Your Daily Phil: Winnie Grinspoon on keeping camps ‘running positive’ during COVID

Good Friday morning!

Editor’s note: As we close this second week of publishing Your Daily Phil, we understand there are some adjustments with this new format. Please send us your thoughts and questions to

All eyes are on Israel as the country that implemented the world’s most successful vaccine rollout is starting to see its impact in health data as COVID-19 cases among people over 60 start falling. Now, the country is vaccinating everybody over age 16 and starting to consider beginning to ease its lockdown.

The news is especially relevant for providers of Israel travel programs like RootOne, the new Israel teen trip funded by Bernie Marcus. Over 5,000 teens have signed up for RootOne’s inaugural summer, and as of now, the program’s leaders are hoping the positive news out of Israel means the trips will actually happen. “We’re only waiting on the Israeli government to make our determination,” Simon Amiel, RootOne’s executive director, told eJewishPhilanthropy.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy, the sector’s publication of record, has published a report about donors who give to organizations designated as “hate groups” by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). The report generated online debate not just about the donors documented in the article, but about the SPLC and how it decides to define what is and isn’t a hate group. Marc Gunther, a philanthropy journalist, tweeted that the SPLC is “not a trustworthy arbiter.

The ask

Winnie Sandler Grinspoon on helping camp, ‘running positive’ despite antisemitism

Harold Grinspoon Foundation

Last March, nobody knew if Jewish sleepaway camps would open for the summer. But the Harold Grinspoon Foundation — known for its support of Jewish camping, and for its PJ Library free book program — did know one thing, said Winnie Sandler Grinspoon, the foundation’s president: Camps would need a lot of financial support either way. The foundation and other donors responded with “All Together Now,” a matching grant program through which camps were able to raise an additional $16 million, and now they’re offering a second round. Grinspoon spoke with eJewishPhilanthropy’s Helen Chernikoff about the initiative, and how she sees government and philanthropy best working together. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Helen Chernikoff: Tell us about “All Together Now 2021.”

Winnie Sandler Grinspoon: When you think about the pandemic and how it’s affecting camps, it’s not just a one-summer problem. A loss of revenue for the entire camp field in 2020 will have ramifications for the camps for quite some time. Beyond that, the pandemic isn’t over, so camps are currently preparing with tremendous uncertainty for this upcoming summer. We were inspired by the community effort that came together last summer, but we know we can’t be complacent.  

HC: What’s giving you hope right now?

WSG: The fact that 13,000 individuals were inspired to make a meaningful philanthropic gift to a camp last summer showed the community just how much people value the Jewish camp experience, and what it offers to our kids, our grandkids, our neighbors’ kids. Camps discovered, really for the first time, just how many people were willing to prioritize camp in that way. Many people converted what they had already paid for camp into a donation, and for many it was the largest philanthropic gift they ever made. Also, during the pandemic, PJ Library launched in two new languages — German in Germany, Switzerland and Austria, and Portuguese in Brazil. PJ Library is operating in 30 countries and six languages.

HC:  What are the concerns that keep you up at night?

WSG: I run positive. It’s my personality, and I work to further programs that share the joys of Jewish life and Jewish community. I do continue to be saddened by acts of antisemitism. I’ll tell you a story. My husband’s a physician, and 30 years ago, when he was in training, he came home and told me that a patient with a swastika tattoo demanded another doctor. “No dirty Jew is going to treat me!” That kind of thing. I now have a son who’s in medical school, and he mentioned that he treated a patient in the emergency room who had an SS tattoo. It worries me and it saddens me that 30 years later this is still a reality. And so my hope is that we can figure out how to build bridges among communities, and educate, and reach a different place.

Read the full story here.


TikvahNet: Ramah’s Virtual Vocational Training and Socialization Program

Courtesy: National Ramah Commission

Maya Albin shares thoughts about the needed move to virtual for Ramah’s Tikvah programs.

