Your Daily Phil: LA parents take on UTLA’s BDS campaign + Gratz College takes inspiration from coding courses
Good Wednesday morning!
About 300 people, mostly parents in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), have signed up to attend a Zoom meeting today to organize opposition to a motion by the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) that urges the U.S. government to cut off aid to Israel, Alisa Finsten, senior vice president for community engagement for the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, told eJewishPhilanthropy. The meeting is a joint effort of the federation, the ADL, the Board of Rabbis of Southern California and the Israeli American Council.
“This motion demonstrates exactly why the BDS movement is considered antisemitic — it demonizes Israel, holds Israel to a double standard, and delegitimizes Israel’s right to exist,” Finsten said. The motion is expected to be voted on in September.
The motion, proposed in May during the 11-day conflict between Israel and Hamas, also urges UTLA members to endorse the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.
The meeting will put forward two petitions — one for parents and one for teachers — that call on the school district and the union to condemn and defeat the resolution and to officially define antisemitism and teach about it.
MARKETPLACE OF IDEAS
Zev Eleff sees Gratz College’s future in a diverse student body
One of the Jewish community’s oldest institutions of higher education, Gratz College, sees an untraditional future for itself: one that melds traditional degree programs and also offers “stackable” courses, inspired by the tech industry’s coding camps, that can be pursued as single credentials and also combined into degrees, the college’s new president, Rabbi Zev Eleff, told eJewishPhilanthropy’s Helen Chernikoff.
Teaching the teachers: “That’s where higher education is moving. You do not need a master’s degree in order to be trained in something,” he said, comparing a master’s degree to an album of music and discrete credentials which teach specific skills to individual songs: “People are looking for the single and the B-side.” Founded in 1895 as a teachers’ college of Jewish education from the estate of the Gratz family, which settled in the United States before the Revolutionary War, Gratz is the oldest Jewish institution of higher education that’s not affiliated with a religious denomination. The school, near Philadelphia, evolved to serve the needs of the local Jewish community, said Kathy Elias, an alumna of the college and its board chair. After World War II, Gratz gave European refugees — scholars and rabbis — pedagogical support.
Consumer trends: Gratz trained congregational educators during the proliferation of suburban synagogues during the 1960s and ’70s. In the early 2000s, it started offering online education. Soon after, the school’s administrators began to notice a growing number of non-Jewish students who were pursuing their master’s in general education there, Elias said. Today, at least half of the student population of more than 300 is not Jewish, Elias noted, adding that Gratz sees its future both in continuing to train Jewish educators, but also in offering secular courses to a population that appreciates its Jewish history and values.
Rabbi, scholar, administrator: “We are an academic institution that wants to be relevant to a broad spectrum of students, but has never abandoned the relevance of Judaism as a gift to the world,” Elias said. In Eleff, the board found someone who understands the business of higher education, honors the role of education in the Jewish community historically and is also a scholar in his own right, she said. Eleff is the author or editor of nine books, including most recently Authentically Orthodox, which was published in 2020 and explores the American context of contemporary Orthodoxy. Born in Philadelphia and raised in Baltimore, he was ordained at Yeshiva University’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary.
Education essential to Israeli-Diaspora relations
“American and Israeli Jews live thousands of miles apart, speak different languages, and have significantly different cultures. In many ways, it is a testament to the power of Jewish peoplehood that the world’s two largest Jewish communities remain connected at all,” writes Laura Shaw Frank, director of contemporary Jewish life at the American Jewish Committee, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.
Education is missing: “[W]hile new American Jewish Committee (AJC) surveys of American and Israeli Jews show that the Israel-Diaspora bond is still strong, it is weakening particularly among younger and more secular Jews in each center. While reasons for these fraying ties are complex and deserving of study on their own, a significant contributing factor is the lack of education about each other’s communities. In fact, the surveys serve as a clarion call to make education about each other’s communities an urgent priority.”
Next Steps: “American Jewish educators, whether inside the classroom or outside, must revisit and enrich Israel education. Are they teaching students about modern Israeli society and the vibrancy of modern Hebrew? Are they sparking curiosity in students, whetting their appetites for continued engagement with Israel post high school and beyond? No one needs to reinvent the wheel. We are blessed to live in a time when excellent and nuanced Israel studies materials and teacher training are easily accessible.”
WINDOWS TO THE SOUL
My Jewish preschool survived and THRIVED during the COVID-19 pandemic
“Taking the reins of a preschool amidst a global pandemic was a challenge in itself. The prevailing emotions that could be felt through the phone lines and in the emails I received were twofold: anxiety and fear,” writes Jen Schiffer, director of the Temple Beth Sholom Early Childhood Center in Roslyn Heights, N.Y., in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.
Always adapting: “The most important learning in a preschool, the social and emotional components, happens through the day-to-day interactions of young children and their peers, and not on Zoom. I obsessively tracked Governor Cuomo’s reports on the daily COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations… We spent much of the school year reconsidering what we had done in the past for Jewish holidays and celebrations, and adapting them to comply with our strict COVID-19 guidelines.”
Fast forward: “At this year’s Moving Up ceremony, even though it was held outdoors, attendance was limited, and seating was spaced out and separated by class in order to maintain social distancing. Families were reminded to be mindful when removing masks for pictures… The smiles and tears beaming from the faces of the parents and families were priceless. A new skill I have learned, and I believe the children have learned during this unprecedented school year, is how to read someone’s emotions through their eyes. Looking at the eyes of my teachers, staff and of the parents, these ‘windows to the soul’ above the masks, I could see the emotions beneath the surface, and feel the warmth and love for everyone in our community.
