The Foward 50’s annual list of movers and shakers in the American Jewish community is at once interesting, important, and expected. Few surprise entries made the cut, but the list is nonetheless mandatory reading for a Jewish community guide to 2007.
Calling for a New List
Before going on to assess the Forward’s choices, I do have to assert that it is time for a list that moves beyond the traditional bounds of American Jews over 40. Where are the Israelis? Where are the scientists? Where are the young people seeking to make a difference through innovative and daring projects that will forward the thinking of the global Jewish community?
One of my goals in the next year is to bring you these stories– those outside the confines of the United States’ Jewish communal system. We need to broaden our minds to consider the impact of Jews worldwide, not just those influencing the Jewish community.
Investing in Jews Globally
If we truly believe in the advancement of Jews worldwide, we will consider the actions and values of all Jews and not just those within our regimented boundaries. Jewish Israelis are making tremendous leaps and bounds in hi-tech, promoting alternative energies, and green investments.
To exclude progress like theirs because it benefits only Jews and not the Jewish community as a whole weakens our goals and ambitions as a Jewish people.
While you are thinking about who should be included, take into the consideration of individuals I have mentioned recently, like:
- Tsvi Bisk
- Avichai Kremer
- Amitai Ziv, Alon Tal, and Jay Feinberg
- Daniel Sieradski
- and even Ronny Maman
The List: Who Made It and Who Did Not
Six philanthropists made the cut, composing a coveted 12% of the list. They were (in the order listed):
- Lynn Schusterman
- Michael Steinhardt
- Roger Bennett and Sharna Goldseker
- Robert Aronson
- Tad Taube
Philanthropic powerhouses Sheldon Adelson, George Soros, Ron Lauder, and Ruth Messinger were present in different categories.
I also want to mention those who readers suggested should be present in the comments section: Jay Schottenstein and Ricky Shechtel.
Let’s examine these choices further.
Top Philanthropy Picks: How They Earned Their Places
For the sake of our own education, let’s consider this a how-to list for making a significant impact on the Jewish community. The items that I highlight from each individual’s resume will emphasize not only what they did, but how they did it.
What can we learn from these best practice philanthropists about social entrepreneurship and achieving maximum impact and empowerment?
Highlights: Big picture vision to help engage marginalized Jews and reinvigorate Jewish communities across America
Primary affiliations: Birthright, Conference for Change, Hillel, Partnership for Exellence in Jewish Education, Schusterman Family Foundation, STAR Alliance
- Leading member of the founding Birthright triumvirate with Michael Steinhardt and Charles Bronfman, who went on to create the Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education, the STAR (Synagogue Transformation and Renewal) Alliance, and reinvigorate Hillel
- The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation donates $5 million annually with 70% committed to Jewish causes. The remaining amount goes to local Oklahoma foundations
- Founder, Conference for Change: 150 Jews from diverse backgrounds and interests united in Chicago last year to share challenges, commonalities, and learn from each other to enhance the richness of the Jewish community
Highlights: Promoting youth engagement with Israel and Jewish communities, Jewish education
Steinhardt is focusing his efforts and energy on three initiatives that he believes will have the most impact:
- Creating follow-up programming for Birthright alumni
- Investing $100 million in Jewish education with the creation of the Areivim Fund
- Building up the Jewish Early Childhood Education Initiative
Roger Bennett and Sharna Goldseker
Highlights: encouraging and enabling youth involvement in Jewish philanthropy
Primary affiliations: 21/64, Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies, Grand Street, Reboot
- Bennett and Goldseker are Vice Presidents of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies
- Bennett founded Reboot, “an incubator for Jewish art and culture,” out of which came Reboot’s magazine, Guilt and Pleasure, the documentary film, “Sons of Sakhnin United,” and a series of studies on Jewish youth and philanthropy with Steven M. Cohen and Ari Kelman
- Goldseker founded Grand Street and 21/64 to help promote multidimensional giving and train young people involved in family foundations, and founded the Slingshot Guide to American Jewish resources
The Forward says: “Between Bennett and Goldseker, we can only imagine how the philanthropies will continue to shift the landscape of Jewish giving over the next five years.”
Read more about Sharna Goldseker: “JTA’s Reimagining Federated Philanthropy: What You Need to Know” and The Slingshot Fund.
(Roger Bennett: no photo available.)
A Pause for Assessment
So there in the top three philanthropists named in the Forward 50, you have Schusterman, Steinhardt, and the Bronfman family represented, who, as mentioned, were also the founders of Birthright.
Clearly these three individuals, their goals, and their foundations are among the most prescient in the Jewish world today and should be watched closely for best practice Jewish community innovation models.
Highlights: major fundraiser and trusted philanthropic adviser on heavy hitting Jewish leadership, education, and communal projects
Primary affiliations: Areivim, Professional Leaders Project, Steinhardt philanthropies
- Transitioned this year from his position as head of the Detroit Jewish Community Foundation to leader of Steinhardt Philanthropies
- Founder of the Professional Leaders Project, which seeks to identify, train, and guide future Jewish communal leaders
- Philanthropic adviser to Areivim Philanthropic Group for Jewish education (see Steinhardt’s profile and the accompanying link above)
Thaddeus “Tad” Taube
Highlights: Promoting the role of Jewish culture in Poland beyond the Shoa
Primary Affiliations: Koret Foundation, Museum of the History of Polish Jews, Stanford University’s Hoover Institution
- President of the Koret Foundation
- “Driving force” behind the establishment of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews (planned opening: 2009)
- Encourages a re-envisioning of how Jewish tours like March of the Living encounter Poland, promoting traditional Jewish European culture beyond the Shoa
Honorable Mentions: Nominations from the Peanut Gallery
A brief (but honorable) mention to the two philanthropists who the Forward’s commenters protested were not on the list.
- The man (and family) behind the Schottenstein Talmud, a 15 year, $21 million, 73 volume project to make the Talmud easier to read and study through more modern text translations and commentary
- According to our commender, Schottenstein is also a principal funder of the Western Wall archaeological excavation and of the new Israel Antiquities Authority campus, to be built alongside the Israel Museum
Read Forbes’ profile of Jay Schottenstein to learn more about his business expertise.
(No photo available)
- Chair of the Jewish Funders Network Board of Directors
- Founded the Jewish Community Youth Foundation of Princeton to encourage youth philanthropy
- Member of the Executive Committee of AIPAC and JESNA Board member
Read the Jewish Funders Network’s profile of Ricky Shechtel to learn more.
Can you believe that all that Jewish philanthropy information I presented is just the basics! Clearly it is best to stop here for now, but I encourage you to keep reading The New Jew: Blogging Jewish Philanthropy for all your Jewish giving and social innovation news.
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And Most Importantly…