Your Daily Phil: What drives the Covenant Foundation’s new CEO + ADL’s new fellowship for Jews of color

Good Wednesday morning!

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) will devote $175,000 to a new fellowship for Jews of color to combat hate through arts and education, eJewishPhilanthropy has learned.

The fellowship, called “Collaborative for Change,” is based on the idea that “antisemitism and racism overlap and intersect in ways that are uniquely harmful to Jews of Color,” according to an ADL statement. It’s ADL’s most focused program on Jews of color to date.

The cohort will be led by Tema Smith, a biracial Jew of Ashkenazi and Caribbean-American descent, who was recently hired as ADL’s director of Jewish outreach and partnerships. Smith told eJP she sees the fellowship as “an opportunity at ADL to round out our narrative and understanding of antisemitism, by expanding it beyond a very majority experience of antisemitism.”

The six grantees aim to create projects or curricula that explore the experiences of different non-white Jewish communities. Three of the fellows will produce documentaries or interview-based projects, and three will create educational materials (including one with video content). The fellows are Sara Yacobi-Harris, Jared Chiang-Zeizel, Carmel Tanaka, Deitra Reiser, Isaac de Castro and the Mitsui Collective — a Jewish spiritual community led by Yoshi Silverstein, Kohenet Keshira HaLev Fife and Enzi Tanner.

“By understanding these stories we get a sense of compassion, get a sense of understanding of people we didn’t have before, and by doing so we break boundaries and break stereotypes,” said de Castro, a Sephardi Jew who grew up in Panama, who will interview Jews from Colombia, Cuba and Venezuela about their immigrant experiences. He said that while the people he’s interviewing may not personally identify with the term “Jews of color,” he feels “we benefit from bringing Latino Jews into the conversation.”


Forging connections drives new Covenant exec Joni Blinderman


As she takes over as executive director of the Covenant Foundation, Joni Blinderman appears focused, at least for now, on weaving the Jewish community back together after nearly two years of pandemic disconnection. The new round of grantsmade last week by Covenant, a foundation that seeks out innovation and excellence in the field of Jewish education, puts a premium on what people seem to crave now after two years of pandemic pivots: connection, or more precisely reconnection, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Esther Kustanowitz

Dipping into renewal: “People need community right now,” Blinderman said. “They always do. But it’s really important right now. They need healing, they need renewal, they need to be heard and to gather in whatever ways we can gather.” Blinderman said that two multi-year grant recipients who created mikvah projects – at Adas Israel in Washington, D.C., and at American Jewish University in Los Angeles – are examples of how Jewish educators aim to address community needs and questions highlighted by the pandemic. 

Spotlighting leaders: As a relatively small foundation that awards an average of $1.7 million a year, Blinderman said, Covenant aims to make an outsized impact with its grantees, including boosting the visibility of grantees in the Jewish media and recommending them as speakers at workshops or conferences relevant to their projects and expertise. “Beyond the checks we’re writing, this is a way to lift them up and to shine a light on them in their work, as leaders and as Jewish educators whose projects we’re supporting,” she said.

Signature support, igniting ideas: The Covenant Foundation is best known for its Pomegranate Prize for emerging Jewish educators and its multi-year “Signature” grants for more established organizations and programs. Its “Ignition” grants, which fund “relatively untested” ideas, are much lower-profile, Blinderman said. The Jewish Farmer Network’s Farmer Torah Initiative, for example, will establish regional cohort-based learning for Jewish farmers to build cultural literacy and identity at the intersection of Judaism and agriculture. Shutaf’s Training for Inclusion Success, a disability inclusion program, will provide online training materials and resources to North American Jewish camp, religious school and youth program professionals.

