Jewishupdates's Blog

January 15, 2010

JTA Philanthropy Newsletter for Week of Jan. 15

Filed under: Uncategorized — jewishupdates @ 6:15 pm

The Fundermentalist
Week of Jan. 15, 2010 On the web at


  10. GRANTS


Welcome Daily Briefing readers: JTA’s Daily Briefing readers will be joining us for the next few Fridays (and beyond, if they wish). So if it feels a little crowded, that’s why. Don’t worry, though, we’re a charitable bunch. On the flip side, Fundermentalist readers should feel free to sign up for JTA’s Daily Briefing by clicking the link at the bottom of this e-mail to update your profile.

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Tell us your big idea: JTA is partnering with five other media outlets and the Jewish Federations of North America on a project to publicize new ideas for improving the Jewish nonprofit landscape. In February, JTA & The Fundermentalist, the Forward and its Sisterhood Blog,, Jewcy, Jewschool, the Jewish Federations and JTA’s former director of digital media, Daniel Sieradski, will combine to publish one new idea per day from a total of 28 different Jewish thinkers from across the Jewish world.

Keep up with the project starting Feb. 1 at (not live yet).

The idea is a play on Sieradski’s own blog, where each day of this month he has been posting an idea of his own for a new Jewish project.

Next month, as part of the 28days28ideas initiative, each of the partners in the collaboration will be responsible for lining up the entries for a specific day of the week.

The goal is to produce some great new ideas for helping out the Jews, and introducing each other to our respective readerships (something tells us that your average Jewish Federation follower might not be a regular Jewschool reader, and vice versa).

JTA’s entries will be posted on Mondays to my blog (

We would like one of our ideas to come from you, our readers. So if you have something you want to get out there, write it up and send it to by Jan. 27 (try to keep it to under 1,000 words). We will select one of the submissions and publish it in one of our slots next month.

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What would you do with $100 million? I’m kind of sorry that I will be missing LimmudNY, which will take place this weekend at the Hudson Valley Resort in New York — and it’s not just because they absolutely swear they will have heat this year.

The conference, which annually draws hundreds of Jews interested in outside-the-box Jewish education, is 100 percent user-generated and promises to offer an array of ideas that you might not hear at your typical Jewish shindig.

One of the more interesting sessions looks to be “Imagine Community,” an interactive conversation run by several funders (Mark Pearlman, Sally Gottesman and Marcella Kanfer Rolnick); New York Jewish Week editor and publisher Gary Rosenblatt; the VP for strategic marketing at the Jewish Federations of North America, Adam Smolyar; and the founder of Shalom TV, Rabbi Mark Golub.

Pearlman, a former executive at CBS and Fox who is behind a number of Jewish initiatives, including, says that he and the other organizers (The Jewish Week and Shalom TV) want to start a conversation about what it would take to create amore effective, stable and inspiring community with which a large number of Jews would want to be involved. 

In the lead-up to Limmud, Pearlman urged a number of contributors to do a little dreaming, asking: What would you do if someone gave you $100 million to contribute to the Jewish world? Readers can view the first round of submissions at and also participate by sharing their own vision. 

The answers to that question will be the jumping-off point for the Limmud session. And, Pearlman says, the Limmud session itself will be a jumping-off point for a broader project that will include both online and offline aspects. The group is also using the age-old Jewish tradition of “kvetching” to help direct us to a better community. 

“One intended outcome for the Imagined Community session is to help identify priorities — a Jewish community version of the UN Millennium Development Goals,” he said via e-mail. “It is a great way to identify passions and possibly help participants to identify organizations or individuals with a like-minded approach. We look for engaging discussion and draw on a mix of live discussion, video and Powerpoint. It is all in beta test and we look to learn, refine and produce other offline events. We will use the media and online to continue the discussion.”

And, he adds: “We look to partner.”

To watch related videos on the imagined community, check out JInsider video series.

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How to help in Haiti: Check out our story and more reporting next week on the topic at and The Fundermentalist blog. The Seattle Jewish Transcript and L.A. Jewish Journal both have roundups of some of the places where people can donate money to help.

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New camp foundation CEO going from cans of soup to bug juice: Jeremy Fingerman, who was named the new CEO of the Foundation for Jewish Camp on Wednesday, found himself in a funny position on his first day on the job as the head of Campbell’s canned soup division back in 2000.

