“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 — 

SuperJews Color Wars: What’s It All About

December 14, 2008

Kabbalah HaMalkah of Team Red

I am ridiculously excited for the SuperJews Color Wars. As soon as I was invited to join, I had to find out more. Andy Neusner of the United Jewish Communities was great in answering my many questions. Read on to find out what you can expect from the upcoming Color Wars and what they’re all about.

The Genesis

The Color Wars were born out of a desire to involve young Jews (45 and under) more deeply in the Jewish world. The Color Wars are intended to be a siren song of Jewish involvement that will lead us deeper into the Jewish world with the ultimate goal of becoming stakeholders.  Andy says:

While plenty of young Jews have already gotten involved, there’s no secret that we need for more and more Jews from this age range to take over some ownership in our organizations, to change them in ways that will help us continue to tackle the needs of the Jewish world. We realize that there are plenty of great new ideas in play to reinvigorate the Jewish world, and rather than having them happen apart from or even in duplication with similar concepts within the organized Jewish community, we want to promote these new ideas and new leaders to take root within our system instead.

The Creators

Shabot 6000

Shabot 6000: The Jewish Robot

The United Jewish Communities (UJC) leveraged the services of William Levin, creator of The Jewish Robot. Levin’s extensive experience in creating humorous, media savvy projects aimed at young Jews to enhance and promote the Jewish brand will be a  huge asset to the Color Wars and upcoming SuperJews campaigns.

Primary funding for the project comes from the Mandel Center for Leadership Excellence, in their aim to reach Jewish youth through social media networks.

— Keep reading to learn more about the Color Wars —

Read the rest of this entry »

A Personal Manifesto: My Path to Jewish Communal Service

August 20, 2007


A personal post.

How Do I Best Serve the Jewish Community?

As a late twenty-something Jew living in Israel, my primary question is and has been for a long time how do I become more professionally involved in service to the Jewish community and to Israel at large?

National Service

I am of the firm belief that national service is critical to a person’s mental health and overall well being. I have always been deeply involved in community service from volunteering on the Navajo (Dineh) and Hopi reservations, doing public health work in Latin America, and leading youth groups to promote tolerance and minority rights.

But when it came time for me to graduate college, I found myself at a crossroads: how would I serve? I had two primary options. I was offered jobs as the assistant director of a public health project in Latin America (one in Central America, the other in the Caribbean). My other choice was to join a national teacher service corps called Teach For America.

Read the rest of this entry »

Jewish Volunteering: Social Justice in Nepal, AIDS Education in Africa, International Health in Be’er Sheva

August 13, 2007

It has always been my view that strategic volunteering is one of the best ways to work toward tikkun olam. I am very excited about a new project in Kathmandu, Nepal for Israelis and Jews from around the world to do Jewish study and social action work.

Founded in 2007 by Micha Odenheimer, Tevel B’Tzedek (The Universe, In Justice) teaches sustainable methods of living in hopes that they will contribute to the needs of Nepal and return to promote their values in Israel.

Ringing Bell: AIDS Education in Africa

Ringing Bells is an AIDS education program aimed at Israeli backpackers, ages 18- 32. An initiative of the Jerusalem AIDS Project, participants are armed with training materials, travel stipends provided by Israel’s Foreign Ministry, and professional contacts as they spread across the world.

Scientists estimate that 14,000 new HIV infections arise daily, often in developing countries where Israelis commonly travel. Ringing Bells seeks to provide Israelis with a way to give back as they travel throughout the world on their personal adventures.

Ben Gurion University: International Health & Medicine Program

Ben Gurion University is educating a small cadre of American doctors in infectious diseases and international medicine. Originally titled the “Medical Pioneers Program,” this innovative initiative trains students not only in medicine, but cross-cultural sensitivity, sending them to developing countries as part of their internship program.

Tevel b’Tzedek

Jewish Philanthropy & the Role of the State of Israel

August 13, 2007


A note on my last post, “Larry Ellison Donates $500,000 to Sderot: Thanks, but Isn’t It the Role of the Government to Protect its People?”

Bottom line: I feel bad about the title (although not the content) because it serves to undermine the generosity of Jewish philanthropy worldwide to the State of Israel.

My favorite quote is from President Dwight Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during World War II:

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.// This world in arms is not spending money alone.// It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.”

Now I’m no expert on the Israeli budget, but I do know that our military spending is for a very specific reason: our survival.

I know times are tight: there is a crisis in Israeli education, ongoing efforts to absorb new immigrants, bombardment on the Western border, Holocaust survivors begging for pennies to rise above the poverty line, and much more.

As an American, born and raised, I’m used to questioning the government’s choices about our domestic budgets in relation to our foreign spending. As an Israeli, I’m not sure that there is as much of a distinction.

