Your Daily Phil: Julie Hammerman on social return + Is ‘The Marvelous Ms. Maisel’ enough?
Good Tuesday morning!
Known for galas and breakfasts attended by hundreds of people, Jewish National Fund-USA (JNF-USA) has launched a program of smaller in-person gatherings with masks, hand sanitizer and boxed food on offer, but won’t even think about holding any high-headcount events until December, CEO Russell Robinson told eJewishPhilanthropy.
JNF-USA, which fundraises and makes grants in support of causes in Israel such as economic development, water solutions and heritage site preservation, decided in late April that it would start hosting in-person events of no more than 40 people indoors. The last year before the pandemic, JNF-USA held 631 events, the majority of which were large gatherings with 500 people or more, Robinson said. This year, there will be at most 400 events.
The organization has held a total of six small gatherings in Denver, Phoenix and New York, including a screening on Sunday of “Asia” with actress Shira Haas that was attended by 35 people. The empty seats in the 110-person theater were painful to see, said Robinson, who took solace in knowing that 160 people attended via Zoom.
He also said that the organization is in the middle of a transition related to virtual technology. On the one hand, JNF-USA must wean donors off of an expectation that everything it does will be accessible virtually: “How do you tell a $25,000 donor they can’t Zoom in?” he asked. On the other hand, the organization is determined to retain the technology’s benefits.
JNF-USA plans to continue to host board meetings virtually,in addition to some fundraisers, such as a national Breakfast for Israel that will happen alongside local, in-person events. “We’ve learned a lot that we will never give up,” Robinson said, noting that his staff now knows how to successfully solicit even major gifts online.
Julie Hammerman on social return and being Israel’s advocate
Julie Hammerman started the investor network JLens in 2012 with the goal of seeing Jewish communal capital aligned with its values. Almost a decade later, she’s made progress, but there’s more work to be done, both on that front and as an advocate for Israel in the world of public companies and their investors. “I thought it would be a year-long process,” Hammerman told eJewishPhilanthropy’s Helen Chernikoff. “But I am trying to change behavior.”
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Helen Chernikoff: You were an investment banker. Why did you leave that field?
Julie Hammerman: I’ve always loved economics, and international economic development was a favorite class of mine when I was an undergraduate. I started my career in investment banking on Wall Street, but aspects of that work are unfulfilling. It wasn’t until business school that I started to see business[es] as tools for social change, and that was a radical concept. At Harvard Business School’s social enterprise department, I realized I could have a business and a social purpose, but again, this was radical back then. We were changing the Milton Friedman approach to investment, the idea that companies exist to provide financial returns solely to shareholders.
HC: And how did you move from traditional wealth management to values-based investing?
JH: After I graduated, I worked for a startup social enterprise in the healthcare space. When we moved out to California about 15 years ago, I went back to wealth management.
At that time, the field of impact investing was coming of age in San Francisco. It was building on the movement toward socially responsible investing in the 1980s. The field originated with investors who were focused on “negative screening,” [which meant] filtering out the Christian “sin stocks,” but there was a shift toward looking for investments that would make a positive impact as well. I was working with a Catholic family and was reading their teachings in order to realign their portfolio with their values. I started working with family foundations, and getting involved as a lay leader in the Jewish community. As a Wexner Foundation Jewish Heritage fellow, I studied Judaism for two years.
HC: What Jewish texts and values speak to you most powerfully when you think about values investing?
JH: There are the six values pillars of our Advocacy Strategy, and especially the value of “constructive rebuke” from Leviticus. That’s how we think about investor advocacy in public companies. Instead of just screening out the bad actors we want to form a relationship, and help them move in a more positive direction.
HC: Why did it end up being more complicated than you first thought to inspire the American Jewish community with a zeal for impact investing?
JH: There are a number of reasons. The Jewish community doesn’t have an investment advisory board, like the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Also, we have a very bifurcated decision-making process, and this isn’t just an issue in the Jewish world. Investment committees are made up of people who are brilliant in finance, and they want to do the best job for the institution that they love. It’s not their skill set or the expertise to bring values into the investing, but the professionals [who might do that more intuitively] are not in the room.
Read the full interview here.
JEWS BY RELIGION
Is Mrs. Maisel enough?
