Your Daily Phil: Interview with Matthew Bronfman + The latest on Israel travel

Good Wednesday morning!

The Israeli government approved a partial reopening of the country’s Ben-Gurion airport to citizens on Monday, making it possible for Israelis to enter and exit without permission from an official committee. The new plan, which doesn’t extend to foreigners, is the first step in a reopening process closely watched by nonprofits that bring foreigners on trips to Israel, Honeymoon Israel CEO Mike Wise told eJewishPhilanthropy.

“We’re trying to push off the final decision-making point as much as we possibly can,” Wise said, adding that his group is focused on working with a travel agent to persuade the airlines to give them as ample a cancellation window as possible. Right now, they have about 90 days. Potential trip participants have put down only refundable deposits so far, Wise said, which is the practice of most of the members of the Israel Travel Alliance, a new group of about 40 trip providers and 10 foundations formed to navigate the uncertainty of travel during the coronavirus pandemic.

BBYO Passport, which hopes to send roughly 900 high schoolers this summer, postponed its cancellation deadline by three weeks to April 27, Aaron Robbin, the program’s senior director, told eJewishPhilanthropy. Interest in the trips doubled this year, he said. NFTY made a similar change, shifting the deadline from March 1 to April 30, according to an email sent to parents in February.

Now that vaccines are becoming increasingly available, another emerging question is how non-Israelis entering the country will be able to show proof that they’ve gotten their shots. In late January, President Joe Biden directed government agencies to explore the development of a digital vaccine certificate, and private companies are also trying to do so. The paper certificate issued to vaccinated Americans by the Centers for Disease Control can be forged, and might not satisfy Israeli authorities, according to an explainer in the Jerusalem Post.

The ask

The pride of Matthew Bronfman’s philanthropy


When Matthew Bronfman was an undergraduate at Williams College in Massachusetts in the late 1970s and early 1980s, his father, Edgar M. Bronfman — the billionaire businessman and philanthropist known for leading the World Jewish Congress — would often tell him, “Don’t let your academics interfere with your education.” Now, 25 years after Edgar Bronfman co-founded Hillel International’s Board of Governors, Matthew Bronfman is assuming the chairmanship, and the mantra again seems relevant. “Hillel is about the whole human being,” he said. Bronfman, who controls the IKEA franchise in Israel and heads several investment firms, talked to eJewishPhilanthropy’s Helen Chernikoff about his broad portfolio of philanthropic interests, which include Jewish campus life, youth engagement, Israel advocacy and Russian-speaking Jewry.

Helen Chernikoff: Where drives your philanthropy? How does it intersect with and diverge from your father’s?

Matthew Bronfman: My dad’s philanthropy was so broad, from the World Jewish Congress to My Jewish Learning. It covered everything from the political to the social. started with the 92nd Street Y and I’ve been involved there for 30 years. Then Limmud FSU, and now chairman of the Hillel International Board of Governors.  I have a passion to try to help people find their Jewish voice, their Jewish journey. At Limmud, we take these Russian kids who had never been exposed to Judaism, and we bring them back. And when kids get to college, it’s the first time they are independent thinkers and the last chance we have to deliver a Jewish message. In practice, I am more religious than my dad. I’m Conservative; he was Reform. But philosophically, we’re very similar. He wouldn’t say he was Reform, he’d say he was a proud Jew. That message is powerful, and I’d like every college student to come away with that message.

HC: What worries you, keeps you up at night?

MB: That on campus, some Jewish students’ right to both fight for social justice and be Jewish is being challenged. Also: intermarriage. And I would say the third thing, which plays a role in intermarriage, is what I view, and others view, as a growing disconnect between the next generation and Israel. The view that Israel is the oppressor. Goliath, not David. It leads them to not lead a Jewish life, and not necessarily want to marry Jewish, and that’s why I think a trip to Israel — Birthright — is critically important. At the American Jewish Committee, I support a program called “Leaders for Tomorrow.” It prepares [young people] to be advocates when they get to college, to understand what the arguments are going to be, and arm them with actual facts. My dad was one of the first people who criticized Israel; it was a long time ago, in Bibi’s first term, and the establishment here was outraged. He said wait, no one loves Israel more than I do, that’s what requires me to speak out. Inaction is apathy.

Read the full interview here.


Sex, and why the “blank” can’t Hebrew schools fix themselves

Courtesy: Leonard Fuld

In an opinion piece, Leonard Fuld writes about censorship, Bill Gates, and a whirling dervish in examiningthe content delivery problem with Hebrew schools.

Fact: With Hebrew school attendance reaching its height at the bnei mitzvah year of 7th grade, nearly 86 percent of Hebrew school students drop out by their senior year of high school.

