Fighting antisemitism can be a Sisyphean task. We’ve been pushing that boulder up the slope for three thousand years, and yet we need to keep pushing.
Sometimes I feel that it’s like cutting your nails; they keep growing back. And yet, what can we do? We keep cutting them and we keep improving the implements we use to do so.
Shine a Light is, maybe, one of the best new nail clippers in the market.
That’s why I was so excited to have this conversation with Carly Maisel, Global CEO of Kirsh Philanthropies and factotum of Shine A Light.
Launched during Chanukah 2021, Shine A Light is a purpose-driven convening platform for organizations, companies, communities, elected officials, and individuals to unite in shining a light on antisemitism in all its modern forms- through education, community partnerships, workplace engagement, and policy advocacy. Shine A Light draws inspiration from Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, to champion the message that light can dispel darkness and hate. It comprises an unprecedented coalition of North American Jewish and non-Jewish organizations committed to effectuating societal change through education and a shared sense of communal allyship.
From the perspective of a philanthropic practitioner, many things caught my eye in Shine A Light, and I believe those elements make it a great case-study of philanthropic effectiveness. In other words, funders can learn from the Shine A Light experience in different dimensions:
- Finding Gaps
There are many organizations fighting antisemitism. SAL doesn’t seek to replicate or replace them but to find gaps; specific activities that those organizations can’t do on their own.
- Partnering and Coalition Building
In a context in which organizations fight for funding and attention, it’s hard to create partnerships and joint ventures. SAL has succeeded in bringing together organizations and funders in an ad-hoc coalition.
- Philanthropic Leadership
Funders can exert influence not only with their funding, but also by motivating and encouraging the field. Here, Kirsh Philanthropies and their partners exercised leadership by taking risks and offering “carrots” to the field in order to work together. The risk aspect is important: funders, not having the same fiduciary constraints as nonprofits, can make an initiative viable by absorbing the risk and creating a proof of concept.
One key aspect of SAL is the high quality of its activities. From the media campaigns to the convenings, SAL proves that funders need to “pay what it takes” and help produce programs of excellence.
- Global and Local
One interesting aspect of SAL is that it’s both a global initiative and a local one. In other words, it’s structured in a way in which local agencies can plug into the initiative and develop their own events. This expands the reach and breadth of the programs.
Another intriguing aspect of SAL is the multi-sector nature of the coalitions being created. One new development in that sense is the work around antisemitism in the corporate space and the initiatives to include antisemitism in corporate trainings focusing on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
- Positive Attitude
In fighting antisemitism, there’s a lot of “oy” but little “joy.” Despite the graveness of the issue, SAL offers a positive message: that Jews have a lot to rejoice in and that we can fight external haters while reinforcing a positive and joyful Jewish identity. The events, for example, have a festive atmosphere, in which allies and partners are celebrated.
For all these reasons, I think SAL can be a great model for funders, not just in the field on anti-antisemitism, but in every activity in which coalition building and philanthropic leadership is needed.