Your Daily Phil: Our Big Kitchen feeds Los Angeles + Jewish students vie to build the best bot

Good Wednesday morning!

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we spotlight Our Big Kitchen, which is fighting food insecurity in Los Angeles. We also feature op-eds from Jamie Levine Daniel, Galia Feit, Osnat Hazan, Rabbi Elizabeth Richman and Sarah Green. We’ll start with a report from the scene of a Center for Initiatives in Jewish Education robotics competition in New York City.

Nearly 40 Jewish day schools and yeshivas from across the country came together at the Fort Washington Avenue Armory in New York City’s Washington Heights on Tuesday afternoon to compete in a robotics tournament hosted by the Center for Initiatives in Jewish Education’s (CIJE), in partnership with the Orthodox Union’s Teach Coalition, reports Jewish Insider’s Tori Bergel for eJewishPhilanthropy.

“I was an athlete as a kid. I played sports, every sport. I was a captain on most of the teams I played on, but these kids, a lot of these kids, aren’t that, and there’s a lot of educational, great things for this, but it’s also a huge opportunity for these kids to work on teams, to collaborate together,” Philip Brazil, CIJE vice president of development, told eJP. “A lot of times these are the kids who might be getting 100s in school or maybe some of the kids [whose minds work] differently, and this suits them, and it’s giving opportunities to so many kids [who] never had anything like that before.”

CIJE was created in 2001 to expand and enhance the education that Jewish students in the U.S. were receiving. Today, around 200 Jewish schools are in CIJE’s network. “The education system in many countries, even those that were considered third-world countries, were getting much better, and the fear was that our kids, unless we did better things to educate them, would fall behind,” CIJE President Jason Cury told eJP. “We don’t expect all these kids, when they graduate high school and go on to college, that they’re all going to be engineers. But we want them to have the ability to think in that way, because you can do anything if you think that way.”

In the end of the competition, a team from Brooklyn’s Mazel Day School won first place in the elementary division; teams from Mazel Day School and Brauser Maimonides Academy of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., led the middle school competition; and teams from the Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway (HAFTR) in Lawrence, N.Y., and Katz Yeshiva High School in Boca Raton, Fla., took the high school title.

Read the full story here.

Feed the people

Volunteers cut up vegetables at Our Big Kitchen in Los Angeles. (Courtesy)

About 50 adults, ranging in age from their 20s to their 70s, arrived at a space on Los Angeles’ Pico Boulevard that had been home to a string of restaurants over the last 15 years and checked in with a volunteer. Each was handed an apron and a small packet containing a hairnet and took their places at one of several metal tables in front of cutting boards, chef’s knives and a big tray of raw chicken or fresh vegetables. Over the course of two hours on that Wednesday night in February, the volunteers trimmed and diced poultry and chopped vegetables, scooped cookie dough onto baking sheets and prepped plastic containers with stickers. By the time they left, the volunteers had met some new people and had prepared more than 300 nutritious chicken fajita meals for people who are living in shelters, on the streets or in other circumstances that make nutritious meals hard to come by, at one of the community packing nights at Our Big Kitchen L.A., eJewishPhilanthropy’s Esther D. Kustanowitz reports.

G’Day, L.A.: Our Big Kitchen Los Angeles borrows its model from an Australian organization that OBKLA’s leadership, Yossi and Chaya Segelman, ran when they lived Down Under. When the couple moved to Los Angeles — after the pandemic had begun affecting local people and businesses — the Segelmans knew they wanted to do something for the community. They started packing snack boxes in their garage. Today, OBKLA produces more than 2,000 kosher meals a week for 10 community organizations, with Yossi serving as executive director and Chaya as the program manager. Since the opening of the new facility in June, OBKLA — with the help of 26 charity partners and more than 5,400 volunteers — has prepared more than 27,000 meals and 52,000 cookies.

Sending support and sustenance: Our Big Kitchen was founded in 2005 in Sydney by Rabbi Dovid and Laya Slavin. The organization emerged from Laya’s experience providing support to women going through cancer treatments: in addition to giving them wigs to cover hair loss, she frequently brought a meal, and wanted to do more for them and their families. The couple pulled together a group of volunteers and started making large quantities of food to distribute to families in need. The organization grew to serve more than 60 charity partners and roughly 250,000 meals a year in Australia, Yossi said. While the meals are strictly kosher, they are predominantly bound for distribution to the broader, mostly non-Jewish community in Bondi and Sydney.

