Your Daily Phil: The young Jews who want to get back to synagogue + How Jonathan Kaufman weaves Jewish values through work and family life
Good Monday morning!
Leading Edge, a professional development resource for Jewish nonprofits, has named 13 new CEOs and executive directors to the fourth cohort of its CEO Onboarding Program, the organization’s CEO Gali Cooks told eJewishPhilanthropy.
Participants will receive group training, individual coaching, personalized evaluations and networking opportunities. Members include Phillip Brodsky of the Jewish Federation of Raleigh-Cary; Marcella White Campbell of Be’chol Lashon; Rabbi Josh Feigelson of the Institute for Jewish Spirituality and Rabbi Jennie Rosenn of Dayenu: A Jewish Call to Climate Action.
The CEO Onboarding Program was the first leadership development program of its kind, but several more have emerged, including under the auspices of the JCC Association and the Legacy Heritage Fund.
“Leaders, boards, and funders recognize more than ever that leaders need training, coaching, and peer support to succeed,” Cooks said. “The willingness to admit vulnerability and address those needs is a real sign of strength, humility, and openness to learning and change.”
Jonathan Kaufman of Third Plateau talks impact in work and life
On a recent Friday afternoon, Jonathan Kaufman was looking forward to two things — Shabbat dinner with his family, and before that, a four-hour strategy session with his brother Daniel. The two co-founded a consulting firm, the Berkeley, Calif.-based Third Plateau, which serves such clients as the Pritzker Innovation Fund; Repair the World, the Jewish service corps; and the San Francisco Public Schools. Kaufman spoke with eJewishPhilanthropy’s Helen Chernikoff about the role of Jewish values in both his family and work life, and why he doesn’t see much difference between the two.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Helen Chernikoff: You’ve worked in several different fields. What brought you to consulting?
Jonathan Kaufman: Everything I’ve done in my career has been about one idea: How can I have the greatest social impact with the energy and time and money I can invest? I thought initially that would be politics, that if you want to have a broad impact, you shape policy and you get to do that by winning elections. But then I realized I didn’t like the gamble of elections. Then I thought the answer would be nonprofit work. You work for eight hours or 12 hours or 16 hours and you go home and you know that you’ve helped people. That fueled me for a long time, working on the gritty front lines in the nonprofit space. Hunger relief. Refugee rights. I thought I would run a nonprofit, and that was the career path I was on. I would be a program director and then an executive director. I wanted to learn how to do it really well so I went to get my MBA, and then I got exposed to consulting.
HC: Give us a high-level summary of how the firm works.
JK: We basically do two things. Someone hires us for a discrete project. That might be a business plan, or fundraising strategy, say. Also, for some clients we’re on retainer. For example, we do philanthropic management. We manage small family foundations. We basically are their staff. That work doesn’t end. Now we’re thinking about how we can add value in a way that doesn’t require so much one-on-one work. That’s why I’m having this session with my brother later. For example: What if we did cohort-based efforts, brought 20 groups together and trained them? Our impact would be that much greater.
HC: Is part of your drive for efficiency about quality of life, and not letting work take over?
JK: It’s more about Jewish values. Jewish values run very deep for us. We do a lot of the work in the Jewish space, but the vast majority of our work is not in the Jewish space. We grew up feeling obligated to do something good, so you might as well do the most you can with your time. The name of Third Plateau comes from a mountain near Santa Cruz and Camp Swig, which is where we went as kids. The best day of the summer was when you got woken up at 4 a.m. and you hiked out there to watch the sunrise. That’s what we wanted to see in the social sector. When you’re doing morning tefillah [prayer] and you’re watching the sun rise.
Younger Jews prefer in-person synagogue engagement
“Even before the global pandemic struck, religiosity in America was in severe decline. In 2020 only 47 percent of U.S. adults belonged to a church, synagogue, or mosque. Younger Americans are the most disengaged; barely a third of millennials are members of a religious institution. It should come as no surprise, then, that as COVID-19 infections continue declining and religious centers reopen, the number who will return in-person to these sacred spaces is an open question,” writes Samuel Abrams, a professor of politics at Sarah Lawrence College, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.
Park Avenue Synagogue survey: “[N]ew data suggests there may be room to renew and reinvigorate Jewish religious institutions, especially amongst younger Jews. A survey of over 1,300 individuals who participated in winter 2021 virtual programming at New York City’s Park Avenue Synagogue shows younger cohorts of Jews express a real commitment to these institutions… Although a significant number of older Jews want to see online programming continue even as the pandemic wanes, younger Jews do not feel the same. Only 29% of Gen Zers and millennials — those between 18 and 40 — would like to see remote engagement continue — half the number of Boomers who feel the same. A whopping 71% of Gen Zers and millennials would like to return to in-person synagogue gatherings and events.”
Opportunities for synagogues: “With well-established social networks, older Jews may be quite comfortable maintaining relationships with their fellow synagogue members over Zoom. However, younger Jews with less-established networks may want to have genuine communal propinquity with their peers through in-person activities and engagement. These younger Jews may have families and want to connect their children with other families or may be looking for friends and partners and they understand the powerful in-person communal activities which simply do not replicate as well virtually. Synagogues and real physical space and activities related and emanating from these spaces are still very much in demand and valued by younger Jews as the data demonstrates.”
Is it time for a new paradigm in our Jewish community?
“As a result of the pandemic, we, the Jewish community at large, stretched into the realm of online programs and gatherings. To foster greater participation, we lowered or eliminated barriers to participation, many of them predicated on costs. Most of all, we learned, and we’re still learning,” writes Doron Krakow, president and CEO of JCC Association of North America, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.
