Your Daily Phil: Previewing the IAC National Summit
Good Thursday morning!
Today, eJP is sending Your Daily Phil from the temperate environs of Austin, Texas, where 2,700 people have gathered for the Israeli-American Council’s National Summit. Today’s newsletter previews the conference, and in tomorrow’s edition, we’ll report on its first day. If you’re here, say hi!
In addition, today’s Your Daily Phil features an op-ed by psychologist Betsy Stone on burnout. Also in this newsletter: Michael W. Twitty, Jonathan Neman and Sharon Nazarian. We’ll start with a new executive director of the Base network.
For much of the past two years, Rabbi Jesse Paikin found himself separated from his wife, who lived mostly in Washington, D.C., while he, a native Canadian, waited in Toronto for his green card. But that ordeal is now over, and Paikin, reunited with his wife, is on the third day of a job whose mission is, at least in part, to counteract isolation by drawing young Jews together at the homes of rabbis and their spouses or partners across the country.
As of this week, Paikin, 39, is the executive director of the Base Movement, a network of 11 rabbinic couples spread across eight cities. The couples organize experiences and serve as spiritual resources for young adults – hosting Shabbat meals, teaching Jewish classes and engaging in community service. Last year, more than 3,300 people took part in programming of some kind in the Base network.
The goal of the Base couples is to serve young Jews. One of Paikin’s primary goals is to serve the couples. “Really drawing on skills that come from the worlds of psychotherapy and mentorship and coaching — I think we can provide those kinds of skills to help people,” he told eJewishPhilanthropy. Training in those fields, as well as in fundraising, could come from him or from local experts in the Base couples’ cities, Paikin said.
Paikin was ordained by the Reform Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and has worked or studied in a range of Jewish communities, including the Hadar Institute in New York City and Sixth & I synagogue in Washington. He spent his recent time north of the border engaged in work and study that he feels have given him training to support the Base couples – a research fellowship with the Jewish educational organization M² focused on Jewish pedagogy, a master’s degree at Columbia University Teachers College in spiritually focused clinical psychology, as well as a podcast answering Jewish questions.
“Understanding how do we speak to and listen to people and understand what their deepest yearnings are, and how can we provide experiences that are meaningful and relevant for them – that’s an approach that I bring to my students and that’s an approach that I bring in mentoring and coaching rabbis,” he said.
Paikin replaces Faith Bingham Leener, Base’s founding executive director, who oversaw Base’s 2021 move from affiliating with Hillel International to being under the umbrella of Moishe House, whose houses in cities across the globe serve the same demographic as Base couples. Base houses have an average annual budget of roughly $200,000 each, supported by a mix of national funding and local philanthropy. Moishe House’s 2022 budget was approximately $18 million.
Read the full story here.
At its national summit, IAC hopes participants get beyond politics
At a session on Saturday morning at the Israeli-American Council’s National Summit, which begins today in Austin, Texas, Israeli Diaspora Affairs Minister Amichai Chikli will speak, and soon afterward, signatories of a recent high-profile letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressing “deep concern” about the government’s approach to Israel-Diaspora relations and related issues are scheduled to take the stage. The title of that Saturday morning session is “Stronger Together – Israel and Jewish America,” which is also a summary of the conference’s aspirations, Shoham Nicolet, IAC’s CEO, told eJewishPhilanthropy’sBen Sales.
Providing a platform: Nicolet assumes the three-day conference’s events will feature participants airing their differences over Israel’s new government, whose proposed changes to Israeli immigration and conversion policy have alarmed some American Jewish leaders. But the gathering’s goal, he said, is to find the common ground among attendees, and Jews more broadly. “Just like any other year, we provide a platform and invite the relevant people to share their opinions, to share their ideas,” Nicolet told eJP. But he added, “What we need to provide is a space where we can come together, we can celebrate, so you have an opportunity to later discuss all kinds of issues.”
From pop to business: The conference’s estimated 2,700 attendees will attend sessions and events that range beyond the often thorny topic of Israel-Diaspora ties — including sessions on women’s leadership, antisemitism and Israel in the year 2033. There will be special programming for teens and college students. And the summit will feature performances by Israeli pop star Noa Kirel, the collective singing group Koolulam and the Israel Defense Forces Band. A special focus will be placed on business and entrepreneurship in sessions throughout the conference.
