Your Daily Phil: SCOTUS hears donor disclosure case + Jewish education’s silver bullet

Good Tuesday morning!

The fundraising group that supports Ben-Gurion Universityin Israel’s Negev Desert has changed its name to Americans for Ben-Gurion University and launched a campaign called “Partners in the Remarkable” to tout the school’s technological breakthroughs, such as COVID variant testing and drip irrigation. 

The group says it will also run more programs like its Zin Fellowship, which brings 15 to 20 community leaders to the region for a week of study. “We don’t just raise money,” Doug Seserman, the group’s CEO, told eJewishPhilanthropy. “We educate and raise awareness.”

The Reform movement will launch its Racial Justice Campaign on Wednesday with a virtual event with Derrick Johnson, CEO of the NAACP, and an estimated 1,000 members of the movement. It will focus on voting rights, criminal justice reform and racial equity, diversity and inclusion work by both synagogues and individuals.

The Florida state legislature has passed a bill that will increase the state’s income-based and special needs scholarships for nonpublic students up to $7,500 per student announced Teach Florida, a project of the Orthodox Union that advocates for Jewish and other non-public schools.


Donating, fundraising and the First Amendment

U.S. Supreme Court

Wikkimedia Commons

Donor privacy. Nonprofit transparency. Depending on whom you talk to, Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Bonta, which came before the Supreme Court yesterday, is about one of those things, or the other. That case — and a second one before the court, with which it is paired, Thomas More Law Center v. Bonta — challenges a California law that requires the disclosure of charitable donors’ names for contributions over $5,000. The nonprofits claim that the law exposes donors to potential harassment, violating their First Amendment right to freedom of association. The state of California argues that it needs the law to prevent fraud and self-dealing. Each side’s practical concerns are rooted in different notions of which societal values are more important, ethicists told eJewishPhilanthropy’s Helen Chernikoff. 

Opposing briefs: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)filed an amicus brief supporting the plaintiffs, describing the “great practical harm” — from boycotts to violence — that can come to individuals when their support of unpopular views is made known. In their brief supporting California, a group of Democratic senators urged the justices to consider the challenges as another effort by powerful interests trying to camouflage influence that has already grown due to the Supreme Court decision Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which found that the government limits on corporate political spending violated the right to free speech.

Just the facts: Both plaintiffs are tax-exempt 501(c)3 organizations known for their advocacy of conservative causes. Founded in 2004 by Charles and David Koch, the Americans for Prosperity Foundation describes its mission as educating people about the value of a free economy. Under this banner, it funded the Tea Party movement, which helped Republicans win majorities in both the House of Representatives and the Senate during the Obama administration. The Thomas More Law Center, according to its latest tax filing, is both a litigation and education organization that works in the service of such causes as morality, the family, national defense and the sanctity of life. California’s donor disclosure law requires that charities fundraising in the state register and list donors who contribute more than $5,000. The federal government, Hawaii, New Jersey and New York also require this information of nonprofits, but keep it confidential. California says it does the same, but the Thomas More Law Center contends that the state ?has leaked donor names “like a sieve.”

Read the full article here.


Building stronger grantmaker/grantseeker relations for a better Jewish future


“Without a doubt, the past year has been a nightmare… But this nightmare also enabled some dreamed-about conversations to actually happen, as the crisis spurred many funders and nonprofits to depart from the normal way of doing business,” write Tamar Frydman and Aliza Mazor in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Reacting to need: “The sheer enormity of the pandemic and its ripple effects made it clear to many grantmakers and grantseekers how intertwined and interdependent their roles are and that radical steps were necessary to respond quickly and effectively to the crisis. For many funders that meant loosening grant restrictions and reducing reporting requirements, while for many nonprofits it meant communicating more frequently — and more openly — with funders.”

Reaching out: “Professor Jack Wertheimer’s ‘Grantees and Their Funders’ report, completed shortly before the pandemic, highlighted some of these challenges, while also spotlighting the good news in the field:… That study was one of several factors that prompted JFN to explore how it could help share the good practices and discourage the abusive or unhelpful ones, in order to make Jewish funder-grantee relationships as strong and effective as possible.”

Read the full piece here.


The silver bullet of Jewish education is teachers


In an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy, Jonah Hassenfeld and Ziva Hassenfeld respond to Lindsey Bodner’s recent piece, “A better path forward in Jewish day school education: Hillel Rapp’s model.”

The plan: “[I]n education, it’s the details that count. Bodner imagines a school where 60-70 students are grouped into six cohorts matched not by age, but by shared interests and learning styles. Each cohort is led by one teacher who is able to facilitate student learning across all subject areas. Bodner argues that a school structured this way would be able to cut costs and stay affordable.”

The challenge: “In education, it’s the details that count. Reading Bodner’s and Rapp’s proposals, we found ourselves trying to think through how this model might actually play out in practice. At the very least, Bodner’s plan depends on being able to hire at least 6 superstar teachers (for a school of 60 students).”

