Your Daily Phil: Masbia launches tasty Purim fundraiser after tough winter

Good Friday morning.

For less-distracted reading over the weekend, browse this week’s edition of The Weekly Print, a curated print-friendly PDF featuring a selection of recent eJewishPhilanthropy, Jewish Insider and The Circuit stories, including: Paula Gottesman gives $2 million matching grant to NJY Camps, a ‘seal of approval’ for the once scandal-rocked group; Israel losing the hasbara battle because of a broken public relations playbook, experts say; Israeli and Jewish artists face threats, boycotts at U.S. shows; Meet Yael Lempert, the Jewish-American ambassador in Amman. Print the latest edition here.

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on Congress’ $30.5 million cut to the federal Nonprofit Security Grant Program and a new initiative to find ways to use artificial intelligence in mental health care. We feature an opinion piece from Rabbi David Stav on being joyful during the upcoming Purim holiday despite the struggles facing the Jewish people and another by Bradley Caro Cook about the need for solid performance metrics in Jewish nonprofits. Also in this newsletter: Rabbi Shai HeldElizabeth Tsurkov and Alan Cantor. We’ll start with a new effort by New York’s Masbia Soup Kitchen Network to raise money through the sale of the hamantaschen. Shabbat shalom and happy Purim!

Step into Brooklyn’s Strauss Bakery this month and the first thing you’ll see — or, more importantly, smell — is the non-traditional hamantaschen flavors. These include apple cobbler, Oreo, s’mores, dulce de leche and espresso, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen.

But the kosher bakery, a staple of the Borough Park neighborhood since 1960, isn’t just serving up trendy triangular treats for Purim, which begins at sundown on Saturday. Throughout the month, Strauss Bakery has baked hundreds of the festive pastry specifically to donate to “Hamantaschen for Hunger,” a new initiative by Masbia Soup Kitchen Network, a kosher soup kitchen and food bank.

The idea came amid what Alexander Rapaport, Masbia’s executive director, calls a “devastating” time for U.S. Jewish charities, as donors have turned their attention since Oct. 7 to aiding Israel. “All of our donors are focused on Israel in an absolute way… it was a devastating winter for us,” he told eJP. “It’s a good thing that we care about Israel… at the same time we need to keep our lights on.”

Through “Hamantaschen for Hunger,” trays of the iconic dessert — literally meaning Haman’s pockets, a reference to the villain of the Purim story — can be purchased in quantities of 20, 40 and 70, which cost $50, $100 and $180, respectively. Half of each sale is donated to Masbia, which offers free hot meals to New Yorkers in need through their kosher soup kitchens in Borough Park, Flatbush and Forest Hills, in addition to running communal disaster relief programs. The other half is put toward delivery costs. Hundreds of packages have been purchased online throughout the U.S. —- with one box shipped as far as Hawaii.

Purim is the most explicitly charitable day on the Jewish calendar: It’s a mitzvah (commandment) to both give gifts to the needy — matanot le’evyonim — as well as to friends and family, known as mishlochei manot. Tzvi Goldstein, who runs the bakery with his brother-in-law Eli Berman, said that sending fresh hamantaschen is “an easy way” to accomplish both: Boxes of hamantaschen sent to loved ones serve as the mishlochei manot while the charitable donation that comes with it fulfills the matanot le’evyonim requirement. Goldstein added that, since they ship across the country, it was also a way to “share the holiday with those who may be far away.”

That was why former Masbia volunteer Jacob Maslow, a former New Yorker who now lives near Jerusalem, sent “Hamantaschen for Hunger” boxes to his adult children in the U.S.

“It’s doing something nice for the kids while also doing good,” Maslow said, noting that an added perk of the bakery’s unconventional fillings is “no prune hamantaschen.”

Read the full story here.


