Your Daily Phil: Interview with the Atlanta Jewish Federation’s endowed fundraiser + The California ethnic studies controversy explained

Good Monday morning!

As a group of 10 Senate Republicans approach Democrats in an attempt to work with them on the next coronavirus-relief bill, the amount of aid hangs in the balance. That number is the big question for charities — determining the amount of relief that will go to them, and therefore to their clients — and there’s a big discrepancy between the Democratic and Republican visions. Biden’s calls for $1.9 trillion in COVID-related spending; the Republicans propose a dollar amount that’s about a third the size of the president’s. 

Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski, scion of an illustrious rabbinical dynasty and a psychiatrist who specialized in substance abuse, died in Israel at age 90 after contracting COVID-19. His life was notable for the degree to which he bridged the religious and secular worlds. He presented at professional conferences in Hasidic clothing, and some of his 60 books were written for mainstream audiences. He was a supporter of Alcoholics Anonymous, despite Christian roots, to the point that he permitted AA meetings in church basements.

The ask

Meet Beth Warner, the federation world’s first endowed fundraiser

Courtesy Camp Wise via Facebook

The estate of Frances Bunzl, which last week gave Atlanta’s Jewish Federation and Family & Career Services its largest gift to date, directed that part of it be used to establish another first. The $5.6 million gift will create the first endowed position in the entire Federation system — the “Frances Bunzl Chief Philanthropy Officer.” Beth Warner, who has served as the Atlanta Jewish Federation’s chief philanthropy officer for more than four years, will take on the new title. She talked to eJewishPhilanthropy’s Helen Chernikoff for our recurring feature, “The Ask,” about the field and work of philanthropy. This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

The generations: “Our community is planning for the future and becoming more comfortable talking about what Jewish Atlanta will look like in 10, 20, 30 years from now. It is becoming a much more prevalent conversation, because of the passing of the baby boomers who have been the matriarchs and patriarchs of their family foundations. If it weren’t for Payroll Protection Program loans and Federations’ COVID-19 emergency response funds, which raised millions of dollars to support our Jewish ecosystem, many of our foundations would have made the difficult decision to tap into their endowments. They have not had to do that. It is a wake-up moment for organizations to say, ‘We need to have those resources in place.'” 

Serving the stranger: “How do we continue to retain our donors, and attract new donors? In Atlanta, we have a growing Jewish community. [The population was 120,000 in 2006, when the last survey was conducted, up more than 50% from 1996.] How do we tap into them and introduce our work? The competition now for donor dollars is tremendous. There’s more than 1.5 million nonprofits in the U.S. and more than 30,000 public charities in Georgia.” 

What it all means: “No one should feel helpless. There’s always something someone can do. For me as the fundraiser, it’s about taking the time to help the person identify their opportunities. That’s what philanthropy is all about. It’s about relationships. The word is Latin for “love of man.” You can use the word “development,” but that doesn’t say a lot. It’s about helping others, whether that’s a donor on their philanthropic journey, or someone in need.”

Read the full interview here.


Kicking Off Jewish Disability Awareness & Inclusion Month

For the past 15 years, February has been known as Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance and Inclusion Month (JDAIM). It’s a month that recognizes the strides the Jewish community has made towards equal access for each individual, regardless of ability or disability — and acknowledges the work yet to be done. Beginning with Amanda Gorman’s poem, “The Hill We Climb,” Meredith Polsky frames the first (and hopefully last) “pandemic JDAIM,” in a post presented by The Covenant Foundation.

Polsky’s point: “When I reflect on Gorman’s words, ‘And so, we lift our gazes not to what stands between us, but what stands before us,” I think of people’s tendencies to talk about “us and them’ — “people with disabilities” and “people without disabilities” — people who need accommodations and people who don’t.” 

Asking questions: “As a Jewish educator working in the field of Jewish Disability Inclusion, I am always thinking about where the intersection lies between current events, weekly Torah portions, everyday conversations and inclusion. It’s rare that I don’t see any overlap — afterall, disability inclusion is all about community, cultural awareness and responsibility. What among these is not a part of everyday human existence?”

