Your Daily Phil: iCON kicks off in Chicago + AEPi’s partnership with Gift of Life
Good Monday morning!
In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on David Rubenstein’s philanthropic strategy and spotlight Alpha Epsilon Pi’s collaboration with Gift of Life, and feature op-eds from Elana Wien, Dan Elbaum and Steven Windmueller. Also in today’s newsletter: Dan Libenson, Rabbi Liz P.G. Hirsch and Richard “Dick” Rosenberg. We’ll start with a preview of the upcoming iCON confab in Chicago.
Hundreds of Jewish educators of all types, ages and denominations will gather in Chicago beginning today for iCenter’s three-day iCON, where they will discuss and learn how to teach the complicated and now thornier-than-usual topic of Israel. Meant to be a biennial gathering, this will be the first iCON in nearly five years because of the coronavirus pandemic. “For us, this is a real opportunity to be back, to be back in person, to gather the field, to see how much it has grown despite COVID,” Aliza Goodman, one of iCON’s organizers, told eJewishPhilanthropy.
The iCON gathering, which began in 2009, focuses less on teaching facts and figures and more on broader concepts and ways of thinking about Israel. The gathering is made up of dozens of sessions on topics like Israeli television, Jewish-Arab relationships, the Hebrew language, Israeli comics, poetry, and music.
Anne Lanski, who founded the iCenter in 2008, reflected on how dramatically both her organization and the field of Israel education have expanded over the past 15 years. When the group held its first iCON, just 50 people attended, all of them teachers in American Jewish day schools or Hebrew schools. Now, she said, it’s “Israelis and North Americans, frontline educators and engagement professionals, all the way to CEOs, funders, lay leaders, and everything in the middle across geographies, across denominations, across politics, across everything that normally divides us.”
For the iCenter, which seeks to infuse Israel into all aspects of Jewish education, the situation in the country today presents a particular challenge for iCON and Israel education in general, according to its organizers. It can’t be ignored, obviously, but it shouldn’t dominate the conversation either. “Educational frameworks that have to be changed every single time something happens are not fundamentally solid foundations,” Goodman said. “The approach, the educational approach and framework, the language, the commitment, those things don’t change. The content of some of the presentations gets adjusted, but that is true anytime.”
While there are dozens of sessions on a wide variety of topics, the organizers of iCON said the time spent between the formal aspects of the gathering – the sideline conversations, the chats by the coffee urn – are in many ways more important as they provide an opportunity for participants to interact with people they would never otherwise meet. “With all that’s going on in Israel and in the world in general,” Lanski said, “to be able to come together and double down, with great minds and a commitment to Israel education, now seems like it’s as important as ever, if not more important than ever.”
Read the full story here.
Last night in Jerusalem, the Davidson Center reopened its doors following several years of renovations and expansions supported by the William Davidson Foundation. More below.
A marrow bridge
AEPi reaches 613 matches for Gift of Life bone marrow donations
When Raphael Eidelman was called to donate to Gift of Life, a bone marrow and blood stem cell registry with headquarters in Boca Raton, Fla., he saw it as an opportunity to give back. He was an Epsilon Pi International Fraternity (AEPi) brother at California State University – Northridge (CSUN). His brothers liked to have fun, he told Jay Deitcher for eJewishPhilanthropy, but were also sensitive and caring, saying “I love you” to each other. They were involved in tikkun olam, with most jumping at the opportunity to enter the Gift of Life registry, an AEPi partnership since 2004. A year and a half after he was swabbed himself, he was given the opportunity to save a life. He saw his donation as a chance to “do something for the Jewish community like the Jewish community at CSUN has done for me,” Eidelman said. “There’s a sense of brotherhood among all Jewish people, whatever fraternity they may be in, whatever social group, it doesn’t matter.”
Big number: Since AEPi first partnered with Gift of Life, the nonprofit has swabbed over 16,000 students through the fraternity, sparking 613 matches, and saving 80 lives. For Gift of Life – and Jews in general – 613 matches represents a significant milestone, matching the 613 commandments in the Torah. They hit the notable number on Feb. 5.
Background: Gift of Life was launched in 1991 by Jay Feinberg, who, at 22, was diagnosed with leukemia that year, right as he was beginning law school. “I was diagnosed and told that the likelihood of finding a match for me was like looking for a needle in a haystack,” Feinberg told eJP, “and the reason for that was because my background was Eastern European Jewish.” For Ashkenazi Jews, the probability of finding a match was severely compromised as bloodlines were destroyed during the Holocaust. “There were so many people that weren’t available to be in the registry,” Feinberg said. “There were 6 million fewer people who could have had families and children and grandchildren who ultimately would have been eligible to be in the registry, but weren’t even born because those people had died during the Holocaust.”
