The President's Desk: Andrés Spokoiny

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

Maccabean Dream or Hasmonean Nightmare? (Chanukkah 5776)

Cross-posted at the Times of Israel

In 1972, during Richard Nixon’s visit to China, Premier Zhou Enlai was asked what he thought about the French Revolution. He responded, “Too early to tell”. His answer is celebrated to this day as an illustration of the supposed Chinese ability—and the Western need—to take the long view of history.

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JFN Statement on the Paris Attacks

JFN exprime sa solidarité et son soutien au peuple français dans ces moments tragiques. Nos pensées et nos prières sont avec les victimes et avec nos partenaires et amis à Paris. Les valeurs que la France a offert au monde s'imposeront face à cet attentat lâche et sanglant. Liberté, égalité et fraternité!

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Getting Past the Hamster Wheel

Cross-posted at eJewish Philanthropy

One of the most popular recurrent dreams comes in different variations, but the core feeling is always the same: we run but we don’t advance. We wake up with a feeling of being caught in an inescapable hamster wheel, a sort of eternal Sisyphean cycle of useless effort. I leave the explanation of these dreams to neuroscientists, psychologists, and astrologists, but my own interpretation is a metaphor for a deep malaise that affects that philanthropic sector: the inability to produce systemic change.

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Living Our Deaths (Rosh Hashanah 5776)

Cross-posted at the Times of Israel

We don’t like to talk about it much, but one of the main themes of the High Holidays is death.

Why do we traditionally dress in white? Purity, your rabbi may tell you. Yes, that too, but mainly we do it to remind us of the white shrouds that will wrap our bodies in the grave. And why do we avoid food, drink, and other bodily pleasures on Yom Kippur? Because we want to enact a time in which we will no longer have a body. In these fateful days we are commanded to confront our mortality, to “live our own deaths,” as it were.

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A Day Like Today in Jerusalem

Cross-posted at eJewish Philanthropy

It all started with name-calling, demonization, and polarization. It ended in twenty centuries of tragedy.

We are now in a period that Jewish tradition calls “the three weeks,” marking the terrible times of the siege of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 C.E. The “three weeks” refers to the time elapsed between the first breach of the city walls (commemorated by the fast of 17th of Tamuz) and the destruction of the Temple on the 9th of Av.

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Asking the Kids to Clean their Parents’ Mess

Cross-posted at eJewish Philanthropy

We know it’s not always wise, but we often clean up after our kids. Yes, we tell them that they won’t have dessert if they don’t help clear the table, or they won’t get the new PlayStation if their rooms are a mess, but in most cases, we relent and just clean up for them. I guess that’s part of what being a parent is all about, kind of the natural order of things.

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The Wexner Foundation at 30—Leading on Leadership

eJewish Philanthropy, April 17, 2015

John F. Kennedy once said that “leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” JFK probably didn’t know, but his statement was profoundly Jewish for, in Judaism, leadership and learning are inextricably linked.

This quote came serendipitously to my attention this week, as we prepare to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Wexner Foundation, which, by putting this principle to practice, has been transforming communities across North America since its inception.

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Honoring Life on Yom Hashoah

Cross-posted at the Times of Israel

Well above the Arctic Circle lies Tromso, the northernmost city in Norway. During the summer, the sun never sets and in winter it never rises. Today, it is a quaint little town, and tourists flock there to see the midnight sun or to take picture of the northernmost edge of Europe. It boasts the record of most pubs per capita in the world. Go figure.

It was in Tromso that I really understood the Holocaust. 

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Back to Childhood for a Day—or More

Cross-posted at the Times of Israel

Every time I go back to Argentina my mother makes me feel like a child. She reminds me to button up my coat, impervious to the fact that I survive quite well during the other 350 days of the year, many of which I spent in freezing temperatures. She also reminds me, with gestures that futilely try to be discrete, not to put my elbows on the table, ignoring the fact that in the last few decades I’ve dined with business leaders, politicians, and social leaders, none of whom found my table manner particularly disturbing.

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Finding Light in the Darkness

As somebody who grew up in the Southern Hemisphere, the wintery nature of Chanukah used to elude me. During my childhood, Christmas fell in summer, and people celebrated it with open air barbecues and outings to the beach. We had our fair share of snowy Santa Clauses dispatched by department stores and charities, but they tended to gradually melt until becoming red and white puddles on the boiling pavement. For Jewish Day School students, Chanukah usually fell outside of the school year and was celebrated by youth movements and summer camps with sports jousts that reminded more of the Greek foes than of the Maccabean liberators.

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