Lesson learned: “The primary lesson is that those we serve and support are hungry for something more. They’re eager to stoke the flames of their passion for the work, and to find partners and allies, mentors and compatriots, role models and teachers. They’re voting with their feet, their time and their passion.”
Conveners and builders: “Gateway agencies, such as JCC Association, Jewish Federations of North America, Prizmah, Foundation for Jewish Camp, the religious streams, Repair the World and many others, have so much to contribute as conveners and community builders. Perhaps it’s time for a new paradigm in partnership with funders and philanthropists. Perhaps, together, we can lower the barriers to participation. Who knows? Perhaps, together, we can profoundly — and positively — affect the nature of our Jewish community.”
Financial Aid: In the Financial Times, Andrew Jack profiles Sir Peter Lampl, the international businessman passionate about increasing educational access, and increasingly concerned — especially in the aftermath of the pandemic — that it’s even harder now than it was when he first got involved in the issue for low-income students to use education as a lever to improve their prospects. The son of Viennese immigrants, who himself benefited from scholarships and free education, Lampl was a leveraged buyout pioneer who has channelled much of his fortune into Sutton Trust, which supports the cause of social mobility. “Education is the building block of everything,” Lampl said. [FT]
Closer Look: MacKenzie Scott’s generosity is to be commended, especially when she supports groups with undeniably worthy missions, such as New City Kids, a New Jersey-based foundation that combats child poverty and delinquency, writes Aron Ravin in National Review. Yet many of her donations — like those that support land reparations to Native Americans — are more political, less traditionally philanthropic and also unlikely to actually achieve real change, Ravin states. “Charity has stopped being something we volunteer for our communities or to people in desperate need. It’s just becoming yet another low-risk method for people to engage in politics.” [NR]
Pay It Forward: From Georgetown University to the town of Evanston, Ill., reparations programs are part of the present and will be part of the future, reports Glenn Gamboa in an Associated Pressinterview with Earl Lewis, former president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the founding director of the University of Michigan Center for Social Solutions, who received a $5 million grant from the Mellon Foundation to consider reparations at nine universities and their surrounding communities. Slavery was in the past, Lewis states, but the legacy of slavery and other forms of official discrimination, such as ways the G.I. bill favored white veterans after World War II, persist today. “When I stepped away from being the president of the Mellon Foundation and went to the other side of the table again where I’m asking for money, in some ways I found that freeing,” Lewis said. “Here, I get to actually design what I think needs to be developed.” [AP]
New CEOs Now Onboarding: Meet the members of the new fourth cohort of Leading Edge’s CEO Onboarding Program.
Excel: Applications are still being accepted for the George Washington University’s Graduate Degree in Israel Education. Deadline June 25
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Word on the Street
An Israeli food truck was excluded from a weekend Philadelphia food festival following ‘community concerns’… Jeffrey Feil and the Feil family have donated $55 million to Weill Cornell Medicine for a new student residence hall… The New York Community Trust announced grants totaling $7.9 million to fifty-eight organizations working to assist communities as they recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic… The Sydney Jewish Museum is to receive an allocation of $6 million in the upcoming Government of NSW budget to be announced this week… Vaccinated tourists from 45 countries are expected are expected to be allowed into Israel from July 1…
Pic of the Day
Like at so many camps, staff have gathered at Pinemere Camp in Northeastern Pennsylvania to make final preparations for #summer2021.
The first Druze woman to become a Member of the Knesset, she has served since 2019, Gadeer Kamal Mreeh…
Former member of the U.S. House of Representatives and mother-in-law of Chelsea Clinton, Marjorie Margolies… Institutional investment banker and a former U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador (2007-2009), Charles L. Glazer… Philanthropist and the vice-chair of the Museum of Jewish Heritage, Ingeborg Rennert… British businessman, co-founder with his brother Charles of advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi, appointed to the House of Lords in 1996, Baron Maurice Saatchi… UK cabinet minister in both the Thatcher and Major governments, Sir Malcolm Leslie Rifkind… Creditors rights’ attorney at Chicago-area Blitt & Gaines, David Stephen Miller… Retired managing editor and writer at The Washington Post for 33 years, Peter Perl… Member of the Knesset for the Yesh Atid party since 2013, he was appointed as Speaker of the Knesset one week ago, Mickey Levy… CEO of Amir Development Company in Beverly Hills, Keenan Wolens… Punk rock singer and songwriter, known as the Gangsta Rabbi, Steve Lieberman… Washington Institute fellow and adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins SAIS, David Makovsky… Senior editorial manager at the Aspen Institute, he is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author, David L. Marcus… Co-founder and executive editor of Axios, Mike Allen… National education policy reporter for The Washington Post, Laura Meckler… Green Bronx Machine’s Tanya Rebecca Singer… Yale Law School graduate and author, Abigail Krauser Shrier… Public affairs consultant based in Manhattan, Sam Nunberg… Co-founder and CEO of Kaggle, a data science platform acquired by Google in March 2017, Anthony Goldbloom… Manager of publicity at Netflix, she was previously a communications officer at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Jacqueline “Jackie” Berkowitz… Director at Saban Capital Group, Amitai Raziel… Executive director at Hunter Hillel, Merav Fine Braun… Editor for programming and social media at CNN Politics, Madeleine Morgenstern… Singer-songwriter known as ‘Jeryko,’ Yaniv Hoffman… Singer-songwriter and actor, Max Schneider…
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