Emmy Award-winning senior personal technology columnist for The Wall Street JournalJoanna Stern… Media correspondent for The New York TimesMichael Mendel Grynbaum… Israeli film and television music composer based in Los Angeles, Naama “Nami” Melumad… Reporter on the obituary desk of The New York TimesAlexander E. Traub… Associate director of government affairs at VNS Health, Jonathan Shabshaikhes… Fundraising consultant, Abe Wasserberger