Your Daily Phil: Leichtag Foundation moves to 100% mission-aligned investments

Good Friday morning!

Ed note: Your Daily Phil will return on Tuesday morning.

Aspiration Partners, the financial services company co-founded by Andrei Cherney and Joe Sanberg will become a public company that aims to incorporate tzedakah into its products — such as a credit card that triggers the company to pay for the planting of a tree with every transaction, Sanberg told eJewishPhilanthropy. “We’re making it easier to have positive impacts throughout your day,” Sanberg said.

Aspiration will merge with InterPrivate III Financial Partners Inc., a special purpose acquisition company, and begin trading on the New York Stock Exchange in the fourth quarter of this year. The deal will provide the company with more than $400 million it will invest in marketing and product development.

Cherney will serve as the CEO, while Sanberg will serve on the board, which will enable him to pursue other projects, such as Golden State Opportunity, the nonprofit he founded that advocates for low-income Californians. Sanberg, whose pinned tweet starts with the words, “I love being Jewish,” vowed more than a year ago to tweet about his longstanding campaign to raise the minimum wage both at the federal level and in his home state of California. The minimum wage at Aspiration is $25 an hour, Sanberg said.

The refugee aid organization HIAS has deployed staff to Fort Lee in Virginia and Fort McCoy in Wisconsin to help resettle what the organization expects will be a surge of refugees from Afghanistan as American troops leave the country after 20 years, HIAS CEO Mark Hetfield told eJewishPhilanthropy.

HIAS has already been a part of the effort to resettle Afghan citizens who supported the U.S. and allied forces as interpreters and in other roles. As many as 30,000 refugees might ultimately need help resettling in the U.S. from HIAS and other national agencies. HIAS and its allies are advocating for the military to control the airports and roads to them in order to ensure their safe exit, Hetfield said.

HIAS works mainly with Jewish family services agencies, but also with other groups, to help refugees create new homes in the U.S. In June, the organization received a major gift from MacKenzie Scott and Dan Jewett, and plans to use some of that funding to expand its capacity to respond nimbly to situations like this one. “If there ever was an emergency, this is an emergency,” Hetfield said.


The Leichtag Foundation aims to make 100% of its portfolio ‘mission-aligned’

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The Leichtag Foundation aims to have its entire portfolio in investments that support its mission by 2025, Charlene Seidle, executive vice president of the foundation, told eJewishPhilanthropy’s Helen Chernikoff. “It’s a culture shift and it’s a constant educational process,” Seidle said. “But there’s more awareness now that you can do well and do good.”

More measures: Based in both Encinitas, Calif., near San Diego, and Jerusalem, the foundation, which has $105 million in assets, has adopted a “broad” definition of mission alignment that includes programs and projects compatible with or directly supportive of the foundation’s work in those locations, or that combat climate change, Seidle said. Financial return is still a goal, but it’s considered along with other measures, such as “social good,” when deciding whether to invest, and how to gauge the success of an investment. “Leichtag is the first Jewish organization to go all-in on impact investing,” said Julie Hammerman, the founder and CEO of JLens, which maintains an index of about 300 public companies screened for compatibility with a set of six Jewish values. “They’re setting a terrific example of a partnership between the mission side and the investment side.”

Careful exploration: The structure of Leichtag’s investments runs a wide range; they invest in real assets, like housing, and in the equities screened by JLens. One example: Leichtag Commons, a 68-acre campus in Encinitas that hosts a farm, educational programs and arts and culture events. The foundation is also considering investments in affordable housing. Leichtag’s announcement reflects a much broader investment trend, said Hammerman, citing a Bloomberg article that estimates that more than a third of assets globally, or $53 trillion, will be in investments that have met “ESG” criteria — environmental, social and corporate governance — by 2025. The Jewish world is proceeding relatively slowly, said Michael Lustig, an investor and philanthropist who wrote the Jewish Funders Network’s guide to impact investing.

DAF market: Assets under management at JLens have increased from $120 million to more than $130 million since June, and 11 Jewish community funds or federations that administer donor-advised funds (DAF), including the Dallas Jewish Community Foundation, the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh and the Oregon Jewish Community Foundation, are offering JLens as an investment option, Hammerman said. Community foundations “have to be creative and innovative, and impact investing appeals to younger donors,” she added. Federations, by contrast, tend to have long-established processes of managing their endowments with the support of investment committees and professional advisors.

Read the full article here.


