Your Daily Phil: Marcus Foundation grants $60 million to RootOne + Elisha Wiesel recounts DC rally against antisemitism


 Good Monday morning!

Thousands of people — organizers estimate between 1,800-3,200 — participated in “No Fear: A Rally in Solidarity with the Jewish People,” in Washington, D.C. yesterday. 

Elisha Wiesel, a primary organizer of the rally and the son of Holocaust icon Elie Wiesel, told eJewishPhilanthropy. The American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Federations of North America, Republican and Democratic Jewish groups and the three major Jewish denominations also participated. The global response against Israel in May during and after the 11-day conflict with Hamas, which included attacks on American Jews, first inspired Wiesel with a desire to unify the American Jewish community in a condemnation of antisemitism, he said.

“Antisemitism needs to be a bipartisan issue for all Jews, whether they wear black hats or bikinis,” Wiesel said, evoking the garments worn by traditional and more modern Jewish communities. “Only the left can fix antisemitism on the left, only the right can fix it on the right.”

More than 1,000 people have signed the Jewish Future Pledge, which commits signatories to bequeathing at least half of their charitable donations to causes that support either the Jewish people, the state of Israel or both, pledge co-founder Mike Leven told eJewishPhilanthropy.

Announced in May 2020, the pledge attracted several early high-profile signers, such as Charles Bronfman; the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies and Bernie Marcus, the Home Depot co-founder who also signed Warren Buffet’s Giving Pledge that committed him to giving the majority of his wealth to philanthropy. By December, at least 200 donors had signed the Jewish Future Pledge.

The pledge aims to reach smaller foundations and individual donors by creating partnerships with Jewish organizations. Six federations, including Minneapolis Jewish Federation and UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, are now working with the pledge, bringing the total number to 18. The Orthodox Union and the Alpha Epsilon Pi Foundation have also signed on as partners.

Youth groups like the non-denominational BBYO and the Orthodox NCSY recently committed to help spread the word about the Jewish Youth Pledge, which asks teens and young adults to commit to strengthening the Jewish community.


Marcus Foundation grants $60 million to teen Israel travel program RootOne


The Marcus Foundation will announce a $60 million grant today to RootOne, the Israel teen travel program it created in 2020 with a $20 million seed gift, Simon Amiel, RootOne’s executive director, told eJewishPhilanthropy’s Helen Chernikoff. The funding will support a plan to grow participation in the program, which subsidizes the cost of a trip to Israel for teenagers.

Ambitious plan: By the end of this summer, about 4,500 students will have traveled to Israel with financial help from RootOne, barring any significant disruptions to Israel travel caused by the COVID-19 pandemic or an outbreak of violence. RootOne plans to help bring 7,000 teens to Israel in the summer of 2022 and 9,000 by the summer of 2024, Amiel said. “This grant is our direct response to the studies saying teens’ connection to Israel is waning, or that Jewish identity among youth has declined,” said Bernie Marcus, a Home Depot co-founder, in a statement. “Especially as antisemitism on campuses and across the globe increases, we must develop a generation of proud Jews connected to Israel and the Jewish people.”

The cost calculus: The program doesn’t offer its own Israel trips, instead working through established trip providers. Many are national youth groups, such as the non-denominational BBYO; the Orthodox NCSY and Reconstructing Judaism’s Havaya Israel. Some are local programs, like Kehillah High in Houston, and a B’nai B’rith camp on the coast of Oregon. The providers in turn convert the funds into vouchers for teens entering 10, 11 or 12 grade that can lower the price of an Israel trip — which can cost $5,000 or more — by $3,000. “Teen travel is an incredibly competitive marketplace,” said BBYO CEO Matt Grossman. “RootOne has made the economic decision a lot easier.”

More than a subsidy: However, Amiel said, the $60 million will not be spent only on vouchers. Most of the current trip participants are already involved in Jewish life through synagogue attendance or JCC membership. To meet its goals, RootOne must reach beyond those existing connections to students on the periphery of Jewish life. “This funding is about having the right level of resources for marketing this experience to a population of Jewish teens who have little to no connection to Israel,” Amiel said.

