Your Daily Phil: JDC wants to restore public spaces in Israel + JFN’s new executive vice president


 Good Friday morning!

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) has launched a fundraising effort in Israel to restore public spaces such as parks in Akko, Lod and Ramla, sites of Jewish-Arab rioting in May during violence between Israel and Hamas, Sigal Shelach, JDC’s executive director in Israel, told eJewishPhilanthropy.

“Rebuilding the common areas, with the support of funding raised from all parts of Israeli society, constitutes a significant social message,” Shelach said.

Called Common Ground, the effort has already raised NIS 67,000, and hopes to collect NIS 300,000, equivalent to about $90,000 USD, by July 11. JDC Israel staff, volunteers and partner organizations are publicizing the campaign through news media, social media and phone calls.


Rabbi Rebecca Sirbu is bringing her brand of Jewish wisdom to the Jewish Funders Network


Rabbi Rebecca Sirbu has worked in Jewish Community Centers, large nonprofits and small startups. She has run drumming circles, rabbinic networks and websites. The connective tissue is her passion for drawing on Jewish wisdom to heal others, and that’s what she’s determined to bring to her new job as executive vice president at the Jewish Funders Network (JFN), Sirbu told eJewishPhilanthropy’s Helen Chernikoff.

Overlapping interests: “Foundations need help in the work of healing others,” she said. “We’re helping bring together foundations, so that they can help heal the world.” JFN is a service organization for families, federations, foundations and individual donors; it provides information about funding issue areas and skills training, in addition to conferences, meetings and networks. Sirbu described the central task of her position as facilitating donor collaboration by listening to member interests and bringing together those whose concerns overlap. 

A rabbi in the office: Sirbu is replacing the previous executive vice president, Deena Fuchs, who is now the executive director of Micah Philanthropies. “When funders come together to map the needs of a population and brainstorm as to how to serve the needs of that population, they can make a real difference,” Sirbu said. Sirbu, who was raised in Austin, Texas, by parents who worked as professors at the University of Texas, didn’t know as a child that women could be rabbis. Her family belonged to a traditional Conservative synagogue, and she had never seen a female rabbi.

Inspired by priests: However, she cherished an interest in spirituality that was only sharpened by the fact that she attended high school at St. Stephen’s Episcopal School, where her parents sent both her and her brother because they felt it was the best college preparatory school in the city. Her parents had been worried that the experience might dilute their childrens’ Jewish identities, but it had the opposite effect on both of them, Sirbu said. “That’s where I learned that religion could play a positive role in life,” she said. “There were these great priests, and we sat through chapel with them. My mother blames St. Stephen’s for me becoming a rabbi.”

Read the full story here.


The American Jewish middle: Declining or transforming? 


“We might be asking the wrong questions and thus reaching the wrong conclusions about the future of American Judaism,” writes Dan Feferman, a fellow at the Jewish People Policy Institute, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Approach: “The way we approach a question can change the answers we find. This is apt when trying to determine whether the American ‘Jewish middle’ is declining and if younger American Jews are less connected to their Jewish identities than previous generations. This is the common narrative among researchers and Jewish professionals based on demographic studies conducted over the past decade, as well as from anecdotal experiences of many community leaders.”

Out of date parameters: “It is entirely possible that the parameters traditionally used to judge the health of the Jewish community may be less relevant for millennials… Could it be that many millennials prefer to be ‘just Jewish’ – that being non-denominational speaks more to the desire to avoid labels? Or that many synagogues are geared to families, and are thus less appealing to those without children? Or that those same people do join synagogues once they have families later on? Or that some prefer Jewish activities that do not require membership and that membership in a religious community is no longer a societal norm? Or that intermarriage is not as much of a ‘foot out the door’ as it once was?”

Read the full piece here.


