Your Daily Phil: GatherDC expands to West Coast + Nourishment for the Jewish soul

Good Monday morning!

In today’s Your Daily Phil, we cover how Jews in their 20s and 30s are finding each other in the San Francisco Bay Area and feature reflections on teen Zionism and hunger and the High Holidays. In this newsletter: Gather’s Caroline Kesslerand Rachel Gildiner; FJC’s Rabbi Avi Katz Orlow and Betsy Stone; Club Z’s Masha Merkulova; and Art Spiegelman, Shira Haas, Josh Harris, Brian Sherman and Idan Raichel. We’ll start with five Jewish leaders’ plans for their newly funded sabbaticals.

R&R: The Rest of Our Lives, an organization offering three-month paid sabbatical grants to a handful of CEOs and directors of Jewish nonprofits, announced its inaugural cohort of five grantees today: Asher Gellis, founder of JQ International; Ora Horn Prouser, CEO and academic dean of the Academy for Jewish Religion (AJR); Yavilah McCoy, founder and CEO of Dimensions Educational Consulting; Rabbi Rachel Nussbaum, founder and executive director of Kavana Cooperative; and Aliza Kline, CEO and president of OneTable.

The grant has two parts: $50,000 directly supporting salaries and benefits for the awardees during their sabbatical, and $10,000 to support interim leaders and staff during their absence. This might include leadership development or a bonus for the deputy playing a larger role in their absence.

“Sabbaticals are proven to reduce burnout, retain talent and spark the next generation of great ideas,” Josh Feldman, R&R’s founder and CEO, told eJewishPhilanthropy. “R&R believes every worker deserves access to a sabbatical during their career… This grant honors these five leaders’ significant and long-standing contribution and leadership through a significant investment of time for them to rest, renew and recover.”

McCoy has been at Dimensions for eight years and plans to spend her sabbatical in a writing cohort for women social justice leaders. She hopes that her taking a break also sends a message to the organization she leads, McCoy told eJP.

“Taking this first sabbatical aligns with the culture and practice that we are already developing within Dimensions,” a diversity, equity and inclusion consultancy, McCoy told eJP. She said the sabbatical “will be a great way for me as a leader to both walk the walk and talk the talk.”

Read more here.


GatherDC, which aims to connect young Jews, expands to the Bay Area

Small, peer-led group discussions at GatherDC's annual Beyond the Tent Retreat.

Joshua Orozco

Caroline Kessler, 32, has been a resident of San Francisco’s Bay Area for nearly a decade, and remembers what it was like to be the new person in town. As she got settled in the area, she realized how hard it was to keep track of all the programs she might be interested in.

What’s happening: “It can be very challenging to not only understand what’s going on, but just literally to hear about events,” she told eJewishPhilanthropy, noting that a person may have to subscribe “to like 20 different newsletters to know what’s going on at Moishe House, or what’s happening at this synagogue that you may or may not be interested in going to.”

Gathering and connecting: Now, Kessler is the community director for GatherBay — an offshoot of the Washington, D.C.-area organization GatherDC — and aims to change that. The initiative has a budget of $1.2 million over three years, and hopes to serve as “a connector and disseminator of information,” Kessler said.

Jews seeking community: GatherDC founder and CEO Rachel Gildiner told eJP that the organization tries to build community in three ways: hosting something people can come to; connecting people to events; and connecting people to each other. “What we know to be true is that people are always looking for other people, they are looking to connect,” Gildiner said. “It’s the organic networks that help the community feel connected that [are] really often missing, [making] people feel isolated and alone.”

Read the full story here.


Yearly yearning: Another look at hunger in Jewish life


“To live as a Jew means that we do not just eat to live. And at the same time, we do not simply live to eat… With the advent of the month of Elul we start our preparations for the High Holidays. Part of our preparation is, not surprisingly, around food,” write retired psychologist Betsy Stone and Rabbi Avi Katz Orlow, vice president of innovation and education at the Foundation for Jewish Camp, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Thinking about menus: “While we might spend some time thinking about the symbolic foods we will have at our Rosh Hashanah table, or the best brisket recipe to use, fasting on Yom Kippur takes center stage. Are we going to decaffeinate to avoid the headache? How hungry will we be? What is the best thing to eat to prepare for the fast? As much as we say, ‘Next Year in Jerusalem,’ we are already thinking, ‘What will I break the fast with this year?’”

Needing nourishment: “While global poverty, food insecurity and urban deserts are problems that need to be addressed, each of our personal hungers are never fully resolved. The nature of our being means that we are only sated for a limited time. We will always need more… Similar to fear and pain, hunger is an essential warning sign. The sensation of wanting nourishment reminds us of the fragility of our bodies, and our ongoing need for physical sustenance. This feeling helps us live. What about the other things that make us hungry? We crave things beyond just food — be it love, connection, sleep, wisdom or meaning. What are the other yearnings that inspire us and plague us?”

Yearnings: “The two of us, a rabbi and a psychologist, started to wonder about this broader issue of what are we yearning for. The research has pointed out that many of us identify as ‘spiritual but not religious.’ Many are disappointed in the offerings of traditional religious practice. Many of us are seekers who do not yet know what we are seeking. What do we yearn for? How might Jewish professionals and innovators respond to the needs and hungers of those who are dissatisfied with our traditional offerings?”

Read the full piece here.


Jewish teen advocacy: What is it and how does it lead to the new American Jew?