Fingerman, then the new brand manager of Campbell’s most successful product — Chunky Soup — found himself in a room with 30 colleagues for a product tasting session. As the first bowls were set before them, Fingerman, who keeps kosher, knew he had a problem: It was Chunky Split Pea & Ham soup.

Even without drawing the spoon to his mouth, Fingerman realized something was off, thanks to a memory from his childhood. When his mother made split pea soup — using salami instead of ham — the chucks of meat were so big they floated to the top of his bowl. But here, he saw no bits of ham, which led to the obvious question — where’s the meat? (Sorry to mix marketing metaphors.)

So Fingerman had his team up the size of the ham bits by 10 percent, which led to a 15 percent growth in sales.

Don’t expect an upping of the ham bits at Jewish camps starting Feb. 1, but Fingerman has plenty of other childhood memories on his mind as he assumes his new post at the foundation, an operation that spends more than $20 million per year to improve Jewish camps.

“I spent eight summers as a camper. It made me who I am Jewishly,” Fingerman told me Thursday in a wide-ranging interview. Growing up in a Conservative home in Cincinnati, Fingerman, 49, attended both Camp Ramah in Wisconsin and Blue Star Camp in North Carolina, where he made a number of friends with whom he is still close.

“If you mention camp to me, a smile just comes across my face because of the memories of really maturing and doing so in a fully Jewish environment in a joyful environment…There were counselors and staff I idolized who were role models to me,” he said. “I think part of my challenge immediately is to try to construct what are the elements that go into making that magical experience happen.”

Fingerman — who helped Campbell’s create its first kosher canned soup when he got the Orthodox Union to certify the company’s Vegetarian Vegetable Soup, leading to a 20 percent increase in sales, and later served as the CEO of the Manischewitz Company — has some 20 years in marketing experience at major corporations. It’s a resume he thinks will help as he assumes the foundation’s top spot.

“I think there are a lot of similarities. The brand consumer product experience will help bring me perspective,” Fingerman said. “The discipline applies to any organization. You have to first understand the consumer — in this case it is the camper — and you have to understand the retailers — the counselors and the staff — and the distributors — the board and administrators. And whether it is soup or matzah, you have to understand the shareholders — that is, the Jewish community at large.”

The Foundation for Jewish Camp has had success in bringing CEOs into the nonprofit world from the corporate world. Its last chief executive, Jerry Silverman, came to the foundation after successful stints as a high-level executive at Stride Rite shoes and Levi Strauss, where he helped create Dockers pants. Silverman left the foundation this past summer to become the CEO of the Jewish Federations of North America.

Fingerman, who lives in Englewood, N.J., where he belongs to an Orthodox synagogue, says more beds are needed: Only 10 percent of the age cohort eligible for camps actually attends one, but the camps themselves already are at around 98 percent capacity.

Even if capacity is expanded and fees made affordable, other steps will be needed to boost the number of children attending Jewish camps, Fingerman said. He cited a lesson he learned from the business world: Listen to what customers need and want.

Making Campbell’s Vegetarian Vegetable Soup kosher was not a decision he made because he keeps kosher, but one that the company made because they had heard over time through hotlines that customers wanted it. By creating a kosher line, Campbell’s boosted its overall soup sales by 20 percent because people saw the kosher brand as a seal of quality.

Camps aren’t all that different.

“For the Jewish community,” he said, “there are few things more important to our Jewish future than the success of Jewish camps.” But, he added, the brand might just need to be tweaked a touch. “Just like Manischewitz or Campbell’s soup or Wheaties, these are iconic brands, and camp is an icon. But all icons need to be renewed and refreshed to be relevant to today’s consumers.”

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Koret, U.S. and Bank Leumi partnering to help businesses in Negev: Courtesy of j. the Jewish news weekly of Northern California, there is a report on a new collaboration bringing together these three partners: “A program started by a San Francisco foundation soon will make it possible for struggling small businesses in Israel’s Negev to obtain the loans necessary to bolster their businesses, create jobs and boost the economy.

“The venture is made possible from a partnership of the Koret Israel Economic Development Fund, an arm of the San Francisco-based Koret Foundation; Israel’s Bank Leumi; and the Overseas Private Investment Corp., a U.S. governmental agency.

“OPIC, which fosters investment overseas and promotes economic development in new and emerging markets, and the Koret fund have provided the funding to guarantee any loan Bank Leumi directs to Israeli entrepreneurs in the Negev.

