Your Daily Phil: Inside New Jersey’s Orthodox boomtown + URJ report details misconduct
Good Friday morning!
Ed. note: In honor of Presidents’ Day, the next Your Daily Phil will arrive on Tuesday. Enjoy the long weekend!
For less-distracted reading over the long weekend, browse this week’s edition of the Weekly Print, a curated print-friendly PDF featuring a selection of recent eJP stories, including: Feel your breath: Mindfulness moving into the Jewish mainstream; After 50 years of leadership, Malcolm Hoenlein ready to hand over the reins; Beyond ‘territoriality’: DLead wants Jewish fundraisers to experiment with collaboration; With new building and fellowship, the National Library of Israel hopes to become truly public; and Inside New Jersey’s Orthodox boomtown. Print the latest edition here.
Before March 2020, a group of teenagers engaging in workshops, meetups, concerts, community service, leadership training and an extensive menu of Shabbat service options would have been standard, even unremarkable, features of an international Jewish youth conference. Two years later, the BBYO International Convention, which began Wednesday in Baltimore and runs through the weekend, rates as one of the biggest in-person Jewish gatherings since the beginning of the pandemic, drawing 2,500 teens from around the world, and some celebrities too. Its theme is “The Power of Us,” and includes a roster of speakers ranging from Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-GA) to the actor Simu Liu.
BBYO CEO Matthew Grossman told eJewishPhilanthropy that by gathering Jewish teens together in such large numbers, “we’re bringing something back that was lost.”
“The fact that young people are bringing it back, the fact that young people are showing the world it’s OK to get together, it’s OK to feel community again, it’s OK to say ‘celebrate,’ that’s deeply meaningful,” Grossman said. He hopes the conference will “bring something to life that is going to be the memorable experience for teens who have lost a lot over the past couple of years.”
The conference is supported by a long list of major Jewish charitable foundations, some of whose representatives will be at the conference, and is also partnering with Mike Leven and the Jewish Youth Pledge to encourage teens to make a philanthropic commitment to supporting the Jewish community into the future. The philanthropists and other adult Jewish professionals and activists have a parallel schedule to that of the teens, featuring discussions about workplace burnout, Israel, Jewish teen engagement and other topics. The adults also have chances to interact with teen attendees leading up to Shabbat. Read more here.
This week also saw the kickoff of the Yale Philanthropy Conference, with a focus this year on how philanthropy can address the issues that have occupied American society’s attention for the past two years. Called “Beyond the New Normal,” the conference will feature sessions on the labor market, environmental protection, democracy, effective altruism and religion.
“We’re asking: What role does philanthropy play in answering these questions — some of which we’ve become aware of for the first time, or which are occupying a newly important place on our communal, civic and social radar?” Seffi Kogen, a student at the Yale School of Management and a member of the conference planning committee, told eJewishPhilanthropy. “What role can philanthropy play in addressing climate change, in addressing racial injustice, in addressing our politically polarized moment?”
Inside New Jersey’s Orthodox boomtown
In the 1940s, when Jews were being slaughtered in Europe, one rabbi looked to New Jersey and identified his pastoral promised land. In Lakewood — an Ocean County township that is not especially close to either Manhattan or Philadelphia — Rabbi Aharon Kotler, a Talmid chacham, or learned man, who left Europe at the outset of the Holocaust, planted roots. In 1943, a year after opening a small yeshiva in White Plains, he moved the school to this place, which would become a pivotal piece of the American Jewish puzzle. Seventy years later, Lakewood is undergoing massive growth. Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch visited the New Jersey town for a first-hand look, starting with the local airport.
Have it all: The Lakewood Township Municipal Airport is set to undergo a transformation into a new, state-of-the-art terminal building with a high-end kosher restaurant and a large conference center. The project aims to lure more businesses to set up shop in Lakewood and satisfy a legion of increasingly wealthy professionals already in town. With charter flights and helicopter rides taking people to New York City and other economic hubs on the East Coast, why not come to Lakewood, the city asks — Lakewood, where you can have the best of both worlds, learning Torah and raising your family?