Congress to cut security grant funding, ban UNRWA funds and add Palestinian aid restrictions

American politician Dianne Feinstein, her arms outstretched in celebration, in her office after she was elected mayor of San Francisco, at San Francisco City Hall in San Francisco, California, circa 1978.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-LA) listen during remarks at a Capitol Menorah lighting ceremony at the U.S. Capitol Building on December 12, 2023, in Washington, D.C. Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The final package of U.S. government funding bills for the balance of the 2024 fiscal year is set to cut funding for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program by $30.5 million, despite skyrocketing incidents of antisemitism. It also bars funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency and imposes a raft of new restrictions and oversight provisions on other U.S. aid to Gaza, reports Marc Rod for eJewishPhilanthropy’s sister publication Jewish Insider.

Well below: Jewish community groups had hoped to secure $500 million for NSGP in the 2024 funding bill, and an additional increase in the Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan emergency aid bill. Key lawmakers had pledged to seek increased funding, even before Hamas’ Oct. 7 terror attacks. The final allocation of $274.5 million comes in $85.5 million below the administration’s request, $60.5 million below the House-passed funding level and $12.2 million below the Senate’s proposed funding allocation.

Down but not out: “It is terribly disappointing that in a time of surging antisemitism, Congress is cutting funding for the Nonprofit Security Grants that help keep synagogues and other Jewish sites safe — by $30 million,” Nathan Diament, the executive director of public policy for the Orthodox Union, said in a statement. Karen Paikin Barall, the vice president of government relations at the Jewish Federations of North America, thanked congressional supporters for “shielding [NSGP] from further proposed cuts in a difficult fiscal environment” and said the situation “make[s] passage of the supplemental NSGP funding passed with strong bipartisan support in the Senate all the more critical.”

Read the full story here and sign up for Jewish Insider’s Daily Kickoff here.


Senser Foundation and Philtech launch hackathon to harness AI for mental health

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Artificial intelligence and mental health are not often linked in people’s minds. Therapists are empathetic, while AI literally lacks feelings. Often therapists are amazing at helping clients, yet struggle with anything remotely related to technology, whether it be inputting notes or organizing billing. The skills seem as compatible as oil and water “That’s exactly the difficulty we’re trying to tackle,” Shelly Tene Barkai, the CEO and co-founder of Philtech, told Jay Deitcher for eJewishPhilanthropy.

AI to the rescue?: The latest partnership between Philtech, based in Tel Aviv, and the Senser Foundation, based outside of Chicago, is a HealthTech Hackathon, teaches Israeli and international nonprofits the potential of implementing AI into mental health services and will bring one winning initiative to fruition with eight months of guidance and a budget of $40,000.

Addressing crises: Mental health has always been a focus for the Senser Foundation, but after Oct. 7, the need skyrocketed. Israel and America are in a mental health crisis, and there aren’t enough therapists to meet people’s needs. The goal of the hackathon isn’t to replace therapists, but support them and make their jobs easier, Amir Tal, chief scientist at Beit Ekstein and academic coordinator at The Samueli Initiative for Responsible AI in Medicine, told eJP. “We see AI not as artificial intelligence. It’s augmented intelligence.”

Read the full story here.


Purim 2024: Can we really be happy?

Image by Annette from Pixabay

“On the eve of Purim, which begins tomorrow after Shabbat ends, we are confronted with a deeply challenging task: How do we combine a holiday that is ultimately about joy (and often celebrated with frivolity) with the deep pain that we are feeling amidst war, loss and tragedy?” writes Rabbi David Stav, co-founder and chairman of Tzohar, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Not the first time: “Throughout the centuries, the Jewish people have endured so many national challenges during which holidays and customs inextricably linked with happiness have also endured. As always, we can find inspiration and practical guidance from the ancient teachings of our sages.”

Our heritage: “As we all know all too well, Jewish life is literally defined by the existence of both a great deal of happiness and a great deal of pain. It is therefore incumbent upon us as Jews to recognize that there are no absolutes in our traditions. Even when we are immersed in the sadness of the month of Av, we cannot forget that happiness still exists. Just as importantly, when we are living through the month of Adar it by no means indicates that we have forgotten, for even a moment, the sadness from our history — and certainly not from our current reality.”

