Your Daily Phil: JDC absorbs Kahal + Non-Jewish communal pros

Good Monday morning!

During the initial pandemic lockdown of April 2020, Sharona Israeli-Roth started hearing from one Israeli family in the United States after another: Could Israeli-Roth, a Jewish educator by trade, arrange online classes for their kids while they were stuck at home?

Israeli-Roth was the San Francisco regional director of the Israeli-American Council (IAC), which runs programming for Israeli families in America. She arranged what she called a “commando” team of teachers that began offering online Hebrew classes for kids and adults. Hundreds of people signed up.

Two years later, that effort has grown into Ofek, which now offers more than 500 classes by 70 teachers on Hebrew language, Israeli culture and history, the Holocaust and more. It has reached some 4,200 students, about half of them Israeli Americans, and runs educational courses in 10 synagogues in the U.S.

Now, eJewishPhilanthropy has learned, a $150,000 gift from an anonymous donor will allow the program to teach 150 courses through Jewish organizations like synagogues and schools for a nominal fee. It’s another sign that, even as the gradual return to pre-pandemic normalcy continues, online learning is still a growth industry. 

“There is an important place for Jewish day school,” said Israeli-Roth, who now runs Ofek as IAC’s vice president of online education. “But we also know there are a lot of people who are not able to afford it, and we also know that there are a lot of people who don’t want to be affiliated with a synagogue or with a specific organization. We can reach out to those communities and say, ‘We are here.’ … We are not replacing anyone but we are adding another layer to the availability of Jewish education.”

Ofek also works through Jewish day schools that are short on resources. One Jewish high school in Florida that had trouble finding Hebrew teachers now has its students learn Hebrew online though Ofek three times a week. The program is also in talks with a day school in Arizona. The donation allows Ofek to offer to teach courses at Jewish institutions for free or, in some cases, a maximum fee of $180. 

The bulk of Ofek’s offerings include Hebrew classes and a variety of courses on Israeli arts and culture — from classes on cooking and the street art of Tel Aviv to courses on literature and krav maga, the Israeli hand-to-hand combat system. Israeli-Roth is particularly proud of a once-a-week Hebrew course taken by a group of six Holocaust survivors. The courses on antisemitism and Israeli history, she said, are taught from a “Jewish-Israeli perspective” but steer clear of Israel’s current internal political debates and are separate from IAC’s political advocacy efforts. 

“A lot of schools, synagogues and different Jewish organizations are struggling financially with thinking about how to fund [Jewish education],” Israeli-Roth said. “This will be available for their communities.”


JDC absorbs Kahal in sign of pandemic fallout

Jews studying abroad meet up in Cape Town, South Africa.

Courtesy of Kahal

Travel may be beginning to pick up after two years of pandemic-related restrictions, but COVID’s long-term impact on the Jewish world continues to reverberate — most recently in another consolidation of Jewish nonprofits. Last week, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) announced that it had acquired Kahal, a program that connects Jews studying abroad with Jewish communities in their host cities. Kahal will retain its name and become part of JDC Entwine, the organization’s young adult engagement arm, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Ben Sales.

Slimming down: The move will force Kahal to lay off nine of its 11 staff members and slim down its programming. Kahal was founded in 2013 and most recently had a $1 million budget. JDC and Kahal raised $500,000 to allow the program to continue running for the next two years, after which JDC Entwine will take over fundraising for the program within its budget, which was $4.3 million in 2020, amid a total JDC budget of more than $350 million. 

Global connections: Before the pandemic, Kahal served an average of 3,000 to 4,000 students per year globally, from study-abroad mainstays such as Italy and the United Kingdom to destinations that were becoming more popular, like Singapore. Students would have Shabbat meals with families in their host cities, would celebrate holidays with local communities and would volunteer in Jewish settings. But the halt in travel caused by COVID-19 made Kahal’s traditional mission far more difficult. 

Pandemic troubles: “Like many organizations, especially those dealing with travel, during the pandemic we experienced a slowdown in both our program work and our funding,” Becca Flyer, Kahal’s CEO, told eJewishPhilanthropy. “As we looked at how we could ensure the long-term sustainability of the work that Kahal is doing… we wanted to find a mission-aligned partner to help continue and expand on that work, and JDC Entwine is probably the most natural partner we could think of.”

