Your Daily Phil: How foundations return to the office + The key to engaging alumni

Good Friday morning!

Jewish Interest-Free Loans of Atlanta (JIFLA) is offering small, easily accessible loans to people ages 20 to 40, Executive Director Nancy Weissman told eJewishPhilanthropy.

JIFLA launched the program because it was concerned that young people didn’t even know it existed, and created a young professionals committee to create and publicize it. The loans are for a maximum of $3,000, compared with $10,000 for a typical loan, and require less paperwork to obtain. In mid-December, the committee will hold a financial literacy event in a local brewery to start spreading the world.

“Last year we loaned out $230,000,” Weissman said. “If more people knew about us, it would be $400,000, or even more.”


Longing for coffee and conversation, foundations inch back to the office

With $1.3 billion in assets and a sharply defined focus on education, the Jim Joseph Foundation has become a powerful force in American Jewish life since its creation in 1987. It supports both emerging organizations and grand, collaborative efforts, and has led the introduction of philanthropic best practices, from the use of data to evaluation methods. Yet even the Jim Joseph Foundation has met its match in the puzzle of how and when to return to the office during the COVID-19 pandemic, Barry Finestone, the foundation’s CEO, told eJewishPhilanthropy’s Helen Chernikoff.

The meetings where it happens: “Man plans, God laughs,” said Finestone, noting that the foundation, like most employers, has been operating since March 2020 with at most a three-month visibility into future workplace arrangements. Now the foundation, and others who shared their plans with eJP, are looking to the beginning of the new calendar year as a milestone in their pandemic journey. The general consensus among funders is that a return to the office is essential, although the details of their set-ups diverge due to differences of geography and culture. “Walking to and from offices, meeting people in person, having conversations in the office, hosting people for events, meeting people for drinks or dinner, it’s where the magic of our work happens, where the relationships that are core to our success are built, and where brainstorming and ideation happen — where creative vision so often emerges,” said Felicia Herman, COO of the Maimonides Fund, which started working again in its New York City office part-time in September 2020. Staffers are now there four days a week, and work from home on Fridays.

Regional differences: In January, the Jim Joseph Foundation’s roughly 20 employees will return to their space in San Francisco a minimum of three days a week, while the Harold Grinspoon Foundation (HGF) will open the year with a new policy under which staff — more than 90 work in its Agawam, Mass., office — can work remotely up to 40% of the time, said COO Adrian Dion. In Toronto, the 35 employees who work at the Azrieli Foundation’s head office returned to work at 50% capacity on Oct. 4. The foundation plans to continue in this arrangement until at least January 2022, CEO Naomi Azrieli said. The William Davidson Foundation, located in Troy, Mich., has been unable to call everybody back to its office space, where 16 people typically work, due to rising transmission rates in that part of the country, CEO Darin McKeever said. “From June to today, everything is uncertain. As much as I want to move to the rebuilding phase, we are still in that difficult period of uncertainty,” McKeever said.

Read the full article here.

voices at the table

The key to engaging alumni

AJC Project Interchange

“For the past 15 years, the Jewish philanthropic world has poured money into alumni engagement, trying to unlock the mystery of how a one- or two-week experience can translate into lifelong engagement. Sure, you can get someone to come to a happy hour, or like you on social media, but to bring someone into a long-term, meaningful and sometimes complex relationship with Israel and the Jewish people? To get them to proactively step up and speak out in support of Israel or against antisemitism? That’s more challenging,” writes Lili Kalish Gersch, director of alumni engagement for AJC Project Interchange, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Key to success: “The key to our successful alumni engagement has been to harness two strengths: We give AJC staff on the ground the resources – from data to dollars – to make real, lasting connections based on shared values, and to integrate alumni into their existing networks. They engage in authentic, person-by-person relationship building.”

A real seat at the table: “Even more importantly, colleagues are encouraged to center alumni engagement around the pursuit of our organizational goals. When we incorporate alumni into our leadership councils and caucuses and invite them into our local interreligious dialogues or communities of conscience, they speak out loudly against antisemitism and in favor of Israel’s right to defend itself. Sometimes such outspokenness comes with personal or professional risk. We, in turn, stand up for their rights in the public sphere. True allies.”

Read the full piece here.


For Jewish Europe, the future is now


“We live at a time of diminishing nuance, viewing issues through narrow narratives and framing. For the Jewish community, faced with increasing antisemitism and concerns for the future, such a dynamic leads to statements like ‘Jewish life in Europe is over.’ Such a soundbite misses the people and communities working to make Jewish life thrive. They ignore a Jewish Europe that is vibrant and populated by communities grappling with serious challenges by responding with strength and creativity,” writes Alejandro Okret, executive director of international programs at the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Survey says: “The new JDC-ICCD [International Centre for Community Development] Fifth Survey of European Jewish Community Leaders and Professionals speaks to this fact. In its pages we find community leaders and professionals who are fully engaged, eschewing emigration and committed to local communities. They feel this way even though for the first time in the survey history, they rank antisemitism and combating it first among their concerns and priorities.”