Read the full piece here.


Strengthening our missions with KPIs

Illustration by Gerd Atlmann from Pixabay

“My transition from the world of special education to Jewish nonprofit leadership carried with it an assumption: that the principles governing the success of individuals would seamlessly scale to an entire organization. This assumption was a mistake I didn’t realize I was making until, during a focus group with a group of funders, the glaring absence of organizational KPIs was pointed out to me,” writes Bradley Caro Cook, founder of CareerUpNow[dot]org and creator of MediateHate[dot]ai, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

What are KPIs?: “KPIs are quantifiable metrics that organizations use to gauge their success in various aspects of their operations. They are established based on the organization’s strategic objectives and critical success factors, providing a way to measure progress and performance against set goals. By regularly evaluating these indicators, organizations can identify areas of strength and pinpoint opportunities for improvement.”

A learning experience: “My experience in special education had ingrained in me the value of individualized tracking and bespoke metrics, an approach that, while invaluable in that context, obscured my vision when applied to the broader canvas of Jewish nonprofits. The feedback during that focus group of funders highlighted the absence of organizational KPIs and exposed how my well-intentioned efforts had led me and my organizational reporting astray… As I seek to incorporate Jewish wisdom into my professional ethos, I find inspiration in the words of Pirkei Avot: ‘It is not upon you to finish the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.’… Establishing KPIs is an ongoing journey, one that requires persistence, resilience and a willingness to learn from both success and failure.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Leading With Humility: In USA Today, Rabbi Benny Berlin offers a leadership lesson from the story of Purim. “The story came to a climax when Mordechai appealed to his niece, Esther, to go before the king, uninvited, to seek salvation on behalf of her people. Esther questioned whether she could put herself in such danger, after all her predecessor had been killed for not going when called and she feared an uninvited appearance would no doubt bring about the same result. At this point, in the patriarchal society where they lived, Mordechai could have easily commanded her to do so as the patriarch of their family or even as the leader of her community. Instead, he humbly responds, ‘Who knows? Maybe this opportunity is why you were made queen in the first place?’… It is when we open ourselves up to ‘who knows’ that we can truly brainstorm an actual solution or a concoction of small solutions that bring about great change. A true leader like Mordechai knew to question, ‘Who knows?’ because at that very moment — faced with the possible death of his niece and/or the possible mass murder of his people — it is certainly not him. But when he was willing to open his mind and his heart to the fact that he did not have all of the answers, he chose to make small decisions that ended up driving big change.” [USAToday]

Musings on Musk: In a blog post, nonprofit consultant Alan Cantor considers the larger significance of a recent New York Times investigation of Elon Musk’s charitable giving, which found that it was relatively small and overwhelmingly self-serving. “We can look at Elon Musk’s charitable record and say to ourselves, ‘Well, isn’t he a jerk?!’ And we’d be right. But the problem goes way beyond one rich guy flouting the rules. Congress introduced the charitable income tax deduction in 1917 to encourage wealthy individuals to give to charitable causes… Essentially, Uncle Sam said: I’ll tax you less the more you give to charity. That arrangement – whereby the government gave up tax-generated income when the taxpayers gave to charities of their choice – has always been ripe for abuse. But we’re now facing a perfect storm of factors driving charitable misdealing into hyperdrive. Since 1980 we have seen an astonishing rise in wealth inequality — and with it, increased power for those at the top… As a result, fewer dollars are flowing to actual working charities, while the government is sacrificing significant amounts of tax revenue because of the charitable deduction – an estimated $289 billion over five years, according to the Urban Institute.” [AlanCantorConsulting]