Lessons from camps


“As the summer winds to a close, there are important lessons for us to take from summer camps,” writes HUC-JIR faculty member Dr. Betsy Stone in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Uncharted waters: “Our camp staff have worked so hard and they are spent. They have planned for summer 2021 for 20 months, wisely anticipating that campers and staff would be more tired, more needy, and more regressed… They provided moments for quiet, for spiritual questioning, for connection. They have held kids and each other. They have navigated uncharted waters. They, like teachers over the past 18 months, have given of themselves to the point of exhaustion. And the summer has been hard.”

Middle schoolers: “We might have expected that high schoolers would be having a rough time, but it seems that younger kids are truly suffering. Why is this happening? It seems at least likely that the ability to self-regulate, both behaviorally and emotionally, is developing in middle school. Younger children are externally regulated, by parents and teachers. Older kids have some skills at self-regulation, and turn to friend groups (who they may have seen in person, given their extra freedoms) for identity and behavioral input.”

Many are thriving: “[M]any of our kids are actually thriving. Without the pressures of school, appearance, after-school activities, and social expectations, they are calmer. Without the absurd wake-up times we impose on teens, they are less sleep-deprived. With greater family time, they are more grounded. Not all teens, but some. They have supported each other, gotten closer to family, deepened their self-knowledge and their values. How do we build on these nascent strengths?”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Call And Response: Tencent, the Chinese gaming and social media company, pledged both to give more back to society and to comply fully with the government as it tightens and expands industry regulations, reports Yue Wang in Forbes. The company said it would set aside $7.7 billion for a “common prosperity program” that includes medical infrastructure and assistance to low-income communities. “This new strategy of Tencent’s is a proactive answer to our nation’s strategy,” the company wrote, referring to a recent speech by President Xi Jinping that called for “common prosperity,” by “eradicating illegal income” and “reasonably adjusting excessive income.” [Forbes]

Reversal Of Fortune: The pandemic erased global progress on ending extreme inequality, as both billionaires and traditional philanthropic endowments saw their wealth increase, writes Michael Sheldrick in an opinion piece on PhilanTopic. In 2020, $140 billion was held in donor-advised funds (DAF), despite a need for $6 billion in international famine relief efforts, he notes. “Leaders in philanthropy should respond to the urgency of this moment by paying out more to fuel an equitable global recovery,” Sheldrick concludes. [PhilanTopic]

Helper’s High: In Big Think, Stephen Johnson documents the many ways in which giving to others produces physiological and psychological benefits, although the exact neural mechanisms involved remain unclear. Giving time or money produces a “warm glow” — a pleasurable rise in temperature related to the release of oxytocin and endorphins  — and might also alleviate depression by shifting the sufferer’s focus away from him or herself. “If you can’t give time, the idea is that at least you can give money so that you’re being generous with at least one of your resources,” said Michael Norton, professor of business administration at Harvard Business School. [BigThink]

Community Comms

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Word on the Street

Coalition agreements to transfer responsibility for Birthright and Masa Israel programs from the Prime Minister’s Office to the Diaspora Affairs Ministry have been suspended… Trinity Church Wall Street has provided $6.5 million in no-interest loans to support nonprofit organizations across New York City… Data by the Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies indicates the nonprofit sector gained more than sixty-seven thousand jobs last month, a gain of nearly 10 percent of the 682,000 jobs lost as of June… The Orthodox Union’s Women’s Initiative has launched its virtual Yemei Ratzon program in preparation for the High Holidays… The Association of Gulf Jewish Communities will hold its first joint Selichot event – believed to be the first event of its kind in the region on Sunday… Forty years following the closure of the previous mikvah in Center City Philadelphia, Mikvah Mai Shalva has opened… The Museum of Chinese in America and the Center for Jewish History are jointly presenting “An Unlikely Photojournalist: Emile Bocian in Chinatown” at the Center for Jewish History, which will be reopening its galleries to the public on Monday, August 23… Beginning Sept. 13, the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan will require all individuals over the age of 12 to show proof of full vaccination each time they enter their buildings…

Pic of the Day

Steve Goode/MAZON

Chicago motorcyclist Steve Goode is visiting Jewish-style delis in 42 states as part of the “Great American Deli Schlep” to raise awareness of hunger in the United States on behalf of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger. The journey, which raised $16,000 for MAZON, drew to a close last week.


