Your Daily Phil: JFN kickoff + How the Jewish Fertility Foundation is expanding nationally

Good Monday morning!

Today is the start of the Jewish Funders Network’s (JFN) annual conference, being held virtually this year after the pandemic forced the organization to cancel the event in 2020. The conference will emphasize networking and conversation, with fewer issue-oriented sessions than the typical conference features.

Journalist Yossi Klein Halevi will give the first presentation, about meeting the moment’s most urgent challenges, and Dr. Larry Brilliant, an epidemiologist and philanthropist, will speak with philanthropist Laura Lauder about the impact of COVID-19. Participants will also attend skills workshops, such as “Cultivating Resilience” and “Family Cohesion.”

JFN and UpStart will also announce a new program, GrantED: Stronger Relationships, Greater Impact, which aims to improve communication between funders and grantees and was informed by a report that solicited honest feedback from Jewish professionals about their relationships with donors. GrantEd will consist of workshops, facilitated conversations, articles and tools.

The non-profit work force gained 26,562 jobs in February, but the slow pace of growth that has characterized its recovery persisted, according to the latest report from the Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies’ Nonprofit Economic Data project.

The sector is still down 926,000 jobs, or 7.4% smaller than it was in February 2020. This past month, social-assistance groups gained back the highest percentage compared with other causes, expanding 8.7% from January. Arts, entertainment and recreation groups remain the hardest-hit by the pandemic, having lost 35%, or 123,590, of their jobs since February 2020.

In the Jewish community, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) kept most arts organizations open, but many suffered layoffs. Included among those forced to lay off staff was the Museum of Jewish Heritage, which cut 32 jobs, or 42% of its staff, Lou Cove, the founder of CANVAS, an arts-focused grantmaking body, told eJewishPhilanthropy.

Jewish philanthropists and leaders have made several moves over the course of the pandemic to support the arts, Cove noted, such as the investment by the Howard & Geraldine Polinger and Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Foundations in CANVAS, which requires a minimum annual donation of $150,000.

Individual artists, such as musicians who make their money touring, have suffered the shutdown of their careers. “The irony is, we are leaning on these people more than ever,” Cove said. “We depend on our artists to entertain and distract us, to help us process what we’re going through.”!


Jewish Fertility Foundation offers both financial and emotional support


Infertility changes the life of everyone who experiences it, says Lynn Goldman. In her case, the changes were tangible. “Infertility creates a strain on every part of a person’s life. It’s a financial strain, it’s a strain on their marriage, it also affects people spiritually. I went to a support group in a church,” Goldman told eJewishPhilanthropy

New practice: A lawyer in Atlanta whose practice focused on child welfare, Goldman expanded her services to include reproductive law, which includes such issues as the hiring of surrogates. She also started a support group at her synagogue. It was when she was running the support group that she heard from Elana Frank, who had undergone fertility treatment in Israel, where insurance covers the high-cost procedures such as in-vitro fertilization (IVF.) Frank had moved to Atlanta, and wanted to do something to help people in the Jewish community who needed but couldn’t afford treatment.

Holistic approach: The two joined forces, founding the Jewish Fertility Foundation (JFF) with Frank as CEO; Goldman is the board chair. It opened its first office in Atlanta in 2016 to provide both financial and emotional support for people in the local Jewish community suffering from infertility; later it added an office in Cincinnati, funded by Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati. Now it’s charting a plan for national expansion. JFF’s growth reflects a broader trend in the Jewish community, as demonstrated in late February by a cross-denominational online meeting to raise awareness and offer support. About 2,000 people attended with 11 organizations participating. Sponsors included UpStart, which helps Jewish nonprofits get off the ground and grow; JScreen, which promotes genetic testing; and Hadassah, the Zionist women’s organization.

Read the full article here.


‘Ruinous Competition’ and the Jewish future


In an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy, American Jewish University President Jeffrey Herbst asks how Jewish institutions that are defined geographically and that draw from local populations should respond to the disruptive forces of ubiquitous digital offerings.

Background: Recently, a rabbi based many hundreds of miles away called my colleague Rabbi Adam Greenwald to complain. A congregant, the rabbi explained, was taking an online course from AJU’s Miller Introduction to Judaism Program that Rabbi Greenwald directs instead of a similar course taught by his synagogue. The distant rabbi argued that AJU was violating the precept of “hassagat gevul” (literally “removal of a landmark”) which originally applied to moving land dividers but has been extended over the centuries to warn against “ruinous competition” that threatens the property and commercial rights of others.

The issue: The issues around competition have suddenly become extremely relevant to the Jewish communal world. The pandemic has made digital learning and observance far more common than before, opening the possibility for many for the first time to participate in institutions far beyond their own communities.

Exemption: One of the exemptions to the ban on moving boundaries was, in fact, for the teaching of Torah (but not other religious services). It went under the wonderful expression of “kin’at sofrim marbah hokhmah,” literally, “jealousy among scribes increases wisdom.” What is needed is more competition rather than less. Rather than possessively erecting boundaries, we should be constructing abundant onramps for people who are searching and who can be enticed to enlist, enjoy, and embrace our institutions.

Read the full piece here.

