Your Daily Phil: NJY Camps gets $2 million matching gift

Good Wednesday morning.

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we interview Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, the former chief rabbi of Moscow and president of the Conference of European Rabbis, and feature opinion pieces by Dana Sheanin and David Bryfman on the post-Oct. 7 tolls heavily weighing on Jewish institutions and Jewish educators, respectively. Also in this issue: Rachel Goldberg-PolinRabbi Ari Israel and Dan LoebWe’ll start with a new major donation to NJY Camps.

Paula Gottesman pledged $2 million in matching funds to NJY Camps, giving the organization a “seal of approval” for other donors, the CEO of the group exclusively told eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross.

The donation from the Paula and Jerry Gottesman Family Foundation — no immediate relation to the other Jewish philanthropic Gottesman family — comes five years after NJY Camps’ entire board disbanded over its handling of yearslong sexual abuse by its former executive director, Len Robinson, against female employees. Since then, the organization has brought on a new board and new professional staff.

“Not only is it important in the dollar figure, which is a significant dollar figure for an organization that has a $16-$17 million budget. It also is a matching gift. And so therefore, it provides others with the opportunity to get out there and be part of this movement to build the thriving NJY camps for the next 100 years,” NJY Camps CEO Michael Schlank told eJP.

“For someone like Paula to not only give us that kind of gift, but [for it to be] a match, means that she very much feels — and the Metro-West Foundation very much feels — that we’re an organization that is deserving of that gift. And that speaks to the mission, to the people who work in this organization, both on the lay side and the professional side. And we’re really proud. It’s kind of a seal of approval,” he said, referring to the Jewish Community Foundation Of Greater Metrowest, N.J., which contains the Gottesman family foundation.

The $2 million pledge represents the largest single gift in the organization’s 104-year history. NJY Camps’ board president, Stacie Friedman, noted in a statement that the donation comes from “someone who is not an alum but rather a thoughtful philanthropist who recognizes the critical role that Jewish camp plays in building strong Jewish identity.”

The matching program, officially known as the Gottesman Gesher (Bridge) Campaign: Building a Bridge to the Next Century of Jewish Life, will work in two tiers: Gifts of more than $50,000 will be fully matched, one-to-one, while gifts smaller than that will be matched by the Gottesman fund with half the donated amount, in order to encourage the organization to attract and prioritize larger donors.

“It’s all about helping us leverage this to get new supporters engaged,” Schlank said. “And I think it’s really just part of Paula’s plan that Jewish camps and Jewish day schools should be achievable and affordable and accessible to as many families as possible. This is just a continuation of that.”

In a statement, Gottesman called on additional donors  to support NJY Camps, a member affiliate of the JCC Association of North America, which runs seven Jewish summer camps, as well as winter activities.

“We in the Gottesman Family Foundation look forward to having others join us to support and enable our children to attend a thriving NJY Camps,” she wrote. “There, the campers will not only experience all the usual camp activities, but they will also be secure and proud of their Judaism, their people, Israel, and what they stand for. We are happy to invest in this program and believe that those who join us will find dividends beyond their expectations.”

Read the full story here.


Conference of European Rabbis’ president: ‘Antisemitism has once again become politically correct’

American politician Dianne Feinstein, her arms outstretched in celebration, in her office after she was elected mayor of San Francisco, at San Francisco City Hall in San Francisco, California, circa 1978.
President of the Conference of European Rabbis, Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, hangs a mezuzah on the front door of his organization’s new headquarters in Munich yesterday. Courtesy/Bavarian Government

Last fall, news photographers snapped away as Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt proudly hammered a mezuzah to the doorframe of the new headquarters of the Conference of European Rabbis (CER) in Munich, Germany, which he said at the time demonstrated that “antisemitism will not succeed.” Less than three weeks later, Israel was struck by a seismic terror attack and after a brief period of international sympathy, antisemitism quickly soared. As the war against Hamas continues, barely a day goes by without news of an anti-Jewish incident somewhere around the world — not least in Europe. “Antisemitism has once again become politically correct,” Goldschmidt told Lianne Kolirin for eJewishPhilanthropy in London.

