The President's Desk: Andrés Spokoiny

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

How You Can Help Jews (and Others) in Ukraine

Updated on March 30

We at JFN have been horrified to watch the Russian invasion of Ukraine and are deeply concerned about the amount of human suffering it is unleashing, as well as its implications for democracy, Europe, and the entire world.

Below you will find information and resources for providing assistance to the people of Ukraine, with a particular focus on its Jewish population, which is one of the world’s largest Jewish communities. Many, particularly the elderly, were already struggling and isolated even before their country was plunged into war. 

We encourage you to support Passover for Ukraine, a JFN partnership with UJA-Federation of New York, which we announced at the JFN 2022 International Conference. UJA-Federation is matching all JFN member donations up to $1.25 million. Learn more here and donate here.

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Like Trees in the Forest (Tu Bishvat 5782)

One of the quotes that is repeated the most around the holiday of Tu Bishvat (the “New Year of the Trees) is, “Because Man is like a tree in the forest” (Deuteronomy 20:19). Rabbis in every generation have tried to explain that meaning-rich comparison, and many see that quote at the root (so to speak) of Judaism’s approach to stewardship of the Earth.

But can a tree be compared not to an individual person, but an entire people?

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The Miracle of Small Miracles (Chanukah 5782)

Mythical stories in all cultures, which developed mostly before literacy was common, rely on portentous and unusual images to be memorable: Elijah ascending to Heaven in a chariot of fire; the Red Sea splitting for the Israelites; Jesus walking on water. These images violate the apparent order of things, so once you visualize them, your brain will make sure you remember them for good.

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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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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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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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