Who’s who: Beyond Chikli, political speakers at the conference include Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, and Elan Carr, who served as the special envoy for monitoring and combating antisemitism under former President Donald Trump (who addressed the conference in 2019). On the other side of the aisle, Nevada Sen. Jacky Rosen, a Democrat, will deliver a video message. Nicolet said IAC invited President Joe Biden and several people in his administration, including Carr’s successor, Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, but they could not attend due to scheduling conflicts. The conference will also feature Ronen Hoffman, Israel’s ambassador to Canada, and Asaf Zamir, Israel’s consul general in New York. No one from the parties currently in Israel’s opposition will be appearing at the conference.
Boundaries and burnout
“Last month I went to Europe to teach a group of Jewish professionals who work with Ukrainian refugees. We talked about trauma, secondary trauma and post-traumatic growth – for their clients and for themselves. It became clear that every one of them was also struggling to set and maintain boundaries and to avoid burnout. How do I say no to someone who has so much less than I do? Am I allowed to stop working? Do I even have time to be here, learning?” Betsy Stone, a retired psychologist who consults with camps, synagogues, clergy and Jewish institutions, writes in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.
Unrealistic expectations?: “What are boundaries, anyway? The American Psychological Association defines them as ‘a psychological demarcation that protects the integrity of an individual or group or that helps the person or group set realistic limits on participation in a relationship or activity.’ Notice the word realistic. Are the expectations we have of our professionals realistic? Do people call them on their days off? Do you expect a brilliant sermon, endless pastoral work, innovative and creative plans? The job expanded in COVID. Has it reset?”
Check your demands: “I’m sure these jobs weren’t realistic before COVID. Many of these professionals already worked six days. Is the goal to reset to the previous level of expectation, or might it be to set a more reasonable level of demand? Does your rabbi or cantor routinely do multiple b’nai mitzvah over any given weekend? Do you email the staff after 6 in the evening? Can you tell the difference between an emergency and an urgency? Can you wait, respecting that people need downtime, or do you choose to be reactive?”
Film Circuit: Jewish Insider’s Tori Bergel interviews the documentarians behind “A Still Small Voice,” a Jewish Story Partners-backed film premiering this week at Sundance that follows a Jewish chaplain administering support at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York City. “Eventually landing on Mount Sinai as the documentary’s backbone, [director Luke] Lorentzen felt a connection to [chaplain Mati] Engel’s approach to the job, and chose her as the film’s center. ‘The way she approached the work was with a sort of rigor and intensity that really moved me and fascinated me, and she sort of had this ability to both do chaplaincy at a really high level, while also grappling with certain learnings and learning goals that gave the story all of these different dimensions,’ Lorentzen recalled. ‘On a more, sort of, religious side of things, the sort of questions that she asks in the film about God’s care or God’s presence resonated with me. I’m not somebody who comes from a religious background and did not begin making this film with a sort of specific religious intention, and the way that Mati lives these big questions of religion’s function or purpose in providing nourishment or hope, felt accessible to me and exciting,’ he added.” [JI]
Self-Interested Giving: Why do people give generously? The factors that influence donor behavior are hard to discern, Alex Daniels writes in The Chronicle of Philanthropy, but one way some fundraisers can persuade donors to increase their gift is to explore how a gift will contribute to the philanthropist’s psychological well-being, rather than just its impact on the cause. “Some donors are concerned about the ability of a charitable gift to make the most impact, [Jen] Shang [co-director of The Institute for Sustainable Philanthropy] says. But… if a donor’s sense of self is completely intertwined with an effort to support a community dance class, they are likely to be generous, longtime donors even if supporting dance instruction doesn’t easily translate into the impact that supporting health care in a developing country might achieve. Researchers have long debated why people give. Some behavioral scientists and researchers have suggested that donors get a ‘warm glow’ from doing good. Others may want to signal to wealthy peers that they have the wherewithal to make a big gift. Others may want to increase their public reputations as do-gooders.” [ChronicleofPhilanthropy]
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