Your Daily Phil: JFNA pledges $12.5 million to help Israeli farmers

Good Wednesday morning.

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on the reactions by current and past participants to the ending of some Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies’ programs, and on the upcoming retirement of AIPAC CEO Howard KohrWe feature an opinion piece by Rabbi Moshe Hauer about the relationship between connection to Jewish identity and our communal resilience; and a piece by David Bernstein and Phil Siegel proposing strategic priorities for Jewish philanthropy after Oct. 7. Also in this newsletter: Menachem Z. RosensaftAmit Soussana and Eva HeinsteinWe’ll start with a new initiative helping Israeli farmers whose equipment was destroyed or looted in the Oct. 7 attacks.

The Jewish Federations of North America committed $12.5 million toward a new initiative to help Israeli farmers from Gaza border towns whose equipment was destroyed or stolen in the Oct. 7 terror attacks purchase replacements ahead of the spring planting season, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross.

“It’s a lot of money, but this one was easy,” Becky Caspi, the head of JFNA’s Israel office, told eJP.  “We see this as so morally right and important and significant.”

To JFNA, supporting Israeli farmers in the Western Negev represents concrete support for the “Zionist dream” of “making the desert bloom,” Caspi said. “Our goal is to help the people of Israel and the country recover and grow stronger following these horrific events,” she said.

In addition to the large-scale slaughter of civilians and attacks on military positions, Hamas terrorists deliberately targeted farming equipment and infrastructure in their rampage through southern Israel, one of the primary areas of agricultural production in the country. Cars and farming vehicles were also stolen from the area and driven into Gaza.

“Hamas came to destroy our identity, our community and our agriculture. Our victory is to go back to our fields and make them green again,” Moran Freibach, head of agriculture and security for Kibbutz Nahal Oz, said in a statement.

While farmers are eligible for compensation through the Property Tax division of the Finance Ministry (known in Israel as Mas Rechush), this generally does not cover the full cost of replacing the damaged or stolen equipment. This is because the compensation covers the estimated value of used equipment, but there is not a large used market in Israel, meaning farmers have to buy new equipment, which is significantly more expensive, Caspi said.

In order to help these farmers — and the Israeli agricultural industry more broadly — Mishkey Hanegev, a consortium representing the farmers from the region, and Volcani International Partnerships, which is affiliated with the agricultural research Volcani Institute, launched the fund ReGrow. Through it, farmers and farming communities can receive grants — not loans — to cover the costs of purchasing new equipment and installing new infrastructure.

Volcani International Partnerships reached out to JFNA to see if the organization would be willing to support the initiative. Caspi explained that with the spring planting season approaching, and the need for new equipment growing, “there was a ticking clock,” so JFNA committed to providing half of the $25 million funding for ReGrow, with the rest coming from the Finance Ministry.

Caspi said that while JFNA is prepared to provide the $12.5 million, it has also “issued an invitation to federations, donors and other foundations to join us in this effort.” If other donations come through, she said, JFNA would “make room for them” and scale back its funding for the project, redirecting that money to other critical projects.

“Jewish Federations have done something remarkable. Not only will the grant lay the foundation for recovery, it sends the most moving message to all our farmers, that they are not alone,” Danielle Abraham, executive director of Volcani International Partnerships, said in a statement.

Read the full report here.


After Schusterman ends programs, past participants are grateful but some worry they’ll be cut off

American politician Dianne Feinstein, her arms outstretched in celebration, in her office after she was elected mayor of San Francisco, at San Francisco City Hall in San Francisco, California, circa 1978.
Participants converse at last year’s ROI Summit in Jerusalem. Courtesy/Schusterman Family Philanthropies

After the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies announced it was cutting two programs — Reality trips to Israel and a leadership development fellowship — and scaling back a third, the ROI Community, to focus on grantmaking, past and current participants of these initiatives say they have mixed feelings about the move. Some are enthusiastic about what it portends for the future of the foundation, while others worry that the changes will leave out some in the Jewish community, particularly those based outside of Israel and the United States, where the foundation does most of its work, reports Jay Deitcher for eJewishPhilanthropy.

