Your Daily Phil: Private foundation giving spikes despite economic woes

Good Wednesday morning!

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on a new effort by the Orthodox Union to get government funding for religious schools and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s meeting with U.S. Jewish leaders last week. We feature an opinion piece from Rabbi Joel Thal Simonds on food insecurity. Also in this newsletter: Daniel Lurie, Avi Schiffmann and Morton Topfer. We’ll start with a new report on trends in philanthropic giving by private foundations.

Grants by small to large private foundations increased by nearly 15% from 2021 to 2022, despite high inflation and other negative financial conditions, but those macroeconomic trends raise concerns about the extent of donations this year, according to a new survey by Foundation Source that was released today, report eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross and Haley Cohen.

The consulting firm Foundation Sourcesurveyed 980 private foundations that had assets ranging from $1 million to $500 million for its “2023 Report on Private Philanthropy,” meaning it excluded the largest foundations with assets in the billions. In 2022, the nearly 1,000 foundations issued 31,373 grants, worth $865 million in total. This represents an increase in both the number of grants (1,553 more than the previous year) and the total dollar value of those grants (up by $111 million, or 14.7%, from 2021). Even when adjusted for inflation, the total amount issued in grants saw an increase of roughly 6% from the year before.

These findings appear to buck overall trends in philanthropy from 2022, as identified in Giving USA’s “Annual Report on Philanthropy” from June, which determined that philanthropic giving in 2022 dropped by more than 10% after adjusting for inflation from the previous year.

Gillian Howell, the head of client advisory solutions at Foundation Source, said this was due to the nature of these private foundations. “These are high-net-worth, or ultra-high-net-worth donors that have made the commitment to give to philanthropy, it’s irrevocable,” she told eJP. “I’ve found in my 33 years in my career that these are the people who step up when things are going in the other direction. If markets are down, giving is being cut back in other areas, they are the ones who step it up.”

Read the full report here.

Educational endeavor

A yeshiva school bus drives through Borough Park on Sept. 12, 2022 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.
A yeshiva school bus drives through Borough Park on Sept. 12, 2022 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

A new advocacy organization that aims to make Jewish education accessible to children from various socioeconomic and denominational backgrounds, with a focus on political activity, is scheduled to launch this morning, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen for Jewish Insider.

Lower barriers: Teach Action Fund is a nonpartisan 501(c)(4) group established by Teach Coalition, an Orthodox Union-run program founded in 2013 that works to secure government funding in the form of tax credit scholarships in private schools in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Florida and California. The move comes as the barriers for public funding of private schools have been lowered in recent years.

Not just tuition: Dan Mitzner, Teach Coalition’s director of government affairs, told JI that Teach Action was established as a way for Jewish day school and yeshiva communities to expand their approach and participation in political activity. In addition to various means of tuition support, Teach Coalition has pushed for issues including school security funding and increased access to STEM instructors. Currently, the group is pursuing a lawsuit on behalf of several California families whose special needs children have not received state-allocated special education resources because they have chosen to send them to private Jewish schools.”

Read the full report here.

In case you missed it

Netanyahu presses need for judicial reform in meeting with divided American Jewish leaders

Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu during his visit to meet the Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at the UN Headquarters. (Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pressed his case for the need for judicial reform in a wide-ranging, hour-long meeting with Jewish leaders in New York on Friday afternoon, trying to convince the skeptics in the room that they have the “wrong perception” of his government’s controversial moves, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen.

Israel-Diaspora dialogue: The discussion with about 20 Jewish communal leaders from across the political and denominational spectrum took place at the Israeli Consulate hours after the prime minister addressed the U.N. General Assembly. The meeting also touched on issues including threats from Iran, the role of women and the rise of antisemitism. “The prime minister kept his remarks short and then it was opened up to questions, responses and a few back-and-forths,” Sheila Katz, CEO of the National Council of Jewish Women, told eJP as she was leaving the closed-door event. “Everybody was really respectful, thoughtful and kind, which is notable because it’s not always that way.”

