Your Daily Phil: HIAS launches foundation to build endowment

Good Wednesday morning.

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we have the scoop on a new lawsuit filed on behalf of Jewish students against American University and interview a college president, Dr. Ora Hirsch Pescovitz, who has unabashedly supported Israel throughout the war. We feature an opinion piece by Yael Gini on the potential impact of incorporating the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals into Israel’s recovery agenda. Also in this newsletter: Shai Weingarten, Lily Rabinoff-Goldman and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. We’ll start with HIAS launching an independent foundation.

The immigration-focused nonprofit HIAS launched a standalone foundation on Tuesday to build a permanent endowment that is meant to sustain the 120-year-old American Jewish organization into the future, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen.

Dubbed the HIAS Foundation, this separate legal entity was created following recent significant financial growth for the Jewish nonprofit organization, which in 2017 was a $30 million entity working in 10 countries and now is a $200 million entity operating in 23 countries.

“As HIAS has been thinking about its future, it was decided that it’s time to create an endowment. There’s a need to help sustain HIAS into the future,” Jonathan Boiskin, the inaugural executive director of the foundation, told eJP.

The position is personal for Boiskin, who received services from HIAS when he immigrated to the U.S. from South Africa. He comes to the HIAS Foundation following a 30-year career in philanthropy, most recently having served as executive director of Friends of Israel Sci-Tech Schools.

Alongside Boiskin, the foundation will be run by five board members: Lee Gordon, board chair; Judith Friedman, secretary/treasurer; Harley Ungar; Neil Moss and René Lerer. Two of the members are also on HIAS’ board.

The HIAS Foundation launch comes as the United Nations estimates that there are 117 million displaced people around the world. “If we can help be a small player in helping HIAS be ready to respond to that displacement, that’s a good thing,” Boiskin said.

Read the full report here.


Rabbi Dina Brawer, executive director of the U.K.-based World Jewish Relief’s American branch, speaks at the Clinton Global Initiative in September 2023.
Library and Learning Resources Center, American University, Washington, D.C. Photo by Robert Knopes/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

One Jewish student at American University was screamed at in class by a fellow student, “You are responsible for genocide.” Another is being investigated for filming other students ripping down posters of Israelis held hostage by Hamas in Gaza. In response to these and other incidents, the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law and Jewish on Campus on Wednesday filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights against the university, alleging violations of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen reports for Jewish Insider.

What it says: The 26-page complaint, which was shared exclusively with JI, details how since Oct. 7, pro-Palestinian protestors have blocked Jewish students’ access to dining halls and classrooms, dormitory doors and posters have been vandalized with swastikas and posters of Israeli hostages have been repeatedly torn down. It accuses university administrators of turning a blind eye to harassment of Jewish students and targeting them with disciplinary hearings for recording fellow students who were vandalizing the hostage posters.

‘Very upsetting’: Lauren Cayle, a junior who is majoring in sociology and minoring in Jewish studies, is one of the students under investigation by the university for recording individuals tearing down hostage posters. “We were being followed and harassed by people ripping down the posters as we went,” she recalled. “It was very upsetting. Now we’re being investigated for standing up for ourselves. We’re potentially facing disciplinary action.”

Read the full report here and sign up for Jewish Insider’s Daily Kickoff here.


Meet the college president unafraid of speaking out against terrorism

American politician Dianne Feinstein, her arms outstretched in celebration, in her office after she was elected mayor of San Francisco, at San Francisco City Hall in San Francisco, California, circa 1978.
Dr. Ora Hirsch Pescovitz. Courtesy

While much of the attention around campus antisemitism has focused on elite private universities — and has centered on administrations’ inability to defend Jewish students — not all colleges have faced the same challenges. Dr. Ora Hirsch Pescovitz, the president of a small, lesser-known public university in Rochester, Mich. — Oakland University — was among the first to strongly condemn Hamas’ Oct. 7 atrocities, releasing a statement just hours after the attack and differentiating herself from counterparts who waffled over a response, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen for Jewish Insider.

She recently sat down with JI to discuss the challenges of leading a university amid unprecedented antisemitism on college campuses, and touching on other hot-button issues such as free speech and DEI.

