Your Daily Phil: The surprise $1 million gift in a FedEx envelope + Hearing ‘Hatikvah’ in Abu Dhabi

Good Monday morning!

Most nonprofit executives probably dream of walking into their offices and finding $1 million lying around. For the leadership of Mazon, a Jewish group combating hunger in the U.S. and Israel, that dream literally came true.

The unexpected windfall came this summer in a FedEx envelope to the group’s Los Angeles office. When CEO Abby Leibman opened the package, she found the seven-figure check, plus an explanation that it was a bequest from the estate of Alfred Reich, a Scranton, Pa., accountant who had died in May 2021 at 95.

That discovery set off a detective search at the nonprofit: “Had he ever donated to Mazon? Had we had any contact with him?” Naama Haviv, the group’s vice president of community engagement, told eJewishPhilanthropy. “The answer was no. During his lifetime, he hadn’t made any gift to Mazon.”

Mazon staff then contacted Reich’s estate lawyer and did some Googling. That led them to Beth Shalom Congregation in Scranton, Reich’s longtime synagogue, and subsequently to two close friends. Reich was not married and had no living relatives. He had one request of Mazon: Because he had no one to mourn him, he asked the employees to say Kaddish for him. Haviv and Leibman did so the next Shabbat in synagogue.

So what led him to Mazon? Reich’s friends and neighbors told the organization that generosity defined their newest donor: He built a successful accounting practice but lived frugally. He gave of his time and money to local charities during his lifetime, and that commitment continued after his death. The donation was one of many he made — including to a range of local Pennsylvania Jewish groups — in his will.

A close friend of Reich’s, Harris Cutler, wrote in an email to Mazon that Reich always refused to be honored for his charitable giving. Cutler recalled that Reich would say, “I am never about public accolades. I do my things privately. I never was after fame. I only wanted to do what is right and bring honor to my parents.”

“He was very much concerned about poor people unable to provide food for themselves and their families,” another close friend, Rabbi Samuel Sandhaus, wrote in a tribute to Reich after his death. “While he appeared very officious and all business, he had a deep concern for the welfare of others.”

Since Reich’s donations came to light, more details of his life have emerged. According to an obituary, he was a lifelong resident of the Scranton area who dropped out of college to enlist in the U.S. Army Signal Corps during World War II, based in Calcutta. After he got home, he became a CPA and opened his own practice. He would vacation at Jewish resorts in the Catskills and, later, Miami Beach.

Mazon hopes to sponsor an educational program in Scranton about hunger in America, dedicated to Reich’s memory. The money entered Mazon’s bank account this week, and the organization is going to use half of it for a matching grant in his name to mitigate hunger in populations the group says are overlooked, including veterans, older LGBTQ adults and single mothers.

In addition, $250,000 will go to the group’s work in Israel, another place where Reich gave charitable donations, and the remainder will be used for Mazon’s general expenses. The $1 million represents a significant increase to the group’s $7.9 million annual budget.

“We really want to keep this memory of him alive,” Haviv said. “He sounds like he was such an incredible, ethical, wonderful, beloved man. And I’m truly sorry that we didn’t get a chance to know him in his lifetime.”


President Herzog makes inaugural trip to UAE

Mohammed bin Zayed and Isaac Herzog

Amos Ben-Gershom/Israeli Government Press Office

Israeli President Isaac Herzog and First Lady Michal Herzog arrived in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, as part of the historic first visit of an Israeli president to the United Arab Emirates. The couple were welcomed by the UAE’s foreign minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and later took part in an official welcoming ceremony at the royal palace with Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan  of Abu Dhabi, where the national anthems of both countries were played. 

Presidential message: “We are sending a message to the entire region that there is an alternative of peace and living together, and that the sons and daughters of Abraham can reside and dwell together in peaceful coexistence for the benefit of humanity,” Herzog said.

Community ties: Herzog later met with the Jewish community of the UAE. “It was very moving to see the president of Israel, who represents all Jews, in [the UAE] for the first time,” Rabbi Elie Abadie, senior rabbi of the Jewish Council of the Emirates, told JI’s Ruth Marks Eglash. Rabbi Levi Duchman, who heads Chabad in the UAE, described Herzog’s visit as special. “The UAE has been a beacon of light, tolerance, and respect,” Duchman shared with JI. “I think the president was fascinated by it.” 

Moving moment: Abadie said that Herzog was extremely moved during the visit, especially at hearing “Hatikvah,” Israel’s national anthem. “He had tears in his eyes,” Abadie said. “He felt very welcomed by the crown prince.” Abadie said he believed that a reciprocal visit would be forthcoming and that Herzog’s visit would help to encourage other countries to join the Abraham Accords and normalize ties with Israel. “We are now raising the first generation of children after the Abraham Accords,” Duchman added. “To see the Israeli president in the UAE, to see him sitting with the leader of a Muslim country, sends a message of hope, caring and respect – and not only to young Israelis and [Emiratis] but also to young people everywhere.”

