Can You Resist Kiva’s Siren Call? (I Hope Not)

May 12, 2011

Dear Friends,

Tomorrow you will see a new entry on The New Jew, but tonight I have a special present for you. This is my first week as a lender-donor on Kiva and I’ve found it to be such an interesting, fulfilling experience. I want you to join me.

The Offer

So here’s my offer, I will give a Kiva gift card worth $25 to the first three people who comment here and say they want to try micro-lending for the first time. My only conditions- and I won’t hold you to them, it’s only a contract you are making with yourself- are that:

  1.  If you like the experience of lending, you write and tell me why
  2.  You give a gift card to someone whom you think would likewise enjoy it

So who are my top prospects right now? I’m looking at Medhi, Evelyn.

Meet Mehdi (Salam Wa Aleikum, Mehdi)

Mehdi has one day left on his loan- at time of writing, $250 is needed- to help him expand his fruit and vegetable  business. He is interested in expanding his offerings, and hopes the loan will help grow his business, and therefore help him better support his family, whom he cares deeply about.

Here’s how Kiva gets you with the urgency (see graphic). 


Funding Mehdi was my first longer term loan. Up until now, I have strongly preferred loans that are coming due in the short term (i.e. this fall). Something you should know is that all lenders are refunded at the same time, incrementally. You don’t get one final amount back at the end, but you’re refunded small amounts according to the borrower’s payment schedule, which is outlined in detail at the bottom of the screen.

— Keep Reading: Meet Evelyn; Will You Say Yes? —

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ROI Summit 2009: Stories of Inspiration

July 4, 2009

ROI Logo

I had the honor and privilege of attending this year’s ROI Summit in the New Media Track. It’s been hard for me to put into words the value and inspiration that I was gifted there, so instead of gushing about it, I’ll start by introducing you to four women I met who inspired me.

Manuela ZoninseinManuela Zoninsein, a journalist in Beijing and current Presentense Fellow, seeks to connect Chinese farmers with Israeli agricultural technology. She is in the process of creating Sustain, a newsletter that will “track the evolution of agricultural technology and techniques worldwide”
Nicole Hyman

Nicole Hyman’s goal is create a confluence between citizen media and mobile technology (namely cellphones). A South African strongly influenced by the Rwandan genocide, Nicole strives to provide Jewish bloggers with a way to use mobile media to promote and support Israel


Susanne Goldstone RosenhouseSusanne Goldstone Rosenhouse is the voice behind Jewish Tweets, Twitter’s most popular Jewish presence with over 3,800 followers. Susanne utilized her social media expertise to found ParnasaFest, a grassroots network helping Jews find meaningful employment within the Jewish community
Ziva Haller Rubenstein

Ziva Haller Rubenstein works for the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem. Her goal is to help make the Jewish Agency’s website more accessible and user friendly across languages, countries, and cultures. Ziva also blogs at the Designist’s Dream (de-Sign-ist, get it?) about sustainable art and design in Israel


—– Read More About The New Jew’s New Directions —–

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Bronfman’s Big Idea for Jewish Social Innovation: Where Do We Stand at the Halfway Mark?

December 4, 2007


The Epitome of a Jewish Nerd

I don’t know about you, but being a Jewish philanthropy nerd (it’s not like it’s a secret), I can’t wait to hear the results of Charles Bronfman’s Big Idea Contest, whose deadline was Friday.

What’s the Big Idea?

While I love the idea of a contest to encourage thinking around a particular issue (like Ronny Maman’s manners contest), I have never quite been able to conceptualize how Bronfman’s contest will work.

The prize is less than sexy: a two year professorship at Brandeis teaching one class, with allowance for time spent researching and writing, culminating in a book manuscript three years from date of appointment.

When I think about the characteristics such a genius who would come up with the Great Jewish Idea would possess, I am not sure that the contest’s rewards would be particularly appealing.

Sure, Einstein, the epitome of all things brilliant and Jewish, was a Princeton professor, but he was also a high school drop out. The constraints of academia are appealing to the active mind only when the rewards are clear and certain. Time will tell whether the prize yields fruit.

Contest Reward Guidelines Have Been Delineated

Brandeis Logo

Apparently I am not alone in this thinking. Brandeis’ guidelines for the contest’s reward have become much more didactic and bland since the contest got underway (one might say boring, even). I don’t have the original text of the job post, but let’s see if you think this language is an enervating as I do:

“The salary of the incumbent of the Visiting Chair will be set at a competitive level, and includes those benefits normally provided to full-time faculty. The incumbent will be provided with the research assistance of a graduate fellow, and will also have access to a research fund and additional funds to defray lecture and administrative expenses.”

No one will be chomping at the bit for with language. It sounds reluctant and uneasy, like small print rather than the dashing headlines we might expect.

Bronfman’s Take

My thoughts are affirmed by Bronfman himself, who in a November 15th interview with the Jerusalem Post expressed mild dismay at contest submissions, which include an oft mentioned entry of a “‘Braveheart’ movie with a Jew as the central character.’

In short, Bronfman says, “It got all screwed up.”

Words of Analysis: Gary Rosenblatt and Jonathan Sarna


The Jerusalem Post also cites Gary Rosenblatt (editor of the New York Jewish Week) who contends: “What troubles me is the very notion that we need, and can benefit from, a quick fix to the myriad problems that threaten the future of Jewish life as we know it in America.”

I respectfully disagree. I see no evidence that such a notion was Bronfman’s intent or desired outcome in any way.


Jonathan Sarna, Director of Brandeis’ Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program says:

“Historically, Judaism has repeatedly been advanced by creative thinkers and agents of change — recall the work of Yohanan Ben Zakkai, Sa’adia Gaon, Moses Maimonides, Isaac Luria, Israel Ba’al Shem Tov, Leopold Zunz, Isaac Mayer Wise, Solomon Schechter, Sarah Schnirer, and Theodor Herzl, to name just a few.”