Solid partnership: Even before partnering with Gift of Life on bone marrow donations, AEPi was already involved in similar charitable work, with many branches regularly holding blood drives. “We saw our undergrads really gravitated to this idea of getting involved with Gift of Life,” Jonathan Pierce, an AEPi brother who was on the board of directors when the partnership began, told eJP. “It’s because it’s a way for college students [to] do a mitzvah; they can do something that’s good, but they don’t have to go raise money.” AEPi promoted the partnership as an official national initiative, and “it just went crazy from there,” Pierce said. “We realized that our undergrads loved the idea of getting involved. It’s a simple thing to do, but it’s a meaningful thing to do. And it exceeded our expectations by far.” Though most of the AEPi partnership hasn’t been financial, in 2019, AEPi contributed $100,000 to Gift of Life.
Read the full story here.
In practicing ‘patriotic philanthropy,’ David Rubenstein aims to educate Americans about their history
Speaking at the New Orleans Book Festival on Thursday, philanthropist and Carlyle Group co-founder David Rubenstein, author of the 2022 book How to Invest: Masters on the Craft, said he engages in “patriotic philanthropy” — efforts that have included funding the restorations of the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument, Hannah Levitan reports for eJewishPhilanthropy.
History Bites: “I also try to do a lot to give back to the country, what I call patriotic philanthropy, which is to … remind people the history and heritage of our country,” Rubenstein said in conversation with Gary Ginsberg, author of First Friends: The Powerful, Unsung (And Unelected) People Who Shaped Our Presidents. “So I fixed the Washington Monument. Buy the Magna Carta, buy the Declaration of Independence and put it on display. Why? Well, because when people see these things in person, it makes them learn more about our country than they do.”
Leaving law: Rubenstein graduated from the University of Chicago Law School with the hopes of going into government and politics, he explained to Ginsberg. After graduating, Rubenstein served as advisor for lawyer Ted Sorensen, but soon realized he wasn’t suited for law. At 27, Rubenstein shifted his career focus and went to work as deputy domestic policy advisor for President Jimmy Carter. “You should experiment with many different things in your career, because it’s very unlikely that you’re going to find … what you want to do when you’re very young,” Rubenstein said. “More likely [than] not, you’ll experiment, you’ll find different things. And hopefully, by the age of your mid-30s, you’ll find the thing that you really want to do, and that will be your passion in life.”
Unemployable: For Rubenstein, his introduction to finance followed a six-month period of unemployment. After Carter’s loss to Reagan in 1980, he said it was difficult to find a new job because no one wanted to hire a Carter White House aide. “I didn’t want to tell my mother that her only child was unemployable, so I kept saying I had some of these job offers, I didn’t know which one to take,” Rubenstein said.
Private equity: Six months later, Rubenstein received a job offer to practice law once more. “I realized again, I wasn’t very good at it. And so I read about Bill Simon, who was secretary of the Treasury, who bought a company called Gibson Greeting Cards from RCA, put in a million dollars of his own money and made $80 million in 18 months,” Rubenstein said. Seemingly more promising than law, Rubenstein said he tried to form the first buyout firm in Washington, D.C., to do leverage buyouts. After an unsuccessful first attempt to recruit a private equity team, Rubenstein and two other partners launched their own private equity firm, The Carlyle Group, in 1987.
Read the full story here.
Funders: You can make positive social change that lasts
“What will it take to make lasting change for women’s rights and to eradicate all forms of discrimination, harassment and inequity? As we celebrate Women’s History Month, many funders are at a crossroads as we contemplate this question,” writes Elana Wien, executive director of SRE Network, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.
The need to demonstrate impact: “Over the past few years, in the context of the #MeToo movement, the pandemic and a racial reckoning, we stretched giving strategies and practices in new ways. Now, many of us feel the pressure — from ourselves, our boards and peers to demonstrate the impact of those investments.”
Moment of reflection: “The stakes are high amid this collective moment of reflection, occurring in the context of (and perhaps in response to) a complicated socio-cultural moment, that observers are alternately describing as ‘backlash,’ ‘the pendulum swinging the other way’ or ‘a correction,’ depending on your perspective.”
Read the full piece here.
Leaning into American Jewry’s changing landscape
“In 1964, Look magazine, the second-most popular magazine in America at the time, ran a cover story entitled ‘The Vanishing American Jew’ that confidently predicted the disappearance of the American Jewish community by the year 2000,” writes Dan Elbaum, head of North America at The Jewish Agency for Israel, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.
Fast forward: “The article was logical and well-argued — it was also dead wrong. Today, the American Jewish population, as well as our organizations and leadership, can be called many things. But ‘vanished’ is not one of them. Look magazine, on the other hand, closed its doors in 1971.”
Doom-and-gloom projections: “So, amidst the very real challenges that our community faces in 2023 — from rising antisemitism, to younger generations feeling more disconnected to Israel, to dwindling synagogue memberships — it is helpful to take some of the most doom and gloom projections with a hearty grain of salt. Indeed, some of the recent data we see might even provide grounds for something that even resembles optimism.”
