Posts Tagged ‘funding’


WorthRight Israel: Fund Interfaith Couples and Families Israel Trips

Posted on: June 2nd, 2014 by Hayim Herring


Imagine what would happen if funders created a variety of high-quality Israel trips that were free or heavily-subsidized for interfaith couples and families.


Question to funders and philanthropists: What about making a heavily subsidized trip to Israel available for interfaith couples and families? Here are the arguments for it:


“Israel-alienated” Jews constitute about 20% of the young Jewish population, to use Professor Steven Cohen’s term in a recent analysis he prepared for The Jewish Daily Forward. Not just hawkish Israeli government policies, but intermarriage also has emerged as an “indicator of alienation” from Israel.


Any rabbi or other educator who has taught an Introduction to Judaism class with non-Jewish learners knows that it’s impossible to give them the experience of pride, love and passion for Israel simply by talking about the Jewish state. They can experience a Shabbat or holiday meal locally, they can experience being a part of a Jewish family locally, but they can’t feel the complexity and depth of emotions about Israel from a classroom in the Diaspora.


Interfaith family in Israel


Donors: To Publicly Recognize or Not to Publicly Recognize?

Posted on: January 20th, 2010 by Hayim Herring

Difficult issues, those which involve competing values, can be argued persuasively from either point of view. In this post, I want to raise one of those issues: should congregations specially recognize donors who contribute significant funds or should all financial gifts be treated equally? In the former case, there are many different forms of public recognition, ranging from permanent naming opportunities to publicity in a synagogue publication. In the latter case, where all gifts are treated equally, that would mean that donations of any amount are either recognized the same way or not recognized at all. 

When it comes to giving philanthropy or tzedakah to a needy person, an authoritative Jewish source ranks completely anonymous giving—where neither the donor nor the recipient know one another—as one of the highest forms of philanthropy/ tzedakah (Rambam, Mishneh Torah Hilkhot Tzedakah 10:7-14). Yet, while this source preferences anonymous giving, it doesn’t dismiss the value of giving in cases where the donor knows who the recipient is, the recipient knows who the donor is, or in which they both know who is the giver and who is the receiver. The issue at stake is preserving the dignity of the recipient. Clearly, when the donor is at arm’s length from the recipient, the recipient’s dignity is better-respected. But even if this condition can’t be met, giving tzedakah is still considered a noble and required act. And this is one of the sources that has more generally influenced the way in which people should ideally donate money, if not anonymously, then at least quietly.

Ideally, synagogue leaders try to embody the highest level of values. While in most of the synagogues that I know the preferred notion of anonymous giving is preferable, publicly recognizing donors is more practical.  Some of the arguments against public recognition are:

On the other hand, there are strong arguments in favor of public recognition of significant gifts:

I know colleagues who have educated their volunteer leaders about not specially acknowledging major contributions to their synagogues. But they are in the minority. While we’re trying to puzzle through these tough financial times and we’re assessing and revising what the new “normal” is in giving, what do you think about this issue? Should congregations acknowledge major gifts, or avoid doing so? Also, share your stories about how congregations have made this decision.

Thanks for helping to create a rich discussion (pun intended).

Rabbi Hayim Herring

Where’s the Game Changer in Fundraising?

Posted on: January 10th, 2010 by Hayim Herring

The proliferation of social media tools has fundamentally changed organizations. (Not all organizations have grasped this reality!) Specifically, sites like Google, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr have enabled and empowered individuals to deeply influence organizations-to highlight their relevance or their superfluity, to engage with them or to bypass them. (For more about this, see Individuals can organize in, through, around and across organizations in ways which were unimaginable only a decade ago.

While I’m not a professional fundraiser, my impression is that non-profit fundraising has not caught up with the Web 2.0 era. And there’s special opportunity for churches and synagogues to benefit from social media tools. Even in this environment, where public charities have seen a decline, the one sector that hasn’t felt this impact relative to other causes is religion ( ). True, many faith-based organizations allow members and supporters to donate funds online. They may even announce special campaigns and provide updates on them through their websites, Twitter and Facebook. Maybe some are even using video testimonials to promote fund development. But, the underlying methods of fund development appear to have remained the same: dues for synagogues and donations for churches, special appeals or campaigns, endowments and bequests, annual fundraisers, etc.

What would be some game changers for congregations?
• Within the mission of the congregation, allowing groups or individuals within congregations to determine what they want to contribute to (perhaps once a minimum amount of funds was raised for operations).
• Inviting people who are not members to financially support a cause in which they believe.
• Creating a flash fundraising campaign to support an emergency need (like a flash mob) and then disbanding when the goal is met.
• Providing congregants with opportunities all-year long to offer ideas about how to maintain the financial health of the congregation.
• Adding an on-line component to all ongoing fundraising activities.
• Involving those who are more tech-savvy in discussions about social media fund development.

Maybe I’m off-base, but it seems like we’re still at the stage where we’re using unconventional tools in conventional ways when it comes to fundraising. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one!

Rabbi Hayim Herring, PhD

Wanted: More Spiritual Dreamers!

Posted on: March 23rd, 2009 by Hayim Herring

Before the current economic crash, we were in the middle of a tremendous generational transfer of wealth. The majority of that wealth circumvented the synagogue community. Why was that the case? One of the reasons was that major funders considered synagogues to be too parochial and uninspiring for their tastes.

Imagine the challenges which synagogues now face. Synagogue list serves have been abuzz with stories about staff cuts, salary freezes, and impending synagogue closings. Rabbis are really going to have to work harder to articulate inspirational dreams even to maintain the support of their current community, let alone funders with greater financial means, who could offer budget relief.

I have no hard data on this, but it often feels that rabbis don’t dream expansively enough. Perhaps our training doesn’t sufficiently encourage us to create compelling narratives about Jewish life, or maybe it’s that synagogues tend to be risk adverse and push back against big dreams, or maybe it’s just the times in which we live — but where are the spiritual visionaries of today who will cultivate the most noble aspirations that we have as a people?

Let me cite a couple of examples of what I mean by big dreams:

The synagogue will become a microcosm of a just and perfected world. All people who walk through its door, regardless of status and ability, will be treated with the dignity to which they’re entitled because they’re created in the image of God. All synagogue staff members will respect one another and the members of the community they serve. Instead of looking for people’s flaws, members of this community seek to shine the light on the unique contributions that each individual has the potential to offer.

Another example:

The synagogue will become a model of a diverse, multi-generational community. While few places in society today enable individuals from different generations to meaningfully and regularly interact, all aspects of synagogue life will truly embody the phrase, “from one generation to another,” l’dor va-dor. By doing so, the community will be an evolving repository of Jewish wisdom and help all people enrich the passages of life.

Clearly, each congregation must envision its ideal picture of its community’s future. A significant part of the rabbi’s work is to lay out the possibilities of a big dream and then empower the congregation and staff to work together on achieving it. While I’m fully supportive of getting every member of the congregation to light Shabbat candles and study Torah daily, those are not big dreams—they are discrete Jewish practices that don’t point to larger meaning and purpose in life.

As a people, we have a history of knowing how to dream with great imagination. Reclaiming that capacity is going to be one of the most important roles for contemporary rabbis if we want vital institutions. So rabbis—please share your big dreams for the Jewish community or your congregation (or other institution) here. And others—let me know what you wish your rabbi would dream!

Rabbi Hayim Herring

image from muha…