Read the full story here.


Striking a balance at the Western Wall

David Silverman/Getty Images

When Israel’s government collapsed last month, sending the country to its fifth national election in less than four years, hopes for revitalizing and implementing a government-approved plan to formally establish a pluralistic prayer space at the Western Wall in Jerusalem crumbled along with it. Now, the so-called “Western Wall compromise,” which also recommended non-Orthodox Jewish representation on the council that manages Judaism’s holiest place of worship, is off the table once again. This is a welcome development for Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, who has served as rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy sites in Israel for some 25 years, who believes in maintaining the long-standing Orthodox customs at the sacred site. In an interview with Jewish Insider’s Ruth Marks Eglash last week, he said it was important to “look at the whole picture” and not get caught up with “sensational headlines” on the matter.

Heart of the Jewish world: Tempers have flared at the Western Wall in recent weeks, with divisions between different Jewish streams and how they view the holy site growing ever more visible in the absence of a viable and implementable solution. Rabinowitz responded to the unrest, calling on all sides “to remove disputes and demonstrations from this sacred site and preserve the Western Wall as a holy and unifying site in the spirit of Jewish heritage and tradition.” From his office inside the newly inaugurated Western Wall Heritage Center, the rabbi acknowledged the challenges of overseeing and managing the place he calls “the heart of the Jewish world.”

Keeping calm: “I need to manage this place on a very thin tightrope so that everyone feels like this is their home,” Rabinowitz continued, noting that “there are extremist groups stoking tempers and seeking to ignite the situation” from both sides. For the most part, however, Rabinowitz contended that the area was calm despite tensions between Jewish groups and clashes between Muslim worshippers and Israeli security forces at the nearby Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, which does have an impact on the atmosphere at the Kotel.

Place for all Jews: “This is the biggest synagogue in the world,” the rabbi said. “Before corona[virus], 12 million people visited a year and out of those, nearly everyone, 99.9%, came here in peace… This is the closest we can get to the Temple, it’s the place where people come and open their hearts – there’s a reason it’s called the Wailing Wall.” “People should not be coming here to express their worldview,” he added, highlighting that he would not allow any Jewish group – non-Orthodox or Orthodox – to act this way. “This should be the place where all Jews find the things they have in common.”

Read the full story here.


Non-Jews in Jewish communal workplaces


“Over the 10 years that I have worked in the Jewish communal sector, I have experienced highs and lows in my own journey of belonging within the field. Last month, I had the privilege of attending JPro’s “Going Places, Together” conference, where I connected with colleagues and friends, met amazing and inspiring professionals from across the Jewish communal sector and spent many hours talking about the organization where I have had the honor of working for the past decade, Gateways: Access to Jewish Education. I felt a profound sense of pride, gratitude and belonging that was striking and deeply moving for me, given the one anomaly of my chosen career path – that I am not Jewish,” writes Deirdre Munley, chief strategy and operating officer at Gateways: Access to Jewish Education, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Religiously diverse workforce: “First, it is important to establish that there are a significant number of non-Jews in this field. Leading Edge’s 2021 Employee Engagement survey report, the most comprehensive workplace assessment of Jewish communal organizations, found that nearly half of all respondents self-identified on the survey as something other than Jewish for religion (including atheist, agnostic and those who preferred not to answer). This number has risen consistently in every year of the survey, from 27% in 2016 to 49% in the 2021 report. While the survey is opt-in and thus may not fully capture the composition of the sector as a whole, Leading Edge estimates that as of 2021 as much as half of the field has participated in one of their  surveys. And while some of those who preferred not to answer regarding religion may indeed be Jewish, undoubtedly there is rich religious diversity within the workforce that powers Jewish communal organizations.”

Sense of belonging: “So what contributes to non-Jews’ sense of belonging in Jewish communal workplaces, and what can organizations, leaders/supervisors and colleagues do to proactively support these staff? From my own experience and from discussions with non-Jewish colleagues in the field (unscientifically), certain themes have emerged about what has contributed to our experiences of belonging. Unsurprisingly, much of what can be helpful in inclusion practices generally holds true here as well.” 

