Your Daily Phil: Jewish Story Partners’ endowment plans + Nancy Kaufman on Pew 2020

Good Thursday morning!

The Harold Grinspoon Foundation (HGF) has named 29 camps to their first competitive matching grant program for day camps, Sarah Eisinger, director of the JCamp 180 program, told eJewishPhilanthropy. The foundation will grant $1 for every $2 raised by a camp up to $20,000.

“We love Jewish day camps because they provide a first introduction to camping and serve also as a pipeline to our community’s overnight camps,” Eisinger said. HGF’s All Together Now 2021 program, with support from Alan and Diane Franco and the Klaff Family Foundation, provides a pot of $10.4 million in 1:2 matching funds to 110 overnight nonprofit Jewish camps.

The American Zionist Movement is raising money to send members of five communities in the south of Israel to safer parts of the country for respite from rocket barrages as violence between Israel and Gaza continues.


Steven Spielberg’s new Jewish film fund plans an endowment campaign

Jewish Story Partners

Jewish Story Partners (JSP), the new nonprofit film fund supported by Steven Spielberg and Kate Capshaw’s Righteous Persons Foundation, has awarded a total of $225,000 to support 10 films since it was announced in April. It also aims to launch a $50 million endowment campaign by the end of three years that will ensure its survival in perpetuity, filmmaker Roberta Grossman, its producing director, and film festival programmer Caroline Libresco, its artistic director, told eJewishPhilanthropy.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Helen Chernikoff: What’s the Jewish Story Partners origin story?

Roberta Grossman: The National Foundation for Jewish Culture closed in 2014. They had supported film through the Lynn & Jules Kroll Fund for Jewish Documentary Film, and [Steven Spielberg and Kate Capshaw’s] Righteous Persons Foundation (RPF) was an investor in that fund, so when the foundation folded, there was $1 million from RPF in escrow. I said, “Let’s take that million and start a new organization.” But Rachel [Levin, then the executive director of RPF] is very grown-up and wanted to be more thoughtful. They engaged somebody to do a study of the field.

HC: What did you learn in that process?

RG: That there was a need. Caroline and I have suffered together [through] the trials of trying to raise money for Jewish film. Jewish foundations are often focused on education in a way that has a specific definition. Film foundations are progressive and tend to be focused on the larger social issues of the day. Both of those are totally valuable and there’s no criticism of either mission, but the funding of Jewish arts in general falls into a gap. 

HC: Your average person might look at Hollywood, though, and see the free market financing a lot of Jewish stories. 

Caroline Libresco: There’s been an incredible outpouring of Jewish culture recently, from “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” to “The Plot Against America” to “Shtisel.” But even that is not telling the full range of the Jewish story. Hollywood films do not rely on philanthropic monies. It’s a business, you invest your equity and you make more back in your return. That’s the business of movies and television. The economy of independent film is much more delicate. 

Read the full interview here.


Pew 2020: What have we learned in 30 years of studies?


“I began my career as a ‘Jewish communal professional’ in 1990 having worked for 15 years before that in the secular nonprofit and government sectors. Soon after I was hired in Boston as JCRC executive director, I was invited to a presentation at Brandeis University (by an all-male panel) sharing the results of the 1990-91 National Jewish Population Survey, or NJPS,” writes Nancy Kaufman in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Then: “As the researchers. academics and communal leaders were bemoaning the data that 1:2 Jews were marrying non-Jews, I saw it as an opportunity. While most of the conversation that day was about how we can make our children ‘more Jewish,’ my thoughts turned to how can we welcome the non-Jewish partners into our community? The ‘solutions’ I was hearing had mostly to do with more kids going to Israel, to Jewish camps, to Jewish schools etc.”

Vision: “I had come into the ‘organized’ Jewish community with a different vision. My Judaism had revolved mainly around engaging in universal social justice work because those were the values I saw as particularly Jewish. At that moment, it was clear to me that it was that aspect of Judaism that would and could be most compelling to non-Jewish spouses and a way to ‘welcome’ in newcomers to our faith.”

Read the full piece here.


