Your Daily Phil: Tucson’s new fundraising model + Protecting teens at camp

Good Tuesday morning!

Ask most American pulpit rabbis, and they’ll grimace when they have to talk about fundraising or board relations. But today, 300 Israeli rabbis and other Jewish spiritual leaders are convening in Jerusalem to focus on topics like those and to become – at least in a certain sense – more like their American peers.

The daylong conference, called The Torah of Relationships, is being organized by the Honey Foundation, a group with staff in New York City and Israel with the goal of professionalizing the Israeli rabbinate and providing resources to promising Israeli rabbis across Jewish denominations. The conference includes sessions ranging from one called “Friendraising, fundraising” to talks on conflict resolution, working with colleagues, entrepreneurship and communal activism.

“When a rabbi graduates from various schools… they understand themselves as giving the drasha,” said Honey Foundation President Rabbi David Hoffman, using a Hebrew word for “sermon.” “Giving a drasha is a very small part of what rabbinic work is. The fundamental part is literally building a community. To build a community you need entrepreneurial skills.”

Founded six years ago, the Honey Foundation has 46 fellows it refers to as “spiritual entrepreneurs.” They’re mostly rabbis of communities who identify with more than 30 Jewish streams, from “Orthodox Sephardi Feminist” to “Religious Liberal/Reform” to “Neo-Chassidic.” One of the fellows is Rabbanit Shira Marili Mirvis, the first woman to lead an Israeli Orthodox community.

The foundation pays up to a third of the fellows’ salaries, enabling them to work full-time, and provides them with mentorship. The fellows submit annual business plans and are evaluated on how well they’ve accomplished their goals.

While the vast majority of rabbis in Israel are Orthodox, that’s true of only one-third of the fellows (though that proportion maps better onto Jewish Israeli society, 32% of which identifies as some form of Orthodox, according to a 2021 survey). That’s mostly because none of the fellows draws their salary from the Israeli Chief Rabbinate, which is Haredi-led and runs much of Israel’s Jewish religious infrastructure.

“I believe in free markets,” said Bill Lipsey, who works as managing principal at New York City’s Pzena Investment Management and is the foundation’s founder. If one is seeking, he added, “to create a free market system, the Rabbinate has leaned on the scale in an unreasonably strong way… I’m going to lean in the exact other way, toward the people who are not being supported.”

Read the full story here.


How the Tucson area’s Jewish federation and foundation came together

A view of Tucson's skyline.

Getty Images

Over the course of a 25-year career, Stuart Mellan, former CEO of the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona, had more than doubled the federation’s annual campaign. But during the same period, assets of the Jewish Community Foundation of Southern Arizona soared from $12 million to $108 million. Soon, Mellan saw, the foundation’s size would undercut the federation’s impact. So Mellan advocated for the federation and foundation to integrate into one organization. Earlier this year, he saw his efforts, and those of the Tucson Jewish community, pay off, reports Lev Gringauz for eJewishPhilanthropy.

A national trend: The newly created Jewish Philanthropies of Southern Arizona (JPSA) is the latest in a series of federations and foundations in Jewish communities that have recently combined. Its creation also reflects a wider shift in Jewish organizational life and philanthropy more broadly, wherein the federation model of a central agency disbursing funds on behalf of the community is giving way to donor-advised funds administered by Jewish Community Foundations, in which philanthropists, not federation staff, largely decide where their money goes.

Successes and pitfalls: South Arizona community leaders say that the integration of the federation and foundation into the JPSA has been largely successful. But streamlining operations — especially during the COVID-19 pandemic — has caused donor and community relations to suffer. “We lost a lot of the volunteer engagement that was really core and critical to how people understood and felt close to us in our work,” Graham Hoffman, CEO of the combined entity, told eJP. “We’re now in the process of bringing all of that back.”

Read the full story here.

