“The Nation Demands Social Justice” – For All

August 14, 2011

Event Poster for Beer-Sheva Rally that Reads, “The Negev Demands Social Justice”

I’m forgoing my perfectionist leanings because I want to tell you about the Israel protests tonight. I attended the Beer-Sheva rally, estimated at 35,000, and followed closely on Twitter and Facebook the progress of the protest in Haifa as well. (I consider Haifa and Beer-Sheva to be my Israeli hometowns.)

In Beer-Sheva, it was a warm, dry night. The atmosphere was that of a street festival, and babies and small children abounded, despite the late hour.

But something interesting was happening. Taking the focus off Tel Aviv changed the nature of the protests. In Haifa and Beer-Sheva, we saw a far greater inclusiveness in the protests than we had seen before, with gay pride flags flying high, signs for handicapped rights, and most of all, significant mike time given to Arab Israeli issues.

In Beer-Sheva, Hanan Alsana (חנאן אלסנע), a Bedouin woman, was one of the headline speakers and a highlight of the night to many.

Live Coverage from the Ground

I know many people are uncomfortable with Twitter, and that’s fine, so I’m bringing it to you. Here’s a live account of what people were saying as the protests happened.

— Keep reading for photos, videos, funny stories, and recommendations of what to read next. Most importantly, I look forward to hearing your thoughts — 
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ROI, I Love You, But…

July 9, 2010

Broken Heart of Social Media

This could have been my love letter to ROI.  But it’s not. I’m frustrated. ROI, you can do better and I want to lay out a basic outline of how.

Social Media Bonanza

If you’re not familiar with ROI, this organization is focused around an annual global summit of young Jewish innovators. It is supported by a PR company that does advance media, a blog, a Facebook page, a YouTube channel, a Flickr account, and a Twitter feed as well as hashtag– all linked here.

So what could I possibly be complaining about? They have all their bases covered, right?

Well, no. I don’t think they fully practice what they preach– and I’m saying this as a 2009 ROI fellow as well as someone who has been in contact with ROI offering them my support on numerous occasions with regard to social media and web content. I’m saying this out of love: ROI, you can do better.

What’s the Problem, Exactly?

The two primary problems I identify are as follows:

  • There’s a disconnect between the Summit and the rest of the year, and
  • A disconnect between those actively participating in the Summit and those on the outside

With all the excitement generated for the Summit, there’s no carry through for those who aren’t participating. The ROI blog is updated minimally and there don’t seem to be many blog posts coming from participants– which makes sense because they’re really, really busy.

The primary way to follow the Summit is via ROI’s hashtag, which is #roicom. But how much can you really say in 152 characters? Well, I believe that you can get your point across quite effectively, but it has to be a concerted effort: not just comments but actual commentary.

— Now you have an idea of the problem. Keep reading to hear the solution. —

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Street Smarts: Harnessing the Creativity of Urban Activism

July 4, 2010

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Does your organization take its activism to the street? This low budget urban social movement can be done with little funding and lots of creativity.

Here are some recent examples that come to mind. I know there are lots more– and would love to hear your examples.

Scientists on the Train

Hebrew University researchers take to the train for free monthly lecture series in specially designated compartments.

Recent lectures include a profile of Albert Einstein’s contribution to humanity (in honor of his March birthday which marks Israel Science Day), physics experiments in motion, and Israel’s development of new food crops, like genetically modified tomatoes.

My favorite quote from a passenger, “It was weird, but good.”

What would your organization do to go public? Lectures on trains and singing on street corners may seem extreme, but there’s always a lesson to be had in translating your mission and objectives into hands-on contact with constituents.

— Is Your Organization Brave Enough to Sing on Street Corners and Write on the Walls? Keep Reading to Find Out Who Is —

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Why Israelis Don’t Give– Or Do They?

June 18, 2010

Shekels Credited to "MichaelPlump" on Flickr

Earlier today I posted a link on The New Jew: Microblog to an article in Ha’aretz called “Why Israelis Don’t Donate.” We got a good conversation going and I wanted to highlight the ideas that we discussed.

