Your Daily Phil: Saving the world’s coral reefs + The state of Jewish education

Good Thursday morning!

In today’s Your Daily Phil, we look at two entrepreneurs hoping to save the world’s coral reefs, and feature op-eds by The Jewish Education Project’s David Bryfman on the state of his field, and by JFN’s Andrés Spokoiny on Rosh Hashanah. Also in this newsletter: Stella Rockoff, Marc and Lynne Benioff and Barbara Winton. We’ll start with the scene yesterday at two back-to-back conferences in New York City hosted by Bloomberg Philanthropies.

Although Michael Bloomberg spent yesterday advocating at two conferences for a serious cause he called “the most important of our lives” — combating climate change — he seemed to be having a good time doing it.

The former New York City mayor and media mogul joked about acting in a movie alongside Matt Damon (who also made an appearance yesterday), made a crack about his political career being over — and even had an exchange with Oscar the Grouch, who stormed onstage while Bloomberg was discussing plans for a waste-free world (get it?).

The morning saw the Earthshot Prize Innovation Summit, a conference dedicated to the eponymous prize, launched last year by the United Kingdom’s Prince William, that awards GBP 1 million annually to five environmental initiatives. Bloomberg Philanthropies is one of the prize’s funders. The afternoon was focused on the Race to Zero and Resilience Forum, a U.N.-affiliated conference on reaching zero carbon emissions.

The two gatherings took place one right after the other in the same space at the Plaza Hotel in midtown Manhattan, just blocks away from the United Nations General Assembly. In the packed plenary room, the hotel’s ornate walls were covered with paneling that featured fake trimmed greenery alternating with video screens. As was the case at the Clinton Global Initiative meeting two days earlier, much of the food was vegan and — unsurprisingly for a Bloomberg conference — guests could choose from an array of sugar-free drinks.

An array of literal and figurative royalty showed up. Prince William, days after his grandmother’s funeral, gave a video address, while Queen Rania of Jordan spoke from the podium, as did Amb. Caroline Kennedy, whose father’s moonshot in the 1960s — the aspiration to put a person on the moon — inspired the prize’s name.  Also in attendance were Bill Gates, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Colombian President Gustavo Petro, California Gov. Gavin Newsom and a host of other bold-face names.

Climate activism has long been a priority for Bloomberg, and his foundation made three major commitments on Wednesday: donating $204 million to protecting oceans; giving $85 million to fight the expansion of petrochemical and plastic pollution; and helping 15 additional developing countries transition to clean energy, bringing the total number of countries in that program to 32 in addition to the European Union.

But for all the focus on philanthropy, much of the discussion yesterday seemed geared toward impact investment and spurring government action. In one of his speeches, Bloomberg emphasized helping businesses and local governments fight the climate crisis.

“The most powerful economic changes usually happen from the bottom up, and they happen with a combination of private sector innovation and public sector support,” he said, citing “entrepreneurs and companies, cities and regions, organizations and everything in between.”


Spurred by a bar mitzvah gift and $1 million prize, these entrepreneurs hope to save the world’s coral reefs

Sam Teicher and Gator Halpern with their farmed corals.

Harry Lee

When he was 13, Sam Teicher asked for, and got, an unusual bar mitzvah present: training that afforded him scuba certification. Nearly two decades later, that love of the ocean has helped motivate the creation of a business with a budget of $1.2 million and the goal of making a profit while saving the world’s coral reefs, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Ben Sales.

Bahama venture: Coral Vita, which Teicher and his Yale University classmate Gator Halpern founded in 2019, is based in the city of Freeport, Bahamas, and works to grow coral reefs that are at risk of extinction. Last year, the company was one of five winners of the inaugural Earthshot Prize, an award of GBP 1 million (about $1.1 million) started by the United Kingdom’s Prince William to fund environmental innovation. Along with saving reefs, Teicher wants people to start paying more attention to them.

Hoping for impact: Though it pitches itself as a socially conscious investment opportunity, Teicher said Coral Vita will also rely on traditional philanthropy, like the Earthshot Prize, to cover its startup costs. The company has also launched a partnership with Corona, the brewery, which is sponsoring the restoration of a reef and soliciting donations to that end.