‘A little scary’: “It’s been incredibly inspiring to watch the diversity of offerings that [members of the ROI Community] from around the world have created to support the queer community and advance environmental, technological and wellness initiatives,” Kimberly Dueñas, an ROIer and the director of learning for Jewtina y Co, told eJP. “This new strategy feels a little scary to some of us who might not have a direct voice towards combating antisemitism,” Dueñas said, referring to the organization’s decision to focus the ROI program on Israel and combating antisemitism and anti-Zionism.

Going but still rippling: Isaiah Rothstein, an ROIer, current member of the fellowship and the rabbinic scholar and public affairs adviser at Jewish Federations of North America, said the effects of the Schusterman programs will continue to “ripple out,” he said. Current members of his fellowship cohort include Sandra Lawson, director of racial diversity, equity, and inclusion at Reconstructing Judaism; Harriette Wimms, executive director of The JOC Mishpacha Project; and Sarah Levin, the executive director of JIMENA: Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa. “The culture that they have created through these fellowships, the vision, the empowerment, I don’t think that’s going anywhere,” Rothstein said.

Read the full report here.


AIPAC CEO Howard Kohr to retire at end of year

Howard Kohr, executive director of AIPAC, speaking at the AIPAC Policy Conference in 2018. Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/Lightrocket via Getty Images

Howard Kohr, the longtime chief executive of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, will retire at the end of the year after nearly 30 years atop the influential pro-Israel organization, reports Gabby Deutch for eJewishPhilanthropy’s sister publication Jewish Insider.

Ups and downs: Kohr’s tenure at AIPAC has included several key moments in the U.S.-Israel alliance, including the completion of a 10-year funding package approved by Congress in 2016 and the decision by the Trump administration to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Kohr’s years at the helm of AIPAC also coincided with growing partisanship in Washington. In 2015, AIPAC offered its support to congressional Republicans who invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress over the objections of their Democratic colleagues, who were frustrated that then-President Barack Obama had not been consulted.

Getting into spending: In 2022, AIPAC’s first year operating a political action committee and an affiliated Super PAC, the organization spent heavily in several Democratic primaries, seeking to defeat progressives in favor of moderate pro-Israel Democrats. AIPAC issued hundreds of endorsements of both Democrats and Republicans. The group faced criticism for its support of more than 100 Republicans who had voted not to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election. Kohr held the line that Israel is the only issue AIPAC considers when making endorsements, telling The Washington Post in 2022 that “We’re not trying to constrict the community.”

Read the full report here and sign up for Jewish Insider’s Daily Kickoff here.


American Jewish philanthropists should put their own oxygen masks on first

Image by Calle Macarone on Unsplash

“The old tikkun olam approach had its time and place; unfortunately, it all too often benefited causes and organizations that work against Jewish interests and safety,” write David Bernstein, founder of the Jewish Institute for Liberal Values, and Phil Siegel, an entrepreneur, investor and philanthropist, in an opinion piece for eJewish Philanthropy.

Where we went wrong: “First, we became complacent in assuming we are secure in today’s America and that others finally accept us for who we are… Second, a majority of American Jews long viewed their fate as inextricably tied to the American left. They saw the political right as intolerant and hostile to their interests, and the political left as allies in making America a better, more humane country. They joined progressive coalitions on all manner of issues, believing that if America became more accepting of all minorities, Jews would remain secure… This combination — an inflated sense of comfort and an unawareness of the non-reciprocal nature of our allyship — blinded many Jews to the growing threat, even as they continued directly funneling philanthropic resources into the groups that would ultimately turn on them.”

Course correction: “The time has come for the pendulum to swing toward an independent-minded, practical, balanced and more realist approach to Jewish politics and philanthropy. While many of us still want to contribute positively to the larger world, we need to prioritize our own security and well-being. We need to put our oxygen mask on first and make sure whatever universal commitments we make are carefully calibrated to our particular interests — or, at the very least, don’t serve to fan the flames of hatred against us. We propose these simple guidelines for Jewish philanthropists…”

Read the full piece here.


