Your Daily Phil: Philanthropy Together’s ambitious targets + Reform Rabbi writes Tikkun Olam is not enough

Good Monday morning!

During the second half of the Ohio State-Penn State football game on Saturday, the Schottenstein family announced a gift of $10.15 million to the Ohio State College of Medicine to establish a program focused on resiliency and mental health. NBA star LeBron James, a native of Akron, Ohio, applauded the gift on Twitter.

Nine Israeli environmental startups will participate tomorrow in a “Climate Innovation Summit” at COP26: the United Nations Climate Change Conference that began yesterday and will run through Nov. 12 in Glasgow, Scotland. The session will be led by PLANETech, a nonprofit innovation hub, the organization’s director, Uriel Klar, told eJewishPhilanthropy. Weather-technology company and Aleph Farms, a cultivated meat company that counts Leonardo DiCaprio as an investor, will be among the presenters.

Rabbi Daniel Swartz, executive director of the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL), composed a tefilat haderech, or traveler’s prayer, for President Joe Biden as he departed for the conference, Swartz told eJewishPhilanthropy.

The prayer, signed by interfaith leaders and rabbis such as Rev. Mitch Hescox, president of the Evangelical Environmental Network; Rabbi Rachel Kahn-Troster, executive vice-president of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility; and Sister Patricia McDermott, president of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, asks to deliver Biden to the conference in peace and safety, and to bless him with success, “so that future generations inherit a just, sustainable, and bountiful world.”

Swartz, along with Rabbi Noam Marans of the American Jewish Committee, also signed “Faith and Science: Towards COP26,” a statement issued by the Vatican that calls for the world’s faithful to recognize the importance of the conference.

The ask

New Gates-backed organization aims to double the number of giving circles in five years


As charitable giving by individuals declines, the Gates Foundation is working to reverse the trend by supporting the creation of Philanthropy Together, a new organization that supports the creation of giving circles. An ancient form of philanthropy that’s become increasingly popular in the last few decades, giving circles could be even more popular if more people knew how to create their own, said Sara Lomelin, Philanthropy Together’s executive director, in an interview with eJewishPhilanthropy’s Helen Chernikoff about the group’s connection to the Jewish community and its ambitious targets.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Helen Chernikoff: How did you first encounter giving circles?

Sara Lomelin: I’m from Mexico City, and my family and I were living in Dallas. With a group of Mexican and Latina friends, I started a giving circle without even knowing what a giving circle was. We pooled donations to support organizations working with Latino mothers. Then we moved to San Francisco, and a friend of mine was on the board of the Latino Community Foundation. She said I should apply for an open position in development, and when I said I had no experience doing that, she said, “That thing you started in Dallas is a giving circle. You know how to raise money.”

HC: When did you start creating giving circles professionally?

SL: I met with the women who were hiring [at the Latino Community Foundation], and I said to myself, I don’t care what they ask me to do — get the mail, clean the bathroom. I need to work here. I joined to lead corporate development and individual fundraising, and the foundation had very few individual donors. I started giving circles as a way to bring in more individual donors.

HC: Did you do that by drawing on your own experience creating your own?

SL: I did do some research. I found Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy, and they had some information. And then I found Amplifier, now part of The Jewish Federations of North America. Then, they were independent, and offering so many resources. The information was so rich, even though it was totally focused on Jewish values. At the end of the day, Jewish values are human values. To repair the world, to care for each other, to support the community. I started connecting with people from all over the giving circle world. Some of us were in a collective giving program sponsored by the Kellogg Foundation, which has been funding collective giving for more than 20 years. But there wasn’t any formal infrastructure to support a movement of giving circles.

HC: Now there is. How did that change?

SL: The Gates Foundation gave $25,000 to an effort to gather giving circle leaders, including Amplifier’s, and brainstorm about how to grow the movement. That was in 2017. We were about 40 people, and for two days, we thought about it. We knew we needed something, but we didn’t know what. A website? A research project? An organization to support giving circles at the national level? We went back to the Gates Foundation and said we wanted to move forward, to figure out what we needed and create it. The Gates Foundation supported that for a year. We were coordinated by an amazing consultant, Isis Krause, who also helped create Amplifier.

Read the full article here.

Jewish peoplehood

Jews have more than an obligation to repair the world


“There is some truth to the criticism that the Reform movement seems to focus on tikkun olam, not as an expression of Jewish peoplehood, but at its expense. Judaism is both particular and universal. Social justice divorced from the centrality of Jewish peoplehood isn’t Jewish universalism; it is just universalism,” writes Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch of New York’s Stephen Wise Free Synagogue in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropoy.

Finding balance: “We need to be careful in striking the right balance. All of us, including the Jews in the pews, rabbis and leaders of our movement, must do deeds and speak words not only of the universal values embedded in tikkun olam, but also of Klal Yisrael, the principle of the centrality of the Jewish people. This, too, is at the very heart of Judaism.”

