Your Daily Phil: Inside Cafe Sunflower + Is Israel experiencing the ‘Great Resignation’?

Good Thursday morning!

Ed. note: This is the last Your Daily Phil of 2021. We’re unplugging and encourage you to do the same. We look forward to bringing you more engaging stories and content in 2022. We’ll be back Jan. 3. Stay tuned!

Immigration to Israel was up 30 percent in 2021. Among the 27,050 new Israelis were 4,000 immigrants from the U.S. and 400 from Canada.

The U.S. number represents the highest immigration level from the country since 1973, Israel’s Immigration and Absorption Ministry, The Jewish Agency and Nefesh B’Nefesh announced Wednesday.


At Sunflower Bakery, life skills baked into the kosher cookies

Hilary Eldridge for Jewish Insider

Inside Cafe Sunflower, the lobby-level bakery and coffee shop in the Rockville, Md., office of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, a young employee named Michael excitedly greeted a customer. He rattled off the list of beverages he could make. In front of him was a glass case filled with kosher cookies, cakes and other baked goods. Everything in the shop had been made by the students at Sunflower Bakery’s training kitchen a couple of miles away, where young adults with learning disabilities are taught the basics of baking and independent living: showing up to work on time, maintaining professionalism, communicating with employers and colleagues, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch reports. Michael is one of those students. 

What they can do: “So many people who have been in special ed or received additional services all the way through school have been told always what they don’t do well, what they don’t know, the things that they can’t do,” said Sara Portman Milner, a social worker who co-founded Sunflower Bakery in 2008 with Laurie Wexler. “When they leave school, and they’re supposed to get a job, their anxiety level is through the roof, because they’ve only really been told what they can’t do. They haven’t really been told, ‘You’re a wonderful human being, you’re capable of learning to be able to do something,’ and continually supported.” 

Thinking twice: Much of Sunflower’s training involves instruction that an average neurotypical baker wouldn’t think twice about. But if Liz Hutter, the bakery’s culinary director, told the students to arrange cookies in alternating rows of seven and six on a tray, they couldn’t do it. “You tell that to someone with a disability, sometimes they’ll put seven cookies in a row, six cookies in a row, and they’ll put them all up in the corner,” Hutter explained. So she put together a curriculum, creating new methods to help her students learn skills that might seem like common knowledge to others.

Independent living: John Katz, Sunflower’s program director, works with students to get jobs in the community. But jobs are not the only success metric he cares about. “In this last year, I’ve had six students gaining the confidence to move out and live independently. I have two that work part-time jobs while going back to college. I have three that have gotten driver’s licenses,” Katz noted. 

Read the full story here.


When will we become an exemplary society?


“Every year at the beginning of December, we mark International Day of Persons with Disabilities, an awareness day created by the United Nations to promote the rights and enhance the well-being of people with disabilities. While I applaud this important initiative, I am troubled by the implication that just one day a year suffices to effectively raise awareness and promote real change for the disability community,” writes Maj. Gen. (Res.) Doron Almog,  founder of ADI Negev-Nahalat Eran, a residential and rehabilitation village in southern Israel, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Why only one day? “So, why do we settle for just one awareness day? Don’t we all experience the impact of disabilities on our lives each and every day? Whether due to injury, illness, accident or aging, disability touches us and the ones we love, it engulfs us from all sides. In truth, life is a nonstop battle with disability and human frailty… While these are the facts on the ground, we are not at all comfortable with this image of our reality. We would much prefer to focus on human successes and heroics, on how much we have achieved as a society.”

Communal responsibility: “While it is important to build, create and strive for excellence, we must also place the appropriate emphasis on mutual responsibility and highlight its centrality in our growth as a society. The way in which we relate to the most vulnerable among us, those with disabilities and multiple challenges, constitutes our greatest test. It is our communal responsibility to provide them with appropriate care, representation and opportunities for advancement every day of the year.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Organizational Culture: Writing in Forbes, Tim Sellers suggests that philanthropy can help teams to reconnect and strengthen communal bonds through team-oriented work and feeling empowered to discover personal philanthropic opportunities. “One of the best ways an organization can create a culture of philanthropy is to encourage employees to donate their time to personal causes. Organizations are often surprised by how many employees take advantage of the opportunity to make a difference. Consider offering your staff time off to volunteer,” Sellers writes. “We grant our employees a week of civic time each year to support those causes and organizations they find meaningful.” [Forbes]

