Your Daily Phil: UJA’s Bukharian liaison in Queens + A strategy for Jewish educators

Good Thursday morning!

It was an hour before school let out for spring break, and the students at Milton Gottesman Jewish Day School in Washington, D.C., had that contagious last-day-of-school energy. Passover celebrations were taking place throughout the large building in Northwest Washington, and a special guest would soon be joining some of them, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch reports.

Students erupted in cheers when Deborah Skolnick-Einhorn, Milton’s head of school, introduced Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff at the Passover assembly, held Wednesday afternoon. Emhoff stepped on stage after students sang a dynamic version of the Passover song “Echad Mi Yodea,” or “Who Knows One,” complete with hand motions.

“Passover is actually my favorite holiday,” Emhoff said at his first public Passover celebration since becoming second gentleman, earning more cheers and applause from the students, who ranged from pre-K to eighth grade. He recounted his childhood Passovers, first in Brooklyn with his grandmother and her “really dry brisket,” then at his family’s home in New Jersey before they moved to California. “It was just a great way to be with other people and share our shared history,” said Emhoff.

“During COVID, we had our own, like, little COVID Seder, just me and her,” Emhoff said of Vice President Kamala Harris in an interview with Jewish Insider following the event. Passover is a holiday they enjoy together: “She loves tradition, and she loves history, and she just loves the celebration and the joy that it brings.” (Harris does not have a favorite Passover dish, but she is “very much a good cook,” Emhoff told JI, adding, “she just makes up what she believes is traditional Jewish food, and she does a great job at it.”)

Read the full story here.

Reaching out

A 25-year-old activist is UJA’s new liaison to the Bukharian Jews of Queens

David Aronov, a former City Council candidate, began working for UJA last week.

David Aronov, 25, has spent most of his fledgling career trying to rise through the ranks of local politics in Queens, New York, and represent his native Bukharian Jewish community — including an unsuccessful run for City Council last year. Now, Aronov is setting aside politics for a different kind of communal service: as UJA-Federation of New York’s first full-time employee who will be a liaison to the city’s Bukharian Jews, reports Lev Gringauz for eJewishPhilanthropy.

‘Bridging the divide’: As UJA’s special advisor for community and external relations, Aronov will coordinate with local Jewish institutions and build relationships with the community, as well as with the borough’s Ashkenazi Jews. “I [see] this role as a blend of my life’s work thus far,” Aronov told eJewishPhilanthropy. “I have been very active in local government and politics, but at the same time doing a lot of community relations…bridging the divide between different communities.”

Hyperlocal focus: Aronov’s hire is part of a UJA-Federation initiative launched in 2018 called Community Mobilizers, which aims to coordinate UJA’s grassroots relationships with the city’s increasingly diverse Jewish communities. “The New York Jewish community, and the New York community writ large, is increasingly hyperlocal,” said Hindy Poupko, deputy chief planning officer at UJA, who oversees the team’s work. “The needs of one neighborhood to the next can be fundamentally different from one another.”

An immigrant community: Bukharian Jews largely immigrated to the U.S. from Central Asia in the 1990s, following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Aronov’s parents arrived from Uzbekistan. The Bukharian Russian-speaking community, which is culturally distinct from Russian-speaking Jews who hail from Eastern Europe, is concentrated in central Queens and numbers roughly 60,000. In his political work, Aronov has tried to counter stereotypes that paint Bukharians as rich and ostentatious. In fact, UJA’s 2011 Jewish community study found that Queens’ Bukharian neighborhoods were among the seven poorest Jewish communities in the New York City area.

Read the full story here.