“Judaism commands us to repair the world, but never at the expense of our duty to our fellow Jews. To the contrary, tikkun olam is an outgrowth, an obligation rooted in Jewish peoplehood.”

Read the full piece here.


Rich Jew, poor Jew: Giving without limitations


“I am the chief executive officer of Artists 4 Israel, an organization that harnesses the power of the arts to combat anti-Israel bigotry and help communities heal from acts of terrorism and hate. Much of my time is spent developing ways to use these mediums to support, protect, uplift and enrich Jewish life in the United States and abroad. I’ve dedicated my life, both professionally and personally, to advancing these aims. Yet, when it comes to Jewish philanthropy, I did not feel like my efforts have earned me a seat at the table or even that I belonged at all,” writes Craig Dershowitz in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Not for Jews like me: “I don’t come from an affluent background. Growing up, my family often struggled to make ends meet. As a young man, I relied on a grant from the Hebrew Free Loan Society for vital support. I never imagined I could be a purveyor of Jewish giving — only a recipient thereof. As I’ve gotten older, I am fortunate to be in a position in which I can think about my own charity. Yet, I often feel that the Jewish philanthropic space simply wasn’t designed for Jews like me.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Smart Money: On Medium, Hunter Walk gives a glimpse into the organized, analytical mind of a Silicon Valley engineer and venture capitalist as he analyzes his philanthropy — which he defines as “supporting his values with his dollars.” Walk divides his beneficiaries into three categories that consider not only the support he can give them, but also the social aspect of his contributions: “support,” which is small amounts, often made to support a friend’s charity; “support and amplify,” also small amounts, but he will also contact his friends on the cause’s behalf; and “committed,” in which he gives at higher levels and will also help with a group’s development or programming. [Medium]

Good Sports: The competitive nature of efforts by billionaires Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson and Elon Musk to each be the first into space is not a new phenomenon among philanthropists, but it’s more intense than ever, reflects Ben Soskis in Town & Country. From ancient Greece to the Middle Ages to the Gilded Age, the public good has benefitted from rivalries among the wealthy, and the contemporary creation of giving lists built on the public information that’s available about charity has made mega-giving into spectator sport. The history of philanthropy “is a good reminder that the philanthropic endeavors of the rich and powerful has long been a tangle of the highest elements of human nature and the meanest, the principled and the petty, the stuff of the heavens and of more earthy materials,” Soskis concludes. [TownCountry]

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Word on the Street

The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust named Sarah Paul the Trust’s next chief executive officer, effective today… Danielle Minson will become the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati’s next CEO, the first woman to lead the federation… Havi Goldscher has been appointed CEO of Capital Camps… Melbourne, Australia-based Gandel Philanthropy is changing its name to Gandel Foundation… The Azrieli Foundation is providing a gift of $13 million to the National Autism Research Centre of Israel, a collaboration between scientists from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and clinicians from Soroka University Medical Center… London-based think tank JPR published a report detailing for the first time where Jews across the U.K. stand on the topic of climate change… The Jewish Funders Network opened nominations for two awards: the Ilia Salita Excellence in Research Award and the J.J. Greenberg Memorial Award

Pic of the Day

Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership

Jewish professional studies students from 11 U.S. states and two Canadian provinces gathered recently at the Spertus Institute in Chicago for their first in-person seminar in 18 months.


Gary Miller/Getty Images

Country singer-songwriter, novelist and humorist, Richard Samet “Kinky” Friedman… 

French economic and social theorist, he is the author of The Economic History of the Jewish PeopleJacques Attali… Rabbi of Baltimore’s Beth Tfiloh Congregation for over 40 years, Mitchell Wohlberg… Founder of Lotus and co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Mitch Kapor… Founding rabbi, now emeritus, at Beit T’Shuvah Jewish addiction treatment center and synagogue in Los Angeles, Mark Borovitz… Retired management analyst at the U.S. Department of Energy, Les Novitsky… CEO of security equipment manufacturer Safariland, Warren B. Kanders… Pinchus Hikind… President of an eponymous auctioneering firm specializing in antique Judaica, Jonathan Greenstein… Managing director for national affairs at AIPAC, Elliot Brandt… Actress, born in Odessa, Ukraine, best known for her roles on “All My Children,”and “General Hospital,” Alla Korot… Principal at Calabasas, California-based CRC-Commercial Realty Consultants, Brian Weisberg… Israeli director, screenwriter and actress, Dikla Elkaslassy… Associate in the DC office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, Clare F. Steinberg… AIPAC’s director of Westchester County (N.Y.) and nearby Riverdale, Annie Peck Watman… Reporter and producer for CNN’s political unit, Marshall J. Cohen… Law student in his third year at University of Chicago Law School, Mitchell Caminer… Pitcher for Team Israel, Gabe Cramer… Actor since childhood, Max Burkholder
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