Your Daily Phil: UpStart and Giving Group Community’s new partnership + How an eco-village connects spiritually

Good Tuesday morning, and happy new year!

In today’s Your Daily Phil, we report on a new partnership between a Bay Area social entrepreneurship incubator and an Israeli platform for funders and feature an op-ed about a unique cohousing eco-village in Vermont. Also in this newsletter: Pope Benedict XVIBill Gates and Brian Roberts. We’ll start with a look at a delegation of student leaders landing in Israel today.

Most of the 40 participants in the Geller International Fellowship, who are due to touch down at Ben Gurion Airport this afternoon, were sitting in front of laptops in their parents’ homes when the Abraham Accords were signed in September 2020. Taking remote classes, many at that point had never experienced or observed the challenging dynamics facing Jewish and pro-Israel students on college campuses. The Israel on Campus Coalition, which is organizing the trip, hopes that the experience — the first of its kind to bring college students from all over the U.S. to both Israel and the United Arab Emirates, one of the signatories to the Accords— will open those students to a new Middle East.

“There are Israelis on our trip that are able to use their Israeli passport to go to Dubai,” Megan Nathan, ICC’s chief operating officer, told eJewishPhilanthropy. “We’re meeting with changemakers who revolutionized the Middle East. Our kids won’t think that it’s a big deal when they go from Tel Aviv to Dubai, and if only they knew how the landscape has changed, and the people that had to be visionaries to do that. Our hope is that these students can be visionaries in their own way.”

“American support for Israel is not self-sustaining,” Jacob Baime, ICC’s CEO, told eJP, adding that the Jewish community “must identify, engage and educate tomorrow’s political leaders while they are on campus today.” 

“In launching the inaugural Geller mission,” Baime added, “ICC is taking an important step toward building a community of pro-Israel leaders for the next generation.”

The trip is funded by businessman and philanthropist Marty Geller and his wife, Lauren Schor Geller. The Gellers are also supporters of ICC’s National Leadership Summit, which brought 200 student leaders to Washington in August for three days of high-level seminars and workshops. The second annual summit, scheduled for this summer, plans to double the number of attendees.

In the lead-up to the 10-day, two-country trip, which includes meetings with Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum and Israeli Ambassador to the UAE Amir Hayek, among others, and a visit to Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Dubai, the students participated in regular seminars with subject-matter experts. 

ICC’s deepening engagement with student leaders comes amid growing challenges on college campuses, from the proposed ban on Zionist speakers at the University of California, Berkeley’s law school to the exclusion of pro-Israel students from campus groups on the East Coast. In recent years, AIPAC, which had previously invested heavily in campus work, shifted its campus efforts to match the organization’s overall strategy and focus on electing pro-Israel candidates to office.

As college students, Nathan and Baime were AIPAC campus activists, and both went on to work for the organization as field organizers after graduating. “Jacob and I know firsthand the importance of campus activism, having started our advocacy careers as AIPAC student activists and later members of AIPAC’s professional staff,” Nathan told eJP.

scaling up

Upstart Labs

Since the Boston-based Mayyim Hayyim opened its doors in 2014 and reimagined the notion of the mikveh, community ritual baths have sprung up all over the country using its inclusive model. Now, the organization’s Rising Tide Open Waters Mikveh Network appears poised to grow, thanks to a new partnership between the Bay Area social entrepreneurship incubator UpStart and a platform for philanthropists based in Israel, the Giving Group Community (GGC), Esther D. Kustanowitz reports for eJewishPhilanthropy. Mayyim Hayyim is one of six UpStart projects that will benefit from the new partnership, which introduces innovative projects to funders looking to support new initiatives.

Investing in communities: “The support we’ve received [from UpStart] — financial, skills, coaching and connections — has been, and continues to be such a blessing,” Mayyim Hayyim’s CEO, Carrie Borstein, told eJP. The GGC connection will enable Mayyim Hayyim’s Rising Tide Open Waters Mikveh Network to focus on making a deeper investment in select communities, she added. “Because so much of the success of this work relies on the leadership of each community, our current strategy is to focus where the deepest interest lies. With resources like our Mikveh Starter Toolkit, Seven Steps Mikveh Guide training, webinars, and online resource portal, it is more realistic and more efficient [than ever] for communities to open and sustain their own community mikveh,” Bornstein said. 

