Your Daily Phil: National Library of Israel broadens its reach + Dayenu rolls out fossil fuel divestment campaign

Good Thursday morning!

As it rolls out a multiyear campaign to press financial institutions to divest from fossil fuels, Dayenu, a Jewish group combating climate change, does not plan to place pressure on the endowments of Jewish organizations, Dayenu CEO Rabbi Jennie Rosenn told eJewishPhilanthropy.

The campaign, called “All Our Might,” is being launched tonight at a virtual event and will initially focus on pressuring asset managers, investors and banks to divest from fossil fuels. Its name is drawn from the first paragraph of the Shema, and it comes after a year when two New York City pension funds as well as Harvard University announced that they would no longer invest in companies that burn coal, oil and natural gas.

Environmentalism has become a focus of corporate social responsibility movements, and is also a priority of JLens, a Jewish group that aims to promote socially responsible investing. “It’s really gaining momentum, and many of these banks and asset managers have made statements” committing to fossil fuel divestment, Rosenn told eJP. “They now need to be held accountable to those statements.”

The second stage of the campaign, Rosenn said, will involve working with Jewish groups to divest their endowments from fossil fuels. But while Dayenu plans to stage protests in front of the offices of banks, she said that is “not at all” the approach Dayenu will take with Jewish groups. She cited a survey by the Jewish Electorate Institute last year showing that 32% of Jewish voters said climate change was one of the top two issues they want the Biden administration and Congress to focus on, the highest share for any one issue.

“Our approach is really to work with Jewish institutions that want to align their investments with their values in this way,” she said. “It’s an invitation for Jewish communal institutions – not a confrontational approach.”

Rosenn is also not concerned that Jews will demur from the anti-fossil fuel campaign out of fear that pushing for divestment from fossil fuels could end up promoting divestment from Israel. While campus anti-Israel activists have attempted to link the two issues in past divestment campaigns, Rosenn says Jews understand that they’re two separate causes.

“There’s a nervousness around the ‘d word,’” she said, but added, “There’s a growing understanding that it’s a tactic, it’s a powerful approach to change. It’s not inherently connected to Israel.”


With new building and fellowship, National Library of Israel hopes to become truly public

An illustration of the reading room in the new building of the National Library of Israel.


When Israel’s National Library announced in August 2020 that it would be furloughing staff and freezing operations due to the pandemic and budget cuts, it didn’t attract much attention. Nor did the announcement of the library’s reopening just two weeks later. But now, the library hopes a trio of developments will transform it from a hive for scholars into a draw for the public, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Ben Sales

New building, new audience: Later this year, the library will move to a new 485,000-square-foot building across from the Knesset. In 2023, the library will inaugurate a $10,000 annual fellowship for academics and artists, with the goal of bringing international researchers to the library campus. And this week, the library announced a partnership with the Sami Rohr Prize, the most prestigious Jewish literary award. “It was a cozy academic club for academics all over Israel, and also European and American academics who would make use of its collections,” Raquel Ukeles, the library’s head of collections, told eJP. Now, she said, “It will become, hopefully, this very vibrant cultural center.”

Public exhibitions: The changes underway aim to exhibit the library’s items — which are organized into four core collections of Judaica, Israel, Islam and humanities, and 100,000 rare items — to a greater number of tourists as well as researchers. The library is hoping for 500,000 in-person visitors a year once the new building opens, and hopes to lure a larger number of scholars as well. The fellowship, funded by billionaire health food entrepreneurs Stewart and Lynda Resnick, will begin in the 2023-24 academic year, will last five months and will be given to two, and later, four academics or artists — at least one of whom will be an American.

A community of scholars: The same impulse drove the Sami Rohr partnership. The $100,000 prize goes to one work of fiction and nonfiction in alternate years, and has now become open to works translated into English for the first time. Prize winners will also receive priority in access to the library’s materials and reference librarians. “We will now have the facilities to be able to act on all the dreams we have for creating this dynamic center for artists, writers and other cultural producers,” Ukeles said.

Read more here.


Getting on board with inclusion: How we included our board in our commitment to DEI


“It’s ironic, and it’s unfortunate: At many nonprofits, boards are excluded from the organization’s efforts around diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI),” writes Rachel Kaplan, executive director of Cincinnati Hillel, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Board’s importance: “This can happen for several reasons. The DEI training may be limited to staff, for example, or focus on the programmatic aspects… Yet the importance of a nonprofit’s board to its health and even survival cannot be overstated. Boards are foundational for developing the long-term vision of organizations, they are critical for fundraising and represent the values of an organization.”

Our challenge: “That’s why, during this year’s Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance and Inclusion Month, we at Cincinnati Hillel are acting to bring our board, well … on board — with DEI… The process started at the beginning of the year at our board retreat, where we identified five core values, including a commitment to full inclusion in our community. For our community, DEI includes disability inclusion, the focus of this month, as well racial, economic and gender inclusion. While the board fully supported the value, through our conversations together, we discovered many of our board members did not have the language to discuss DEI. We were unclear how to incorporate diversity, equity and inclusion into the work of the board.” 

