Your Daily Phil: Maimonides Fund launches institute + L.A. gets new foundation exec

Good Friday morning!

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on Maimonides Fund’s new in-house institute and profile Rabbi Aaron Lerner. We also feature op-eds from Erica Brown, Dean Bell and Keren Fraiman. We’ll start with a new Anti-Defamation League antisemitism study.

Americans who hold antisemitic beliefs are significantly more likely to believe conspiracy theories, according to a new Anti-Defamation League study released on Friday.

“Our data indicate that people who believe in more antisemitic tropes show a clear disposition toward conspiratorial thinking,” said Matt Williams, vice president of the ADL Center on Antisemitism Research. According to Williams, one of the authors of the report, antisemitism is itself a conspiracy theory of sorts. “If I were to design a battery of questions to gauge general conspiracy theory belief in the U.S., I’d have to include a question about the Jews,” Williams told eJewishPhilanthropy.

This connection between antisemitism and conspiracy theories is particularly seen with the Great Replacement Theory, the white nationalist conspiracy theory that ethnic white people are being intentionally and systematically replaced by non-white people. The survey found that people who “strongly agree” or “agree” with the central tenet of the Great Replacement Theory also endorsed six or more statements from the ADL’s antisemitism index. According to Williams, the survey “gives us further insight into how antisemitism functions as not merely a prejudice but as a way people try to make sense of the world.”

Williams said the findings can be used by groups fighting antisemitism to “identify targets, assess the evidence base of program design principles (e.g., would reducing conspiracy theory belief also affect antisemitism?), to cultivate comparative groups and general population baselines, and to further flesh out impact measures that help us determine the changes effected by our programs.”

Hundreds of philanthropists and Jewish professionals are heading to Phoenix this weekend for the annual Jewish Funders Network’s international conference, which kicks off on Sunday (including the ADL’s Williams, who will give a presentation on his study). Melissa Weiss, executive editor of our sister publication Jewish Insider, will be on the ground covering this year’s confab. If you’re in Arizona with us, come say hi!

Planning action


The Maimonides Fund is opening an in-house institute to turn ideas generated by its quarterly Sapir Journal into viable plans of action, tapping Chanan Weissman, a former two-time White House liaison to the American Jewish community, as its director, the organization announced on Wednesday, eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Gross reports.

Filling a void: According to Maimonides Fund President Mark Charendoff, the impetus for SAPIR Institute was feedback from readers of the journal, who wanted to see programs and initiatives inspired by the articles, like Jewish Funders Network President Andrés Spokoiny’s idea of universal basic Jewish literacy. “We found that every time we put an issue out, people contacted us and said ‘On this article you raise really good questions, so who’s doing something about this?’ And our response was, ‘We’re a journal, we’re not doing something about this, we just put the idea out there,’” Charendoff told eJewishPhilanthropy on Tuesday. “After a year, we thought maybe there is a vacuum in the market.”

Biden alum: Weissman, who is coming to Maimonides Fund from the State Department, served two stints as the White House liaison to the American Jewish community, first in the final year of the Obama administration and then in the first year of the Biden administration.

Special initiatives: In another recent though unrelated hire, Maimonides Fund also brought on board Zack Wainer, an academic-turned-consultant, for the newly created role of director of special initiatives. Wainer, who received a Ph.D. from Brown University in the ancient Near East and history of science and taught in the department of classical studies at William & Mary College, will also work to identify issues of interest to the Maimonides Fund that are not receiving sufficient attention.Read the full story here.

CEO Surfing

Finance, rabbinics and practical experience fuel L.A. Jewish community foundation’s new top exec

Rabbi Aaron Lerner, an avid surfer, holding a surfboard that was presented to him as a farewell gift upon transitioning from Hillel at UCLA to his new position as president and CEO of the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles

Even in laid-back Los Angeles, the full-size surfboard propped upright in Rabbi Aaron Lerner’s office stands out — the board nods to the CEO’s enjoyment of surfing, and — displaying logos of some of the L.A. institutions that have shaped him — charts where he’s been professionally. Lerner, most recently the executive director of UCLA’s Hillel, assumed the role of president and CEO of the Jewish Community Foundation Los Angeles in January. Lerner’s eclectic professional history includes 10 years in real-estate finance, originating debt and equity funding for commercial transactions ranging from $15 million to $250 million. During 2008’s financial crisis he went to rabbinical school at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, an open Orthodox seminary in New York, and was ordained in 2013. “I’m a rabbi who can read a spreadsheet,” Lerner quipped in an interview with eJewishPhilanthropy’s Esther D. Kustanowitz. “It’s a nice overlapping skill set because I care deeply about the community from a pastoral and rabbinic kind of perspective [and] have a business head for being able to work through the many details that it takes to go from caring to actually implementing and doing.” 