New space: In June 2022, the Paul E. and Margaret Feder Family Foundation gifted the Pico Boulevard space to Our Big Kitchen Los Angeles. The 4,600-square-foot space now serves as a tribute to the strength and resilience of the late Margaret Feder, a Holocaust survivor who had worked in the kitchen at Auschwitz.

Read the full article here.

Cross-border philanthropy

Who gives and who gets? The challenges of following the money from the U.S. to Israel


“U.S. nonprofit organizations have sent billions of dollars throughout the decades to Israeli nonprofits. Where is this money coming from? Where is it going?,” write Jamie Levine Daniel, associate professor at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis; Galia Feit, executive director of Tel Aviv University’s Institute for Law and Philanthropy; and Osnat Hazan, head of the philanthropy data lab at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for Law and Philanthropy, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Cross-border influence: “Philanthropy serves as a means of influence and as a tool for public image management. In the case of U.S. donations to Israel, individual and organizational donors become international actors, expanding their reach beyond domestic borders. For example, Birthright Israel aims to help young adults outside of Israel build a connection to the country, with the hope that program alumni will bring their perspectives back home as active Jews in their community.”

Follow the money: “Previous estimates of U.S. Jewish organizational philanthropy to Israel put the total outflow at approximately $2 billion annually. This $2 billion figure has been a relatively consistent ballpark figure, but also an aggregated sum. We set out to determine if we could break down the total outflow to identify trends. One way to do this is by tracking the money.”

Read the full piece here.

Gender inequality

Jonathan Torgovnik / AJWS

“As funders rooted in Jewish values, we are called to work for change. While Judaism has a complex history around early and child marriage, in contemporary times we hold that marriage requires a woman’s full consent,” write Rabbi Elizabeth Richman, associate director for Jewish engagement and advocacy, and Sarah Green, senior policy advisor for sexual health and rights, at American Jewish World Service, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Making a choice: “The ability to consent requires those making a choice to have what our sacred texts refer to as da’at. This abstract Hebrew word holds many shades of meaning related to both knowledge and intent. In its fullest sense, da’at refers to self-knowledge and agency: truly knowing who you are, what you want and having the autonomy to act and make choices based on that knowledge. Deciding if, when and whom to marry is one of those choices.”

B’tzelem Elohim: “We firmly believe that all human beings are created b’tzelem Elohim — in the Divine image — and as such, we are all infinitely valuable and deserving of dignity and respect. We see our work supporting local feminist organizations that help girls develop autonomy as an extension of this tenet.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Philanthro-Play: Comic Relief US is betting on social gaming platform Roblox to encourage philanthropy and community connection among kids, Glenn Gamboa writes in The Associated Press. The Kids Relief Presents: Solarpunk Simulator experience, a virtual initiative, will raise funds for Comic Relief’s programs that fight U.S. poverty and will “support young people’s ability to drive change,” said Alison Moore, the organization’s CEO: “[T]he Kids Relief campaign is the first initiative supported by the nonprofit’s Innovation and Growth Fund, which hopes to raise $10 million within three years. The group hopes new ideas supported by the fund will generate $1 billion in social impact to alleviate intergenerational poverty… ‘We are really thinking about where NextGen audiences are gathering and how we create an experience that’s going to be organic to where they are — to be able to engage and delight and fundraise all at the same time.’” [AP]

Accountability Knocking at the Gates: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pledged to spend $8.3 billion to respond to crises like war, climate change, economies and infectious disease, but has not made a complementary commitment to pursue accountability with these funds, Stephanie Amoako and Gregory Berry write in an opinion piece in The Chronicle of Philanthropy: “[T]he foundation lacks a formal accountability system that allows people and communities to raise concerns about and seek remedy for unintended adverse environmental and social consequences… The most effective accountability efforts function independently from operational staff and report to the highest levels of the organization — typically the board of directors. They also have dedicated staff to conduct outreach with affected communities and to handle any complaints… By embracing accountability as an essential condition for successful philanthropy, the foundation would set an example for all grant makers who want their activities to achieve their intended result: changing lives for the better.” [ChronicleofPhilanthropy]