Purim, Pesach and ‘prosemitism’

Illustration by arthobbit/Getty Images

“It is the Purim-to-Pesach holiday season and it is high time for us to lift our spirits, to turn from today’s painful challenges to its incredible opportunities and to lose some sleep over the looming issue of ‘prosemitism,’” writes Rabbi Moshe Hauer, executive vice president of the Orthodox Union, in an opinion piece for eJewish Philanthropy.

Coming together: “As the Pesach exodus delivered us from the persecution of Egypt to Mount Sinai, the Purim experience and every subsequent iteration of antisemitism returns us to the foot of that mountain ‘k’ish echad b’lev echad, united as one person with one heart. These days we see this everywhere. Jews in Israel, the United States and throughout the world have realized that as much as we are made to feel utterly alone by the hostility of the world, we must double down on Jewish belonging by being there for each other and elevating our engagement in Torah and mitzvot, the essence of our identity as the eternal Jewish people… From the Orthodox to the unaffiliated, the incomprehensible horrors of Oct. 7 have ironically awakened the Jewish spirit more than any of our own educational and engagement efforts. We are facing a tidal wave of prosemitism, and we need to figure out how to lock it in both for ourselves and for those who have yet to firmly establish themselves within the Jewish communal family.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Halls of Power: In Nonprofit Quarterly, Bess Rothenberg, senior director of strategy and learning at the Ford Foundation, explores whether philanthropy — the selective distribution of accumulated wealth — is an effective vehicle for reducing inequality. “Power concentrates around those who have it; those who have it create systems and values that reinforce and justify their legitimacy. My colleagues in philanthropy know this well, particularly as it relates to government, the economy, and culture, which are all places where those with power easily keep it and those on the margins struggle to gain access. Unfortunately, power imbalances are prevalent in civil society, the very actors set up to challenge inequality. Organizations with access and power are also more likely to have the staffing, governance, and budgeting structures to navigate the complex processes funders put in place to make grants. When funders, who often come from elite backgrounds, choose which organizations and leaders to invest in, they often choose leaders and organizations from similar backgrounds of privilege. In every category of identity, there is a hierarchy; with hierarchy, there are people on the margins. Yet those on the margins repeatedly remind funders that unless foundations pay attention to who is excluded, philanthropy will only end up further exacerbating their marginalization. This requires critical analysis and reflection on how power plays out in society.” [NonprofitQuarterly]

Some Things Never Change: In The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Susan Appe discusses the concept of “Hometown associations,” a modern-day equivalent of the Landsmanshaftn organizations that Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe relied on to get settled in the United States. “‘Hometown associations,’ also known as migrant clubs, are nonprofits formed by immigrants who are originally from the same place in their country of origin. They serve as channels through which immigrants make charitable gifts that help people settle in their new country while also aiding communities back in their homelands… The groups raise money by holding member breakfasts, mariachi concerts, raffles, and other events in Chicago and elsewhere in Illinois. Their fundraisers can generate anywhere from a couple of thousand dollars to tens of thousands annually. Many of these groups have informal origins. Some got their start when immigrants were gathering for other reasons, such as taking part in local soccer and baseball games… I’ve never found a reliable estimate of the scale of hometown associations’ charitable contributions. Even the number of associations across immigrant groups is not fully determined, making estimates of their collective donations hard to calculate. But what I have observed is how the members of hometown associations team up to serve their communities in ways that don’t involve only money. They voluntarily devote their time, labor, and knowledge to help their countries of origin for the public good.” [ChronicleofPhilanthropy]

Around the Web

The Koret Foundation awarded a three-year, $7.5 million grant to Jewish Family and Children’s Services of San Francisco to support its Jewish Youth Initiative

The Blavatnik Family Foundation, Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities and New York Academy of Sciences awarded the 2024 Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists in Israel to Schraga SchwartzMoran Shalev-Benami and Thomas Vidick. The awards for groundbreaking research come with a cash prize of $100,000 for each of the winners…

Writing in NewsweekMenachem Z. Rosensaft, general counsel emeritus of the World Jewish Congressreflects on the fight over the various definitions of antisemitism and how useful they are…

