Your Daily Phil: Teen leadership and Jewish text + The power of a shiva gathering 

Good Thursday morning!

In today’s Your Daily Phil, we report on a teen leadership course in Florida and feature op-eds by Rabbi Dan Goldblatt on an outdoor shiva and nonprofit consultant Avrum Lapin on effective development strategy. Also in this newsletter: Rabbi Julia Appel and Sheryl Sandberg. We’ll start with a high-profile departure from the Walton Family Foundation.

Caryl Stern is stepping down as executive director of the Walton Family Foundation after three years in the role. The move came as Stern told the foundation’s board, “It is time to contribute to the issues I care about without the daily administrative responsibilities that come with this role,” according to The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

Stern joined the foundation, whose 2020 grant budget was approximately $750 million, after 12 years focusing on disaster response at the helm of Unicef USA. Her tenure with the Walton Family Foundation largely coincided with the pandemic, and she responded to the crisis in part by streamlining and accelerating its grant application process.

Prior to Unicef USA, Stern, 64, was a senior executive at the Anti-Defamation League, founding its A World of Difference Institute, an anti-bias program that has reached 450,000 teachers. She’s kept up her ties to the Jewish organizational world, speaking to Jewish conferences over the years — including this past March’s Jewish Funders Network gathering in Palm Beach, Fla. A 2015 article in Fast Company, published when she was at Unicef, called her “the world’s Jewish mother.”

“She taught us that our voices mattered,” Stern told the JFN conference in a keynote address, referring to her mother, who was a child Holocaust refugee. “She also taught us that we not only had the opportunity to stand up to injustice but that it was our obligation to stand up to injustice.”


A growing teen leadership program at a Florida Orthodox synagogue is combining Jewish text and college credit

The program's Palm Beach chapter Mentor Gil Messing speaks with Solomon fellows Sarah Simpson and Artchard Jacquet.

Tom Tracy Photography

A growing teen leadership program doesn’t fit neatly into the usual mold. It was founded at, and partially runs through, an Orthodox synagogue, but welcomes non-Jewish participants. It grounds all of its lessons in Jewish texts, but is not a Jewish education class and is affiliated with a local Christian university. It’s a college-accredited course that affords students three credits, but doesn’t give them letter grades, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Ben Sales.

Exploration: The Solomon Leadership Program, co-founded by a Chabad rabbi and based in South Florida, is billed as a chance for 10th to 12th graders to get the training in life that they may be missing in their school curriculum. The course, which lasts about six months, has the participants study eight “pillars” of leadership — such as character, communication or judgment — meet with adult guest speakers and mentors, and complete coursework that helps them explore how those values play out in their own lives.

Growing program: The program doubled its budget this year from $260,000 to $500,000, and after having started in 2016 at the Palm Beach Synagogue, it has been adopted by 15 synagogues in Florida and as far afield as Sydney, Australia. Its principal funder has been the Palm Beach-based Sosnow Foundation, though it is hoping to broaden its funding base as its budget increases. The students pay a fee of $300.

Trying to diversify: All of the synagogues running the program, so far, are either Chabad centers or synagogues led by a Chabad rabbi. Much of the Jewish texts or stories in the curriculum that don’t come from classical sources such as the Talmud also center on Orthodox rabbis. But Rabbi Moshe Scheiner, who co-chairs the program, hopes it spreads not just to a broader spectrum of Jewish life, including non-Orthodox synagogues, but also outside of it. He’s in talks with a local church that’s interested in the curriculum.

Read the full story here.