Read the full story here.


Seven strategies for meeting the challenges of reopening


“The relief of finally being able to reopen after more than a year of pandemic shutdowns and the resulting uncertainty and caution constitute what we call an ‘Enduring Dilemma,’” write HUC-JIR faculty Dr. Lesley Litman and Dr. Michael Zeldin in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Enduring dilemma: “Enduring Dilemmas are managed; unlike problems, they cannot be solved. This means that when an issue arises again, it does not happen because you have not adequately addressed it the first time or because the leader has failed in any way. Rather, it is baked into the nature of the issue because it is an Enduring Dilemma. Adopting this way of perceiving issues as we move to reopen reveals seven leadership strategies.”

Two notes, two pockets: “This thinking is deeply congruent with Jewish thought and action both ancient and contemporary. The rabbis nearly two millennia ago expressed this as ‘elu ve’elu divrei Elohim chayim’ – ‘Both this and that are words of the living God.’ In more recent times, this idea is captured in a Hasidic maxim: ‘We all should have two notes, one in each pocket.’

Read the full piece here.


The year music almost died


“As a lifelong Jewish choral singer, weekly rehearsals and periodic concerts have been a life-giving and stabilizing part of my life,” writes Rabbi Danny Freelander in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

The year that was: “[I]n March 2020, COVID-19 descended and eliminated this normalizing and inspiring force in my life. I tried Zoom rehearsals but singing alone in front of my computer was just not motivating. (The chat, on the other hand, helped me remember how much I missed — and appreciated — my fellow choir members.) Seeing their faces was lovely, but I wanted to hear them, sing with them, blend with them.” 

Looking forward: “[N]ow we finally have the opportunity to recapture the special Jewish choral experience. But first, we have to overcome our anxieties about singing face to face with others – without masks. We need to overcome our fears and assemble in close proximity in outdoor and eventually indoor places.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

? Busy Work: Writing in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Joan Garry issues a wish list from a community nonprofit to funders that aims to remind them that while some nonprofits are high-profile and enjoy bountiful resources, most operate on a shoestring even as they do work that’s essential to their communities. Nearly half of U.S. nonprofits have budgets of less than $500,000, she states, which means small staffs who struggle to cope with intricate applications and other administrative requirements. “You know the College Common App? Can we build one for the nonprofit world — and get every foundation to use it?” Garry asks. [ChroniclePhilanthropy]

? Capital Flows: About a third of assets under professional management in the U.S. can be categorized as “sustainable” or “impact” investments, report Judith Rodin and Saadia Madsbjerg in Stanford Social Innovation Review, which nonprofits should understand as an opportunity to both raise money and generate influence in new ways. Nonprofits that can’t yet offer a suitable investment opportunity should leverage their expertise and networks to create one in cooperation with investors, while others probably already can offer such opportunities, and just don’t realize it yet. “Nonprofits with programs that solve environmental and social challenges can turn some of their initiatives into investable propositions,” write Rodin and Madsbjerg. [SSIR]

? Inevitable Tradeoffs: As philanthropy’s aspirations evolve from the creation of incremental change to the transformation of entire systems, funder collaboratives are gaining momentum worldwide, writes Ipshita Sinha in a blog post on the Center for Effective Philanthropy website. However, funders accustomed to steering their own ship need to embrace a shift in mindset in order to get the most out of this new way of working, including an acknowledgement that the process might move more slowly than they’d like, and a need to set aside the strategic plans they’ve painstakingly hammered out in their own foundations. To those considering setting up or joining a funder collaborative, know that it will be a long journey with its peaks and troughs, but you will gain many new friends to share them with,” Sinha concludes. [CenterEffectivePhilanthropy]

