Your Daily Phil: Interest-free loans for Israeli business + Cleveland’s Black-Jewish fellowship
Good Monday morning and happy Juneteenth!
Excited chatter in Hebrew, English, French, Portuguese and a variety of other languages filled the patio of Jerusalem’s Hotel Yehuda last night, as 150 professionals from around the world came together for the first gathering of the ROI Community in three years. The ROI Community, a network of Jewish leaders and activists, is a project of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies.
ROI summit participants — ranging from Jewish professionals to startup founders to community activists — will engage in four days of programming, collaboration and conversation centered around the idea of building community. Past years’ summits have produced social initiatives to rebrand Russian-Israeli culture, provide aid to Ukrainians — and have even led to some marriages. The network of more than 1,700 alumni spans more than 60 countries, dating back to the first ROI summit in 2006.
“As a philanthropist, I am constantly working with my team to determine what is the best way to produce real, tangible impact. And one of the things we have found is that investing in talented people works,” Schusterman Family Philanthropies Chair Stacy Schusterman said at the summit’s opening session last night. “We also believe that networks serve as effective multipliers. They amplify the work of individuals, create the type of friction that fosters innovation and enable effective solutions to be strengthened and scaled. This is the type of impact we are striving for.”
The 2022 cohort includes individuals who had completed the application process earlier this year, in addition to applicants who had applied for the 2020 cohort prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and were invited to reapply this year. There was no cohort or summit last year. As case numbers are rising in Israel, COVID-19 precautions were present at the summit, with all participants receiving an on-site test prior to entry.
In between musical performances by oud player Yohai Cohen, ROI Director Beri Rozenberg, an alum of ROI’s 2016 cohort, introduced the 2022 summit’s key themes: “Release, Reimagine, Reconvene,” a nod to the shmita year, the agricultural sabbatical in Israel during which Jewish law requires that fields lie fallow.
“Shmita translates literally as ‘release,’” Rozenberg said. “We’re commanded to release ourselves in several ways: Release our hold over our land and over other people, release our mind from its preconceptions and release society from its rigid structures. We are also committed to reimagining — reimagining our future together, and to bring new and fresh ideas. And finally, we are recommended to reconvene… We convene as a community over shared values, mission and action.”
New platform seeks to connect microfunders with Israeli small businesses
David Elmalich was fresh out of his army service when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. With endless amounts of free time, he dove into mycology, the study of mushrooms. In the two years since he began researching the fungi, Elmalich, along with his partner, launched Funngiz, an online shop selling exotic and medicinal mushrooms. His biggest hurdle, he writes on the new crowdfunding platform SparkIL, is meeting demand. He credits SparkIL, the peer-to-peer lending service that officially launches today, with helping to navigate the Israeli bureaucracy and red tape that is often insurmountable for young entrepreneurs, eJewishPhilanthropy’s Melissa Weiss reports.
Making an impact: In addition to helping small businesses get off the ground, SparkIL’s founders hope to strengthen the connection between Jews in the Diaspora and Israel. The platform facilitates small interest-free loans for a range of new businesses working to break into their industries. SparkIL, which was founded through a partnership between The Jewish Agency for Israel and The Ogen Group, an Israeli nonprofit loan fund, directs potential lenders to a range of target groups in Israel, from businesses owned by new immigrants to small groups that work with people with disabilities.
Origin story: SparkIL is the brainchild of Amira Ahronoviz, the director-general and CEO of The Jewish Agency for Israel. Ahronovitz grew up in the southern Israeli city of Beersheva, where she said she watched small-business owners struggle to find success. “The characteristic of those areas is that a lot of the people, their way to make a reasonable income is to have a micro-small business of their own,” Ahronoviz told eJewishPhilanthropy regarding where she grew up. “But yet, I’ve learned very early in my professional career, that accessing credit [for] those more vulnerable populations, or more risky populations, is a challenge.”
Rekindling the Black-Jewish relationship in Cleveland
“The American Jewish community talks a big game when it comes to our participation in the civil rights movement of the 1960s. We teach our children that America’s Black and Jewish communities were strong allies, marching together in Selma and fighting for justice together on Capitol Hill. On Juneteenth, we celebrate the liberation of the African-American community, and remember the work that remains to be done for our country to truly live its values,” write Matthew Fieldman and Charmaine Rice, the conceivers of Cleveland’s Rekindle Fellowship, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.