Population explosion: It’s one of the most significant Jewish communities in the U.S., but to people outside of the Orthodox world, it’s largely invisible. Over the last decade, the majority-Orthodox Lakewood, with a population of 135,000 people, was the second-fastest growing city in New Jersey. Its population increased by more than 45%, or some 42,000 people, between 2010 and 2020, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. And that doesn’t even count the corresponding growth in nearby Toms River and Jackson, two towns whose Orthodox populations have increased as Lakewood has become expensive and crowded.
Company town: Luring people to Lakewood has, until recently, largely been the purview of the Beth Medrash Govoha, or BMG, yeshiva, which has grown from a dozen students in its first year to more than 7,000 now, the largest yeshiva outside of Israel. Steven Reinman, the city’s economic development director and airport manager, compared the situation to Hershey, Pa.: “Somebody could come and open up a business years ago in Hershey town, and Hershey town still remained centered around the chocolate factory.” Similarly, in Lakewood, industrious BMG graduates could set up, say, an e-commerce warehouse to sell goods on Amazon, but their business wouldn’t exist had the yeshiva not brought them to Lakewood in the first place. (Lakewood, it should be said, has a kosher chocolate factory.)
Independent report on URJ finds repeated instances of sexual misconduct at movement’s youth programs
Rabbi Mary Zamore, executive director of the Reform Women’s Rabbinic Network, said a just-released independent report on sexual misconduct within the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) describes “in black and white what many of us have heard whispers of for decades,” reports eJewishPhilathropy’s Ben Sales.
Repeated instances of misconduct: The report found that there were 17 incidents in which adults engaged in sexual misconduct with minors at URJ’s youth programs between the 1970s and 2017. It also found that there had been 16 incidents of misconduct between minors, and 39 between adults. The misconduct includes “verbal sexual harassment, unwanted sexual advances, sexual touching and sexual assault,” according to the report. It covers all URJ institutions, including its 15 summer camps and NFTY, its youth group.
A ‘hook up’ culture: The report described a “permissive and sexualized culture” at Kutz Camp, URJ’s now-closed overnight camp for teen leaders. And it also described a “pervasive sexualized… ‘hook up’ culture within NFTY,” which includes a “points system” that rewards kids for sexual encounters. The report also found that URJ had hired at least five rabbis or other professionals despite past allegations, often out of a belief that the alleged perpetrators had engaged in a process of teshuvah, or repentance.
Word from URJ: “We are heartbroken and distressed by these accounts and we profoundly apologize for the enduring pain caused to so many,” URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs and North American Chair Jennifer Brodkey Kaufman wrote in an email on Thursday to the movement, including a link to the full report. “We owe a debt of gratitude to those who came forward to share their experiences as victims, witnesses, and survivors, and we will honor their courage as we take our steps forward.”
Demographics are destiny. Data can help us prepare
“Throughout history, Jewish communities have had to adapt to survive. Today is no different. The modern world has become a technologically advanced consumer-driven society, where marketplace decision-makers must respond to consumer behaviors and preferences… To be relevant, Jewish federations and the organized Jewish community writ large must be able to function in the technological world to meet consumer demand. That means we need data,” writes Jessica Mehlman, associate vice president, impact and planning for The Jewish Federations of North America, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.
The need for culture change: “Fortunately, our communities are data-rich. We are already using data to inform many of our decisions. We analyze trends in the annual campaign to help plan for next year. Many communities are working to measure programmatic impact. We talk and listen to community members and agency professionals to better understand what is working and what is not. Our challenge is overcoming fears of investing in new technology and working to change culture to harness the power of big data and follow where it leads.”
Pew as a starting point: “Last year we received the Pew study of Jewish Americans in 2020. This 12-section, 248-page report is full of national data that can be helpful in understanding our local communities.”