“The collaboration will make available $160 million over seven years for loans ranging from $13,000 to $325,000.

“Jeff Farber, CEO and executive director of the Koret Foundation, said: ‘At the outset of our program years ago, we set out to prove that small business lending was not necessarily risky business.'”

Read the full article at

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Funding plateaus at the mezzanine level: Over the past several weeks, the waters have been churning over whether the Jewish community invests enough money in start-up nonprofits.

Much of the debate has focused on the incubators, like the newly reformed Joshua Venture Group and Bikkurim, which try to help social entrepreneurs get their new initiatives off the ground. Some have questioned whether they actually offer enough cash to make starting a new a viable proposition for anyone who either isn’t independently wealthy or willing to live in squalor during their nonprofit’s infancy. But after speaking with a half-dozen alumni of those incubators — people who have started some of the organizations that are now seen as darlings of the Jewish innovation field — there is a serious undercurrent to this conversation.

With only one exception, each said that the real threat to Jewish innovation is that young .orgs cannot find so-called “mezzanine funding,” the dollars that can secure an organization’s long-term existence.

The interesting part of this is that the half-dozen funders with whom I spoke acknowledged the issue and also consider it a problem.

While 10 years ago it was tough to get funders into a new idea, now it seems they are addicted to the new and sexy, with the donor attention span often only lasting three years. After that, many donors just move on to something else newer and sexier.

For an organization past the startup phase, finding a donor for what was once someone else’s philanthropic baby — even for organizations that have proven their value and viability — can be near impossible.

“It’s terribly unfortunate, because these organizations need funding for ongoing growth,” said Rabbi Jennie Rosenn, Program Director for Jewish Life and Values at the Nathan Cummings Foundation. “Our trustees have been very understanding that long term social change and the transformation of the Jewish community takes sustained funding. But it’s a hard concept for many because it flies in the face of wanting something new and exciting. The challenge is that we need to be looking at funding holistically as a Jewish community.”

The conversation among funders on the lack of second-level funding has clearly started, if only informally, and we could see an actual policy shift within the incubator system in the near future.

Nina Bruder, the executive director of Bikkurim, said that when she wrote a piece in the journal Sh’ma several years ago calling for more mezzanine funding — before the economic downturn and before Bernard Madoff — it went largely ignored.

Now, however, her organization is thinking seriously about how to spur second-stage funding.

“The Jewish community just doesn’t know how to service these groups,” Bruder said. “We want to spearhead a research undertaking to really understand and learn what are the options for an organization that has a strong program that is gaining traction and resonating with participants, and what it means to go to scale… How much money is needed? How can they grow past the start-up phase and grant dependency? We have never really looked into it. Some of this is known outside the Jewish community. But we want to bring it into the Jewish community.”

Fundermentalist Take: I’ll have a broader story on this at in a few days, and probably more on The Fundermentalist blog in order to get as many voices out there as possible.

For now, one of the more interesting ideas that I have heard came from Mark Charendoff, the president of the Jewish Funders Network.

On the one hand, Charendoff said he feels that some of the problem with mezzanine funding lies with the nonprofits themselves. Funders want to fund these projects because they involve less risk than straight start-ups. But, he said, in many cases the .orgs have not figured out how to tell their story well enough to potential donors.

“I think there are plenty of foundations happy to provide mezzanine funding,” he said. “I just don’t believe [the young organizations] are making the right case.”

When an organization is in start-up mode, people can sell it as initiative that will change the Jewish world. But once it becomes more established, it tends to talk more in terms of how it can survive. Organizations need to keep alive that entrepreneurial spirit, Charendoff said, and figure out how to keep talking in terms of causing change.

The really interesting part came next: Charendoff’s organization has pushed the notion that innovation and start-ups are the domain of the foundation world, while established organizations look to federations and public charities for funding.

Yet, the JFN leader said, perhaps something of a role reversal might work best: Federations have seen their income shrink in recent years, while foundations are still flush with cash, despite the recession. Because start-up costs for organizations are relatively cheap, perhaps the Jewish federation system could become the mechanism through which innovation is funded in its infancy. And, maybe, once organizations get up and running under the care of the federation system, the foundation world could pay for the more costly second stage and late-stage funding?

