Your Daily Phil: Next steps for the Hazon-Pearlstone Center + Making Jewish communal life more affordable

Good Wednesday morning!

More Jewish day schools across the country are considering mask and vaccine requirements in response to the spread of the highly contagious COVID-19 Delta variant, but local regulations and political attitudes towards mandates also play a significant role in schools’ decisions, Paul Bernstein, CEO of the day school network Prizmah, told eJewishPhilanthropy.

“We’re hearing about more mask and vaccine mandates, but I wouldn’t describe that as a general rule. There is no norm to report,” Bernstein said. Some schools haven’t yet announced their policies, while others have done so, with the caveat that administrators might revise the plans after the High Holidays.

In states such as Florida, where political officials have issued competing regulations, some requiring masks and some banning such requirements, the schools’ decisions become even more complicated, especially when some members of a community have very different views, Bernstein said.


Jakir Manela, CEO of the combined Hazon-Pearlstone Center, talks next steps


The combined Hazon-Pearlstone Retreat Center will release its vision by the spring of 2022 for what it would like to achieve, Jakir Manela, the new CEO, told eJewishPhilanthropy’s Helen Chernikoff. The merger will be finalized in about a year, and will require a significant amount of hiring, Manela said.

Rebuilding and hiring: “Sometimes in the corporate world, mergers are premised on layoffs,” said Manela, previously Pearlstone’s CEO. “That isn’t the case here.” Both organizations had to make COVID-related staff reductions, which will ultimately allow the new group to rebuild its staff in an “integrated way,” he added. Hazon, launched by Nigel Savage in 2000 with the Cross-USA Jewish Environmental Bike Ride, merged in 2013 with the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center. Pearlstone opened in 2001, an outgrowth of the Jack Pearlstone Institute for Living Judaism, and launched a community farm in 2006. In 2017, the Baltimore federation, known as The Associated, delegated management of a former camp to Pearlstone, making it a 180-acre property. Pearlstone is an agency of The Associated.

A milestone moment: “This is a great moment for Hazon, Pearlstone and the [Jewish environmental] movement,” said Adam Weisberg, executive director of Urban Adamah, a farm and education center in Berkeley, Calif. “I’m so excited by the opportunity this provides for the movement to come back into the spotlight and to enrich Jewish life and living.” Hazon led the creation of the Jewish environmental field, which its professionals and funders refer to as the “JOFEE” movement, for Jewish Outdoor, Food and Environmental Education. In 2014, there more were than 40 organizations, fellowships, conferences and regular programs in the field — about half of them under the auspices of either Hazon or Pearlstone, according to a report funded by the Jim Joseph Foundation, the Leichtag Foundation, The Morningstar Foundation, the Rose Community Foundation, Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies and UJA-Federation of New York.

A veteran activist reflects: In 1993, Rabbi Daniel Swartz started the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life, which today works more on policy initiatives, but in its earlier years helped launch environmental education programs at Isabella Freedman. “It’s amazing to get here from a time when the concept of Jewish outdoor learning only meant summer camps,” he said, adding that the Hazon-Pearlstone merger is smart because it will facilitate the spread of programming that makes environmental concepts come alive, from bike rides to food conferences to farming. Manela refers to the new organization as Hazon, although people who visit Pearlstone or Isabella Freedman or participate in their programs locally will still likely know them by their original names, he said.

Read the full article here.


Cost: A conversation about people, not dollars


“The pandemic has accelerated change in many areas of our society, and Jewish life was no exception. And now we have a choice: to go back to the before times and try to make our new world fit our old system, or to continue to accelerate change and innovation,” writes Jennifer Weinstock, senior vice president of philanthropy at Combined Jewish Philanthropies, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Higher volumes: “This year had many silver linings of a slower, hyper-local lifestyle, and at the same time technology and innovation have made it possible for the whole world to be at our fingertips. Every one of us pivoted and pivoted again during this pandemic. Some of those pivots cost more than we expected and some of them cost less… [W]e all reported seeing new users and members join us. Which is great. One of the most logical ways to lower the cost of Jewish life is to have way more users in general. Higher volume might allow many organizations to be able to offer low cost and no cost offerings for those who cannot afford Jewish life at all.”

Privileged system: “At the same time, I’ve also been thinking how we might need to change the entire conversation to really address the cost of Jewish life – and make it more of a conversation about people than dollars. The current discussion of cost is based on a privileged system. It assumes a lot about the end user and those assumptions alone are leaving many in our community on the outside.”

Read the full piece here.


Designing exceptional learning for all students: A collaborative approach


“The need to implement an education system that develops expert learners who have personal agency in their education is urgent. It is crucial to our collective goal to graduate students who are spiritually grounded, discerning, resourceful, creative, collaborative, ethical, moral and socially responsible,” write Lianne Heller, executive director of Sulam, and Rabbi Mitch Malkus, head of school at the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School (CESJDS), in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy. 

Educational engagement: “Our work together began with the question of how we could utilize the strategies and concepts of special education (which inherently personalizes learning for students) to broaden our educational reach and provide a more individualized learning experience for every lower school student at CESJDS. Students with both enrichment and support needs would benefit from this approach. With such a system of educational engagement, we would also be positioned to create a next level inclusion program at CESJDS for many students who would usually not be able to attend a day school. Despite an already robust educational support service program at CESJDS, we wanted to welcome students with more significant learning differences who have not found a home in the Jewish day school world and have sought their education at specialized schools.” 