Progressive Judaism, connections, and acts of healing


“Thirteen years before she helped found the World Union of Progressive Judaism in 1926, the amazing Jewish teacher and preacher Lily Montagu spoke about Jewish peoplehood to a youth club in central London. She challenged her audience: ‘We must ask ourselves for what we as Jews stand – and when we know, we must be sure that our mission is worthwhile,’” writes Rabbi Jordan Helfman in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Then: “Lily Montagu was not a Zionist, but understood the responsibility that she, in London, had to Jewish communities around the world – each with their own unique realities and challenges. At 38, not much older than I am now, she had already started a path towards creating a liberal Judaism open to many voices and new leadership for changing times.”

Now: “The landscape and the challenges around us are incredibly different than the ones Lily Montagu faced nearly 100 years ago when forming the World Union for Progressive Judaism. The pace of change is quicker. The world seems smaller. Old definitions overnight become obsolete. But what she faced then – questioning and examining what we stand for, and determining if that Jewish mission is worth the challenges and recriminations – is still relevant, if not urgent.”

Read the full piece here.


The life of Henrietta Szold, a pioneering feminist Zionist


Israeli professor and historian Dvora Hacohen was looking for a comprehensive biography of Henrietta Szold. When she couldn’t find one, she decided to write it herself. “How come, the question is, that by now, no scholarly biography of Henrietta Szold was written by any of the thousands of researchers in America?” Hacohen asked Jewish Insider’s Amy Spiro in a recent interview from her home in Jerusalem. “She was the most famous Jewish woman in the 20th century in America — the most important, the most admired.”

Telling her story: Hacohen’s resulting book was first published in Hebrew in 2019 and then translated to English by Shmuel Sermoneta-Gertel, published last week as To Repair a Broken World: The Life of Henrietta Szold, Founder of Hadassah. Hacohen, 84, a professor of modern Jewish history at Bar Ilan University, has written and edited nine other books on Jewish history. 

Evolution: In her early years, Hacohen said, Szold “suffered the exclusion of women and she didn’t fight against it, she didn’t protest, she accepted what she suffered.” But later in life, she became a much more strident feminist, and “one of the greatest fighters for the rights of women, and this she did by herself.” In Szold’s personal writings, Hacohen discovered one of the strongest motivating factors of Szold’s life of philanthropy and activism: a broken heart. “She suffered from an unrequited love that broke her heart,” said Hacohen. “She fell into a terrible depression” after her love for a younger professor at JTS was not returned. But after a few months, “she made a dramatic decision to change her priorities. She decided to fight the exclusion and discrimination of women, and for equal rights for all people.”   

RBG’s take: The book opens with an introduction from the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who penned the foreword in January 2020, months before her death. Bader Ginsburg — who spoke of Szold often — noted her admiration for Szold’s “notable sensitivity and keen insight,” and Hacohen for compiling a “treasure trove of the kind Szold’s story well deserves.” 

Read the full interview here.

Worthy Reads

Second Act: In a society in which many can recover from scandal, Microsoft co-founder and billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates may have fallen from grace in the past two weeks, writes Teddy Schleifer in Recode. The announcement of Gates’ divorce from wife Melinda would not in itself have tarnished his legacy, but the revelations about his deeper-than-admitted ties to convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein and an affair twenty years ago with a Microsoft staffer will, Schleifer says: “Gates will surely have his own side of the story to tell, and the Gates Foundation will still exist, giving him wide influence over the next few decades. But more than other philanthropists, much of Gates’s soft power came from his seemingly unimpeachable public profile, which will now be more than a little tarred by the worst kind of attention.” [Recode]

Good Intentions: In Real Clear Markets, Richard Graber spotlights the commitments of three of the United States’ biggest foundations — Ford, Mellon and Rockefeller — to incorporate social justice in their grantmaking, which he believes indicates a preoccupation with gender and ethnicity to a degree that undermines the principles of free enterprise. He acknowledges that such efforts are well-intentioned, and that American history bears the stain of a time when not everyone had access to the benefits of a free market, but says that is no longer the case. “It is curious then, that major foundations are committing staggering levels of funding to efforts that sound good, but in reality make it harder to start or maintain a business, value identity over initiative, and perpetuate the false, defeatist narrative that America is a land of racism, not opportunity.” [RCM]