MacKenzie’s Millions: A half-dozen nonprofits have started to disclose donations they received from MacKenzie Scott in her latest round of giving, representing causes focused on suicide and drug addiction, Kristen Griffith writes in The Chronicle of Philanthropy. Scott has given at least $8 billion in the past two years to mostly small nonprofits. “The biggest newly disclosed gift from Scott was $133.5 million for Communities in Schools, which provides services in schools in low-income neighborhoods. The Guttmacher Institute, an advocate for reproductive rights, and the Jed Foundation, which seeks to prevent youth suicide, received $15 million apiece; The National Council on Aging received $8 million; and two groups that help people deal with substance abuse and addiction also said they had received big sums: Shatterproof got $5 million and Young People in Recovery $3 million.” [ChronicleofPhilanthropy]
Miracle Messages: Basic income pilots, in which unhoused people receive monthly cash sums for several months, are on the rise, writes Adele Peters in Fast Company. Inspired by a basic income program in Vancouver, the San Francisco-based nonprofit Miracle Messages gave a small group of people experiencing homelessness $500 a month for six months. “The group predicted that the money would help reduce stress and improve food security, and it did. But two-thirds of the people who were unhoused when the pilot began also now have permanent housing. (The number has grown since the program first ended, when only a third had moved into new housing.) ‘There’s a level of incredulity, like, how did this happen?’ says Kevin Adler, founder and CEO of Miracle Messages, the nonprofit. ‘That’s an important narrative to be able to realize—our unhoused neighbors are often more tapped into resources, housing options, networks that might be able to open up, but just are lacking a little bit of funds. For me, it’s yet another testimony of the importance of seeing the agency and the intrinsic dignity of each of our unhoused neighbors.’” [FastCompany]
Word on the Street
Israel’s GDP grew by 8.1% in 2021, surpassing previous forecasts and marking the steepest financial growth rate recorded in Israel in 21 years, according to data published by the Central Bureau of Statistics on Wednesday…
Feminist funding collaborative Fenomenal Funds has awarded $10 million to women’s organizations committed to shifting power and advancing feminist movements worldwide…
Amazon, Starbucks, Microsoft Philanthropies, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Steve and Connie Ballmerand others said Thursday they’ll spend more than $10 million to combat homelessness in Seattle…
Google and the U.S. Department of Commerce launched a $100 million Google Career Certificates Fund to help accelerate wage gains for American workers. Google.org has committed $50 million — the largest grant in its history — to the fund…
Harold Bonavita-Goldman, the former president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, diedat 79…
Founder and president of the eponymous Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, she is on the boards of the NFL’s New York Giants, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and the Aspen Institute, Laurie M. Tisch (left) celebrates her birthday Saturday…
FRIDAY: Rosh yeshiva at Yeshiva University, Rabbi Hershel Reichman… Former congressman from New York, Eliot Engel… Former national and Washington correspondent for The New York Times, Michael Janofsky… Pharmaceutical oligarch, Boris Spiegel… Principal at NYC-based Liebman Advisors, Scott Liebman… Israeli singer and actress, Ilana Avital… Portfolio manager at Capital Group and board member at Hillel International, Hilda Lea Applbaum… Co-principal of the Institute for Wise Philanthropy, Mirele B. Goldsmith… Executive vice president of donor experience at The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, Lori Tessel… Israel’s ambassador to Romania, David Saranga… Author and school safety activist, Andrew Scot Pollack… Chair of the chemistry department at Stony Brook University, Nancy Sarah Goroff… CEO of an eponymous Baltimore-based marketing and design firm, David F. Warschawski… Actor, director and producer, Isaac “Ike” Barinholtz… Co-founder of StockX, Josh Luber… Singer-songwriter and pianist, Regina Spektor… SVP of development for J Street, Adee Telem… Instagram celebrity known commonly as The Fat Jewish, Josh Ostrovsky… President of baseball operations and general manager of MLB’s Milwaukee Brewers, David Stearns… Opinion columnist for The Washington Post, James P. Hohmann… Senior city planner at the NYC Department of City Planning, Dylan Sandler… Political reporter at CBS Interactive, Rebecca R. Kaplan… French movie actress, Esther Garrel… Partner at Globatec Digital Integration, Larry C. Leider…