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Diversifying Portfolios: In balancing investments in a portfolio, diversification is an effective strategy used by fund managers and individuals; this approach is also well suited to grantmaking, Jonathan Schreiber and Erin Jackson-Ward write in Harvard Business Review. “As a grantmaking strategy, diversification requires significant forethought. Because the approach works in diverse areas ranging from medical research and social services to education and the arts, funders can meaningfully determine an allocation model that is simultaneously true to their vision and supportive of grantees’ goals. Consideration of internal factors (such as grantmaking experience or capacity to conduct due diligence) as well as external factors (such as environment or a community’s readiness for change) will ultimately influence what the ‘balance’ looks like for a funder’s portfolio.” [HarvardBusinessReview]

Counselors’ Value and Impact: The Jewish community should radically shift its perspective on camp counselors and  recognize the vast professional skill set it requires to be successful and make a significant impact on young Jewish people, Abby Mintz said in an interview in the M²: Institute for Experiential Jewish Education blog. “‘Walk into any art center where campers are working on an art project with their counselor, and there are two very different ways — both of them accurate — to look at what’s happening…One could be that they’re using popsicle sticks to make a picture frame, and maybe that’s actually what they’re doing. The other way to talk about what they’re doing is that they are developing collaboration skills, taking the time to listen to what everybody wants the design of their project to look like, and finding ways to incorporate everybody’s ideas…Right now, in this moment, when the world is just broken open, there are countless opportunities for us, as Jewish communities, to heal and move forward and grow; it’s a really awesome, opportune moment for us to be thinking about the impact of our behavior and our choices, how our words are supportive or not, and how we can take responsibility for this community of incredibly talented professionals who are emerging leaders in the Jewish world.” []

Community Comms

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Word on the Street

Fifty-four percent of U.S. donors have a negative view of the direction of the country, signaling weaker donor sentiment in 2022, and driving near-term pessimism among donors, according to a survey from global consulting company Dunham+Company…

Funders for LGBTQ Issues released a report showing U.S. foundation funding to address gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer issues inceased slightly from $192.5 million in 2019 to $200.8 million in 2020…

Rabbi Baruch Lanner, a convicted child sex abuser whose case is viewed as a milestone in raising awareness of abuse in the organized American Jewish community, has been granted residence status in Israel. Lanner is a former Orthodox rabbi and director of regions for the Orthodox Union’s National Conference of Synagogue Youth (NCSY)…

Natan and the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil selected Michael Frank’s One Hun­dred Sat­ur­days: Stel­la Levi and the Search for a Lost World, as the Spring 2022 Natan Notable Book… 

Rabbi Laura Bellows has joined Dayenu: A Jewish Call to Climate Action as its first director of spiritual activism and education; she most recently served as director of teen learning and of Prozdor at Hebrew College…

J.: The Jewish News of Northern California announced the retirement of its editor, Sue Fishkoff, a longtime journalist, editor and author… 

Stacey Palevsky Lewis joined the San Francisco Campus for Jewish Living, a senior services and healthcare organization, as chief development officer…

Eli Lipmen was promoted to executive director of MoveLA, a coalition-building organization that advocates for public transportation in Los Angeles. He was previously deputy director at the organization…

Ruth Raskas was named chief growth officer at UJA-Federation of New York

The American Society of the University of Haifa named Naomi Smook vice president of development. She was most recently chief advancement officer for the  World Union for Progressive Judaism…

Daniel Weiss will step down as president and CEO of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in June 2023…

GoFundMe campaign organized to help support an orphaned toddler whose parents were killed in the mass shooting at a Fourth of July parade in Highland Park, Ill., has raised over $3.1 million… 

Global refugee organization Alight (formerly the American Refugee Committee) is working with the Jewish Community Center of Krakow to support its mental health services and move Ukrainian arrivals from temporary shelters to short- and long-term accommodations. This is part of a $1.25 million commitment to provide Ukrainians safe housing, emergency support and short-term care through multifaith organizations…

