Your Daily Phil: The rabbis traveling to the Vatican + A new curriculum portal for educators

Good Thursday morning!

The American Jewish Committee (AJC) and the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life(COEJL) will represent the Jewish community at a gathering of faith leaders hosted by the Vatican on Oct. 4, leaders from both groups told eJewishPhilanthropy.

The meeting, called “Faith and Science: Towards COP26,”will issue a joint appeal from the global religious community about the importance of “COP26,” the 26th U.N. Climate Change Conference that will run from Oct. 31 to Nov. 12 in Glasgow, Scotland, said Rabbi Daniel Swartz, invited by the Vatican to the meeting as the executive director of COEJL. The gathering will bring together about 40 religious leaders and 10 scientists.

“Our commitments have to be in the political realm as well,”said Swartz, who is also the spiritual leader of Temple Hesed in Scranton, Pa. “This isn’t just about throwing less stuff away in our congregations.”

The religious leaders represent “the moral voice, and that moral voice is beyond geographies, and tends to last longer than the policymakers of the day,” said Rabbi Noam Marans, who is attending in his capacity as immediate past president of the International Jewish Committee for Inter-Religious Consultations (IJCIC), which is a constituent agency of AJC that focuses on interfaith work.

The statement to be signed and issued at the meeting was written collaboratively online over several months, with the help of regular Zoom meetings, Marans said. It is not yet finalized, but calls for policy measures such as limiting the global average temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, and creating decent employment for all workers in the transition to a clean energy economy.

Marans said the statement’s power will lie in its use as a tool by Bartholomew I, archbishop of Constantinople and the spiritual leader of the Eastern Orthodox Church, and Pope Francis, who in 2015 issued Laudato Si’, an encyclical that calls for solidarity with the poor and stewardship of the earth.

“These leaders are radar-like focused on the environment, so this kind of document can really have an impact,” Marans said.


New online portal connects educators to curriculum, and each other


For Jewish educators, the abundance of texts, commentaries, books, journals, articles and web posts that are the consequence of almost 6,000 years of history is both a boon and a challenge. They’re also the driving force behind the Jewish Education Project’s Jewish Educator Portal, a new section of its website that helps educators sort through this abundance of riches and connect with each other, Jonathan Fass, the project’s managing director of educational technology and strategy, told eJewishPhilanthropy’s Helen Chernikoff.

Attention to user experience: “Educators have had to do a lot of legwork looking for resources and professional connections,” Fass said. “The curation aspect of what we do is key.” The portal is divided into three sections: resources, professional development and educator networks. The resources portion offers a “quick search” function and timely collections — Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah and Shavuot top the list right now. Advanced filters offer the ability to narrow a search to certain ages, populations, topics or formats.  

A pandemic catalyst: The Jewish Education Project had been contemplating the creation of such a website before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, but the shift to online education necessitated by lockdowns lent a sense of urgency to the idea, Fass said. The group conceived the portal in April 2020, and launched it four months later. Today, 4,500 people visit it each month. Some 2,800 users have registered accounts. The project received funding from the G.S. Humane Corp and the Jewish Community Response and Impact Fund (JCRIF), which was created in the early days of the pandemic and supported by the Jim Joseph Foundation; the Maimonides Fund; the Jack, Joseph, and Morton Mandel Foundation; Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies and The Paul E. Singer Foundation.

A one-stop shop: There are several other Jewish curriculum banks that serve more specific constituencies, said Nachama Moskowitz, the director of the Hebrew-language education initiative #OnwardHebrew, who retired this year as director of curriculum resources at the Jewish Education Center of Cleveland. Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion operates the Tartak Learning Center in Los Angeles to support its students, alumni and other Jewish professionals. The Foundation for Jewish Camp has a collection of materials developed at camps. is a curriculum source for Orthodox educators. The Jewish Educator Portal aims to be both more comprehensive and more selective.

Read the full story here.


A Jewish education marketplace for all

The Jewish Education Project

“While we have always known the power of technology, it took a pandemic for many of us to fully realize the power that technology could have. During these last 18 months, a great deal of communal commitment and creativity resulted in myriad new ways to virtually connect to Jewish life,” writes Susan Wachsstock, chief program officer at The Jewish Education Project, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

The Pew moment: “Mid-pandemic, in May of 2021, Pew released its most recent study on the Jewish community. It once again highlighted that how people Jewishly identify is different than in previous generations, devoting the first five chapters of the report speaking to identity and affiliation. Reflecting on this research, we as communal leaders must acknowledge that Jewish identity is complex and the composition of the Jewish family is more complex than in the past. The proliferation of Jewish opportunities online amplifies and underscores Pew’s message: Today, people connect to Jewish life, belief and practice in different ways.”

Community needs and realities: “How can we shape a community and offer Jewish educational opportunities that engage and inspire Jews with diverse identities? How can we become comfortable with the idea that we can, we must, encourage connection and Jewish education in the ways we have for decades and in ways that are new and relevant to those who do not feel reflected in our current landscape? How do we foster numerous doorways (and windows) as gateways to Jewish education and engagement? COVID accelerated our search for these answers, forcing us to become better acquainted with online educational approaches.”

Read the full piece here.


