Your Daily Phil: Kosher money + Jewish pioneering in Dubai
Good Tuesday morning!
Let’s say you’re studying Torah full-time in Lakewood, N.J., and realize that you need to start making money for your family of six (or more). How do you transition into the working world? Do you pursue an advanced degree or start a business? How do you handle day school tuition? How would this affect government benefits you receive?
Those questions may not occur to much of the Jewish world, but they and others like them have become increasingly relevant for a growing Orthodox population that’s contending with the high cost of observant Jewish life in the United States. And for the past year, former CNBC social media producer Eli Langer has been trying to answer them on his podcast, “Kosher Money,” which launched last June.
“It sort of sponged into my brain that money is not something you should think about haphazardly but something you should be intentional about,” Langer told eJewishPhilanthropy regarding his CNBC experience. “With my background in media and my background related to money, I thought [the podcast] would be a great move, especially because there was not a lot of content being created for Orthodox Jews in 2021.”
The podcast — which is part of Living Lchaim, an Orthodox podcast network — has found an audience. It has garnered a total of more than three million listens, according to Langer, and appears to have reached people outside of the Orthodox community. The most popular episode, with more than 880,000 views on YouTube, was a conversation last summer with financial adviser Naftali Horowitz called “Wanna Build Wealth? Avoid These Money Mistakes.”
The discussion about transitioning from Torah study to a full-time job, which featured social work professor Steven Tzvi Pirutinsky, has 17,000 YouTube views. Other guests have ranged from Rabbi Moshe Hauer, executive vice president of the Orthodox Union, to Stacey Zrihen, a financial planner. Topics range from mortgages and health insurance to “What to do when you get into money trouble with the law.”
“We’re at a point where many Orthodox Jews should be trained on this, educated — and they should act on it,” said Langer, who is now the CEO of Harvesting Media, a marketing agency for supermarkets based in the Five Towns, the heavily Jewish group of Long Island suburbs where Langer also lives. “The cost of Jewish living is dramatically higher than living as a non-Jew. You have private school tuition, you have kosher [food], our families are larger… You have to be talking about this in a way that allows for healthy discussion.”
Langer acknowledges that his podcast can’t solve the myriad challenges involved in making ends meet while leading an Orthodox life. But he hopes to get listeners into the mindset of thinking — and talking — more intentionally about their money, a subject he feels is still “taboo” in some Orthodox circles and beyond.
“We’re not looking to solve the tuition crisis,” he said, naming a frequent topic of discussion on the podcast. “If people are able to make more educated decisions, the community as a whole will be in a better place.”
OUT OF THE ASHES
A Jewish camp destroyed in a California wildfire now hosts a massive retreat center
In 2017, a Northern California wildfire destroyed 36,000 acres in the state’s wine country, including URJ Camp Newman, the region’s premier Reform Jewish summer camp. But amid the loss, Camp Newman’s leadership found opportunity. The destruction allowed the camp, which is located about two hours from San Francisco in Sonoma County, to upgrade and expand its Jewish retreat center, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Esther D. Kustanowitz.
California camp’s capital campaign: Now, Camp Newman’s retreat center has reopened, having raised $79 million out of a total capital budget of $131 million, eJP has learned. Private donations accounted for $67 million, including an anonymous $10 million gift, while $12 million came in the form of relief funds from the State of California. For the coming year, 90% of the weekends are already booked.
Expanding access toward equality: “After you lose 81 of 90 structures, you’re literally starting from scratch,” Ari Vared, Camp Newman’s executive director, told eJP. “We took the opportunity to regrade the entire center of the campus in order to increase accessibility for anyone. That ultimately allows somebody who is more senior in their years to be really comfortable and be able to access the space and participate fully — someone who maybe has a physical disability [will] be able to use the space as an equal participant, but also someone with a stroller.”
