Your Daily Phil: Jewish nonprofit CEO sabbaticals + One foundation’s approach to evaluation

Good Thursday morning!

The Workers Circle, founded more than 120 years ago as a mutual aid and membership group for working-class Eastern European Jewish immigrants, has kept Yiddish language and Ashkenazi culture at its core even as it has morphed into a progressive Jewish social justice group. It runs Yiddish Sunday school (shule, in its parlance) for 250 children, and provides Zoom Yiddish classes at three levels to more than 1,000 people.

But this summer, it’s venturing into foreign territory with a new language course offering: Ladino. For the first time, the group that was long known by a Yiddish name, the Arbeter Ring, will be teaching the ancestral language of Sephardic Jews, also known as Judeo-Spanish.

The Ladino class, taught by Bryan Kirschen, a specialist in the language and professor at Binghamton University, will span five 90-minute sessions. It will be funded by tuition fees, which are around $150 per student. So far, in the opening days of registration, five people have signed up, and organizers expect the number to grow to anywhere between 15 and 25. It will be less involved than the group’s Yiddish offerings, which range from beginners’ courses to a class on Isaac Bashevis Singer’s work in the original to a Yiddish discussion group on the Green New Deal.

“While we are rooted in our Eastern European culture, the Jewish world is not one thing,” Workers Circle CEO Ann Toback told eJewishPhilanthropy. “Ladino, like Yiddish, is a language and culture that reflects a unique heritage. It [is] a very important part of Jewish history.”

Although skeptics have called Yiddish a “dying language,” the YIVO Institute estimates the total number of Yiddish speakers worldwide at 500,000 to 1 million, including growing Haredi communities in the United States and Israel that speak the language as a lingua franca. The same cannot be said of Ladino, whose speakers are estimated at anywhere from 60,000 to more than 100,000.

In addition to modestly increasing those numbers, Toback hopes the class opens the door for students to reach beyond the group’s traditional Eastern European focus. “We have been trying to incorporate Sephardic traditions into teachings we do,” she said. “So much of what people experience in the United States is actually the Ashkenazic culture, and that’s only a fraction of the Jewish experience.”

Time off

A new group is providing R&R for burned-out CEOs of Jewish nonprofits

Vacation plan written on calendar by a pencil on wood background

Getty Images

At a time of rising concerns over pandemic burnout in the workplace, the reenergizing potential of sabbaticals is the guiding motivation driving R&R: The Rest of Our Lives, a new organization offering three-month paid sabbatical grants to a handful of CEOs and directors of Jewish nonprofits, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Esther D. Kustanowitz.

Reflection and renewal: Founder Josh Feldman expects to offer five organizations a total of $60,000 each — $50,000 for the awardees to rest, travel, reflect or renew for a minimum of three consecutive months while maintaining their current salary and benefits; and $10,000 to support interim leaders and staff in the CEO’s absence.

When the timing is right: “We’re talking about a group of humans who are service-oriented, purpose-driven [and] are very good at serving others,” Feldman told eJP. “They have often — to their own detriment — worked beyond their own capacity for years, or even decades. So this is somebody who, in their own self-evaluation, is able to say, ‘This is the right timing for me.’”

Shifting work culture toward care: Feldman said the post-pandemic moment has people thinking differently about the future of work and the workplace. Beyond sabbaticals, organizations may offer their staff continued flexibility around work hours and location to make sure that employees are psychologically safe and healthier, he told eJP. “What if after a week, month or year of our work, we felt healthier partly because of the organizations we worked in?” he said. “There is a new zeitgeist around rest and rejuvenation. We hope that many communities start to support their grantees and grant recipients with rest-based solutions.”

Rest with an equity lens: R&R is “operating through an equity lens,” Feldman said. Toward that end, the organization is encouraging CEOs who are Black, indigenous and people of color; LGBTQ+ individuals; people with disabilities, and women and other leaders with underrepresented identities to apply for sabbaticals. The project is fiscally sponsored by the Social Good Fund, a California nonprofit, and funded by individual donors, the Jim Joseph Foundation and RiseUp, a social justice initiative funded by the Nathan Cummings Foundation.