From Haman to Hamas: In The Wall Street Journal, Rabbi Stuart Halperin reflects on the significance of Purim — a holiday marking the near annihilation of the Jewish people — in the aftermath of the Oct. 7 terror attacks. “The traditional Jewish joke that the origin of our holiday’s festive meal can be explained by the adage, ‘They tried to kill us, they failed, let’s eat!’ seems wistfully outdated. We are now more inclined to fast than to feast. In Israel, preparations for Purim have taken on a character reflective of a country where a cafe blown up by terrorists on Monday reopens by Wednesday. The traditional triangular pastries known as hamantaschen are called oznei Haman, or ‘ears of Haman.’ Local bakeries have recast them as ‘ears of Sinwar,’ Hamas’s leader in Gaza… Jewish self-defense, then and now, can serve as a means of inspiring those who see morally kindred spirits in the Jewish people. The biblical story recounts how, after Haman’s defeat, many across the ancient world came to admire the Jewish people. So may it be once Hamas falls in our time. Meantime, we will once more read the scroll of Esther. The Purim celebration will be tempered and the prescient text will ring timely. Along with it will come the whispered prayer that, like the victorious Jews in Esther’s day, we will merit ‘light and gladness, and joy and honor.’” [WSJ]

Around the Web

In an essay for The Wall Street Journal — adapted from his forthcoming book, Judaism Is About Love: Recovering the Heart of Jewish Life — Rabbi Shai Held, the president of the Hadar Institutehighlights the importance of love in Judaism, toward God, our neighbor and the stranger/convert…

The family of Elizabeth Tsurkov, a Russian-Israeli Princeton doctoral student who was kidnapped last year by an Iran-backed Iraqi militia group, is calling on the Biden administration to designate Iraq as a state sponsor of terror over its failure to work toward her release…

A new Pew study found that most people in the United States — 58% — believe that Israel has a valid reason for fighting Hamas (among Jews, it is 89%), while a smaller percentage — 38% — say Israel has been prosecuting the war in an acceptable way (among Jews, it is 62%). The survey also found that the majority of people in the U.S. — 57% — have at least some sympathy for both Israelis and Palestinians

Wired magazine finds that X changed its policies and took punitive action against journalists and researchers who shared the alleged identity of a neo-Nazi cartoonist after he appealed to the platform’s owner, Elon Musk

Todd Golden, the head coach of the University of Florida men’s basketball team, is expected to wear sneakers emblazoned with the Magen David Adom’s logo at tonight’s March Madness game against the University of Colorado

In Time magazine, Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt considers and laments the rise of antisemitic sentiments among young Americans

A new study by social psychologists at the University of Kenfound that 65% of Muslim students in the United Kingdom feel more positively about Jewish people after completing the Anne Frank Trust’s Holocaust education program…

The Wall Street Journal profiles Todd Snyder, a brand acquired by philanthropist Jay Schottenstein nine years ago…

Dr. Miriam Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands donated an additional $500,000 to the hygiene-focused WASH Foundation, bringing the casino corporation’s total gifts to the nonprofit to $5.6 million since 2014…

Axios previews billionaire philanthropist David Rubenstein’s upcoming book on the U.S. presidency, The Highest Calling — due out in September — for which he interviewed four of the six living presidents…

Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust is investigating allegations that nurses discriminated against a young Jewish patient, who was reportedly forced to receive a blood transfusion while lying on the floor…

The Jewish federation in Hamilton, Canada, was forced to postpone its annual film festival after the hosting theater pulled its rental agreement over what it said were security concerns, a move that was widely panned by local Jewish groups…

The Muslim Philanthropy Initiative at Indiana University found that — contrary to popular belief — the majority of the charitable giving by Muslim Americans — 85% — is done domestically and does not go overseas…

The Chronicle of Philanthropy examines how U.S. regulators are struggling to catch up with the explosion of donor-advised funds, 40% of which have been found to not distribute any money in a given year…

Amnon Weinstein, an Israeli luthier who restored violins belonging to Jews during the Holocaust through his nonprofit Violins of Hopedied earlier this month at 84…

Pic of the Day

Courtesy/Hanani Horovitz/JDC

Girls smile for a photo during a fair held on Wednesday in the town of Ofakim, one of the communities in southern Israel hit by the Oct. 7 terror attacks, in honor of the upcoming Purim holiday.