Facing future: Leading the foundation means considering the future viability and potential for Jewish L.A. over the next half-century, and about what assets are needed to ensure that future. The city’s Jewish community endowment is currently $1.3 billion, which Lerner says is not enough for a city of L.A.’s size, suggesting that an endowment of $5-$6 billion would be able to support the community through crisis and cover some of the expensive services in the community, such as Jewish summer camp, Jewish education from early childhood through adulthood and caring for the elderly. “We have to make sure, right now, as we’re going through the biggest intergenerational transfer of wealth ever, that people are actually investing in the city and its Jewish infrastructure for the next 50 years, and they’re going to do that at the foundation,” he said.”

Read the full story here.

People of the book

A panel discussion during an event hosted by the Harold Grinspoon, Foundation on March 15, 2023.

In the Moise Safra Center’s Esther and Claudio Szajman Banquet Hall on New York’s Upper East Side, a cohort of PJ Library international directors came together on Wednesday night to celebrate the organization’s global impact and recognize one of their own, Tori Bergel reports for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Gone global: In its early days, PJ Library, part of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, was a small organization providing free Jewish books to 200 families around Western Massachusetts. Now, nearly 18 years later, it’s a global initiative spanning over 35 countries. Wednesday’s event marked the first time PJ Library’s global leadership was able to convene in person since the pandemic.

Valued service: Tamar Remz, who has been with the Harold Grinspoon Foundation for more than 13 years, most recently as its chief partnerships officer, played a vital role in PJ Library’s expansion. Wednesday’s event also served as a tribute to Remz for her service to the library, which she will continue through her new position of senior advisor.

Read the full story here.

The torah of leadership

A panel discussion during an event hosted by the Harold Grinspoon, Foundation on March 15, 2023.

‘It seems like everyone today is talking and writing about work: the Great Resignation, the evolution of office life and the culture of remote meetings. The empty building is the new symbol of American jobs,” writes Erica Brown, vice provost for values and leadership at Yeshiva University, in her weekly column for eJewishPhilanthropy, “The Torah of Leadership.”

Emotional expectations: “The title of Sarah Jaffe’s recent book, Work Won’t Love You Back: How Devotion to Our Jobs Keeps Us Exploited, Exhausted, and Alone, says it all. Jaffe argues that we have overly romanticized our work lives and created all kinds of unrealistic emotional expectations of what it should be: ‘We want to call work what is work so that eventually we might rediscover what is love.’”

Mistaken premise: “Organizational leaders often exploit this need by promoting false images of the fun, mission or sense of familial belonging attached to work, especially to those with little control of their work day: Jaffe writes,  ‘The compulsion to be happy at work, in other words, is always a demand for emotional work from the worker’….‘Work, after all, has no feelings. Capitalism cannot love.’ Families, for example, do not fire people. When families relocate, they take you with them.”

Read the full piece here.

situational awareness

Maggie Russo/Spertus Institute

“Recently a radical neo-Nazi group issued a call on social media announcing a national ‘Day of Hate.’ The chatter called on like-minded individuals to disseminate banners, stickers and flyers and vandalize with graffiti,” write Dean Bell, president and CEO of Spertus Institute, and Keren Fraiman, the institute’s dean and chief academic officer, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Antisemitism ‘gray zone’:  “Though fringe and vague in many ways, the call to a Day of Hate left us, along with many other Jewish communal professionals and lay leaders, asking questions about this incident and the broader societal context. In some ways, the Day of Hate challenged us to dive into the gray zone of antisemitism, where answers are far from clear.”

