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Archive for : The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Foundation

From Dialogue Comes Understanding: MLK Shabbat

This post originally appeared on The Schusterman Blog on January 31, 2017

By Jason Crain

This story comes to us from TableMakers, a Schusterman initiative that helps REALITY alumni to create and host dynamic Shabbat experiences for their peers. The experience described below was organized by Jason Crain, a Technical Product Manager and Entrepreneur in Residence at in Atlanta, GA. He graduated from Morehouse College, and hails from Kansas City, Mo. Here, Jason shares his thoughts from our MLK Day Shabbat dinner hosted in partnership with Repair the World. The dinner was part of Repair’s Turn the Tables dinner series and an extension of their #ActNowForRacialJustice campaign.

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Baking for Social Change in Philadelphia

This post originally appeared on The Schusterman Blog on January 19, 2017

By Zoe Braunstein

Zoe Braunstein is doing a year of service as a Food Justice Fellow in Philadelphia with Repair the World. In her partnership with Challah for Hunger, she leads challah bakes and educational programming around issues of hunger and food access with the Social Change Bakery pilot project.

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Host a Rosh Hashanah Seder With the Schusterman Family Foundation

Got plans for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year? Whether you love apples and honey, thrill at the sound of the shofar, or love that extra sense of sacredness floating through the air this time of year, now is the time to make sure you start the high holiday season on, well, a high note.

This year, the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation has created the perfect opportunity to do just that. They are offering micro grants of up to $300 for people to host Rosh Hashanah seders in their homes.

So what’s a Rosh Hashanah seder? It is a lesser known fact that just like Passover, Rosh Hashanah has its own seder tradition. This seder (or ritual meal) is centered around symbolic foods that represent important themes of the High Holiday and blessings for the year ahead. Together, these symbolic foods and their corresponding blessings are called simanim.

The Rosh Hashanah seder provides a platform to learn about a unique Jewish tradition. At the same time, everyone has the opportunity to claim it as their own by thinking of their own hopes for the upcoming year and voicing them through simanim blessings in an individualized, modern and sometimes humorous spin.

Sound like your kind of holiday celebration? Find out more details and submit an application before September 5.

#MakeItHappen with Schusterman

Hey future Jewish leaders of the world, listen up. The Schusterman Foundation has big news for you. They are launching #MakeItHappen – a campaign inviting inspiring young people (that means you!) to submit proposals for a project, event, or program that will engage community members in meaningful Jewish experiences.
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New Year, New Spotlight on Rebecca Slatin and REALITY

We all know that New Year’s is a time that calls for self-reflection. Whether you’re planning a New Year’s resolution or simply rethinking your path in life, it’s always reassuring to hear what others are doing and learn how they got there.

That’s why we recently asked Rebecca Slatin to share her professional background and experiences as a REALITY Check Fellow. Rebecca joined Teach For America in 2008 and spent two years teaching High School Special Education. She now teaches elementary special education in Washington, DC and serves as a Seminar Instructor for DC Teaching Fellows. Untitled1

Forging New Paths

Growing up Jewish was very important to me. Although my parents and I are not religious, Judaism was important to us because it shaped the choices we made as a family. Tikkun Olam, or “mending the world,” was what being Jewish meant to me. We were (and still are) activists, we believe deeply in human rights. As a member of the global community, I believe it is my job to ensure that each generation is better off than the one that came before it.

It is fitting that I became a teacher, but it was not my original plan. In fact, as I began my senior year at Smith College, I wasn’t sure what to do at all. My gut told me that the only way to really impact the world was to become an educator. At the time, I believed that education was the only way communities could bring themselves out of poverty. But I had never taught anyone anything, so how could I possibly serve others if I had no training?

With my passion in mind, I discovered Teach For America (TFA), a national non-profit dedicated to ending educational inequity by connecting dedicated young adults to the powers of education.  Teach For America’s goal to create leaders who are passionate about ending a very real problem in American society struck me as an exciting challenge. Subconsciously, I think it also aligned with my values.

For my two year TFA commitment I was placed at a public high school in Washington D.C. I taught special education; five subjects, hundreds of students. I threw myself into my work. It was all I talked about. I did not sleep, I did not exercise, and I took no time for myself.  By the end of my first year, I felt completely overwhelmed by the realities of our public education system. I felt alone, drowning in an insurmountable problem. I desperately needed to connect my work with something larger than myself. I hadn’t considered what it was that I needed in order to be my most powerful self. I need self-reflection. I needed support. I needed community.