Experiencing shiva with a sacred fire


“Growing up in an observant Jewish community, attending a shiva gathering was not an unusual occurrence. When I first became a congregational rabbi, I discovered that many people in my community had no experience attending a shivaminyan,” writes Rabbi Dan Goldblatt, spiritual leader of Beth Chaim Congregation in Danville, Calif., in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Essential communal support: “We began educating people about the power of this gathering following the funeral of a close loved one. What we discovered was that every time someone had a significant loss and experienced the soul comfort of a shiva gathering, they became committed to and strong advocates for shiva gatherings for others. Now, 30 years later, my community understands the sacredness and the power of this essential communal support. And still, I often feel that once the evening prayer service portion of the shiva is concluded – and this always includes more storytelling about the deceased than prayer – people tend to revert to circles of small talk and the sacred container is compromised.”

Sacred fire backdrop: “Recently, I was invited to attend a shiva gathering for the father of my dear friend and colleague, Rabbi Zelig Golden, who is the founder and executive director of Wilderness Torah. Zelig told me that the shiva was going to be at his lovely, forested home in Sonoma County in Northern California, and in typical Wilderness Torah tradition, it was going to be held outside in nature around a sacred fire.”

Havdalah to shiva: “When we arrived on Saturday evening, after we offered Zelig our condolences, he asked me if I would lead a havdalah to move us out of Shabbat and into the shiva. Since havdalah is about separating from Shabbat and involves kindling and extinguishing of fire, it was a very organic transition from the sacredness of Shabbat to the sacredness of the shiva gathering.”

Read the full piece here.


Getting results vs. making a difference


“‘That was yesterday; what about today’…or more colloquially ‘what have you done for me lately?’ There are questions that live on the front doorstep of every development professional every day,” writes Avrum Lapin, president of ?? The Lapin Group, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

The current environment: “We all live and operate today in a hyper-competitive environment with intense, and legitimate, due diligence, including continuous requests for definitions of success, measures of ROI (Returns on Investment) and KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and a constant focus on the ‘bottom line.’ It is necessary to make these determinations – to define success in advance – to guide us and our efforts with clarity and purpose.”

Mission-focused: “Without that clarity and purpose – based on information and fact, the probability of a nonprofit meeting the important local, national and global human and community challenges that it must address today would be severely diminished. But defining success only by the projected number of widgets to be produced is a two-dimensional measurement. To be credible it must be accompanied with a proposition about what those widgets will do, and thus why they deserve to and must be produced here and now.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Give ‘til it Hurts: During the High Holidays, Jews make family meals, pray, fast, apologize and make resolutions toward becoming better versions of themselves and resetting priorities for the year ahead, Rabbi Julia Appel writes at Lake Institute on Faith & Giving. “Maimonides, the great 12th century rabbi and philosopher, writes in his Laws of Repentance, ‘Among the characteristics of repentance is for the repentant individual to constantly call out before God tearfully and with petitions. One should give charity according to one’s capacity. One should distance oneself from one’s sinful behavior.’ Rabbi Bernie Fox writes about how this idea of giving according to your capacity should be understood as giving to the point where it requires a sacrifice, or what development professionals might call the ‘ouch’ factor. It is easy to give when it won’t really require any change of my behavior; if I give to the point where it requires some sacrifice, no matter how small, it can encourage change. I am now acting in such a way that I am prioritizing spiritual and communal good over my own material desires. Training my spirit in this way is also training to do good in the year to come, demonstrating that I can change and that I can become a better person… In the Jewish yearly cycle, the fall is a central time for giving charity and for becoming the kind of person who gives it.” [LakeInstitute]

Donation Page Musts: 
Donors — especially first-timers — “can lose confidence in their decision to give if your donation page is purely transactional or difficult to use,” Teresa Kiplinger writes in NonProfitPRO, suggesting 10 ways make it easy for donors to give and feel great about supporting the organization, including retaining credibility. “If your donation page is built on a third-party donation platform, provide visual cues that help donors feel confident that they can trust you. Be sure your donation page matches your visual branding and, if possible, embed the donation form within a page on your website domain to ensure a seamless experience. Your donation page is also a good place to discreetly display ratings, endorsements or awards from trusted watchdog organizations. These recognizable graphic seals can help donors feel more confident about giving to your organization online.” [NonProfitPRO]

Community Comms

Applications are open for the Wexner Field Fellowship. Apply by 10/27.

