Your Daily Phil: Previewing this year’s Jewish Funders Network conference + Leo Baeck Institute’s new exhibit spotlights old libels

Good Friday morning!

Hidden Sparks, a Jewish non-profit that provides professional development for teachers, will soon offer training and counseling services to parents after receiving a contract from the New York City Department of Education.

The pandemic drove home the power of parents to help struggling students, Debbie Niderberg, Hidden Sparks’ executive director, tells eJewishPhilanthropy. “Suddenly the parents were becoming more acutely aware of all of their children’s needs,” she said. “They had a greater role, and were themselves feeling more of a need for assistance.”

The organization, founded in 2006, providesclassroom coaching to day school and yeshiva teachers working with students who are scoring below grade-level on standardized tests, and eligible for funds under the Title I program, which helps low-income families. Almost 4,000 educators in 110 schools have used Hidden Sparks’ curriculum, according to its website, and the group had also offered webinars for parents. When the pandemic hit, they started providing more online help to parents, which led to a realization that Hidden Sparks could help children more effectively by supporting their parents as well as the teachers.

Scheduled to start in the fall of 2021, the program will serve 20 day schools and yeshivas in Queens by offering a mix of online and in-person help for parents on homework strategies, extracurricular reading, organizational skills and emotional development. Hidden Sparks is in the process of hiring a full-time director; the contract will also fund one part-time staff person and counselors on a contract basis.


At its annual conference, JFN will try to host the ‘hallway chatter’ online


A year ago, the pandemic forced the Jewish Funders Network (JFN) to cancel its annual conference, and soon after that, the group started working on this year’s gathering, which kicks off on Monday. One of the biggest services that JFN — a membership organization open to individuals or foundations that donate at least $25,000 annually — offers is access to expertise in funding areas like the arts and the environment.“What’s hard to replicate online is not the content, but the fact of everyone being in the same place at the same time,” David Ezer, JFN’s vice president of programs, told eJewishPhilanthropy’s Helen Chernikoff.

Chasing serendipity: “What’s hard to replicate online is not the content, but the fact of everyone being in the same place at the same time,” David Ezer, JFN’s vice president of programs, told eJewishPhilanthropy. He knows that even with the help of an online platform designed to facilitate interaction, the conference might not fully succeed in turning attendees’ laptops and phones into the fabled hallways where introductions were made, ideas were pitched and deals were sometimes struck. He has lots of company in this quest; it’s part of what’s fueling the widespread popularity of Clubhouse, the informal audio-only app. Yet no interactive platform has enjoyed similar breakout success. 

Strange data: “We have surveyed audiences about what they want from a virtual platform, and the things that surface to the top are networking and alternative programming,” meeting planner Marti Balcom, who isn’t working on the JFN conference this year but has in the past. “And then after the event, when you look at the analytics, those are things they don’t go to. They’re going to see what their kids are doing. They’re doing the laundry, taking out the dog.”

Cost cutting: This conference is the 15th Ezer has planned for JFN; some 650 people will attend, up from 582 in 2019, paying a fee of $360 for members, just a fraction of the $1,099 for the last live conference. The effort involved months of research into interactive platforms, which have been proliferating since the early days of the pandemic, said Balcom, who started working on the JFN conference in 2010, but wasn’t involved this year, as JFN handled it entirely in-house. 

Read the full article here.

Blood libel

Inside the antisemitic myth that won’t die


The manuscript of the first recorded blood libel, which dates to 15th century Italy, is being spotlighted this week as part of a year-long digital exhibit that began in January at the Leo Baeck Institute in Manhattan titled “The Shared History Project,” Stewart Ain reports for eJewishPhilanthropy.

The libel: One of the most notorious and best-documented blood libels occurred in 1475 when a 2-year-old Christian boy named Simon disappeared in the city of Trent, in what is now Italy. His body was found three days later on Easter Sunday in a canal flowing beneath the home of Samuel, a Jewish moneylender. A cook in the household reportedly discovered the body; historians believe it had been planted there. Samuel reported the discovery, touching off rancor against the small Jewish community.

The manuscript: The record of that 1475 blood libel, known as the Trent Manuscript, details the trials of the community’s Jewish men from 1475 to 1478. The manuscript is in German with some Hebrew interspersed throughout. It is 614 pages and measures 12 ¼-by- 8 ½ inches. The text is in red and black ink with colored initials; a vellum binding was added in 1615. There is an initial on page 36 in the section covering interrogations of Samuel under the subheading “Hienach saget er wie sie kindlein gemartert haben” (Afterwards he says how they martyred the child).

