Your Daily Phil: The OU’s ‘Back to Shul’ contest + Dara Horn’s new book

Good Tuesday morning!

Two JCCs are approved providers of early childhood care for military families in San Antonio and San Diego, Rabbi Tracy Kaplowitz, director of operations for the JWB Jewish Chaplains Council, told eJewishPhilanthropy.

“This initiative helps bridge our JCCs and our military communities, and Jewish service members and their families and service members of all faiths,” Kaplowitz said. The JWB is part of the JCC Association of North America.

The program — Military Child Care in Your Neighborhood —offers a subsidy to help pay for childcare in approved programs. It requires, however, that its early childhood centers carry both a state license and accreditation from a national body. These requirements seemed a possible obstacle to the JCC Association’s broader participation in the program, until Betzy Lynch, CEO of the Lawrence Family JCC in San Diego, worked with the military to meet its standards with its state license only.

“We now have a clear and compelling way to show families that serve that JCC doors are open to them,” Kalowitz said.


OU inspires collective brainstorming session with ‘Back to Shul’ contest


The Orthodox Union (OU) has sifted through hundreds of proposals from congregations for innovative ideas, from citywide Shabbat celebrations to volunteer opportunities to concerts, to help ease members’ transitions back to synagogue, Rabbi Adir Posy, the OU’s director of synagogue and community services, told eJewishPhilanthropy’s Helen Chernikoff.

A handy plan: Originally conceived following the large-scale vaccine rollout in the spring as a way to ease widespread anxiety after the virus made it unsafe to worship in person, the contest is also helping foster conversations about worship in the time of a pandemic in the lead-up to the High Holidays. “We do think that it helped shuls to create a strong sense of in-person community, which has led to an environment where people are more excited and comfortable,” Posy said. The OU has issued guidance for its member congregations, including recommendations that synagogues practice social distancing and shorten services when necessary, but national directives are longer appropriate now that vaccines are widely available, Posy said.

Local knowledge: The spread of the highly contagious Delta variant has complicated High Holiday decision-making for many OU synagogues, Posy said. Many are considering outdoor services; others are requiring congregants who aren’t vaccinated to wear masks. “It’s all anyone is talking about,” he said. The contest, called “Back to Shul,” was designed both to gather information and to diffuse smart ideas into the larger community. “The humility we start with, is that the people who know best about a community are in that community, not in an office in New York,” said Posy. He also serves as associate rabbi at Beth Jacob Congregation in Los Angeles, which requires everyone to wear masks indoors. Unvaccinated people are supposed to wear masks at outdoor events.

Scrapbook of ideas: The OU serves hundreds of synagogues, but this contest was also open to those that aren’t in its network, Posy said. The OU’s grant committee used a blind selection process to select 35 winners who are sharing in a pool of $100,000 in grant money in order to implement their ideas. The OU posted a description of each winning idea on its website for use by other congregations. The winners — including Congregation Rodfei Sholom in San Antonio; Moses Montefiore Anshe Emunah in Baltimore and Young Israel of Sharon in Sharon, Mass. — represent 15 states and one Canadian province.

Read the full article here.

book shelf

Dara Horn on a world that only teaches about ‘dead Jews’


In her previous five books, author Dara Horn has created fictional worlds around living Jews with interesting lives and story lines. Her latest book People Love Dead Jews: Reports From a Haunted Present— an essay collection that comes out on September 7 — is her first work of nonfiction. The title is meant to be provocative: It gets at Horn’s concern with how non-Jews around the world usually learn about Jews: not by interacting with them or learning about Jewish life, but by learning about “dead Jews,” through topics like the Holocaust or the Spanish Inquisition. Horn’s essays address the dissonance between people’s fascination with dead Jews and rising levels of antisemitism in the U.S. She spoke to Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch about what Jewish liturgy has to say about dead Jews, how universalizing Jewish stories can erase the Jewish experience and why Tevye’s story still matters.

Back to normal: On the recent rise in antisemitism: “The last few generations of non-Jews were sort of chagrined by the Holocaust, and that made antisemitism socially unacceptable. But now that visceral response is fading, because the people who really lived with those events [of] that generation are dying. I’m 44. For the people who are in my generation and my parents’ generation, the times we grew up in were not normal. Now normal is returning. And we know that because the liturgy is set up for this. Do I find it absolutely terrifying that this is my children’s normal? Yes. They find that hard to believe. Their experience is more typical of Jewish history.”

Enduring mythologies: On American Jews’ response upon learning that their families’ names were not changed at Ellis Island, and that their ancestors actually changed their own names later, in a bid to better fit into American society: “People really, really get mad when you tell them that. The moment when it gets uncomfortable is to me the signal that there’s an important story here. Why are educated American Jews — and these are people who pride themselves on their skepticism and critical thinking — why are they taking this la la land fairytale story that’s demonstrably untrue, and then trying to figure out some way to make it true, saying, ‘Well, maybe my great-great-grandfather was the exception?’ Why are people so attached to the story? It is doing something important emotionally for people.”

Read more here.