Conversations: This past month I had a series of conversations about this singular challenge. Everyone I interviewed listed the same three reasons for this dropout rate: (1) Overscheduled teens. (2) Transportation, getting the kids to class. (3) Finally – and most important – the low priority of Jewish education at least when compared to soccer practice. college-prep, and just about any other extra-curricular activity. 

Proposal: According to Jonathan Sarna and Barry Finestone, we need to imagine alternate, attractive ways to provide Jewish teens both a culturally literate and a contemporary Jewish education. 

Read the full piece here.

Moses and marvel

New haggadah brings big-screen superheroes to the Passover seder


When the U.S. went into lockdown at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic nearly a year ago, Rabbi Moshe Rosenberg — a congregational rabbi and educator in Queens — did what millions of other Americans did to keep busy: He turned on his TV. After watching all 23 movies in the Marvel cinematic universe with his children, Rosenberg wrote The Superhero Haggadah: A Story of Signs and Marvelsout today on Amazon. In a recent interview with Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch, Rosenberg explained what comic book characters like Iron Man and Spider-Man can teach even the most learned Jews about the lessons of Passover.

How it happened: Until COVID-19 hit, Rosenberg had only seen a handful of Marvel movies. But then, at the start of the pandemic, he was undergoing radiation treatment for prostate cancer. “I was an emotional wreck, and I was physically weak,” Rosenberg recalled. His seven children, he said, “wanted to help distract me, and they came up with a list of Marvel movies that I should watch. And they made sure I watched them by watching them with me.” Rosenberg is now disease-free.

Superheroes are serious: Rosenberg’s haggadah uses the stories of the Marvel superheroes to discuss serious moral issues, like human character, how to use power for good rather than evil, the meaning of freedom, and so on — major topics that are also referenced and debated in Jewish texts. “You can understand Torah better when you have a frame of reference outside of it,” Rosenberg told JI, noting that literature and the Torah can “mutually illuminate” each other.

Read the full interview here.

Worthy Reads

Have Faith: The Americans most skeptical of the COVID-19 vaccine also tend to be religious, and philanthropists could take advantage of this correlation to help disseminate the vaccine. The problem, Eboo Patel, founder and president of Interfaith Youth Core, and Robert P. Jones, founder and CEO of Public Religion Research Institute, write in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, is that big foundations tend to have a blindspot when it comes to faith. A recent report by the Bridgespan Group revealed the top 15 private foundations gave only 2% of their dollars to faith-based nonprofits. Grant-makers should start by funding local partnerships between religious communities and health care institutions, the duo suggest. [ChroniclePhilanthropy]

Waking Up: A new book by Stephen R. Soukup, The Dictatorship of Woke Capital, posits that powerful figures in American business such as Michael Bloomberg, Laurene Powell Jobs and Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff are overreaching in their efforts to “save” the world — particularly through their propagation of “Sustainability Accounting Standards,” write the editors of Philanthropy Daily. The environmental, social and corporate governance standards purport to be voluntary, but actually aren’t, according to Soukup, vice president and publisher of The Political Forum, a consulting firm serving institutional investors. He calls for the depoliticization of business and markets, and the authors of the review conclude that the charitable sector needs the same transformation. [PhilanthropyDaily]

Next Generation: The children of philanthropists who created family foundations are transforming the processes of philanthropy even as they hew to the causes embraced by their parents, Joanne Florino reports in a blog post at the Philanthropy Roundtable’s website. The kids aren’t “radically revising the mission statement” or “tearing down the family portraits,” but they are doing things differently — offering general operating support, encouraging benchmarking and reaching into the worlds of business and policy, according to Sharna Goldseker, a nonprofit consultant to multigenerational philanthropic families, and Michael Moody, a professor of philanthropy at Grand Valley State University, who together wrote the book Generation Impact. [PhilanthropyRoundtable]

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Word on the Street

The Hadassah Foundation has awarded $330,000 to embolden gender justice in Israel … Michael Bloomberg is giving $150 million to a Harvard University program that helps mayors better manage their cities … ZAKA chairman and founder Yehuda Meshi-Zahav has been selected as a recipient of the Israel Prize in the field of Lifetime Achievement and Special Contribution to Society and the State … The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation, the Helen Daniels Bader Fund, A Bader Philanthropy, and Family Caregiver Alliance have announced three winning organizations of the Innovations in Alzheimer’s Caregiving Award … The 2021 Nonprofit Salary & Benefits Report, one of the most comprehensive surveys in the country, containing unique and proprietary salary information is available … JDC’s Entwine has released The Give, an individual guide to giving …

Pic of the Day

Courtesy: UJAFed-NY

UJA-Federation of New York and Northwell Health invited 150 local seniors, including 60 Holocaust survivors, to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at a pop-up vaccination site at the Marion & Aaron Gural JCC, last weekend.



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