Additional challenge: “Just below the surface of this pressing challenge is another: The desire of these leaders to expand their definition of community and membership. They want to do so by engaging young people, the unaffiliated and volunteers.” 

Clarion call: “My work in Jewish community development over the last two decades gives me great pause and much pride in these findings. They reflect a consensus voice for introspection and the rethinking of models of engagement. For those grassroots social innovators and young adults just entering the gates of the Jewish community or those who decidedly remain outside those gates, this should be a clarion call.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Desert Bloom: Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch interviews Noah Swartz, the founder of Erem, a just-launched business that produces hiking boots designed for desert climates. “I really fell in love with the desert, maybe just the contrast of coming from the very wet Northeast to going to a very different landscape like that,” said Swartz, whose family founded Timberland and sold it a decade ago. “There’s really something about the desert that kind of makes my soul rest a little bit differently. I think, for me, it’s a combination of the vastness and the extremes of the desert combined with the fact of, I think in some ways, really unparalleled beauty.” [JI]

Clear Connection: Philanthropy can help managers struggling to impart a feeling of connection and meaning across remote teams, states Doug Lessing, founder of Phin, a workplace philanthropy platform, in a Worth magazine interview with Emily Cegielski. Phin enables companies to fund donations to causes selected by employees, and also offers team-building experiences such as a “Climate Quest Virtual Escape Room,” in which colleagues solve puzzles, learn about environmental causes and are rewarded by company-funded donations. “Employees working from home are known to be lonelier and more disconnected from their teammates and, critically, disconnected from their company’s values,” Lessing says. “The best talent is on the move, looking for companies that match their values and desire to live their lives in a certain way.” [Worth]

No Answer: Almost a year after the death of casino mogul and philanthropist Sheldon Adelson, Simone Ellin reports in Inside Philanthropy that she was unable to learn anything about the future of his foundations under the leadership of his widow, Dr. Miriam Adelson, despite reaching out to those institutions and all of the Adelsons’ major grantees, such as Birthright Israel, Yad Vashem and Reichman University in Israel. While Miriam Adelson’s low profile might be partially explained by Judaism’s traditional yearlong mourning period, she has been actively involved in the couple’s political work. “As far as Adelson’s substantial philanthropy for Jewish causes and medical research goes, anyone’s guess is as good as ours,” Ellin concludes. “It’s possible funding has continued as usual, albeit quietly. Or maybe grantees don’t even know, and nobody wants to risk losing support. Either way, the stakes are high.” [InsidePhilanthropy]

Disturbing Figures: People with disabilities are one of the populations that have disproportionately borne the brunt of the pandemic, dying and being laid off at higher rates and struggling to access protective equipment, yet foundations haven’t responded by increasing targeted support, writes Hannah Martin in a post on the Center for Effective Philanthropy’s website. A related issue: Representation of people with disabilities and foundations and nonprofits is lacking, even at those that purport to serve people with disabilities. “I’m not surprised, but I am deeply concerned,” Martin concludes. “The need for foundations to support people with disabilities is only growing more urgent. Our community is growing rapidly as COVID-19 survivors develop long COVID, and many aspects of our lives are becoming even harder.” [CenterEffectivePhilanthropy]

Community Comms

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Word on the Street

Aaron Keyak has been appointed the State Department’s deputy envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, and will begin on Monday… Louise Richardson will become the next president of Carnegie Corporation of New York, effective January 2023… U.K. Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi announced a summit on campus antisemitism. The gathering of representatives from the Union of Jewish Students, Universities UK, the National Union of Students and the regulatory body the Office for Students will examine what can be done to make Jewish students feel safe… A new report from BBB Wise Giving Alliance’s found that while public trust in philanthropy has been relatively steady since 2017, overall donor participation rates continued to decline in 2020… The anonymous owner of a tattoo kit said to have been used on prisoners in the Auschwitz death camp informed an Israeli court that he plans to donate it to the Haifa Holocaust Museum instead of selling it… ORT UK celebrated its 100 birthday at a 275-person gala dinner in London, the organization’s first in-person event since 2020… Rabbi Miriam “Mimi” Ferraro, 59, died

Pic of the Day

Kedem Auction House, Jerusalem

Megillat Esther written in 1767 by Luna Amron, the 14-year-old daughter of a prominent and wealthy Roman Jewish family, will be auctioned off next week in Jerusalem.