Hillel’s inquiry-centered model for Israel education

“Over the past month, violence in and around Israel has dominated the conversation on many college campuses. As the associate director of Israel Education at Hillel International, I’ve been working with Jewish educators as they navigate this moment for both themselves and for their students. From these educators, I’ve heard two explicit asks: support in responding to antisemitism and anti-Zionism, and an educational framework that invites students with different worldviews to explore contemporary Israel together. While other Hillel teams are redoubling efforts to meet the first need, I have been working with campuses to cultivate the latter,” writes Lauren Cohen Fisher in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Inquiry-Centered Model: “At Hillel, we have spent the last two years launching a pedagogy for Israel education that is multivocal and values-based. Termed the Inquiry-Centered Model, this new approach is designed to help emerging adult learners explore complexities in Israel. While the Inquiry-Centered Model was envisioned as an approach to Israel education more broadly, it has become particularly useful in navigating this political moment because it actively invites and contextualizes disagreement around students’ big questions.”

Results: “We’ve been implementing this model in our teaching for the last two years, in hopes that it would resonate with emerging adult learners… Our initial data is inspiring. Of our sample, 88 percent of students feel confident discussing values animating the contemporary Israeli landscape and 65 percent have engaged a relative, friend, or classmate in multiple conversations about Israel since beginning the learning cohort.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

?Reddit Hug: One Simple Wish, a charity that enables strangers to donate specific items to foster children, such as bikes or books, received an avalanche of support that crashed its website on Tuesday after a Reddit user cited it as an example of a good thing he had done, but never told anyone about, reports Ed Browne in Newsweek. The phenomenon of web pages crashing after a Reddit mention is known as the “Reddit Hug,” or “Reddit Hug of Death,” which in this instance also generated more than $70,000 in donations. “I still cannot believe this,” said One Simple Wish founder Danielle Gletow. “We are truly about the kids first so I am just so proud the world is hearing about us.” [Newsweek]

Loaded Question: Between 2017 and 2020, one in ten donor advised funds (DAFs) in Michigan received a contribution, but did not make a donation, write Teresa Behrens and Kyle Caldwell in a new report from the Council of Michigan Foundations and Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy, which focuses on Michigan but is intended to shed light on the broader debate about whether DAFs need a deadline for contributing the assets they hold. The study also shows that “quiet” DAFs, which made no donation in any given year, hold less than 5% of total DAF assets in the state. “There are calls for foundations to do more by moving more resources to nonprofits and into communities now, when the need seems greatest,” write Behrens and Caldwell. “This dialogue is centered on perceptions of “parked wealth.” [CouncilMichiganFoundations]

Business Sense: Writing in Inside Philanthropy, Ade Adeniji interviews Bernie Marcus, the Home Depot founder known for his support of Jewish causes; his signing of the Giving Pledge and large gifts such as $75 million to the Piedmont Heart Institute and $20 million to Jewish Education Project. Adeniji explains how Marcus came to be interested in autism and veterans’ health, and gives a glimpse into the workings of the Marcus Foundation, which has a small staff, yet proactively seeks out grantees instead of waiting for applications. “My foundation, I’ve given them videos, written documents, and what I think the money should be spent for, and a lot of things about where it should not go,” Marcus said. “All that money will be given away, and then the foundation will disappear off the face of the Earth, as it should be.” [InsidePhilanthropy]

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Word on the Street

Israeli startup Zzapp Malaria has won the prestigious $5 million IBMWatson XPRIZE Challenge… Stosh Cotler will begin transitioning out of her role as CEO at Bend the Arc… The Jewish Women’s Archive has launched a new edition of the Shalvi/Hyman Encyclopedia of Jewish Women… The chair and vice-chair of the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities have been voted out amid an acrimonious split over its future direction… Auschwitz survivor Cantor David Wisnia died at age 94… Matthew Bronfman published an essay in The New York Times, “What Jewish Students Need From University Leaders Right Now”…

Pic of the Day


Congregants greet each other at San Francisco’s Congregation Sherith Israel last Friday for the first in-person Shabbat service since the pandemic began.


eJP Archives

Co-founder of Taglit Birthright, the first Chairman of the United Jewish Communities (99-01), owner of MLB’s Montreal Expos (68-90), Charles Bronfman celebrates on Sunday…