Community Comms

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Word on the Street

In a new study, The Israel Democracy Institute examines if Israel is experiencing the “Great Resignation” trend… 

Israelis over 60 will become the first people in the world eligible for a fourth COVID-19 vaccine shot beginning Sunday… 

Hailey Kops, a 19-year-old religiously observant ice skater from West Orange, N.J., is representing Israel at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing…

The Religious Zionists of America are partnering with Amazon to make its “Tzurba M’Rabanan” text (which includes the Tanach, Gemara and commentaries) available in English throughout Amazon’s entire distribution network… 

Roman Abramovich, the owner of Chelsea Football Club, settled a libel lawsuit brought against HarperCollins over a book that it published last year claiming Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his 2003 acquisition of Chelsea. Genesis Philanthropy Group principal and banker Mikhail Fridman also recently settled claims against HarperCollins concerning claims made in the book…

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative announced grants of more than $10.1 million in support of inclusive education research… 

The Carnegie Corporation of New York awarded 44 grants totaling more than $35 million… 

The Minderoo Foundation in Dalkeith, Western Australia, launched a female-led impact investing fund with an initial allocation of $100 million

The company that owns the Cleveland Jewish News will begin publishing an Akron version of its paper in February…

Pic of the Day

WikiMedia Commons

A newly filed brief prior to oral arguments next month in the U.S. Supreme Court has brought back into the news the 20-year battle over a Paris street-scene painting by Camille Pissarro (above) that a Nazi art appraiser allegedly stole from a Jewish woman fleeing Germany. The case, between the woman’s heirs and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Foundation in Madrid, which filed the brief last week, will come before the Court in early January. The decades-long dispute centers on the rules by which foreign sovereigns can be sued in U.S. courts.


Brigitte Engl/Redferns

Israeli-Spanish singer-songwriter of Judeo-Spanish (Ladino) music, Yasmin Levy… 

Television producer Barney Rosenzweig… Electrical engineer, who with Vint Cerf, invented the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and the Internet Protocol (IP), Bob Kahn… Emmy Award-winning actor, writer, musician, radio host, director and producer, best known for his work on “The Simpsons,” Harry Shearer… Known for important contributions in areas of mathematics, including geometry, analysis and group theory, Mikhail Leonidovich Gromov… U.S. district judge in the Southern District of New York, on senior status since 2011, Judge Lewis A. Kaplan… Former economics columnist for The Washington PostRobert J. Samuelson… Documentary filmmaker Aviva Kempner… Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, Michael Moldaver… One of two Grand Rebbes of Satmar, Rabbi Zalman Leib Teitelbaum… Editor-at-large of The BulwarkWilliam “Bill” Kristol… Retired Israeli basketball player and coach, until 2006 she was in the “Guinness Book of World Records” for the most points (108) ever scored in a women’s professional game, Orna Ostfeld… Dean at Indiana University’s School of Global and International Studies, he served as the United States ambassador to Poland (09-12), Lee A. Feinstein… Software engineer at Goldman Sachs, Bill Pinsky… CEO of the Rabbinical Assembly, Rabbi Jacob Blumenthal… Former USAID acting mission director for the West Bank and Gaza, now mission director for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Courtney Chubb… Entrepreneur and campaign finance attorney, Jonathan Eric Zucker… Beverly Hills-based attorney and real estate agent, he is a supporter of pro-democracy groups in his native Iran, Pooya Dayanim… Partner in the Austin, Texas, office of Keller Lenkner, she clerked on the U.S. Supreme Court, Zina Linda Gelman Bash… VP of strategy and mergers at the Heritage Group, Adam Milakofsky… Israeli singer-songwriter, musician and composer of Mizrahi music, Dudu Aharon… Founder of the Besht Yeshiva in Dresden, Germany, Akiva Weingarten… Executive director of the Alexander Hamilton Society, Dr. Gabriel Scheinmann… Founder and CEO of GovPredict, Emil Pitkin… Senior marketing manager at Rokt, Lauren Kahn… Israeli fashion model Shlomit Malka… Account executive at Edelman, India Goodman… Tom Epstein…

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