Your Daily Phil: The Academy of the Hebrew Language’s future home

Good Tuesday morning!

Bill and Melinda Gates announced their divorce yesterday, raising questions about the future of the eponymous foundation they launched together two decades ago. The two will remain co-chairs and trustees of the foundation, which has an endowment of $50 billion. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation said in a statement that no changes at the organization are expected.

“This is a private matter w/ enormous public consequences.And a reflection of the new reality facing Giving While Living mega-donors, in which philanthropy takes place not at the end of life but in the midst of major life events — births, raising family, divorce,” tweeted Benjamin Soskis, a historian of philanthropy at the Urban Institute and a co-creator of the Jewish Philanthropy Research Initiative.

Economic data that serve as indicators for the health of the philanthropic sector demonstrated strong growth in the first quarter of 2021, according to a report in the Chronicle of Philanthropy. Gross domestic product surged 6.4% in the quarter due to stimulus payments, expanded unemployment benefits and Paycheck Protection Program loans.

Consumers’ feelings about the economy, which are more positive than at any time in the past year, are reflected in a 2% rise in consumer confidence from February to March. Unemployment was also down slightly in the same period, from 6.2% to 6%.

A group of business and social leaders announced yesterdaythat it had raised $125 million to create The Asian American Foundation with the mission of convening and funding the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community over the next five years. The foundation has already given $3 million in grants and will focus its initial efforts on three areas: combating anti-AAPI violence, developing research efforts to track hate crime and guide policy and creating curricula that reflect AAPI history as part of American history.

Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the ADL ,posted that he is honored to serve as a founding board member to support the foundation’s anti-hate programs, education and research.


New word, new home: The Academy of the Hebrew Language plans a $50 million move


As the keeper of Hebrew’s historical dictionary and its creator of new words, the Academy of the Hebrew Language in Jerusalem, housed on a university campus and open to laypeople, has long been the domain of scholars and not created with the public in mind. But now, after establishing itself on social media with a half-million followers, the academy is determined to shake any dust off its image by welcoming the public in-person to a new building it plans to construct in the “National Quarter,” home to Israel’s central institutions, such as the Knesset, the Israel Museum and the Supreme Court. “We were in a small place. We had a big success on social media,” Dorit Lerer, a deputy director at the academy, told eJewishPhilanthropy, including an Instagram account with 167,000 followers that tapped into national passion for grammar and etymology. “But we wanted to reach the public face-to-face. We wanted to emphasize our national importance. [Plans for the new building] all came together.” 

Moving in and up: Founded in 1953 by the Israeli government, the academy replaced the Hebrew Language Committee established in 1890 by Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, the Belarussian-born lexicographer who led the revival of Hebrew as a spoken language. The government located it on Hebrew University’s Givat Ram campus in central Jerusalem, which is near the National Quarter but not part of it. The academy convinced the government about nine years ago that its rightful place was in the National Quarter after Moshe Bar-Asher, its president, told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that other countries’ academies were located “at the center of every capital,” Bar-Asher said.

Building words: The planned building, which won an architectural competition and will also include a museum, inspired the academy to create a new word for its new space. It will be called the Minveh, said Bar-Asher. It’s derived from the word naveh, which as a noun means home, and as an adjective means beautiful, and constructed on the same grammatical pattern as machaneh (camp) and mitzpeh(observatory). “The building invites the public to wander,” said Udi Kassif, co-founder of the firm that designed the building, Mayslits Kassif Roytman. “Go up, go down, observe the scenery, then go back into the museum. Listen to a debate. Everything is transparent,” except for the research and administrative areas.

Read the full article here.

Field Learnings

Key learnings on designing and measuring high-quality educator training programs


“In 2017, the Jim Joseph Foundation experimented with a grantmaking method that was new to the Foundation – two open requests for proposals (RFPs). The Foundation wanted to hear from the field, especially from organizations with which we were not already in close relationship, and about potential programs that reflected the field’s best and forward thinking,” write Stacie Cherner and Alex Pomson in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Areas of interest: “There were two areas of particular interest to the Foundation in that moment, Jewish educator professional development (PD) and Jewish leadership development. The Foundation believed there were opportunities to leverage in both.”

Background: “The Foundation had been deeply involved in Jewish educator training and professional development for a decade and had clear goals for the next phase of investments in this arena: infusing the field with high quality programming that was cohort-based, creative, immersive, and measurably effective.”

Read the full piece here.


Spertus Institute accepting applications for its Executive MA in Jewish Professional Studies through June 9, 2021

Meeting a need: In this time of rapid change Spertus Institute, is seeing increased demand for its programs. Particularly germane to current needs is the prestigious Executive MA in Jewish Professional Studies program, an accelerated leadership program for Jewish communal executives with 12 or more years in the field. 

The program: Participants in this 18-month, part-time program learn with fellow executives from across North America, taught by some of the leading names in the field. With a unique blend of high-impact Jewish learning and cutting-edge professional skills, participants gain knowledge, skills, and tools to lead through current and emerging challenges, while earning a graduate degree from a leading institution accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. The program includes personalized leadership assessments and professional coaching. 

Read the full piece here.


Let’s radically raise the stakes!

Tamim Academy NYC

“I loved reading Lindsey Bodner’s piece in eJP last week. Her words resonated with me as I’ve spent over a decade working as a funder in the Jewish day school field,” writes Holly Cohen, former executive director of the Kohelet Foundation, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy. 

The vast majority: “More than 80% of American Jewish children – almost 1.3 million – are outside the day school system. Some families may hesitate to enroll their children in day schools fearing that their own values and practices won’t be respected. Others worry that Jewish day schools are academically inferior to local public or private schools. However, for the vast majority of Jewish families a full day Jewish education is not even on the radar.”