Get out now: Goldschmidt spoke with eJP ahead of the publication of his new book, Moscow Memoirs, which is due out later this year. It tells the story of his time in Russia — and his decision to leave the country in order to openly and unequivocally criticize its leadership over the invasion of Ukraine and human rights violations. “The situation is getting bleaker and bleaker,” he said of Russia. “It has turned into a totally totalitarian state which is also a separate challenge and danger to the Jewish community.” Goldschmidt reiterated his call for Russian Jews to leave the country and settle “wherever they want to go and can go,” but added: “Not too many places are open to them besides Israel.”

Next steps: In February, the European Court of Human Rights, which functions as a supreme court, ruled that a ban on religious slaughter without pre-stunning imposed by two Belgian districts did not infringe human rights. Without any legal recourse, the only hope for the observant community — which now must import all kosher meat — is to work “with politicians, governments and legislators all over Europe to convince them to let the Jewish and Muslim communities continue their right to prepare animals for food as prescribed by their religions,” Goldschmidt said.

Read the full interview here.


The future we don’t want to imagine

Photo by Andrii Yalanskyi/Adobe Stock

“While there is frequent media coverage of anti-Israel sentiment and growing antisemitism, and a fair amount of attention paid to those protesting in response, there is little conversation about the diminished capacity of local organizational infrastructure right now and what this will mean for the future of Jewish life at home,” writes Dana Sheanin, CEO of the Bay Area organization Jewish LearningWorks, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Out of the frying pan…: “Before Oct. 7, Jewish organizations had just about weathered the COVID pandemic, emerging with smaller staffs, fewer participants able to afford membership or participation fees, and depleted professionals across every setting. Before Oct. 7, we faced a clergy hiring crisis, a teacher hiring crisis and C-suite burnout, with once-committed professionals acknowledging that the high cost of urban living relative to stagnant nonprofit salaries too often makes Jewish leadership roles unsustainable. Those of us who stayed the course through the pandemic spent much of 2022-2023 doggedly working to reengage our constituents while raising the funds needed to keep our organizations afloat.”

… and into the fire: “There are startlingly few philanthropies supporting local organizations to enable us to weather the greatest crisis in a generation. Perhaps almost as painfully, I have not participated in any funder-led conversation about how to keep the doors of local organizations open nor how to keep the  dedicated professionals still there from leaving. The situation in Israel is devastating. At the same time, when I try to imagine our community after the war, I can’t help but wonder how many synagogues will have merged with others, how many day schools will have closed, how many start-ups will have shut down, how many JCCs and camps will face staffing shortages that require them to turn children and families away… The local crisis is real. It is getting worse every day. And it is breaking my heart.”

Read the full piece here.


Jewish educators have nightmares about Oct. 7

A home in Kibbutz Kfar Aza is seen on Jan. 4, 2024, after it was burnt by Hamas terrorists during the Oct. 7 attacks. Noam Galai/Getty Images

“Asking most Jews today, ‘How are you?’ is one of the most challenging questions.  Asking a Jew, ‘Are you OK?’ might elicit a deeper response. But as I experienced just last week at a parents’ meeting at my child’s school, asking someone what keeps them up at night might indeed unveil a whole lot of grief, fear and trauma that we are only beginning to uncover — if, and only if, we’re prepared to acknowledge and talk about it,” writes David Bryfman, CEO of The Jewish Education Project, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Avoidance isn’t heroic: “In this post-Oct.7 world, community leaders and funders must address the mental health and well-being of the Jewish people. Jewish educators and communal professionals need space, time and resources to process such trauma in order to be the best professional version of themselves. I also know that the vast majority of educators and professionals will hide behind their jobs and their missions in order to avoid confronting this trauma. As we saw during COVID, we are good at this ‘hiding’ — and often lauded for it. After all, it means we are putting our learners and constituents above our own well-being. However, this approach is unwise; even the amateur psychologist in me knows that not dealing with trauma is not healthy.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Hear, O Israel: In The Jerusalem Post, E. Kinney Zelesne shares her thoughts on the soundscape of remembrance, war and hope she recently experienced in Israel. “On flights to and from Israel last month, I read Time’s Echo, Jeremy Eichler’s brilliant new meditation on the interplay of music and memory. Recounting the stories of four Holocaust-era composers, Eichler asks his readers to practice ‘deep listening’ – that is, to take in not only the composers’ sounds, but also their voices, reverberating across the decades. With deep listening, Eichler says, we can hear history in a register richer than is possible with words and images alone. Perhaps the book actually unlocked some new aural sensitivity in me – or it might just be a coincidence. But as I reflect on my nine days in Israel, the most lasting impressions were the sounds… Eichler observes that human beings have eyelids but no earlids – our inescapable obligation is to deeply imbibe the sounds, to listen deeply for both mourning and hope – bearing witness to not only what has happened, but to what may yet be possible.” [JPost]

