Your Daily Phil: Sheryl Sandberg shares her approach to tzedakah + Convening female scholars

Good Thursday morning!

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg joined the “Behind the Bima” talk show hosted by Rabbis Efrem Goldberg, Philip Moskowitz and Josh Broide on Wednesday night, where she shared her approach to philanthropy. “The value of tzedakah runs deep within our faith and within my home,” Sandberg told the rabbis. “I followed my parents and I’ve become a donor to [the Israeli ambulance corp] United Hatzalah. I’m a deep believer. I had an opportunity to visit and see what they did firsthand in Israel two summers ago with my parents.”

“I run my own foundation,” Sandberg added. “We support women to form ‘Lean In’ circles all over the world. We support Option B grief groups. We support a scholarship in my husband’s name, the Goldie Scholars program. And then I try to jump in when I think things are necessary. I do a lot of giving in the food security area domestically and in California. We’re trying to help get emergency aid to Afghanistan to the people who need it. It’s incumbent upon all of us to do what we can and I’m fortunate I have a lot of opportunity to help and that gives me a very big responsibility to help.” Watch the full interview here.

MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger hosted a webinar yesterday to explain the White House’s “historic” update to the formula that determines benefits for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which will raise the average benefit by $36.24 per person, per month starting on Oct. 1.

“It’s food on the table,” said Mia Hubbard, MAZON’S vice president of programs, adding that the change will generate the largest single increase to benefits in the program’s history.

The Department of Agriculture reevaluated SNAP when new data on food prices and nutrition revealed that its benefits — an average of $125 per month — weren’t enough to purchase food for a healthy diet.

“These changes will whittle away the shame and stigma associated with SNAP,” said Josh Protas, MAZON’s vice president of public policy. “People who use the program will be able to buy healthier food.”

By making the program more appealing, the changes will also help the network of grassroots advocates MAZON supports in boosting support for SNAP at the state level, Hubbard said.


Honoring Elul by bringing together female scholars


“It’s hard to show up for Elul when it’s still August,” said Ariele Mortkowitz, director of SVIVAH, a new nonprofit focused on building community among Jewish women. To counter that feeling, the organization is presenting a new series of 17 online conversations with female scholars and spiritual leaders; the initiative aims to foster preparation for the soul-searching season — which falls early this year — that leads up to the High Holidays, Mortkowitz told eJewishPhilanthropy’s Helen Chernikoff.

Highly personal: “We ask them, ‘How are you doing?’ ‘What pieces of Torah have sustained you?’ ‘What are you thinking about Rosh Hashanah?’” Mortkowitz said, noting that the interviews are unique because they empower the teachers to speak on a personal level, instead of an academic or theoretical one. The series, called “High Holiday Conversations,” is part of “HerTorah,” a text study program directed by Rabbanit Aliza Sperling, who teaches Talmud at the Yeshivat Maharat-Yeshivat Chovevei Torah (YCT) Beit Midrash Program in New York. Both YCT and Maharat were founded by Avi Weiss, a progressive Orthodox rabbi. Sperling is a Yeshivat Maharat alumna.

A diverse pool: “We try to bring together Jewish women from all different backgrounds — whether that’s age, religious affiliation, economic status,” said Sperling. “The Torah that’s created when those women come together is different, and transformative.” The interviewee list includes a range of titles: 11 rabbis; two rabbanits; one rav; one kohenet, or priestess; one woman who has a doctorate in education and three women who don’t use titles. Founded in late 2018 in the Washington, D.C., area as a pilot program that provided in-person educational and social events and spiritual and emotional support to about 400 women, SVIVAH’s name means “surround her.” Since the pandemic, it has operated online.

Educational mission: “HerTorah,” a partnership with Yeshivat Maharat, launched in 2019 with a grant from the Aviv Foundation. In 2021, it received a $20,000 “Ignition Grant” from the Covenant Foundation. SVIVAH has almost 900 individual donors in addition to other foundation grants, Mortkowitz said. 

Read the full story here.