Sascha Baumann/Getty Images

Chairwoman of Israel’s Strauss Group, Ofra Strauss celebrates Sunday… 

FRIDAY: Laguna Hills, California resident, Phoebe Bryan… Director of the National Economic Council during the Trump administration, Larry Kudlow… Former Secretary of Labor for the State of Kansas, Lana Goodman Gordon… Chair-elect at Golda Och Academy in West Orange, NJ, he is a past president of the United Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest (NJ), Steven H. Klinghoffer… Born in Rehovot, Israel, he served as the mayor of Winnipeg, Manitoba from tel:20042014, Samuel Michael “Sam” Katz… Managing director of equity derivatives at Rice Financial Products, Jay A. Knopf… Democratic Congressman from Illinois, Brad Schneider… Former national campaign chair for the Jewish Federations of North America, Suzanne Barton Grant… Vice chairman and president of strategic growth at Mastercard, he was previously the U.S. Trade Representative (2013-2017), Ambassador Michael Froman… U.S. Senator (R-MT), Steve Daines… Founder and controlling shareholder of the Altice Group, he acquired Sotheby’s in 2019,  atrick Drahi… Executive director of A Wider Bridge, Ethan Felson… Israeli writer known for his short stories and graphic novels, Etgar Keret… Film director and screenwriter, Mark Levin… Former British Ambassador to Israel (2010-2015), the first Jewish UK ambassador to be posted to Tel Aviv, he is now the CEO of NHSX, Matthew Gould… Ethiopian-born, former member of the Knesset for Kulanu, Asher Fentahun Seyoum… Director of communications at the Center for Democracy & Technology, Ari Goldberg… Executive director of Lisa Stone Pritzker’s LSP Family Foundation, Abigail Michelson Porth… Deputy director and one of the founders of the Jerusalem Season of Culture, Karen Brunwasser… Rachel Lea Fish, Ph.D. … Partner and director managing the Iowa office of Cornerstone Government Affairs and executive committee member of the Jewish Federation of Greater Des Moines, David Ryan Adelman… Canadian television and film actress, Meghan Ory… Real estate agent, author and television personality as an original cast member on the show Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles, Josh Flagg… Triathlete and Miss Israel 2019, Sella Sharlin… NIH physician and Talmudology blogger Jeremy Brown

SATURDAY: Retired owner of Effective Strategy Consultants, Irwin Wecker… Judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, Judge Ilana Kara Diamond Rovner… President of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, L. Rafael Reif… Israeli-born pawnbroker and star of the reality television series Beverly Hills Pawn, Yossi Dina… Businessman and collector of modern and contemporary art, Mitchell Rales… U.S. Senator (D-MT), Jon Tester… Israeli physician and a former member of Knesset, he now serves as mayor of Ashdod, Dr. Yehiel Lasri… Co-founder of BlueLine Grid, he was previously an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles and a member of the Los Angeles City Council, Jack Weiss… Director of school strategy and policy for the UJA-Federation of New York, Chavie N. Kahn… Global head of public affairs at Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, Ken Mehlman… Co-founder of Google, Sergey Brin… MLB pitcher for 9 teams in a long career (2000-2015), he was the starting and winning pitcher in three of Team Israel’s first four games in the 2017 World Baseball Classic, Jason Marquis… President at Core Decision Analytics, Adam Rosenblatt… Associate foundation director at Usher 1F Collaborative, Erica N. Miller… Assistant editor at Simon & Schuster, Tzippy Baitch… Thirty-five year Jewish federation system veteran, now president and CEO Hillside Santa Barbara, Michael S. Rassler… 

SUNDAY: Emmy Award winning television news journalist, Morton Dean… Former director of Prozdor, Margie Berkowitz… Founder and co-CEO of Elliott Management Corporation, Paul Elliott Singer… Dermatologist in Beverly Hills, Joyce Naness Fox, MD… Author, he founded the magazine “American Lawyer” and the cable channel Court TV, he also co-founded NewsGuard, Steven Brill… Former chief of staff to U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby… Chairman of Israel Military Industries, and a former member of Knesset, Yitzhak Aharonovich… Former MLB outfielder, then investment banker, he was the U.S. Ambassador to New Zealand (2015-2017) and has served as President of B’nai Torah Congregation in Boca Raton, Florida, Ambassador Mark Gilbert… Former investment banker who left his job to run a Los Angeles-based homeless service provider, now a professor at USC, Adlai W. Wertman… Co-founder of Marquis Jet and part owner of the Atlanta Hawks, Jesse Itzler… Director of strategic partnerships at the Paul E. Singer Foundation, Deborah Hochberg… Deputy mayor of Lawrence, NY, political consultant and investor, Michael A. Fragin… Director of operations at the University of Pennsylvania Hillel, Rachel Saifer Goldman… Partner in the Century City office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, Stuart A. Graiwer… Co-executive director of Christians United for Israel, Shari Dollinger Magnus… Principal at CSR Operations LLC, Claire Stein-Ross… Outfielder in the San Francisco Giants organization, Braden Adam Bishop

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