The President's Desk: Andrés Spokoiny

Andrés Spokoiny is President & CEO of Jewish Funders Network. Full bio >>

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.”

Read more
Share

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.

Read more
Share

Looking Beyond the Horizon (Tisha B'Av 5781)

The word “horizon” is tricky. We generally refer to the horizon as an indication of expansiveness, even limitlessness. But etymologically, the word means exactly the opposite. It comes from the Greek word “horizein,” which means “limit.” The horizon is, in fact, the limit of our vision — in Hebrew, as well, where the word for horizon, “ofek,” has the same root as “restrain, constraint, limit.”

Read more
Share

What Really Happened at Mount Sinai? (Shavuot 5781)

According to Midrash, all the souls of the future generations were present at Mount Sinai the moment the Torah was given. As a child, I believed this to be literally true, which posed some challenges to my young mind. First, was I among those that built the golden calf? And if I was there, why didn’t I remember any of it? I did try to picture myself there, imagining myself as an extra in “The 10 Commandments” looking at Charlton Heston from afar.

Read more
Share

Of Oysters and Israel (Yom Ha'atzma'ut 5781)

One article changed my whole view of Zionism.

Since I’d grown up in a strongly Zionist environment, from my home to my day school to my camp, believing that Israel was a model country that could do no wrong, the article should have produced a crisis, and maybe even threatened my attachment to the Zionist idea. Yet, it did the exact opposite.

Read more
Share

As We Leave Egypt and Covid, We Cannot Simply ‘Go Back’ To the Past (Passover 5781)

If you have a European or Middle Eastern heritage and you grow up in the Southern Hemisphere, you suffer from permanent cognitive dissonance. You may read about stars and constellations, but you’ll never see the Ursa Major in the sky. Or you’ll find it between funny and pathetic to celebrate midwinter traditions — designed for colder climes — in the sweltering summer heat.

Read more
Share

Resilience Isn’t Enough. We Need 'Renaissilience'

JFN President and CEO Andrés Spokoiny's presidential address at the JFN 2021 International Conference, delivered online on Wednesday, March 17, 2021.

Read more
Share

Overcoming the Revival of 'Hamanism' (Purim 5781)

Ridiculousness is one of the central characteristics of Purim. On this holiday, we are not afraid to be silly and absurd. We don funny costumes; we drink ourselves into oblivion; we are boisterous and noisy.

Read more
Share

Defying Entropy (Tu Bishvat 5781)

It takes just 13 seconds to chop down a tree with an ax. If you must know, New Zealander David Bolstad holds the world record of “underhand chop” at 12.28 seconds. With a mechanical saw, which is how most chopping occurs these days, it takes about half that (and the record for that is 5.085 seconds, held by American Matt Bush).

Read more
Share

Lighting a Path into the Future (Hanukkah 5781)

Sorry to break it to you, but Hanukkah is not that unique.

Almost every culture has a midwinter holiday in which light is the main protagonist. From the Norse Yule, to Christmas, to Diwali. It seems that, as the days shorten and the sun retreats, the fear of darkness inscribed in the human DNA takes over.

Read more
Share