Ruderman Summit at Hebrew College to Grapple with How to Create Responsive and Inclusive Jewish Organizations

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MARCH 23, 2017 (Newton Centre, MA and New York, NY) – In the “old days,” many Jews, like clockwork, made their annual donations to large Jewish philanthropic agencies such as The United Jewish Appeal. They trusted that their donations would go to causes they that helped ensure the well-being of the Jewish people, as defined by these organizations. But no more.

Such agencies still exist —Combined Jewish Philanthropies remains a Boston-area powerhouse, for example— but today, Jews think and speak with much less unity, and a small group of influential donors increasingly sets the agenda for how limited resources are used.  The explosion of social media and other communication vehicles; easy access to information that can inform donations; and the proliferation of specialized Jewish organizations that serve subsets of the Jewish community are among the many factors that have brought today’s Jewish organizations to a crossroads.  

How do Jews govern themselves in the information age? How do Jewish organizations ensure an ongoing democratic process in a climate that is very different than that of a generation ago?  How do Jewish philanthropies and individual philanthropists ensure that they are connected to the people they serve, understand the needs and reflect the wishes of a wider swath of the Jewish community?

On Sunday, April 2, Hebrew College in Newton Centre, MA will host the Ruderman Summit on Philanthropy, Power and Democracy in the Jewish Community of the 21st Century. Co-sponsored by the Ruderman Family Foundation, Hebrew College and the Jewish Funders Network, the summit brings together thought leaders from the worlds of Jewish philanthropy, nonprofits and the media to take a hard look at these questions and more.

“The intent of this summit is to generate a compelling conversation about how we need to transform the way we engage people in the process of setting the communal agenda,” said Hebrew College President Rabbi Daniel Lehmann. “We hope that this will be a catalyst for rethinking our governance structures to enable more voices to be heard.”

Ruderman Family Foundation President Jay Ruderman said that for the past decade, he has been concerned by the outsized power “super-donors” have on setting the agenda for the Jewish world.  “Our Jewish communities don’t seem to be democratically organized and I wanted this summit to explore how we can change this,” said Ruderman. “How do we ensure that every member of our community has a say in what the community should focus on, not just a powerful few?”

“We need to look critically at our communal structures and approaches,” commented Andrés Spokoiny, President and CEO of Jewish Funders Network. “The Jewish community faces many challenging dilemmas, and has to strike the right balance when important values come into tension with one another. This summit will provide a forum to ask the tough questions and begin to formulate new ideas.”

The program will be held from 11:30am-6:00pm at Hebrew College. The program fee is $50 and advanced registration is required. A kosher lunch is included and discounts are available for students and others upon request.

In addition to Rabbi Lehmann, Jay Ruderman and Andrés Spokoiny, the presenters and panelists include:
  • Lisa Eisen, Vice President, Charles and Lyn Schusterman Foundation
  • Allison Fine, Social Media Expert
  • J.J. Goldberg, Editor-at-Large, Forward
  • Tiffany Harris, Board of Directors, Moishe House
  • Rabbi Elie Kaunfer, President & CEO, Mechon Hadar
  • Idit Klein, Executive Director, Keshet
  • Karyn Cohen Leviton, Director, Jewish Life & Israel, One8 Foundation
  • Gil Preuss, Executive VP, Combined Jewish Philanthropies
  • Dr. Steven Windmueller, Rabbi Alfred Gottschalk Emeritus, Professor of Jewish Communal Service, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion

About Hebrew College
Founded in 1921, Hebrew College promotes excellence in Jewish learning and leadership within a pluralistic environment of open inquiry, intellectual rigor, personal engagement and spiritual creativity. Its programs include a Rabbinical School, a School of Jewish Music, a School of Jewish Education, and graduate degrees and courses in Jewish studies; community education for adult learners; and a supplemental Hebrew high school and middle school. For more information, visit www.hebrewcollege.edu.

About the Ruderman Family Foundation
The Ruderman Family Foundation is an internationally recognized organization, which advocates for the full inclusion of people with disabilities in our society. The Foundation supports effective programs, innovative partnerships and a dynamic approach to philanthropy in advocating for and advancing the inclusion of people with disabilities throughout America. For more information, please visit www.rudermanfoundation.org.

About the Jewish Funders Network
Jewish Funders Network is the global networking organization for high-capacity Jewish philanthropists. JFN works with funders, individually and collectively, to improve the quality of their giving and maximize their impact. They convene events, workshops, and networking opportunities throughout the year in addition to their flagship annual conference, act as “matchmakers” between funders with similar philanthropic interests, and produce digital and print resources to disseminate best practices in strategic giving. More information is available at www.jfunders.org.
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