FRIDAY: New Jersey-based criminal defense attorney, Miles Feinstein… Music publicist in the 1970s and 1980s for Prince, Billy Joel and Styx, later an author on human behavior, Howard Bloom… Founder and CEO of Bel Air Partners, a financial advisory firm for automotive retailers, Sheldon J. Sandler… Real estate developer and founder of The Continuum Company, Ian Bruce Eichner… Woodland Hills, California-based mentor, coach and consultant for business executives through Vistage International, Gary Brennglass… Chairman and CEO of Chicago-based investment firm, Henry Crown and Company, he is a director of JPMorgan Chase and General Dynamics and the managing partner of the Aspen Skiing Company, James Crown… Member of the Knesset for the Meretz party, Michal Rozin… Founder and CEO of The Agency real estate brokerage, Mauricio Umansky… Long-time CEO of the Boston-based Achievement Network, co-founder and board chair of the Eli J. Segal Citizen Leadership Program, Mora Segal… Founder and director of The Biblical Museum of Natural History in Beit Shemesh, Natan Slifkin… Television presenter, Michele Merkin… Foreign affairs officer and congressional advisor at the U.S. State Department, Zachary Silberman… Manager of strategic content at Leidos, Isaac Snyder… Center fielder in the San Francisco Giants organization, he was the 10th overall pick in the 2019 MLB draft, Hunter David Bishop… Producer and reporter covering the White House for CNN, Betsy Klein

SATURDAY: Former British Labour party member of Parliament for 42 years, David Winnick… Partner in the law firm BakerHostetler, known for his recovery of funds from the Madoff investment scandal, Irving H. Picard… Independent insurance agent, David Marks… Retired co-host of NPR’s All Things Considered, Robert Siegel… Rabbi of Congregation Chaverim in Tucson, Arizona, Stephanie Aaron… Founder of Grover Strategies and former Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Alan Solow… Managing director of Emerging Star Capital and CEO of Transclick, Robert E. Levin… CEO of ZMC, he was previously chairman of CBS and CEO of 20th Century Fox, Strauss Zelnick… Professor of psychology at Loyola University Maryland, Amy Ruth Wolfson, Ph.D… Was once one of the wealthiest Russian oligarchs, then a prisoner in Russia and now living in London, Mikhail Khodorkovsky… Novelist and journalist, most notably as the author of the Magicians trilogy, Lev Grossman… and his twin brother, author and video game designer, Austin Grossman… Author and Dean of Yeshiva University’s Sy Syms School of Business, Noam T. Wasserman… President and founder of Reut Group, a Tel Aviv-based think tank, Gidi Grinstein… Political commentator and talk show host, Dave Rubin… SVP of strategy and communications at Teneo, Ross Feinstein… Associate in Mayer Brown’s DC office, Michael “Mickey” Leibner… Executive director at American Friends of Nishmat and manager of Tablet Studios, Sara Fredman Aeder… Consultant at Boston Consulting Group, Asher J. Mayerson

SUNDAY: Former member of the Pennsylvania legislature: lower house (97-01) and Senate (01-09), daughter of Leon Hess, Constance H. “Connie” Williams… Former commander of the Israeli Navy (92-96), head of the Shin Bet (95-00) and member of Knesset (06-09), Amihai “Ami” Ayalon… Democratic member of the Florida legislature: House of Representatives (10-18) and Senate (since ’18), Lori Berman… Managing director at Osprey Foundation, Louis Boorstin… and his twin brother, SVP at Albright Stonebridge Group, Robert O. Boorstin… British historian, television presenter and award-winning author, he is a great-great-nephew of Sir Moses Montefiore, Simon Sebag Montefiore… Woodland Hills, California-based accountant, Susan M. Feldman… Creator of multiple TV series including “Felicity,” “Alias,” “Lost” and “Fringe,” and film director, Jeffrey Jacob “J.J.” Abrams… Reporter for The New York Times on the climate desk, she and her husband own a pizzeria and bakery in DC, Lisa Friedman… Former member of the Knesset for the United Torah Judaism alliance, Yoel Yaakov Tessler… Director of the Center for Constitutional Studies at the Cato Institute, Ilya Shapiro… Communications director for Michelle Obama, in July she will become director of stakeholder advocacy at Ford Motor, Caroline Elisabeth Adler Morales… Executive talent partner at Greylock Partners, Holly Rose Faith… Associate with Eurasia Group’s global macro practice, Charles Dunst… Managing partner of Cavazos Partners, Dalia Deydra Cavazos

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