Your Daily Phil: The Vancouver JCC’s expansion plan + Philanthropy Together’s Jewish origin story

Good Thursday morning!

With $25 million from the province of British Columbia, the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver will start implementing a plan to build both affordable housing and a Jewish hub on its three-acre campus, located in a prime neighborhood in one of the most expensive cities in the world.

The need for a new building to replace the 60-year-old JCC inspired a master-planning exercise, its executive director, Eldad Goldfarb, told eJewishPhilanthropy. “It was an opportunity to see what the community needs, not just the Jewish community, but the community at large,” Goldfarb said. “The main need is housing.”

The first phase of the plan, which will cost an additional $125 million to be raised from government and philanthropy, will build a new JCC that will also house more than 15 nonprofits.

The second phase, to be financed mainly through a mortgage, will relocate the King David High School to the JCC campus and build as many as 500 apartments in two rental towers.

“The JCC is the owner of the land. It will stay in community hands, and eventually will produce revenue in perpetuity,” Eldad said. About a third of the units will be affordable housing; the rest will rent at market rates.

“Vancouver’s historic initiative is emblematic of community collaboration of the highest order,” said Doron Krakow, CEO of the JCC Association of North America. “It also reflects a clear understanding of the need to assure durable sources of revenue to sustain and evolve the programs that enhance the vibrancy of Jewish life.”


Liz Fisher is determined to democratize philanthropy


A significant recent development in the world of philanthropy — the launch of a giving circle directory by the nonprofit Philanthropy Together — has a little-known Jewish backstory. It comes in the form of Liz Fisher, a career Jewish professional who has also worked in leadership positions at Repair the World and Birthright Israel NEXT. In 2019, as the CEO of Amplifier, Fisher led the creation of Philanthropy Together after the organization secured a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to build the infrastructure for a global giving circle movement. Today, Fisher sits on Philanthropy Together’s advisory board. Amplifier, which has been funded since its inception by the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies, has become part of Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA). It is now known as Amplifier@JFNA and is creating a two-year strategic plan scheduled for completion in July. Fisher spoke with eJewishPhilanthropy about Amplifier’s evolution and her ambitions for its work, which is to make philanthropy into a way of being Jewish, as tikkun olam, or repairing the world, has become for many people. “We used to think, you’re Jewish if you belong to a synagogue or light candles,” she said. “Then we broadened that to mean service and cultural opportunities. Our question is, how do we create giving as an authentic modality of being Jewish?”

This interview has been edited and condensed.

HC: Amplifier itself emerged from a giving circle, Natan, which includes about 70 households and distributes about $1 million per year. Tell us Amplifier’s origin story.

LF: Amplifier was founded by Felicia Herman, who was the executive director of Natan Fund. The members of Natan loved what they were doing. Their giving circle was primarily focused on innovation. They started to think about expanding Natan, but instead thought of how it might be better to help other people create things like Natan for themselves. We became independent from Natan in 2016, as Amplifier. Everybody can be part of a giving circle, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they want to be a part of a particular one.

HC: Amplifier was a network of about 100 giving circles. How did the work that produced Philanthropy Together come about?

LF: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation had given us a grant to explore building infrastructure for an entire giving circle field. We gathered a team of representatives from the Community Investment Network, the Latino Community Foundation, the Asian Women’s Giving Circle and Philanos (formerly the Women’s Giving Circle Network). The design process took a year and convened hundreds of participants, and the product of the work was Philanthropy Together. The planning process had thousands of Post-it Notes, planning documents and meetings, but, like a giving circle, it also had moments of deep learning and emotional connection. For me, an important moment in the process was a trip that several of us took to the National Memorial for Peace and Justice and the Legacy Museum in Montgomery, Ala. After a long and painful day of learning and mourning together, we stopped for Georgia peach ice cream and to regroup.

Read the full interview here.


With kind regards – The Bivracha study


“As a group of Jewish professionals, board members, coaches, and consultants, more than once we have heard the phrase: ‘Well, you know how Jewish organizations are…’  While some may dismiss it as a flippant comment from a disgruntled employee, we have uncovered a more pervasive experience of the professionals in our field when it comes to power dynamics with their colleagues and employers,” write Richard J. Levin, Harrell Wittenstein, David Phillips, and Sara Miller-Paul in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Background: “More than two years ago, eJewishPhilanthropypublished ‘With Kind Regards: Embracing Our Workplace Values,’ which called attention to experiences we had heard from professionals in Jewish nonprofit organizational life. As readers reached out to share their opinions and personal stories, we heard repeatedly that employees of Jewish organizations did not feel their treatment aligned with the values listed alongside the mission and vision statements of their respective organizations.”

Questions: “In August 2019, we convened an independent group of consultants and organizational leaders to discuss and ensure that our colleagues are treated with kindness and that organizations live up to the values they espouse in their foundational documents and public communications. During our meeting, questions centered around the scale and scope of the problem: How many people have been impacted? Tens? Hundreds? Thousands? All agreed that even one is too many.”