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Word on the Street

Hazon, the largest faith-based environmental organization in the U.S., and Pearlstone, one of the largest Jewish retreat centers and Jewish outdoor education sites in North America, announced that their boards of directors have approved a proposal to merge the two organizations… Rabba Dr Lindsey Taylor-Guthartz, who controversially lost her position at the London School of Jewish Studies after gaining ordination as a female rabbi, has been reinstated… Alejandro Okret, who currently serves as Moishe House’s chief global officer, has been named the executive director of international programs at the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee… Alan Margolies will retire Dec. 31 as executive director of the the Jewish Federation & Foundation of Northeast Florida… Community activist Doris Brickner, wife of the late Rabbi Balfour Brickner, died one month short of her 100th birthday… David Mermelstein, a founder of the Holocaust Survivors of Miami-Dade County, died at age 92… The National Library of Israel will establish an auditorium named after David Geffen on its new campus near the Knesset after the media mogul contributed a major gift to the library… Plans for a $300 million dormitory to be built for the University of California, Berkeley with funding from the Helen Diller Foundation faces controversy over the demolition of a rent-controlled apartment building and historic structures, ‘luxurious’ amenities and the funder’s politics… The Orthodox Union has awarded $100,000 in grants to 35 synagogues in 15 U.S. states and one Canadian province in an effort to bring communities back to shul as more people are vaccinated against the coronavirus… Based on survey responses from its membership, the Association of Fundraising Professionals found that 78 percent of female fundraisers and 64 percent of male fundraisers have experienced sexual harassment over the course of their careers by either a coworker, a stakeholder, or both… The newly released 2020 Census of American Religion finds the most religiously diverse counties in the United States are Kings County, New York; Queens County, New York; Montgomery County, Maryland; and Navajo County, Arizona…

Pic of the Day


Isaac Herzog was sworn in as the 11th president of the State of Israel last Wednesday.



Founding executive director of Newton, Massachusetts-based Gateways: Access to Jewish Education, focused on children with special educational needs, Arlene Remz


Former U.S. Ambassador to the UN Human Rights Council and senior partner for more than twenty years at the NYC law firm of Stroock & Stroock & Lavan, Rita E. Hauser… Former Republican congressman from Oklahoma from 1977 to 1993, he was a founding trustee of the Heritage Foundation and national chairman of the American Conservative Union, Marvin Henry “Mickey” Edwards… Canadian journalist and author of three bestselling books, Michele Landsberg… Former member of the Florida House of Representatives, Franklin Sands… Bestselling author, screenwriter and playwright, sister of the late Nora Ephron, Delia Ephron… Professor of religion at the University of Vermont, he was an advisor to Bernie Sanders on his 2016 presidential campaign, and as an undergrad at Yale was Joe Lieberman’s roommate, Richard Sugarman… Co-founder of Imagine Entertainment, his films and TV series have been nominated for 43 Academy Awards and 198 Emmys, Brian Grazer… Board certified lactation consultant based in Riverdale, N.Y., Rhona Yolkut… Co-owner of the Midland Group with holdings in steel, shipping, real estate, agriculture and sports, Eduard Shifrin… Member of the Knesset for the Blue and White party, Alon Tal… Acting chairwoman of the Federal Communications Commission, Jessica Rosenworcel… Israeli journalist, television presenter and politician, mother of eight children, she served as a member of Knesset for the Yisrael Beiteinu party (2009-2013), Anastassia Michaeli… Founder in 2019 of Innovation Policy Solutions, a DC-based health care consulting and advocacy firm, Jennifer Leib… U.S. Senator (D-AZ), Kyrsten Sinema… Chief news anchor of the Israeli commercial television channels Keshet 12 and Reshet 13, Yonit Levi… Staff writer at The AtlanticEdward-Isaac Dovere… Partner in the Des Moines-based public relations firm AdelmanDean Group, Liz Rodgers Adelman… Israeli media personality, sociologist and designer, Ortal Ben Dayan… President of executive communications firm A.H. Levy & Co, he was previously chief speechwriter and deputy communications director for U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), Alex Halpern Levy… Registered nurse now living in Jerusalem, Rena Meira Rotter… 

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