The President's Desk: Andrés Spokoiny

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

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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Roots of Intolerance Still Firmly Planted 19 Years After Rabin Assassination

Cross-posted at the Times of Israel

I consider myself to be an incorrigible optimist. I’m an eternal searcher for glasses half full and silver linings. Yet, there was a day on which I couldn’t find a glimpse of optimism or a spark of hope. It was November 4, 1995, when an assassin killed Yitzhak Rabin and ended one of the most prolific and transformational lives in the history of the State of Israel and the Jewish people.

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The Strength of Our Fragility During the Chag

Cross-posted at the Times of Israel

Jewish tradition has a lot of paradoxes, but Sukkot is probably the biggest of them all.

Yom Kippur probably hired PR consultants to make us forget that Sukkot used to be the most important holiday in the Jewish calendar. It’s called “Hechag,” THE holiday. When the Talmudic rabbis referred to the chag without adding a specific holiday, it was obvious they were referring to the Festival of Tabernacles.

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The Day After

Cross-posted on eJewish Philanthropy and the Times of Israel

Israel never had a victory parade.

Even when military triumphs were outstanding and even miraculous, Israelis knew wars are not something to be celebrated. They can feel proud of the way their soldiers and civilian sector dealt with threats and challenges to Israel’s security and very existence. Yet, pride is not joy.

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