Research: “Our aim was to provide an expanded understanding of the Jewish nonprofit space to help ensure that all Jewish organizations become and remain kind, values-based, great places to work, and that employees are protected from abuses of power. We received over 400 responses and conducted over 60 qualitative follow-up interviews.”

Read the full piece here.


Want to strengthen your local teen Jewish community? Send your 8th graders to Israel!


“Too many Jewish teens do not value being Jewish. While there are many questions to be asked about this reality, the most pressing is: How do we get young Jews to opt into Jewish life when societal forces encourage individualism and cynicism towards traditional communal organizations?” writes Rabbi Scott Aaron in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Opt in or opt out?: “We know that teens who engage with Jewish teen organizations, Jewish camps and Israel experiences are far more inclined to have a strong Jewish self-identity, care about Jewish community and family, espouse Jewish values and positively relate to Israel. Though the Jewish community has wisely invested in these opportunities, the overall numbers of Jewish high schoolers who take advantage of them remains stubbornly low when compared to the potential pool of teens from Jewishly identifying families. This is especially true for teens whose families have chosen public school educations for their children; by the time they enter 9th grade, they have often opted out of Jewish life.”  

The Chicago partnership: “In Chicago, there has been a developing partnership between the federation and the community’s congregations, camps, and youth-serving organizations to address these obstacles to increasing high schoolers’ involvement and interest in Jewish communal life. A lynchpin of this partnership involves a program currently unique to the Chicago community, a subsidized trip to Israel for 8th grade public school students called IsraelNow.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Wardrobe Malfunction: No Pants Day, observed on the first Friday in May and started by a group of students to celebrate the end of the semester, will be honored on May 7 by a group of more than 25 cartoonists who will use the event to encourage clothing donations, reports Mark Kennedy in the Associated Press. The artists behind such comic strips as “Blondie” and “Zippy the Pinhead” are participating by drawing characters sans trousers or even depicting them in the act of donating clothing, and four comic strip distributors are cooperating in the effort. “We may be business competitors, but we’re all part of the same family,” said Tea Fougner, comics editor at King Features Syndicate. “We all love comics and we love our communities. And, at the end of the day, that’s really what cartooning is about.” [AP]

Unstable Foundation: For Recode, Teddy Schleifer talks to insiders whose predictions about the impact of Bill and Melinda Gates’ divorce are shaped by years of experience and personal relationships, and finds many who feel it heralds big changes despite the $50 billion foundation’s statement that they will both remain trustees. The bigger story, Schleifer’s sources say, is that of the $150 billion in Gates wealth that the couple had said would go to the foundation, but hasn’t yet. Now, there’s a strong chance it will end up divided between their personal investment companies: Bill’s Gates Ventures, and Melinda’s Pivotal Ventures, which already have complicated relationships with each other, and with the foundation. “Even if they’re both clearly leading the foundation, I don’t see any scenario where it’s not going to turn into the things he cares about and the things she cares about,” said a former executive. [Recode]

Scientific Methods: Jill Barshay eulogizes Robert Slavin, a passionate advocate of the use of scientific evidence to inform instruction methods, in the Hechinger Report. Slavin died unexpectedly of a heart attack at age 70, weeks after accepting an award from the American Educational Research Association also given to Jean Piaget, and two days before launching a new project to advocate for the use of tutoring programs that studies had proven effective. “Our field isn’t all about creating a theory,” said Deborah Loewenberg Ball, a professor of education at the University of Michigan. “Bob was undoubtedly well revered because of his consistent effort to think about young people and children, particularly children living in poverty.” [HechingerReport]

Many Gifts: A Catholic charity working to end homelessness in Detroit doubled its progress toward a $22 million fundraising goal with one gift from an unlikely source — a foundation based in California and Hawaii dedicated to the memory of a girl who died in a car crash in 1998, writes Dawn Wolfe in Inside Philanthropy. The Julia Burke Foundation is true to the memory of its namesake, who enjoyed a wide range of interests including debate and flute, in that it funds many causes, from the development of prosthetics to Nigerian healthcare workers to the fight against mass incarceration. “The more we learned about the Pope Francis Center and its commitment to serving Detroit’s poor, we knew we wanted to be a part of this transformational project that will improve the lives of so many,” wrote her father, Jerry Burke, in a statement announcing the new grant. [InsidePhilanthropy]

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Word on the Street

After several COVID-related delays, the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience in New Orleans will open to the public on May 27… Chelsea Football Club’s foundation and the RAF Museum have extended a partnership to support the expansion of its Jewish “Hidden Heroes” project… British philanthropists and billionaires, children of a prosperous Baghdadi Jewish family, Simon and David Reuben have been quietly buying up properties across New York City during the pandemic as they amass one of the world’s biggest real-estate portfolios… UJA-Federation of NY announced a grant of $200,000 to four organizations assisting with relief efforts in India… This month, the Orthodox Union will bring together Jewish organizations, synagogues and communities to raise awareness on the impact of mental and emotional health…

Pic of the Day

Rabbi Chaim Danziger, a Chabad emissary in the Russian town of Rostov-on-Don near the Black Sea, turned his synagogue into a pop-up food pantry this week.


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