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Breaking the funding stereotypes: If you liked Charendoff’s idea, check out the new Op-Ed by by Sandy Cardin, of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Foundation and Schusterman Foundation-Israel, and Ariel Beery and Aharon Horwitz of the PresenTense Group. They make a similar point in arguing that the Jewish community suffers by operating according to certain organizational stereotypes:

“The way we stereotype institutions according to labels — ‘federation’ or ‘foundation’ or ‘start-up’ — often leads us to assume both the form they should take in operations as well as their function in the community,” the trio writes.

“We assume that federations are consensus-driven communal institutions that move cautiously and deliberately without creativity, while private foundations are independent entities, and sometimes eccentric, that act quickly and by fiat, often placing the whims and fancies of their board members ahead of the needs and desires of the community at-large. We see start-ups as small organizations that meet the narrow interests of their members, but lack both the capacity and the desire to address basic communal problems.

“A less insidious but equally problematic stereotyping of Jewish organizations also occurs in terms of function. Many believe start-ups should focus on innovation, private foundations on the research and development of new programs, and federations on sustaining whatever good projects the other two create.

“The time has come to end this simplistic, unhealthy and unproductive thinking. We must move at once to an “open source” approach to Jewish communal life, one in which opportunity and competence dictate the flow of human and financial resources.

“Not all start-ups are innovative and anti-establishment, not all federations lack inspiration and flexibility, and not all foundations operate solo. There are caring, concerned, competent and creative people in every corner of the Jewish communal world; we need to unleash and nurture their talent regardless of the kind of organization in which they work.”

Check out the full article at

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Population study in Philly: Here’s the JTA news brief: “A new population study finds that the Philadelphia Jewish community is aging and growing slightly, but has 16 percent fewer children than it did 13 years ago, according to the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent.

“The study, commissioned and released by the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, also found a 45 percent intermarriage rate among Jews under 40 and that among intermarried families, only 29 percent are raising their children solely as Jews.

“The population of the Philadelphia-area Jewish community, including four suburban counties, is now estimated at 214,700 Jews, up from 206,100 in the last survey conducted in 1996-97.

“Despite the increase, Philadelphia’s ranking nationally among U.S. Jewish populations has fallen to seventh from fourth.”

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* The Center for Entrepreneurial Jewish Philanthropy has announced that it will soon surpass the $40 million milestone in facilitating new giving to Jewish and Israel based projects and organizations.

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* The Jewish Federation of Palm Springs and Desert Area has named Bruce C. Landgarten as its new chief executive Oofficer.

* Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, and Young Judaea have named Adam Jenshil the new director of their Year Course, freshman/Gap Year program in Israel.

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* Felice Gaer, the director of the American Jewish Committee’s Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights, will receive the First Freedom Center’s National First Freedom Award for her lifelong work as an advocate of religious freedom. The award was to be presented to Gaer at a ceremony Thursday in Richmond, Va.

* Hillel President Wayne L. Firestone has been named a “2010 MLK Day Ambassador” by the Corporation for National and Community Service, in recognition of Hillel’s ongoing commitment to service and volunteering. Ambassadors help the corporation generate awareness about volunteering on the King holiday.

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* The Six Points Fellowship for Emerging Jewish Artists has announced that it will be awarding its second round of fellowships of up to $40,000 to nine New York-based artists developing new Jewish work. This initiative — a partnership of Avoda Arts, the Foundation for Jewish Culture, and JDub Records and supported by a renewable grant from UJA-Federation of New York and other donors — includes ongoing development workshops and peer and professionally led learning opportunities. Artists between the ages of 22-38 living in New York are encouraged to apply by the March 1, 2010 deadline. Proposed projects must reflect a thoughtful engagement with Jewish experience, history, values, or concerns and address opportunities for significant reach and impact amongst a peer audience in New York.

For more information visit

* Young Californians could earn up to $36,000 through the The Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards. The awards, in their fourth year, recognize young Californians who have distinguished themselves as leaders and have initiated community service projects that impact their communities in meaningful ways. Any teacher, civic leader, or non-family member may nominate a young California resident who is between 13 and 19 years old for the award by Feb. 19. The $36,000 award can be used however the recipient wishes, though most past recipients have used the funds for furthering their educations, developing their projects, or starting new endeavors.

Teens must self-identify as Jewish, though their community service projects can benefit the general community Teens can nominate themselves, or be nominated by teachers, rabbis, community leaders, or anyone who knows the value of the their volunteer service and commitment-family members excluded. Teens must be residents of California, age 13-19 years old at the time of nomination.

For more information visit

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