Your Daily Phil: Wall Street meets donor-advised funds
Good Wednesday morning!
The Jewish Federations of North America used its virtual mission Capitol Hill this week to push for another doubling of the amount of funding for the Department of Homeland Security’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program. The program provides grants to religious and secular nonprofits to help make their facilities safer. “As the FBI has confirmed, hate crimes have been on the rise for decades, and these grants ensure an increased level of protection,” JFNA said in its mission materials.
JFNA wants $360 million for the program, an increase from the $180 million approved in December. Cedric Richmond, director of the White House’s Office of Public Engagement, told the group the White House will tackle antisemitism and support the program, but wouldn’t commit to any specific number.
Donor-advised funds gave $8.3 billion in the first half of 2020, up about 30% from the year before. The data comes from a new report by the National Philanthropic Trust, whose CEO, Eileen Heisman, said the increase reflected desire from donors to respond to the pandemic.
Investing in stocks with ‘Jewish values’
Donor-advised funds are a mechanism for people to give to charity. Yet on Tuesday, one DAF — the Jewish Communal Fund (JCF) — told donors they could not only grow their charitable dollars in the stock market, but use their Jewish values to guide their investment decisions. eJewishPhilanthropy’s Helen Chernikoff talked with Una Osili, a researcher at Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Family Philanthropy, about how some donors are investing in order to amplify their gifts.
Adding value: The fund’s decision to offer JLens — an investment advisory service that screens companies for Jewish values — to its donors is part of a broader trend that started about seven years ago, said Osili. It’s an example of “impact investing” — the aim of which is to generate a positive social impact in addition to any financial return — and the money does eventually go to charity. First, though, the donor puts some or all of their fund into an investment that might actually make a profit. Then the principal and that profit goes back into the fund, to be donated at some point in the future. “The financial return does not accrue to their own portfolio,” Osili said, “but there’s more capital that can be used for another purpose.”
Recycling money: In another form of impact investing that’s common at donor-advised funds, the donor might direct the money to support a program that doesn’t make a profit, but that does return their investment, like a no-interest loan program. In that way, when the loans are paid back, the money is “recycled” and can be used again. Donor-advised funds are a huge feature of the philanthropic landscape. At the end of 2020, according to the most recent available data, they held almost $142 billion in funds. They’re especially popular among smaller donors because they’re less expensive than opening a family foundation. It costs $5,000, for example, to open one with the Jewish Communal Fund, whose funds hold $2 billion. Also, the fund handles the paperwork involved in actually making a donation.
The growth of Hillel in the FSU
If you have an interest in Jewish renaissance, in Jews from the former Soviet Union, in the rebuilding of Jewish communities, or in the international connections between Jews around the world, you will find Yossi Goldman’s new book not only interesting but also fascinating, writes Stephen Donshik in his review of Let My People Grow.
The book: Goldman recounts the story of Hillel in the FSU from its humble beginnings in Moscow, and its first steps and missteps in the chaos that followed the fall of communism through to nourishing an indigenous Jewish leadership that sustains the FSU Jewish community to today.
Hillel’s challenge: How does one celebrate Jewish holy days in a meaningful way that speaks to students whose experience with traditional Jewish ritual is limited at best? How does one engage Jewish young people, who literally only yesterday had discovered that they are Jews? How does one embrace them with love and respect for Jewish traditions, heritage and people, and how does one create the building blocks of community?
Hillel’s approach: Hillel’s overarching approach was to empower local personnel and use the organization’s professional expertise and programming skills to develop indigenous leaders who would be able to have an impact on Jewish life. Its aim was “to create an organization that stresses responsibility, innovation and creativity. The ultimate goal … [was] to implement activities that …. attract(ed) those students that care about their Jewish identity, along with the ones who are presently alienated and estranged from Jewish roots and heritage.” This mission guided its beginnings and was consistent through everything it did to build up the organization throughout the republics and expand its programs.
The result: Hillel’s success was reflected in the growth and strengthening of the students’ sense of Jewishness, their commitment to the Jewish people, and the number of students involved in its work. In communities where Hillel professionals expected to attract only tens of students, they attracted more than a hundred; these numbers reached into the thousands in some cities. There was an exponential impact as the students then became involved in community activities.
Sounds Of Silence: Seffi Kogen, director of young leadership at the American Jewish Committee, argues that colleges and universities need to teach students about antisemitism at orientation. The fact that most do not, despite recent massacres of Jews and hate crimes on campus, might mean that the academy doesn’t think antisemitism is important. [InsideHigherEd]
Mind The Gap: The juxtaposition of antisemitism and Orthodox Jewish participation in the Capitol Hill riot highlights a split in the American-Jewish community, like other religious groups, over former President Donald Trump, writes Rachel E. Greenspan. [Insider]
Healing Help: New Jewish groups, such as Back Engaged Now!, a suicide outreach prevention project, and the Blue Dove Foundation, which uses Jewish values to help family heal from suicide, are emerging as the stigma against mental illness slowly diminishes. [TabletMag]
Letter Of The Law: A 1,600-page work of Holocaust research in Polish is at the center of a libel case that could determine the ability of scholars to do independent work on the subject in that country. The work is accused violating a law that makes it a crime to charging Poland with offenses committed by Nazi Germany. The Israeli Holocaust museum Yad Vashem said the law is a “serious attack on free and open research.” [AP]
Word on the Street
Harlene Winnick Appelman will be stepping down from her role as executive director of The Covenant Foundation on January 1, 2022. Joni Blinderman, who has been the associate director of the Foundation since 2006, will assume the leadership position… Rabbi Sandra Lawson was hired as Reconstructing Judaism’s first director of racial diversity, equity and inclusion… MK Omer Yankelevich, Israel’s Minister of Diaspora Affairs and the country’s first female Haredi minister, is leaving politics… A UK government study reports that up to two-thirds of London’s Orthodox Jews had COVID-19 last year — one of the highest rates in the world…
Pic of the Day
The Israeli organization Yad Sarah, which provides health and home care services, inspires the launch of a medical equipment-lending outlet in Connecticut.
Longest-serving chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, one-time owner of Roll Call, now a senior adviser at the Carlyle Group and on the board of Bloomberg LP, Arthur Levitt Jr. turns 90…
Chairman and president of the Export-Import Bank of the U.S., formerly president of the Lillian Vernon Corporation, Fred Hochberg turns 69… Partner at Shipman & Goodwin, she led the Connecticut Department of Children and Families and was a justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court, Joette Katz turns 68… Former CEO of the Chicago Sun-Times, he was an alderman of the 43rd ward of Chicago (1987-1993), Edwin Eisendrath turns 63… Deputy commissioner and general counsel for the NYC Department of Finance, Diana Hartstein Beinart turns 50… Founder of Fourth Factor Consulting, Joel Mowbray turns 45… Manager of the Synagogue Leadership Initiative at the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, Joshua Keyak turns 33… Executive at NYC’s Brunswick Group, he was previously executive communications manager in the Office of the President of Yeshiva University, Noam Safier turns 27…