Your Daily Phil: The highest per-capita charity bike ride in the world + A pluralistic teen Havruta

Good Wednesday morning! 

In today’s Your Daily Phil, we have a write-up on Jewish efforts to reduce anti-Israel bias in the investing world, and a story about Bike4Chai, billed as the highest per-capita charity bike ride in the world. Rabba Claudia Marbach, director of Hebrew College’s Teen Beit Midrash, shares her view on Jewish teen engagement.

Jewish organizations are pushing the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to reduce anti-Israel bias in financial markets by requiring that investment firms explain how they assign environmental, social, and governance (ESG) ratings to companies.

“Israel deserves to be held to the same standards as every other country, whether it’s at international bodies or in financial ratings,” Eric Fingerhut, CEO of The Jewish Federations of North America, said in a statement to eJewishPhilanthropy. “We hope the SEC fulfills its responsibility to regulate financial institutions fairly and ensure they don’t become party to discrimination and falsehoods.”

ESG ratings are used to help investors direct their money to ostensibly ethical companies and funds, but have come under fire for being subjective, and at times misleading. As a result, the SEC proposed a new rule to have investment funds explain clear goals for ESG investment strategies, and to tell investors the fund’s progress on reaching those goals.

JFNA, the American Jewish Committee (AJC), and The Louis D. Brandeis Center For Human Rights Under Lawsubmitted public comments arguing that the SEC rule doesn’t go far enough in addressing the unreliability of ESG ratings, and urging more specific disclosures from funds about how they source the ratings.

The organizations are concerned about how the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel has been integrated into some ESG ratings. In the case of one investment firm, Chicago-based Morningstar, several investigations show it purposefully gave poor ESG ratings to companies for being Israeli. Morningstar ran afoul of Illinois’ anti-BDS law, but avoided being blacklisted on the condition that the firm address anti-Israel bias.

“The new rulemaking will require transparency across the board, and we are asking the SEC specifically to require ESG-related funds that focus on the social aspect of ESG to tell investors how they derive ratings for such companies, how they check for and eliminate anti-Israel bias in their sources, and whether they include anti-Semitism on their human rights radar,” said L. Rachel Lerman, vice chair and general counsel of the Brandeis Center, in a statement to eJP.

As part of its filing, the AJC also noted that it had an interest in ESG disclosures because of its nearly $150 million endowment, writing that the SEC rule, “even as proposed, [is] essential to allow AJC to have visibility into its investments.”

“People have the right to urge their moral vision on companies in which they invest,” said AJC’s chief legal officer, Marc D. Stern, in a statement to eJP. “But other people have a right to know of those efforts, and to oppose them to the extent that they affect their own investment decisions, whether because they don’t want to support that boycott, or because those efforts might trigger state anti-boycott laws.”


The bike ride that raises millions for a Jewish nonprofit that cares for sick children

Courtesy of Chai Lifeline

Today begins Bike4Chai, the annual charity bike ride for Chai Lifeline, the social service organization that supports families whose children have life-threatening illnesses. The event, billed as the highest per-capita charity bike ride in the world, includes 648 bikers who have raised over $12 million in both small donations and gifts from businesses and charitable foundations. Capital One, New York Community Bank and Eagle Rock Properties are among the donors, reports Lev Gringauz for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Instant gratification: Rabbi Sruli Fried, Bike4Chai’s executive director, attributes the growth of the fundraiser to the immediate feeling of impact that riders get. The ride ends at what organizers call “the world’s greatest finish line” in Camp Simcha, Chai Lifeline’s flagship program in the Catskills, where riders and volunteers see where campers facing debilitating illnesses enjoy a summer of fun and care. “When you ride…and you come into the camp, and you see your charity dollars at work, that really goes to the nature of why people are so passionate about it,” Fried said. 

Wide appeal: Jews of all denominations and various communities are involved in the race, with one team of bikers representing the Sephardic Syrian community. “The beauty of Bike4Chai is it has every level fundraiser, every level rider, from riders that are casual riders…[to] the riders that are literally professional cyclists,” Fried said. “That’s the Jewish unity in this ride, and people love it. That’s why we sell out literally right when we open up. Because it’s an incredible event.”

Read the full story here.


Supporting our teens, one text at a time

Courtesy of Hebrew College

“How does a precious rock collection or an undying love of Abraham Lincoln build Jewish community for teens? One weeknight evening at Teen Beit Midrash at a time,” writes Rabba Claudia Marbach, director of Hebrew College’s Teen Beit Midrash, in a response to “The Transformative Torah of ‘Ordinary People’” by Rabbi Joshua Rabin.

Teen Beit Midrash: “I run programming for Jewish teens. Teen Beit Midrash of Hebrew College (TBM) is a pluralistic, inclusive after-school program focused on the study of Talmud. At the beginning of each class we have what we call ‘fandom,’ where one student shares something they are passionate about. We thrive on our quirkiness, devotion to text and love of tricky questions.” 

COVID-19 fallout: “Like Rabbi Rabin, I am concerned about Jewish teen engagement, normalcy and mental health. COVID-19 has upended the rituals, milestones, hopes and dreams of so many people. For adolescents, the experience has been even more acute because they do not have the experiences and memories to fall back on like adults do. The lack of communal and family gatherings has meant that memories of Seders and shofar-blowing are sometimes missing — or, at least, harder to remember. In addition, the world has in many ways become a scarier place. I worry what Jewish continuity means for our teens.” 