Real-time conversations: “Perhaps a bit ironically, as the message of the Day of Hate spread more widely and as it emerged front and center within our communities, we were able, in real time, to delve into a range of essential and ongoing questions with a cohort of senior Jewish leaders from across North America. As members of the inaugural cohort of Spertus Institute’s Leadership Certificate in Combating Antisemitism, they had convened in Chicago to explore together the challenges of antisemitism, and gain skills and tools to combat hatred against Jews.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Don’t Bank on It: The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s Drew Lindsay considers how the shutdown of Silicon Valley Bank could affect nonprofits, and what steps organizations can take to limit the impact. “Regional banks are often key lenders and grant makers for small and midsize local organizations, which sometimes receive favorable loan rates and grants. Some groups reacted to news reports by emptying their accounts. ‘It’s already happening,’ said [CEO Aisha] Benson of the Nonprofit Finance Fund. ‘People are moving their money,’ although the stocks of First Republic and others regained some lost ground on Tuesday. ‘It’s hard to know what to do,’ Benson added, but groups that operate with small cash reserves may feel compelled to switch banks. If financial pressures continue, regional banks may reduce their grant making and philanthropic work, observers cautioned. ‘Things that are often considered discretionary expenditures will be under very close review or curtailed altogether,’ said Randell Leach, CEO of Beneficial State Bank, an Oakland, Calif., community bank and B Corporation founded by philanthropists Kat Taylor and Tom Steyer. ‘That’s potential fallout for nonprofits.’” [ChronicleofPhilanthropy]

Around the Web

Rachel Gildiner has been appointed chief engagement officer of Hillel International, effective June 1. Gildiner returns to Hillel from Gather, Inc., where she is currently CEO…

Rabbi Eytan Kenter has been named director of Camp Ramah in the Berkshires. Kenter currently serves as senior rabbi at Kehillat Beth Israel in Ottawa, Ontario…

Danielle Segal will become executive director of youth philanthropy-focused Honeycomb, effective March 21. She is currently senior program director at the organization…

A new survey released by Pew Research Center shows Americans express more favorable than unfavorable views of Jews, mainline Protestants and Catholics. However, more Americans express negative than positive attitudes toward atheists, Muslims and Mormons…

A consortium of four New York City-based Jewish organizations has established the city’s first-ever Reform Chevra Kadisha. The initiative — by Plaza Jewish Community Chapel, Temple Shaaray Tefila, Congregation Beth Elohim and seminarians at Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute for Religion — is one result of a partnership started by the four organizations two years ago to elevate conversations around end-of-life issues and rituals in Jewish tradition…

A group of Jewish parents filed a lawsuit Monday against the California Department of Education, calling for the state to provide religious schools with equal access to special needs education funding for their students…

The National Self-Advocacy Program for People with Intellectual Disabilities, developed and led in cooperation with Israeli disability organizations Beit Issie Shapiro and Israel Elwyn, was awarded the Innovative Solution Award 2023 by the Zero Project, at its annual conference in Vienna. The organizations were selected by members of the Austrian parliament…

South Carolina-based software firm Blackbaud has agreed to pay a $3 million penalty for failing to disclose the full scope of a 2020 ransomware attack that affected more than 13,000 nonprofit customers, including several Jewish federations…

Toronto philanthropist Leo Goldhardied at 91. Goldhar played a significant role in developing the Joseph & Wolf Lebovic Jewish Community Campus, tackling both the land acquisition and necessary zoning in addition to fundraising…

Pic of the Day

Jerusalem Winner Marathon

Thousands of runners take part in today’s 12th annual Jerusalem Winner Marathon. 


Deborah Lipstadt speaks at a gathering of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in New York City on May 26, 2022.
Deborah Lipstadt speaks at a gathering of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in New York City on May 26, 2022.