Early childhood compensation can change


“Being a teacher, a woman, and an early childhood educator is financially hazardous, according to CASJE’s recent report, ‘Compensation: The Salaries and Benefits of Jewish Educators.’ This information is not new, and it is not unique to early childhood Jewish education. What is new is that we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to change this,” writes Anna Hartman, director of early childhood excellence at the Jewish United Fund in Chicago, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Pending legislation: “Congress is currently considering a massive investment in early childhood education, as part of the $3.5 trillion soft infrastructure plan being proposed via budget reconciliation. If this legislation passes, then all three- and four-year old Americans would have the right to a free, high-quality education. With a mixed delivery system (in which Jewish and other early childhood centers could access federal funds to run their programs) and pay parity with local K-12 schools, federal funding would enable centers to properly compensate educators.”

Reset time: “Change to compensation in Jewish education is both necessary and possible. As we enter the shmitah (sabbatical) year, we have the opportunity and responsibility to heed our tradition’s call for economic adjustment and reset. Early childhood education remains one of the most powerful and positive forces in the life of a child and a society. For their part, Jewish early childhood centers stimulate the Jewish engagement of families in multiple domains, including behaviors, attitudes and values, institutional attachment, home practice, connection and interaction with friends and community, Jewish educational choices, and meaning making.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Danger Ahead: While employers can require staff to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, employees are also entitled to ask for a religious exemption, and evaluating those requests can expose companies and organizations to significant legal risk, counsels attorney Mike Bishop in Blue Avocado. Managers must be careful to assume that the request is based on sincere religious belief, but it can still be denied if granting it would be costly or dangerous. “Meet the request with respect, patience, and deference,” Bishop concludes. “Avoid skepticism and suspicion that they just don’t want to “get the shot.” [BlueAvocado]

Diffuse Constituency: In Inside Philanthropy, Connie Matthiessen documents the political weakness of childcare as an industry, and highlights the efforts of Elliot Haspel, a program officer at the Robins Foundation, to help it gain more clout by funding state-level advocacy efforts. Haspel and his colleagues have selected coalitions in five states, including New York, that will help lead change in their local childcare systems through advocacy and policy reform. “We’re leaning into this and saying, ‘Can we reimagine what child care looks like? We don’t have to rebuild it the way it was. We can build it better,’” said Helene Stebbins, executive director of the Alliance for Early Success. [InsidePhilanthropy]

Soft Power: There’s a lot of appetite for stories about philanthropy’s broader role in the world, said Teddy Schleiffer, who covered Silicon Valley donors for Recode, in the first part of a conversation with Michael E. Hartmann posted on Philanthropy Daily. Schleiffer recently joined Puck, a new media platform that will delve into philanthropy as part of its coverage of “power, money and ego,” he said. “When you make the money, how did your life change? What are your responsibilities to the world? How do you channel that money into making the world in your view of better place? What are the trade-offs if you try to do that?” [PhilanthropyDaily]

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Word on the Street

Naomi Adler has been named CEO of Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, effective September 1… Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro has been appointed to the State Department’s Iran policy team… The Ballmer Group, the philanthropic organization co-founded by Connie and Steve Ballmer, gifted $7 million to Concordance to help expand its mission of ending mass incarceration… Montana State University’s College of Nursing received a $101 million gift from Mark and Robyn Jones, the largest gift ever to a college of nursing in the United States… The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation announced grants totaling $1.2 million to protect and restore habitat for native bird and fish populations in New England… The University of Houston received a $1 million gift from an anonymous donor in support of research to address pandemic-related learning loss and vaccine hesitancy…

Pic of the Day

IsraAID/Phalonne Pierre Louis

IsraAid has three Israeli and three Haitian staffers assisting disaster relief efforts after the island nation was slammed by both an earthquake and a tropical storm earlier this month. Staffers are distributing safe water filters and hygiene fits and are based in the community of Petit-Rivière-de-Nippe.


Manny Hernandez/Getty Images

World renowned violinist and conductor, Itzhak Perlman

Actor, director and producer, Larry Hankin… Howard Crim… Screenwriter for television and film, Lowell Ganz… Member of the Los Angeles Police Commission, Steve Soboroff… Academic physician and health care policy expert, his brother is Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), David Blumenthal… 2004 Nobel laureate in Physics and professor at California Institute of Technology, Hugh David Politzer… Author and professor emerita of journalism and women’s studies at American University, Iris Krasnow… Owner of thoroughbred racehorses including the 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, Ahmed Zayat… Television host Mark L. Walberg… Gold medalist in volleyball at the Maccabiah Games in 1997, she is currently the athletic director at Seattle University, Shaney Fink… Physician assistant now serving as a practice administrator at Mount Sinai Medical Center, Lyudmila Milman… Israeli poet, translator and literary editor, Sivan Beskin… Former member of the Knesset, he also served as Minister of Tourism, Asaf Zamir… Communications director at the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, Jessica Levin Raimundo… Senior account director at W2O Group, Nick Horowitz… Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman… Deputy counsel and director of government relations at Cardinal Infrastructure, Bennett E. Resnik… Political reporter in the Washington bureau of The New York TimesThomas Kaplan… Southwest regional political director of AIPAC, Deryn Sousa… Israeli fashion model now in the IDF, Yael Shelbia Cohen
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