Universal Design for Learning: “The solution is anchored in the strategies of Universal Design for Learning (UDL), a Harvard-based educational framework that is designed ‘to improve and optimize teaching and learning for all people based on scientific insights into how humans learn.’ What is particularly meaningful about UDL is that it can be applied to any discipline or domain to ensure that all learners can access and participate in meaningful and challenging learning opportunities. It is not a curriculum, per se, but a framework developed to be utilized by educators in all subject matters.” 

Mission aligned: “UDL is in perfect alignment with the overarching goals of Jewish schools. Research has shown that when students have agency in their own learning they become independent, resourceful and motivated lifelong learners and critical thinkers who ultimately become expert citizens. This ultimate goal aligns perfectly with the mission of Jewish day schools — to produce students who stay motivated and connected to their Jewish roots and to be lifelong Jewish learners who will become the next generation of responsible, critical-thinking Jewish citizens of the world.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Missing Variable: The share of Americans living in poverty, which stood at 15.1% in 2010, was 9.2% in 2020, indicating that contrary to expectations, the coronavirus did not reverse progress on poverty, due to government efforts to cushion the blows of the pandemic on the economy, writes Elena Delavega in The Conversation. Nonetheless, the way the government measures poverty is outdated and undercounts the true number, according to Delavega, and food insecurity did grow during the pandemic, from 10.9% of the population in 2019 to 13.9% in 2020. “This discrepancy is another reason I believe the government needs to improve how it measures poverty,” Delavega concludes. “Something doesn’t add up when there are more Americans who cannot get enough of the food they need than there are living below the poverty line.” [Conversation]

Going South: In the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Alex Daniels interviews Fay Twersky, who took the helm of the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation in February after leading the Hewlett Foundation’s Effective Philanthropy program. Based in Atlanta, where Blank, a Home Depot co-founder, built his fortune, the foundation is aiming, under Twersky, to attract other grantmakers to the South and especially to Georgia, which Twersky calls “ground zero” in the struggle for voting rights and racial justice. “This state is now center stage in terms of how our national democracy functions,” she said. [ChroniclePhilanthropy]

Deeper Meaning: The concept of “mission creep” has an undeservedly negative reputation, suggests Vu Le in a post on his blog, Nonprofit AF, which examines the history of the term in the U.S. military and documents its adoption and distortion by the nonprofit sector. Le’s own experience running an organization that served Vietnamese immigrants showed him that sometimes, a nonprofit must offer multiple programs in order to serve its population. “Entrenched societal issues are interconnected and complex, and tackling multiple things at once may be exactly what we need to do,” Le concludes. [NonprofitAF]

Community Comms

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Word on the Street

The U.K.’s United Synagogue is urging members to take a COVID test before attending High Holiday services… A U.S. donation of 500,000 coronavirus vaccines arrived yesterday in Ramallah for distribution in both the West Bank and Gaza… Empathy, an Israeli-based platform that provides families support after losing a loved one, is partnering with New York Life… The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh announced a record $52.6 million in 2020-2021 fiscal-year fundraising… New York City-based Robin Hood launched FUEL for 50, a $10 million initiative to support parents and caregivers of local children 3 and younger… With an initial seed investment of $8 million to help address economic and social disparities in California, Century Housing has established the California Community Fund… Larry Harlow, a.k.a. “El judio maravilloso,” died at 82..

Pic of the Day

Yael Lander

Israeli coaches and athletes pose in Tokyo in the country’s Paralympic team uniform, designed by Shay Senior, who was injured during his service in the Israel Defense Forces, and Netanel Yehuda Halevi, born with muscular dystrophy. The two are founders of Palta, a recipient of a grant from the Ruderman Family Foundation that provides people with disabilities with opportunities in the fashion industry.


GIL COHEN MAGEN/AFP via Getty Images

Minister of Intelligence and a member of the Knesset for the Blue and White party, Elazar Stern

Phoenix-based award winning journalist, Leni Reiss… British novelist, he has been described as the “Jewish Jane Austen,” Howard Jacobson… Retired after a lengthy career in hotel sales and marketing, Harley Mayersohn… Bass guitarist and co-lead 
singer of Kiss, Gene Simmons… Chairman of the Board Emeritus at the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles, Lorin M. Fife… Former program director at the St. Paul, Minnesota JCC, Manfred “Fred” Haeusler… Former Trump fixer, Michael D. Cohen… Former Canadian MP, now VP for external affairs and general counsel at Canada’s Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, Richard Marceau… Founder of 5W Public Relations, Ronn D. Torossian… Assistant director of marketing at UJA-Federation of New York, Suzanne Schneider… National program and communications director at the American Zionist Movement, Alicia Post… Actress and musician, Jaclyn Tohn… Sarah Schreiber… Principal at venture capital firm Camber Creek, Nathaniel Loewentheil… Director of state and local government relations at Philips, Evan Hoffman… Canadian actress, Stacey Farber… SVP at public affairs firm SKDK, Daniel Barash… Manager of business operations at LinkedIn, Sam Michelman… Partner manager at Facebook, Ryan Kuhel… Founder and CEO at the Center for Intimacy Justice, Jackie Rotman… Director of audience and growth at AxiosNeal Rothschild… Former deputy policy director at the House GOP Conference, Jenna Lifhits… Israeli singer-songwriter, Eden Hason

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