Your Daily Phil: Hillel International’s Global Giving Week + The new head of the Kaiserman JCC

Good Wednesday morning!

The Jewish Institute for Liberal Values is out with a letter this morning opposing critical social justice signed by more than 50 individuals from across the Jewish community. The letter, which its writers call the “Jewish Harper’s Letter,” follows the lead of a letter published in Harper’s Magazine over the summer.

The campus organization Hillel International is in the middle of its second annual “Global Giving Week,” launched last year to alleviate pandemic-related financial strain at individual Hillel chapters.

Because of the strong response to last year’s event, which raised $1.9 million from supporters in addition to a $1.1 million match from Hillel International, the organization now plans to make Global Giving Week a recurring event in its ongoing effort to nurture the connection between individual Hillels and parents, alumni and community members. Hillel International plans to match up to $5,000 per local Hillel.

“The campaign has provided energy and critical support at an important time for our institutions,” Greg Steinberger, executive director of the University of Wisconsin Hillel, told eJewishPhilanthropy. “We are growing the base, telling great stories, and expanding our sophistication.”

This year, 150 local Hillels will participate, 15 more than last year. Hillel International has created a donation platform specifically for the event, and will host a virtual gala on Thursday.

Millennials control just 5% of U.S. wealth, but as their share grows, their generation-specific definitions of philanthropy will gain wider currency, according to a new report from Fidelity Charitable that surveyed nearly 4,000 Americans who gave at least $1,000 to charity over the previous year.

Three in four millennials consider themselves philanthropists compared with only one-in-three baby boomers. Millennials also have a broader conception of philanthropy that integrates it into all aspects of their lives: not just how they donate, but also where they earn, spend and invest.


Philadelphia JCC that laid off 176 employees gets new CEO


When the pandemic hit last spring, Jewish community centers were among the Jewish institutions that were hit hardest and quickest by lockdowns, because their revenue depends on people coming to the center to go to the gym, or to drop their child off at preschool, or meet with their book club. The Kaiserman JCC outside Philadelphia was hit particularly hard, and was forced to lay off 176 of 178 employees. In the year since the pandemic first struck, the JCC has hired a new CEO, Alan Scher, who will begin in late June. He comes to the job from the 14th Street Y in Manhattan, where he was associate executive director for programs. “To come into Kaiserman is to first recognize the trauma of the past year, which is no small thing,” Scher told eJewishPhilanthropy. “They are still a shadow of what they were.”

A wave of layoffs: By late April of 2020, JCCs across the country had laid off, furloughed or cut the pay of just under half of their full-time workforce of about 11,000, said Andy Paller, director of JCC benchmarking at the JCC Association of North America. About 70% of Jewish community centers reported full-time staff furloughs and layoffs. The 14th Street Y had to lay off about 95% of its staff, Scher said, and he was involved in what he described as “painful conversations.” “Alan was always a creative thinker,” said Brian Schreiber, the CEO of the JCC of Greater Pittsburgh, a mentor of Scher’s and a special advisor to Doron Krakow, CEO of the JCC Association. “He likes challenge, and he’ll have one at Kaiserman.”

In search of meaning: Scher graduated from the University of Southern California and pursued a brief career in the film industry, leaving the business in his early 20s when he realized he didn’t find it very meaningful. He then moved to Chicago, taking a summer job as a camp counselor at the Jewish Community Center of Chicago while he figured out what to do next. He was surprised when the Chicago JCC wanted to keep him on as a preschool teacher — “I’d never changed a diaper in my life.” — but went along with it. After an AmeriCorps stint in California, Scher got another JCC job, this one at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco. There, he was tapped to participate in the Merrin Teen Professional Fellowship, a JCC Association program that recruits and nurtures future leaders. From San Francisco, he went to the YM and YWHA of Washington Heights and Inwood in upper Manhattan, and then to the 14th Street Y. Scher’s “broad JCC experience” will serve him well at Kaiserman, said Rabbi Shira Koch Epstein, whose tenure as CEO of the 14th Street Y overlapped with Scher’s time there.

Read the full article here.


Transform your synagogue’s High Holy Day appeal (Then finally focus on the important stuff)


“In just six years, by intentionally instituting a strategic process, Congregation Or Ami (Calabasas, California) increased its annual High Holy Day appeal by 141%,” writes Rabbi Paul Kipnes in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Focus counts: “By focusing on the High Holy Day Appeal with as much creativity as we did for the High Holy Day preparation, the synagogue leadership – a sacred partnership between clergy and elected leaders – were able to ensure that the balance of the year would be spent building spiritual, social, educational, and justice endeavors instead of primarily perseverating on balancing the budget. Through the six most recent years, that strategic gamble paid off as we increased pledges from $121,500 to $293,690.”

What’s the message?: “Other organizations have raised this appeal to an art form. Stories told touch us deeply. We smile proudly when hearing about the compassion felt by the speakers along the way; we kvell when that kindness comes from or through our community. We feel greater hope for humanity. And hearing about tribulations overcome, even non-believers, in that hidden chamber deep within, think, ‘There but for the grace of God go I.’”

Read the full piece here.


Five things we learned from leading the National Madrichim Academy

Credit: MaLea Breland, Congregation Children of Israel, Augusta, GA

“Across the country, hundreds of synagogues employ teen madrichim(student teachers) to help teachers in religious school classrooms,” write Emily Messinger and Jennifer Quick in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

A learning academy: “As Jewish teens continue to find their path towards meaningful Jewish engagement, the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) is supporting them with resources and opportunities for community building. In partnership with Association for Reform Jewish Educators and Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, the URJ piloted a virtual Madrichim Learning Academy during which 33 teens from across North America met for five one-hour virtual sessions. Their congregational educators were invited to join the opening and closing sessions.”

