Reflections on Peoplehood Papers 7: Reinvigorating Jewish Peoplehood: The Philanthropic Perspective

Posted on February 28, 2012

I recently read the Peoplehood Papers 7: Reinvigorating Jewish Peoplehood: The Philanthropic Perspective and am pleased to share my takeaways and reflections.

On page 11, Andres Spokoiny, the President and CEO of the Jewish Funders Network, gives an excellent definition of the concept of Areyvut and these ideas and concepts are what Areyvut the agency is all about.  He says “All Jews are responsible for one another, is one of the secrets of Jewish survival.  It is, in great measure, the glue that guarantees our internal cohesion despite our differences.  The idea of ‘for one another’ takes us from ‘me’ to ‘we’, and what message is more relevant today, as we live in conditions of individualism and disconnection?  The concept of ‘for one another’ means that none of us will ever be alone.  The idea of being there ‘for one another’ does not disconnect Jews from the rest of the world.  Rather the opposite, by developing the concept of mutual responsibility, we extend this core idea to the rest of the world.  Jews believe that all human beings are tied together in an inescapable network of mutuality wherein what happens to one happens to all.”  I look forward to working with Andres and JFN on incorporating the concept and values of Areyvut into agencies throughout the country.

David Mallach and Sanford Antignas from UJA-Federation of New York write about A Philanthropic Focus.  I agree with their basic premise but think that as a community we need to have a wider and larger tent.  We need to make efforts to include all people, groups and agencies within the community and not only those that are already known.  Doing so will enrich, engage and empower the community.

Felicia Herman from Natan reflects on Natan’s Jewish Peoplehood Grants.  Felicia’s article and Natan’s approach underscores the importance and impact of engaging people Jewish in philanthropy.  Natan has been a leader in the field and has facilitated others philanthropic involvement- both individuals and foundations.  I think it is interesting that Natan has yet to fund a Jewish teen philanthropy program which in essence will encourage and enable young people to follow their lead and example.

Jeffrey Solomon offers Observations from the Field that highlights how the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies works in these areas and the lessons they have learned over the years.  I appreciate their leadership in the field and in particular 21/64, Slingshot, National Unplug Day and Birthright.  These programs have each facilitated powerful and meaningful connections to philanthropy, Israel and community and have transformed the Jewish community. 

Lisa Eisen of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Foundation writes on Putting the People Back in Peoplehood.  It would be great to see ROI do more programs for the broader field of Jewish organizations, entrepreneurs and leaders.

Misha Galperin of the Jewish Agency addresses Paying for Peoplehood and suggests creating a tzedakah and Jewish values curriculum that can be used nationally.  I think such a curriculum can be powerful in engaging and uniting Jews throughout the world and in teaching them about core Jewish values.  Drawing on our expertise and experience, Areyvut would love to be a part of the team that designs and implements that curricula.

Rebecca Caspi and Lisa Friedman from Jewish Federations of North America write about Jewish Federations and Jewish Peoplehood in Action.  They mention the International School Twinning Network of which I had not previously heard about and I look forward to learning more about it so that we can inform the schools and families we work with about this opportunity.

Sally Berkovic of the Rothchild Foundation discusses Counting on the Jews in Europe.  Reading her article help me remember how powerful my visits to Poland were for me and the students I led and how long it has been since I last visited.  She underscores how quickly communities can transform themselves and this idea can also hold true for agencies, schools and communities in other areas. 

Shana Penn and Danielle Forman from the Taube Philanthopies and the Koret Foundation describe a joint program on Jewish Peoplehood.  They have a wonderful model and I wish them continued success and hope their colleagues in the foundation world implement this model in their communities.

Shoshana Boyd Gelfand of JHub uses JHub as a Case Study to view Peoplehood as the consequence and not the goal.  JHub is a unique model in that it does not just bring together agencies in the same area but brings together agencies with similar goals, values and missions so that they can all learn from one another, share resources and do more than they would if they were on their own.  The more initiatives like JHub the more collaborating, partnership and unity we will have and better off we will be as a people.  I do not think there is a sudden interest in chesed and service from young people and believe Jews have always has an interest in these areas.  They are now more popular because the community has developed resources and programs to highlight the importance and centrality of chesed and service and these initiatives achieve many of the objectives of the organized Jewish community.

I am not going to name the author as I do not want to embarrass them or their agency but someone quoted “All Jews are responsible one for the other” which is where the name Areyvut comes from as being from the Torah when in fact it is from the Talmud.  It is critical for Jewish leaders- professional and lay- to be knowledgeable Jewishly.

These papers are a wonderful contribution to the dialogue on philanthropy, Peoplehood and the Jewish community.

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