So, according to the author, Lior Dattel, why don’t Israelis donate? He provides three reasons:

  • Governance: there’s no incentive in the tax structure
  • History: Diaspora giving heavily outweighs national giving
  • Social: Little personal culture of giving, as evidenced by low numbers of volunteerism and personal giving

What the Author Missed

But readers, is this valid? Two of my commenters, Joe Brown Leer and Shai Litt thought otherwise.

Joe writes:

“The first and foremost issue is that of taxation. In Israel, where taxes reach almost 50% for those who you would want to be giving your “regular” donations (the “standard small” donors of over $1,000 a year to a cause) mean that they don’t have the luxury to be giving MORE to society.

It’s not just that there’s no incentive – there’s a NEGATIVE incentive when taxes are that high.”

He adds:

“… ‘Little personal culture’ does not take into account the issue of compulsory army service, and its effect on the balance of  ‘how much have I given the country already.'”

Shai remarks:

“Under the circumstances, Israelis are a pretty generous people.

But I’d add – Wouldn’t it be that the ‘socialist’ mind-set is that you donate to the government so that THEY can do the things that you’d donate to voluntarily that causes the perceived shortfall between what is and what we’d expect?

This first occurred to me a few years ago when I spoke to an Israeli (a man I respect a great deal, by the way, as an idealist in the realm of architecture and city planning) about volunteerism here (in conjunction with my Bronfman project that was first described on your original blog) and he said, ‘I think you American’s have it wrong – you shouldn’t be taking the role of government – you’re allowing the government to get away with not doing it’s job. I won’t give money to beggars because the government should be taking care of them, not me. ‘”

— Continue reading: Can we measure Israelis and Americans by the same standards of giving? —

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Jewish/Israel News: All the News That’s Fit to Tweet

October 21, 2009
Source: Flickr, Just.Luc

Source: Flickr, Just.Luc

The air is popping, molecules are dancing, you can practically feel the crackle in the air– alive with energy in the world of Jewish philanthropy and innovation. The New Jew is here to bring you the news that can’t be missed.

Israel

  • Israel President’s Conference— Today is the first day of the 2nd annual President’s Conference, founded by President Shimon Peres. This year’s theme is “Tomorrow’s Future.” To get live updates on Twitter, click on this link where I have collected all the relevant resources for you

(Flickr photo link via Just.Luc, Creative Commons)

In the Media

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  • Free Press Index— Israel’s Free Press Rank plummets on Reporters Without Borders’ index due to tightened government control over the media during Operation Cast Lead (Gaza 2008/2009) and during the elections. Israel dropped 43 places to #93. (The US is #20, up from #40 last year)
  • Human Rights Watch: Anti-Israel— In this New York Times op-ed, Robert L. Bernstein, former chairman of HRW criticizes the group for repeatedly singling out Israel for human rights violations without holding other Middle Eastern countries to equivalent standards
  • Shalom, Al Jazeera— An Egyptian newspaper broke the story that Israeli billionaire Haim Saban was set to acquire the Arab world’s news station. The story is yet unconfirmed
  • Palestinian Jews? It’s not Pre-State Deja Vu— The Wall Street Journal’s James Woolsey asks if we have Israeli Arabs why can’t there by Palestinian Jews?
  • Our Israel? — A raging debate between The Forward’s Jay Michaelson and the Shalem Center’s Daniel Gordis centers on the question of how we perceive Israel as a Jewish state and as our state. Michaelson complains: “My love of Israel has turned into a series of equivocations,” in reference to his stance toward Israeli politics, peace, and Palestinians. Gordis counters, “But you know what I love about this place, Jay?  I love that all the political baggage is mine.” (Don’t forget to read the comments as well)

Jewish Connectivity

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  • Assessing Birthright Israel— It’s been 10 years. Where does Taglit-Birthright Israel stand after a decade of hard work? Here are the statistics: Birthright has brought 200,000 young Jews to Israel so far– 10,000 will come this winter. Philanthropic  dollars: $80 million raised: 55% from individuals; 22% from Jewish communities and the Jewish Agency; 23% from the Israeli government

— Interested in Jewish Connectivity, Israeli Technology & the Environment, Israel’s Economy & the Jewish Community Landscape, Innovation & Education? Read on. —

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Sending Money to Israel? What’s Your Return? (Guest Author: Chaim Landau)

October 19, 2009

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Chaim Landau reflects on the history of Diaspora giving to Israel and where we stand now. This piece was originally published in PresenTense Magazine’s philanthropy issue.