Uncivil Society: Weimar Germany’s descent into fascism shows that civil society alone is not a panacea that can prevent an erosion of democratic ideals, writes Sheri Berman in HistPhil. Civil society is not inherently good or bad, as Weimar Germany — with its proliferation of voluntary associations and vibrant culture — demonstrates. What looked like energy and life was actually signs of deep divisions that were easy for proto-Nazis to exploit. “Many of the consequences of associationism stressed by neo-Tocquevillian scholars — providing individuals with political and social skills, creating bonds between citizens, facilitating mobilization, decreasing barriers to collective action — can be turned to anti-democratic ends as well as democratic ones.” [HistPhil]

Keep It Up: In the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Jen Fisher, Heather McBride Leef and Kathy Lu urge leaders to recognize that a mentally healthy workforce is a prerequisite for growth even when their organizations are no longer in crisis due to the pandemic. CEOs and executive directors must destigmatize mental health as a subject, hire talented people to support mental health programs or disseminate information and themselves make sure efforts inspired by the pandemic are part of lasting change. “Let’s not let our struggles during this time have been in vain,” the three authors conclude, “And let’s not forget: CEOs need to take care of their own mental health as well.” [SSIR]

Community Comms

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Word on the Street

Jeffrey Finkelstein is this year’s recipient of the Bernard Reisman Award for Professional Excellence… The Jewish Theological Seminary has relaunched its Jewish Day School Standards and Benchmarks program… Due to continuing hostilities with Gaza, Colel Chabad has temporarily shut many of their soup kitchens and is delivering to homes in Ashdod, Lod, Dimona, Tzfat and Jerusalem… and the Technology Association of Grantmakers have launched “100 Forms in a 100 Days,” which seeks to end the common practice of making it difficult to view an entire grant application in advance of applying… The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation is supporting an 8-episode podcast on leadership featuring Gali Cooks, Ilana Kaufman and Elana Wein, who lead three of its grantee organizations, that starts today…

Pic of the Day


Jewish environmental organization Hazon held a bikkurim, or “first fruits,” parade over the Shavuot holiday to celebrate new crops and baby goats at Adamah Farm & Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center.


Professor at Tulane U, former president of the Aspen Institute and former CEO of CNN, Walter Isaacson… 
CEO at Kings’ Care — A Safe Place, operator of multiple drug and alcohol rehabilitation and treatment centers, Ilene Leiter… Canadian businesswoman, she served in the Ontario Assembly (1985-1997) and in the Canadian House of Commons (1997-2004), Elinor Caplan… Former member of the New York State Assembly, Ellen Jaffee… Former member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Connecticut’s 2nd district (1981-2001), he was born in a DP camp in Germany after WWII, Sam Gejdenson… Chagrin Falls, Ohio attorney, Robert Charles Rosenfeld… EVP and CEO of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York for the past 36 years, he is set to retire next month, Michael S. Miller… Seamstress and weaver, Bernice Ann Penn Venable… Producer and writer who has worked on Saturday Night Live, PBS’ Great Performances, and It’s Garry Shandling’s Show, Alan Zweibel… U.S. Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID)… Former director of international affairs, policy and planning at the Conference of Presidents, following 12 years at the ADL, Michael Alan Salberg… Born in upstate NY as Michael Scott Bornstein, author and former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. (2009-2013), he was then a Deputy Minister and a member of Knesset for the centrist Kulanu party (2015-2019), Michael Oren… Chief legal affairs anchor for ABC News and the founder of Mediaite, Dan Abrams… NYC location scout and unit production manager for films and tv commercials, David Brotsky… EVP of Resolute Consulting, Ami Copeland… Emmy Award-winning singer and songwriter, Rachel Platten… Manager of privacy issues for Amazon’s state public policy team, Philip Justin “PJ” Hoffman… Program manager for cultural and civic vitality at the Michigan-based William Davidson Foundation, Vadim Avshalumov… Founder and CEO of Berkeley, California-based Caribou Biosciences, a genome engineering company, Rachel Haurwitz, Ph.D… Legislative director for Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL-23), Lauren D. Wolman… Assistant director in the Washington Regional Office of AJC Global, Susan Sloan… VP of content production at Austin-based digital agency Harris Media, Josh Canter… Miss Israel 2014, now a legal intern at a Tel Aviv law firm, Doron Matalon… American University student in the class of 2022, previously national chair of the High School Democrats of America, Aylon Berger… Conservative political activist and a survivor of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, Kyle Kashuv
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