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Word on the Street

Sheryl Sandberg, who officially left her position as Meta’s chief operating officer last week, donated $3 million to the ACLU Ruth Bader Ginsburg Liberty Center. The ACLU plans to use the funds to support candidates and ballot measures backing abortion rights, as well as defending pregnant women’s rights in state courts and legislatures over the next three years…

The Ford Foundation will commit $80 million over the next five years to work that strengthens nonprofits fighting against authoritarian regimes…

A new Bloomberg analysis found that at least $4 billion has flowed from foundations into donor-advised funds since 2016, delaying the process of giving those funds to charitable causes while not running afoul of tax law…

Norton Children’s Hospital, part of Norton Healthcare in Louisville, Ky., announced a $15 million commitment from the Lift a Life Novak Family Foundation to establish the Wendy Novak Diabetes Institute

Growing Justice: The Fund for Equitable Good Food Procurement, a 10-year, $50 million initiative to transform food systems in the United States, launched with a total of $11 million pledged to date. Founding funders include: TheRockefeller FoundationNative American Agriculture FundW.K. Kellogg FoundationThe Kresge FoundationPanta Rhea Foundation and Clif Family Foundation

Venmo, which is owned by PayPal, is launching a new feature called “Charity Profiles” that will allow charities to raise funds and receive donations directly within its app. The new profiles will be available to charities that have received confirmed charity status from PayPal…

Pic of the Day

Wilderness Torah

The Wilderness Torah community gathered to celebrate an earth-based Rosh Hashanah family retreat in Sonoma County, Calif., before the holiday. Services were co-facilitated by Rabbi Zelig Golden, music director Nathaniel Markman, Hazanit Suzannah Sosman, Reed Kolber and other musicians.


Kelly Lee Barrett/Getty Images

Actress best known for her role as Judge Cassandra Anderson in “Dredd,” Olivia Thirlby

Owner of Lancaster, Pa.-based industrial supplier Samuel Miller & Son, Rosanne Selfon… Activist on behalf of Reform/Progressive Judaism, rabbi emeritus of Temple Emanu-El in Atlanta, Stanley Davids… Former chairman and CEO of CBS, he is a great-nephew of David Ben-Gurion, Leslie Moonves… Awarded a Ph.D. at UCSD in space science, consultant to NASA and author of many science fiction novels, David Brin… Justice of the Supreme Court of Israel, Uzi Vogelman… Former CEO at Hillels of Georgia, Elliot B. Karp… Bexley, Ohio-based real estate agent, Jan Kanas… Correspondent on the networks of NBC and author of best-selling books on Presidents Obama, FDR and Jimmy Carter, Jonathan Alter… Spiritual leader of Congregation Ner Tamid in the Las Vegas suburbs since 1988, Rabbi Sanford Akselrad… Former member of the New Jersey General Assembly, now the managing director of Quest Associates, Joel M. Weingarten… Mayor of Jerusalem since 2018, Moshe Lion… Executive director of Pro-Israel America, Jeffrey Mendelsohn… Attorney in Lakewood, N.J., Samuel Zev Brown… Member of the New York City Council representing Yorkville, Lenox Hill and Roosevelt Island, Julie Menin… Member until 2020 of the Florida Senate, Kevin J.G. Rader… Recent candidate for governor of Arizona, Aaron Lieberman… Director of sales at Convergence Workforce, Sean “Shmop” Weisbord… CEO of Community Security Service, an organization for physical security and safety in Jewish communities, Evan R. Bernstein… Actor and comedian, Brett Gelman… Deputy chief planning officer at UJA-Federation of New York, Hindy Poupko… Senior advisor for Israel strategies at the William Davidson Foundation, Deena Eisenberg Pulitzer… Director of government and community relations for the governor of Nevada, Madeline S. Burak

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