Read the full story here.


The current state of Jewish education: Glass half full, glass half empty. Which is it? Depends who you ask

Cici Hung on Unsplash

“What is the current state of Jewish education in North America today? Here are two points of view that, strangely enough, both happen to be true,” writes David Bryfman, CEO of The Jewish Education Project, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Scenario one: “We’re coming off a great summer for Jewish education in North America. Thousands of Jewish youth and young adults experienced one of the best summers for Jewish residential and day camps ever… We just started an academic year in which, according to recent data, Jewish day school enrollment is up. This follows success stories of triumphant accomplishments during the pandemic.”

Scenario two: “Summer is over and thank goodness we seem to be on the other side of the pandemic, or are we? Yes, Jewish education has survived COVID but is badly battered with many preexisting challenges that we often preferred not to speak about, and perhaps even were exacerbated by the last two years… Summer camps survived through one of the toughest summers ever, with staff exhausted from combating COVID as well as unrelenting and demanding parents.”

What are we going to do about it?: “To me it’s quite simple. In 2020, industries forever changed. Some might revert back to the way they were — and my prognosis for them isn’t all that healthy. Why would we be so naïve to think that the only industry not to change would be Jewish education? And the truth is, the pandemic didn’t raise too many new challenges for Jewish education. But it certainly did expose some gaps and open our eyes to some of these challenges and even exacerbate a few… The challenges are real, and the real question is, what are we going to do about it? Are we going to let external realities change the face of Jewish education, or are we going to take control — and at least ask the tough questions that need to be asked in 2022?”

Read the full piece here.

BLIND spots

When believing is ‘seeing’ (Rosh Hashanah 5783)


“The Anton-Babinsky Syndrome has puzzled doctors since antiquity. It’s a rare condition in which the patient has lost vision but is convinced, often quite adamantly and despite clear evidence of their blindness, that they are capable of seeing,” writes Andrés Spokoiny, president and CEO of Jewish Funders Network, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Pretending not to see what we don’t like: “Why has this rare disease (only 28 scientific studies about it have been published) gotten so much attention? Perhaps because, deep inside, we realize that nowadays we all suffer a version of Anton-Babinsky… That people pretend not to see what they don’t like and ignore evidence about their wrongness is not new. We all have what the 20th-century American philosopher Thomas Kuhn called ‘paradigmatic blindness,’’ an unwillingness or inability to accept any challenge to how we make sense of the world. People have always been good at filtering out information that does not support our views and assumptions and allowing in only information that does. But now, not only are we blind to much of what’s going on around us, but we replace what we don’t see with a false, confabulatory image of reality.”

Antisemitism, as an example: “Not only are we blind to antisemites within our own ‘political camp,’ but are convinced that we aren’t. We create entire theories about how this antisemitism doesn’t really exist or is not that dangerous… When presented with evidence that we aren’t seeing reality as it is, we insist that the imaginary vision we concocted in our blindness is reality. In fact, there is a well-researched phenomenon called ‘the backfire effect,’ which occurs, in the words of a 2020 study, ‘when an evidence-based correction is presented to an individual and they report believing even more in the very misconception the correction is aiming to rectify.’”

Rosh Hashanah: “Rosh Hashanah is a time of introspection and truth-telling. There’s nobody to fool; it’s us against ourselves. It’s a time not to whine our lies but to sing our truths, especially those that we refuse to see. It’s a time to pierce the fog of false certainties that we create as a response to our self-inflicted blindness; a time to realize that false notions may offer fleeting comfort but long-lasting pain and fear; a time to rediscover that the only way of defeating our demons is by confronting them, not by pretending not to see them; a time to be humble, accepting that we can see only a distorted and partial view of a very complex view that nobody can fully comprehend.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Marketing Mess: “Growth hacking,” digital advertising and unprofitable tech companies like WeWork and Snap are directly contributing to climate change, Samuel Scott writes in The Drum: “The earth has a finite amount of space and resources. Basing our companies, marketing models and entire economies on the need for continuous, neverending growth might not be the best idea… Many marketers often claim that we are now ‘living in a digital world’ and that marcom campaigns should be ‘digital-first’. But it is digital technology itself that is contributing to climate change… is the existence of so many unprofitable behemoths good for the climate? At their best, corporations can help society in numerous ways. Employees earn salaries that they spend at other businesses. A company might invent a new product that benefits the world. Most importantly, they provide tax revenue that governments can use to build schools, fund hospitals and decrease carbon emissions. But corporations that do not post profits generally do not pay any taxes. Therefore, they are the ones that help humanity the least. Business and marketing models that prioritize profitability – rather than top-line revenue – are the best for the world.” [TheDrum]