R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, echoed that the meeting was courteous, adding it “had no fireworks.” Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, who has been a vocal critic of the Israeli government’s judicial reform push, also used the word “respectful” to describe the meeting.

Read the full report here.

Hungry for solutions

A post-Yom Kippur challenge

Wooden sign with the words "Community Garden" in white writing.
David Clode on Unsplash

“Embarking upon the 25-hour fast earlier this week, I knew that there would be moments when I would feel immense hunger. The discomfort was part of the reality of this solemn day, and it was fundamentally my choice. But for millions of Americans who are living in poverty and struggling to put food on the table, extreme hunger is an unavoidable daily reality,” writes Rabbi Joel Thal Simonds, founding director of the Jewish Center for Justice and president of Partnership for Growth Los Angeles, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Sobering stats: “A recent study shows that one in four L.A. County households were food insecure in 2022 due to limited money and other resources. It also finds that 370,000 families experiencing food insecurity in the county live in a food desert. In these families, some parents and guardians skip meals so their children can eat, while others seek help from food banks, religious institutions and community centers.”

Food for thought action: “As we look ahead at the start of this new year, I encourage all of you to reflect on the fundamental problem of hunger. Ask yourself: what can you do by the next Yom Kippur to ensure your neighbors don’t experience the pain of an empty stomach on a daily basis?”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Still Fighting for Overhead: Ten years after his TED Talk took aim at the practice of incentivizing nonprofits to minimize their overhead costs and garnered millions of views, Dan Pallotta talks with Sara Herschander in The Chronicle of Philanthropy about his new film, “Uncharitable,” and how the philanthropy world has changed (and hasn’t) in the past decade. “Today, Pallotta still slips into soliloquies about the need to measure nonprofits not by their overhead but by their ambitions. While the philanthropy world has evolved, he says, the public remains skeptical of charities whose executive salaries seem too high or whose advertisements seem too flashy. He wants Uncharitable to change that.” [ChronicleofPhilanthropy]

The Job Won’t Save You: Scientists are asking the-chicken-or-the-egg questions about the relationship between addiction to work and mental health struggles, Arthur C. Brooks writes in his column for The Atlantic. “Many studies have shown a strong association between workaholism and the symptoms of psychiatric disorders, such as anxiety and depression, and it has been common to assume that compulsive work leads to these maladies. But some psychologists have recently argued reverse causation — that people may treat their depression and anxiety with workaholic behavior.” [TheAtlantic]

Autopsy of a Philanthropic Darling: In The New York Times, Michelle Goldberg dissects the rise and fall of Ibram X. Kendi’s Center for Antiracist Research at Boston University, which garnered major donations following the murder of George Floyd but has little to show for it. “Money poured in; it ultimately raised nearly $55 million. Three years later, there are considerable questions about what’s been accomplished with all that money. Major initiatives, including plans to develop degree programs in antiracism, have been shelved. Little original research has been produced… [I]t’s important to understand that the center’s seeming breakdown is more the result of a failed funding model than a failed ideology. It exemplifies the lamentable tendency among left-leaning donors to chase fads and celebrities rather than build sustainable institutions.” [NYTimes]

Around the Web

The American Society for Yad Vashem announced it is indefinitely postponing its annual gala planned for Nov. 2 due to an ongoing “period of difficulty” with Yad Vashem, which is looking to disaffiliate from the society…

The philanthropist Daniel Lurie formally launched his run for mayor of San Francisco, challenging the incumbent London Breed

OneTable launched a new Shabbat meal program for adults over the age of 55. The initiative, which is supported by the Rose Community Foundation, the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta and the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County, Fla., will initially launch in Palm Beach, Fla.; Atlanta; and the greater Denver area…

Reuben Berman, a former program manager at the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, is joining Hillel International as director, campus support & action implementation…