Background: Tikvah programs, help children, teens, and young adults with disabilities thrive at Ramah. First established in 1970, they have expanded over time to offer support for neurodiverse campers throughout the Ramah Camping Movement, including vocational education programs to prepare neurodiverse young adults for the workforce. As the summer of 2020 approached, many participants, alumni, and their families expressed concern about losing the opportunity to develop important vocational and social skills.

The need: We knew we needed to create innovative social and vocational programs for our current and past Tikvah and voc-ed participants, but there were many questions that accompanied this unprecedented undertaking. How could we engage participants with vastly different skill sets, interests, and ages (teenagers to adults over 40) in the same activities? Would participants be interested in meeting strangers from a different state or country online? Could online programs foster the same kehillah and friendships we see so powerfully at our Ramah camps in person?

What we did: Fast forward nine months later: “TikvahNet,” has engaged over 80 current or former Tikvah-supported campers in addition to the programs offered by our camps. We began with an intensive six-week summer program that focused on different vocational lessons twice a week, continued to have social and vocational programs bimonthly this fall, and have just started our third round of online programs for the winter and spring. We have covered topics such as money management, workplace socialization, our right to vote, and self-advocacy, as well as cooking, dancing, a Hanukkah party, and a virtual tour of Israel. So how did we do it, and what did we learn?

Learnings: First, ensuring that programs are engaging and accessible for everyone requires extensive planning, but is essential to success. We balanced discussion-based content and hands-on activities, such as making thank you cards for frontline workers or cooking, to cater to each participant’s learning style and interests. We took the time to meet with some families in advance to tailor programming to their child’s needs, such as making visuals-based alternatives to activities (e.g., an “all about me” collage for our resumé lesson).

Read the article here.


Shalom bayit, baked into the Shabbat meal

Courtesy JWI

As the 1st Shabbat in February approaches, Rav Sean Gorman writes about JWI’s annual “Shamour l’Amour” campaign created by their Clergy Task Force to End Domestic Abuse in the Jewish Community.

What: This annual program is designed to spark conversations about healthy relationships by clergy, among couples, families, singles, and in our varied communities. These conversations can be held anywhere – from the pulpit to the dinner table; while taking a walk, or over your favorite conferencing website.

When: “Shamor L’Amour” takes place in February because of Valentine’s Day. While by no means a Jewish holiday, we see Valentine’s Day everywhere. Both in stores and online, February has become the month when relationships are defined by the size of the box of chocolate.

Affirmation: We affirm that chocolate is an essential part of life. However, when we, your rabbis and cantors, talk and sing about healthy relationships, we go beyond Valentine’s Day. We go beyond one day a year. We change the context of the conversation from relationships to Jewish relationships, from flowers on February 14th to flowers on every Shabbat.

Jewish Angle: Jewish tradition is replete with statements about relationships. From the earliest pages of the Torah, we are told lo tov heyot ha’adam l’vado – it is not good for a person to be alone. We understand this to be a grand statement about the importance of relationships. Within that grand statement, we remember also that Jewish law and tradition emphasize the preservation of physical and psychological health.

Questions: As we begin the month of February, we pause to take stock of our relationships. What has been healthy? What has not? When do we need help? Do we give on equal terms?  Are we too firm or too flexible as we grow? Do we remember what might have happened even as we learn to let go of trauma?

Read the article here.

Worthy Reads

Opting Out: Debbie Kaminer, a law professor at Baruch College, asks whether employers can require the COVID-19 vaccination, as airlines have already said they will do, even if the mandate violates an employee’s religious beliefs. She warns that those employers might find themselves vulnerable to accusations of religious discrimination if they don’t offer an exception for such workers. [Conversation]

Herd Effect: A new study by Nishma Research finds that of the six categories the firm sees as making up American Jewry, all but two are sufficiently pro-vaccine that once the COVID-19 vaccine becomes widely available, they will reach the 80% vaccination rate at which a community achieves herd immunity. In the Yeshivish segment of the Orthodox world, 78% are pro-vaccine, which means they are close, while in the Chasidic segment, 57% are pro-vaccine. [NishmaResearch