Why Rekindle? “The two of us — a Jewish social entrepreneur and a Black diversity and inclusion specialist — conceived of the Rekindle Fellowship to bring our communities together to engage in face-to-face dialogue and forge new relationships. Our goal is to reinvigorate, rejuvenate and, yes, rekindle the ties between the Black and Jewish communities in order to create meaningful social change, accelerating our collective impact and increasing equity. The fight for civil rights in America is not over, and in order to move the needle on these persistent issues, we need stronger collaborations with communities that are not our own. Together, we can respond to the assault on so many of our civil rights – voting rights, reproductive rights, healthcare, public education and more – more effectively than alone.”
Musical Treasure: Northern Judeo-Moroccan women left behind a trove of music and culture that “scholars of Judaism are striving to preserve before it disappears,” Aida Alami writes in The New York Times: “The women were for centuries confined to Jewish quarters, captivated by a world very distant from theirs, singing ballads that eventually became tonal elements of their culture. They latched on to music to preserve their identities and traditions…Even though northern Moroccan Jews spoke a hybrid language of Hebrew, Spanish and Arabic, the songs are in Spanish. But they are not just political statements. They are ballads and lullabies with metaphorical lyrics that do not just speak of history, but are deeply intertwined with personal memories and cultural traditions.” [NYTimes]
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Word on the Street
The township of Jackson, N.J., which borders Lakewood, settled a Justice Department lawsuit alleging that a 2017 ordinance banning dormitories sought to keep out yeshivas…
An anonymous bidder is paying a record $19 million for billionaire Warren Buffet’s final charity lunch. The private meal with the Berkshire Hathaway CEO was offered on an eBay auction to benefit the San-Francisco-based charity GLIDE, which helps homeless people and those in poverty. Buffett has raised $53 million for GLIDE since the auction began in 2000…
Moshe Silagi and his daughter Karen Silagi Freedman of Encino, Calif., donated $1 million to the Hadassah Foundation to establish the Andrea Silagi z”l Fund for Education, Advocacy, and Outreach. Andrea Silagi, Moshe’s wife, was a former Hadassah Foundation board member who died in 2018…
Phillips Academy Andover, an elite private secondary school in Andover, Mass., announced a $25 million gift from alumnus and former board president Oscar Tang to bolster financial aid…
Dina Mann became the director of Emanu-El Downtown at Congregation Emanu-El of the City of New York. She was formerly communications manager at Columbia University, and previously worked with a number of Jewish organizations, including UJA-Federation of New York and Reboot…
Joel Waldman became program advisor for Habonim Dror Olami, for the MASA programs Kibbutz Ulpan and Maslool, for English-, Spanish- and Hebrew-speaking candidates. He was previously a teacher, music composer and producer…
Pic of the Day
The Israel Reform Movement held its 24th biennial conference, Veida, at Kibbutz Shefayim near Herzliya this past Shabbat. Nearly 1,500 Israeli Reform Jews from 45 Reform congregations across the country attended the event, and were joined by 160 Reform Jews from partner organizations in Israel and abroad.
Journalist and EMT in New York City, Maggie Shnayerson (left)…
Weston, Fla., resident Harold Kurte… Author of 72 books including four series of children’s books, Dan Greenburg… Former member of Knesset for the Ratz party, Ran Cohen… Owner of Schulman Small Business Services in Atlanta, Alan Schulman… Detroit-based pawnbroker, reality TV star, author and speaker, Leslie “Les” Gold… Host of Bully Pulpit from Booksmart Studios, Bob Garfield… Former assistant managing editor for politics at NBC News and adjunct professor at CUNY’s Baruch College, Gregg Birnbaum… Federation leader, founder of Brilliant Detroit (helping children out of poverty) and of Riverstone Communities (it owns and operates over 70 manufactured housing communities in 12 states), James Bellinson… EVP of the Orthodox Union, Rabbi Moshe Hauer… Senior legal affairs contributor at Politico, Josh Gerstein… Attorney general of Pennsylvania, now running for governor, Josh Shapiro… Director of civic initiatives at The Teagle Foundation, Tamara Mann Tweel…. Director of brand strategy and digital innovation at Kivvit, Pearl Gabel… Chief communications officer at e-cigarette company Juul Labs, former White House official, Josh Raffel… Jennifer Bernstein… Photographer, producer and digital strategist, Sara Pearl Kenigsberg… Chief campus officer at Hillel Ontario, Beverley Shimansky… Director of immersive experiences and missions at Federation CJA based in Montreal, Jaime Reich…
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