The high tech sector is in full throttle, but universities decry the brain drain. We are lacking sufficient infrastructure to support and retain gifted doctors, scientists, and academics, as many of our brightest minds are forced to seek jobs overseas.

If we are in a financial crisis related to our existence that threatens our stability as the home of Am Yisrael (the Nation of Israel), shouldn’t Jewish donors who can afford to help support their brothers and sisters? Overseas Jews help with Jewish revitalization projects, support of vulnerable communities, recovery after wars, etc. Why then shouldn’t they step in, as Larry Ellison pledged to do, and offer Israel support in its time of need?

I’m not a proponent of one side or the other, but as a thinker, a writer, and someone who cares about this deeply, it is important to me to discuss these ideas and consider the range of results that each act brings.

Charity vs Philanthropy: Avoiding Relationships of Dependency

August 11, 2007


Week in Review

Thank you to Phil Cubeta at Gift Hub, Ian Wilhelm at the Chronicle of Philanthropy, and Jason Brzoska at My Jewish Learning for picking up my blog in its very first week and getting me off to a strong start.

(Seven hundred hits in 7 days makes me feel like what I am doing is worthwhile.)

Questions for Further Thought

Gift Hub’s comment section led to an interesting discussion on a number of topics that I’d like to discuss further. Namely:

  • What is the difference between charity and philanthropy?
  • How do we prevent relationships of dependency between the giver and the receiver?
  • Would the formal relationships of giving and receiving exist in a just society?

Defining Philanthropy

It is my assertion that philanthropy, from the root “love” and “human,” is about love in its most essential form. It is about identifying problems affecting humanity on the grandest scale, and communities and individuals on the more practical level, and attempting to find solutions.

Charity versus Philanthropy

The difference between charity and philanthropy are in the ways they are carried out. While charity creates an established, dependent relationship between the giver and the receiver, philanthropy seeks to empower and enable sustainability. Charity is a bandaid, while philanthropy is the medicine.

Santa Claus is the ultimate charitable relationship because there is a giver and a receiver and the two can never change (never mind the milk and cookies).

Acts of Giving in a Just Society: The Kibbutz Model

One poster questioned as to whether charity (or philanthropy) would be necessary in a just society. Coming from an Israeli standpoint, this is an interesting question because we can use the kibbutz system as a model.

If we take the communal system of the kibbutz as a utopian model that has equality of roles and responsibilities among all its members, then we can say that charity would not be necessary. Each would give to each other as needed out of a feeling of social responsibility, but as no one would have more than the next. All resources would be equally accessible.

Therefore, we can see that charity would not be necessary because the ultimate social dependency would be to the kibbutz as a whole and not to an outside force that might create inequality. Gaps would be minimal.

Our example of the kibbutz implies that charity or philanthropy is necessary when the social divide is so great that sectors of society cannot provide for themselves. If we as a society enable the government to act for us in bridging societal divides and making sure that everyone has enough, then charity would not be necessary. If the gaps are too great, charitable organizations must step in.


We call on philanthropy to solve the injustice in society and help raise the weaker and disadvantaged sectors through their own means: by education, jobs, training, and other methods. Promoting philanthropy means working to advance a just society and close the gaps between haves and have nots.

We can all act philanthropically by increasing the love we have for each other and ourselves and work to advance our own communities in narrowing social divides.

Favorite Israel Donation: Honoring the Memory of Fallen Soldiers

August 10, 2007


One of my favorite acts of philanthropy this year was from Younes and Soraya Nazarian who donated one year scholarships to students at the University of Haifa in honor of each soldier killed in the Second Lebanon War.

As the University of Haifa is known as “the University of the North,” it was the obvious and most appropriate destination for such a commemoration. Each of the 119 scholarship recipients will have the opportunity to be in touch with the family for whom their scholarship is named.

Younes and Soraya Nazarian were recognized by the University of Haifa with honorary doctorate degrees for their dedication and visionary leadership to Israel and Jewish causes, including major support for libraries and cultural institutions.

In an emotional ceremony with families of the fallen soldiers in attendance, Mr. Nazarian asked that each scholarship recipient take on the role of surrogate child by keeping in touch with the families and visiting them regularly.

The Nazarians, who are leaders in the Los Angles Persian Jewish community, also gave $7 million to the University of Haifa for reconstruction of its library, the second largest in Israel.

On the occasion of the scholarship launch, Mr. Nazarian stated:

“This memorial combines two issues that are very dear to my heart and that, in my opinion, are at the top of Israel’s priorities: IDF soldiers and officers on the one hand and education, especially higher education, on the other hand.”