Representing: Tova Richardo showcases “Lunar: the Jewish–Asian Film Project,” in which Gen Slosberg and Jenni Rudolph made a movie featuring 23 individuals speaking about what it’s like to be Asian and Jewish.[JewsOfColorInitiative]

Community Comms

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Word on the Street

With thousands of Israelis apparently stranded in the U.S., El Al has filed a request to operate special flights from New York to return them home… For the first time in 60 years, the incumbent board chair of the UK’s Board of Deputies is facing a leadership challenge… More than a third of younger donors contribute to a nonprofit at least monthly, and nearly two-thirds say they actively promote the causes they support; this according to an upcoming report from Data Axle… Philanthropist Sanford Greenberg, who awarded The Greenberg Prize to 13 research scientists playing a critical role in curing blindness, discusses what drives his charitable giving…

Around the Web

A second-grader at Beit Rabban Day School in Manhattan reads Torah for the first time in the school’s “Chumash Ceremony.”


Founding rabbi of The New Shul, now the spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Shalom of Napa Valley, Niles Elliot Goldstein turns 55…

FRIDAY: A child survivor of Bergen Belsen and a guest at the 2019 State of the Union as a survivor of the Tree of Life shooting, Abraham Judah Samet turns 83… Israeli engineer and entrepreneur, he is a founding partner of investment company Rainbow Medical, Yossi Gross turns 74… Professor at Georgetown University Law Center, Randy E. Barnett turns 69… Past chair of the board of The Associated of Baltimore, Linda A. Hurwitz turns 63… Associate director of the Jerusalem-based Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation, columnist for The Times of Israel, Pesach Wolicki turns 51… Baltimore-area chiropractor, president of Congregation Shomrei Emunah and kosher wine curator, Dr. Kenneth S. Friedman turns 48… President and COO of American Signature, Jonathan Schottenstein turns 39… Global head of public affairs at Teach For All, Sarabeth Berman turns 37…

SATURDAY: Israeli pediatric endocrinologist and winner of the 2009 Israel Prize, Dr. Zvi Laron turns 94… Cantor of Congregation Hugat Haverim in Glendale, Calif., Harvey Lee Block turns 80… Professor of journalism at Harvard and at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, Michael Pollan turns 66… Special events producer at Ballas Bloom Consulting, Jacquelyn Ballas Bloom turns 52… Rabbi and author of seven books, Danya Ruttenberg turns 46… Professor at the MIT Media Lab, where she leads the Mediated Matter research group, Neri Oxman turns 45… Israeli-French singer-songwriter whose hit single “New Soul” was used by Apple in a 2008 advertising campaign for its MacBook Air, Yael Naim turns 43… AIPAC’s mid-Atlantic regional political director, Stephen Knable turns 40… Former director of programming for The Jewish Channel, Steven I. Weiss turns 40… Global CEO of the Kirsch Foundation, Carly Maisel… Head of sales and business development at Fabko Ltd, Yadin Koschitzky

SUNDAY: Former U.S. senator from Wisconsin and former owner of the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks, Herb Kohl turns 86… and also born in Milwaukee on the same date 16 years later, his first cousin, senior rabbi (now emeritus) of Beth Tzedec Congregation in Toronto and former president of the Toronto Board of Rabbis, Baruch Frydman-Kohl turns 70… Director of training for the Bulfinch Group, Michel R. Scheinmann turns 73… Rabbi at Beth Chai Congregation in Bethesda, Maryland and author of Jewish children’s books, Deborah Bodin Cohen turns 53… Executive director of the Aviv Foundation, Adam Simon turns 46… Vice president and managing director at Material+, Jonathan Weiss turns 45… Hasidic singer and recording artist, Shloime Daskal turns 42… Former MLB pitcher, he is now an angel investor in the San Francisco area, Scott Feldman turns 38… Director of development at Chicago’s Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School, Rachael Fenton