Versatility and values: According to Camp Newman leadership, accessibility and adaptability were major priorities of the expansion. A summer cabin built for 16 campers, for example, converts to two smaller family units — each with its own bathroom. The dining hall mezuzah is longer than standard mezuzot, enabling a large group of people — including children and people with disabilities — to touch or kiss it. The camp’s core values — Community, Acceptance, Role Modeling and Each and Every One, which create the acronym CARE — are written into the cement of the camp’s main plaza in English, Hebrew and Hebrew transliteration.
Let’s make mental health a priority in the Jewish community
“This is a profoundly challenging time to be young. Even before the pandemic, levels of stress and anxiety were surging among teens and young adults growing up in complicated and uncertain times,” writes Sara Allen, associate vice president of community & Jewish life at Jewish Federations of North America, and Reuben D. Rotman, president & CEO of the Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.
Pandemic impact: “The impact of the global pandemic tore at relationships and [young adults’] already fragile sense of stability. Collectively, we have experienced loss, loneliness, grief and trauma. Millions are struggling with anxiety, depression, eating disorders and — in many cases — even thoughts of suicide. Last December, Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy proclaimed a ‘youth mental health crisis’ of staggering proportions.”
The Jewish community isn’t immune: “These struggles are distressingly acute in the Jewish community. A Brandeis University study found that an alarming one-quarter of young adult Jewish respondents reported feeling lonely ‘often’ or all the time,’ and that one-fifth felt that mental health difficulties impeded their day-to-day lives on an ongoing basis. Often overwhelmed themselves, parents, caregivers and Jewish professionals are unsure how to access help or support youth in role-appropriate ways.”
New Initiative: “Well-being is the defining issue for young people today. The Jewish community is making emotional, social and spiritual well-being a priority with BeWell, an ambitious partnership between Jewish Federations of North America and the Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies.”
WELCOME THE STRANGER
From Dubai, global lessons in Jewish pioneering
“Each week on Shabbat, Jews around the world pray for the welfare of the country they live in. I’ve heard this prayer in many places, and in many languages. I never thought I would ever be reciting it for the United Arab Emirates while living in Dubai,” writes Jake Berger, JDC Entwine’s Jewish Service Corps fellow in Dubai, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.
Lessons learned: “Dubai is a place where it is easy to get lost, especially among the glistening skyscrapers and glamorous attractions. What has had the greatest impact on me in my relatively short time here are the lessons I have gleaned from finding my place in this unique Jewish community and, more broadly, what these lessons may hold for Jewish communities around the globe.”
Being a pioneer: “The first thing I’ve learned is that being a pioneer, in any form, is essential to building a Jewish community. In a place like Dubai where for years there was no central home for Jewish life – no community center or synagogue – the process took patience and pragmatism, finding other Jewish residents one by one and creating opportunities for them to meet, gather and collectively celebrate their shared Jewish backgrounds. They met in peoples’ homes and other private locations. Above all, they have discovered ways to pool the different strengths and talents of the Jews who call Dubai home.”
