Your Daily Phil: Why Rabbi Daniel Nevins is leaving JTS for a day school + Hillel’s new Israel trip
Good Tuesday morning!
Hillel International, the Jewish student life organization, will bring 25 American college students, each from a different school, to Israel from Aug. 11-17. The trip is a first-ever pilot for Jewish student leaders whose campus communities suffered this past spring from anti-Israel animus, Rabbi Benjamin Berger, vice president for Jewish education, told eJewishPhilanthropy.
“These students are under immense pressure already,” Berger said. “We believe this will make them more confident and more connected.”
The trip was inspired by the experiences of students who felt embattled by anti-Israel sentiment during the 11-day conflict in May between Israel and Hamas. Many of the encounters happened online, and some in person, Berger said.
Hillel sought students with a range of viewpoints on Israel, including some who are affiliated with progressive pro-Israel group J Street’s campus movement, and others who are connected to AIPAC. They were each nominated by their campus Hillel director and selected for leadership or potential leadership on Israel-related issues, Berger said.
The trip itinerary is not yet final, but the its themes will be “home, homeland and belonging,” Berger said, which will frame meetings with both Jews and Palestinians.
“These students will speak to and about Israel,” Berger said. “Not necessarily for, or on behalf of, Israel. We’re not asking them to defend Israel’s policies, but to speak to their connection to that place.”
Why the dean of the Jewish Theological Seminary is leaving to lead a day school
As he approached 14 years as dean of the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS), Rabbi Daniel S. Nevins thought he would remain at the Manhattan school, the flagship institution of the Conservative movement, for the rest of his career — until the coronavirus pandemic. Nevins spoke with eJewishPhilanthropy’s Helen Chernikoff about how his experiences during the coronavirus pandemic inspired soul-searching, followed by some job-hunting and finally the decision to start a new phase of his career — as the head of school at Golda Och Academy (GOA) in West Orange, N.J.
A shifting center: “Some people feel like 3080 Broadway [JTS’s address in Morningside Heights] is the center of the Jewish universe,” he acknowledged. “And JTS is a national organization.” But the coronavirus pandemic caused him — and many other people — to reconsider his career path. Nevins had also thought about going back to the pulpit, but the contrast between JTS’s remote learning program — which was suitable for adults — and the immersive experience offered by day schools struck him as especially compelling. “Day schools were lifted up in my mind as the place where the most important Jewish identity formation was happening,” he said.
Heft and humanity: Raised in New Jersey and educated at Harvard University, Nevins received ordination from JTS in 1994. That same year, he took a job as a pulpit rabbi at Adat Shalom Synagogue in Farmington Hills, Mich., where he both taught at the local day school and helped to found a non-denominational Jewish community high school, the Frankel Jewish Academy. His pastoral and scholarly abilities were very appealing to the hiring committee at GOA, said Rebecca Berman, one of the members. “We were really moved by his intellectual heft and his menschlichkeit,” she said, using the Yiddish word for humanity. One of his references, a colleague at JTS, was so moved as she described Nevins’s skill as a listener that she cried. Nevins is a member of the Conservative movement’s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, and has written on the participation of Jews who are blind in the Torah service, electricity and Shabbat and artificial intelligence.
JEWISH LIFE DOWN UNDER
Carob trees and deep roots: Self-understanding as a product of considering others
“What in the world is there for American Jewry to learn from differences and commonalities they might share with tiny communities in far-flung parts of the planet?” writes Adina Bankier-Karp, a research fellow at the Center for Communal Research at the Orthodox Union, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.
Down under: “The Australian Jewish community (population 117,903, .49% of the overall population) conducted the ‘Gen17 Australian Jewish Community Survey (2017)’ which was recently compared with the Pew ‘Jewish Americans in 2020’ report. Is there anything that a small community down under could contribute to conversations about how to support American Jewish thriving?”
The numbers: “Australian Jews are twice as likely as American Jews to have received a Jewish day school education (51% versus 24%) and are even more likely to have received seven or more years of Jewish day school education (33% versus 13%). Australians were also much more likely than Americans to have visited Israel more than once (76% versus 26%), to report being ‘very’ emotionally attached to Israel (74% versus 25%) and even more likely to follow the news in Israel ‘very closely’ (68% versus 14%). Considering marriages which occurred in the decade prior to the Australian and U.S. surveys and excluding those of the Orthodox who predominantly marry other Jews, Australians were much less likely than Americans to be married to a person who was not Jewish (16% versus 72%).”
Forces at work: “What might be behind Australian Jewry’s comparatively higher engagement and what insights might this uncover? The answer appears to lie in the strength of Jewish communal connectedness. Australian Jews are more likely than U.S. Jews to regard being part of a Jewish community as an ‘essential’ part of what being Jewish means to them, more likely to have attended a Passover Seder and donated to a Jewish communal institution in the past year and were more likely to report that all or most of their friends are Jewish.”