The exhibit: Although the Leo Baeck Institute contains four million objects that have all been digitized, the year-long exhibit has drawn upon digital artifacts from 40 other institutions around the world, according to William Weitzer, its executive director. He said this digital exhibit is one way for the institute to “curate our materials for the world to see.” (The LBI, part of the Center for Jewish History in Manhattan, is still closed for in-person viewing because of the pandemic.)

Vatican connection: Among the other 58 objects in the exhibit is one that came from the Vatican. Spotlighted the first week of January, it is an edict from the emperor Constantine of Rome in the year 321 AD that permits the Jews of Cologne to hold public office.

Read the full story here.


Six questions Jewish organizations should contemplate before taking a stand on racial and critical social justice


“In dealing with sensitive issues of race and racism, numerous Jewish organizations have essentially shut down the normal process of critical consideration because, well, it’s hard, they don’t want to be accused of insensitivity or bigotry, and some people don’t think it’s necessary,” writes David Bernstein in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Framing: “Jewish organizations, like many other civic institutions, are embracing what’s sometimes referred to as critical social justice, the idea that society is dominated by invisible systems of oppression. Given America’s legacy of racism, the Jewish community’s own failures in welcoming Jews of color, the desire of many Jews to be lockstep with Black leaders, and the perspectives of many young Jews, I understand the temptation to accept at face value this ideological framework.”

Dialogue: “Jewish organizations should hold real conversations before accepting ideologies, policies and platforms.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Known Quantity: In the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Dan Parks gathers reactions from environmental and philanthropy experts to the news that the $10 billion Bezos Earth Fund has hired a respected nonprofit leader — Andrew Steer, who leads the environmental think tank World Resources Institute. When Bezos announced the creation of the Earth Fund, some responded skeptically, pointing out that Amazon is a major contributor of greenhouse gases. However, the decision to hire Steer seemed like a solid one to Dan Stein, co-founder of environmental non-profit Giving Green: “Bringing in an old hand from the climate community is hopefully going to allow them to be more transparent and more innovative.” [ChroniclePhilanthropy]

Paying Back: John Rendel, director of grants at the Peter Cundill Foundation, shares in the blog for the Center for Effective Philanthropy his memories of how hard it was sometimes to work as a fundraiser. He was acutely aware of the power differential between himself and funders. He also remembers funders who had humility; who understood that their role was easier and who trusted him by giving his organization unrestricted grants. Now that Rendel is a funder himself, he knows who to emulate, and urges foundations to hire people like him — who have been on the other side of the exchange. [CenterEffectivePhilanthropy]

Financial Pressure: Philanthropists have divested themselves of $15 trillion in fossil fuel investments, one of several moves made by donors who are trying to make change outside the charitable sector — in the worlds of policy and finance, where impact investing has “exploded,” reports Michael Kavate, in Inside Philanthropy. He profiles such efforts by fifth-generation Rockefeller family members; Jill Soffer, daughter of Florida hotel and real estate developer Donald Soffer; and by Confluence Philanthropy’s Climate Solutions Collaborative, which was seeded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. [InsidePhilanthropy]

State Funding: The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Act, signed by President Joe Biden on Wednesday, contains $350 billion in funding for state and local governments, which will benefit the non-profit sector, writes Mark Hyrwna in The NonProfit Times. The funding will ease pressure on states like New York, who delayed payments to charitable sector contractors last summer in the face of a $1 billion budget shortfall. The bill also helps states subsidize the high unemployment insurance costs shouldered by nonprofits who had to make unexpected layoffs. [NonProfitTimes]

Community Comms

Apply! Want to join the team at Jewish Insider/eJewish Philanthropy? We’re looking for a top-notch philanthropy editor. Learn more here.

Be featured: Email us to inform the eJP readership of your upcoming event, job opening, or other communication.

Word on the Street

Online genealogy service MyHeritage has published more than four million Lithuanian Jewish records dating back to Catherine the Great’s Russian empire and up until the Holocaust … Sydney’s JewishCare has received a bequest in excess of $25 million from Julianna (Julie) LowyBen-Gurion University of the Negev has announced the creation of Israel’s first School of Sustainability and Climate Change … Israel’s vaccination drive has been spoofed by South Park

Pic of the Day


Workers at Citymeals on Wheels assemble 4,500 kosher meal boxes, consisting of gefilte fish, matzo, grape juice and other Passover provisions, to be delivered to elderly, homebound New Yorkers before the holiday starts on March 27.


