Your Daily Phil: Previewing a Covid Purim + Overcoming imposter syndrome as a rabbi

Good Friday morning!

As the last holiday celebrated in-person before the coronavirus pandemic hit last year, Purim is regarded mournfully this year as a symbol of what the community has sacrificed in the name of safety. But many congregations are looking to mishloach manot — the ritual care packages sent between family and friends — to sustain the festival spirit in a time when services are either online, outside or sparsely attended.

Chabad houses are embracing the care package tradition as a sign of normalcy, spokesman Motti Seligson told eJewishPhilanthropy. In Arizona, Chabad of Scottsdale is including a book by a rabbi about positive thinking in its packages.

Rabbi Benny Berlin of BACH, the Jewish Center of Long Beach, NY, told eJewishPhilanthropy that he was focusing his community’s mishloach manot project on a nearby rehabilitation facility for the elderly, tucking handwritten notes from children into boxes of Israeli chocolate, cotton candy and hamantaschen.

Agudath Israel said in its guidance that “it would be prudent” to limit the giving of mishloach manot, but emphasized that giving to the needy — a related ritual — should not dip below the level of previous years. Feminist leader Sharon Weiss-Greenberg sounded a similar note in The Jerusalem Post, writing that this year, her family’s mishloach manot would consist of charity in the name of the recipient. B’nai B’rith Canada is offering to email a Purim card in exchange for a donation, which it will put toward food for the needy.

In Reform and Conservative communities where synagogues are still closed, fewer people will be gathering to assemble the packages. But even there, some people are striving to keep the ritual alive on Zoom. In Cleveland, a group for interfaith families is delivering the components of an online Purim party, including rosewater for sachlav, a Persian desert. In Pittsburgh, the pluralistic Community Day School is sellingmishloach manot as a Parents’ Association fundraiser. 


Meet Joe Sanberg, a ‘progressive entrepreneur’ who believes in God

Courtesy Camp Wise via Facebook

Teenagers are usually considered students, not teachers. But next month, the L.A. Trust for Children’s Health, a nonprofit that works with the city’s school district, will start teaching teenagers the science behind coronavirus vaccines, and then training them to talk to their family and friends about it in an effort to combat vaccine hesitancy among Black and Latino Angelenos. “They’re old enough to learn about it, and young enough to talk about it with their parents,” said Joe Sanberg, 42, a local businessman who is funding the program. He spoke with eJewishPhilanthropy’s Helen Chernikoff about his career, which started on Wall Street, and his faith. 

Social impact: An investor in Blue Apron, the fresh meal-kit company, and Ivy, a subscriber-based educational platform, Sanberg calls himself a “progressive entrepreneur.” He uses business, philanthropy and government in various combinations to try to help people and solve problems.

Star power: The technology behind Aspiration, a bank he co-founded in 2013, lets customers decide their own fees and give to charity as they bank. Investors include the actor Orlando Bloom and the Omidyar Network; in May, it raised $135 million. Sanberg also founded Golden State Opportunity, a nonprofit that serves low-income Californians by facilitating access to public benefits, and serves on the boards of the Sierra Club and the Jefferson Awards foundations.

Read more here.


The ‘Six-Minute Rabbi’ takes to the kitchen


Rabbi Hanoch Hecht made a name for himself as the “Six-Minute Rabbi,” conducting on-the-fly Torah study classes largely targeting those who work in the business sector and are limited by time constraints. But in upstate New York, where Hecht lives, he’s known for something else – his love of food. The rabbi, who is a guest lecturer at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) spoke to Jewish Insider’s Melissa Weiss about his latest endeavor – a book. A Kabbalah of Food: Stories, Teachings, Recipes, explores many of the aspects of the culinary arena that caused Hecht to fall in love with food in the first place.

Learning curve: Hecht was always drawn to the kitchen, but it was during his time in yeshiva in Brazil that he was exposed to new foods and new recipes. “There was amazing [food] to eat from the marketplaces with the produce and all the other street food – some of it wasn’t kosher, so you didn’t eat it, but basically just watching it and looking at it, smelling it,” he said. “And then the kosher homes and the way they cook, the way they made certain traditional dishes and things like that, brought about great enjoyment to me.” 

The ABCs of kashrut: At the CIA in Hyde Park, N.Y., Hecht teaches students the basics of kosher cooking. “These kids are going to graduate and become the next generation of leaders in the food industry. And it’s very, very possible that they will come across kosher, and they should have some basic understanding of what kosher is,” said Hecht, who has taught at the school for nearly 15 years. “The rule I always tell [students] is, basically, honesty and integrity is the most important part, right?… So that’s not your job as a chef or a food innovator or leader to make a decision on why they keep kosher, or what standards they should or shouldn’t keep kosher. Your job is, ‘Hey, you’re looking for this, I should know a little bit about it, and make sure that I’m able to do it properly.’”

Read the full interview here.


Overcoming imposter syndrome as a rabbi


Late for Yom Kippur services, and feeling like an imposter, Rabbi Dahlia Bernstein shares, “I spent many years working through the feeling that I would never be enough. I both fiercely defended my right to be a rabbi and also secretly felt fearful that I wasn’t the expert that they needed me to be.”

Looking inward: It is a communal imperative to lead as ourselves. If we want our institutions and this beautiful tradition to flourish, then leaders and communities need to be courageous enough to embody today’s diverse voices. I guarantee you that if it is your truth, it is someone else’s truth, too.

Leaking energy: So what if I told you that not only could you be yourself, but you could be precisely what your boss, your coworkers, and the Jewish people need also? It’s real, and it’s simple, and the first step is to accept that you don’t need all of the answers right now to be powerful.

