Your Daily Phil: New Young Israel board looks to do away with asset seizure clause

Good Wednesday morning!

Jewish groups gave $1.09 billion to COVID-19-related causes between March and December of 2020 — almost 5% of total giving in response to the pandemic, reported Hanna Shaul Bar Nissim, an academic who studies Jewish philanthropy and is a deputy director at the Ruderman Family Foundation, in Inside Philanthropy.

Top givers included the UJA-Federation of New York, the Foundation to Promote Open Society, Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation and the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies. The donations funded protective equipment, vaccine research and assistance for the unemployed.

Jewish causes and organizations, including those in Israel, received about a third of the total. More than $664 million was pledged to non-Jewish causes, while 5% was not classified. Organizations and groups in New York State received the most funding, $149 million, while those in California received $122 million.

By committee

Newly installed Young Israel board to attempt historic constitutional change


When the National Council of Young Israel (NCYI) was founded more than a century ago, the drafters of its constitution decreed that the council would have the right to take over the assets of any failing member synagogue. At the time, the stipulation was considered necessary for the good of the movement, said Ira Sturm, a lawyer and member of Young Israel of Woodmere, on Long Island, whose father served on the national council for 50 years. Sturm spoke with eJewishPhilanthropy’s Helen Chernikoff about the importance of that provision to Young Israel’s history, and why new leaders plan to do away with it.

The backstory: This power was part of what made Young Israel a movement, and not just a loose affiliation of synagogues, Sturm said. It enabled the national body to sell assets and put the proceeds toward a new location for the same community, or, if the community had dwindled, to divide the proceeds among other member congregations.

Planned changes: Yet the national council’s new leadership, elected last week, promised in its platform to pass an amendment that would prevent NCYI from seizing the property of its branches. “If a branch is in a neighborhood whose demographics change or is failing, we will do our best to help them,” said Sturm, a supporter of the new board who will help the legal committee revise the constitution. “That’s what the board is there for. To help, not to dictate.”

Read the full article here.


A call to Jews to embrace the pursuit of racial justice


Rabbi Dr. Deborah Waxman writes in an opinion piece, “When it comes to racial justice work, the Reconstructionist movement is in the midst of a profound journey.”

Torah: “I’m increasingly convinced that racial justice is crucial not only to the mission of Reconstructing Judaism, which I lead, but to that of the Jewish people. The stakes are high, and our destination is unknown. Jewish organizations must be like Nachshon, walking in faith on uncertain ground because we have no other choice and because these steps will create a path forward.”

Read the full piece here.


When opposites attract — a JDAIM initiative at its best


In an opinion piece celebrating JDAIM, Jenna Elbaz writes about bringing Israeli at-risk youth and youth with special needs together. 

Author’s story: “After I finished my IDF service, I was selected to be a counselor at Camp Ramapo in New York. There, I saw for the first time the magic that happens when you put together a whole bunch of kids with different backgrounds and challenges. They learn how to love, how to be loved, how to build relationships and how to become contributing members of society… For children with special needs, the impact is profound. These are children who struggle to feel that they have a life outside the world of their school. When they have a positive experience beyond this bubble, it can have a noticeable impact on their self-esteem.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Problem Solving: A new report, “Transforming Partnerships With Major Donors,” by the Leadership Story Lab found that small changes by fundraisers — like getting to know the donors and their personal stories — could prove more successful for organizations. Paul Sullivan writes in the New York Times about the report. [NYT]

What’s Needed: As both vice president of the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation and a former nonprofit executive director, Lisa Pilar Cowan shares in Chronicle of Philanthropy that she has both given and received unsolicited advice. She vows to refocus on helping her grantees access power and money, and reminds herself of a catchphrase her godmother would wield to curb other people’s meddling: “You’re not on that committee.” [ChroniclePhilanthropy]

Win-Win: Nathan Washatka, a Cincinnati fundraiser and writer, reflects in Philanthropy Daily on the conundrum of corporate “cause marketing,” like breast cancer’s pink ribbon campaign. He agrees with critics who say philanthropy should be separate from consumerism, but also feels people should try to do the right thing when they make decisions as consumers. In his ideal world, people would buy products because of their inherent qualities, and give away money independent of a purchase. [PhilanthropyDaily]

Everyday People: The pandemic triggered a spike in giving by individuals, but that’s not the long-term trend, according to a 2019 study from the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, which reported a 13% decline in household giving between 2016 and 2010. Bill and Melinda Gates said at the opening session of their “Giving Tuesday Summit,” which will take place once a month until May, that they are trying to change that, reports Abby Schultz in Barron’s. “If you could double either big [donors] or everyday givers, I would double everyday,” because that group has crucial on-the-ground insights, Gates said. [Barron’s]

Community Comms

Apply! Want to join the team at Jewish Insider/eJewish Philanthropy? We’re looking for a top-notch philanthropy editor. Learn more here.

Be featured: Email us to inform the eJP readership of your upcoming event, job opening, or other communication.

Word on the Street

Danielle Kranjec is joining Shalom Hartman Institute of North America as director of campus initiatives… Maimonides Fund has launched a Jewish journalism fellowship for local publications across the country… The latest edition of the Peoplehood Papers, exploring the meaning and purpose of Tikkun Olam, has been released by The Center for Jewish Peoplehood EducationThe Association of Fundraising Professionals has signed onto an amicus curiae brief prepared by The Nonprofit Alliance in a case before the U.S. Supreme Court regarding donor privacy and disclosure on part of the IRS Form 990 Schedule B that lists a charity’s major donors…

Pic of the Day

Credit: Israel Antiquities Authority.

Workers inject a limestone-based liquid grouting into stones of the Western Wall in order to help preserve it.



Founder of WhatsApp Jan Koum
Former U.S. Senator and Democratic nominee for Vice President in 2000, Joe Lieberman… Professor of mathematics at Yale University, Grigory Margulis… Rabbi and author of a book about chocolate and Judaism, Deborah R. Prinz… President of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Clifford D. May… Head coach of Ironi Nes Ziona in the Israeli Premier League, Brad Greenberg… Public relations executive, Howard Bragman… Former member of the Knesset for the Likud party, Nurit Koren… Member of the Knesset for the Labor-Gesher-Meretz party, Nitzan Horowitz… Explorer, survival expert and TV host, Josh Bernstein… Member of the Knesset for the Likud party, now serving as Minister of Environmental Protection, Gila Gamliel… Professor of history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and best-selling author, Yuval Noah Harari… NYC-based independent filmmaker, co-directed the 2019 film Uncut Gems, Benjamin Safdie… Principal and director of investments at MizMaa Ventures, Aaron Applbaum… Israeli actress and model, Dar Zuzovsky… YouTube beauty guru, Rachel Claire Levin