A new beginning

eJP Archives

“I’ve always wondered if the phrase ‘New Beginning’ was tautological, like the phrase ‘very unique.’ But this time of the year, during the Jewish High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, it is tradition to begin anew. Jews are called on to examine our past, reflect on our actions, our interactions, our relationships, and ourselves, and prepare for a fresh start. If our name is chosen to be written into the Book of Life — we will be chosen to live on, to be, in fact, born again,” writes Misha Galperin, CEO of the National Museum of American Jewish History, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Miracles: “As Albert Einstein said, ‘There are two ways to live your life. You can live as if nothing is a miracle. You can live as if everything is a miracle.’ Even as someone who has had so many renewals, I can’t help but think about what has just transpired — in time for the Days of Awe — to the National Museum of American Jewish History, where I serve as CEO, in terms other than ‘miraculous’ and, indeed, ‘awesome.’”

Exit from bankruptcy: “On September 1 (Elul 24th, 5781), our exit plan was confirmed by the court, and in just a few short weeks (Tishri 5782), we will have officially emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization. We went into the reorganization process on March 1, 2020 with approximately $30 million in debt and are emerging with a plan that essentially eliminates the museum’s debt thanks to the extraordinary generosity of our former trustee Mitchell Morgan and his family, and a group of NMAJH’s friends, including other former and current museum trustees.”

Where do we go from here: “One major idea we are pursuing is for NMAJH to be integrated into the Smithsonian Institution — America’s national museum system. A bipartisan cohort of 23 U.S. senators and 37 members of Congress representing 26 states have already endorsed this idea and signed letters to the respective Appropriations bodies of both congressional chambers to urge its implementation… Adoption by the Smithsonian would underscore for all Americans the importance of the role Jews play in our nation’s history as a community and in collaboration with neighbors of all faiths and backgrounds.”

Read the full piece here.


Teaming up with our past and future selves (Rosh Hashanah 5782)


“Who would we be if we had made different choices? If we’d told that secret, left that relationship, written that book?”asks Andrés Spokoiny, president and CEO of Jewish Funders Network, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

L’Anomalie: “That’s the question at the heart of L’Anomalie (The Anomaly), the book by Herve Le Tellier that won France’s prestigious ‘Prix Goncourt.’ A mix of philosophical novel, science fiction, human comedy and social critique, L’Anomalie explores what happens when a flight en route from Paris to New York in March 2021 is caught in a monster storm over the U.S. coast. Flight AF006, a 747, manages to navigate out of the cumulus nimbus and land safely at JFK Airport, but through a bizarre quantic phenomenon, a copy of the plane is created. That second version of Flight AF006, with all its passengers and crew, emerges out of the storm in June, a few months after the ‘original’ plane had landed.”

Cheshbon nefesh: “In L’Anomalie, one of the simple yet disconcerting features of the encounters between the two ‘copies’ is their honesty. The copy is you, so he will know if you are lying; he knows your tricks, your denials, your defense mechanisms, your complexes and your most hidden secrets. And that is strangely liberating. As you do your ‘cheshbon nefesh,’ your accounting of the soul during the High Holidays, what’s the point of lying to yourself? You are finally talking to somebody with whom you don’t have to pretend, or brag or hide or mislead. Paraphrasing the Yom Kippur liturgy, ‘What can we say before You… for You know both the hidden and the revealed… You know all the secrets of our hearts.’”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Leading Thinker: Lester Salamon, the recently deceased nonprofit researcher and analyst whose definition of the nonprofit sector was adopted by the United Nations, the International Labour Organization and governments across the globe, entered the field somewhat by accident, write Megan Haddock and Chelsea Newhouse in an obituary posted on the website of his home institution, the Johns Hopkins University Center for Civil Society Studies. Salamon had been the deputy associate director in the U.S. Office of Management and Budget under former President Jimmy Carter when he realized how little systematic information was available about government funding for nonprofits delivering social services. “While Dr. Salamon’s passing catches many of us off guard, true-to-form, he was actively working until the very last possible moment. His dedication, energy, and passion will be hard to match,” conclude Haddock and Newhouse. [JHU]