Enigma in Africa: In Asterisk Magazine, Todd Moss examines why a continent soaked in sunshine and hungry for electricity hasn’t scaled up its solar energy-producing capacity despite a major initiative by the World Bank. “In 2015, the International Finance Corporation, the World Bank’s private sector arm, rolled out Scaling Solar, a high-profile initiative funded in part by a $5 million grant from the U.S.-government-led Power Africa. Expectations were huge. The IFC’s rollout claimed that ‘large-scale photovoltaic solar power can be quickly and economically developed.’ Global prices for solar panels kept dropping, yet many countries short of electricity weren’t attracting investment to build solar farms. The IFC’s idea was fairly simple: Make it easy, cheap, and quick for governments and solar developers to build by bundling all the needed steps and financing together. Scaling Solar’s ‘one stop shop’ would show politicians and investors how large-scale solar farms could be done profitably. Once the path was illuminated, the investment would naturally flow… Multiple lessons can be drawn from the mistakes of Scaling Solar. These lessons are not Monday-morning quarterbacking about design flaws or unforeseen gaps in the analysis. The specific details of the program appear to have been sound, built on creating a sequence of steps to tackle very specific obstacles to getting solar farms financed and built. Instead, the mistakes are concentrated in the lack of transparency and especially in the irresponsible mis-selling of the program.” [AsteriskMagazine]

Around the Web

Rachel Goldberg-Polin, whose son, Hersh, is being held captive in Gaza, called on Diaspora Jews to tell Israeli leaders that “now is the time to save 134 innocent souls for no other reason except that it is holy, and it is the most Jewish response to Oct. 7th that can possibly be done,” in apparent reference to ongoing hostage release negotiations between Israel and Hamas. She made the remarks today at the World Zionist Organization’s Heschel Conference on Jewish Peoplehood and Israel-Diaspora Relations…

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations released a statement criticizing Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) for his recent speech calling for new Israeli elections, saying it “emower[ed] the detractors of Israel” and “foster[ed] greater divisiveness”…

Jewish Insider examines the Israeli and Jewish artists and performers in the United States who have faced cancellations and antisemitic protests since Oct. 7…

Lisa Katz was named the next chief government affairs officer of the Combat Antisemitism Movement

Leon and Toby Cooperman donated 13 ambulances to the Magen David Adom emergency medical service in honor of the 13 MDA medics murdered in the Oct. 7 attacks…

Israeli government spokesman Eylon Levy was suspended by the Prime Minister’s Office, allegedly over a critical tweet responding to U.K. Foreign Secretary David Cameron’s call for Israel to allow more trucks into the region. Israeli First Lady Sara Netanyahu had reportedly called for Levy to be removed in the past over his previous criticism of the government and her husband…

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency spotlights the Ukrainian Jews who stayed in the country and have been working to maintain and build the Jewish community since the start of the Russian invasion two years ago…

More than half of the hate crimes committed in Toronto in 2024 have been against the city’s Jewish community, which makes up roughly 2.5% of its population…

Rabbi Ari Israel, the executive director of the University of Maryland Hillel, received the Phyllis G. Margolius Family Foundation’s 2024 Impossible Dream Award, along with an $18,000 cash prize…

The American Enterprise Institute’s Danielle Pletka interviewed former Harvard University President Larry Summers about the rise of antisemitism on university campuses…

Harvey Schulweis, the longtime chairman of the Jewish Foundation for the Righteousdied on Monday at 83…

Frank Grobman, a major donor to UJA-Federation of New Yorkdied last Friday at 97…

Pic of the Day

Over 50,000 people attend the traditional Birkat Kohanim (Priestly Blessing) at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City today, during Chol Hamoed (the intermediary days) of Sukkot.
Courtesy/Edmond J. Safra Synagogue/Instagram

Investor and philanthropist Dan Loeb speaks on the bima at the Edmond J. Safra Synagogue in New York City last night as part of the community’s new couples night program.


Annie Liebovitz smiles
Roy Rochlin/Getty Images

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