U.K. Parliament

British entrepreneur and philanthropist, Baron Harold Stanley Kalms celebrates his birthday Sunday… 

FRIDAY: Retired New York State Supreme Court judge, whose tenure on “The People’s Court” was shorter than that of his wife “Judge Judy,” Jerry Sheindlin… Attorney, investment banker and former U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom, Louis B. Susman… Professor of chemistry at Stanford University, Richard Neil Zare… Former member of Congress representing Queens and a partner at Gotham Government Relations, Gary Ackerman… Fashion designer, Calvin Klein… Founder and president of the Washington-based Arab American Institute, James J. Zogby… President of the University of Pennsylvania and nominated to be U.S. ambassador to Germany, Amy Gutmann… Los Angeles-based real estate investor, Sydney Ilene Cetner… Owner of Patty’s Piano Studio in Santa Monica, Calif., Patricia Fiden… Cosmetic dentist and chairman of Akelos, Inc., Steven Fox… Majority leader of the California State Senate, Robert Myles “Bob” Hertzberg… Dean and professor of Jewish history, literature and law at Yeshiva University, Rabbi Dr. Ephraim Kanarfogel… Hollywood screenwriter, producer, director and lyricist, Charlie Kaufman… Angel investor and president of Sunrise Financial Group, Nathan Low… Retired member of the Knesset for the Kulanu party, Moshe Kahlon… Co-president of NORPAC New York and a partner in a Brooklyn-based law firm, Trudy Stern… Co-president of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, Lisa Eisen… Founder of the World Values Network, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach… Director of state and local government affairs for SAIC, Eric Finkbeiner… Founder at Applied Optimism Group LLC, Seth Cohen… Member of the New York State Assembly since 2005, Andrew D. Hevesi… New York Times best-selling novelist, Lauren Grodstein… Digital director and executive editor of Time MagazineSamuel P. Jacobs… Associate director at Northwestern University Hillel, Rachel Hillman… Senior account director at Sunshine Sachs, Michael Dale-Stein… Managing director at Climate Power, John D. Axelrod… Bloomberg News correspondent based in London, Ivan Levingston

SATURDAY: Art dealer and former owner of MLB’s Miami Marlins, Jeffrey Loria… President of the United States, Joe Biden… Singer-songwriter, Norman Greenbaum… Former national security advisor and United Nations ambassador, John R. Bolton… Maj.-Gen. (reserves) in the IDF, Amos Yadlin… Longtime spokesman (now emeritus) to the foreign press at The Jewish Agency for Israel, Michael Jankelowitz… Author and Pulitzer Prize-winning national affairs writer for The Wall Street JournalRonald Steven “Ron” Suskind… White House official in both the Bush 41 and Bush 43 administrations, now a partner at Kirkland & Ellis, Jay P. Lefkowitz... Pianist, composer and author, Robin Spielberg… Fashion designer, hotelier and real estate developer, Alan Faena… Vice chair of the board of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and a trustee of the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles, Heidi Monkarsh… Senior advisor at the National Science Foundation, Graciela Narcho... American-born former member of Knesset (2016-2019) for the Likud party, Yehudah Glick… Rapper and founding member of the hip-hop group the Beastie Boys, Michael Louis Diamond, better known as Mike D… Founder and president of Greenlight Capital, David Einhorn… Boston-based real estate attorney at Goulston & Storrs, Zev D. Gewurz… Anchor for Yahoo Finance, Julie Hyman… Opposition research specialist and founder of Beehive Research, Devorah Adler… Rabbi Benjamin Gonsher… Outfielder for four MLB teams (2007-2015), he played for Team Israel at the 2017 World Baseball Classic, he is now the general manager of the Philadelphia Phillies, Sam Fuld… Director for North America at the Saban Family Foundation and the Cheryl Saban Self-Worth Foundation for Women & Girls, Jesse Bronner… Actress and writer, Margo Stilley… Actress and playwright, Halley Feiffer… Deputy health care editor for PoliticoDan Goldberg… Alexis Weiss…

SUNDAY: U.S. senator (D-IL), he serves as the Senate majority whip, Dick Durbin… Academy Award-winning actress and director, Goldie Hawn… Founder of Men’s Wearhouse and Generation Tux, George Zimmer… U.S. senator (R-LA), John Kennedy… Beverly Hills resident, Julie Shuer… U.S. district judge for the Northern District of California, Judge Beth Labson Freeman… Chairman of Sony Pictures Motion Picture Group, Thomas Rothman… Business development officer at the San Francisco office of Taylor Frigon Capital Management, Jonathan Wornick… CEO and national director of the Anti-Defamation League, Jonathan A. Greenblatt… Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Bret Stephens… Founder and publisher of The Real DealAmir Korangy… Former NFL running back for the Oakland Raiders and St. Louis Rams (1997-1999), he is now a real estate entrepreneur, Chad Levitt… Political director of ABC News, Rick Klein… Director of government relations at the Hershey Company, Joanna Liberman Turner… Danielle Hana Monosson Raff… Reporter at Bloomberg NewsMax Abelson… MLB pitcher in five organizations, Robert Stock… Social media strategist at the Anti-Defamation League, Alexander Freeman… Judy Brilliant… Ruth Shapiro… Vice president of planned giving and endowments at UJA-Federation of New York, William Samers