Your Daily Phil: JFN’s Andrés Spokoiny speaks to eJP

Good Wednesday morning.

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on the Meta Oversight Board ruling that the company can prohibit Holocaust denial on its platforms, and feature an opinion piece from Rabbi Elie Kaunfer about the need to invest in Jewish life at this urgent moment. Also in this newsletter: Sgt. Maj. (res.) Adam Bismut, Capt. Eyal Mevorach Twito and Master Sgt. (res.) Yoav Levi. We’ll start with our interview with Jewish Funders Network President and CEO Andrés Spokoiny.

In yesterday’s inaugural episode of “Get Your Phil,” Jewish Funders Network President and CEO Andrés Spokoiny told eJewishPhilanthropy News Editor Judah Ari Gross that his message to funders after Oct. 7 is: “This is not just ‘a’ crisis… this is ‘the’ crisis of our generation… So you need to go beyond your 5% payout every year. You need to make a commitment.”

The hour-long conversation touched on a variety of issues, including the merits of donor-advised funds, the need to support Jewish arts and culture — in addition to combating antisemitism — how the Jewish philanthropic world has been responding to the war in Israel and what nonprofits should understand about donors.

“It’s a mood of heightened uncertainty,” Spokoiny said, reflecting on the previous year, which saw record-setting protests by Israelis against the government over its judicial overhaul followed by the worst terror attack in the country’s history, which in many ways is still ongoing, and a meteoric rise in antisemitism around the world.

He said most funders have understood the importance of the moment and have increased their donations, not just shifted around the recipients of their grants. “Probably 70 or 80% of JFN members have increased their giving in the past year, meaning they have given to the crisis without defunding any of their existing commitments,” he said.

In addition to giving to causes in Israel, Spokoiny said JFN has noted an increase in donations to causes that combat antisemitism at home, but he added that funders are also open to making donations to support and boost Jewish life, not just to fight hatred.

Though he was loath to use the term “opportunity” to describe a moment so full of death and worry, Spokoiny said that this is a time for Jewish nonprofits to reach out to potential Jewish donors who, in the past, may have focused their giving on non-Jewish organizations.

“There’s a feeling of deep homelessness for Jews and for Jewish donors in the secular society, especially in progressive spaces,” he said. “People that were funding women’s rights organizations that were silent regarding the sexual violence during the massacres, they can now go and fund the National Council of Jewish Women, which is a progressive Zionist organization that fought the right fight.”

In March, JFN members will gather in Tel Aviv for the organization’s annual conference, whose focus was changed twice – first to account for the judicial overhaul protests and now to account for the Israel-Hamas war. According to Spokoiny, registration is already full.

This year’s conference will include fewer presentations by nonprofits and more time for funders to collaborate. “The vibe of this conference is to give an opportunity for the funders to talk among themselves, to think together about what they want to do, how they want to face this crisis, what has to be their role in the crisis and the like,” Spokoiny said. “There’s going to be information. But most of the conference is going to be about funders discussing, reflecting, analyzing, dreaming together.”

Watch the full interview here.

CONTENT WARNING

Meta Oversight Board rules against Holocaust denial content

Rabbi Dina Brawer, executive director of the U.K.-based World Jewish Relief’s American branch, speaks at the Clinton Global Initiative in September 2023.
Jonathan Raa/Nurphoto via Getty Images

Citing a case made by a prominent Jewish group, the Meta Oversight Board overturned the social media giant’s decision to leave up an Instagram post that spread garbled information about the Holocaust, according to an announcement made on Tuesday, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen for Jewish Insider.

No denying it: The Oversight Board, an independent entity created by Meta to review its actions removing or hiding certain content, urged the company, which runs Facebook and Instagram, to impose updated measures in how it tracks Holocaust denial, pointing to a submission by the American Jewish Committee and its Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights (JBI) in the decision. JBI’s comment on the case claimed that Meta’s prohibition of Holocaust denial is “fully consistent with international human rights standards.”

A welcome turn: “Jews are facing unprecedented antisemitic hatred online and offline today,” AJC CEO Ted Deutch, AJC CEO said. “In this troubling context, the Oversight Board’s affirmation that online Holocaust denial causes real harm to Jews – both through engendering fear in them and by spreading toxic conspiracies and stereotypes among users – is timely and encouraging.”

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

A READER RESPONDS

Now is the time to invest — in Jews of different backgrounds

Illustration by arthobbit/Getty Images

“Yossi Prager identified a critical opportunity for the Jewish community in his opinion piece last week, ‘Feeding the hunger for Jewish belonging and education’ (eJewishPhilanthropy, Jan. 19)… I want to offer two additional angles to Prager’s insight about this urgent moment of opportunity,” writes Rabbi Elie Kaunfer, CEO of the Hadar Institute, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

The iron is hot: “The opportunity — and the need — to invest now is even greater than in the peak of COVID. Four years ago, the Jewish philanthropic community jumped in to make investments in nonprofits that were retooling to respond to the shifts in demand driven by the pandemic… In 2020, unrestricted government support, in the form of the Paycheck Protection Program loan, sent immediate relief to the nonprofit sector; today, no U.S. government program will step in to help Jewish nonprofits (outside of grants for physical security)… At the same time, the S&P Index is at an all-time high and foundations have more resources than ever. Investments beyond the short-term emergency relief for Israel can have massive payout, because the underlying demand for Jewish engagement is less ephemeral than lockdown-era programs. If ever there was a time to invest in the infrastructure of Jewish education and engagement, it is now.”