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Senior White House officials share stories of family who survived the Holocaust

After fleeing a death march, Ann Gabor Arancio “spent a long, cold winter” with her mother in a wine cellar in the Budapest hills, relying on a Righteous Gentile to survive the Holocaust. Arancio eventually made her way to California, where she lived on welfare as a single mother before graduating from the University of California, Berkeley at age 40 and becoming a social worker. Her granddaughter Rebecca Lissner shared her story at a virtual “pre-Shabbat briefing” hosted by the White House on Friday, the day after International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch reports

Life lessons: Arancio “ultimately built a really lovely life for her family,” said Lissner, director for strategic planning at the National Security Council. She told the approximately 800 people who tuned in to watch the event that knowing her grandmother’s story “really ingrained in me an understanding that matters of war and peace are not just abstract questions. They’re not theoretical. These are actually forces that shape and in many cases actually do take individuals’ lives.” 

Administration approach: “We want to share with you what we’re doing to address Holocaust issues,” explained Chanan Weissman, the White House liaison to the Jewish community. “We also wanted to showcase individuals who serve in the United States government because they were inspired in part by their parents or grandparents who survived the Holocaust.”

Not inevitable: Samantha Vinograd, acting assistant secretary for counterterrorism and threat prevention at the Department of Homeland Security, spoke about her father Serge, a Holocaust survivor who joined the call virtually from Paris. Many of his family members were killed at Auschwitz, including his father. “From a very early age, I was deeply aware of the legacy and the lessons of the Holocaust. My father taught me several things which continue to guide my work today,” she said. “My father taught me that the Holocaust did not happen overnight. There was not one big moment that led to the murder of 6 million Jews and millions of others. It unfolded over several years at several stages… The Holocaust was never inevitable.”

Greatest honor: Weissman concluded the event with a story from President Joe Biden’s 90-minute meeting on Thursday with Auschwitz survivor Bronia Brandman and her daughter. “As he escorted both of them out, Bronia looked up at him, and said, ‘Mr. President, to go from the gates of Auschwitz to being able to meet the president in the White House is the greatest honor,’” Weissman recalled. “He gently bent down to her and called her mom. He said, ‘Mom, actually, you’re wrong. For the president of the United States to meet a survivor of Auschwitz, that’s the greatest honor.’”

Read the full story here.

Making room for ‘time elsewhere’: Inviting discussion


“Burnout. Job satisfaction. Mental health. Leadership pipelines. Recruitment. Retention. Challenges in these areas are endemic to the world at large, and no less prevalent in the not-for-profit and Jewish communal sectors, where these concerns and trends manifest in both similar and different ways,” writes Doron Kenter, a senior program officer at Maimonides Fund, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

No silver bullet: “These challenges are not easily solved, and there is certainly no silver bullet. (And let’s imagine, for a moment, that COVID is not the front-of-mind issue….)… How can we address these issues, or at least outpace the market more broadly, in caring for ourselves, our institutions and those we serve? Can we, to paraphrase Micah Goodman, ‘shrink” these challenges while also improving our personal, spiritual and communal well-being?”

Here’s one possibility: “What would it look like for employees’ vacation days used in service of the Jewish communal good to be matched by their employers? In other words, employees choosing to devote their time off to summer camps, social services, staffing Israel trips (someday!), social services or similar work would effectively contribute half of the allotted paid time off (PTO), while their employers would match those days with additional PTO.”

Read the full piece here.


Making space for women leaders in Orthodox synagogues

Toksook at English Wikipedia

“Before I turned 12, I eagerly attended Orthodox Shabbat services with my family. Yes, there were drawn-out morning prayers, sermons, announcements and appeals. But I could sit on either side of the mechitza with either of my parents. When I sat on the men’s side, I visited with the ‘candyman’ (there was never a ‘candywoman’) to get my weekly sugar fix. I could reach out and touch the Torah scroll as it passed through the men’s section before and after Torah reading. I could approach the rabbi to wish him a ‘Shabbat Shalom,’” writes Daphne Lazar Price, executive director of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy

Lived experiences: “I was aware of gender differences … But it wasn’t until well after I reached the age of bat mitzvah that I fully absorbed the very different lived experiences that depended on where you sat in the sanctuary, with all that it entails. It was evident to me that, despite making up half the population, women had little choice or input on these matters. I was also aware that many men were unattuned, ambivalent or opposed to acknowledging women’s disenfranchisement from the very synagogues that had been so central to the men’s lives.”

Structural equity: “In the years since, I have learned to articulate both the why and the how of improving the shul-going experience on the women’s side of the mechitza. It starts with creating structural equity… The most effective means to achieve this is by establishing and increasing the number of formalized leadership positions for Orthodox women in Orthodox synagogues.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

The quarterback scion in ZionThe Circuit‘s Ruth Marks Eglash profiles Nicky Montana, son of football legend Joe Montana, who moved to Israel last year to work for the Tel Aviv-based MizMaa Ventures. “His friends, he said, thought he was crazy. ‘All they knew about Israel was camels and rockets,’ he quipped. ‘But the opportunity to come to a place like Israel, given everything that’s going on here, was super enticing – everyone is an entrepreneur here.’ Montana, whose focus at MizMaa is on Web3, cryptocurrencies and fintech, continued, ‘There’s so much ambition and it’s amazing being on the venture side and seeing how everyone thinks the world’s gonna look in the future.’” [TheCircuit]