Neil Sedaka in AVRO’s TopPop (Dutch television show) in 1974;
AVRO via WikiMedia Commons

Pop singer, pianist and composer of over 500 songs, Neil Sedaka, on Saturday …
FRIDAY: Rabbi Yitzchak AbadiSam Cohen… Photographer, musician and author of 15 children’s books, Arlene Weiss AldaCarol Margolis… U.S. Senator Mitt Romney (R-Utah)… Director, producer and screenwriter, Rob Cohen… British sculptor Sir Anish Kapoor… Pitching coach of MLB’s San Diego Padres, Larry Rothschild… Founder and CEO of R.A. Cohen & Associates and past president of AIPAC, Robert A. Cohen… Member of the Knesset for the Likud party, Ayoob Kara… Founder of Lone Pine Capital, Stephen Mandel… Sales representative at Paychex, Lynne Blumenthal… Senior official at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Diane Saltzman… Senior attorney in the DC office of Squire Patton Boggs, Stacey Grundman… Sportscaster for ESPN and host of SportsCenter, Steve Levy… Born in Haifa and former president of the Central Bank of Brazil, Ilan Goldfajn… U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Illinois)… Chief Washington correspondent for CNN, Jake Tapper… Founder and CEO at Miller Strategies, Jeff Miller… VP for media affairs at USTelecom — The Broadband Association, Brian T. Weiss… Founder and publisher of Fleishigs food magazine, Shlomo Klein… Writer and communications specialist at the American Hospital Association, Talia Schmidt... Freshman member of Congress (D-NY-15), Ritchie Torres… Senior Middle East specialist at Leidos, Aaron Magid… Co-founder and CEO of Serotonin, Amanda Gutterman Cassatt… CEO and co-founder of Wonder Media Network, Jenny Kaplan… Israeli figure skater who won the 2016 World Junior championship and competed for Israel at the 2018 Winter Olympics, Daniel Samohin… Israeli Internet personality, Anna Zak
SATURDAY: Israeli singer, winner of Eurovision 1978, Izhar Cohen…  Psychotherapist in private practice in Manhattan and Teaneck, Shana Yocheved Schacter… U.S. Senator John Hoeven (R-North Dakota)… Founder of the Drug Policy Alliance, Ethan Nadelmann… Former Florida congressman, Alan Grayson… Rabbi Neal S. Scheindlin… Managing director of Supernode Ventures, Laurel Touby… Heavy metal songwriter and vocalist, David Draiman... Member of the California State Senate, Benjamin Allen… Former member of Knesset for the Jewish Home party, Yoni Chetboun… Legislative Director for U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, Ari Rabin-Havt… Television and film actor, Emile Hirsch… EVP of Nefco, Matthew Gelles… Television and film actor, Emory Isaac Cohen… Senior manager of social marketing at NBC Universal, Jessie Hannah Rubin… 
SUNDAY: Professor emeritus of chemistry at Tel Aviv University and winner of the 1982 Israel Prize, Joshua Jortner… Founder and recently retired president of Los Angeles-based Skirball Cultural Center, Rabbi Dr. Uri Herscher… Canadian criminal defense attorney, Brian Greenspan… Actor and director, Billy Crystal… Member of the Maryland House of Delegates, Shane Elizabeth Pendergrass… One-half of the eponymous Ben & Jerry’s ice cream (Ben is four days younger), Jerry Greenfield… Retired Hebrew teacher, Eliezer Cohen Barak… Co-founder of the Adam and Gila Milstein Family Foundation and president of Stand By Me, Gila Milstein… Partner at Hefter, Leshem, Margolis Capital Management Group of Wells Fargo Advisors in Illinois, Steven Hefter… Communications consultant at American Jewish World Service, Jo-Ann Mort… NYC-based restaurateur and CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group, Danny Meyer… Of counsel in the Minneapolis office of Maslon LLP, Jonathan S. Parritz… Past president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, Denise Davida Eger… Owner of Baltimore’s Tov Pizza which he founded in 1984, Ronnie Rosenbluth… Owner and COO of EJM Development Company and New Frontier Capital, Jon Monkarsh… Microgrid architect at Urban Ingenuity, Shalom Flank, Ph.D…. Film and television actress, Meredith Salenger… Canadian fashion stylist and publicist, Jessica Brownstein Mulroney… Heiress to the Hyatt Hotels fortune, philanthropist and former child actress, Liesel Pritzker Simmons… Former NASCAR driver, he is the sole inductee into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and Museum in the “Auto Racing” category, now a credit trader at TD Securities, Jon Denning… Product quality specialist at The Topps Company, Philip Liebman… Four-time Israeli national champion in the skeleton event and general manager of the Israel Bobsled and Skeleton team, Adam Edelman… Head of people operations at Happy Place Hospitality Group in Shanghai, China, Sophie Galant