Your Daily Phil: Sandor Frankel on supporting Israel and being Leona Helmsley’s trustee

Good Thursday morning!

OneTable has named Ely Benhamo its first major gifts director in a bid to build more local relationships and sustain growth, Benhamo told eJewishPhilanthropy. Benhamo herself has used OneTable’s platform, which helps young Jews host Shabbat dinners by matching hosts and guests and offering a small stipend to “make the meal more special,” she said.

“It helps that I’m part of the demographic,” she said.“ OneTable actually engages millennials in the Jewish community.”

OneTable has helped create 500,000 unique Shabbat experiences since its founding in 2014, and anticipates creating 100,000 more in the second half of 2021. Its 2019 budget was $8.4 million, according to its most recent tax filing.

Pandemic permitting, Benhamo’s job will require significant travel to ensure that OneTable programs in different cities have adequate funding, to assess potential for growth and to form partnerships with other Jewish institutions such as federations and JCCs.

Benhamo said she will also be involved in reviewing and deepening the organization’s use of Salesforce to track donors and nurture those relationships. The group also recently posted a job listing for another fundraiser who will focus on foundations.

The ask

Sandor Frankel on the Helmsley Charitable Trust’s support for Israel


Known for high-profile clients such as singer-songwriter Barry Manilow and deposed Filipino President Ferdinand Marcos and his wife Imelda, Sandor Frankel thought he would end his career the way he started it — as a lawyer with literary leanings — until one of those clients handed him a second act. The author of four books, Frankel’s latest is The Accidental Philanthropist: From a Bronx Stickball Lot to Manhattan Courtrooms and Steering Leona Helmsley’s Billions, which tells the story of how hotelier Leona Helmsley, who served nine months in prison for tax evasion and had a reputation as a demanding employer, named Frankel a trustee of the $5.4 billion she left behind. He recently spoke to eJewishPhilanthropy’s Helen Chernikoff.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Helen Chernikoff: Can you walk us through how the trust works? Is it intended to exist in perpetuity, or will it be “spent down”?

Sandor Frankel: It is intended to exist in perpetuity and in its entirety. The document that set up the trust provided for five trustees. Two of them have since passed away. When only one trustee is left, he will appoint a corporation to act as a trustee. The theory [is] that a corporation lasts forever, and there is a provision in the document that says this trust will last in perpetuity, and we try to achieve that. The trust disburses 5% of what it has in grants and certain expenses every year. That’s the minimum distribution. We shoot to achieve that, and we try not to exceed it, again, for the trust to last in perpetuity. We have to invest the remaining 95% in a way that the trust will retain the same purchasing power forever. We started with $5.4 billion. We have given away $3 billion. At present, we have $8 billion. 

HC: Many philanthropy professionals are interested in ‘impact investing’ — part of the concept being that grant-makers screen their investments to make sure none undermine their mission. Do you have that process in place?

SF: There was an investment that had to be made in an area that might have been perceived as not conducive to people’s health. We thought about that one long and hard to make sure it wasn’t truly contraindicated for public health. We have a full-time staff of investment professionals and a committee of outside experts who oversees the staff. The investment committee meets quarterly and reviews the investment recommendations of the staff. So if the investment staff decides, for example, that an investment of $100 million — I still gape when I talk about these numbers — they can’t just go ahead and do that. They have to make recommendations in a written report. In that instance, there was a robust discussion as to whether it was appropriate or not, and it was decided to go forward. None of these investments are made willy-nilly.

Read the full story here.


Beginning another year with COVID in Jewish education

Matthew T Rader/Unsplash

“As we begin another year in Jewish education filled with uncertainty, the latest contributions from leaders in the field reflect a level of preparedness — and perhaps even confidence — toward the great unknown that is 5782,” writes David Bryfman, CEO of The Jewish Education Project, in the introduction to a multi-authored opinion piece in eJewishPhilanthropy. 

Pandemic-era education: “These leaders and the many educators and learners with whom they interact have been engaged in ‘pandemic-era education’ for over a year and a half — through ebbs and flows, in-person and hybrid, fear and optimism. As a result, these insights are particularly rich and substantive. Leaders readily acknowledge the challenges that remain—need for social and emotional support of learners, having to plan for multiple scenarios, and more.”

Value of learning experiences: “But we also see across all sectors of Jewish education pride for the successes that have been achieved, and an understanding that this era presents opportunities to have genuine, deep, and enduring impact. After all, if an educator can demonstrate the value of Jewish learning experiences now, there is a ‘stickiness’ to that moment for all involved.”

Time to act: “We also see within these contributions a call for all of us to better value educators, to compensate them appropriately and to ensure that their mental health and well-being is supported. Certainly these calls have gone out before — but there is an urgency and a consistent drumbeat that is new. Let’s heed, and act on this, in the new year.”

Read the full piece here.


In the Book of Life, New Year lessons for enriching and expanding Jewish communities


“Return is a ubiquitous concept in Judaism. Every year I feel its power as the High Holiday season sets in and I’m transported from Brooklyn back to the Miami River in Ohio,” writes Josh Mikutis, JDC Entwine’s Jewish learning designer, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy. 

Tashlich: “This existential tug-of-war – between tashlich and the Book of Life –  plays out throughout the next 10 days. The tension between the discardable past and the ever-present past: Which will win out?” 