Havruta: “For some students, in the first months of the pandemic, TBM was the only regularly scheduled activity while their schools struggled to figure out how to proceed. In the weeks and months that followed, we balanced the need to talk things through and the need for ‘normal’ learning. Valuing text study gave students an identity that they could hold onto beyond the shakiness of the world around them. Our focus on traditional paired havruta learning meant that students had time with friends in addition to frontal teaching and allowed for peer-to-peer communication (and occasionally flirting).”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Training Day: While companies may view investment in employees as an unnecessary expense, especially given the current rate of employee exodus from some nonprofits, some small investments in the professional development and advancement of employees may be the secret to retaining those workers, Marc Pitman writes in NonProfitPRO. “Without knowing it, many nonprofit leaders sound like the first part of the well-worn leadership anecdote. A chief financial officer might ask, ‘What if we train them and they leave?’ When staff is turning over and costs are rising, adding a new program can seem like an additional expense. But remember the second part of the anecdote, as a CEO might say, ‘But what if we don’t train them and they stay?’” [NonProfitPRO]

Helping Hand: Jewish Insider’s Ruth Marks Eglash spotlights the Peres Center for Peace’s new medical initiatives, which are being built with funds allocated through the Nita Lowey Middle East Partnership for Peace Act. ??“‘Medicine is a really good field to focus on because when a program is developed well, you can really see the sustainable impact,’ Yarden Leal-Yablonka, the center’s deputy director general, told Jewish Insider in a recent interview. ‘It sounds cliched, but hospitals and doctors have an oath of doing no harm and helping anyone who needs help,’ she continued. ‘A program that comes from a value-based outlook, bringing together people and showing there is a point to cooperation, creates fruits that can be enjoyed by everyone.’” [JI]

Community Comms

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Word on the Street

The City of Tel Aviv-Jaffa officially opened a new homeless shelter on Tuesday to serve as a refuge for substance abuse victims who are without a permanent home. The Gagon facility, located directly adjacent to the city’s beaches, was funded by the municipality, the Tel Aviv Foundation, the Lasova organization and the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. The shelter will be officially named for IFCJ’s founder and longtime president, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein…

After two and a half years, the Zionist Federation of Australia has resumed Birthright Israel trips, sending 56 participants and four staff; ZFA plans to send 300 participants by the end of 2022…

Five months after canceling its planned trips to Israel, and then — following outrage from Jewish organizations — apologizing days later and saying the trips would be reinstated, the Sierra Club has quietly posted a new excursion to Israel for next year…

MacKenzie Scott donated $38.8 million to Junior Achievement USA and JA operations in 26 communities across the country. This is the largest gift from a single donor in the organization’s 103-year history. Junior Achievement’s mission is to inspire and prepare young people to succeed… 

The Pokémon Company International announced a five-year, $25 million commitment in support of organizations around the world dedicated to children and social equity…

Aaron Bregman has been appointed the American Jewish Committee’s first director of high school affairs. Bregman comes to this position from Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville, Md…

British retailer,?? the son of Viennese immigrants who lost their fortune fleeing the Nazis, and who co-founded Topshop, Sir Ralph Halpern died at 83…

Pic of the Day

In Wesley Hills, N.Y., about an hour north of New York City, a group of philanthropists from the Monsey area built an approximate replica of the Baal Shem Tov’s synagogue in Medzhybizh in western Ukraine to house a neighborhood congregation that was in need of a new home.



Israeli marathon and half marathon runner who represented Israel at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Marhu Teferi… 

Former U.S. ambassador to Hungary, David B. Cornstein… Co-founder of Oracle Corporation, Larry Ellison… Head of Drexler Ventures and longtime board member of Apple, Millard “Mickey” S. Drexler… Former U.S. senator from Minnesota and senior counsel at Hogan Lovells, Norm Coleman… Partner in Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle, Eliot Lauer… Audiologist in the Boston area, Louise Citron… Senior U.S. district court judge for the Southern District of California, Barry Ted Moskowitz… Sharon Taksler… Former chairman, president and CEO of Continental Airlines and then United Airlines, Jeffery Alan “Jeff” Smisek… Founder and managing partner of SBNY, past president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Buffalo, Jordan Levy… Co-owner and founding partner of The Jackal Group, a television and film production firm, Gail Berman… Communications coordinator at Temple Beth El in Longmeadow, Mass., Deborah Kessner Peskin… Former U.S. Senate candidate in Pennsylvania and CEO of Bridgewater Associates until earlier this year, David Harold “Dave” McCormick… Former member of Knesset for the Zionist Union party, Revital Swid… Former MLB baseball player, now an insurance advisor in Baltimore, Brian Kowitz… Israeli journalist who serves as the Arab affairs correspondent and head of the Arab desk at Israeli News Channel 13, Zvi Yehezkeli… Documentary film director and producer, Judd Milo Ehrlich… Special assistant for baseball operations at Major League Baseball, Glen Caplin… Partner in the white-collar and securities litigation groups at Proskauer Rose, Hadassa Robyn Waxman… Former Obama White House staffer, now a podcaster and comedian, Jon Lovett… VP of social impact and inclusion at Rare Beauty by Selena Gomez, Elyse Cohen… Comedian, writer, producer and actor, Raphael Bob-Waksberg… Senior reporter at Protocol, Ben Brody… One of the Sprout Brothers from Great Barrington, Mass., Ari Meyerowitz… Project manager of real estate at MSD Partners, Amanda Horwitz… Government and public affairs director at BOMA of Greater Los Angeles, Aaron Taxy… Eli Diamond… Gabriel Berger… John Kohan…

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