Redress the drift: “[D]emand for Jewish engagement in this moment is not limited to people who had little to no Jewish background but are now suddenly curious and open to exploring. To be sure, this is a critical group to engage — but there is also significant demand from young Jews who have had some Jewish education but moved away from the community… Some might argue that communal resources should be focused only on those with little to no background; after all, people with some day school or camp experience are already ‘in the fold.’ My experience tells me otherwise: that young people with some Jewish education are a critical investment opportunity precisely because we have invested so much in them already; and that in today’s society, unfortunately, no young Jew is guaranteed to be ‘in the fold’ permanently.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

No Trust Needed: In The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Dan Goldenberg argues against trust-based philanthropy in favor of giving dictated by agreed-upon results. “The organization I lead, the Call of Duty Endowment, learned the hard way that trust-based philanthropy doesn’t work. A decade ago, we made large grants without firm guidelines for what should be achieved or regular performance assessments. The results were decidedly lackluster… Our experience shows that the accountability principles common in the business world should be embraced rather than dismissed by nonprofits and donors. A successful for-profit company would never throw money at a project without clear goals, key performance indicators, and validation of impact. They have a fiduciary duty to shareholders that drives our whole economy. Trust-based philanthropy is well intentioned, but largely a feel-good excuse for letting grant makers off the hook to do more than write large, unaccountable checks. For those donors who want to drive large-scale social change, the right mantra should be: ‘Show me the impact and then I’ll show you the money.’” [ChronicleofPhilanthropy]

Culture Shock: In The Times of Israel, Kayla Schneider-Smith shares an experience familiar to many in the Jewish community today: the sense of betrayal and exhaustion when a Jewish colleague or public figure you admire makes a statement about Israel that lands like a sucker punch. “I think what disappointed me most about poet Marilyn Hacker’s words was their glaring lack of nuance. The lack of acknowledgment that in a war, there are never simply two sides: there are an infinite number of stories and narratives and deep loss and people feeling wronged. Shouting ‘Long live the people of Palestine!’ might seem hip and even the right thing to do, as a Jew, but in this particular war, it gives radicals and extremists the green light to use the words to justify, at the very least, their distaste for Jews, and at worst, the genocide of the Jewish people from Israel, their ancestral homeland… Sadly, I ended up unsubscribing from Poem-a-Day, my beloved daily dose of poetry, not because I want to create my own echo chamber, but because I don’t want to be constantly put down by one. I don’t want to deal with the exhaustion of explaining until I’m blue in the face that Israel has a right to exist. I don’t want to deal with a faux community of poets who don’t want to represent or even acknowledge my voice, my pain, the pain of my people.” [TOI]

Other Paths to Success: In Barrons, wealth advisor Jonathan Shenkman examines new routes the college-bound are taking to earn a degree without shouldering a mountain of debt — and predicts that an increasing number will opt out altogether as the cost of higher education continues to balloon. “Certificate programs will probably become far more popular in the coming years. Many of my contemporaries are returning to school decades after college graduation to obtain training and a certificate to make themselves more marketable. Learning how to code, build a website, or acquire other skills that allow someone to be in demand in a growing field may dramatically increase one’s income, at far less than the cost of a four-year degree. Finally, there has been increased interest in apprenticeships, which favor on-the-job training over classroom experience. In this model, trainees get paid a modest sum while learning a particular craft through working for skilled employers. They can go out on their own after developing the knowledge and expertise in the particular industry… This requires hard work, deep industry knowledge, formal training sessions, and years of real-life experience. The financial upside is limitless, and no amount of higher education will increase your likelihood of success… [I]f our leading universities are counting on those checks to come forever, they should think twice. Americans are already making alternate plans. Institutions of higher learning need to be reformed, or they face a very dark future.” [Barrons]

Around the Web

One of the 24 Israel Defense Forces soldiers killed on Monday was identified as Sgt. Maj. (res.) Adam Bismut, 35, the founder and CEO of the SightBit startup that developed a system to help prevent people from drowning. At least two of them served as Jewish Agency shlichim (emissaries) in U.S. communities: Capt. Eyal Mevorach Twito, 22, who served in Baltimore after high school, also spent time in Oakland, Calif., when his parents were emissaries there; and Master Sgt. (res.) Yoav Levi, 29, who worked at the Alonim Summer Camp in Los Angeles…

Nearly 250,000 Holocaust survivors remain alive today, according to a new survey by the Claims Conference. Roughly half of them (49%) live in Israel, and the rest are mostly split between North America (18%), Western Europe (18%) and the former Soviet Union (12%)…

Two Israel-related films were nominated for Oscars yesterday: “Golda,” starring Helen Mirren as former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, for Best Makeup and Hairstyling, and “Letter to a Pig” by Israeli filmmaker Tal Kantor in the animated short film category…

