Your Daily Phil: RZA funds pastoral network in Akko + Creating Jewish ‘experience kits’ for a virtual and hybrid world

Good Wednesday morning!

Nov. 9-10 marks the 83rd anniversary of Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass, a state-sanctioned pogrom perpetrated against the Jews of Germany. The event prompted many German-Jewish families to send their children to the United Kingdom via the Kindertransport, which rescued about 10,000 children from the Nazis.

Today, 76% of U.K. citizens don’t know what the Kindertransport was, according to a new survey by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany. About half of the respondents didn’t know that six million Jews were murdered during the Holocaust.

In an Instagram post, Alexander Soros gives a glimpse into the opening ceremony for the Shoah Wall in Vienna, which includes the name of each Austrian man, woman and child murdered in the Holocaust. Soros is the deputy director of the Open Society Foundations.

A law firm hired by the Reform movement’s Hebrew Union College (HUC) to investigate allegations of misconduct, harassment and discrimination filed a report that documents a misogynistic culture dating back to the 1970s and names six men about whom the investigators received repeated and credible allegations of sexual harassment.

The alleged misconduct of the six men warrants further investigation, according to the report by the international law firm Morgan Lewis, which was retained by HUC in April 2021.

Morgan Lewis was unable to definitively substantiate or disprove all of the allegations it received, but included those that they determined “met a threshold of credibility.” These fell into six categories: gender discrimination, sexual harassment, LGBTQ+ discrimination, bullying and disrespect, failure to provide accommodations and racial discrimination.


In Akko and Lod, the Religious Zionists of America support physical and spiritual healing

ALAA MAREY/AFP via Getty Images

When members of a Religious Zionists of America (RZA) mission to Israel saw firsthand the damage in the mixed Jewish-Arab city of Lod in the wake of last May’s riots — overturned cars, a damaged synagogue and torched shops — they knew they had to act. Four months after their visit, through a series of initiatives, the RZA is working to heal the towns physically as well as spiritually, Rabbi Ari Rockoff, RZA’s executive vice president, told eJewishPhilanthropy’s Helen Chernikoff.

Waiting, and then waiting more: “Our mission is to make sure that Israel is always at the forefront of our minds,” he said. RZA had been so eager to return to Israel that when the government announced last April that it would again allow vaccinated tour groups into the country, the organization had already bought plane tickets, reserved lodging and set an itinerary for a late May visit. Participants were destined to wait a little while longer — the conflict between Israel and Hamas that started on May 11 forced them to postpone. The conflict also enlarged RZA’s purpose in making the trip, from solidarity to support, Rockoff said.

Inspecting the damage: “Our goals changed. They shifted from making a journey home after almost two years of not being there, to actually doing something. So much had happened since we left,” Rockoff said. By “so much,” Rockoff meant not only the pandemic and the conflict but the accompanying riots in “mixed cities” — where Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs live together — such as Lod and Akko. The riots started before the conflict, and intensified during the 11 days of fighting. Akko, a city of about 55,000 people north of Haifa on the Mediterranean coast, sustained damage to cars, police stations and a synagogue during the riots. Shops, synagogues and cars were torched in Lod, southeast of Tel Aviv, which has a population of about 75,000.

A two-part response: Lod was the first stop on RZA’s 25-person, six-day trip, which started July 1, and Akko the second, Rockoff said. Their response was a fundraising campaign, to which 20 affiliated synagogues contributed. The effort raised $115,000, which RZA donated to efforts to rebuild and refurbish Lod’s central synagogue and to support healing initiatives such as communal Shabbat meals and counseling. Now RZA is more than doubling its fundraising goal to $250,000 and targeting participation by 100 synagogues in order to fund a more systematic therapeutic response in Akko in the form of a professionally trained pastoral network.

Read the full article here.


Boxing outside the box

“After a decade working at MIT Hillel, I have a sense of what works for my students. But these last two years, I had to discover new ways to provide top-notch immersive, meaningful Jewish learning on campus. Using my training from Masterclass: Israel — Hillel’s six-month Israel education fellowship for educators — and a willingness to approach my work with a fresh set of eyes, I learned how to ‘box outside the box,’” writes Shoshana Gibbor, Birthright & Israel engagement coordinator at MIT Hillel, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy. 

Experience kits: “Following many of our peer organizations in shipping boxes to our students in lieu of in-person gatherings, I’ve learned that boxes aren’t merely ‘care packages,’ but rather ‘experience kits’ that enable high-level, experiential education. As the Delta variant proliferates, extending the unpredictability of the future, and as students prepare to depart campus for Thanksgiving break, I am reflecting on what ‘boxing outside the box’ taught me about remote education.”

Purpose: “As ‘Rabbi’ Priya Parker, author of The Art of Gathering, says, hosts need to have a clear vision for their gatherings. The same is true for an experience kit. The purpose of the kit should be clear, and everything inside of it should feed that purpose.”

Read the full piece here.


Learning from Jewish education’s emergency moves online


“During March 2020, as the gravity of the pandemic became clear, everything began to shut down. The last 18 months have been a roller coaster of emotions. Fear, grief, glimmers of optimism and fatigue. One thing seems sure: The world will never be the same again,” writes Ziva R. Hassenfeld, an assistant professor of Jewish education at Brandeis University, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy

Pivoting: “Even as we faced the horror of a global pandemic, educators in every sector understood the necessity of continuing their work. Public school districts, universities and community centers sought out ways to remake their approaches and reach their constituents. In the Jewish community, seemingly overnight, our educational institutions, schools, synagogues and others moved their programming online and developed new ways to reach their audiences.”