End game: “Successful madrichim programs often lead to deeper engagement for the teen participants as well as creating opportunities for leadership development through near-to-peer role modeling, adult-youth partnerships, and other experiences.” 

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Blind Spot: In Religion News Service, Michael Wear criticizes philanthropies and politicians who say they want to mitigate poverty and injustice yet don’t make partners of the faith-based organizations providing aid to vulnerable communities. In philanthropy, this bias shapes funding decisions. “Indeed, while it is certainly within the rights of philanthropic institutions to “not do religion,” such an approach undermines any meaningful, holistic commitment to community or place-based philanthropy in much of this country and in many places around the world.” [RNS]

Going Solo: Melinda Gates’ previous work provides clues to what she might do as an independent philanthropist now that she and Bill Gates are divorcing, report Kristin Bellstrom and Claire Zillman in Fortune. Unlike Jeff Bezos’s ex-wife MacKenzie Scott, who tries to maintain a low profile with her giving, Gates has clearly identified one philanthropic priority she cherishes above others — gender equality. “The world is finally waking up to the fact that none of us can move forward when half of us are held back,” Gates wrote in a note about her 2019 book Moment of Lift[Fortune]

Family Ties: In Philanthropy Daily, Matthew Smith writes an homage to Big Brothers Big Sisters, which he sees as filling a crucial gap in a weakening civil society that doesn’t organically provide at-risk young people with the mentors they need. A volunteer with the organization himself, Smith tells the story of three adults — a basketball coach, a math teacher and a pastor — who shaped his character, and shares what it’s like to try to help his “Little Brother” in the same way. “Unlocking the potential of a child’s future is not complicated,” Smith says. “You don’t need to be a licensed therapist, a trained educator, or even a parent to positively influence the next generation. All it takes is earnestness and willingness to be a friend.” [PhilanthropyDaily]

Nostalgia Trip: Will Leitch traces the rise and fall of the Ice Bucket Challenge in a post on Medium, tracking the viral phenomenon from its roots on the Golf Channel, where several athletes used the stunt to raise money for charity in general, to its peak as a fundraiser for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, known as ALS. Seven years after the challenge faded into a “tiresome gimmick,” Leitch says it’s important to remember that it actually raised $115 million for research that the ALS Association said actually helped it make progress against the disease. “The Ice Bucket Challenge ended up being the rarest of all Internet beasts: It was something that went viral and ended up being an unequivocal public good. The Internet helped the world. It rarely does that,” he concludes. [Medium]

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Word on the Street

 The Jewish People Policy Institute (JPPI) has released “Antisemitism and its Impact on Jewish Identity”… The Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council launched a digital initiative to counter hate and division… An appeal for Kisharon, one of the U.K.’s leading learning disabilities charity, raised £1.6m in 36 hours… The City of Philadelphia is accepting applications for a $1M Illuminate the Arts Grant to help sustain and stimulate the recovery of the city’s arts and culture community… A new report from Boston College Law School Forum on Philanthropy and the Public Good suggests“working charities” lost $300 billion in recent years due in large part to the proliferation of donor-advised funds…  Taglit-Birthright Israel trips are now available for U.S. participants… Ten daily flights will now operate between Tel Aviv and New York with flights in the coming weeks nearly fully booked…

Pic of the Day


Israeli President Reuven Rivlin with the winners of this year’s Jerusalem Unity Prize at the President’s Residence, May 3, 2021.


Jewish Funders Network

Executive director of Micah Philanthropies, Deena Fuchs… 

Senior U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of Illinois, Robert W. Gettleman… Writer of the “Letter from America” column for The International Herald Tribune, previously a foreign correspondent and book critic at The New York TimesRichard Bernstein… Best-selling author of 20 novels, Linda Fairstein… Retired judge on the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, Peter B. Krauser… Docent at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Ruth Klein Schwalbe… Member of the Knesset, almost continuously since 1988, for Degel HaTorah and United Torah Judaism, Moshe Gafni… South African-born President of American Jewish World Service, Robert Bank… Managing director of Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm Lauder Partners, Gary Lauder… Pulitzer Prize-winning author of three nonfiction books, historian and journalist, Tom Reiss… Executive director of the Legacy Heritage Fund Limited, Yossi Prager… Television writer and producer, known for The Simpsons, Josh Weinstein… Nancy Simcha Cook Kimsey… Owner of DC-based PR firm Rosen Communications, Nicole Rosen… Director of public relations at UJA-Federation of New York, Emily Kutner… Head coach of the football team at the University of Arizona, he spent the 2020 season as the QB coach for the New England Patriots, Jedd Ari Fisch… President of Charleston, SC-based InterTech Group, Jonathan Zucker… Television news correspondent and actress, Lara Berman Krinsky… Former Israeli national soccer team captain, he also played for West Ham United and Liverpool in the English Premier League, Yossi Benayoun… Mayor of Bat Yam, Israel, Tzvika Brot… Member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, Michael H. Schlossberg… Former professional golfer, now a resident in orthopedic surgery at the NYU Hospital for Joint Disease, David Bartos Merkow, MD… Principal at New Enterprise Associates, Andrew Adams Schoen… Maxine Fuchs… 

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