Tying it together: “In an interview Amanda Gorman gave after delivering her inauguration poem, she talked about the power of words. In this very unusual Pandemic JDAIM, we know that we each — individually and collectively — must elevate our vision for inclusion by using our words — speaking out and asking what we can do to make sure everyone is included. We must recognize that inclusion is not about one group of people or one cadre of professionals, and that what lies before us is infinitely more important than what stands between us.”

Read the full piece here.


The uproar over the California ethnic studies program, explained

As a push from California lawmakers to mandate ethnic studies in public schools approaches a final vote in March, Tablet magazine published an article last week with the headline “California Is Cleansing Jews From History.” The article caused waves across the Jewish community, including in California, where Jewish groups applauded the most recent draft of the curriculum just a week earlier. Jewish Insider’s Melissa Weiss spoke to a number of activists and Jewish communal leaders in California who have focused on the issue in recent years.

In a nutshell: The upcoming March meeting of the California State Board of Education is the culmination of a years-long effort spearheaded by a group of activists to provide ethnic studies resources to California’s education system. The various drafts of the curriculum have been subject to intense scrutiny — due in large part to earlier drafts’ inclusion of material deemed antisemitic and the omission of Jewish history — and reworked several times to produce the version that is slated for a vote next month.

Here’s who is involved: A coalition of Jewish organizations, including the Jewish Community Relations Council of San Francisco, StandWithUs, JIMENA: Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa, the American Jewish Committee’s Northern California branch and others, have been involved in efforts to modify the curriculum since the open comment period on the first draft in 2019. The JCRC drafted a lesson plan on American Jewish diversity, while JIMENA submitted a plan on antisemitism — which also covers the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism — and Jews of Middle Eastern origin. Both lesson plans are included in the current draft of the curriculum. 

How it was received: The Jewish Public Affairs Committee of California (JPAC), the umbrella group of the organized Jewish community in the state, sent a letter addressed to members of the State Board of Education on January 21 calling the third draft of the curriculum “a significant improvement” over prior drafts and applauding the inclusion of the two lesson plans. JPAC also praised the “removal of denigrating content on Jews, Israelis, and Israel from the draft.” The Israeli American Council (IAC) issued a statement to its members in December that they “are proud to stand by the IQC’s final product,” referring to the Instructional Quality Commission, the group that reviews and edits the curriculum, whose members include AIPAC board member Anita Friedman and California State Senator Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica). 

Word in Sacramento: “Jewish community organizations across the political spectrum have been deeply engaged with the curriculum and virtually everyone I’ve spoken to is feeling positive about the recent draft,” explained Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel, majority whip of the California Assembly and chair of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus. “There are certainly some additional revisions folks would like to see, and gains we’ll need to protect, but things have been trending in a very positive direction.”

What happens next: At the March 17-18 meeting, the 11-member board, appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, will approve or reject the finalized third draft of the ethnic studies curriculum, which, if adopted, will then be made available to all school districts in the state. The coalition of Jewish organizations is hopeful that the curriculum will be further modified — removing mentions of Thomas and Sarsour and shifting JIMENA’s lesson plan to one of the core sections of the curriculum rather than its current placement in a section focused on “Interethnic Bridge-building.”

Why it matters: Observers believe the state education board is likely to approve the new curriculum, and that eventually ethnic studies will be a graduation requirement for California’s high school students. “This is a trend that’s not going to stop in California,” San Francisco JCRC head Tyler Gregory told JI. “We’re already starting to see that. So it’s good for people to be waking up, that this is a new issue for the Jewish community, and also a vehicle for the BDS movement to move from college campus activism to younger minds in high schools. And we have to be really cognizant that that’s really what’s happening here.”

Read more here.