Read the full story here.

shared outcomes

We can always learn more: Our approach to evaluation and research

Courtesy of the Jim Joseph Foundation

“Evaluation and research are integral to the Jim Joseph Foundation’s strategic philanthropy. Since the foundation’s inception in 2006, our approach to evaluation and research has evolved. Today, [lessons] both from major studies and smaller ones yield benefits for the foundation, grantee-partners and the field of Jewish education and engagement. By continuing to share this aspect of our strategic philanthropy publicly, we hope other peer funders, practitioner organizations and the broader field can glean lessons that inform their own efforts toward evaluation and research,” writes Stacie Cherner, director of research and learning at the Jim Joseph Foundation, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Building capacity: “Since the earliest foundation grants, strong support of program evaluation reflected the foundation’s values of data-informed decision-making, accountability and transparency. The Jim Joseph Foundation historically has invested about 2% to 3% of its annual spending in learning. Most foundation grants have a percentage of their budget, at times up to 10%, dedicated to evaluation, usually by an independent contractor. Supporting program evaluation in this manner is integral to the foundation’s strategy to build the capacity of its grantee-partner organizations.”

Read the full piece here.


The emerging rabbinic pulpit

Courtesy of Base Movement

“As we continually reaffirm our organizational commitment to embrace the unknown, we open ourselves up to seeing our world and our work anew. Base – Moishe House’s thriving network of rabbinic couples engaging young Jewish adults across the United States — offers us a new lens through which to understand the emerging rabbinic pulpit,” writes Faith Leener, executive director of Base, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Where young adults are showing up: “In the United States, rabbis (Judaism’s most ancient form of communal leadership) have had three primary institutional structures from which to serve: a synagogue pulpit, a teaching position or in a community organization (e.g. JCC, hospital chaplain, etc.) As we know well at Moishe House, this is not where the next generation of young Jews is showing up. Young adults are gathering in each other’s apartments, or at the coffee shop, bar or gym down the street. They are in the metaverse, or on TikTok and Instagram. And now, with the support and vision of many leaders and communities, they are also showing up to our Bases – seeking mentorship, spiritual guidance and a community in which to explore our ever-shifting world and its impact on our lives and Jewish identities.”

More like Aaron than Moshe: “Base has become the non-denominational, non-institutional rabbinate that the next generation of Jewish leaders seeks to inhabit. Like our generation, the Base rabbinate defies the traditional binary of work/life and allows us to live and serve in a more dynamic and integrated way. We can be parents, partners, neighbors, teachers, hosts, pastors, organizers and artists all at once. If Moshe was the paradigm that the rabbis of the Talmud looked to for guidance, somewhat removed from the community, then Base leads in the model of his brother Aaron, with the people.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Less Lonely Philanthropy: In response to MacKenzie Scott’s “trust-based philanthropy,” which provides funding with few or no restrictions, Jamie Allen Black, CEO of the Jewish Women’s Foundation of New York, writes in PhilanthropyWomen about JWFNY’s “relationship-based philanthropy”: “Trust-based philanthropy aims to ‘redistribute power’ to those who are closer to the issues non-profit work seeks to address. That practice centers the grantee partner, which is important, and long overdue. But it can also turn our work into a lonely endeavor, for both grantee and funder. As impactful as it can be to offer funding with no burdensome strings attached, a collaborative partnership can elevate both the grantee and the people she is serving. In relationship-based philanthropy, we try to lift those burdens, as well.” [PhilanthropyWomen]

End Game: 
Understanding psychologist Bruce Tuckman’s five stages of team dynamics — including adjourning, which happens at a project’s conclusion — is critical to senior leadership, Heather Wolfson writes on LinkedIn: “[Adjourning] is typically accompanied by visible signs of a mourning at the end, a slow down in momentum, and restless behavior or bursts of extreme energy usually followed by lack of energy. They experience change and transition. While the group continues to perform productively they also need time to manage their feelings of transition. After the project has been completed, leaders need to do two things: take an honest look at what didn’t go well and pinpoint where there’s room for improvement and review the last few weeks or months to celebrate their successes.” [LinkedIn]