Seeking educators

A strategic approach to addressing the teacher shortage

teacher in front of a classroom

“The challenge of finding excellent educators is greater than it has ever been. A recent article in this publication by the Association of Directors of Communal Agencies poses the question, ‘Who will teach our children and grandchildren?’ The authors argue that inattention to the teacher shortage crisis will have an impact for generations. As recruitment season to find educators begins, new approaches need to be explored as to how to find those who will inspire and teach the next generation. The model of job fairs and posting on job boards is no longer sufficient to bring qualified individuals into the field. Now is the time to deep dive into not only why the challenges exist but also possible solutions,” write Alanna Kotler, North American director for TalentEducators, and Yael Harari, the group’s chief operating officer, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Collaborating toward growth: “Since our founding, TalentEducators, a project of the Israeli Ministry of Diaspora Affairs and The Jewish Agency for Israel, has placed over 120 candidates in positions in both formal and informal Jewish education. As outlined below, our strategic approach focuses on collaboration with institutions, organizations and individuals to bring about successful outcomes for those entering the field of Jewish education while simultaneously focusing on methods to grow the pipeline of excellent Judaic and Hebrew educators.”

A personalized approach to needs assessment: “Our work at TalentEducators can only be successful if we understand the needs of the institutions we support. We profile and map the institutions through site visits and conversations with each school, synagogue or JCC that we work with. Our goal is to understand the unique culture, pedagogical approach and needs of each institution to ensure the candidates we match fit the unique profile. Through honest and transparent conversations, the partnerships we build with institutions create a sustained relationship of trust. Currently we are working with 340 Jewish institutions to support their recruitment and retention efforts.”

Read the full piece here.


Fighting for freedom

The Brodsky Synagogue in Odesa, Ukraine, built in 1863.

The Brodsky Synagogue in Odessa, Ukraine, built in 1863.

“As president of a Jewish history museum and someone who has led many Jewish organizations in my career since coming to the U.S., I am watching in awe what true leadership can be in historic terms. It is not only a history lesson but a holiday-establishing narrative we have been watching. We have our Pesach, our journey towards becoming a people and our fight for freedom. Ukrainians and [their president, Volodymyr] Zelensky are creating their own — no matter the outcome of this ‘special military operation,’” writes Misha Galperin, president & CEO of the Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Pharaoh, punishments, plagues: “You have a pretend ‘pharaoh,’ Vlad the First [Putin]; the sons of his people being sacrificed on the altar of his ambition; the doomed chariots… er… tanks and armored vehicles; the miracles of lightning strikes from Stingers and NWALs [anti-tank missiles]; the refugees whose modern-day manna is being provided by the world community of nations; and the punishments and plagues being proffered by governments and corporations on the recalcitrant tyrant and his minions. And you also have the doubters, the equivocators, the ones who will wait to pick sides until the outcomes are clear. And you have heroes willing to take that first step into the waters before they have been parted and shout obscenities in defiance of the marauding aggressors.”

The hope of freedom: “But most of all you have the hope for liberty and the resolve to oppose evil, the readiness to smite it when it won’t let up, the willingness to die for the right cause that comes from the desire to live and think and speak freely.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Billionaires’ Tax Breaks: Paul Kiel, Ash Ngu, Jesse Eisinger and Jeff Ernsthausen at ProPublica obtained a trove of IRS data that lists the incomes and tax rates of the 400 Americans with the highest incomes from 2013-2018: “In theory, our tax system is designed to tax the rich at higher rates than everyone else. That’s not the way it works at the loftiest incomes. The data reveals a system where the very highest earners, on average, pay far lower tax rates than the merely affluent do. And even among the top 400, some groups have it better than others: Tech billionaires pay rates well below even other business owners…In an era of widening gaps between the rich and everyone else, ProPublica’s analysis shows that the U.S. tax system is making inequality worse.” [ProPublica]

‘Stunt philanthropy’
: A gas giveaway in Chicago prompted The New York Times’ Peter Baker to write about the return of “stunt philanthropy,” in which a donor “intended to broadcast that he cares, and that he acts”: “Even setting aside my wish that [Chicago businessman Willie] Wilson had used some of his money to support public transit (a much more robust and environmentally healthy response to oil-price instability), the logistics seemed offensively nonsensical. If the point was to give 24,000 drivers $50 of gas each, wouldn’t it have been just as effective — as charity, not political theater — to hand out prepaid gas cards? Drivers lined up hours early, and in some cases overnight, creating carbon-spewing, commute-snarling traffic jams. Police officers were deployed to manage the lines, meaning that what appeared to be an individual act of philanthropy was in fact partly subsidized by taxpayers. When a CBS Chicago journalist asked Wilson if he would help cover those manpower costs, he argued that the taxes he paid over the years were more than enough. Asked about gas cards, he said: ‘Don’t nobody tell me how to spend my money. You do gas cards, people come up with counterfeit gas cards, and it doesn’t work right.’” [NYTimes]

