Your Daily Phil: The challenges facing Jewish theater + Fixing Jewish peoplehood

Good Wednesday morning!

In today’s Your Daily Phil, we cover the current challenges facing Jewish theater, and feature op-eds by the Revson Foundation’s Elizabeth Leiman Kraiem on Jewish chaplains, and by M²’s Clare Goldwater and the Z3 Project’s Rabbi Amitai Fraiman about Jewish peoplehood. Also in this newsletter: Sam Bankman-Fried, Mark Pincus, Ron Brauner and Melissa Rivers. We’ll start with the largest-ever campaign of a major Jewish federation.

Twelve years after it began a campaign to mark its centennial, San Francisco’s Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund announced that it had raised $220 million in endowment funds — well on the way to a target of $250 million by 2030. The initial target, in 2010, had been $100 million.

The cumulative total is the largest campaign in the federation’s history, and exceeds its annual campaign, which stood at $18.2 million this past fiscal year. The vast majority of the donations are bequests, and they come from 377 people or families — an average gift of roughly $583,000. Half of the donations have already been given, and half are pledged.

Of the total, some $171 million has been pledged to the federation’s endowment and about $49 million has been dedicated to the endowments of the federation’s partner agencies, like schools, synagogues or camps.

“It’s an opportunity to meet with donors to think about the legacy they want to leave both for themselves and their families and also for the community,” federation CEO Joy Sisisky told eJewishPhilanthropy. “You plant a seed but you have to water it before you start to see the buds.”

Proceeds from the federation’s endowment can be used to fund a gamut of causes within its mission, from innovative programs like engagement of young adults to disaster relief for Jewish communities affected by nearby wildfires. Some of the gifts to the centennial campaign have been targeted for specific causes such as tuition assistance.

Sisisky also said the endowment’s range of purposes will have the effect of securing future federation dollars, no matter the vicissitudes of fundraising. Safeguarding funding for years to come is particularly important in the Bay Area, she said, because she feels it’s a region that is able to “imagine the future before anybody else does.”

“There’s a lot of wiggle room in that, and these gifts are going to allow future generations to be making those decisions that meet the moment in the time that they’re living in,” she said regarding the endowment’s purview. “It’s a way to really secure our Jewish future here… Somebody who leaves a gift today, and the decision is going to be made in 25 years from now — the things that we fund might look different.”


Jewish theaters, and their challenges, take center stage at conference

Actors in the show 'Out Loud' at The Braid, a Los Angeles-area Jewish theater.

Avalon Greenberg Call

From Broadway to regional playhouses, the theater industry is still having a tough time recovering from the closures and distancing measures of the pandemic. At a conference on Jewish theater this week, more than 100 attendees discussed those obstacles — along with the added challenges of how to tell authentic stories about Jews, market them to a much larger non-Jewish population and — of course — pay for it all, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Esther D. Kustanowitz.

Expanding definitions: “Ultimately we’re in [Jewish theater] for social change, to debunk the stereotypes of Jews and non-Jews [and let people] see themselves on stage and learn about all kinds of Jews, to expand the heart and mind in terms of what a Jew is and to create a legacy for future generations,” Ronda Spinak, director of The Braid, a Jewish theater in Santa Monica, Calif., told eJP. “At the heart [of our work] is our mission, but what has changed is how we collect our revenues, which is important to sustain us over time.”

Asking tough questions: The conference of the Alliance for Jewish Theatre was held Sunday and Monday and virtually brought together more than 70 presenting artists from around the world, as well as playwrights, actors, member theaters and others who facilitate Jewish culture. Attendees confronted questions such as: How can theaters meet the mission of live performance when part of the audience can’t or doesn’t want to show up anymore? How do they market to audiences outside of the immediate Jewish community? How can they provide a space where everyone feels safe and comfortable?

Revive and renew: “We truly want to be an actual resource, not just an idea of something that we do, but really a place that helps people in a practical way,” Willow Jade Norton, the alliance’s new executive director, told eJP.  “We came away seeing that our members need to be revived and have a renewed sense of culture and creativity.”

Read the full story here.