JI: Are you surprised that few colleges have followed in your footsteps in terms of moral clarity post-Oct. 7?

OP: “I was at first somewhat surprised but as I have learned more about the climate and spoke with presidents at other universities I have become less and less surprised… One of the things that made it easier for me was that I spoke early before it became more difficult to speak out.

Many university presidents, as a result of the Israel-Hamas conflict, have decided they should no longer weigh in because this was such a complex area and they see it as two-sidesism. This is hypocrisy because they weighed in on [issues in the past]… It really is an abdication of the responsibility of a university president to lead.

At the same time, I believe very strongly in free speech rights. It is important that we protect free speech and the rights to protest on campus. That includes hearing things that even I don’t want to hear because that is the First Amendment, which even protects hate speech.”

Read the full interview here.


Build back better, together

Photo by Amos Bar-Zeev on Unsplash

“Israel has the technology, the innovation and the solutions to kick-start a sustainable revolution, and it is not just about roads and houses: it’s about the revitalization of kibbutzim, villages, Bedouin communities and cities that suffered destruction in the southern and northern regions during the Iron Swords conflict. Our focus should be on fostering sustainable development in these areas,” writes Yael Gini, CEO of SDG Israel, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

It is no dream: “The scale of these challenges might seem colossal, but then imagine a place where innovation meets sustainability on an unprecedented scale. Imagine a landscape adorned with solar roofs for electricity and hot water, an entire ecosystem powered solely by renewable energy… Imagine a transportation network where every quietly humming mode of travel is electric, charged with solar energy. Imagine a burgeoning industry creating jobs around the development of batteries for electric transportation, not relying on lithium but harnessing the power of sodium from the Dead Sea. Imagine a place where organic waste isn’t discarded but transformed into a valuable energy source. Wastewater isn’t a problem — it’s a resource too, treated on-site and repurposed to fertilize the soil… The truth is you do not have to imagine these things, because these solutions are not some futuristic dreams. They are all existing Israeli technologies and solutions, ready to be integrated tomorrow into the post-Oct. 7 reconstruction.”

Philanthropy’s role: “Today, while the government struggles to meet security and rapid recovery needs, Jewish philanthropy, as it has in the past, can play a crucial, catalytic role in ensuring that the development will be sustainable. Investments made today in sustainable infrastructure will generate long-term fiscal benefits and allow the creation of additional revenues for the state and additional capital for future philanthropic goals. In addition to the tangible benefits of improved quality of life and environmental-social resilience, this is an opportunity to position Israel as a global leader in the international market of the future, exporting expertise on confronting global challenges, bolstering the economy, and creating a model for the world to follow.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Support Changemakers: In an opinion piece for Foreign Affairs, Mark Malloch-Brown argues that philanthropists “must challenge, not comfort” the status quo. “In early-modern Europe, the Medicis and other potentates created what were the microfinance schemes of their time, lending small sums of money to poor citizens. Those philanthropists faced an abiding tradeoff between embracing an existing order and seeking to challenge it… [T]hey most commonly have opted for the former choice, working within prevailing structures while trying to mitigate their shortcomings. There have, however, been exceptional moments when philanthropists contributed to systemic change: merchants helped the theologian Martin Luther spread his ideas in the early Reformation, for example, and prosperous nineteenth-century British radicals, such as the economist Thomas Attwood, championed the expansion of the democratic franchise. The outcome of this tradeoff almost always influences the political order more broadly, and with it, international relations… Program officers working in the philanthropic sector must seek out the leaders, campaigners, and thinkers pioneering that change, then help them get on with it on their own terms.” [ForeignAffairs]

Gasping for HelpSupport from philanthropic foundations toward clean air initiatives surged between 2015 and 2021 but veered sharply downward since, according to a new report published by the Clean Air Fund, reports Maayan Hoffman in Health Policy Watch. “‘I urge funders to recognize that air quality isn’t a niche issue and work together to tackle the problem,’ [said Clean Air Fund CEO Jane Burston]. ‘By doing so, we can act on climate change, improve our health, strengthen economic outputs, and address social inequality all at the same time.’ Air pollution causes 8.3 million deaths a year, including 5.1 million from fossil fuel pollution, according to an article published last year in the BMJ [the British Medical Association’s peer-reviewed journal]. In addition, air pollution can have long- and short-term health effects. The report cited a connection between air pollution and cancer, heart attacks, diabetes and strokes, as well as exacerbated asthma and even miscarriage. The situation is more acute in low- and middle-income countries, where nine out of 10 deaths are attributable to outdoor air pollution… CAF called on foundations to shift their priorities and examine opportunities for partnerships to increase scale and address air pollution alongside other causes. It also stressed investing in air-quality data, which, it said, is necessary to build policy and strategy.” [HealthPolicyWatch]