California’s new state budget includes $141.2 million for items prioritized by the Jewish community, including $50 million for the California state nonprofit security grant program, $40 million to rebuild six Jewish and non-Jewish summer camps destroyed in recent wildfires and $36 million for the California Holocaust survivor assistance program…

Tent Partnership for Refugees and Upwork, an online marketplace for freelance workers, have launched an initiative to connect displaced Ukrainian professionals to skilled remote work opportunities. Partners include HIAS…

Ken Griffin, founder and CEO of Citadel, donated $130 million to 40 Chicago organizations as he prepares to move his family and business to Miami… 

Bronx-born actor James Edmund Caan, the son of German-Jewish immigrants who grew up to play tough guys in “The Godfather” and other movies, died at 82…

Lily Safra, widow of Edmond Safra, and chair of the Edmond J. Safra Foundation, died at 87…

Pic of the Day

Olivier Fitoussi/The Jewish Agency for Israel

The Jewish Agency for Israel’s board of governors, meeting Sunday in Jerusalem, elected Maj. Gen. (Res.) Doron Almog (left) as the organization’s new chairman of the executive and Mark Wilf as its new chairman of the board. Almog is expected to officially begin his new role in September.


Lulea Hockey/Champions Hockey League via Getty Images

Professional ice hockey forward over 19 seasons in the U.S., Canada and Europe, Jacob Micflikier… 

Investment banker, civil servant and political advisor, Stephen Berger… Developmental psychologist, selected in the 1981 inaugural class of MacArthur genius fellows, Howard Gardner… Member of the U.K.’s House of Lords, he was Prime Minister Tony Blair’s special envoy to the Middle East for nine years, Baron Michael Abraham Levy… U.S. Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA)… EVP of the Milken Family Foundation and past chair of the board of trustees of JFNA, Richard V. Sandler… Journalist covering classical music, he is the author of Genius & Anxiety: How Jews Changed the World, 1847-1947Norman Lebrechti… Founder in 1992 of Schnur Associates, Zeesy Schnur… West Orange, N. J., resident, Jeffrey Maas… Singer-songwriter, known by his stage name “RebbeSoul,” Bruce Burger… Founder and CEO of Sidewalk Labs, Daniel L. Doctoroff... Los Angeles-based Group EVP of public relations for Discovery Channel, Animal Planet and Science Channel, Laurie Goldberg… Radiation oncologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Dr. Harvey Jay Mamon…. Managing member at Samuel Capital Management, Barry Mannis… Former member of the Knesset for the Likud party, Yaron Mazuz

Former commander of the IDF’s Southern Command, now in the IDF Reserves, Maj. Gen. Shlomo “Sami” Turgeman… Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, Judge Robin S. Rosenbaum… Associate domestic tax counsel at Bristol Myers Squibb, Adina Tamar Spiro Wagman… Deputy editor of The CityAlyssa A. Katz… Senior program and community engagement director at the Los Angeles-based Smidt Foundation, Lindsey Caren Kozberg… Consultant focused upon social impact strategies, Joshua D. Wachs… Actor, podcaster and lead singer of the band Sun Spin, Michael Owen Rosenbaum… Ukrainian-born computer scientist and internet entrepreneur, co-founder and CEO of Affirm, Max Levchin… Founder and CEO of Wisconsin-based Good Karma Brands, Craig Karmazin… Principal at Civitas Public Affairs Group, Celine Mizrahi… Chabad rabbi at Washington University in St. Louis, Rabbi Hershey Novack… Comedian, podcaster and political commentator, Katie Halper… Screenwriter known for “The Green Hornet,” “50/50” and “Bad Sports,” Theodore Beren Bressman… Associate director of legislative affairs at the White House office of national drug control policy, Anne Sokolov… and her twin sister, a co-founder at Social Goods, Kate Sokolov… Retired offensive guard in the NFL for eight seasons, his Hebrew name is Gedalia Yitzhak, Geoff Schwartz… Assistant U.S. attorney in Los Angeles, Matthew J. Rosenbaum… Bryan Stone

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