Courtesy of Club Z

“What can we do to prepare our children to defend themselves and stand proud in the face of the vicious Jew-hatred and anti-Zionism that is infiltrating every aspect of Jewish life?” asks Masha Merkulova, founder of Club Zin an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

What we’ve been doing: “For the past 20 years, Jewish education was hyper-focused on teaching tzedakah and tikkun olam. The rare attempts to educate and prepare students for campus were made through a one-time workshop or speaker. Why then, are we surprised when Jewish kids start or join anti-Israel groups?”

Our responsibility: “Would you allow your child to sit for an AP calculus exam without taking the course? Would you allow them to perform in a school play without attending any rehearsals? Of course not. We want our kids to succeed, and it is our responsibility to ensure that they are set up to do just that.”

Lack of preparation: “If that is the case, why are Jewish parents sending their children off to hostile environments – U.S. colleges and universities – without any preparation? Without giving them the knowledge and confidence to withstand the onslaught of antisemitism they will encounter?”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

How-to Guide: In Forbes, Leslie Weber suggests that donors to progressive causes take a page out of the playbook of conservative donors, who set goals that may take decades to accomplish, rather than try to pursue immediate gratification. “This problem is especially challenging for think tanks and other organizations whose purpose is to provide thought leadership, develop new ideas, or, like my organization, The Opportunity Agenda, shift narratives. Our report, ‘Shifting the Narrative: 6 Case Studies,’ illustrates how long it can take for new ideas to take hold broadly enough to effect tangible, sustainable change. On issues as diverse as the death penalty, animal rights, and poverty, substantive changes in attitudes and policies have taken place over periods as long as 60 years. Conservative think tanks, though, have done us the favor of proving a theory of change focused on incubating ideas, and on shifting narratives to change perceptions, attitudes, and policies.” [Forbes]

Community Comms

Be featured: Email us to inform the eJP readership of your upcoming event, job opening, or other communication.

Word on the Street

The U.S. Supreme Court temporarily blocked a lower court’s ruling requiring Yeshiva University in New York City to recognize a campus LGBTQ pride group…

New York Times investigation found that yeshivas across New York were among the worst-performing schools in the state, despite the schools’ having received more than $1 billion in government funding in recent years. The report drew a strongly worded response from the Haredi community…

The London Centre for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism has launched. The center’s mission is ??”to challenge the intellectual underpinnings of antisemitism in public life and to confront the hostile environment for Jews in universities”…

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Friday for Penn State Hillel’s new Gutterman Family Center for Jewish Life in downtown State College, Pa. The 15,000-square-foot space, with floor-to-ceiling windows, serves as the home base for Penn State Hillel…

The first post-COVID-19 U.S. tour for the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, due to take place in the first half of November, will include concerts in Costa Mesa, Calif., Los Angeles, San Francisco and Stanford, Calif., as well as Miami. The tour will conclude at New York City’s Carnegie Hall. The orchestra has not played in the U.S. for three years due to the pandemic…

This fall, Art Spiegelman, the author of the graphic novel Maus, will receive an honorary National Book Award for distinguished contribution to American letters…

A new study from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion’s Jewish Language Project charts how Jewish names have evolved and what they say about American Jewish identity. For “American Jewish Personal Names,” Sarah Bunin Benor and Alicia B. Chandler surveyed over 11,000 people who identified as Jewish, asking about the names they were given and the names they were giving their children…

Israeli actress Shira Haas, best known for her roles in the series “Shtisel” and “Unorthodox,” was announced as the newest actor to join the Marvel Cinematic Universe, playing Israeli superhero Sabra in an upcoming film, “Captain America: New World Order”…

Josh Harris, a philanthropist and co-founder of Apollo Global Management Inc., is launching a new firm called 26North to focus on private equity, credit and insurance…

Brian Sherman, the South African-born philanthropist, co-founder of funds management company Equitilinkt and former chair of the Australian Museum Trust, died at 79…

Pic of the Day

LImmud FSU

More than 300 people attended the first-ever Limmud festival held in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, on Sunday. Above, members of the festival’s volunteer team.


Noam Galai/Getty Images

Israeli singer-songwriter and musician, Idan Raichel

2020 Nobel laureate in medicine, Harvey J. Alter… Chairman at Waxman Strategies, he served for 20 terms as a Democratic congressman (1975-2015) representing Los Angeles, Henry Waxman… 2017 Nobel Prize laureate in economics, University of Chicago behavioral economist, Richard H. Thaler… Director of intergovernmental affairs in the Obama White House, he was previously lieutenant governor of Kentucky and mayor of Louisville, Jerry Abramson… President of Israel21c and a former president of AIPAC, Amy Rothschild Friedkin… Former U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, also former governor of Kansas and U.S. senator, Sam Brownback… Miami-based chairman of American Principles Super PAC, Eytan Laor… SVP of government and public affairs at CVS Health, Melissa Schulman… Internet entrepreneur and a pioneer of VoIP telephony, Jeff Pulver… Attorney specializing in the recovery of looted artworks during the Holocaust and featured in the 2015 film “Woman in Gold,” E. Randol “Randy” Schoenberg… Paralegal at The St. Joe Company, Sherri Jankowski… Senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, Max A. Boot… Deputy chief advocacy officer at the Credit Union National Association, Jason Stverak… Founder of the Loewy Law Firm in Austin, Texas, Adam Loewy… Venture capitalist and one of the co-founders of Palantir Technologies, Joe Lonsdale… AIPAC’s area director for Philadelphia and South Jersey, Kelly Lauren Stein… Former advisor to the prime minister of Israel for foreign affairs and world communities, Sara Greenberg… Senior aviation reporter at The Points GuyEthan Klapper… National political correspondent at PoliticoBen Schreckinger… Senior product manager at Amazon, Natalie Raps Farren

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