Holocaust Not a Punchline: 
CNN’s Pamela Brown strongly rebuked Republican lawmakers and public figures who have compared COVID-19 masking and vaccine requirements to the Holocaust, writes Katherine Huggins at Mediaite. Brown said that “the deaths of 6 million Jews should not be a punchline or a way to rally supporters… For the record, it is profoundly disrespectful to the memories of survivors and the suffering of those who were killed to equate the Holocaust to anything… Maybe our time is better spent reading books about the history of the Holocaust instead of making insensitive, outrageous, and ahistorical comparisons to it,” Brown said. [Mediaite]

Community Comms

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Word on the Street

The U.K. government, along with the local governments of Guernsey and Jersey, will make all their records related to the Holocaust available to the public for research and study uses…

The Jewish Agency for Israel’s platform for emergency preparedness and community resilience, JReady, has launched the Toronto cohort of a disaster management course that has been offered to Jewish community leaders from around the world…

Yoash Dvir has been appointed CEO of Technion Australia… 

The Atlanta Jewish Life Festival is returning to the Georgia Aquarium on Feb. 27 … 

MacKenzie Scott provided a $35 million investment to NewSchools Venture Fund. The gift will enable the organization to continue providing unrestricted capital in support of educators and innovators who are reimagining learning in the United States…

The Hispanic Theological Initiative in Princeton, N.J., announced a grant of $7.3 million from the Lilly Endowment to establish a program to provide fellowships for pre-dissertation doctoral students…

??Princeton Theological Seminary’s board unanimously voted to remove the name of slaveholder and anti-abolitionist Samuel Miller from the school’s chapel…

Dallas-based Southern Methodist University received a $50 million commitment from alumnus Garry Weber and the Garry Weber Foundation in support of renovating the university’s football stadium…

The family of Max Harry Weil, who was regarded by many as a father of critical care medicine, gifted $10 million to University of Michigan Health in support of its critical care research institute…

Applications are open for the 2022 Rappers and Rabbis Virtual Fellowship… 

Longtime communal professional, most recently at 70 Faces Media, Nate Geller, who did extensive work on behalf of coexistence in Israel and Jews in the former Soviet Union, died at 63. In 2020, he wrote an essay for eJewishPhilanthropyabout how he handled career setbacks and remained dedicated to serving Jews worldwide…

Esther Pollard, the wife of convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, died today at age 68 after COVID-19-related complications. Pollard, who had been fighting breast cancer for years, was rushed to Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem suffering from septic shock. She was known for her devotion to her husband, having fought for years for his release from U.S. prison until his parole restrictions were lifted in 2020.

Pic of the Day

World Jewish Congress

One World Trade Center was lit in yellow to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which was commemorated last Thursday.


Reg Innell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Classical cellist born in Hadera, Israel, Ofra Harnoy… 

Co-founder of the department of nuclear physics at the Weizmann Institute, Igal Talmi… Cardiologist and co-inventor of the automatic implantable cardioverter defibrillator, Dr. Morton M. Mower… Scion of a leading rabbinic family in pre-WWII Poland, former assistant U.S. solicitor general, now a private attorney with an active Supreme Court practice focused on religious liberty issues, Nathan Lewin… Classical music and movie score composer, Philip Glass… Associate professor emeritus of Talmud and rabbinics at The Jewish Theological Seminary, Mayer Elya Rabinowitz… Chairperson of Bain & Company, Orit Gadiesh… Founder and CEO of MikeWorldWide pr firm, Michael W. Kempner… CEO at Gracie Capital, Daniel L. Nir… Co-founder, chairman and CEO of Meridian Capital Group, Ralph Herzka… Organization of American States commissioner to monitor and combat antisemitism, Fernando Lottenberg… Neurosurgeon and chairman of the Rockland County (NY) Board of Health, Jeffrey Sable Oppenheim… Fourth-generation real estate developer and founding partner of Redbrick LMD, Louis Myerberg Dubin… Former chief rabbi of Norway and member of Knesset, Michael Melchior… Host of NPR’s news quiz “Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!,” his older brother is a rabbi, Peter Sagal… Mayor of Efrat and former chief foreign envoy of the Yesha Council, Oded Revivi… CEO of City Cast, he was previously CEO of Atlas Obscura and Slate, David Plotz… Security technology executive at Affiliated Monitoring, Daniel J. Oppenheim… Managing director of BerlinRosen’s New York office, Michael Rabinowitz-Gold… VP of insights, sports and Olympics at NBC Universal Media, Matthew Gottlieb… Film producer and founder of Annapurna Pictures, Megan Ellison… Singer, who won Israel’s Kokhav Nolad song contest in 2008, Israel Bar-On… Director at NYC’s 25madison and interim head of revenue and strategy at Limelight, Grant Silow… Israeli singer-songwriter and actor, Eliad Nachum… Director of programs and strategy at the Kraft Group and affiliates, Clara Scheinmann… J.D. candidate in the Harvard Law School class of 2022, Eli Nachmany

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