Your Daily Phil: New estimates on size of American Jewry + Interview with Morgan Stanley’s Melanie Schnoll Begun

Good Monday morning!

The American Jewish Population Project (AJPP) announced its latest U.S. Jewish population estimates on Friday, putting the total number of American Jews in 2020 at 7.6 million, 1.6 million of them children. Of the six million Jewish adults, 1.2 million identify as “Jews of no religion.”

Nearly half of the country’s Jewish population lives in three states: 21% in New York, 15% in California and 10% in Florida, and almost a quarter of Jewish adults are under the age of 34 years. Jewish adults are nearly twice as likely to be college graduates, at 57%, than the average population — 29%.

Supported by the Steinhardt Social Research Institute, the AJPP seeks to manage the methodological problem of the small sample size of the Jewish population, which can decrease the accuracy of any one survey, by synthesizing hundreds of independent samples — both national and local — and in that way arriving at better estimates. The AJPP also said it was launching a new website.

Leon Black announced this morning that he’s stepping down as Apollo Global Management’s CEO earlier than expected and that Apollo cofounder Marc Rowan is taking over as CEO effective immediately.

The ask

How Morgan Stanley does philanthropy


Melanie Schnoll Begun knows that most people don’t associate banks with philanthropy, and part of her job as the head of philanthropy management at Morgan Stanley is helping people understand how she connects the dots. It started more than 25 years ago after she had graduated from law school with a specialty in tax and was working at Smith Barney [now Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, after a series of mergers] as an associate doing estate planning. High-net-worth clients were starting to want “wealth advisors” who helped them think about their money more broadly — putting philanthropy on the same table as investing and estate planning. “I was right there at the beginning of that conversation,” Schnoll Begun told eJewishPhilanthropy.

This conversation has been condensed and edited.

Helen Chernikoff: When did you know you’d found your calling?

Melanie Schnoll Begun: When the conversation was turning from investment management to wealth management, and I had the opportunity to help people reshape the way they thought about their money, I said, “If we truly want to do this, we can’t let philanthropy be the red-headed stepchild.” Everyone thought, you plan for the family, and it was a nice add-on to talk about their philanthropy. So we made it deliberate and intentional, and that was the creation of our philanthropy management department, and that’s what I’ve had the privilege of leading for the past 18 years. 

HC: One of the more recent innovations in your work was the Jewish Future Pledge, and letting your clients know about it, in case it’s something they want to consider. Any updates on how that’s going?

MSB: We’ve had lots of queries from Jewish foundations, federations and families about how they can get engaged. Our clients and prospective clients just want to do more with their money. Our most recent conversations have been with large institutional entities who want to implement this in their endowment; we’re also talking with boards. So much of this is about nurturing this conversation with boards, getting them to move towards a 100% Jewish values portfolio. That’s going to take a lot of time.

Read the full interview here.

Challenges and trends

A few before Pew: Some insights and trends concerning the Jews

Courtesy Pew Research Center

Later this spring, the Pew Research Center will be issuing its latest demographic findings on the state of American Jewry. In an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy, Professor Steven Windmueller writes, “This latest survey follows its 2013 analysis of Jewish Americans, providing a further analysis of the changing profile of our community.”

Ten findings: “In this moment, both in advance of that report and in connection with some new national data concerning American society, these ten findings may provide some useful insights. Some of the data being introduced here will directly align with the forthcoming Pew report, while other elements will likely reflect other social and ideological trends that may have particular significance for Jewish audiences and our institutions, moving forward.”

Readdressing needs: “No doubt, the Pew Study will help to further define the ‘state’ of our communal and religious order, just as it will point to the emerging challenges and trends that are reshaping American society as a whole.”

Read the full piece here.


Becoming connected to Israel through Hebrew: Promising new evidence

Ramah Day Camp, Nyack, NY.

“The question of what happens when people study Hebrew is a serious one and has been hotly contested. A recent small-scale study sheds new, promising light,” write Alex Pomson and Vardit Ringvald in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Scholars say:Some scholars argue that people study Hebrew inspired by a connection to Israel and Israelis. This is one of the primary reasons why adults study foreign languages. They want to converse in the native language of cultures to which they’re already drawn; they’re interested in building relationships with people from those cultures.”

Educators say: “Hebrew language educators have often argued otherwise, especially when it comes to children. When children study Hebrew, they say, they become connected to Israel. Hebrew ‘opens a window’ onto Israeli culture and values.”

Examining the question: “The problem is that such assertions have typically been supported only by anecdote. And there are just as many anecdotes attesting to how easy it is to be turned off by horrible experiences with Hebrew, in Hebrew school or just struggling with what is a hard language to learn.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Bridging Divides: In Inside Philanthropy, Philip Rojc profiles seven funders who are trying to use philanthropy to create a healthier discourse in American democracy. The Einhorn Collaborative, for example, works with other donors and organizations to fund efforts such as Pediatrics Supporting Parents, which seem removed from politics but can help address a “crisis of connection,” while the Rockefeller Brothers Fund has also been using “Our Common Purpose,” a report from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ Commission on the Practice of Democratic Citizenship, as a guide for its philanthropy. [InsidePhilanthropy]

Cutting Class: In The Chronicle of Higher Education, Nell Gluckman explores the question of why Boise State University suspended a diversity and ethics course, citing the need to investigate reports that a student or students were made to feel humiliated in class. No official complaint has been filed, but Republican state lawmakers have attacked the university’s efforts to educate students about racism and cut from its budget the amount the university said it had spent on social justice programs. [ChronicleHigherEducation]

Private Sector: JPMorgan Chase, PayPal, Mastercard, Salesforce and the National Football League have all made significant contributions to racial equity causes since the police killing of George Floyd last May, reports Haleluya Hadero in the Associated Press. Such private-sector philanthropy that has outpaced donations from both foundations and individuals, according to philanthropy research organization Candid. “The world is changing, and the expectations of how companies engage are changing,” said Brandee McHale, Citi’s head of community investing and development, said. [AP]

Baby Steps: The best way to use willpower to change habits is to start small, write Arianna Huffington, founder and CEO of Thrive Global, and Marina Khidekel, head of the company’s content development, in a piece from their new book Your Time to Thrive, excerpted in Business Insider. Huffington relates the story of her realization that despite her success at Huffington Post, she needed to change her life. “When we take Microsteps, we are not only moving forward, we’re going inward. By creating rituals in our day, we allow ourselves to get into the metaphorical eye of the hurricane — that centered place of strength, wisdom, and peace that we all have inside ourselves,” they write. [BusinessInsider]

Community Comms

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Word on the Street

The Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Phoenix and the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix have announced a unanimous decision to become a single operating entity… The full advisory board of Pride in London has quit amid claims of racism, bullying and marginalization… An Israeli Labor Court has ruled schools can bar unvaccinated, untested workers… According to the Pew Research Center, many Americans continue to experience mental health difficulties as pandemic enters second year…

Pic of the Day

Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU

Dr. Robert B. Feldman donated an aerial sculptural installation titled “Sacred Dreams” by artist Mira Lehr to the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU, the museum announced on Thursday. It will reopen on April 6.


Gage Skidmore

Star Trek’s Captain Kirk, William Shatner

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