Preserving Life, Providing Hope
: For Minnesota Vikings owner Mark Wilf, helping Ukrainian refugees is imperative, he writes in USA Today: “Witnessing these refugees fleeing Vladimir Putin’s aggression, images of my own family flashed through my mind, and I couldn’t help wondering what it would have been like for them 80 years ago if there had been rescuers on the border and an Israel to escape to. My parents, who were born in Poland not far from the Ukrainian border, suffered horrendous deprivation and loss during the Holocaust before finally escaping to America and starting anew. They taught me the bedrock principle in Judaism that nothing is more important than preserving and celebrating life…when I saw the Israeli aid tents set up at the border…[t]hat potent symbol of hope and rebirth is the very first thing that the refugees see when they reach safety in Poland.”[USAToday]

Word on the Street

The Metropolitan Council on Jewish Povertyissued an emergency Passover fundraising call for $2.5 million to provide almost 3 million pounds of food to 310,000 New Yorkers who are struggling during the Passover season. Met Council CEO David Greenfield said that this year, the price of matzah is up 23%, cooking oil is up 38% and eggs are up 13%.

The Digital Storytellers Lab of the Jewish Writers’ Initiative is accepting applications for its eight-month fellowship for digital media creators to develop narrative work exploring Jewish themes. Fellows in the program, a project of the Maimonides Fund, will receive a stipend, mentorship and technical and subject-matter expertise to support the development of their projects…

The University of Haifa and the King Hamad Global Centre for Peaceful Coexistence in Bahrain signed a memorandum of understanding to jointly create “programs to promote coexistence between Jews and Arabs as well as educational programs to cultivate leadership among younger generations,” according to a press release…

Elon Musk, currently estimated to be the world’s richest person, offered on Thursday to buy Twitter for $54.20 a share, valuing the social media giant at $43 billion…

Volunteers for Israel, which sends Americans to volunteer on Israel Defense Forces bases, this week sent its first group of volunteers since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic more than two years ago…

Pic of the Day

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced nearly $16 million to protect organizations at risk of hate crimes on Wednesday, at the same event where she discussed the arrest of a suspect in this week’s shooting on the New York City subway.


Co-founder, co-chairman and co-CEO at Canyon Partners, LLC, Mitchell Julis

Anne Monk… Former Securities and Exchange commissioner, Elisse B. Walter… Israeli news editor and analyst, Chemi Shalev… Media executive, majority owner of Viacom and CBS through Paramount Global, Shari Redstone… Film, television and theater producer, his credits include the widely acclaimed 2016 film “La La Land,” Marc Platt… Founder of Bobbi Brown Cosmetics and author of nine books about makeup and beauty, Bobbi Brown… Birmingham, Ala.-based post-denominational rabbi, known on social media as “Deep South Rabbi,” Barry Altmark… Border czar for the first few months of the Biden administration and a former U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Roberta S. Jacobson… Bench coach for the Oakland Athletics, he was previously the manager of the Angels, Tigers and Israel’s national baseball team, Brad Ausmus… Los Angeles-based freelance editor and writer, Robin Heinz Bratslavsky… VP of newsgathering for CNN’s Washington bureau, Adam Levine… Emmy Award-winning actress best known for the title role on the WB series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” Sarah Michelle Gellar Prinze… Author of four books and Washington correspondent for MonocleSasha Issenberg… Founder and CEO of Develop, LLC, an advisory firm focused on Opportunity Zones, Steve Glickman… Director of education at Bnei Akiva Schools of Toronto, Hillel David Rapp… Founder and CEO of Charity Bids, Israel “Yummy” Schachter… Co-founder and co-CEO of BurnAlong, Daniel Freedman… Documentary filmmaker, Nicholas Ma… Washington-based technology policy reporter at AxiosAshley Gold… Isaac Hasson… Graphic designer, Casey Tepper… Yitzchak Tendler… Jon Fine… Moriah Elbaz…

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