Your Daily Phil: Moishe House’s new innovation fund + Gen-Z Israel conversations
Good Wednesday morning!
Moishe House had its origins in 2006, when Santa Barbara, Calif., philanthropist Morris Squire gave a group of Jewish young adults a chance to live together under one roof and to host Jewish programming for their post-college community. Now, its newly launched research and development department is expanding that engagement mission with a Powered By – Moishe House Innovation Fund: a grants initiative for Jews (ages 18-40) worldwide with innovative ideas.
The R&D department is the latest expression of Moishe House’s drive to find and develop new approaches to Jewish meaning. “Innovation in programming is the key to the successful longevity of any nonprofit,” Robert Dorsey, Moishe House’s chief financial and administrative officer, told eJewishPhilanthropy. “We are committed to long-term innovation to widen the tent to more Jewish young adults, and we are anticipating that new programming from innovation will help fuel Moishe House’s growth plans.”
The innovation fund will support initiatives promoting peer-led, Jewish community building: applicants must submit their idea, a projected budget and the timeline; Moishe House will provide selected innovators with funding, mentorship, evaluation and networking opportunities. Accepted grantees will have to attend regular check-in meetings with the R&D team to provide project updates and brainstorm leading up to the project’s launch. Selected projects will incubate for six months during which the team will evaluate the program to see if it fulfills the stated needs; conditional upon evaluations, grantees may receive additional funding.
“Ultimately, we don’t want to take over,” Hannah Phelps, R&D’s associate director, told eJP. “This is their innovation. Even in the name, it’s called ‘powered by,’ we’re hoping to power [it] through support [for] somebody else’s idea,” without dictating where it goes. “We want to be on the sidelines, stepping in to help when needed and ultimately are there to observe and learn from it so we can take those learnings into Moishe House.”
TORAH ON TAP
A new ‘Jewish tavern’ aims to bring Torah learning to Boston’s Jewish masses
To the extent that Lehrhaus, a new bar coming to Somerville, Mass., could be compared to anything, its closest analog would probably be an Irish pub, rather than a synagogue multipurpose room or a grab-and-go café at the local JCC. But the new neighborhood establishment bills itself as a Jewish tavern and house of learning, akin to a neighborhood watering hole and community library, with educators on hand to guide people in learning Jewish text. “We want to build on-ramps to Jewish learning in an environment that people understand and want to spend time in,” Lehrhaus director Rabbi Charlie Schwartz told Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch in an interview last week in this still-under-construction space.
Place to be: “This is gonna be the place to be and the best kosher food in New England, if not farther afield. And good Torah, and community,” said Lehrhaus board chair Joshua Foer, who also founded Sefaria, a digital library of Jewish texts. The name comes from a term coined by the early-20th-century German Jewish thinker Franz Rosenzweig, who hosted a salon called the Freie Jüdische Lehrhaus, or “free Jewish house of learning.” During the day, Lehrhaus will be a members-only space for people who join the institution’s beit midrash and want to stop by to study alone or in hevruta, with a partner. In the evening, Lehrhaus will be open to the public, with a bar and dining program designed by award-winning veterans of Boston’s restaurant scene.
Sneak peek: The food will be “pescatarian kosher.” A sampling of menu items shared with JI includes a signature “Lehrhaus kugel” with crispy Roman artichoke, and fish schnitzel with fries seasoned with Old Bay, the tangy spice popular on Maryland seafood. “It’s a Jewish tavern. The milieu is a Jewish one,” said Schwartz, adding that even the menu offers an opportunity for “passive learning moments that you can incorporate in a non-preachy way.” Take, for instance, those Old Bay fries: “What does it mean when the server knows the Jewish history of Old Bay?” (The seasoning was created by a Holocaust survivor.)
Making it happen: Lehrhaus is working with a handful of local and national Jewish organizations to create pluralistic content. Partners include the Jewish Review of Books, the Newton-based, nondenominational rabbinical school Hebrew College, the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America and Hadar, the New York egalitarian yeshiva. (Hartman and Hadar both expanded to Boston earlier this year.) Early funders of Lehrhaus, which is operating as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that hopes to offset most costs through profits from the bar, include Boston’s Combined Jewish Philanthropies, the city’s federation, the Jim Joseph Foundation and the Aviv Foundation.
Navigating Gen-Z Israel conversations
“There is consensus on very few issues in the Jewish community these days, but one thing we all seem to agree on is that educating the next generation about Israel is a top priority,” writes Avigail Schneiman, campus student relationship coordinator at Shalom Hartman Institute of North America, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.
One size doesn’t fit all: “Many of the college students I work with strive to apply their commitment to social justice to their relationship with Israel. For each student, the dynamic is unique, but it usually means grappling with how to be in relationship with Israel and how to hold the country they feel a connection to, to a standard they feel to be morally just.”
Still learning and growing: “I see my role as one of walking with these students as they develop their vision and dream of the Israel they want for the future. Often, that means modeling for them ways to embrace the stickiness and messiness of having aspirations for Zionism beyond the current reality. Frequently, students struggle because they feel they should have both their identity and their positions about the State of Israel ‘figured out.’ But this ignores that college students are still learning and growing. Why would we ask students to have a formulated position on Israel when they are still trying to figure out the world around them, and indeed their own identities?”