Eat Your Lunch!:
 American workers aren’t great at lunch breaks, writes Rachel Feintzeig in The Wall Street Journal, noting that although employees in other countries may eat together or “enjoy a collective siesta,” Americans get back to work. “Humans can typically focus and perform well in 90-minute bursts, says John Trougakos, a professor of organizational behavior at the University of Toronto who has studied lunch breaks. Pushing through for long stretches can cause us to make more mistakes and be less efficient, he says. Pausing isn’t always within a worker’s control, though. Bosses pile on work, colleagues make snide comments and clients have urgent demands. Sometimes it can feel like stopping for lunch just guarantees you’ll be signing back on at 11 p.m.” [WSJ]

Community Comms

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Word on the Street

The nominating committee of The Jewish Agency for Israel has tapped Mark Wilf as the next chairperson of the organization’s board of governors. Wilf, who is currently board chair of The Jewish Federations of North America, is slated to begin his three-year term July 12 and will succeed current board of governors chair Michael Siegal…

Lawrence Ziffer has been named CEO of the Baltimore-based Charles Crane Family Foundation, effective July 1. Laurence Katz will continue as the foundation’s president…

Ellen V. Futter, who has served as president of the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan for 30 years, is stepping down in March 2023…

Dana Herman, an archivist in charge of the WRJ Collection at Hebrew Union College’s American Jewish Archives in Cincinnati, is the 2022 recipient of the Women of Reform Judaism HUC Faculty Award

According to estimates, new immigrants fleeing from Russia have deposited approximately $300 million into Israeli banks in the more than 100 days that have passed since the beginning of the war in Ukraine…

Candid and Ariadne, a European philanthropic funders network, released a guide for grantmakers about incorporating a climate justice lens to their giving. The guide is sponsored by the William and Flora Hewlett and Oak foundations…

Pic of the Day

Courtesy of ADI Jerusalem

Israeli singer-songwriter Ishay Ribo played a sold-out show at the Jerusalem Theater on Monday night to benefit ADI Jerusalem, an organization that provides resources and residential care for children and young adults with disabilities.


Michael Kovac/Getty Images

Writer and social activist, founding editor of Ms. MagazineLetty Cottin Pogrebin

Journalist for 30 years at CBS who then became the founding director of Harvard’s Shorenstein Center, Marvin Kalb… Retired Israeli diplomat who served as ambassador to Italy and France and World Chairman of Keren Hayesod – United Israel Appeal, Aviezer “Avi” Pazner… British businessman, co-founder with his brother Maurice of advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi, Charles Saatchi… Diplomat and Shakespeare historian, he was national editor of Washingtonianmagazine for more than 17 years, Kenneth Adelman… Founder and chairman of Commonwealth Financial Network (a broker/dealer network) and chairman of Southworth Development (a golf and leisure business), Joseph Deitch… Professional mediator, Wendy J. Belzberg… Israel’s minister of defense and deputy prime minister, Benny Gantz… Canadian journalist, author, documentary film producer and television personality, Steven Hillel Paikin… Producer, playwright and screenwriter, Aaron Benjamin Sorkin… Former lead singer of the Israeli pop rock band Mashina, Yuval Banay… CEO of Jewish Women’s International, Meredith Jacobs… VP of legal solutions at Guidepoint, Craig Appelbaum… EVP of Jewish Funders Network, Rabbi Rebecca Sirbu… Screenwriter, director and producer, Hayden Schlossberg… Founder and CEO of Delve LLC, Jeff Berkowitz… Co-founder of Swish Beverages, David Oliver Cohen… Jerusalem born actress, producer and director, Natalie Portman… Online producer, writer and director, who together with his brother Benny, are best known for their React video series on YouTube, Rafi Fine… Multimedia artist known for her work in photography, makeup, hairstyling and textile crafts, Anna Marie Tendler… Israeli tech entrepreneur, Raphael Ouzan… Independent writer, Haley Cohen Gilliland… SVP at DC-based Precision Strategies, Jeff Solnet… Ice hockey player for the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers and best-selling author of children’s books, Zachary Martin Hyman… Serial entrepreneur, founder and CEO of Team Brotherly Love and The Fine Companies, Daniel Fine… Emilia Levy…

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