What our day schools can learn from a septuagenarian Italian grocer


“If you live anywhere near the Boston area, or have friends in the area, you may have heard the hue and cry sparked by the announcement that Russo’s, a beloved wholesale and retail grocer, is closing,” write nonprofit consultants Lisa Coll and Nanette Fridman in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Ability to pivot: “One could ask, ‘What on earth could be so special about a grocery store?’ There are many reasons Russo’s was so beloved, and we in the Jewish day school community could learn valuable lessons from Tony Russo, the proprietor… Russo’s started over 100 years ago as a family business. At first it was a farm, but as the area became more and more urban, Tony decided that a wholesale grocery was far more profitable. After that, he realized that many local residents missed buying direct from the old farm stand — so he opened a retail store too. It took some vision and creativity to do both wholesale and retail, but by thinking out of the box and being willing to take a risk, Tony built two successful revenue streams. Our schools need to be able to pivot and think creatively as well. Of course, serving our students comes first, but there are other things the schools could be doing — after-school for wider audiences, Sunday sports, extracurricular Jewish learning for non-day school kids, camps, adult education, etc.”

Schools as communal institutions: “The best part of Russo’s was that you always ran into someone you knew. Or met someone new. Conversations started with strangers over unusual vegetables. ‘How do you use that — could you share a recipe?’ Pre-holiday shopping was the very best — you could get in as many ‘Shanah Tova’ greetings at Russo’s as you could at your synagogue. And this, of course, is what made Tony, and the rest of us, so very happy to be there. Our schools must not operate as siloed educational institutions. They must be able to take their place as Jewish communal institutions, a place of connection not just for their students, but for the families, and the Jewish community at large. Schools must also work across the Jewish community with other organizations to address communal needs and seize opportunities to bring Jewish educational excellence and joyful Judaism to life.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

New Issues: Nearly 90% of households worth $1 million or more, excluding their primary residence, donated to charity in 2020, according to a new survey from Bank of America, reports Fang Block in Barron’s. The top three charitable sectors were the same as in previous years — religion, basic needs and education — however, social and racial justice issues drew increased interest this year. “Issues-based philanthropy is becoming increasingly important, especially among millennials and Gen Zs — 55% say they give based on issues or causes they consider most important, versus 35% who give to organizations,” said Bill Jarvis, a philanthropic executive at Bank of America. [Barron’s]

Key Texts: In Christianity Today, Monty Lynn urges readers who want to help but are overwhelmed by the flood of breaking news to join him in reading about the history of Christian charity, in Biblical, medieval and modern times. A knowledge of history hasn’t been a panacea for Lynn’s worries and concerns, but he’s found these accounts, in both primary and scholarly sources, both inspiring and thought-provoking. “History doesn’t tell us how to act in our own context, but it vicariously draws out our direct experience. It offers us a lens to see what’s coming with a deeper depth of field,” Lynn concludes. [ChristianityToday]

Community Comms

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Word on the Street

Five people were killed and nearly 50 injured when a bus returning from a Bnei Akiva youth movement trip crashed into three vehicles in the Upper Galilee on Wednesday afternoon… Aaron Merki has been promoted to chief program officer at The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation… Moving Traditions released “Family Education @ B-Mitzvah,” a white paper that calls on the Jewish community to embrace a new framework for family education at adolescence… NYU Abu Dhabi announced the launch of the Strategic Philanthropy Initiative, the first academic and community-based platform that aims to shape a strategic practice of philanthropy in the Gulf… The Tenement Museum has been awarded a two-year $650,000 grant by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support a new project centered on expanding the collective understanding of American identity through stories of race and migration… David M. Rubenstein gifted Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts $10 million in support of civic engagement initiatives… Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, N.Y., received a $20 million gift from an alumna who wishes to remain anonymous in support of the college’s strategic vision… Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Steve Jobs, will invest $3.5 billion within the next 10 years to address the climate crisis…

Pic of the Day



Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for BCRF

Actress and activist, she was elected earlier this month as president of the SAG-AFTRA trade union, Fran Drescher

Former prime minister of Israel, Ehud Olmert… IT developer and business analyst, Sanford Kadish… Chairman and CEO of AMC Entertainment and a co-owner of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers, Adam Maximilian Aron… Co-founder and CEO of hedge fund Avenue Capital Group and co-owner of the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks, Marc Lasry… Professor of mathematical logic at MIT and then Hebrew University, now on the faculty at Oxford, Ehud Hrushovski… Journalist for HaaretzAllison Kaplan Sommer… Professor of healthcare economics at MIT, Jonathan Gruber… Leora Lily Ihilevich Usman… Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Gilad Menashe Erdan… SVP of digital product management at The Advertising Council, Anastasia Goodstein… Chief Brussels correspondent at Politico EuropeDavid Herszenhorn… CEO of Via Trading Corporation, Jacques Stambouli… President and CEO of Hadar Institute in Manhattan, Eliezer “Elie” Kaunfer… Founder of Artemis Strategies, a boutique consultancy, Hildy Kuryk… Host of NPR’s All Things ConsideredAri Shapiro… Screenwriter, director, producer and actor, Jonathan Peter Kasdan… Computer scientist and entrepreneur, a co-founder of Palantir Technologies, Stephen Cohen… Strategy editor at The Wall Street JournalSteven Russolillo… Founder of Rachie Shnay Jewelry, Rachie Shnay

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