Data collection: “In the summer of 2020, the Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education at Brandeis University, with generous support from the Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah, launched the Online Jewish Education Project, a set of investigations of online teaching and learning in five diverse Jewish educational settings. These projects hoped to study the challenges and opportunities of online Jewish education as they unfolded in real time. We approached Jewish learning as a distinct phenomenon in online education, requiring its own analytical framework… We wanted to understand how this would translate online.” 

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Generational Drift: Family foundations tend to support more progressive goals such as racial equality the longer they are in existence, while there is no evidence for a comparable rightward shift to focus on more conservative priorities, reports Renee Irvin, a professor of nonprofit management at the University of Oregon, citing her latest research in The Conversation. Her data shows that as time passes, family foundations tend to make fewer grants to both the founder’s community and religious institutions. “Some conservative philanthropists have publicly encouraged foundations led by people who share their ideology to speed up the distribution of their assets,” Irvin concludes. “That’s the best way, they argue, to stop more liberal trustees and staff members from drifting leftward in the future.” [Conversation]

The Given Tree: In the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Charles Bedford, John Edward Myers and María Ángelica Parra take on the critics of carbon offsets as they explore a forest in Colombia whose creation was financed with the proceeds of a carbon credits sale. The authors admit that the science behind the system, such as how to calculate industrial projects’ deforestation rate, is a work in progress, but also claim that the bigger problem is the way stubborn skepticism is obstructing that work: “Unfortunately, as we observe the debate, the philosophical objection to the market has clearly infected the technical question of how to calculate scientific baselines. This is not the way forward.” [SSIR]

Forging Ahead: Rabbi Benjamin Goldschmidt, a rabbi whose abrupt dismissal from New York’s Park East Synagogue divided the congregation, spoke last Saturday to his new congregation about his sadness over the split and his vision for the ideal synagogue in a sermon posted to Medium. The 21st-century sanctuary should elevate the concepts of inclusivity, substance, sanctity and community, Goldschmidt said, in a speech that referenced sages from the 1600s to today, including the Magen Avraham, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein and Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis: “A kehillah is not about passive observation of what is happening on the pulpit. An ideal community is one in which the members are active, interconnected, taking ownership of the destinies of their community.” [Medium]

Community Comms

Use Your Imagination. Take part in an online workshop for Jewish educators on imagination in education and leadership. December 6 presented by Spertus Institute

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

Word on the Street

The Lookstein Center of Bar-Ilan University released the newest edition of Jewish Educational Leadership, a professional journal for Jewish educators, on the topic of Jewish education amidst rising antisemitism…. Jeff Seidel’s Hanukkah menorah distribution campaign is providing nearly 1,000 menorahs to overseas students throughout Israel… Jonathan Goldstein resigned as chair of the U.K.’s Jewish Leadership Council; a new chair will be elected in early January… The recently passed infrastructure bill contains $50 million for upgrading the energy efficiency of synagogue, religious school and other nonprofit buildings; Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod provided an early look, including the decade-long advocacy led by the Orthodox Union in securing passage… A coalition of philanthropies announced plans to launch a nonprofit newsroom in Cleveland to help fill a void left by the shrinking of news organizations in Ohio… Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City will receive a $50 million gift from Mike and Maria Repoleand the Nonna’s Garden Foundation to establish a research and patient care initiative… The Walton Family Foundation is investing $20 million in support of efforts to give students quality learning opportunities connected to future work…

Pic of the Day

Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles

An “Ultimate Insider” mission to Israel from the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles met with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. Participants included the federation’s CEO, Jay Sanderson; Les Bider, past chair of the board; Lynn Bider, vice chair of the board; Albert Praw, chair of the board; and Orna Wolens, general campaign chair.


Kevin Mazur/KCA2019/Getty Images for Nickelodeon

YouTube personality with 346 million views, Josh Peck… 
Retired aerospace and satellite engineer and a leading figure in the space-race era, Harry Dornbrand… Lyricist and songwriter who, together with her husband, won three Academy Awards for Best Original Song, Marilyn Bergman… Manager of the Decatur, Ga.-based Connect Hearing, Murray Kurtzberg… Former NBA player (1964-1970) who became a lawyer and then a New York State judge, Barry D. Kramer… One of the four leaders of Yeshivah Beth Medrash Govoha in Lakewood, N.J., Rabbi Yerucham Olshin… Professor emeritus of history at University of Nebraska Omaha and a cofounder of the Nebraska Jewish Historical Society, Oliver B. Pollak… Former CNN news anchor, Aaron Brown… Executive director of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at California State University, Los Angeles, Raphael J. Sonenshein… Executive producer and journalist at Holaro and The Muck-Rake, Howard L. Rosenberg… Chief administrative officer at the Legacy Heritage Fund, Elaine Weitzman… ESPN’s longest-tenured “SportsCenter” anchor,Linda Cohn… Bar-Ilan University professor and social historian, Adam Ferziger… Senior rabbi of Leo Baeck Temple in Los Angeles, Ken Chasen… Former MLB right fielder for 14 seasons, he founded Greenfly, a software firm for sports and entertainment organizations, Shawn Green… World and national security editor at Politico, Benjamin Pauker… Co-founder and CEO of Yelp, Jeremy Stoppelman… Executive director of the Ruderman Family Foundation, Shira Menashe Ruderman… Chief investigative reporter at ABC News, Josh Margolin… Global communications official for Bloomberg Philanthropies on public health, Jean B. Weinberg… Actress and producer, Zoey Deutch
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