Loosening Up: Unrestricted donations are funds that nonprofits can spend however they feel they need to, yet only 20% of U.S. funding for nonprofits offers any degree of flexibility, write Genevieve Shaker and Pamela Wiepking of the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy in an explainer in The Conversation. That means the large majority of nonprofit funding is tied to specific projects, which often leaves the organizations skimping on salary to cover overhead costs like rent, Shaker and Wiepking write: “When they get multi-year unrestricted funding, nonprofits can become more financially stable. That increases their ability to respond when crises arise or situations change, while making it easier for them to innovate and take risks.” [Conversation]
Missed Connections: In Harvard Business Review, Wexner Graduate Fellow alumna Rae Ringel engages the increasingly sensitive question of what, in the post-pandemic work world, actually necessitates meeting in person. As news spreads of tensions building between managers and employees even in such high-profile workplaces such as Apple, Ringel suggests that professionals use this transitional moment to ask themselves a series of questions when considering calling a meeting, including whether the goal of the meeting is relationship or task-based and whether the person running the meeting is equipped to do so. “Given all that we’ve overcome throughout the past 15 months, it would be a shame if we didn’t take advantage of every single hard-earned pearl of wisdom around work, life, and the nexus of the two,” Ringel concludes. [HBR]
Street Seen: In Inside Philanthropy, Ade Adeniji profiles Livable Streets leader Mark Gorton, whose nonprofit Opens Plans, founded in 1999, uses media to reshape urban spaces. The group runs Streetsblog.org, a publication covering transportation and growth, and makes short films on those subjects. “There’s a lot of resistance inside city bureaucracy to change,” Gorton said. “And so there’s a lot of work for us to do to highlight the specific problems and the dysfunction, and really dig into the inner workings of a lot of these agencies.” [InsidePhilanthropy]
Word on the Street
Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt joined Jewish Insider‘s “Limited Liability Podcast” to discuss the latest controversies, plus her own life as a journalist and a rabbi’s wife, bridging the secular-religious “chasm” and the politics of kosher certifications… Michael Jeser, 45, former president and chief executive officer of the Jewish Federation of San Diego County, died Saturday… Payment processor PayPal announced that it is partnering with the Anti-Defamation League on a project to examine how extremists and hate groups use financial platforms to fund criminal activity and root out bad actors… Gratz College and Hartford Seminary announced a partnership that will expand graduate-level theology and chaplaincy course offerings to students of both institutions… A Chabad-run Jewish high school for girls was named the best school in all of Berlin by the city’s department of education… The campus department for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA) is hosting an online conference for college students that will train them to respond to the global upsurge in antisemitism and anti-Israel activism… The inter-school debating competition in the U.K., run by Partnerships for Jewish Schools and supported by Genesis Philanthropy Group,will become an annual event… Multinationals including Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Intel and Nvidia are setting up or expanding their chip design operations in Israel… Ilya Braverman, national political director at J Street, died at 33.
Pic of the Day
IsraAID, Israel’s disaster relief agency, is supporting communities affected by deadly floods in North Rhine-Westphalia with supply distribution, cleanup assistance and psychological support, in partnership with the American Jewish Committee, the Central Welfare Board of Jews in Germany and the philanthropic arm of medical device company Becton, Dickinson.
Real estate developer who founded Aspen Square Management, he heads an eponymous foundation known for its flagship program PJ Library, Harold Grinspoon…
Television producer and later founder of People for the American Way, Norman Lear… Forensic pathologist known for his work investigating high-profile deaths, Michael M. Baden… Managing partner of Access Fund Management Company, he is a past President of the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, Harold Zlot… Former CIA Director (95-96) and Deputy Secretary of Defense (94-95), now a professor emeritus at MIT, John M. Deutch… Former chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations (15-18), Stephen M. Greenberg… Artist and museum founder focused on Fusionism, Shalom Tomáš Neuman… Israeli author and television producer, Yarin Kimor… Israeli-born fitness personality, Gilad Janklowicz… Comedian, writer, producer and actress, Carol Leifer… Washington bureau chief and White House correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor, Linda Feldmann… Former VP of global communications, marketing and public policy at Facebook, Elliot Schrage… U.S. Army Colonel (retired), Jeffrey Brian Carra… Heir to the Hyatt Hotels fortune, now a film producer, Jean “Gigi” Pritzker… Former CEO of the Rabbinical Assembly, now the managing director at Leading Ethics, LLC, Rabbi Julie Schonfeld… Member of the Hungarian Parliament (90-09) and member of the European Parliament since 2009, Tamás Deutsch… Rabbi at Kesher Israel: The Georgetown Synagogue, Rabbi Hyim Shafner… Former national platform director for the Democratic National Committee, now a political consultant, Andrew Grossman… Managing partner at Capitol Venture, LLC, Jeremy Deutsch… VP of marketing at Xometry and winner on Jeopardy! in 2019, Aaron Lichtig… D.C. area political activist, Benjamin Rothenberg… Communications director for Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY), Jeremy Adler…
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