Over 100 prominent Jewish figures created a media campaign, X out Hate, calling for X and its owner, Elon Musk, to address rising antisemitism on the social media platform…

Canadian House Speaker Anthony Rota resigned from his position following an outcry over his decision to honor a 98-year-old Ukrainian immigrant who had fought in a Nazi unit during an address to the Canadian parliament by Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky last week…

Three Croatian museums returned artworks looted from a Jewish man during the Holocaust to his family, marking the first such restitution in the country, following extensive efforts by the World Jewish Restitution Organization

The British Jewish Chronicle profiled Avi Schiffmann, who first made headlines as a teenager when he created the popular COVID-19-tracking site ncov2029 [dot] live and who has since created a nonprofit, InternetActivism, which uses technology to address humanitarian crises….

The B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem and the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jewish Rescuers During the Holocaust will award a Jewish Rescuers Citation in honor of Alma Rose, the leader of the women’s orchestra at the Auschwitz concentration camp who was murdered there in 1944, at a ceremony in central Israel’s Kibbutz Netzer Sereni on Oct. 1…

The New York Genealogical and Biographical Society is launching a new project to trace the family histories of Jewish New Yorkers

Morton Topfer, a former vice chairman of Dell Technologies who created the Topfer Family Foundation, which focuses on promoting self-sufficiency, died last Wednesday at 87…

Pic of the Day

Israeli children ride their bikes on the light rail lines across the Chords Bridge at the entrance to Jerusalem on Yom Kippur on Monday.
Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Israeli children ride their bikes on the light rail lines across the Chords Bridge at the entrance to Jerusalem on Yom Kippur on Monday. Israeli roads and highways famously come to a halt on the holiday, opening them up to bicycles, scooters, skateboards and all manner of human-powered vehicles.


Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank reacts during the NFL game between the Green Bay Packers and the Atlanta Falcons on September 17th, 2023 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA.
Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Co-founder of The Home Depot and owner of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons, Arthur M. Blank… 

Of counsel, antitrust and business litigator at the Locke Lord law firm, Stephen J. Landes… Board member of the Milken Family Foundation, Ellen Sandler… Chairman of the Victoria Beckham fashion brand, Ralph Toledano… Longtime Washington correspondent, he is the author of books on Israel’s defense, intelligence and diplomatic services, Dan Raviv… President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond until 2017, now chair of the Richmond Jewish Foundation, Jeffrey M. Lacker… President of public relations at BGR, Jeffrey H. Birnbaum… Member of the Minnesota House of Representatives since 2002 and married to Rabbi Marcia A. Zimmerman, Frank Hornstein… Comedian and author, Marc Maron… Chief rabbi of France since 2014, Haïm Korsia… Member of the House of Representatives since 2005, she was previously chair of the DNC, Debbie Wasserman Schultz… Literary and film publicist based in Israel, Judy Tashbook Safern… President and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, Michael Balaban… President of NBC News Editorial, Rebecca Blumenstein… Hockey reporter for Sportsnet and as an insider for the NHL Network, Elliotte Friedman… Rabbi and kabbalist, he was convicted of bribing a police officer in 2015, Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto… Deputy mayor of Jerusalem, she was appointed recently as Israel’s special envoy for innovation, Fleur Hassan-Nahoum… Author of four books on North Africa and the Middle East and president of The Center for Peace Communications, Joseph Braude… Musician, actress, writer, director and comedian, Carrie Rachel Brownstein… Former state treasurer of Ohio, Josh Mandel… Architect, entrepreneur and author, Marc Kushner… Member of the Virginia House of Delegates from the D.C. suburbs, Daniel Isaac Helmer… Executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis, Rori Picker Neiss… Advisory manager for cyber and strategic risk at Deloitte, Alexa Wertman Brown… Actor best known for his role as Geoff Schwartz on “The Goldbergs,” Sam Lerner