Making the donor-project match: Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, UpStart has been developing, investing in Jewish social entrepreneurship since 2008, with targeted support for new initiatives and their leaders ranging from fellowships, incubators and accelerators to network- and skills-building opportunities. In 2021 in Israel, Giving Group Community (GGC) emerged as a platform for Jewish philanthropists of a certain level to invest in pre-vetted Jewish and Israeli nonprofits, with 80% of featured causes based in Israel, and about 20% elsewhere, mostly the United States. As 2023 begins, the two organizations are collaborating toward building a more vibrant Jewish future.

Organizations heading for expanded impact: GGC provides its donors with a menu of causes to support; now, that “deal flow” of highlighted causes will include seven projects of Jewish social entrepreneurship, six of them from the UpStart venture network’s 129 organizations: Jewish Studio Project, which nurtures creativity to deepen connection to Judaism; Grow Torah and its hands-on environmental education programs; BaMidbar, which supports Jewish youth mental health and wellness; spirituality and mindfulness organization Or Halev; mikveh network Mayyim Hayyim; and Jewish education model Jewish Kids Groups. GGC has added a seventh project, the New York-based project Athletes For Israel, which is not an UpStart-cultivated project but mobilizes athlete-influencers to transform the public conversation about Israel.

Read the full story here.

working the land

Rethinking ‘spiritual’ communities — a Jewish eco-village

Members of the Living Tree Alliance ecovillage

“The Living Tree Alliance (LTA) is a Jewish cohousing village in central Vermont that weaves together a residential community with a working homestead and a nonprofit educational center. The idea took shape in 1997 when, on our second date, my future husband Craig and I realized that we shared a dream of living in an intentional community, intimately connected to ecology and spirituality,” Kohenet Sephirah Stacey Oshkello writes in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy in partnership with the Clergy Leadership Incubator program (CLI).

Passion and pragmatism: “For the next 10 years, Craig and I nourished our vision for LTA, developing practical skills while following our hearts. After apprenticing on an organic CSA with an affordable housing initiative on the West Coast, we made our way back to the Northeast to be closer to family. We were fortunate to meet the Davises, an experienced farming couple with three beautiful children, who were starting a biodynamic, horse-powered community land trust in the hills of New Hampshire. Craig and I worked with the Davises for several years and we learned the full spectrum of homesteading skills, within the context of intentional community life.” 

Making it happen: “After a bout with internal community social upheaval, followed by the mortgage crisis of 2008, the fabric of the community that the Davises had built was unraveling. It became evident that in order to build a Jewish intentional community we needed to take some practical steps towards making it happen ourselves.” 

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Across the Pond: In Spear’s, Katharine Swindell considers what U.K. philanthropy could learn from charitable giving in the U.S. “‘The mainstream media is not particularly interested in what rich people do, let alone what they do when they’re trying to go about their do-gooding, so it’s quite hard to make philanthropy be part of the national conversation,’ says Cath Dovey, co-founder of HNW philanthropy organisation The Beacon Collaborative. That said, early data does show promising signs that the UK’s wealthy are moving to a more structured model of charitable giving, like that seen among many philanthropists in the U.S. Data released earlier this month by the National Philanthropic Trust, shows that the total charitable asset under management in donor-advised funds in the UK surpassed £2 billion in 2022, an increase of 17 per cent compared to 2020.” [Spears]

Benedict and the Jews: Pope Benedict XVI, born Joseph Ratzinger, who died on Saturday at age 95, helped normalize Catholic-Jewish relations by visiting synagogues, making a series of defining statements against antisemitism and Holocaust deniers, Eric Greenberg reports in Religion News Service. “Benedict did more than retrace his predecessor’s steps; in some ways, he walked even further. He became the first pope to visit synagogues in New York City and Cologne. As the first German pope, and an eyewitness to the Holocaust, he made a series of defining statements against antisemitism and Holocaust deniers. As with any evolving relationship, there were missteps that raised great concern for Jews and Catholics alike. Perhaps the most controversial was his decision to liberalize the use of the pre-Vatican II 1962 Latin liturgy, which includes the anti-Jewish Good Friday prayer. His rewritten Good Friday prayer for that liturgy, titled ‘For the Conversion of the Jews,’ is still an issue that needs resolution. Also sparking worldwide reaction was Benedict’s decision to lift the excommunication of four bishops from an antisemitic schismatic group. At the same time, Benedict issued profound positive theological and historical statements about Judaism. Despite his Good Friday prayer, he said the Catholic Church should stop trying to convert Jews. He reinterpreted problematic passages in the Gospels of Matthew and John, dismissing negative images and false charges against the Jewish people. He is the first pope to quote from ‘Pirke Avot,’ the ancient rabbinic text known as ‘The Ethics of the Fathers,’ using it as a model for Catholics.” [RNS]

