The President's Desk: Andrés Spokoiny

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

This You Call a Miracle?

Question: What did the first three-headed clown juggling live baby goats say to the second three-headed clown juggling live baby goats?

Answer: I don’t know, but if I told you, you’d remember.

We tend to remember unusual and surprising things. That’s how our brain is wired; it’s an evolutionary mechanism that helps us notice new threats and opportunities in our surroundings. From ancient times to the present, memory masters have used this principle. In his book Moonwalking with Einstein, Joshua Foer explains how competitive memory champions use strange and unusual images to memorize the order of an entire deck of card in just seconds. The 7 of diamonds alone is just a card, but a 7 of diamonds being held by Einstein as he bounces around in lunar weightlessness is something unforgettable.

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A Tree of Life, and Light for Joy: Philanthropy After Terror

All weekend as I watched the news, I wondered again what I’ve wondered before: why isn’t pain a zero sum game? Why can’t we spread the sadness thin by sharing it, until it almost disappears? Why is it rather that even though we all share the grief, it doesn’t diminish?

Looking at the pictures from Pittsburgh, I wished that the sorrow I felt could ease the unspeakable burden of grief faced by the families and loved ones directly touched. I wish I could take upon myself some of the pain that congregation Tree of Life / Or L’Simcha, and the broader community of Squirrel Hill, faces. But their pain doesn’t diminish, and mine grows. The heartache expands, seemingly inextinguishable. As Jeremiah proclaimed, “Oh, that my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears! Then would I weep day and night for the slain of my people.”

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Tikkun Olam: A Defense and a Critique

Lately there seems to be a concerted attack on the idea of Tikkun Olam. Critics say Tikkun Olam is not a Jewish idea, but merely liberal politics masquerading as Jewish values.

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“Together, Tribes of Israel?" Zionism and Jewish Peoplehood

A two-part essay for The Peoplehood Papers, volume 22 – “Israel@70: A Peoplehood Perspective” 

Part 1How Zionism challenges the Jewish peoplehood that created it

Part 2Building a new relationship for Zionism and Jewish peoplehood

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Rivers, Rain, and Morality (Sukkot 5779)

Is there a relationship between Israel’s dependence on rain and the traits and values we developed as a people?

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Apes and Angels (Rosh Hashanah 5779)

We’re still in the Stone Age. Or rather, our minds are.                                 

I’m not kidding. The human brain has evolved very little since we were hunter-gatherers in the African savanna and it still uses the same adaptive behaviors that we learned escaping from lions and looking for edible berries.  

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Independent Funders and Federations: Bound Together and Bound to Change

In eJewish Philanthropy.

[This essay is part of a series from leaders in the field of Jewish philanthropy, who will offer reactions and analyses to Jack Wertheimer’s report, Giving Jewish: How Big Funders Have Transformed American Jewish Philanthropy, commissioned and released earlier this year by The AVI CHAI Foundation.]

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Third Time’s a Charm? Tisha Be'Av 5778

Whenever the Jews have had sovereignty in their land, they have messed up and lost it.

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Stop Stopping

“Each generation doubtless feels called upon to reform the world. Mine knows that it will not reform it, but its task is perhaps even greater. It consists in preventing the world from destroying itself. Heir to a corrupt history, in which are mingled fallen revolutions, technology gone mad, dead gods, and worn-out ideologies, where mediocre powers can destroy all yet no longer know how to convince, where intelligence has debased itself to become the servant of hatred and oppression.”

— Albert Camus, Nobel Prize acceptance speech, 1957

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Law and Love (Shavuot 5778)

Have you ever heard the phrase “the God of the Old Testament”? It’s generally used to distinguish between the supposedly angry, vengeful, and severe God of the Hebrew Bible and the “Loving Heavenly Father” of the New Testament.

Even though many Christian theologians have denounced this false contrast (after all, they say, God can’t change his substance), it persists in the Western mind. It’s linked to one of the biggest misconceptions in the history of religion: the notion that Judaism is the “religion of law” while Christianity is the “religion of love”.

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