Back to Camp

Isolation and Belonging: the role of Jewish camp in building a secure environment for emotional growth


The benefits of camp are vast, and they can ultimately be summed up in one word: belonging, write Jerry Meyer and Bradley Solmsen in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

The year that was: Camp embodies so much of what our children have missed out on over the past year — the kinds of social and developmental experiences that are fundamental to their long-term growth and well-being. With lockdowns, virtual schooling and social isolation leading to reduced emotional and intellectual growth, depression – and worse among our nation’s youth, getting our children into the camp environment will be a powerful, readily accessible option to ensuring that they stay on track for bright futures.

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Upward Trajectory: Robert Cherry, a retired Brooklyn College economics professor, contends in The Forward that the lives of Israel’s Arab citizens have improved markedly from the early 2000s, when their towns, school and transportation systems were underfunded by the government. While there is more work to be done — Israel’s Arabs still have less economic opportunity than their Jewish peers — Israel and its Arab population have made major strides that are insufficiently acknowledged. The number of Israeli Arab college students in the 2017-2018 academic year was 16%, for example, double the number 1999-2000 — although it’s not yet proportional to the 21.1% of Israel’s population that is Arab. [Forward]

Strange Symbolism: Some Jewish families add an orange — a symbol of the will to include underrepresented groups — to the Seder plate’s traditional egg, shank bone, bitter herbs, charoset and salt water. Jan Zauzmer, a past president of a Reform synagogue in Pennsylvania, suggests in a punny opinion piece for the Religion News Service that this year was so different it should be represented by a piece of bubble gum. “A spatially distant, socially malleable holiday observance is nothing if not an attempt to stretch the bounds of tradition,” Zauzmer reflects. [RNS]

Giving, Receiving: On June 1, Chicago Public Schools suspended its 300 free-meal sites amid citywide protests even as grocery stores in Black neighborhoods were closing down for the same reason. In response, mutual aid organizers Dominique James, Maira Khwaja, Hannah Nyhart, and Trina Reynolds-Tyler led a response to provide sandwiches and snacks at a nearby school; the effort turned into People’s Grab-n-Go, a Black-led mutual aid program on the South Side of Chicago that became a summer-long project. In an article for a New York Times series offering reflections on the anniversary of the pandemic, they emphasized that mutual aid “blurs the categories of ‘recipient’ and ‘volunteer.’” [NYT]

Forced Pause: If even well-resourced surgical systems have been pushed to the limits of their capacity by the pandemic, consider what has happened to those systems in low- and middle-income countries, writes Ernest Gaie, senior advisor for global business operations at Operation Smile, in PhilanTopic, the blog of Candid, a provider of data and analysis about the philanthropic sector. Operation Smile, known for its provision of surgery to repair cleft palates, paused its own medical programs when the pandemic started, but the organization increased investment in public health systems in the countries where it operates. [PhilanTopic]

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Word on the Street

Michael Balaban has been named president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia effective June 1… A new policy paper from the Reut Institute suggests that a new strain of antisemitism is arising within contemporary progressive discourse … Hebrew University of Jerusalem in cooperation with theRothberg International Schoolhas introduced Israel’s first Master’s program in Smart Cities and Urban Informatics … To support a COVID-19 immunization rollout, Israeli humanitarian aid agency IsraAID dispatched a medical, logistical and psychosocial team to Eswatini (Swaziland) …

Pic of the Day

Courtesy Jewish Agency

Nearly 300 new olim from Ethiopia landed Thursday at Ben-Gurion Airport on the ninth and final flight of “Operation Zur Israel.”


Keith Allison; flickr via Wikimedia Commons

Retired MLB infielder and owner of Loma Brewing, a brew pub in Los Gatos, CA, Kevin Youkilis
Theoretical chemist and winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Martin Karplus… Emmy, Golden Globe, and Tony Award-winning actor, Judd Hirsch… Founder of Baer & McGoldrick and a film producer, Thomas H. Baer… UCLA professor, biochemist and biophysicist, David S. Eisenberg… First-ever New York City Public Advocate and author of 23 books, Mark J. Green… Former chairman of retail conglomerate Arcadia Group, Sir Philip Nigel Ross Green… Managing member at Buena Vista Fund Management in San Francisco, Robert Mendel Rosner… Animator and director of numerous episodes of The Simpsons, David Silverman… Real estate agent at Signature Realty Associates in Tampa, Ze’ev (Wolf) Bar-El … Los Angeles-based writer, director and producer, Andrea Blaugrund Nevins… Program director of Jewish and Israel giving at Crown Family Philanthropies, Wendy Platt Newberger… Freelance writer and consultant, Bathsheva Gladstone… CEO and Executive Vice President of the Jewish Federation of Greater Indianapolis, Debra Barton Grant… Member of the Knesset for the Likud party, now serving as Minister of Public Security, Amir Ohana… Global business editor for Defense One, Marcus Weisgerber… Coordinator of the integrative cancer care training program at the Smith Center for Healing and the Arts, Mindy Beth Reinstein Brodsky… Member of the New York State Assembly for the northeast portions of Queens, Nily Rozic… Course coach at the Harvard Kennedy School and AMEL Project board member, Justin Hefter… Co-founder of Punchbowl News, Rachel Schindler… and Rachel’s twin brother, Max J. Schindler, a college admissions advisor for Veritas Prep… Professional wrestler, Maxwell Jacob Friedman