Restitution Resolution: While Lithuania only has 5,000 Jews, the country’s parliament passed a law to set aside over 37 million euros ($38 million) as restitution for Holocaust survivors and their heirs, David I. Klein reports in the Jewish Telegraphic Agency: “‘No one can bring the lost lives back and revive the communities once we had. However, the approach the government shows in terms of restitution for the Lithuanian Jewish community devastated during the Holocaust is proper and is welcomed by our community,’ said Fania Kukliansky, president of the Lithuanian Jewish Community, according to the Baltic News Network. Over a decade ago, the parliament passed legislation to allocate 36 million euros, then worth about $72 million, for a ‘Good Will Foundation’ that funds projects to benefit the country’s Jewish population. The money was considered restitution for communal property seized from Lithuania’s Jewish community under the Nazi occupation. The present bill would allow survivors and their heirs to apply for restitution for personal property as well, while continuing to fund the Good Will Foundation.” [JTA]

Around the Web

The Chronicle of Philanthropy released its annual list of the 10 largest charitable gifts in 2022, which together totaled nearly $9.3 billion. Bill Gates topped the list for his $5 billion to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for the grantmaker’s work on global health, development, policy and advocacy, and U.S. education. Other causes included environmental sustainability, children’s mental health, and stem-cell research. The other gifts backed cancer research and treatment, housing efforts, youth programs and reproductive health…

Comcast Chairman and CEO Brian Roberts will be honored with the William Penn Award, given by the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia… 

Sharon Scalora was named Hadassah’s new division co-director for communications in the marketing and communications division responsible for national communications strategy. Previously, Scalora was assistant vice president of internal communications at RWJBarnabas Health, New Jersey’s largest academic health care system…

The Israel-based nonprofit ADI (Ability, Diversity Inclusion) hosted its second annual “Race for Inclusion,” a 2.5K fun run involving more than 400 North American gap-year and college students. The event, which took place at the ADI rehabilitation village near Beersheva, raised more than $17,000 to enhance the care of ADI’s residents and special education students with severe disabilities…

Television news luminary and celebrity interviewer Barbara Walters died at 93…

Pic of the Day

Ten billboards across Los Angeles displayed anti-hate messages, a project from the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles in partnership with Outfront Media responding to the increase of antisemitic acts in the city. Rob Goldenberg, the federation’s chief creative officer, told eJP that the campaign was launched in late December and the plan is for it to last “for the foreseeable future, and these boards will be moving around to many more communities – and our hope is that these boards continue to travel to other cities and even the world.”


(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Investor and former U.S. ambassador to Costa Rica, S. Fitzgerald Haney

Former Treasury secretary under President Carter, CEO of Burroughs Corporation and Unisys, followed by 17 years as director of the Jewish Museum in Berlin, W. Michael Blumenthal… Computer scientist and computational theorist, Richard Manning Karp… Professor of medicine at Columbia University Medical Center, Kenneth Prager, M.D.… CNN legal analyst, he was formerly a Watergate prosecutor and later a member of the 9/11 Commission, Richard Ben-Veniste… Former legal affairs reporter at The New York Times and contributing editor at Vanity FairDavid Margolick… Professor of molecular biology and microbiology at Tufts University School of Medicine, Ralph R. Isberg… Justice of the Ontario Superior Court and former national president of the Canadian Jewish Congress, Edward M. Morgan… Russian businessman Boris Rotenberg… Director of the Year-in-Israel Program at HUC-JIR, Reuven Greenvald… Managing director and senior partner in the NYC office of the Boston Consulting Group, Neal Zuckerman… Senior correspondent for Kaiser Health News after 17 years at The Los Angeles TimesNoam Naftali Levey… Attorney in Minneapolis and former member of the Minnesota House of Representatives, Jeremy N. Kalin… President at Kiosite, LLC, Michael Novack… Founder and president of Golden Strategies, Jenna Golden… Executive director at Guns Down America, Igor Volsky… Former child actor who starred in “Home Alone 3,” he is now a planning assistant for the City of Los Angeles, Alexander David Linz… Israeli basketball player on the Washington Wizards, he was a first-round pick in the 2020 NBA draft, Deni Avdija… Risk analyst at Tel Aviv-based EverC, Alana Aliza Herbst