Sending Money to Israel? What’s Your Return

Well before the founding of the State of Israel, Jews in the Diaspora have been sending money to support a variety of causes in the land of Israel. The simple model, however, of Diaspora Jews as donor and Israeli Jews as recipients, has become outdated.

The Old Paradigm of Giving

It is no longer axiomatic for many young Diaspora Jews that they need to send money to a successful country whose fate seems to have little impact on their own lives.

Money invested in Israel, whether by the individual or the Jewish community as a whole, must benefit both donor and recipient, and needs to be seen as part of a holistic two-way relationship. Such philanthropy, instead of being divorced from Jewish life in the Diaspora, needs to enhance and contribute to it.

Source: Tzedakah.org

Source: Tzedaka.org

The money that Diaspora Jews sent to Israel throughout the years was indispensible in absorbing millions of immigrants, building up the State’s infrastructure, and maintaining an army capable of defending Israel.

What these donors received in return was pride in Israel’s very existence: its military victories, developing infrastructure, and its vigorous and thriving society. They could feel themselves a part of the Jewish people, and active partners in building up the Jewish state even if they did not reside there themselves.

Jewish Poverty in the Diaspora

Yet Israel’s current condition is not the same as in its early years when it was undeveloped and unstable, and American Jewry has its own pressing needs. Jewish education in the Diaspora is still a luxury for many.

— Keep reading for best practice models in engaging donors —

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Caring About the Environment, Jewishly (Blog Action Day 2009)

October 15, 2009

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How do we live as Jews, caring consciously and spiritually about the environment? I’ve done a lot of thinking about this matter, but the best speech that I ever heard on it was a presentation given at the 2009 ROI Summit.

The presenters have kindly agreed to share their speech with you on caring about the environment and living a Jewish life.

This post is an entry for Blog Action Day 2009.  (Check out the blog, and find them on Twitter at @blogactionday and with the hashtag #BAD09.)

The Speech

Presenters:  Karin Fleisch, Vivian Lehrer, and Anthony Rogers-Wright.

Karin Fleisch:

TNJ_ROI.KarinFleisch.JAFI_15Oct09“Environmentalism just makes sense. We all live on this planet and need its resources to thrive and survive. As Jews, environmentalism is rooted in our history, our religion, and our values.

Climate change, over-consumption, mass species extinction — these are happening now. And it’s not just about the Earth anymore. It’s about preventing massive…human…suffering.

Vivian Lehrer:

TNJ_ROI.VivianLehrer.GglImg_15Oct09

But it’s going to be alright – probably – IF we adapt, as we are so good at doing. We already have all the solutions we need to make significant change.

We need to stop thinking of Jewish environmentalism as a separate category and focus on creating a healthier world for all – because, in the process, we’re going to strengthen Jewish communities and identity.

The Jewish imperative for environmentalism isn’t marginal – it’s our most core, mainstream and familiar values and traditions.

Shabbat– is an ecological treasure! A day to rest from shopping, manufacturing, driving!

Kashrut (keeping Kosher)- the idea that what we eat matters, that it’s upon us to minimize suffering of animals! We need to update this to take responsibility for the full impacts of what we eat, the stuff we buy, and what we put into landfills. We vote with our dollars and with our forks for the full story of our food and our stuff.

Brachot (the blessings over our food)– invite mindfulness of where our food comes from. To bless food we have to figure out whether it grew from the ground or a tree; from there it’s a short step to thinking of how it was raised, whether the people involved in getting it to us were paid a fair wage, whether its story helped or hurt our environment.

— Keep reading for a list of Jewish environmental organizations —

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