“Are American Jews more likely to view ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,’ ‘Fauda,’ ‘Transparent,’ and other Jewish-themed shows than belong to a synagogue?,” ask Sylvia Barack Fishman and Jack Wertheimer in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.
The glue binding us together: “YES, according to the Pew Research Center’s recently released report on Jewish Americans in 2020. Personal, individual activities are embraced by considerably more American Jews than those with social, communal, or religious dimensions. But in building vibrant Jewish communities, are privatized Jewish activities really effective substitutes for programs that bring Jews together? The new Pew data show that group—rather than individualized—expressions of Jewishness build Jewish ‘social capital,’ the glue binding Jews to one another and enabling collective action. Contrary to the widely accepted progressive wisdom which views all types of Jewish activities as equally valuable, the Pew study demonstrates that some are correlated with strong Jewish engagement and build Jewish social capital far more than others.”
Expressions of Jewishness: These patterns expose a massive transformation in how a significant portion of American Jews relate to their own group. Throughout the modern era, strong secular Jewish movements such as cultural Yiddishism, socialist Bundism, and Zionism spurred Jewish engagement. Secular Jews maintained predominantly Jewish friendship patterns, chose Jewish spouses and raised Jewish children, and supported, joined, and sometimes led secular organizations benefiting Jews domestically and abroad. Their cultural lives were enriched by Judaic content, including ‘Jewish-style’ foods, books, films, music, and works of art—which they most often shared with Jewish friends.
“A few months ago, I was speaking with a group from the Cincinnati Teen Collective. This is a group of gifted teen professionals, and we were talking about reopening spaces – camps, youth groups, teen programming. One of them, Dori Singer Zoot, an assistant director at URJ GUCI, made a statement that has been reverberating in my head ever since. ‘I’m less worried about the first days of camp. We know how to manage that,’ she said. ‘I’m more concerned about what they leave with,’” writes Dr. Betsy Stone in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.
Adjusting: “Whether we’re talking about staff, leadership or campers, all of us are in adjustment mode. Debby Shriber, director at Crane Lake, says she’s focused on joy. Rabbis tell me they’re focused on connection. And the Pew report tells us that we need to set new goals in all our institutions, at least if we want people to see the value we hope to offer.”
Human connection: “If COVID has taught us anything, it is the importance of human connection. Isolation is simply bad for human beings. COVID has also taught us about ourselves, and we have learned what we truly value. Family matters, however you define it. For so many of us, the first visit after vaccination was to a parent or a child. We missed each other deeply. Our values became clearer.”
Stages Of Grief: In the wake of the pandemic, many Americans are rethinking the role work plays in their lives, according to surveys such as one from Pew Research that reports that 66% of Americans are considering a change in field, while many are seeking time for reflection in the form of sabbaticals, reports Ruth Reader in Fast Company. Grief experts say that this collective review of priorities is a function of “pandemic grief,” the feelings of loss flowing from the loss of loved ones, jobs and a sense of normalcy, and that it can be salutary, but requires caution. “Everything’s meaningless in grief, right?” said David Kessler, author of Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief. “But let’s not quit our jobs. You might need some income.” [FastCompany]
Funding Gap: As philanthropists and nonprofit professionals have reviewed their philanthropic commitments in an effort to address anti-Black racism, a striking example has come to light in the form of sickle cell disease (SCD), which can lead to life expectancies in the mid-40s and disproportionately affects Black people, reports Paul Karon in Inside Philanthropy. All but one foundation has ignored SCD research and care, and although SCD affects three times as many people as cystic fibrosis, the two diseases received the same amount of federal research funding from 2008 to 2018, according to a 2020 article published in the journal JAMA. In 2020, the National Institutes of Health announced plans to invest $100 million or more on gene-based cures for SCD and HIV over the next four years. “But as philanthropists and foundation professionals involved in medical research regularly note, philanthropy has a key role to play alongside big sums from the government,” Karon concludes. [InsidePhilanthropy]