Moving forward: “I imagine that for the vast majority of us, the need to cast away, to release, to forget the past year would prevail. But I believe we must flip that paradigm and instead hold on to what we learned and discovered during this challenging time. As we move forward, we should consider what we should preserve and what we wish to return to.”

Virtual spaces: “For me, it was the community I created in online spaces I never could have imagined, including the virtual travel I did with a group of rabbinical students to Argentina. We had no passports or boarding passes, no checked bags or hotel reservations. We all sat in our respective homes — from Minneapolis to Jerusalem — and leveraged the  power of the internet to connect globally.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Giving Voice: Under Elise Westhoff’s leadership, the Philanthropy Roundtable has established a sharper-edged and higher profile, reports Jim Rendon in the Chronicle of Philanthropy in a piece that analyzes the impact of the new tone on the conservative service organization. While some members, such as the Barr Foundation and the Heinz Endowments, have publicly disavowed the group, most are happy with the change, which is part of a broader strategic shift, according to Rendon. “Our vision is to build a vibrant American philanthropic movement that strengthens our free society,” Westhoff said. “As part of that vision, we had to build a movement.” [ChroniclePhilanthropy]

Mandate Memo: Nonprofits should help society combat the contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus by implementing vaccinate mandates, suggests Vu Le in his blog NonprofitAF, citing the statistic that 95% to 99% of those who die of COVID-19 are unvaccinated. He rejects the argument that the decision to get vaccinated is a matter of personal choice, because no individual makes that choice in isolation. “Unvaccinated individuals allow for the virus to mutate, which affects us all. Unvaccinated people also take up vital resources when they become infected, causing the denial of care to cancer patients and others in desperate medical need,” Le concludes. [NonprofitAF]

Stepping Out: The stress of the pandemic combined with historically poor pay and benefits have caused a significant percentage of the social workers and other professionals in homeless shelters and related services to quit their jobs, writes Scott Greenstone in the Seattle Times. The mass resignations could thwart plans to expand the shelter system with hotels and apartment buildings. “We don’t want this moment to pass us by where we can really make the huge dent we want to make in our homeless crisis,” said Noah Fay, housing program director at the Downtown Emergency Service Center, one of Seattle’s largest homelessness nonprofits. “But I really worry we just can’t get the workforce to make that happen.” [SeattleTimes]

Community Comms

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Word on the Street

The Center for Jewish Peoplehood Education released “Peoplehood Education – Goals, Pedagogy and Outcomes,” the latest publication of the Peoplehood Papers… Vanguard Charitable awarded grants totaling $1.7 billion to more than 50,000 charities through its donor-advised funds during the fiscal year that ended on June 30, a 9% year-over-year increase in giving… The Home Depot Foundation announced a commitment of up to $1 million in support of immediate disaster relief and long-term recovery efforts in communities impacted by Hurricane Ida… The University of Massachusetts received a $175 million unrestricted donation from The Morningside Foundation to UMass Medical School… The Zurich-based Jacobs Foundation provided a grant of nearly $11 million over five years to the University of California, Irvine, to establish a collaborative network to help tailor digital technologies for children…

Pic of the Day


In Kherson, Ukraine, JDC’s local Jewish community volunteers make homemade sweet jams to be delivered as Rosh Hashanah gifts for older members in their communities. Jam Day happens annually and was created by JDC-founded Jewish volunteer groups across Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan that provide the sweet treats, and sense of community, during the fall holidays.


Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images for The B Team

Israeli businesswoman and philanthropist, Shari Arison

Former President of Israel, Reuven “Ruvi” Rivlin… Real estate investor and manager in the Orlando area, Harris Rosen… Senior fellow emeritus in the foreign policy program at The Brookings Institution, Kenneth Lieberthal… Former Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services during the Obama administration, Donald M. Berwick… President of the Middle East Forum, Daniel Pipes… President emeritus of Yeshiva University, Richard Joel… A founder of the Shas party, he was previously Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem and later a member of Knesset, Nissim Mordechai Ze’ev… Founding president of Shalem College in Jerusalem, he is also a visiting fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Martin Kramer… Brooklyn educator, Steven Elworth… Editorial director of Schocken Books, Altie Karper…  DC-based communications strategist and tactician, Jeffrey Weintraub… Founder and managing member of Alternative Asset CFO Services, Lloyd Eric Appel… U.S. Senator (D-DE), Chris Coons… Professional golfer on the PGA Tour and then on the Champions Tour, Jules Ira “Skip” Kendall… Actor, comedian, producer and musician, creator of “The Chanukah Song,” Adam Sandler… Senior national correspondent at HuffPostJonathan Cohn… Former member of the Knesset for the Yesh Atid party, Dov Lipman… Partner and associate director at Boston Consulting Group, Sacha Frédéric Litman… New York City-based freelance journalist, David Freedlander… Co-founder and CEO of Lightricks, Zeev Farbman… Director of digital asset education at Tiedemann Advisors, Michael B. Greenwald… M.Ed candidate at USC’s Rossier School of Education, Carla Hashley… Head of Google Cuba, Brett Perlmutter… Digital and data operations manager at Academic Engagement Network, Trey Meehan… Fourth overall pick by the New Jersey Devils in the 2021 NHL draft, he is the son of hockey star Ellen Weinberg-Hughes, Luke Hughes… Founder of International Hummus Day, now working on Notion, Ben Lang… 
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