Historic moment

Lessons from a Passover in Poland


“One month ago, we stood in the drab modernist dining room of a high-rise hotel in downtown Warsaw filled with more than 100 former residents of Ukraine. One of us is a cantor (at Temple Emanu-El in Dallas), and a native Russian and Ukrainian speaker; the other, a Columbia University professor who specializes in Jewish migration and a frequent Warsaw visitor,” write Rebecca Kobrin and Cantor Vicki Glikin, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Seder: “But this was unlike any previous visit as we had come to run a Seder, organized by the Joint Distribution Committee, for Ukrainian refugees who had fled their former homes, and found themselves hovering in a hotel in central Warsaw. For more than half of those in attendance, it was the first Seder they had ever attended. The overwhelming majority of the group were women and children, with a sprinkling of older couples. No one knew what to expect as we handed out treats, asked questions and sang songs in Russian and Hebrew.”

No explanation needed: “As people who had experienced firsthand the trauma of war, traveled for days to reach Warsaw in pitch-dark trains with no bathrooms and lived in fear of being trampled or losing their children, the adults at the Seder understood viscerally the central themes of the Seder. They appreciated what it meant to leave behind everything and to venture into an unknown future.”

Volunteers not welcome? “While we could feel the tremendous impact of our presence on the refugees, our road to leading this group Seder was far from straightforward. Numerous organizations based in the United States, but with active offices in Europe, ignored or rebuffed our inquiries to volunteer. This was surprising because our firsthand experience made us assume the need in Poland is overwhelming. And it was. Aside from leading the Seder, we spent evenings with the refugees and mornings playing with their children. We also volunteered at Warsaw’s central train station, where refugees needed help getting life-saving documents back into Ukraine, finding places to stay and arranging transportation for their next steps. Some just wanted to talk about their experiences with someone who would listen and empathize…  So why was the local Jewish community pushing away volunteers when the need on the ground was so evident and overwhelming?”

Read the full piece here.


We must not yield to whataboutism

Courtesy of URJ Camp Harlam

“A question I used to ask my coworkers at URJ Camp Harlam: Is the purpose of camp to show the campers a world as it could be, or to prepare them for the world as it is? One despicable answer is alleged to have unfolded at Camp Ramah in the Berkshires over the past few years,” writes Adam Zemel, a former supervisor of teenage campers at URJ Camp Harlam, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Camper Care team: “I supervised teenage campers at URJ Camp Harlam for four summers between 2015-2018. I believe that if my camp’s leadership had learned of a similar alleged assault, it would have been handled with the emotional, physical, psychological and moral gravity demanded in such moments. This belief is based on my experience in working with Harlam’s Camper Care team, and the professionalism and compassion with which they approached mental health struggles, bullying incidents, family crises and other scenarios that demanded profound sensitivity. This is my anecdotal experience, but I believe it is also reflected in the numerous grants Harlam’s Camper Care program has been awarded over recent years.”

Us too: “It must be said: the fact that the Ramah Berkshires episode unfolded within a different Jewish youth movement should not allow us Reform Jews to gloss over the unfinished work within our own community. Feeling encouraged now because we do not face a lawsuit in federal court would be a low bar indeed.”

Putting our own house in order: “I now serve on the leadership team of ACT, an organizing effort of current and former URJ professional and seasonal employees leveraging our power to demand accountable, transparent and community-focused action to address our movement’s own problems with sexual misconduct and abuse… Simply put, I do not believe my camp’s current leadership benefits from the same care and support from those they report to that they provided me in my seasonal role.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Pantry Problems: Some of Feeding America’s food pantries have closed because of dwindling donations and higher costs. Others have less food on their shelves even though they have higher demand, The Associated Press reports. “‘Our network emphasizes access and equity,’ [CEO of Feeding America Claire] Babineaux-Fontenot said. ‘So we are working extra hard to reach people who have the deepest food insecurity rates. Well, how far out can we go when gas prices are high? We have data that shows that race and place are significant indicators of whether or not you will be food insecure and how deeply you will be food insecure.’ …The struggles of families are heightened by the fact that government benefits that were increased during the pandemic like food stamps or unemployment insurance have stopped or will end shortly.” [AP]