Around the Web

Israel-based Keshet Donor-Advised Fund released a report on its first three years of activity. Highlights include: 105 donors contributed more than 250 million NIS ($70 million) to their funds; 90 million NIS ($25 million) in grants were given to more than 500 Israeli NGOs…

Jamie Bornstein has joined BaMidbar, an organization that supports mental health and wellness in the Jewish community, as chief advancement officer. Bornstein was most recently director of marketing and communications at Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies

Inbal Freund has joined The Amitai Family Foundation as chief executive officer. Freund previously worked as a social innovation consultant…

The JCC Association of North America announced the appointment of Marshall S. Levin as the organization’s chief philanthropic officer. Levin previously served as CEO of the American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science…

American Jewish University announced the appointment of Bruce Powell as interim dean of the School for Jewish Education and Leadership, effective July 1. Powell, a recipient of The Covenant Award for excellence in Jewish education, is currently a distinguished lecturer at the university…

Philanthropist David Risher, co-founder of Worldreader, a nonprofit that aims to get children reading, has been named CEO of ride-share company Lyft

New York’s Museum of Jewish Heritage is partnering with JewishGen and JLTV to produce “Generations,” the first Jewish-themed genealogy television series…

Sinclair Broadcast Group announced a multiyear, national agreement with the USC Shoah Foundation—The Institute for Visual History and Education to assist with the recording of interviews with genocide survivors as part of the institute’s Last Chance Testimony Collection Initiative… 

Forbes published its list of the top five Central European destinations for travelers to experience Jewish history…

The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Hartford and a group of local philanthropists led by Gerry and Karen Goldberg are partnering with More Perfect to enhance service opportunities for young adults across the United States. The institutions and private donors have committed more than $200,000 to seed a national strategy to double the number of civilian national service opportunities for young adults from 125,000 to 250,000 by 2026… 

Cedars-Sinai Medical Center received an estate gift of more than $140 million, the largest gift in the hospital’s 121-year history, from Susanne and Ervin Bard. This gift will name the medical campus’ newest building, the Susanne and Ervin Bard Pavilion…

Pic of the Day


IsraAid employees put together water collection and handwashing kits for distribution in Malawi yesterday, as part of a humanitarian aid effort after the African nation was ravaged by Cyclone Freddy earlier this month.


Robert Kozloff/University of Chicago

Winner of the 2007 Nobel Prize for economics, University of Chicago professor Roger Myerson

Chemist, professor at both Hebrew University and UCLA, winner of the 1974 Israel Prize, Raphael David Levine… Organizer of the annual morning minyan service since 1983 for runners in the NYC Marathon, Peter Berkowsky… Attorney, NYT best-selling author, sports agent for many professional athletes, Ronald M. Shapiro… Houston-based labor law, employment law and personal injury attorney, Carol Nelkin… Orthopedic surgeon, he is a former professional boxer, Dr. Harold “Hackie” Stuart Reitman… Investor, computer scientist and founder of D. E. Shaw & Co., David Elliot Shaw… Economist and chairman of consulting firm Roubini Macro Associates and professor emeritus at NYU, Nouriel Roubini… Miami businesswoman JoAnne Papir… Co-founder and co-CEO of Cerberus Capital Management, Stephen Andrew Feinberg… Co-CEO of entertainment and media agency William Morris Endeavor, Ariel Zev “Ari” Emanuel.. U.S. Senator (D-NV) Catherine Cortez Masto … Director of the Mossad, David “Dadi” Barnea… French film director and writer, best known for his 2011 film “The Artist,” Michel Hazanavicius… Deputy chief of staff at The Rockefeller Foundation and adjunct fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Eric Pelofsky… Founder of Leopard Strategies, Liz Jaff… Former assistant U.S. attorney and now a candidate for attorney general of Missouri, Will Scharf… Communications director at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, David A. Bergstein… Senior associate at Strategy&, Annie Rosen Pai… Business development manager at Arcadia, Alexander Zafran