The Purim fair was part of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee’s new Mashiv Haruach initiative, which is meant to instill a spirit of resilience, healing and recovery in the community. It is being carried out in partnership with the local municipality, the Natan disaster relief nonprofit and the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest, N.J.


Annie Liebovitz smiles
Steph Chambers/Getty Images

Former CEO of Microsoft, he is the owner of the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers, Steve Ballmer, celebrates his birthday on Sunday…

FRIDAY: Professor emeritus of education and humanities at the University of Virginia, E.D. Hirsch… Captain Kirk of “Star Trek” fame, William Shatner… Born in Iran, twice elected as mayor of Beverly Hills, he is a past president of Sinai Temple, Jamshid “Jimmy” Delshad… Dentist who practiced in Norwalk, Conn., Murray Bruckel, DDS… Academy Award-winning screenwriter, his work includes “Forrest Gump” and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” Eric Roth… Israeli viola player and teacher, Rivka Golani… Senior principal of the law firm of Neuberger, Quinn, Gielen, Rubin & Gibber, Isaac M. Neuberger… One of the principal anchors for CNN, Wolf Blitzer… Aviation and aerospace professional, Mike Orkin… Founder and executive director at WomenStrong International, Susan Morton Blaustein… Mayor of the 16th arrondissement of Paris until 2023, now a member of the upper house of the French Parliament, Francis Szpiner… Hedge fund manager and owner of the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning, Jeffrey N. Vinik… Popular Orthodox Jewish singer, his stage name is Avraham Fried, Avraham Shabsi Friedman… Director of marketing and communications at Dorot, Andrea Glick… Former corporate secretary, EVP and general counsel at Hertz Corporation until 2014, J. Jeffrey Zimmerman… Retired Israeli basketball player, she is in the Guinness Book of World Records for the most points (136) ever scored in a women’s professional game, Anat Draigor… Author and defense correspondent, Arieh O’Sullivan… Journalist and author, Debra Nussbaum Cohen… Head of real estate for Mansueto Office, Ari Glass… Member of the U.K. Parliament for the British Conservative Party, Robert Halfon… Managing director of Mercury Public Affairs, Jonathan Greenspun… SVP at HCA Healthcare, Jeff E. Cohen… Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Judge Neomi Rao… Pizza reviewer and founder of Barstool Sports, David Portnoy… Visuals editor at The City and adjunct professor at CUNY, Ben Fractenberg… VP of communications and public policy at Antora Energy, Adam Perecman Frankel… Founder and CEO of beauty and cosmetic firms Into The Gloss and Glossier, Emily Weiss… Creator of the Yehi Ohr program at Jewish Community Services of South Florida, Zisa Levin… Retired MLB first baseman after seven seasons, he starred for Team Israel in the 2017 World Baseball Classic, Isaac Benjamin “Ike” Davis… Communications director for Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), Sarah Alice Frank Feldman… Energy policy and climate change reporter for PoliticoJoshua Adam Siegel… Director of the Dan David Prize, Charlotte Hallé… Director of communications at the U.K.’s Department of Energy Security and Net Zero, James Sorene… Beatrice Stein…