More Than DAFs: Writing in his blog, Nonprofit AF, Vu Le highlights two relatively undercovered aspects the Accelerate Charitable Efforts (ACE) Act, which is widely associated with a proposed requirement that donor-advised fund holders contribute their money within 15 years. Le points out that if DAFs remain legally able to never donate their money, the ACE Act would also stop foundations from being to count DAF contributions and family salaries toward their legally required 5% payout minimum. “Philanthropy has been talking about equity, undoing racism, supporting marginalized communities,” he writes. “If it cannot support even this simple, mild set of regulations, then how can we possibly deal with much more difficult and necessary ones?” [NonprofitAF]
Academic Freedom: Higher education is increasingly under pressure from the American government, which wants to limit higher education’s interactions with foreign interests perceived as antagonistic, reports Karin Fischer in the Chronicle of Higher Education. International education experts argue that colleges need their own foreign policies, but that will be difficult given the numbers of international students on American campuses and the degree to which academics already collaborate across borders. “If colleges don’t act, the government will continue to set the rules of international academic engagement,” Fischer writes. “A good strategy should include a set of indicators to assess risk in areas including academic freedom, research, and security.” [ChronicleHigherEducation]
Inspiring Giving: In Insights, the newsletter of the Lake Institute on Faith and Giving at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, Karen Lake Buttrey and David P. King mine the Giving USA 2021 report for insights relevant to congregations and religious nonprofits. Giving to religious nonprofits that provide human services surged last year, but congregations continued to lose share in the charitable marketplace, largely due to the fact that fewer Americans identify their religious identity as a significant influence in their civic engagement. “As the frameworks around giving, volunteering, and engaging our communities are changing, faith-based organizations must be ready to respond in new ways,” Buttrey and King write. [Insights]
Excel: Applications now being accepted for Spertus Institute’s leadership program for Jewish communal executives. Deadline June 30.
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Word on the Street
Justin Rosen Smolen has been named director of the Jewish Emergent Network… Deborah S. Isaac was elected president of the American Zionist Movement… The Jewish Agency has appointed former MK Gadeer Kamal-Mreeh, the first female Druze member to serve in the Knesset, a senior shlicha (Israeli emissary) in Washington D.C… former tourism minister Asaf Zamir is set to become Israel’s consul general in New York… Rekindle, an initiative that brings together leaders from Cleveland’s Black and Jewish communities for dialogue and conversations, graduated its first cohort of 13 fellows… The Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies has released “Ezra and Springboard Alumni Report, Fall 2020: Evaluation of Hillel International’s Springboard Fellowship”… The Catholic Education Foundation of Los Angeles has received a gift of more than $50 million from an anonymous donor to provide financial support for “the most financially deserving students”… According to a new report, the number of donors to charities grew by a projected 10% during the first quarter of 2021 compared to the first quarter of 2020 while the retention of new donors grew by 13.6%…
Pic of the Day
Limmud FSU West Coast brought the magic back to an in-person event Sunday at the Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto, California.
Ethiopian-born Israeli model who won the title of Miss Israel in 2013, Yityish Aynaw…
Professor emeritus of medicine and health care policy at Harvard, he was previously president of Brandeis University (91-94) and president of Massachusetts General Hospital (94-96), Samuel O. Thier, M.D…. Real estate developer and co-founder of Tishman Speyer, Jerry Speyer… Consultant at Citizenship Education Clearing House, Marvin Beckerman… Associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, Justice Clarence Thomas… Managing director at Eurasia Group and the author of 18 books on foreign affairs, global politics and travel, Robert D. Kaplan… Novelist and journalist born in Mobile, Alabama, Roy Hoffman… Los Angeles-based activist, restaurateur and breast cancer fundraiser, a 2008 Lifetime Television movie starring Renée Zellweger portrayed her cancer fighting efforts, Lilly Tartikoff Karatz… Klezmer violinist, composer, filmmaker, writer, photographer and playwright, Yale Strom… Co-founder of the Center for Contemporary Political Art, Robin Strongin… President of the Harrington Discovery Institute at Case Western Reserve, Jonathan Solomon Stamler… Sports memorabilia marketer, in 2009 his firm sold all of the seats, signs and lockers from the old Yankee Stadium, Brandon Steiner… Former member of the Pennsylvania State Senate, Daylin Leach… Associate editor at the New Jersey Jewish Standard, Lawrence Yudelson… Former teacher at Golda Och Academy in West Orange, New Jersey, Stephanie Z. Bonder… Israeli-American professor, journalist and filmmaker, Boaz Dvir… Actress whose Hebrew name is Bat-Sheva, Selma Blair… EVP and general manager of the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles, Howie Roseman… President of D1 Capital Partners and former deputy director of the White House National Economic Council, Jeremy Katz… Founder of Innovation Africa, which uses Israeli solar technology to bring electricity and solar-powered water pumps to impoverished African villages, Sivan Borowich-Ya’ari... Actress and comedian, best known for playing Dr. Bernadette Rostenkowski-Wolowitz on CBS’s sitcom “The Big Bang Theory,” Melissa Rauch… Actress, singer and model, Marielle Jaffe… Client services specialist at Shootsta in Hong Kong, Josh Lauder…
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