Worthy Reads

??Unsung Women: A new picture book shares the relatively unknown story of Osnat Barazani, the Kurdish woman born at the end of the 16th century widely considered to be the world’s first female rabbi. [TimesOfIsrael]

? Dear Miriam: An advice columnist counsels a Jewish professional about how to feel grounded instead of “floaty”: make detailed lists, practice ritual, connect with others. [JewishExponent]

? Hey Baby: After a year-long competition, the Pritzker Children’s Initiative has awarded 10 grants of between $250,ooo to $500,000 to community-based coalitions that are doing “innovative” work improving outcomes in areas like early literacy indicators for infants and toddlers. [InsidePhilanthropy]

?Homeless Census: The official definition of homelessness causes an undercount of the population because it does not include people who have found temporary shelter with friends or in hotels or campgrounds, experts say. [NYTimes]

? Worlds Colliding: Ben Kusin is both the son of a GameStop co-founder and a stock trader on the Reddit forum, WallStreetBets, that is driving up its stock price in a campaign investors who shorted the company’s stock. [CNBC]

Community Comms

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Word on the Street

Sara Fredman Aeder, the chief of staff at NYU’s Bronfman Center, has been named the new executive director of American Friends of Nishmat… Israel’s Ministry of Finance has found parental education and financial security were key factors in entrepreneurial success… With support from the Knight Foundation and the Park Foundation, INN’s Network Philanthropy Center has launched a clearinghouse of advice aimed at fundraisers for nonprofit newsrooms… NBC Universal has joined the Ruderman Foundation’s call committing to audition actors with disabilities with each new studio production … Arkady Rotenberg, a high-profile Russian oligarch, says he — not his childhood friend Vladamir Putin — is the owner of a $1.4 billion Black Sea palace that has sparked recent protests in the country… Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn, gave $250,000 to BlackPac, a voter enfranchisement organization, right after the election…

Pic of the Day

On the first day of Black History Month, Rabbi Sandra Lawson sings“Will the Circle Be Unbroken” on Instagram.


EVP and chief program officer of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, Becky Sobelman-Stern turns 59…

Vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Malcolm I. Hoenlein turns 77… Partner in the LA-based law firm, Fredman Liebermann Pearl, Howard S. Fredman turns 77… Midtown Manhattan physician specializing in Nephrology and Internal Medicine, Mark H. Gardenswartz, MD turns 71… Composer and conductor, he is the laureate conductor of the Chappaqua Orchestra since 2002, Michael Jeffrey Shapiro turns 70… Far Rockaway, NY resident, Maurice Lazar turns 70… Lakewood, NJ-born president and part-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Stan Kasten turns 69… Publisher of Baltimore Jewish Life, Jeff Cohn turns 67… Painter, born in Derbent in Southern Russia and now living in Albany, NY, Israel Tsvaygenbaum turns 60… Deputy director for policy and government affairs at AIPAC, David Gillette turns 60… One of Israel’s top soccer players of all time, now chairman of Beitar Jerusalem, Eli Ohana turns 57… Scholar-in-residence at American University in Washington, Dan Arbell… Actor, director and producer, Pauly Shore turns 53… Chair of Perkins Coie’s political law practice, Marc E. Elias turns 52…

Mid-Atlantic regional director for AIPAC, Tara Brown turns 44… Partner in RK Equity Group and founder of soon-to-open Birch Hill Recovery Center in Kent, Connecticut, Ari Raskas turns 43… Experimental jazz guitarist, bassist, oud player and composer, Yoshie Fruchter turns 39… Radio host and author, Adam Charles Kokesh turns 39… Actress known for co-creating and co-starring in the Comedy Central series “Broad City,” Abbi Jacobson turns 37… Senior director of client partnerships at AxiosAndrew Friedman turns 34… Sportscaster and sports reporter who covers the New York Mets for SNY, Steven N. Gelbs turns 34… Health services deputy at Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, Stephanie Beth Cohen turns 32… Member of the U.S. House of Representatives since January (D-CA-53), Sara Jacobs turns 32… Brand marketing manager at Smore, David Aryeh Leshaw turns 30… Film actress, Julia Garner turns 27…