Consultant Conundrum: Are consultants bound to pragmatism or creativity in helping organizations actualize their vision? Vu Le explores that question in NonprofitAF: “At our best, consultants help bring in a new perspective and certain skills and tactics that could really help an organization and its important work; plus, we help sustain the growing sticky-dots and easel paper industry and those it employs. At our worst, we consultants get paid a bunch of money to help entrench organizations in survivalism and competition, perpetuate the hunger games, inflame tensions, reinforce white moderate philosophies and practices, quash visionary ideas, and prevent change and progress…Are you helping orgs actualize their vision, or are you conditioning them to be incremental? [NonprofitAF]
Donors and DEI: A new survey from The Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance reports that donors see the value of diversity, equity and inclusion, but fewer than half would withdraw support from an organization that tolerates discrimination and only 17% would stop giving to a charity if they learned that its board was not diverse, Dan Parks writes in The Chronicle of Philanthropy: “Young people, people of color, LGBTQ+ participants, and people who identify as Muslim, Mormon, or Jewish were more likely than other groups to report hearing problems with diversity, equity, and inclusion at U.S. charities. People who gave to arts and culture or to educational or environmental charities also were more likely than donors to other kinds of groups to report hearing problems about a lack of diversity, equity, and inclusion at a specific charity.” [ChronicleofPhilanthropy]
Frontline Fundraisers: Nonprofit leaders or managers should reset their fundraising programs, Jeff Schreifels writes in NonProfitPRO, suggesting changes that may result in better retention of fundraising professionals: “The work of a frontline fundraiser is to develop relationships with donors, find out their passions and interests, and inspire them with offers that match those passions and interests. Anything you’re asking your fundraisers to do outside of that work is hurting donors, revenue and the spirit of your fundraiser…When you hire the right people, give them the resources to do their job well, and provide the right kind of environment for your frontline fundraisers — they’ll stay with you, they’ll have the time to build those donor relationships and your organization’s revenue will soar.” [NonProfitPRO]
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Word on the Street
Twenty-four Jewish high school juniors and seniors from public and private high schools across Cleveland have recommended grants totaling $45,000 to 16 organizations working in the Jewish and general community through the Jewish Federation of Cleveland’s 2021-2022 Maurice Saltzman Youth Panel…
Loyola University Chicago announced a $100 million gift from John and Kathy Schreiber in support of scholarships for underrepresented students…
The Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, Va., received a $34 million gift and a donation of 40 artworks — including paintings, drawings, watercolors and glass sculpture — from philanthropist Joan Brock…
A gift of $25 million from Brown University alumni and siblings Aysha and Omar Shoman for Brown’s international undergraduates will expand the university’s efforts to attract and educate overseas students…
Boris Pahor, the oldest known survivor of a Nazi concentration camp, died at 108…
Andrée Geulen-Herscovici, a Belgian teacher who saved around 1,000 children from the Nazis, died at 101. Geulen-Herscovici was named amid the Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem in 1989 and was given honorary Israeli citizenship in 2007…
Thomas Troyer, who drafted the 501(c)(3) law for charities, died at 88. Troyer made regular appearances on Capitol Hill to testify about the history of taxation, best practices in the philanthropic field and ways to counter prior abuses such as self-dealing at family foundations and charities…
Pic of the Day
At a meeting of faith leaders on Monday in Los Angeles about reproductive rights, Vice President Kamala Harris met with Claire Lipschultz, a National Council of Jewish Women board member, and Dara Frimmer, a Reform rabbi who is part of NCJW’s Rabbis for Repro program.
Chicago- and Aspen-based businessman and philanthropist, Lester Crown…
Rehoboth Beach, Del., resident, Dennis B. Berlin… Former five-term Democratic congressman from California, he now serves as counsel in the Century City office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, Mel Levine… Professor of linguistics at Georgetown University, and author of 13 books, Deborah Tannen… Epidemiologist, toxicologist and author of three books about environmental hazards, Devra Davis… Deputy secretary of state of the United States, Wendy Ruth Sherman… Senior advisor in the Office of Inspector General at the U.S. State Department, Hillel Weinberg… President of Shenkar design and engineering college in Israel, he is a grandson of former Israeli PM Levi Eshkol, Sheizaf Rafaeli… Member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Susan Ellis Wild (D-PA-7)… Former vice president of the United States, Mike Pence… Jerusalem resident, Deborah Lee Renert… U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of New York, Jesse Matthew Furman… U.S. Sen. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM)… One-half of the Arab-Jewish electronic music duo Chromeo, David “Dave 1” Macklovitch… Director of voice, creativity and culture at the Nathan Cummings Foundation, Isaac Luria… Editor of The New York Review of Books, Emily S. Greenhouse… Actress and model, Emily Ratajkowski… Canadian ice hockey forward currently playing with HC Kunlun Red Star in the Kontinental Hockey League, Ethan Werek… Andrea Gonzales…
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