Your Daily Phil: Fundraising via ‘Who Knows One’ game show + A New Orleans synagogue’s music fest
Good Tuesday morning!
A group of Jewish leaders in the United Kingdom has established Azara, a pluralistic yeshiva in Edinburgh, Scotland, that will make the study of Talmud accessible to anyone, regardless of denomination, background or gender. Compared to the United States, the U.K. boasts few opportunities to study Talmud, which is not always offered at day schools, according to an Azara press release: “The lack of classes at home leads to a ‘brain drain’ of future leaders, who often move to the U.S. or Israel to study.”
A free guesthouse for Holocaust survivors will soon open on the grounds of the Friends of Zion Museum, a Christian Zionist institution, in partnership with the Yad Ezer La-Haver charity, which supports Holocaust survivors. The project offers seven units, a kitchen and a dining hall, and can house up to 14 guests.
Princeton University announced yesterday the creation of the Emma Bloomberg Center for Access and Opportunity, backed by a $20 million gift from Bloomberg Philanthropies. The center will support the university’s effort to increase its enrollment of first-generation and low-income students. It will house programs such as mentorship and social events, and also conduct research on how to best support such students, who often struggle to graduate.
‘Jewish geography’ contests on Zoom draw thousands
The pandemic’s restrictions on social life have inspired new ways of connecting, from virtual birthday parties to Zoom speed-dating to digital simchas. In the Jewish community, they’ve given rise to a gamified version of “Jewish geography,” a favorite pastime of youth group alums, campers and others who have been active in Jewish social circles. Created by Micah Hart, “Who Knows One?” is named for the Passover Seder song of the same name, and was inspired by an ESPN show Hart watched in which the hosts competed to see who could get the most famous person to join a Zoom call. “It just sort of dawned on me. We were all at home, we had nothing else to do,” he told eJewishPhilanthropy.
One-year anniversary: The show, which runs on Wednesday and Saturday nights on Facebook Live, premiered last April 25; it has taken several forms in 150 showings since then, including a March Madness-type tournament called “Elijah’s Cup” that ran through Passover, but the basic premise remains the same: The hosts announce the name of a Jewish person unknown to the competitors, and the contestants or (or in some cases, teams of contestants) work to locate that person and bring him or her onto the Zoom call by building a chain of connections using only clues from the hosts — no help from the internet allowed. When the game ends quickly, Hart and his co-hosts bring in a second individual. “There’s a lot of improv in the show,” Hart said. “We know where we’re starting and ending but nothing about the middle, and the more off the rails it goes, the more entertaining it is.”
Fundraising opportunity: The show occasionally generates revenue in the form of sponsorships, but the bulk of the business is what Hart calls “community games.” Those can take the form of a “fun-raiser,” in which a group pays him to host a show as a fun way for them to spend time together online, or a “fundraiser.” Organizations from the World Union for of Progressive Judaism to a slew of summer camps to the Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning have all raised money on “Who Knows One?” and Hart, for his part, charges a flat fee, although upgrade packages are also available. One Jewish group — JumpSpark, a source of Jewish programming for teens in Atlanta — used the show as both a fundraiser and an educational experience. Four teens competed on a JumpSpark-sponsored show, which raised more than $3,000, said a spokeswoman. The students each chose an individual cause to support, and friends and family contributed to a pool of funds. All four causes — Project Merry Mitzvah, Camp Jenny, the Anti-Defamation League and Repair the World — received donations from that pool, although Repair the World received the most, as its sponsor won the game. “I appreciated the platform it provided me to reconnect with other teens and family friends I hadn’t spoken to in a while,” said Abby Limor of Temple Beth Tikvah, one of the participants.
In another spring without JazzFest, a New Orleans synagogue steps up to support musicians
Just weeks after Mardi Gras last year, the coronavirus began to sweep through New Orleans, forcing the city to shutter its storied jazz clubs, bars and restaurants. When the city canceled its famed JazzFest last year, local radio stations broadcast festival sets from years past. Now, this year’s JazzFest has been postponed to the fall, but one community institution is stepping in to host its own jazz festival this spring: a synagogue. Congregation Gates of Prayer, a Reform synagogue in Metairie, a suburb of New Orleans, will host a music festival called “GatesFest” in its parking lot on the weekend that JazzFest would have occurred this year, reports Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch.