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Pandemic Demand: In New York, Israeli entrepreneurship was on the rise during the pandemic, writes Haley Cohen in The Jerusalem Post. Israeli startup Empathy, which helps families experiencing loss, is headquartered in New York and Tel Aviv and was in demand during the pandemic. “[Empathy] emerged from stealth mode in April 2021, 13 months into the global pandemic, to reveal a $13 million seed round. ‘We were launching our first product in the midst of the pandemic,’ said Ron Gura, co-founder and chief executive of Empathy. ‘As a result, a lot of the research we had done before has changed. Empathy deals with end of life, and that is something that became much more vivid and clear to people during a year full of loss. Things like estate planning and anxiety around grief are topics that became much more present in our lives.’” [JPost]

Rethinking Wedding Gifts: VOW for Girls will encourage couples who were newly engaged on Valentine’s Day to plan weddings that include donations to groups like Raising Teenagers Uganda, which works to stop child marriage, Glenn Gamboa writes in the Associated Press. “The Wedding Report’s [Shane] McMurray [CEO of the research company] said millennial and Gen Z engaged couples are now more likely to use their weddings to further racial and gender equality by seeking donations instead of gifts or using their gatherings to raise awareness of causes important to them. Those trends make VOW for Girls hopeful about the future. ‘There’s such a natural alignment between people who are celebrating love and giving girls around the world the opportunity to do that exact same thing,’ [VOW CEO Clay] Dunn said. ‘Our entire vision is a world in which no child is ever a bride. We’re building this community of people who are committed to making sure that girls everywhere can live lives that they love.’” [AP]

(More) Work from Home: Work arrangements with flexible hours may mean more work, especially for women, writesCaitlin Harrington as part of her interview with sociologist and author Heejung Chung in Wired. Chung said: “Flexible working can help to reduce gender inequality by enabling mothers to stay in the labor market. But it can also reinforce traditional gender roles because it comes with the expectation that mothers will be able to do both housework and childcare while working from home. Whereas for fathers, because of gender normative views about them being breadwinners, working from home is expected to be a protected time and space where they shut themselves off and only focus on work.” [Wired]

Community Comms

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Word on the Street

Rabbi Benjamin Goldschmidt and Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt have officially launched a new congregation, Altneu, on Manhattan’s Upper East Side…

An anonymous donor made a $1.8 million gift to End the Pandemic following the publication of an opinion piece by OLAM’s CEO earlier this week…

Yesterday, in recognition of Unity Day in Ukraine as well as the 15th of Adar, a minor Jewish holiday, 160 Jewish communities in Ukraine held a special day of prayer, Torah learning, charity and good deeds dedicated to peace and tranquility in Ukraine amid invasion fears… 

Rabbi Salomon Gruenwald will become senior rabbi of Denver’s Hebrew Educational Alliance, effective July 2022…

Steve Miller has been selected as chair of The Jewish United Fund (Chicago’s Jewish federation) 2022 annual campaign…

Hazon, in partnership with Shalom Hartman Institute, announced the recipients of The Shmita Prizes, their inaugural art competition…

Jeannie and Jonathan Lavine have provided a new $15 million gift to City Year, bringing the Lavines’ lifetime giving to the organization to $50 million…

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, along with Omidyar Networkannounced more than $40 million in grants to support the establishment of multidisciplinary academic centers dedicated to reimagining the relationships among markets, governments and people… 

The Atlanta-based Zalik Foundation is providing a $1 million grant toward a new Israel Defense Forces program dedicated to providing tech education to teenage girls. The program is part of an effort to close the existing gender gap in the IDF by increasing the talent pool of soldiers, and Israeli citizens, with scientific and tech-based competencies…

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has awarded $99.2 million of the company’s shares to unnamed nonprofit organizations… 

Alex Knaster, the founder of The Mark Foundation for Cancer Research, has committed an additional $500 million to cancer research. Knaster’s total commitment comes to  more than $650 million in the foundation’s first decade — among the largest ever made by an individual in support of cancer research…

London police have launched an investigation into allegations that individuals associated with one of Prince Charles’ charities offered to help a Saudi billionaire secure honors and citizenship in return for donations…

Pic of the Day

Vatican News

Pope Francis meets British Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl and Michael Wegier, the board’s chief executive, Wednesday at the Vatican.


Bulent Doruk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

One of the most popular Israeli basketball players of all time, Miki Berkovich… 

Real estate developer and former co-owner of the New York Mets, Saul Katz… Former president of AIPAC, Steven Grossman… Executive director of American Jewish Archives and professor of Reform Jewish history at HUC-JIR, Gary Phillip Zola… Owner of Lynn’s Photography in Beachwood, Ohio, Lynn Katz Danzig… Professor of mathematics at Princeton University, Noga Alon… Chairman of Israel’s Shas party, Aryeh Deri… Partner in the D.C. office of Kirkland & Ellis specializing in international trade and national security, Ivan A. Schlager… Rabbi of Khal Ahavas Yisroel Tzemach Tzedek in Baltimore and kashrus administrator at the Star-K, Rabbi Dovid Heber… Big-budget filmmaker Michael Bay… President and CEO of MLB’s Arizona Diamondbacks, Derrick Hall… Executive director of American University’s Women and Politics Institute, Betsy Fischer Martin… Professor of international relations at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Sharon Pardo… Brigadier general in the IDF, he served as the chief of the Combat Engineering Corps, Oshri Lugasi… Chief content officer at McClatchy, Kristin Roberts… Executive director of the Kraft Center for Jewish Student Life, the Columbia / Barnard Hillel, Brian Cohen… Israeli actress and model who won the Miss World beauty pageant in 1998, she has since become observant and completed law school, Linor Abargil… Actor and filmmaker, Joseph Gordon-Levitt… Acting assistant secretary for counterterrorism and threat prevention at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Samantha Erin Vinograd… Senior multi-platform editor for CNN Politics, Dianna Heitz… Professional ice hockey defenseman for the NHL’s New York Rangers, Adam Fox… Miriam Schulman…

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