Quality counts: “We agree with Bodner and Rapp on one thing. The quality of our schools will ultimately depend on the quality of our teachers. The question to answer is how we make Jewish education a compelling enough career path to draw the best and brightest potential Jewish teachers?”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Giving His All: In Falcoholic, Atlanta Falcons superfan Evan Birchfield interviews team owner and Home Depot co-founder Arthur Blank, who talked about the Falcons, professional sports’ struggle with COVID-19 and the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, which has donated more than $800 million since its founding in 1995 to such causes as education, green space and the arts. “95% or more of my estate will end up in the [Arthur M. Blank] Family Foundation,” Blank said. “I feel like my passion now is to continue to give back in the ways that I can.” [Falcoholic]

Working Hard: The pandemic spurred a rise in contributions to nonprofits that support workers, both those that provide direct services to people who are low-income or unemployed, and those that advocate for specific labor and employment policies, writes Holly Hall in InsidePhilanthropy. She highlights the Rural Community Workers Alliance in Milan, Mo., which by securing the help of a nonprofit legal group compelled a local meat-processing facility to follow CDC safety guidelines, and San Francisco’s Jewish Vocational and Career Counseling Service, which offers training for healthcare and technology jobs. [InsidePhilanthropy]

Stubborn Roots: The determination by policy experts, activists and philanthropists to end homelessness in Los Angeles by focusing all their efforts narrowly on the “Housing First” tactic of prioritizing putting the most challenging populations in the most expensive facilities demonstrates the misguided emphasis on “root causes” in the nonprofit sector, writes William A. Schambra in Philanthropy Daily. Three years after the coalition articulated their theory, they had still not built any units, and were spending 40% of their budget on non-construction activities like fees and finance costs. Now, L.A. has been sued and a federal judge has slammed “Housing First” in his ruling: “The City and County ‘unilaterally’ decided to focus on housing at the expense of shelter, even knowing that massive development delays were likely while people died in the streets.” [PhilanthropyDaily]

Hands Up: Meg Massey and Ben Wrobel are two young people who entered the social sector enamored with the idea of putting their privilege to work solving other people’s problems, and have come to realize that idealism isn’t enough, they share in a blog post on Mediumthat summarizes Letting Go, a book they co-wrote. They see participatory funding projects in local government as a new model for grantmaking, and share 10 case studies from foundations and impact investors who have already tried it, with positive results. “We are asking grantmakers and investors to embrace previously unthinkable levels of intellectual humility. It will be hard, but it’s necessary in an increasingly complex world,” Massey and Wrobel conclude. [Medium]

Community Comms

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Word on the Street

Birthright Israel will resume trips for vaccinated Americans beginning in May… Vaccinaid, a global campaign to supply two billion vaccinations to 190 different countries has been endorsed by the U.K.’s chief rabbi, who has said it “reflects the finest of Jewish values”… A report from the Nathan Cummings Foundation examines the challenges for mission-aligned investing… Joan and Irwin Jacobs have provided a $14 million naming gift to UC San Diego’s School of Global Policy and Strategy… Israeli aid group SmartAID is sending oxygen concentrators to hospitals in New Delhi, India… 

Pic of the Day

Shahar Azran

New olim from North America landed in Israel yesterday morning on a Nefesh B’Nefesh charter Aliyah flight.


National Library of Israel

Former refusenik in the Soviet Union, she made aliyah in 1987 and is now a political activist in Israel, Ida Nudel… 
Turkish preacher and former imam now living in exile in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, Fethullah Gülen… Nonprofit executive who has managed the 92nd Street Y, the Robin Hood Foundation, the AT&T Foundation and Lincoln Center, he is also the lead director of First Republic Bank, Reynold Levy… Physician and a NASA astronaut, Chief of the Education/Medical Branch of the NASA Astronaut Office, Ellen Louise Shulman Baker, M.D., M.P.H…. Director-general of the Israel Antiquities Authority, Yisrael Hasson… VP at Covington Fabric & Design, Donald Rifkin… Biologist and professor of pathology and genetics at Stanford University School of Medicine, he won the 2006 Nobel Prize for Medicine, Andrew Zachary… Entertainment and tequila executive, Rande Gerber… Partner in 100 State Street Development, Elliot Mayerhoff… Showrunner, director, screenwriter and producer, Brian Koppelman… Founder and CEO of NYC-based Gotham Ghostwriters, Daniel Gerstein… Author and op-ed columnist for The Washington PostDana Milbank… U.S. Senator (D-NJ) and Torah scholar, Cory Booker… Professor of science writing at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Seth Mnookin… Cinematographer and director, Rachel Morrison… Identical twin brothers, between the two of them they won 11 Israeli championships in the triathlon between 2001 and 2012, Dan and Ran Alterman… Deputy regional director for AIPAC, Leah Berry… Television and film actress, Ariel Geltman “Ari” Graynor… Basketball coach, analyst and writer, profiled by Sports Illustrated in 2018 as “the smartest basketball mind outside the NBA,” Benjamin Falk… Senior digital strategy manager at Trilogy Interactive, Jessica Ruby… Research fellow at Harvard Law School, David Jonathan Benger… Founder & CEO at EREM, a consumer outdoor footwear and apparel company, Noah Swartz…