Jewish chaplains: Leading where life happens 

The Washington Post via Getty Images

“The pandemic put chaplains before the public eye as the country’s ‘spiritual first responders.’ Media reports shined light on their important work, more typically unseen, and on chaplaincy’s evolution into a vocation that is increasingly more religiously and racially diverse,” writes Elizabeth Leiman Kraiem, senior program officer for Jewish life and North America at the Charles H. Revson Foundation, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Skills and training: “The post-pandemic rise of loneliness and anxiety in the Jewish community has been well-documented, as has the decline in institutional affiliation. For many Americans, especially under 30, chaplains may be the only religious professionals they will see in times of need. In addition, the Jewish community has a higher percentage of people over 65 than the general population and families that do affiliate are increasingly multifaith. Chaplains, trained to meet people where and as they are, have skills and training that can contribute to meeting these and other critical communal needs.”

Mapping and convening: “Seeking to understand what Jewish chaplains might contribute to the Jewish community and how the community might better support Jewish chaplains, the Charles H. Revson Foundation turned to the Chaplaincy Innovation Lab to conduct a mapping process. In addition to research, the process included the first convening of Jewish chaplains across denominations representing different sectors where Jewish chaplains work, including the military, healthcare, prisons, elder care, higher education and in social service agencies and nonprofits.”

Read the full piece here.


How Jewish pedagogies can address the peoplehood problem


“Despite the many (and growing) innovative programs focused on inculcating a collective [Jewish] identity, the enormous financial investment in this area for at least a generation and no lack of dedicated educators in this field – something just isn’t working. Inculcating Jewish  peoplehood remains a struggle. What is the source of the difficulty? And what more can be done?” write Clare Goldwater, chief strategy officer at M²: The Institute for Experiential Jewish Education, and Rabbi Amitai Fraiman, director of the Z3 Project at the Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto, Calif., in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

The need: “The need for a strong sense of Jewish collective belonging has never been greater. The urgency of helping young Jews develop their own sense of connection and commitment to the Jewish people, thus building a collective consciousness, is real. It is apparent in the growing polarizations of identity and commitment identified in the Pew Study of 2020, the ongoing difficulty of engaging in meaningful debate about Israel and the continuing alienation of young liberal Jews from traditional institutions.”

How not what: “There are undoubtedly many sources of the problem; too many to describe fully here. Rather, we want to offer a possible alternative way to approach Jewish peoplehood education that focuses on the ‘how’ rather than the ‘what.’”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

We’re Still Here, Philanthropy: Has your organization been ignoring Gen Xers and boomers in your fundraising efforts? Here’s why and how to engage these two generations in giving to your cause or organization, Wayne Elsey writes in NonProfitPROIf your nonprofit looks to focus on green living, Gen Xers could support your cause if you make sustainability part of the messaging. Also, while millennials and Gen Z get drawn to causes directly linked to social media, Gen Xers and boomers are more likely to respond to causes they can relate to personally. So, learning what resonates with your target donors and speaking their language is vital…While younger generations care more about the social impact of a cause, boomers and Gen Xers tend to be more interested in the direct, measurable outcomes of their donations. There’s a difference between impact and outcomes. Impact shows the difference made. In other words, what happened? However, outcomes are quantifiable results.Therefore, for Gen Xers and boomers, their gifts’ tangible results matter.” [NonProfitPRO]

Embrace Planned Giving: 
Leadership is crucial to the work of planned giving for faith-based organizations, James W. Murphy writes for The Lake Institute on Faith and Giving. “Many religious leaders are also often too distracted to focus on planned giving at their small, struggling congregations, even though they want to. Clergy may avoid the topic out of a fear of not knowing all the technical details or worry they may be asking too much of their congregants. Various religious leaders may also make the mistake of avoiding planned giving because they assume wrongly that those gifts will only come from the wealthy whom they may lack in their community of faith… Regardless of the reason for avoidance or delay, not cultivating planned gifts from a congregation’s most loyal donors will often result in those donors choosing other charities for their planned gifts.” [LakeInstitute]

Community Comms

Be featured: Email us to inform the eJP readership of your upcoming event, job opening, or other communication.