Calling All Wise Ones

Can Bronfman’s contest find our hidden Maimonides? Our closeted Herzl? Most likely it will help a professor, academic, or Jewish professional flesh out an idea she is already working on and help translate it into a working concept.

Contest finalists will meet in a symposium (which I am guessing– and hoping) will be public in February or March.

The question at this point seems to be not what is the next big Jewish idea, but what really good Jewish ideas can we use to improve the health of the Jewish community.

I, for one, am staying tuned.

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BusinessWeek Names Estee Lauder’s Breast Cancer Campaign to Philanthropy Hall of Fame

November 21, 2007


Among those distinguished entrepreneurs whom BusinessWeek has named to its Philanthropy Hall of Fame, there are two that we can lovingly call our own.

Estee Lauder and Paul Newman are distinguished both for the depth of their generosity and the creativity that they bring to their giving.

This entry will focus on Estee Lauder and Evelyn Lauder’s Pink Ribbon Campaign for Breast Cancer. Please note that Paul Newman’s philanthropy work has raised over $220 million for sick children and breast cancer research.

The Creators


BusinessWeek actually named the Pink Ribbon Campaign itself and not its founders, but here I will profile Estee Lauder (nee Josephine Esther Menzer) and her daughter, Evelyn Lauder, as the creators and greatest proponents of the campaign.

An idea is nothing without a force behind it and the Lauder women should be honored accordingly.

Estee Lauder and Evelyn Lauder: Breast Cancer Awareness

Estee Lauder

Estee Lauder’s fame sources from her kitchen chemistry as mixing creams in her home is where she first learned the trade.

We know Estee Lauder (z”l, 2004) as the founder and CEO of Estee Lauder Cosmetics, but she was also a force for women’s health and welfare worldwide.

As much as the Lauder name is synonymous with cosmetic giants, the Lauder family’s philanthropy is just as large.

EvelynLauderIn 1992, Evelyn Lauder, Estee Lauder’s daughter in law and Senior Corporate Vice President of Estee Lauder Companies, Inc. created the Pink Ribbon Campaign to support breast cancer awareness. All company cosmetic and perfume counters were branded with the now ubiquitous pink ribbon and educational brochures were distributed with each purchase.

Fifteen years since the campaign’s launch, over 60 million pink ribbons have been distributed in 50 countries and the campaign has been called, “The most significant and influential campaign ever instituted to educate women worldwide about the need for early detection and treatment of breast cancer.”

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Assessing the Forward 50: What We Can Learn About Top American Jewish Philanthropists

November 16, 2007


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.

Providing Examples

While you are thinking about who should be included, take into the consideration of individuals I have mentioned recently, like:


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.

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Charles Bronfman Prize for Humanitarian Action: Seeking a Better World

November 15, 2007


Charles Bronfman is a man with a vision. He seeks to improve the world through social action and community innovation.

We already know about the Jewish innovation contest at Brandeis, but do you know about the Charles Bronfman Prize for humanitarianism?

About the Prize

CharlesBronfmanThe Charles Bronfman Prize for humanitarian action is seeking nominations for 2008 from those whose “Jewish values infuse their humanitarian accomplishments.”

Eligible candidates will be individuals or teams under age 50 who have significantly contributed to the betterment of the world through science, technology, art, culture, education, and global citizenship.

In the four years since its inception, the Charles Bronfman Prize has recognized three outstanding individuals in the fields of medicine and the environment. Read about them below.

The Prize, whose nomination deadline is November 30th, is $100,000.

Who Could You Nominate?

In my work as an activist and professional in the Jewish and nonprofit worlds, I have met people doing some amazing work.

As you read about the prize recipients in the sections that follow, I encourage you to think about who you could nominate. Who do you know who is significantly impacting the world around them? (Nomination forms are available on the Prize’s website.)

I look forward to hearing who is on your mind.

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Racing for Peace: An Israeli/Palestinian Team Seeks Sponsorship to Race Formula Vee in England

November 5, 2007


“We hope that our message of peace and cooperation will inspire support.” ~ Rasheed Nashashibi

(Verb) For Peace

I’ve written about Building Playgrounds for Peace and Surfing for Peace, but I have yet to write about go-karting for peace– until now.

I’ll be adding to this series as often as I can, but the main point seems to be that you are doing something for peace. Anything. Just make it a verb and get started.

Go-Karting For Peace

Here’s how it happened.

The sport of go-karting came to Israel in 1996. As one of Israel’s first enthusiasts and an active racer, Aric Lapter became well known in the Israeli arena.

Lapter met Rasheed Nashashibi, 2006 Palestinian go-kart champion, and they decided to team up. Lapter reports their conversation: “I am proud of my state and you are proud of yours. Why not race together?”

The team’s car and uniforms sport Israeli and Palestinian flags.

Lapter and Nashashibi are now looking to race in the 2008 British Vee Formula Championship, but currently lack the necessary funding of $58,000 that will enable them to compete.


Although they have received much positive feedback for their partnership, motor sports like go-karting and Formula Vee racing are not yet popular enough to have sufficient financial backing in Israel. They are looking for sponsors abroad.

Who They Are

  • Aric Lapter is a graduate of Tel Aviv University where he studied mechanical engineering. He has raced professionally in Israel, Italy, and England. He designed and drove the first one seat Formula Vee race car created in Israel
  • Rasheed Nashashibi has raced professionally in the Palestinian Authority and England. He is a member of Britain’s Kingston Original Karting Society and has won a number of prestigious races and championships. He is also the founder of PalRacing, which organizes races and practices

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