Highlights from the Israel Ideas Festival

More than 350 people joined us this week for our two-day hybrid Israel Ideas Festival

While Covid restrictions prevented us from holding the global in-person gathering in Tel Aviv that we had initially envisioned, the Festival nonetheless provided us with a much-needed opportunity to connect (for those of us fortunate enough to be in Tel Aviv and New York, that included in-person shmoozing!) and to address some of the big issues facing Israel and the Jewish people.

(Above: The scene in Tel Aviv)

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Eytan Stibbe: Israeli Astronaut and Philanthropist

Episode 24 of What Gives? the Jewish philanthropy podcast from Jewish Funders Network.

JFN President and CEO Andrés Spokoiny talks to renowned Israeli fighter pilot Eytan Stibbe about his philanthropy, impact investing, and how his friend Ilan Ramon inspired him to travel to outer space.

 

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Embracing the Transition (Sukkot 5782)

The novelist Milan Kundera noted that the difference between a path and a highway is that a path is “a strip of ground over which one walks,” whereas a highway “is merely a line that connects one point with another.” A highway, he wrote, has no meaning in itself; its meaning derives entirely from the two points that it connects and “is the triumphant devaluation of space, which thanks to it has been reduced to a mere obstacle to human movement and a waste of time.”

Kundera wondered whether, in all but disappearing from the modern landscape, paths have also disappeared from the human soul. He lamented that people do not view their lives as a path, but as a highway, “a line that led from one point to another, from one role to the next … Time became a mere obstacle to life, an obstacle that had to be overcome by ever greater speed.”

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Connecting Jewish Youth to Their Faith through Giving

From Insights, the newsletter of Indiana University's Lilly Family School of Philanthropy (September 14, 2021)

In this essay, Wayne Green of JFN's Honeycomb, writes about the importance of Jewish youth philanthropy programs in shaping the next generation of committed Jews and Jewish funders.

What does our giving say about us? This is a good question for teens to ask themselves as they begin their journey of learning to do philanthropy well.

As adults and educators working with teens, there are important questions to ask ourselves as well. How do we represent our experiences and learnings from childhood with the teens with whom we work? What are the core principles of religion, ‘ah-ha’ moments from our experiences, stories shared from grandparents and ancestors long gone, and the family and faith traditions that inspire us to act to make change for good today? How can we inspire youth to draw on these questions during their philanthropic journey?

Read the full piece here.

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Is Zionism Part of Judaism?

From Tablet Magazine (September 12, 2021)

In this essay, JFN President and CEO Andrés Spokoiny weighs in on the "sometimes acrid debate about 'the boundaries of community' that expresses itself mostly around the issue of Zionism and whether being an anti-Zionist puts one 'beyond the pale.'”

While acknowledging that "some of the vitriol against anti-Zionists is excessive and even dangerous," Spokoiny writes that the "non-exclusionary position ignores something central: Judaism, like any other culture, has normative positions that set the limits of belonging. But throughout Jewish history, new ideological positions became normative, and others were weeded out or excluded. The fact that an ideology was rooted in Jewish sources didn’t guarantee automatic acceptance."

Read the full piece in Tablet.

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Jewish Philanthropists Debate MacKenzie Scott’s Giving Strategy

From eJewish Philanthropy (September 10, 2021)

 

“We’re hearing her name being mentioned as an example,” said Rabbi Rebecca Sirbu, executive vice president of the Jewish Funders Network, (JFN), a service organization that is open to donors who give a minimum of $25,000 annually in the name of Jewish values.

Scott’s philanthropic style, which Sager called “trust-based philanthropy,” dovetails neatly with “GrantED,” an initiative of JFN and UpStart that aims to strengthen relationships between grant makers and grantees. GrantED fosters conversations about power dynamics between donors and recipients and educates funders about the need for unrestricted grants that aren’t tied to any one specific program and can be used for general operating support, Sirbu said.

“Racial justice. Educational access. These are big issues Scott’s investing in,” Sirbu said. “She’s inspiring donors to think more about long-term impact.”

 

Read the full article by Helen Chernikoff in eJewish Philanthropy.

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Teaming Up with Our Past and Future Selves (Rosh Hashanah 5782)

Who would we be if we had made different choices? If we’d told that secret, left that relationship, written that book?

That’s the question at the heart of “L’Anomalie” (“The Anomaly”), the book by Herve Le Tellier that won France’s prestigious “Prix Goncourt.” A mix of philosophical novel, science fiction, human comedy, and social critique, “L’Anomalie” explores what happens when a flight en route from Paris to New York in March 2021 is caught in a monster storm over the US coast. Flight AF006, a 747, manages to navigate out of the cumulus nimbus and land safely at JFK Airport, but through a bizarre quantic phenomenon, a copy of the plane is created. That second version of Flight AF006, with all its passengers and crew, emerges out of the storm in June, a few months after the “original” plane had landed.

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Addressing the Gender Gap in Jewish Nonprofit Leadership

Most people working at Jewish nonprofits are women. But most CEOs of Jewish nonprofits—especially at the largest organizations—are men. In 2019, Leading Edge launched an investigation to better understand why that is, and how the field might begin to change it.

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New Israeli Impact Investing Vehicles

Ogen – Free Loan Fund, a JFN member that makes interest-free loans to Israelis in need, is now offering two new impact investing options.

The first new option, in partnership with Keshet DAF, Israel’s first-ever donor-advised fund (launched in 2019 by JFN Israel and partners), enables Keshet account holders to allocate a chosen sum (minimum ILS 100,000) from their fund toward an Ogen Impact Loan. The funds will be loaned out to small businesses and nonprofits through Ogen, before being returned, with 1 percent annual interest, back to the donor's Keshet DAF account after five years.

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Reflecting on CANVAS

Who would be crazy enough to launch a fund supporting Jewish arts and culture in March of 2020? To our own amazement, we did.

It’s been barely a year since CANVAS, which is incubated at Jewish Funders Network, made its first grants to Jewish arts and culture networks. Since then, CANVAS has committed more than $1.4 million to encourage and strengthen modern Jewish creativity in North America. And we’re just getting started. But before we look ahead, we’d like to take stock of what’s happened thus far. 

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