Read the full piece here.
21st-century trends: Reimagining the American Jewish experience
“Trends are simply indicators of certain institutional and personal behaviors; they do not predict or define outcomes. The excitement here rests with the possibilities and opportunities to reimagine institutions, rethink the idea of community and to construct new avenues of personal connection,” writes Steven Windmueller, emeritus professor of Jewish communal studies at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.
Changing focus: “Jewish institutions of the 21st century are described as ‘boutique,’ where the focus has been on innovation and entrepreneurship. By contrast, 19th- and 20th-century ‘legacy’ organizations can be viewed as formal, networked and corporate structures.”
Technology revolution in religion: “If 18th- and 19th-century American Judaism was constructed in order to help accommodate Jews to this new society and the roles that Jews would play, then 21st-century Judaism is being reshaped by such transformative forces as diversity, inclusion and individualism. Technology is revolutionizing how religious cultures are delivering their messages, services and programs.”
Read the full piece here.
Sleepy Generosity: Springing forward sounds like progress, but University of California, Berkeley researchers found that people who get less sleep are less generous, and noted a 10% decline in money donated in the days following the switch to daylight saving time, Rasheeda Childress writes in The Chronicle of Philanthropy. “Eti Ben Simon was the lead researcher on a study, published in the scientific journal PLOS Biology, that found when people don’t get enough sleep, they have less desire to help others. The research demonstrated the finding in several contexts — a full night of sleep deprivation, a night of poor quality sleep, and the loss of a single hour of sleep when localities switch to daylight saving time. ‘All of these studies pointed to the same result: that people are less interested in helping other people, they’re less generous, following lack of sleep,’ Ben Simon says…Marshall Levin, chief philanthropy officer at the JCC Association of North America, says that he wouldn’t be deterred by the time change and instead would remind potential donors of the value of giving.” [ChronicleofPhilanthropy]
We Second That Emotion: Engaging user-generated content, being concise and clear in messaging and asking for feedback are a few ways that nonprofits can unleash their brand potential and help their constituents to connect emotionally, Kristy Fontelera writes in NonProfitPRO: “People engage with brands when they feel something — and your nonprofit story is a primary driver. Telling your story well gets people to respond online and drives a sense of connection and community among your donors..So, if you want to encourage people to feel something, highlight the things that make your nonprofit unique and distinct from the competition. Moreover, the best way to stay consistent and distinctive in social media is to stick to your brand’s story. Make sure your story is clear and concise…Another excellent way to boost the emotional response of your brand on social media is to share a day in the life of your nonprofit. You can do this by sharing photos and videos of your activities and experiences with your audience on social [media] through the lens of members of your team. Again, doing so helps build a human and relatable brand presence for your brand — driving emotional connection. The best thing about sharing your day in photos and videos is that you don’t need to focus on a specific topic. All you have to do is share experiences with your audience on social media.” [NonProfitPRO]
Around the Web
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Dan Libenson has been named president of the Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah, effective March 20. Libenson is the founder of Judaism Unbound and previously served as executive director of University of Chicago’s Hillel…
Rabbi Liz P.G. Hirsch has been selected as the next executive director of Women of Reform Judaism, beginning July 5, following the retirement of the current executive director, Rabbi Marla J. Feldman. Hirsch currently serves as rabbi of Temple Anshe Amunim in Pittsfield, Mass.
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The Jewish Community Foundation of Montreal launched the Centre for Philanthropic Learning, a center designed to empower donors, professional advisors and charities by enhancing their skills and knowledge in the field of philanthropy…
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Chaim Topol, the Israeli actor known as Topol, died at 87. Topol is best known for his portrayal of Tevye, the lead role in the stage musical and film adaptation “Fiddler on the Roof,” performing the role more than 3,500 times from the late 1960s through 2009…
In her latest column for eJewishPhilanthropy on the weekly parsha, Erica Brown, vice provost for values and leadership at Yeshiva University, writes, “Listen to others instead of automatically shutting them down. Stay open to possibilities, ones that you may not have considered. Admit when you are wrong. A failure of leadership accountability can lead to more mistake making in the future.”
Pic of the Day
The Davidson Center in Jerusalem’s Old City reopened its doors on Sunday following three years of renovations and expansions that were funded by the William Davidson Foundation.
Israeli President Isaac Herzog spoke at the reopening ceremony, hailing the center and its ability to connect Jews to the history of Jerusalem. “The comprehensive renovation and establishment of this new center reveal to us the ancient, exciting and inspiring foundations of Jerusalem. And this story is mediated in an impressive manner, through new galleries, revolving exhibitions and an educational space for groups and activities,” Herzog said in his speech.
Ethan Davidson, the son of the founder of the family foundation, said the newly renovated facility was a worthy tribute to his father. “When I stand here, the central thought that comes to my mind is something my father would have wanted — a historical place of great significance for the Jewish people,” he said.
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