Your Daily Phil: Interview with CJP’s Rabbi Marc Baker + Mental health considerations in Holocaust education

Good Monday morning!

Yesterday, the Jewish Federation of Volusia and Flagler Counties in Northeastern Florida opened its food pantry to help more than 100 people celebrate the Easter holiday, offering turkeys, vegetables, cakes and candy.  “We usually don’t do Easter, but we decided that we had to do something because of the pandemic,” said Gloria Max, the federation’s executive director. “This is a tourist town.”

The Minneapolis Jewish Federation, along with 30 other Jewish organizations, is leading “Clean Speech Minnesota” — a month-long initiative to focus on respectful speech — that consists of a daily two-minute online lesson about a different aspect of shmirat halashon, or “guarding the tongue.” 

The Jewish and LGBTQ communities in the Bay Area area are mourning the death of Al Baum, 90, a lawyer, activist, investor and philanthropist who helped create the LGBT Jewish Alliance of the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco. He first connected with his Jewish roots in the 1950s while serving in the U.S. military and posted  in Germany, where he attended Shabbat services for the first time.

Baum was a longtime supporter of Horizons Foundation, which provides grants to LGBTQ nonprofits. “Al Baum was a giant in the LGBTQ, Jewish community. Kind, generous, inspiring,” said Rabbi Mychal Copeland at Congregation Sha’ar Zahav, the large LGBTQ synagogue in San Francisco. “He helped sustain the organizations central to our communities and fought for visibility and equality on multiple fronts.”

Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y., has announced a $500 million endowment matching grant from billionaire philanthropist George Soros, in addition to raising $250 million from trustees, alumni, and other supporters. The college plans to raise another $250 million over the next five years. Bard is one of two founding partners of the Open Society University Network, created with the Central European University in partnership with Soros’ Open Society Foundations.

The ask

Rabbi Marc Baker on leading Boston’s federation ‘like an educator’


Rabbi Marc Baker has helmed Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP), the Boston area’s federation, for three years. His predecessor held the job for three decades. In an interview with eJewishPhilanthropy’s Helen Chernikoff, Baker discussed his plans to deepen relationships between CJP and its grantees, and how his background as a day school principal has shaped the way he thinks about leadership.  

This interview has been condensed and edited.

Helen Chernikoff: How would you describe your way of working?

Marc Baker: People tell me that I lead like an educator. The best educators are not sages on the stage, transmitting information. They’re empowering the next generation. When I first started, I did a listening tour; I talked to 1,700 people and made 36 different stops. The medium really was a message, especially at a time when institutions — philanthropy, politics — are being critiqued as leading from the top. Our grantees are not just receiving allocations from us. We are in genuine strategic partnership together, building the community that we want. It’s a partnership, it’s not transactional.

HC: Can you give an example of how you’re working differently with your grantees?

MB: One good example is our relationship with the Jewish Community Center, which is evolving fast. We’ve always had a long, strong relationship with them, but now it’s not just programmatic, where we ask them to come up with an idea so that we can give them money. Instead, together with them, we’re envisioning what families with children need and want. We engaged IDEO, the design firm. We’re doing this with day schools and other organizations. People make their way through Jewish life in these organizations, but we’re not talking enough together.

Read the full interview here.

Student voices

The importance of mental health considerations in Holocaust education

Department of Defense photo by Marvin Lynchard.

“A rabbi I know asked a Holocaust survivor what message she would give to the next generation. The woman responded, ‘It’s almost too painful to remember, and yet we know that we must.’ This is the credo that many Jewish institutions and educators follow when designing curricula,” writes Kayley Romick in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Age appropriateness: Assessing whether material about the Shoah is developmentally appropriate is the first step in promoting the wellbeing of learners. Books and films often have ratings or recommended audiences listed. Many children’s books and poems preserve the emotional weight of Shoah tragedies without disturbing images or passages that can scar young children. Young adolescents and teenagers can start to interact with historical context, socio-political matters, and philosophical issues like the banality of eviland theodicy.”

Extra support: “Studying the Holocaust is upsetting, but students with these vulnerabilities may experience a greater emotional toll, including the triggering or exacerbation of symptoms. Others may notice dark thoughts that they struggle to fit into their worldview.”

Read the full piece here.

Racial Justice

Grounded in gratitude, tackling systematic racism with open hearts


“A number of rabbinical seminaries currently have students of color and I am honestly concerned about their ability to thrive as rabbis and cantors because many of our communities have not addressed the racism that exists within,” writes Rabbi Sandra Lawson in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Background: “I’ve written and spoken a great deal about my personal journey. I am someone who converted into Judaism. Judaism is my adopted religious tradition. I fell in love with the Jewish community through my relationship with a Reconstructionist rabbi and a Southern Reconstructionist congregation. When I officially joined the Jewish people in 2004, I imagined and believed, perhaps naively, what I was told, which is once you convert to Judaism you are a member of the tribe, you are part of the Jewish people. Though I love Judaism and the Jewish community with all my heart, too often I’ve been made to feel different, other.”