New Orleans needs music: “I’m a big lover of jazz: I turned 18 at JazzFest. I turned 30 at JazzFest. My 40th birthday was supposed to be last year at JazzFest, with the Beach Boys,” said David Gerber, the synagogue’s senior rabbi. “I kind of jokingly said last year that if they cancel JazzFest, I’m going to have it in my backyard.” GatesFest is selling tickets for pods of up to six adults and anticipates an audience of 400 at the April 25 event, a far cry from the hundreds of thousands who usually attend JazzFest, but a sizable showing for the congregation. But the goal of GatesFest, which is a fundraiser for the synagogue, is not to rival the festival; it’s to offer a show of support to the city’s struggling musicians and demonstrate the Jewish community’s support. “In New Orleans, when there’s no music, the city isn’t quite the same,” Gerber said.
Local support: Gerber worked with synagogue member Howie Kaplan, the owner of the Howlin’ Wolf club in New Orleans’s Warehouse District, to bring musicians to the congregation. Gerber got to know Kaplan early in the pandemic; Kaplan’s son’s bar mitzvah was the first that Gerber performed after COVID-19 emerged. “It’s a very New Orleans thing. We like to say New Orleans knows how to take care of itself,” Kaplan told JI. Kaplan is the manager for the festival’s top-billed performer, the Rebirth Brass Band, and he helped Gerber handle contracts and other logistical preparations for the event.
Tractate Shekalim: A guide for Jewish communal professionals and philanthropists
“In January 2020, I commenced the new cycle of daf yomi, a daily practice of Talmud study created to bind Jews in a textual peoplehood,” writes Dr. Idana Goldberg in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.
Communal obligations:“As a philanthropy professional, my work during these COVID times has felt ever more urgent. The trustees of the foundation where I work authorized us to allocate significant emergency funding above our usual payout rate and my team and I, both in Israel and the United States, sought opportunities to meet needs… As we worked to understand the interconnected obstacles that make it so challenging to address increased food insecurity when supply chains and volunteer networks no longer functioned, I learned that Jewish tradition already deeply understood how difficult it is to provide food for the hungry.”
Tractate Shekalim: “[D]ay after day, I found my contemporary experiences in the Jewish philanthropy world mirrored in those that transpired millenia ago. Although technically an obligation, the Talmud understands the half-shekel contribution to be less a tax and more a holy act of donation, one that renders each male equally responsible for the communal offerings of the Temple service around which Jewish society revolved… This dedication to communal needs corresponds to contemporary Jewish donors who, during these COVID months, took responsibility for the survival of our Jewish communal infrastructure – with their individual donations to summer camps, health and human service organizations, day schools, synagogues, JCCs and federations.”
EXPANDING THE CIRCLE
The Jewish Identity Institute: finding strength in otherness
“At first, it could have been just another Jewish program on Zoom during a pandemic. But as the screens and faces popped into the meeting, it immediately became clear that this wasn’t a conventional Jewish gathering. There were faces of individuals who were wearing special glasses and hearing devices. There were faces of Black people. Asian people. There was a woman seated in a wheelchair,” writesRabbi Gil Steinlauf in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.
Jewish identity: “The idea behind the Jewish Identity Institute is not simply to bring together marginalized Jewish cohorts to share stories and experiences. It is founded on a premise I discovered in my work with the LGBTQ community in the synagogue world. Namely, it’s not enough for synagogues and other Jewish institutions to unilaterally decide that they are now ‘inclusive’ because they mean well and genuinely want to include previously marginalized Jews in their activities and leadership. Instead, synagogues and Jewish institutions can be called inclusive only when previously marginalized individuals themselves declare their institutions to be inclusive.”