Around the Web

The Blavatnik Family Foundation and New York Academy of Sciences awarded its 2024 Blavatnik Award for Young Scientists in the U.K., along with £100,000 ($126,700), to three recipients: Anthony P. GreenRahul R. Nair and Nicholas McGranahan

Shai Weingarten, the executive director and co-president of the Weingarten Foundation, has joined EarlyJ’s advisory board as her family’s foundation has begun supporting the nonprofit…

Israel’s Health Ministry approved the sale of lab-grown meat, making it the first country in the world to do so…

Hillel International is sending its “Teach-In Tour” to dozens of college campuses this year to speak about the ongoing conflict in Israel, bringing a number of “experts, educators, and thought leaders” to speak to students across the country…

The Gray Foundation, run by Blackstone COO Jonathan D. Gray and his wife, Mindydonated $1.5 million toward a pilot program in New York City to provide 2,000 second graders with swimming lessons…

The Jewish Theological Seminary launched a website dedicated to the life and work of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

The Boston Globe profiled Lily Rabinoff-Goldman, the CEO of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Boston

The Jewish Federations of North America announced that every Jewish federation on the continent is now part of its LiveSecure network…

JFNA has also released a breakdown of its activities in Israel since the Oct. 7 terror attacks…

Michael and Lori Milken donated $6 million to George Washington University to establish two professorships at the Milken Institute School of Public Health

The British National Lottery Community Fund awarded $635,000 toward a new initiative to combat faith-based hate in the United Kingdom…

Two London-based activists created an interactive exhibit, Voices From The Tunnels, in a derelict button factory in the British capital, which is meant to emulate the conditions faced by the captives being held hostage in Gaza

The Chronicle of Philanthropy investigates the “financial mess” and civil fraud trial facing the National Rifle Association following the longtime tenure of outgoing CEO Wayne LaPierre

Goldman Sachs reported a 51% surge in fourth-quarter profit, which its chief executive attributed to the firm’s asset and wealth management

The Strum Family Foundation donated $20 million to the Denver Museum of Nature & Science to renovate its east wing. This is the largest-ever single donation to the museum…

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations reiterated its call for the extradition from Jordan of convicted terrorist Ahlam Tamimi, who was a key figure in the 2001 Sbarro terror attack in Jerusalem…

Bloomberg Philanthropies announced it was expanding its Digital Accelerator Program to 50 cultural organizations in the U.S. and U.K., helping them “use technology better”…

New York Times columnist Bret Stephens decries the International Court of Justice’s genocide case against Israel, calling it “obscene,” an inversion of reality and hypocritical…

The Republican Jewish Coalition announced a “significant independent expenditure” on behalf of Mazi Melesa Pilip, the Israeli-raised candidate for New York’s 3rd Congressional District…

Twenty-two middle and high school teachers and Holocaust center staff from seven states are taking part in a three-day program about the Holocaust and modern antisemitism in New Jersey, which is being run by the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous

The Canadian Globe and Mail newspaper spotlighted the female leaders of Canada’s philanthropic sector

Bari Weiss’ The Free Press is in talks with investors for the media startup…

Bernie Steinberg, a former director of Harvard Hilleldied Sunday at 78…

Pic of the Day

Ahmad Gharabli/AFP via Getty Images

An art installation calling for the release of the Israeli hostages held in Gaza since the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas is pictured near a sign reading “BRING THEM HOME” atop the Charles Bronfman Auditorium at HaBima Square in Tel Aviv.


Annie Liebovitz smiles
Jason Miller/Getty Images

Majority owner of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, founder and chairman of Quicken Loans and dozens of other companies, Dan Gilbert

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