Employee Benefit: In Axios, Dan Primack provides a guide to Groundswell, a new philanthropy platform backed by $5 million in seed funding that uses donor-advised funds (DAF) to help corporations facilitate charitable donations from employees. The employer puts the funds in the DAF; the employees pick which nonprofits will receive the money and the employer gets the tax benefits. “This fits nicely with the new corporate focus on DEI [Diversity, Equity and Inclusion],” said Groundswell CEO Jake Wood. “Gone should be the days when corporate philanthropy is decided by a few execs or boards of directors.” [Axios]

Risk Aversion: Conservation nonprofits’ tactics, fundraising and engagement strategies remain largely the same as they were 30 years ago, which is a sign that in order to fulfill their mission, they need to become more enthusiastic about innovative environmental solutions, suggests Gautam Shah in a blog post on Stanford Social Innovation Review. Counterintuitively, even conservation organizations with long histories and strong brand recognition feel fragile, Shah writes, because nonprofit culture lacks the zest for “failing forward” that’s so common in the private sector.  “While failed experiments can create real setbacks for organizations, we can’t make the kind of progress we need to make against long-term, high-stakes environmental challenges without them — a lot of them,” Shah concludes. [SSIR]

Community Comms

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Word on the Street

According to a new report from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, nearly one in three women (31.1 percent) give to a crowdfunding campaign in a typical year and 40.8% have given to a crowdfunding campaign at some point in the past… A report from the Rockefeller Foundation outlines an agenda for international cooperation on building digital public infrastructure… The University of Massachusetts announced a $50 million gift, the largest in the university’s history, from alumni Robert J. and Donna Manningin support of efforts to increase access and opportunity across the five-campus university system, including an initial distribution of $15 million to endow the UMass Boston nursing program… Ifat Bechorhas been appointed CEO at Unistream… Jessica Brown Smith has been promoted to chief operating officer at the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh… The Rekindle Fellowship, an initiative that brings together leaders from Cleveland’s Black and Jewish communities for dialogue and conversations, announced their second cohort… The Bronfman Fellowship opened its 36th application season…

Pic of the Day


The Jewish creative network Reboot has released “Forgiveness,” a short film by Blavity Inc. co-founder Aaron Samuels, about the period of reckoning, repair and reconciliation that starts with the chanting of Kol Nidre on Yom Kippur.


Rick Ulreich/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Free agent baseball pitcher, he was a first round pick in the 2013 MLB draft, Rob Kaminsky

Attorney who was part of the “Dream Team” that defended OJ Simpson in 1995 and co-founder of LegalZoom, Shoedazzle and RightCounsel, Robert Shapiro… One of Israel’s earliest high-tech entrepreneurs, Yossi Vardi… Rabbi of Baltimore’s Shearith Israel Congregation and president of the Baltimore Vaad HaRabonim, Rabbi Yaakov Hopfer… Tech entrepreneur and consultant at Xynetics Group, Richard Mandelbaum… Member of the Knesset for the United Torah Judaism party, Yaakov Litzman… SVP at Southern Bank & Trust in Norfolk, VA, Steven Kocen… Founder of TMZ, Harvey Levin… CEO of Lions Gate Entertainment, Jon Feltheimer… Retired President and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston, Lee Wunsch… Editor-in-chief of Yahoo News, Daniel Klaidman… Washington correspondent for Sinclair Broadcasting, James Rosen… Founder of TheMarker and a deputy publisher of the Haaretz daily newspaper, he is also a clinical professor at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, Guy Rolnik… Serial entrepreneur, co-founder and chairman of Groupon, Eric Lefkofsky… Executive producer at PBS’s Frontline, Raney Aronson-Rath… Managing director of the Israeli office of Koch Disruptive Technologies, previously director general of the Israeli prime minister’s office under Benjamin Netanyahu, Eli Groner… Chief of staff for U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Jessica Fassler… DC-based U.S. tax policy reporter for The Wall Street JournalRichard Rubin… SVP at Axiom Strategies, Ethan Zorfas… General manager of the San Francisco Bay area office of Edelman, Margot Edelman… Assistant to the SVP at the University of Pennsylvania, Seth Zweifler… 
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