Read the full piece here.


Where learning and scholarship are anything but ‘remote’


The Acting Provost of the Jewish Theological Seminary, Dr. Stephen P. Garfinkel, writes about the pursuit of scholarship as we adapt and adjust to a “remote” environment. 

Overview: For the faculty of The Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS), the term “remote” is a misnomer to describe the teaching and scholarship happening since we left campus last March. It’s true that classes, research, and academic conferences must happen online. But in recent conversations with several faculty members, it was clear that moving their work online had not stopped their pursuit of groundbreaking scholarship, innovative teaching, and devotion to educating future Jewish leaders.

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

 Think Different: To better understand how to change the minds of confident people, organizational psychologist Adam Grant explains in the Harvard Business Review that he gathered an elite group — they had all persuaded Steve Jobs to come around to their way of thinking. Contrary to popular belief, the secret to Jobs’ success was in his willingness to surround himself with people who made him think. For example, an Apple engineer, Mike Bell, learned how to plant the seeds of ideas in Jobs’ brain — one of them was streaming video. [HBR]

  Future Tense: Joel Kotkin and Edward Heyman reflect in Tableton the future of American Judaism, which they say is going through an epochal shift due to migration out of cities, the tendency to gather online instead of in synagogue and the decline of Conservative and Reform Judaism. The increasing prominence of Orthodoxy in America and Israel globally will spur Judaism in the U.S. to offer new meaning and flexibility if it is to not just survive, but thrive. [Tablet]

 Office Space: Design website Surface asks five high-profile architecture firms to envision post-pandemic workspaces that accommodates remote and in-person connection. The imagined options include suites that look like exclusive clubs, movable walls, sleep pods, and outdoor spaces. [Surface]

 Bottle Rocket: “Every day you go into the restaurant, and you have to figure out how to get a single customer in the door,” restaurateur William Roth told Cheryl Baher in the St. Louis Jewish Light, describing business in the era of COVID-19. He tried a number of things to keep business alive at his West End Grill and Pub, from curbside dining to a sideline in household goods like toilet paper, and hit on a winning strategy recently when he realized that people were trying to order alcohol with their takeout. Now he’s a wine shop, too, with ample space for retail due to coronavirus capacity restrictions. [StLouisJewishLight]

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Word on the Street

The Gary Sinise Foundation has announced commitments totaling $40 million from the Bernie Marcus and Arthur Blank’s foundations in support of cognitive and mental health care for veterans and first-responders… Jerusalem cultural institution Mekudeshet is presenting “Dissolving Boundaries: A Journey with the People of Jerusalem,” an artistic experience for our socially-distanced and hyper-polarized moment… New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has given the green light to opening summer camps… Hebrew Public will be opening a new school on Staten Island in fall 2022…

Pic of the Day

 Courtesy Keshet

Kevin Corp works on Keshet’s postcard campaign to urge members of Congress to vote for the Equality Act.



CEO of Taglit Birthright Israel since 2008, Gidi Mark

Friday: Nobel Prize laureate in physics and a professor at UC Santa Barbara, David Jonathan Gross… Former chairman of the board and CEO of Sony Corporation, Howard Stringer… Retired co-founder of integrated digital marketing agency Hawkeye / Mosaic, Sharon Edelman… Founder and president of the eponymous Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, she is on the boards of the NFL’s NY Giants, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and the Aspen Institute, Laurie M. Tisch… and also the birthday of her first cousin once removed, founder and former CEO of the e-commerce app, Spring, Alan Tisch… Managing partner of Hager Pacific Properties, Adam Tuvia Milstein… Former Goldman Sachs partner and then a senior executive at JPMorgan Chase, Barry L. Zubrow… Novelist, essayist and short story writer, and winner of a 2005 MacArthur genius fellowship, Jonathan Allen Lethem… U.S. District Court Judge for the Northern District of Illinois, Judge Gary Scott Feinerman… Co-founder of the band Phish, Jon Fishman… SVP of government relations at Las Vegas Sands Corp., Andy Abboud… Chairman of the World Zionist Organization and former chair of World Likud, Yaakov Hagoel… Canadian media personality, Ezra Levant… Chief innovation officer at the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Joshua Levi Schank, Ph.D…. Founder of the Regional Organization for Peace, Economics & Security (ROPES), Ben Birnbaum… Actor who played the young autistic Jacob “Jake” Bohm in the Fox TV series “Touch,” later portraying a young Bruce Wayne in another Fox series “Gotham,” David Mazouz

Saturday: Co-owner of NYC-based TF Cornerstone, Kamran Thomas Elghanayan… Professor at Brown University and a 2015 Pulitzer Prize winner, David Kertzer… Senior cantor at University Synagogue in the Brentwood area of West Los Angeles, Kerith Carolyn Spencer-Shapiro… Actor best known for his role as Joel Maisel on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Michael Zegen… Former MLB pitcher and owner of a baseball development facility in Denver, Jason Hirsh… Executive director at NYC-based Integrity First for America, Amy Spitalnick… Chief program officer at Maimonides Fund, Aimee Weiss… Ethiopian-born Israeli fashion model and television personality, Tahounia Rubel

Sunday: Holocaust survivor and author, he was the developer of the L’Ermitage Beverly Hills in 1976, Severyn Ashkenazy… Co-founder of Dreamworks, David Geffen… Director of a fiscal and monetary policy group at the Brookings Institution, David Meyer Wessel… Chairman of the KABR Group, Kenneth D. Pasternak… NYT best-selling novelist, Jonathan Safran Foer… Israeli rhythmic gymnast who competed in the 2012 Olympics, Polina Zakaluzny