SATURDAY: 2004 Nobel Prize laureate in physics and a professor at the University of California Santa Barbara, David Jonathan Gross… Former chairman of the board and CEO of Sony Corporation, Howard Stringer… Retired co-founder of integrated digital marketing agency Hawkeye / Mosaic, now known as Publicis Hawkeye, Sharon Edelman… Co-founder and CEO of Atria medical institute in NYC, Alan Tisch… Haifa-born managing partner of Hager Pacific Properties, Adam Milstein… Former Goldman Sachs partner and then a senior executive at JPMorgan Chase, Barry L. Zubrow… International CEO of Taglit Birthright Israel, Gidi Mark… Novelist, essayist and short-story writer, Jonathan Allen Lethem… U.S. District Court judge for the Northern District of Illinois, he was a law clerk for Justice Anthony Kennedy (1993-1994) alongside future justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, Judge Gary Scott Feinerman… Co-founder of the band Phish where he was the lead drummer and frequent songwriter, Jon Fishman… SVP of government relations at Las Vegas Sands Corp., Andy Abboud… Communications director since 1997 for U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Kevin D. Bishop… Chairman of the World Zionist Organization and acting chair of The Jewish Agency, Yaakov Hagoel… Canadian media personality, Ezra Levant… Managing principal at InfraStrategies and senior fellow at the UCLA Institute for Transportation Studies, Joshua Levi Schank… Founder of NYT’s DealBook and co-creator of Showtime’s “Billions,” Andrew Ross Sorkin… Hollywood writer and producer, Gideon Yago… Jewish rapper, part of the alternative hip hop group Darshan, better known by his stage name Eprhyme (pronounced “E-Prime”), Eden Daniel Pearlstein… Writer of the “In the Know” gossip column for The Hill, Judy Kurtz Altscher… Founder of a Middle East NGO called ROPES, Ben Birnbaum… Former MLB pitcher for the Phillies (2011-2012), now running Big League Advance, Michael Schwimer… Samantha Zalaznick… Tight end for the NFL’s Tennessee Titans, Anthony Firkser… Actor who played the young autistic Jacob “Jake” Bohm in the Fox TV series “Touch,” later portraying a young Bruce Wayne in another Fox series “Gotham,” David Mazouz… Daniel Blum…
SUNDAY: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)… Former head of the Shin Bet and later a member of Knesset for Yesh Atid, Yaakov Peri… Born in Tehran, emigrated to the U.S. in 1950, co-owner of NYC-based TF Cornerstone, Kamran Thomas Elghanayan… University professor at Brown University, winner of a 2015 Pulitzer Prize for biography, David Kertzer… Physician and acupuncturist based in Valley Village, Calif., Andrea Hoffman Kachuck… Nursing home administrator in Hazlet, N.J., Benzion Schachter… Founder and publisher of “Punch,” M. Sloane Citron… Former SVP of News at CBS-owned local television stations, David M. Friend… Former NFL player who played for seven different teams over 16 seasons (1984-1999), he was one of the NFL’s original long-snapper specialists, Adam Blayne Schreiber… Senior editor at Politico, David Cohen… Professor of mathematics at the University of Chicago, Shmuel Aaron Weinberger… U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ.)… Pulitzer Prize-winning staff writer for The New Yorker, Emily Nussbaum… Senior cantor at University Synagogue in the Brentwood area of West Los Angeles, Kerith Carolyn Spencer-Shapiro… Comedian, actress and writer, best known for portraying Gina Linetti on Fox’s series “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” Chelsea Peretti… Actor best known for his role as Joel Maisel on “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” Michael Zegen… Owner of a baseball development facility in Denver, he was a starting pitcher in the MLB for the Houston Astros and the Colorado Rockies, Jason Hirsh… Executive director at NYC-based Integrity First for America, Amy Spitalnick… Aimee Weiss… Ethiopian-born Israeli fashion model and television personality, winner of the Israeli version of “Big Brother,” Tahounia Rubel… Levi Shemtov (not from DC)…
Email Editor@eJewishPhilanthropy.com to have your birthday included.