Expanding the tent: Blinderman said that Covenant has always had a big tent, “from the far reaches of one corner of our community to the far reaches of another corner. All of these people want to be part of our community. They want to belong, to feel wanted, be part of something that they feel is their birthright.” As an example, she mentioned Theater J’s “Expanding the Canon” program at the Edlavitch DCJCC in Washington, D.C., which will engage seven playwrights who are Jews of color with the goal of creating racially and ethnically diverse Jewish narratives. Such grants provide an opportunity to reach more American Jews, she said. “These [grants] are ways to embrace people and bring them in.” 

Read the full interview here.


The lessons Big Duck can learn


“Earlier this month, we learned that Big Duck, a marketing firm in Brooklyn with a sizable Jewish clientele, chose not to take on as a client the Shalom Hartman Institute, a think tank focused on Jewish peoplehood and Middle East peace through dialogue and mutual understanding, due in part to each group’s position on Israel. There was a backlash. Big Duck walked back the move. And yet…,” writes Archie Gottesman, co-founder of JewBelong, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

With us or against us: “In our polarized political environment, where traditional and social media businesses have abandoned objectivity for algorithmic profit, shades of gray have all but disappeared. You’re either on the left or the right, for social justice or against it, a victim or an oppressor, either with us or against us.”

The powerful and the powerless: “The progressive left has helped create a new awakening to racial injustices in America. This is a good thing. However, rather than parlay this opening into an expansive, inclusive dialogue that brings people together, some have taken it in the opposite direction. They’ve drawn divisive, angry lines in the sand. They’ve mapped the world into the Powerful and the Powerless and are asking us to choose one side or another in every decision we make. This could be called foolish if it weren’t so dangerous. Any such rigid orthodoxy that preaches a world of binary extremes is exactly that: extremism.”

Read the full piece here.


Family foundation endowments: Top 3 takeaways

eJP archives

“While the new year has arrived amid exceptional challenges and market volatility, high-net-worth family philanthropy fortunately remains strong and a driving force for social change,” writes Hannah Shaw Grove, chief marketing officer at Foundation Source, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Growth from multiple sources: “Family foundation endowments enjoyed double-digit growth in 2020 and 2019, helping to fund the increase in grants seen in 2020 and set the stage for future giving. Part of the growth was fueled by investment returns… Growth was also the result of new contributions from funders who replenished an average of 57 cents for every 83 cents they disbursed in grants and expenses, which indicates ongoing charitable intent.”

Equities dominate: “Across our study sample, equities were the endowments’ largest portfolio allocation at approximately 55%, which is consistent with a long-term horizon and institutional-caliber investment strategies.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Teens and Giving: The Jewish Federation of Cleveland recently convened its Saltzman Youth Panel of high school juniors and seniors to educate students about the philanthropic process. The 22 panelists worked together to understand community needs and then make a formal recommendation to the federation’s Board of Trustees on how to distribute up to $45,000 in grant funding, developing leadership and group consensus-building skills in the process. Participant Lia Polster of Shaker Heights said, “While it was difficult, working in the large group taught me the importance of communication and collaboration. If I want other people to hear what I have to say and vote for what I believe in, I have to use my voice to make my opinions heard. While using our voices to speak up is extremely important, it is equally as important to listen to what other people have to say in order to reach a consensus where possible and a compromise where not.” [JewishCleveland]

‘Apprentice’ Fundraisers: Billionaire businessman Lord Alan Sugar, host of the U.K. “The Apprentice,” appears in an “Apprentice”-themed fundraising video for his synagogue, Chigwell and Hainault Synagogue in Essex, charging members to help match his £600,000 ($678,000) donation for the shul’s refurbishment, reports the U.K.-based Jewish News. “The light-hearted video shows two teams from the shul arriving with suitcases, brainstorming ideas to raise money, including offering free cholent and kugel for each donation and selling lost property… ‘But behind the entertaining film is a serious message: we have a huge amount to raise to transform our community for the coming decades and we need all our members to play their part,’ [synagogue chair Lindsay Shure said].” [JewishNews]

Community Comms

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Word on the Street

Accreditation of the Alexander Muss High School in Israel by the Middle States Association of College and Schools Commissions on Elementary and Secondary Schools has been extended until Dec. 1, 2025… 