Workplace Harassment Statistics
: A majority of fundraisers — 76%— say they’ve been sexually harassed at work, reports Emily Haynes in The Chronicle of Philanthropy. According to a new report from Ohio State University’s Association of Fundraising Professionals and Researchers, 42% say they experienced such harassment from July 2018 through August 2020: “The new survey likely found a higher incidence because its questions asked professionals about concrete actions, such as unwelcome sexual teasing or invasion of personal space, that fall under the umbrella of sexual harassment, says Megan LePere-Schloop, assistant professor at the John Glenn College of Public Affairs at Ohio State and an author of the report. ‘When you ask about specific behaviors, all of a sudden the rate goes up because some behaviors that people might dismiss as being not serious enough to constitute sexual harassment are on their radar,’ she says.” [ChronicleofPhilanthropy]

Community Comms

New Leading Edge program: “Leading Executives” What if every new top leader got the opportunity to reflect, connect, and level up? Apply by June 3!

Fellowship funding available. June 1 is the deadline to apply for Spertus Institute’s accelerated Master’s program for communal executives.

Be featured: Email us to inform the eJP readership of your upcoming event, job opening, or other communication.

Word on the Street

Israeli-Canadian businessman and philanthropist Sylvan Adams donated $2 million to complete a bicycle and walking path around Elad, a city in central Israel that recently experienced a deadly terror attack…

Milton Gottesman Jewish Day School of the Nation’s Capital secured more than $10.5 million in pledges, including a matching gift of over $5.5 million from Ambassador Alfred Moses, a benefactor of the school, during the initial phase of the campaign for the school’s endowment. The public campaign is scheduled to launch in the fall…

The Obama Foundation has announced a $100 million gift from Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky to launch a scholarship program for students pursuing careers in public service…

Boys & Girls Clubs of America has received its largest single-year donation ever, of $10.5 million, from the Panda Cares Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Panda Express…

Matan Koch became senior vice president for strategic change at RespectAbility. He was previously the group’s vice president of workforce, leadership and faith programs, and has served as its California and Jewish leadership director…

Pic of the Day

Chaim Tuito/

More than 1,500 refugees from Ukraine who are sheltering in cities around Israel gathered earlier this week in Rishon Letzion to honor the 120th anniversary of the birth of Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, known as the Lubavitcher Rebbe, the late leader of the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement.


JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images

Former member of Knesset, when elected in 2013 she became the youngest female Knesset member in Israel’s history, Stav Shaffir

President of the Philadelphia-based Honickman Foundation, Lynne Korman Honickman… Annapolis, Md., attorney, Robert M. Pollock… Randolph Stuart Koch… News anchor for WPVI-TV (ABC Channel 6) in Philadelphia, Jim Gardner… Canadian philanthropist and the first woman to serve as lieutenant governor of Nova Scotia, Myra Ava Freeman… Corporate and securities attorney at NYC’s Eilenberg & Krause, Sheldon Krause… Founder and president of ENS Resources, Eric Sapirstein… Host of “Marketplace Morning Report” on public radio, David Brancaccio… Author of the 2005 book Stars of David: Prominent Jews Talk About Being Jewish and a 2017 book about Jewish holidays, she is an honorary president of NYC’s Central Synagogue, Abigail Pogrebin… and her identical twin sister, Robin Pogrebin, reporter on the culture desk for The New York Times… Former general manager for corporate strategy at Microsoft, Kinney Zalesne… CPA and founder of the Baltimore Hunger Project, it provides food packs for the weekend that are discreetly slipped into over 1,600 poverty-stricken public-school children’s backpacks each Friday, Lynne Berkowitz Kahn… Reporter for The New York Times covering campaigns and elections, Reid J. Epstein… Digital strategy adviser to Democratic organizations and candidates, Jenna Ruth Lowenstein… Digital strategist and PR consultant, Sarah Sonies… Senior writer at Microsoft’s Future of Work group, Rebecca Rose Nelson Kay… Israeli judoka, he was the 2019 World Champion, Sagi Aharon Muki… Education director at the Boston Jewish Education Program, Heather Renetzky… External communications representative at Apache Corporation, Katie Keenan

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