SATURDAY: Actor, director and producer, Mark Rydell… Former NFL referee for 23 seasons, he is the only NFL head referee to officiate four Super Bowl games, Jerry Markbreit… Philanthropist, together with her husband, Theodore, she pledged $25 million to BBYO in 2019, Harriette Perlman… Mandolinist and composer of acoustic, instrumental, bluegrass and newgrass music, David Grisman… Writer and producer of television series, creator of “Deadwood” and co-creator of “NYPD Blue,” David Milch… Tel Aviv native, she is a professor of music at the Juilliard School since 1993, Yoheved “Veda” Kaplinsky… Los Angeles-based psychologist and author, her first book is The Blessings of a Skinned Knee: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Self-Reliant ChildrenWendy Mogel… Designer of men’s and women’s footwear, clothing and accessories, Kenneth D. Cole… Former mayor of Austin, Texas, Stephen Ira Adler… Former director of business development at Fannie Mae, Beth Millstein… Investor, author, financial commentator and radio personality, Peter Schiff… Russian-American oil businessman, Eugene Shvidler… Writer and creator of 2018’s television series “Liberty Crossing,” Daniel Radosh… Managing partner of D.C.-based Stein Mitchell Beato & Missner, Jonathan Missner… French actress who has appeared in 40 films, her Holocaust survivor grandparents changed their name from Goldreich, Judith Godrèche… Client partner at Meta/Facebook, Scott Shapiro… Member of the Maryland General Assembly since 2011, Craig Zucker… Israeli actress, comedian and television host, Adi Ashkenazi… Three-time Grammy Award winning record producer, audio engineer and songwriter, Ariel Rechtshaid… Member of the rabbinics faculty at the Academy for Jewish Religion California, Yehuda Martin Hausman… Staff reporter for The New York TimesSarah Maslin Nir… Israeli singer-songwriter, actress and musician, she performs in Hebrew, French and Arabic, Riff Cohen… Chief of staff for the Commonwealth’s Attorney in Fairfax County, Va., Benjamin Shnider… Former tennis player and then tennis coach at Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia, Julia Cohen… Former member of the National Israeli Rhythmic Gymnastics Team, Moran Buzovski… Television and film actress, Victoria Pedretti

SUNDAY: Beverly Hills-based estate planning attorney, Ronald M. Kabrins… Board member of The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore, Rochelle “Ronnie” Footlick… Member of the House of Lords and star of the U.K.’s version of “The Apprentice,” he was the chairman of Tottenham Hotspur, Baron Alan Sugar… Attorney in Tarzana, Calif., Paul Marshall Leven… AIPAC and Jewish community activist in Austin, Deborah E. Rudy… Owner of Joslynda Capital, Michael Weiss… Veteran of four NASA space shuttle missions, he had a mezuzah on his bunk in the space shuttle, Scott Jay “Doc” Horowitz… Professor of art history at Hofstra University and widely published poet, Martha Hollander… Professional wrestler under a series of ring names including “The Star of David,” his wrestling career spanned from 1979 until 2000, Barry Horowitz… President of American Jewish University, Jeffrey Herbst… CEO of The Female Quotient, Shelley Zalis… Official at NYC’s 92nd Street Y, Laura Spitzer… Actor who is best known for his roles on the Fox medical drama series “House” and the USA Network’s science fiction drama “Colony,” Peter Jacobson… Senior director of external relations for the U.S. division of Israeli tech firm ThriveDX, Fred Menachem… Senior correspondent for Jewish InsiderRuth Marks Eglash… Director and senior tax counsel at Federal Policy Group, Aharon Friedman… Rabbi of Congregation Beth Israel – West Side Jewish Center on 34th Street in Manhattan, Jason Herman… Actor, Amir Arison… Director of marketing at Window Nation, Eric Goldscher… Executive editor at Bloomberg GreenAaron Rutkoff… Famed NYC photographer now working for the MTA, Marc A. Hermann… Pitching coach at San Jacinto College, he pitched for Team Israel in the 2017 World Baseball Classic and in the 2020 Olympics, Josh Zeid… Speechwriter for State Department officials, Joshua D. Cohen… Venezuelan-born celebrity chef, Deborah Benaim… Program director at The Jewish Woman Entrepreneur, Jenna Nelson Beltser… Three-time all-star hockey player, now with PWHL Boston of the Professional Women’s Hockey League, Kaleigh Fratkin… COO at Bnai Zion Media, Justin B. Hayet… Competitive pair skater for Israel at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, now a software development engineer for Amazon Web Services, Andrea “Anya” Davidovich