A new Pew survey found that U.S. Jewish adults are more than twice as likely to say they’ve become less religious over time (29%) than more religious over time (13%)…

Laurie Blitzer, Alisa Doctoroff and Rachel Kay are joining the board of the research and consulting group Leading Edge

Dr. Dvora Joseph Davey and Dan Gaylin have joined the board of Olam, and Laurie Franz will become its chair, succeeding Shoshana Boyd Gelfand

The Nexus Leadership Project, a left-of-center group that first made waves for crafting a definition of antisemitism to compete with the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s widely adopted definition, is ramping up its advocacy work, hiring J Street’s former lobbyist, Kevin Rachlin, and creating a board of directors with Karen Adler, Ada Horwich, Alan Solomont and Alan Solow…

Emeri HandlerRena Kopleman and Kylie Unell are joining the board of OneTable. (It’s a big day for boards)…

Avinoam Patt, a professor of Judaic studies at the University of Connecticut, was hired to serve as the first director of New York University’s new Center for the Study of Antisemitism. The center also received its second million-dollar gift, this one also from an anonymous donor…

The Anti-Defamation League launched a new university-focused campaign, Not On My Campus, which will provide resources and guidance to students and administrators to combat antisemitism on campus…

Shir Shalom, an unaffiliated synagogue in Sonoma, Calif., has opened its Hebrew school to non-Jewish students in a bid to combat antisemitism…

Samaritan’s Purse, a U.S.-based evangelical humanitarian aid group, donated 14 ambulances to the Magen David Adom medical service to replace 14 vehicles that were destroyed in the Oct. 7 terror attacks…

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency looks at how the ongoing war in Gaza has affected Haifa University, which has one of Israel’s most diverse student populations…

The International Charlemagne Prize of Aachen, which gives an award to people or groups that advance “European unification,” is giving this year’s prize to President of the Conference of European Rabbis and former Moscow Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt and “the Jewish people in Europe.” The award will be presented on May 9…

Three British schools have postponed educational programs about combating antisemitism and prejudice with the Anne Frank Trust since the start of the Israel-Hamas war because of “local community tensions”…

Pic of the Day



Over 50,000 people attend the traditional Birkat Kohanim (Priestly Blessing) at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City today, during Chol Hamoed (the intermediary days) of Sukkot.
Courtesy/German Embassy in Israel

The recipients of the Shimon Peres Prize stand with their award on Saturday at the German Embassy in Israel. The prize was given to the Israel-Germany youth movement Hashomer Hatzair and a group of schools that took part in a joint program to advance multiculturalism in Hamburg, Germany; Israel’s Sha’ar HaNegev region; the town of Sderot; and the Bedouin city of Rahat.

“The initiatives demonstrate what Peres believed in with all his heart — young people from both countries can find a common language and create new things — they just need to be given proper opportunities,” Tsvia Peres-Walden, representing the family of former Israeli President Shimon Peres, said at the ceremony.

Birthdays

Annie Liebovitz smiles
Courtesy/The Ohio State University

Founder and CEO at TACKMA, Jeffrey Schottenstein

Canadian architect and urban renewal advocate, Phyllis Barbara Bronfman Lambert… Singer-songwriter and one of the world’s best-selling recording artists of all time, Neil Diamond… 2011 Nobel Prize laureate in chemistry, professor at the Technion and Iowa State University, Dan Shechtman… Chairman of the Sazerac Company and of Crescent Crown Distributing, two of the largest domestic distillers and distributors of spirits and beer in the U.S., William Goldring… Professor of modern Jewish history at New York University, Marion Kaplan… Senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and chair of the Tikvah Fund, Elliott Abrams… Professor of alternative dispute resolution and mediation at Hofstra School of Law, Robert Alan Baruch Bush… Ukrainian-born comedian, actor and writer, he emigrated to the U.S. in 1977 and is noted for the catchphrase “What a country,” Yakov Smirnoff… Conductor, violinist and violist, Yuri Bashmet… VP of strategy at LiveWorld, Daniel Flamberg… Founder of an online software training website which was acquired by LinkedIn in April 2015 for $1.5 billion, Lynda Susan Weinman… Burlingame, Calif.-based surgeon at Peninsula Plastic Surgery, Lorne K. Rosenfield M.D.… Beryl Eckstein… Former senior correspondent for Fox News, Rick Leventhal… Former CEO of Ford Motor Company, and now a board member of Hertz, Mark Fields… B’nei mitzvah coordinator at Temple Beth Am of Los Angeles, Judith Alban… Former HUD secretary and OMB director, now the president and CEO of Enterprise Community Partners, Shaun Donovan… Co-founder and executive director of Protect Democracy, Ian Bassin… Journalist and then a tax attorney, Joshua Runyan… Sporting director for Hapoel Jerusalem of the Israeli Premier League and the FIBA Champions League, Yotam Halperin… Regional director of synagogue initiative at AIPAC, Miryam Knafo Schapira… J.D. candidate at Brooklyn Law School, Michael Krasna… Musician and former child actor, Jonah Bobo