Go Outside: Organizations that want to broaden their talent pipelines as they seek a new leader should first look within, urges Vu Le in his blog, Nonprofit AF. Boards should consult more with the organization to learn about its needs and possible internal candidates, and individuals should reconsider their biases, including the one toward a solitary executive director: “The hierarchical leadership model … is way too much burden to put on one person, and it leads to frustration and high turnover. Get out of the mindset that you can only have a solitary magical unicorn leader,” he writes. [NonprofitAF]
Remote Religion: After the pandemic inspired a surge in downloads of prayer and meditation apps, they are drawing increased interest from investors, writes Jackie Davalos in Bloomberg. Hallow, a Catholic app that has a subscription fee and enables users to create prayer groups and keep a virtual journal, recently received $12 million in venture capital. “We’re looking to go after folks who have fallen away from their faith or just don’t connect with the Catholic church but are still interested in their spirituality,” said Hallow CEO Alex Jones. [Bloomberg]
Real Smart: Beth Kanter and Allison Fine contend in the Chronicle of Philanthropy that artificial intelligence, by liberating fundraisers from such tasks as data analysis, scheduling and updating donor records, can enable them to focus more on their relationships with donors. Because larger nonprofits are more likely to be able to harness the power of artificial intelligence, smaller groups should collaborate to do the same, and foundations should support that effort, they say. “Foundations have a role to play in bringing together major technology, philanthropy, and nonprofit players to establish norms for the ethical use of A.I., particularly in the areas of giving and fundraising,” Kanter and Fine conclude. [ChroniclePhilanthropy]
New Rules: The Yale University Board of Trustees has approved five principles whose violation by fossil fuel companies will warrant divestment, reports Emma Whitford in Inside Higher Ed. The policy includes a mandate to minimize greenhouse gas emissions and to support government policies that effectively address the threat of climate change, and it will be implemented in June when the board’s committee on investor responsibility makes its first set of divestment recommendations. “Climate change is an imminent threat to the planet, and tackling it in an effective way requires difficult but necessary choices,” Peter Salovey, Yale’s president, said in a statement. [InsideHigherEd]
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Word on the Street
Dr. Jeffrey S. Kress has been appointed provost at the Jewish Theological Seminary effective July 1… The Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco has reopened to the public… Vartan Gregorian, who has been called “the senior statesperson of philanthropy,” has died at age 87… British philanthropist Sir Harry Djanogly is facing trial over his alleged assault of a police officer… Jewish Funders Network has released a podcast with Lisa Greer, “Revolutionizing the Way Fundraisers and Philanthropists Interact”…
Pic of the Day
Volunteers pack provisions at the first kosher food pantry in Westchester County, expected to serve 100 kosher households in its first year. Its opening under the auspices of Feeding Westchester, HOPE Community Services, Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty and UJA-Federation of New York was announced yesterday.
General manager of Bird in Israel, he is a nephew of Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin, Yaniv Rivlin…
Swiss scientist and 1987 Nobel Prize laureate in physics, Karl Alexander Müller… Stanford University professor and 2020 Nobel Prize laureate in economics, Paul Robert Milgrom… Chairman of the media networks division of Activision Blizzard, Steve Bornstein… Immigrants’ rights activist and professor at Salem State University, Aviva Chomsky… Television and radio host, Steve Malzberg… Past president and executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, Marc Rotenberg… Executive producer and host at The Femsplainers Podcast, Danielle Crittenden Frum… Entrepreneur, semi-professional race car driver and restaurateur, Alan Wilzig… Television personality and game show host, J.D. Roth… Israeli jazz bassist and singer, Avishai Cohen… British film director, Sarah Gavron… Member of the Florida House of Representatives from southern Brevard County, Randy Fine… VP of government and public affairs at Cleveland-based GBX Group, Seth Foster Unger… DC-based strategic communications consultant, Michael C. Frohlich… Director of development at Democratic Majority for Israel, Elliott G. Mendes… President and CEO at the Los Angeles-based Skirball Cultural Center, Jessie Kornberg… New York-based human rights lawyer, Irina Tsukerman… Evening breaking news editor at CNN Politics, Kyle Feldscher… Associate attorney in the DC office of Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, Zachary L. Baum… Facilitator, coach and workshop organizer, Daniela Kate Plattner… Research analyst at the U.S. Department of State, David Mariutto… VP at Cedar Capital Partners and bread baker @BermTheBaker, Alex Berman… CEO of Social Lite Creative and research fellow at the Tel Aviv Institute, Emily K. Schrader… Israeli model and designer, Neta Alchimister… Strategic partner manager at Taboola, McKenna Klein… Founder and CEO of Olive Branch Pictures, Andrew J. Hirsh… Singer and actress, Carly Rose Sonenclar…