Untapped potential: “While the system may need an overhaul, here’s a more radical claim: We are capable of educating the enormous number of kids that so far, the ‘system’ has never even touched.”

New launch: “The Kohelet Foundation spent a decade experimenting with new approaches to address both priorities. And in January 2020, our small team ceased operating the foundation and launched Tamim Academy.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

In the Shop: Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch interviews Judaica designer Michael Aram, who many are surprised to learn is not Jewish, but Armenian Christian, the descendent of ethnic Armenians who fled the region in the wake of the Armenian genocide. “There are tremendous similarities in our cultures, which are sort of uncanny not only in terms of family life and importance of religion, but just very strong cultural ties,” said Aram. [JI]

Mixed Blessings: In the Washington Post, Sebastian Smee reflects on the complexity of Jewish billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad’s legacy, calling it a cautionary tale about the perils of putting a city’s cultural infrastructure in the hands of one person, even if that person was stunningly generous. Controversy and bad blood dogged many of Broad’s efforts, and in some cases, the projects themselves suffered because other philanthropists didn’t want to work with him, Smee writes: “Follow the saga of Broad’s art philanthropy — and the saga has been epic — and you see just how much angst this one guy’s egotism, fickleness and control-freakery caused.” [WaPo]

Protected Waters: The world’s oceans have been a growing focus of philanthropy for years, but the new Blue Nature Alliance brings fresh support to the approach of creating protected ocean areas, a bit like national parks on land, reports Michael Kravate in Inside Philanthropy. Five partners, including the Pew Charitable Trusts, a public charity with a $6 billion endowment, and the Global Environment Facility, a fund originally created by the World Bank, are each contributing $25 million to the alliance. “The money we’re bringing is not nearly enough to protect these places for the long term, but we see it as catalyzing public investment,” said Ashleigh McGovern, senior director of innovation and development at Conservation International, a member of the alliance. [InsidePhilanthropy]

Non-State Aid: As the world absorbs images of mass funeral pyres and overcrowded hospitals, private companies based in India and abroad are joining philanthropy in an effort to help the country cope with record COVID-19 infections and deaths, writes Saritha Rai in Bloomberg. Blackstone chairman Stephen Schwarzman committed $5 million from his private equity firm to support vaccination, while companies like ArcelorMittal Nippon Steel India and Tata Steel Ltd. have diverted liquid medical oxygen from their plants to mitigate the shortage. “Saving lives is more important than producing steel,” said Sajjan Jindal, chairman of JSW Steel. [Bloomberg]

Google News: Google had decided even before the pandemic that its workplace culture was eroding due to problems caused by its rapid growth, such as overcrowding and excessive distractions in the office, states Dai Wakabayashi, who covers the company for The New York Times, in a conversation with Shira Ovide, a Times tech reporter. When the company realized that its remote workforce was more productive than expected, it decided to use the pandemic to try to make work life happier, with a big focus on allowing for more at-home work. “This is probably going to cost Google billions of dollars, and most companies cannot afford that. But Google has been a trendsetter for a long time in employment practices and office design,” Wakabayashi said. [NYT]

Community Comms

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Word on the Street

The announcement that Daniel Humm’s Eleven Madison Park will stop serving meat and seafood has opened up speculation as to whether the Michelin-starred restaurant will seek kosher certification… Reform Judaism’s largest U.K. shul, West London Synagogue, has suspended its membership in the movement as it deals with accusations of bullying and inappropriate behavior by a senior rabbi… A new survey from staffing company Robert Half International finds 38% of workers say the pandemic contributed to a career setback… The Charles Bronfman Prize is accepting nominations for its 2022 prize… Thirty-two educators associated with this year’s RootOne trips are participating in the The iCenter’s Certificate in Experiential Israel Education newest cohort… Rami Kleinstein and his ex-wife Rita will return to the stage together for the first time in 20 years…

Pic of the Day


The Jewish Book Council’s website is carrying an excerpt of a new book, published yesterday, which explores American Jews’ love of mahjong.



Rabbi Emeritus at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, Zvi Dershowitz… 

Former chairman and CEO of American International Group, now chairman and CEO of the Starr Companies, Maurice Raymond “Hank” Greenberg… Congregational rabbi and later executive director of the Texas A&M Hillel, Peter E. Tarlow… Nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution for climate change, he was previously the U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change in the Obama administration, Todd D. Stern… Partner at NYC-based Mintz & Gold, he was EVP and general counsel for both the Las Vegas Sands and News Corporation, Lawrence “Lon” A. Jacobs… Northern Virginia-based portrait artist, Ilisa G. Calderon… Triathlete, Joanna Sue Zeiger… Executive Director of Surprise Lake Camp, Bradley Solmsen… State Attorney for Palm Beach County, Florida, Dave Aronberg… President and CEO of the Riverside Park Conservancy and a former New York City Councilman, Daniel Garodnick… Former Secretary of State of Missouri and founder of “Let America Vote,” Jason Kander… Managing director of food programs at NYC’s Met Council on Jewish Poverty, Jessica Chait… Tech entrepreneur, best known as the co-founder of both Vine and HQ Trivia, Rus Yusupov… VP at BerlinRosen, Allison Fran Bormel… Miami Beach and South Dade Director at AIPAC, Rebecca Leibowitz Wasserstrom… Assistant to the executive producer of ABC’s General Hospital, Steven A. Rosenberg… Director of speechwriting for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Shana Mansbach… Senior enterprise account manager at Everfi, Sasha Altschuler… Legislative analyst at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, Elliot Miller… Medalist in the women’s halfpipe event at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, Arielle Townsend Gold… Scrum Master Michele Wakslak… Associate at The Boston Consulting Group, Olivia Breuer