Coming-of-Aging Rituals: The older generation is reclaiming coming-of-age rituals, Paula Span writes in The New York Times, including b’nai mitzvah, and creating new ones, like a ‘simchat chochmah’ (celebrating the wisdom of age): “Harry Oxman’s bar mitzvah at the Society Hill Synagogue in Philadelphia looked much like the traditional Saturday morning event. He recited the customary prayers before and after the Torah reading. He discussed the meaning of the day’s Torah portion. He carried the sacred scrolls in a procession around the sanctuary. The rabbi offered a blessing; the congregation yelled a congratulatory ‘Mazel tov!’ and tossed pieces of candy to symbolize the sweetness of the days ahead. Lunch followed, with toasts from family members. The difference was that the celebration, a tradition that normally marks Jewish adulthood for 13-year-olds, occurred in 2019, when Mr. Oxman was 83… At Congregation Beth Elohim in Brooklyn, Senior Rabbi Rachel Timoner plans to add blessings for congregants entering retirement or becoming grandparents to sabbath services. She also intends to offer a ritual developed in the 1980s for older women called simchat chochmah, a celebration of aging and wisdom. ‘The second half of life includes so many moments that are worthy of attention and communal celebration,’ Rabbi Timoner said.” [NYTimes]
Make Nonprofits Trustworthy Again: From the left, there are concerns that nonprofits are thwarting the efforts of grassroots organizations that could make a real difference; from the right and center come concerns about nonprofits being in thrall with progressive causes at the expense of liberal values, Greg Berman writes in The Chronicle of Philanthropy. All of this, combined with incidents of financial mismanagement, is at the expense of trust in the sector, he writes: “How can nonprofits bolster public trust in their effectiveness? The first step is to admit that while none of these critiques is completely accurate — nonprofits are not, after all, uniformly neoliberal, woke, or corrupt — there is at least some merit to all of them. Tackling these legitimate concerns won’t happen without concerted effort. Nonprofits must first engage in healthy self-reflection, with the emphasis on ‘healthy.’ This shouldn’t be seen as another excuse for navel gazing. Instead, they should take pains as part of their standard strategic-planning process to ask hard questions about whether they are making real progress toward achieving their mission as opposed to simply perpetuating their own existence.” [ChronicleofPhilanthropy]
Word on the Street
Israeli Holocaust survivors who held Romanian citizenship during World War II will be eligible for Romanian pensions…
Sadeh Farm, Europe’s only kosher farm, has been told that it can remain operational until the end of its 10-year lease in 2028. Earlier this year, Jewish Youth Fund, the property owners, notified Sadeh Farm, which is located just outside of London, of its intention to sell the property…
Karin J. Buchholz has been named global executive director of the Israel Tennis and Education Centers Foundation. A former professional tennis player, Buchholz comes to ITEC after serving as head of development for GLSEN, an organization fighting for the rights of marginalized young people in schools across the United States…
The New York City-based Pollock-Krasner Foundation announced that during its July 2021-June 2022 fiscal year grant cycle it awarded nearly $2.7 million to 106 artists and nonprofit organizations…
The Rockefeller Foundation launched the Vaccination Action Network, a $7.4 million locally led, peer-to-peer learning initiative designed to engage public health decision-makers across sub-Saharan Africa and bolster their efforts to strengthen health systems while scaling up COVID-19 vaccine demand strategies…
Pic of the Day
More than 1,600 Jewish teen athletes from 57 delegations and 67 JCCs from across Canada, the U.S., Mexico and Israel gathered alongside the San Diego Jewish community to mark the start of the JCC Maccabi Games on Monday. Jerri-Ann and Gary E. Jacobs, immediate past chairman of JCC Association of North America, and Sharon and David Wax, chairman of JCC Association of North America, are pictured with the torch.
EVP emeritus of the UJA-Federation of New York, John S. Ruskay…
Retired head coach of the NFL’s Chiefs and Buffalo Bills, member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Marv Levy… English actor, author, playwright and theater director, Steven Berkoff… Retired regional director and development director in the Cleveland office of the ADL, Anita Gray… Former chairman and CEO of the New York City office of commercial real estate brokerage firm Savills, Mitchell S. Steir... Voice actor in dozens of Disney films, video games and television programs, known professionally as Corey Burton, Corey Gregg Weinberg… Vice chair of the board of the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles and board member of JFNA, Orna Amir Wolens… President of D.C.-based Freedman Consulting, LLC, Thomas Z. Freedman… Co-founder of Pushkin Industries podcast company, Jacob Weisberg… Israeli filmmaker, producer and director, Ilan Moskovitch… Canadian entrepreneur and former commodities trader, Alexander Shnaider… VP of community planning at the Jewish Federation of Broward County, Evan Goldman… Emmy Award-winning sportscaster, Suzy Shuster… Editorial page editor of the New York Daily News, Josh Greenman… U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT)… Chief advancement officer at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, Joshua Cherwin… Owner of Win the Future Strategies, Brian Morgenstern… Executive editor of the Washington Examiner magazine, Seth Mandel… Partner at SoftBank Group International, Jeffrey A. Dressler… Director of philanthropic outreach for the southern division of the Anti-Defamation League, Erica Greenblatt… Podcast host of “Us Among the Israelis” and reporter at The Times of Israel, Caroline Keller-Lynn… Congressional liaison development associate at Christians United For Israel, Liliya Bychuk… Executive director of The Natan Fund, Adina Poupko … Executive director of the Reducetarian Foundation, Brian Kateman… Fashion model and social entrepreneur, Karlie Kloss… U.S. newsletter editor at the Financial Times, Emily Goldberg… First-round pick of the Atlanta Braves in the 2020 Major League Baseball draft, Jared Shuster… Social secretary to the Israeli ambassador to the United States, Ariana Kaufman… Director of talent at VMG, Leigh Bonner Levine…
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