Buy The Block: In Bloomberg’s City Lab blog, Christopher J. Tyson suggests that conventional wisdom that spans racial and political divides, from former President Donald Trump to hip-hop artists like Jay-Z, is relying too heavily on market-driven initiatives to address the problem of gentrification that pushes Black and minority residents out of their neighborhoods. While initiatives like the federal Opportunity Zone program, which uses tax cuts to incentivize investment in poor areas, have a role to play, public stakeholders like redevelopment authorities — which focus on transformative development projects — and land banks — which address the problem of abandoned properties — are even more crucial, Tyson writes: “They are mission-driven and can make long-term investments not only in businesses and buildings, but in citizens and community. They are not focused on just a single transaction, but rather a holistic vision of community advancement.” [BloombergCityLab]
New Priorities: The agenda of racial equity and identity politics that is pervasive throughout philanthropy is in some cases undermining the intellectual and financial integrity of the organizations that adopt it, write James Pierseon and Naomi Schaefer Riley in National Review. They cite examples of fundraisers who are sacrificing potential support because they would rather bypass white donors and development strategists who are scaling back ambitions for their departments in order to focus on diversity. “Many are wasting huge amounts of money on recruiting more diverse staffs, engaging in endless sensitivity trainings, and changing all their marketing and promotional materials to reflect their new woke orientation,” many ordinary donors will see this as the kind of overhead that they do not want to support, and it is easy to see why,” conclude Pierseon and Riley. [NR]
Word on the Street
New separate annual surveys of Israeli and U.S. Jews from the American Jewish Committee show that despite striking deficiencies in knowledge, shared affinity is strong… Former MK Rabbi Dov Lipman has been terminated from his position as secretary-general of the World Confederation of United Zionists due to allegations of sexual misconduct… An Orthodox female teacher who is about to receive rabbinic ordination from Yeshivat Maharat has been told she can no longer teach at the London School of Jewish Studies… Nishmah Research has released “COVID-19 Attitudes and Vaccine Sentiment in the U.S. Orthodox Jewish Community: Views Among the Chasidish, Yeshivish, and Modern Orthodox Segments”… The Zakut Association, a new Spanish innovation hub with strong links to Israel, launched in the southern region of Murcia… DLocal, the first Uruguayan firm to reach Nasdaq, is helmed by two Universidad ORT Uruguay graduates…
Pic of the Day
Yesterday, the 36th government of the State of Israel began its first work day with the traditional official photo taken at Beit HaNasi (the President’s House).
White House speechwriter for former First Lady Michelle Obama, she wrote a 2019 book ‘Here All Along’ about her Judaism, Sarah Hurwitz…
Swedish author and psychologist, a survivor of both Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen, Hédi Fried… Iranian-born British businessman, his companies employ 70,000 people across 67 countries, Baron David Alliance… Co-founder with his father and brothers in 1961 of Canadian radio and television conglomerate Astral Media, Ian Greenberg… Former president of the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Phoenix, Stuart C. Turgel… Author, attorney and former president of the National Rifle Association, Sandra S. “Sandy” Froman… Ethicist and professor at the University of Chicago Divinity School, Laurie Zoloth… Authority on Yiddish folk and theater music, Zalmen Mlotek… Vice president of the Eurasian Jewish Congress, Alexander Bronstein Ph.D…. President and CEO of Edelman, Richard Winston Edelman… Chief Rabbi of Poland, Rabbi Michael Schudrich… Israeli Druze politician who serves as a member of the Knesset for Likud, Fateen Mulla… Writer and journalist, Jill Eisenstadt… Tax manager at Berdon LLP, Reuben Rutman… Los Angeles-based attorney, Daniel Brett Lacesa… Regional director of the ADL based in Los Angeles, Jeffrey I. Abrams… Deputy managing editor at The New York Times, Clifford J. Levy… Chief political correspondent for CNN, Dana Bash… Retired news anchor for Israel Public Broadcasting, she is married to Gideon Saar, Geula Even-Saar… . Ethiopian-born Israeli marathon runner, Zohar Zimro… Senior global affairs analyst at CNN, Bianna Golodryga… Co-founder of Evergreen Strategy Group, he is a former director of speechwriting for Hillary Clinton and was also the principal collaborator on HRC’s two memoirs, Daniel Baum Schwerin… Director of corporate communications and public affairs at Google, Rebecca Rutkoff… VP of leadership development at Birthright Israel Foundation, Jackie Soleimani... Training and development specialist at UBS, Victoria Elian Edelman… Foreign affairs producer at the PBS NewsHour, Ali S. Weinberg Rogin… President and COO at Georgetown University Student Investment Fund, Elli Sweet…
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