Word on the Street

The Bloomberg-Sagol Center for City Leadership at Tel Aviv University, founded earlier this year and funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Sagol family, one of Israel’s wealthiest industrialist families, announced its inaugural class of 20 Israeli mayors who will participate in a yearlong professional enrichment program. The mayors span Israel’s demographic spectrum, hailing from places including the Tel Aviv suburb of Givatayim, the Arab-Israeli city of Umm al-Fahm and the Binyamin Regional Council, a West Bank settlement district…

Fewer people have committed to the Giving Pledge this year than in any of its 22 years. Five billionaires — crypto trader Sam Bankman-FriedMark Pincus, the founder of video game developer Zynga; Anne Wojcicki, co-founder of 23andMe; money manager Mala Gaonkar; and private-equity executive Urs Wietlisbach and his wife, Simone Wietlisbach — have agreed to give away at least half of their fortunes before they die. In all, 236 billionaires from 28 countries have signed the pledge. There are 2,668 billionaires on Forbes’ 2022 list…

Candid announced it is partnering with Apple Pay to make it easier for nonprofits to accept donations on GivingTuesday. Last year, GivingTuesday, which currently has affiliates in more than 85 countries, raised $2.7 billion in the United States through its fundraising effort launched on the Tuesday after Black Friday…

Rabbi, educator and Pennsylvania native Ron Brauner, who taught at Pittsburgh’s Hebrew Institute, the Jewish Education Institute and the Agency for Jewish Learning, died at 83…

Pic of the Day

Tamara Leigh

The Holocaust Museum LA held its 14th annual gala last Thursday at the Saban Theater in Beverly Hills, Calif., hosted by television personality Melissa Rivers; the event honored three generations of Holocaust survivors and recognized the filmmakers of “The Promise,” the 2016 movie set during the Armenian genocide. Gala proceeds benefit the museum’s education programs, which reach more than 30,000 students each year. 


Joe Scarnici/Getty Images for USOC

Figure skater who won a 2006 Olympic silver medal, plus three World Championship medals and the 2006 U.S. Championship, Alexandra Pauline “Sasha” Cohen

Former chief justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court, the first woman to serve in that position, Deborah Tobias Poritz… South African judge who led the 2009 U.N. Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, Richard Goldstone… Veteran Israeli war correspondent, winner of the 2018 Israel Prize, Ron Ben-Yishai… Actress best known as one of Charlie’s Angels, she now develops and markets her own brands of clothing and perfume, Jaclyn Smith (family name was Kupferschmidt)… Chiropractor in White Plains, Dr. Leonard Linder… Certified life coach and hypnotherapist, Evie Sullivan… CEO at MDI Real Estate Services in Grand Blanc, Mich., Gary Hurand… Former secretary of state and U.S. senator, Hillary Rodham Clinton… Media critic at The Baltimore Sun, assistant professor at Goucher College and the author of The Jews of Prime TimeDavid Lee Zurawik… Aventura resident, Cecilia Kleiman… Illustrator and graphic memoirist, he is an emeritus professor at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania, Martin Lemelman… National director of development at the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance, Janice Prager… Rabbi of Congregation K.I.N.S. and dean of Ida Crown Jewish Academy, both in Chicago, Leonard Matanky… Senior counsel in the antitrust division of the USDOJ, Perry Howard Apelbaum… Director of communications at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Jeffrey Rubin… Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Stacy Madeleine Schiff… Cultural commentator and mathematician, he is a managing director of Thiel Capital, Eric Ross Weinstein… Founding partner and president of Global Strategy Group, Jefrey Pollock… Screenwriter, director, producer and editor, Jessica Sharzer… Canadian-born television and film actor, David Julian Hirsh… Staff writer for The New York Times Magazine, her 2019 novel Fleishman Is In Trouble hit the best-seller lists, Taffy Brodesser-Akner… Author and broadcast journalist for NBC Katherine Bear Tur… Executive director of product management at PoliticoDanielle Feldman… Tel Aviv resident, Dr. Alberto Calo

Email to have your birthday included.