Created equal: “In America there still exists an unspoken assumption that American Jews are white. In previous generations, American Jews relied on stereotypical identifiers to discern if someone was Jewish. Today communities must understand that those stereotypical markers are, to an increasing degree, incorrect and unreliable.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Privacy Concerns: The story of women’s suffrage has relevance for today’s debate about donor privacy, suggests Patrice Onwuka in a blog post on the website of the Philanthropy Roundtable. Katherine Dexter McCormick, the widow of the heir to the International Harvester fortune; Margaret Olivia Sage, the widow of Wall Street investor Russell Sage; and Swiss philanthropist Pauline Agassiz Shaw all made crucial anonymous donations to the National American Women’s Suffrage Association. “Donor anonymity played a role in supporting the suffrage movement as it did with other unpopular political causes that advanced the ball of equality in America, like the civil rights movement and the gay rights movement,” Onwuka argues. [PhilanthropyRoundtable]

Sharing Stories: In the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Glenn Gamboa reports on the increasing number of organizations whose mission is to help Americans heal political divides. He highlights One Small Step, established in 2018 by Dave Isay, also the founder of the oral history project StoryCorps and the recipient of a MacArthur “genius” grant. “I am not ever concerned about people arguing with each other, because that’s healthy,” Isay said. “But I was concerned with people treating one another with contempt.” [ChroniclePhilanthropy]

Art Sale: A debate about whether the trustees of major museums are doing enough to support their institutions during the coronavirus crisis has gripped the art world, writes Mike Scutari in Inside Philanthropy. Critics say trustees whose wealth has surged in the past year must give more in order to save museums — such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Baltimore Museum of Art — from the need to sell pieces of their collections, but museum leaders say boards have already done a great deal. “We come from a starting place that our donors have literally built the Met, for which we are incredibly thankful,” said Max Hollein, the Met’s director. [InsidePhilanthropy]

Unexpected Depths: Right-leaning donors averse to working together have put themselves at a disadvantage by not creating pools of funds like the California Black Freedom Fund, supported by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and the Annenberg Foundations, state James Piereson and Naomi Schafer Riley in City Journal. Conservative donors have historically cherished an individualistic approach, preferring to give directly to an organization rather than to a foundation, and to support an array of causes rather than focusing on one, but Piereson and Schafer Riley say that should change: “Though conservative donors have reason to be wary of pooled funds, such collaborations might point the way toward more effective philanthropy.” [City Journal]

Community Comms

Apply! The Jewish Council of the Emirates Community Centre seeks a Dubai-based Executive Director

Apply! The Kirsh Foundation seeks a full-time NY-based Program and Special Initiatives Coordinator.

Apply! Want to join the team at Jewish Insider/eJewish Philanthropy? We’re looking for a top-notch philanthropy editor. Learn more here.

Be featured: Email us to inform the eJP readership of your upcoming event, job opening, or other communication.

Word on the Street

The Foundation for Jewish Camp announced the 13 camps chosen for the third round of grants through the Yashar Initiative… The Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles announced $1.5 million in grants to help sustain 15 nonprofits in Israel experiencing economic hardship due to the pandemic… Jessica Emerson McCormick has been named executive director of the University of Arizona Hillel Foundation… Rabbi Dr. Michael Cook died at the age of 79…

A new poll released by the Anti-Defamation League finds over half of Jewish Americans have either experienced or directly witnessed some form of antisemitic incident in the last five years… A new report from Statistics Canada found that Jews remained the most targeted religious group for hate crimes in Canada in 2019… The head of London’s Luton Airport says its UK-to-Israel route will be instrumental in driving its recovery from the pandemic…

Pic of the Day


Israeli President Reuven Rivlin receiving the official results of last month’s election on March 31. Rivlin is meeting with leaders of elected parties today for consultations on their preferred candidate for forming the next government.



Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Rochelle Walensky

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author, Joseph Lelyveld… Former vice-provost of the California Institute of Technology, David Goodstein… Research scientist and former CEO of the Ontario Genomics Institute, Mark J. Poznansky… Professor emeritus in the Department of Jewish thought at Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Daniel J. Lasker… Engineer who invented the Segway, Dean Kamen… CEO of Hess Corporation, John Barnett Hess… British novelist and author of over 40 books specializing in mystery and suspense, Anthony Horowitz… Founder of merchant bank Alnitak Capital Partners and chairman of the board of AudioCodes and Sodastream, Stanley B. Stern… Moscow correspondent for BBC News, Steven Barnett Rosenberg… Israeli actress and model, Sendi Bar… Film writer and producer and co-founder of Quantity Entertainment, Lee Eisenberg… Assistant managing editor for CNN Politics, Dan Berman… Director of global sanctions policy and strategy at PayPal, Howard Wachtel… Deputy chief of staff and legislative director for Representative Dina Titus (D-Nevada-1), Benjamin J. Rosenbaum… Israeli screenwriter and political activist focused on disability benefits, Alex Fridman… Operations manager at 2U, Adam Maslia… Director of political and membership engagement at Planned Parenthood, Sarah Horvitz… Congressional Reporter at GovTrack Insider and Box Office Analyst at BoxOffice Media, Jesse Rifkin… Associate at Schmidt Futures, Wilson Shirley… Marketing manager at Rogers & Cowan in Los Angeles, Camila Seta… Writer and editor, Adam Ross Rubenstein