U.S. special envoy for monitoring and combating antisemitism, Deborah Esther Lipstadt celebrates her birthday on Saturday…

FRIDAY: Washington columnist for The Dallas Morning News, Carl Leubsdorf… CEO of Wilherst Developers and trustee of publicly traded Ramco-Gershenson Properties Trust, Mark K. Rosenfeld… Oral and maxillofacial surgeon in Fort Wayne, Ind., Michael IczkovitzSusan Schwartz Sklarin… USDOJ official for 20 years and author of a NYT bestseller about working on the Mueller Investigation, Andrew Weissmann… Founder, president and CEO of Laurel Strategies, Alan H. H. Fleischmann… Director of legislative affairs at B’nai B’rith International, Eric A. Fusfield… Member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, Myrna Elizabeth Melgar… Lead field/floor reporter for CBS Sports football and basketball broadcasts, Tracy Wolfson… CEO and president at Las Vegas-based Gold Coast Promotions, Richard Metzler… Hasidic singer, entertainer and composer, Lipa Schmeltzer… Television writer and producer, Andrew Goldberg… Actor, music producer and stand-up comedian, Stephen Kramer Glickman… Musician and digital strategy executive, Rick Sorkin… Judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, Judge Robert Joshua Luck… Digital reporter and producer for ABC News, Emily Claire Friedman Cohen… Associate professor at The George Washington University in the School of Media and Public Affairs, Ethan Porter… Senior grants officer at the Open Society Foundations, Jackie Fishman… Director and general manager at Uber Eats, Annaliese Rosenthal… Los Angeles-based tech journalist, Jessica Elizabeth Naziri… Senior sales executive at Apprentice[dot]io, Zachary Silver… Senior associate at Strategy&, Zach Sherman

SATURDAY: Screenwriter, actor, comedian and film executive, Carl Gottlieb… National columnist with Creators Syndicate and contributor to CNN Opinion, Froma Harrop… One-half of the eponymous Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, Bennett “Ben” Cohen… CEO and chairman of Électricité de France, Jean-Bernard Lévy… Former crisis response team manager for the City of Los Angeles and now a consultant for non-profit organizations, Jeffrey Zimerman, MSW… Head coach of the Auburn Tigers men’s basketball team, he also served as the gold medal-winning head coach for the Maccabi USA men’s basketball team at the 2009 Maccabiah Games, Bruce Pearl… Head of school at Golda Och Academy in West Orange, N.J., Rabbi Daniel S. Nevins… Filmmaker, writer and stand-up comedian, Jake David Shapiro… Identical twin brothers and former yeshiva students, both singers and songwriters who recorded as “Evan and Jaron,” Evan Lowenstein and Jaron Lowenstein… Lead vocalist for the pop rock band Maroon 5, Adam Levine… Actor, comedian and writer, Adam Pally.. COO at Roofmart, Ariel Koschitzky… Actor known for his roles in “24” and “House of Sand and Fog,” Jonathan Ahdout… Chief of staff and communications director at the Jewish Democratic Council of America, Samuel Crystal… Senior associate at EY, Michael Schapiro… Actor and television producer, best known for his role on the Netflix original series “Orange Is the New Black,” Alan Aisenberg

SUNDAY: Philanthropist, art collector and chairman emeritus of The Estée Lauder Companies, Leonard A. Lauder… Chairman of the board of Americans for Democracy in the Middle-East, Dr. Daniel M. Zucker… Israeli politician, the daughter of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, she served as a member of the Knesset for three different political parties, Dalia Rabin-Pelossof… Former executive editor of The New York Times, Jill Abramson… NYC-based real estate investor, he is one of three co-founders of the Tribeca Film Festival, Craig Hatkoff… Musician, composer, singer and songwriter, Yehuda Julio Glantz… EVP of merchandising at American Signature Furniture, Steve Rabe… Writer, critic and author, he writes often about klezmer, Jewish music and Bob Dylan, Seth Rogovoy… Partner in the New York office of Latham & Watkins, Jonathan R. Rod… Neurologist in Naples, Fla., Brian D. Wolff, MD… Dean of students at Reichman University, she was previously a member of the Knesset for the Yesh Atid party, Dr. Adi Koll… Online producer, writer and director, who together with his brother Rafi, are best known for their “React” video series which have more than 13 billion YouTube views, Benny Fine… Brazilian-born entrepreneur and angel investor, he is one of the co-founders of Facebook, Eduardo Luiz Saverin… Former director of North American staff at Taglit-Birthright Israel, Aaron Bock… Member of the New York City Council, Lincoln P. Restler… Founder of two lines of jewelry, the Brave Collection in 2012, and Zahava (Golden, in Hebrew) in 2018, Jessica Hendricks Yee… Line producer at NBCUniversal in NYC, Emma Gottlieb…