Shaina Wasserman joined SRE Network as director of strategic operations… 

Emily Richman and Amy Glass have joined the Jewish Community Foundation and Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona as, respectively, chief development officer and vice president of strategy & community impact… 

Sixteen Bay Area Jewish organizations are beneficiaries of nearly $2.5 million in grant funding from the California State Nonprofit Security Grant Program. Funding will be used for security improvements, training and hiring guards…

The Parasol Foundation and SpaceIL announced the launch of their new program, Parasol Foundation Women in SpaceIL, which will work to create new opportunities for women in the space tech industry… 

ALYN Hospital in Jerusalem received a $2.2 million grant from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, to establish the first research center in Israel for pediatric and adolescent rehabilitation… 

Daniel and Phyllis Epstein gifted the University of California, San Diego and the University of Southern California $25 million each to conduct Alzheimer’s research into treatments and a cure…

Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan pledged $50 million to the University of Hawaii at M?noa School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology to support a variety of research groups within the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology… 

Applications for the 2022 cycle of Jewish Helping Hands projects in Israel, aimed at aiding vulnerable people, are now open… 

new study from the Association of National Advertisers finds email remains king among advertisers while social media is gaining ground and running a close second. Although email was the top media choice chosen by marketers, its usage has declined 6% since the last Response Rate Report was issued in 2018, while social media advertising scored the most significant shift in reported usage, up 17% since the last study…

Pic of the Day

Cerissa photography

Sarah Michal Waxman, founder of At The Well, and Britt Binler celebrated their wedding outside the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. The chuppah was made by Sarah’s grandmother, Barbara Goldberg, and they were the 29th couple to marry underneath it.


EzeH/Wikimedia Commons

Argentina real-estate developer and president of Chabad Argentina, Hillel Argentina and Taglit Birthright Argentina, Eduardo Elsztain… 

Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist, Jules Feiffer… Actor, film director and playwright, Henry Jaglom… Pioneering computer scientist, Barbara Bluestein Simons…. Singer-songwriter and political fundraiser, Denise Eisenberg Rich… Economic and social theorist, author of 21 books, Jeremy Rifkin… New Haven, Conn.-based personal injury attorney, Herbert Ira Mendelsohn… Publishing professional, Agnes F. Holland… Professor of modern Judaic studies at the University of Virginia, Peter W. Ochs… Emmy Award-winning film and television director, her 2018 film is a biographical legal drama based on the life of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Mimi Leder… President of The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, Rabbi Marc Schneier… Co-founder of the Laura and Gary Lauder Family Venture Philanthropy Fund, Laura Heller Lauder… President of HSK Consulting focused on strategic planning and fundraising services, Hilary Smith Kapner… Co-founder of Boardroom One, Brent Cohen… Former CNN anchor, author of two books and founder of an uplifting and positive news website, Daryn Kagan… Actress, comedian and television screenwriter, Claudia Lonow… Development director at Hillel of Broward and Palm Beach, Jill Weinstock Deutch… Oakland County (Michigan) clerk and register of deeds, Lisa Brown… Head of school at Manhattan Day School, Raizi Gruenebaum Chechik… Retired middleweight boxing champion, now a mortgage broker, Dana Rosenblatt… Retired professional tennis player, Justin Gimelstob… Actress, she hosted The CW reality series “Shedding for the Wedding,” Sara Rue (Schlackman)… Co-host of Jewish Insider‘s “Limited Liability Podcast” and an executive at Bloomberg LP, formerly an Obama White House Jewish liaison, Jarrod Neal Bernstein… Chief partnerships officer at the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, Tamar Remz… Former Olympic figure skater, now on Meta / Facebook’s sports league partnership team, Emily Hughes… Blues and jazz musician, Jerron “Blind Boy” Paxton… Director of marketing and communications at Entrée Capital, Fay Goldstein

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