The College of Europe launched an investigation after a Jewish student’s door was spray painted with swastikas and other antisemitic graffiti last weekend…

Amit Soussana, a former Israeli hostage, details her time in Hamas captivity, including a sexual assault, in an extensive interview with The New York Times

The Associated Press spotlights the Israelis deciding whether or not to return to their Gaza border communities in the wake of the Oct. 7 terror attacks and the ongoing war against Hamas…

A new study by the Center for Effective Philanthropy found that less than a third of foundations make endowment grants each year, despite this type of funding helping guarantee an organization’s longevity…

The Israeli financial newspaper Calcalist interviews Rich Handler, CEO of the Jefferies Group, about the purchase of Tel Aviv Stock Exchange shares in January by a group of foreign investors, including Bill Ackman. Writing on X, Ackman said he has no plans to unload the stock: “We view TASE as a permanent holding”…

Eva Heinstein was appointed the next director of the Mandel Institute for Nonprofit Leadership

Irwin and Joan Jacobs donated $3 million to San Diego’s public broadcaster KPBS to fund its election coverage and local government reporting for the next three years…

The Los Angeles Times interviews Alex Edelman about his one-man play about attending a meeting of white supremacists, “Just For Us,” ahead of the airing of an HBO special of the show…

Former Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder donated his Potomac, Md., estate to the American Cancer Society after failing to find a buyer for the property, even after he cut some $14 million off the initial $49 million listing price…

Matisyahu is releasing a new song — “Ascent” — about antisemitism on Friday. The song’s music video was shot in Israel after the Oct. 7 terror attacks…

Politico examines how Dr. Miriam Adelson’s ties to the Republican Party and its presidential candidate Donald Trump may affect her company’s bid to build a new casino on Long Island…

Andrew Simon was named the next editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Philanthropy…

Pic of the Day

Haley Cohen/eJewish Philanthropy

La’aretz Foundation hosted “The Women Behind the Reserves,” an exhibit showcasing the female reserve soldiers of Israel’s Air Force elite combat rescue and evacuation team Unit 669, at Eden Gallery in the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan on Tuesday night. Photojournalist Maya Meshel’s 10/7 exhibition was also on display at the event.


Annie Liebovitz smiles

CEO of BBYO, Matthew Grossman

Composer and violinist, Malcolm Goldstein… Rabbinic leader of the Tunisian Jewish community in Israel, Rabbi Meir Mazuz… Principal technology columnist for The Wall Street Journal until 2013, Walter S. Mossberg… Executive director at Milwaukee’s Grand Avenue Club mental health center, Rachel Forman… Chairman and CEO of First International Resources in Fort Lee, N.J., Zev Furst… Sports agent, Leigh Steinberg… Retired host of the “Matty in the Morning Show” in Massachusetts on KISS 108, Matt Siegel… Deputy director of leadership giving at Baruch College, Linda Altshuler… Member of the Knesset since 2011 representing the United Torah Judaism party, Yisrael Eichler… Moral philosopher, she is the director of the Einstein Forum in Potsdam, Germany, Susan Neiman… Former NFL linebacker, now president of Performance Coaching (training real estate agents), Steven Mark Shull… Economist and banker in Latvia, Valerijs Kargins… Smooth jazz saxophonist, he has been recognized with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Dave Koz… Managing director of Maimonides Fund, Daniel Gamulka… President of NYC’s Tenement Museum, Annie Polland… Founder and CEO of the Movement Vision Lab, Sally Kohn… Associate professor at Columbia University School of the Arts, Dorothea Lasky… Correspondent for NBC News and MSNBC, Jacob Hirsch Soboroff… Hitting coach in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization, he played for Team Israel at the 2017 World Baseball Classic and the 2020 Olympics, Blake Shane Gailen… Assistant principal at Snowden Farm Elementary School in Clarksburg, Md., Kayla Gross… GTM consultant, Adam B. Engel… Former producer at ABC’s “The View,” Daniella Greenbaum Davis… Theodore James Kushner