Community Comms

Be prepared. New Spertus Institute certificate program equips communal executives to combat rising antisemitism. Find out more.

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Word on the Street

A U.S. court ordered Hezbollah to pay $111 million in damages to several Americans who filed a lawsuit claiming they were hurt by the terrorist group’s rockets during a war with Israel in 2006…

Stella Rockoff, born in Jerusalem in 1921, during the British Mandate of Palestine and whose family later immigrated to Brooklyn, N.Y., made aliyah last week, becoming at 101 the oldest immigrant to arrive since 2017…

Between 2016 and 2019, grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation accounted for an outsized 44% of all “global giving,” or philanthropy to other countries, by U.S. foundations, according to a new report from the Council on Foundations. The report found that in 2019, U.S. private and community foundations awarded $8 billion in global giving, a nearly fourfold increase since 2002. The report surveyed all grants of $10,000 or more from the 1,000 largest foundations in the U.S.…

The Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey announced nearly $2.9 million in grants to 21 nonprofits in the state…

Marc and Lynne Benioff donated $60 million to the University of California-Santa Barbara to support ocean science research and solutions…

Barbara Winton, biographer for her father, Sir Nicholas Winton, who rescued hundreds of Jewish children from Czechoslovakia in 1939, and was heralded as a “fearless campaigner in her own right” by the Association of Jewish Refugees, died at 69…

Pic of the Day

Tali Natapov/Neishlos Foundation

The International March of the Living is partnering with the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation and the Auschwitz Memorial to launch a global campaign to preserve some 8,000 shoes belonging to children, most of them Jewish, who were murdered in the Auschwitz concentration and extermination camp. Above, Holocaust survivor Arie Pinsker, now 92, inspects the collection of victims’ shoes on display at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Pinsker’s mother, father and nine siblings were murdered in the camp by the Nazis. A subject of medical experiments during his time there, Pinsker survived the Holocaust and moved to Israel.


Sean Gallup/Getty Images

President of Israel, Isaac “Bougie” Herzog

Brooklyn resident, Jay Kanter… Former president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, now a consultant at the L.A.-based Diane and Guilford Glazer Philanthropies, John Fishel… Professor of journalism at Columbia University and a former reporter for The New York TimesAri L. Goldman… Former publisher of The New York TimesArthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr.… Chief political analyst at CNN, Gloria Borger… Clarinetist who performs klezmer, jazz, classical music and avant-garde improvisation, David Krakauer… Former U.S. ambassador to Romania, Adrian Zuckerman… Nobel Prize laureate, astrophysicist and professor of physics at UC-Berkeley, Saul Perlmutter… Director of development at the Los Angeles Conservancy, Elizabeth “Liz” Leshin… Editor-in-chief of The AtlanticJeffrey Goldberg… Former member of the Knesset for Likud, Osnat Hila Mark… CEO of Terravet Real Estate Solutions, Daniel Eisenstadt… Founder and CEO at P3 Media, Adam Ciralsky… Arlington, Va., resident, Karen Elyse Simpson… Writer-at-large for The New York Times, she is the author of Chasing HillaryAmy Chozick… Actress best known for her role as Quinn Perkins in the ABC political drama series “Scandal,” Katie Lowes… Hungarian politician who served as a member of the European Parliament, Csanád Szegedi… Deputy editor of Tablet magazine and host of “Unorthodox,” its weekly podcast, Stephanie Taylor Butnick… Entertainment reporter, journalist, fashion designer and entrepreneur, Baruch Yehudah Shemtov… Partner at Winning Tuesday, Jared Sichel… Associate director for combating antisemitism at AJC Global, Alyssa Weiner Sandler

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