Reflecting and Repairing

At the beginning of my second year of teaching, a friend recommended that I apply to go with fellow Teach For America teachers to Israel on a trip called REALITY Israel, which brings young adults to Israel to learn more about the country and its connection to Judaism. The program focuses almost exclusively on how Jewish values connect with education and tikkun olam.

In Israel, we were asked many times to quietly sit and reflect on our work. We read Jewish texts and tried to identify with our ancestry. I was introduced to a community of Teach For America teachers and Alumni who were also struggling to connect their work with their value system. Before this program, I had never consciously connected my work as a teacher with the Jewish idea of mending the world through service.  Even more importantly, I had never acknowledged that the thing I loved most about teaching was the community I created in the classroom.

To truly impact change one must find support within oneself and love from others, peers, coaches and mentors. By working without stopping, without seeing what I was doing, I was cutting myself off from enjoying the change I was making in my student’s lives. In Israel, I learned that if I took time to ground myself in my belief system and stopped squelched my fear that what I want to give to the world is not what others expect of me, my power was limitless.

Valuing the Connections

Returning to Washington D.C., I wanted to continue to reflect and connect my work in education with my Jewish roots. I applied and was accepted into REALITY Check, a fellowship created for REALITY Israel Alumni to build impassioned leaders who work to serve others. REALITY Check has transformed my thinking about who I can be as a leader, helping me connect my passion for community development to my profession as a teacher. I have truly learned to value the connections between people.

I was once told that true leadership is unseen and that a true leader helps others shine. I believe that to truly impact education, we need leaders who care about creating the best environment to keep teachers happy, fulfilled, and allow them to be proud of what they do. As a REALITY Check fellow I have begun a dialogue with teachers, learning what they value and want the most, not only for their students, but also for themselves. REALITY Check has helped me find my passion—ensuring that teachers love what they do and want to do it as best they can.

As you begin to think about your place in the world, I encourage you to think about how your professional passions connect with your Jewish identity. Ask yourself, “How am I making the world a better place?” Don’t be afraid to identify talents and interests that are unique since we are all able to contribute something special to the world. In the beginning of the New Year, find a mentor, coach or peer, who you know will encourage you to grow and serve the world.  Align your passions to your value system and you will find fulfillment in the choices you make.

Rebecca Slatin is originally from Cambridge, Massachusetts. She attended Smith College and majored in American Studies, studied abroad in Chile and spent a semester researching folk music for Smithsonian Folkways Records.  Rebecca joined Teach For America upon graduation from Smith College in 2008. She spent two years teaching High School Special Education and now teaches elementary special education in Washington, DC.  Rebecca also serves as a Seminar Instructor for DC Teaching Fellows.  In her free time she is an avid Yogi and world traveler.  She has visited Iran, Chile, South Africa, and Peru, to name a few!


Jewish Teens and Young Adults Mobilized to Volunteer in Affected Areas over Winter and Spring Breaks

NEW YORK, NY, DECEMBER 3, 2012 – In the wake of Superstorm Sandy’s destruction, Repair the World, a national nonprofit that works to inspire American Jews to volunteer, is offering micro-grants for winter and spring alternative break programs that focus on Hurricane Sandy relief and response efforts. Alternative breaks offer young adults a hands-on service-learning opportunity and give them the chance to experience how the integration of service, education and reflection can create a meaningful and positive change in themselves and in communities.

The micro-grants, ranging from $1,000 – $5,000, may be used by programs to help cover costs of the trip such as travel, supplies, staffing and local housing. Eligible groups should engage teens, college students and post-college-aged young adults (up to age 35) to serve at least 200 hours, to implement a disaster response service-learning curriculum developed by Repair the World, and to report on their experiences. All groups receiving a micro-grant must operate under or in connection to a 501(c)(3).

 “As a national organization headquartered in New York City, we are committed to helping Jewish young adults connect their passion for service and get their hands dirty with real opportunities,” said Will Berkovitz, SVP and Interim CEO for Repair the World. “We want young Jews across North America to dedicate themselves to hands-on volunteerism where it is most needed on the ground, responding to short, medium and long-term needs.”

The grants are made possible through the generous support of The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, whose partnership with Repair the World has helped thousands of Jewish young adults participate in high-quality immersive Jewish service-learning programs. In the coming months, Repair will continue to assess and identify local needs as they evolve in Sandy’s hard hit communities.

For more information, visit or contact Mordy Walfish at 646-695-2700 x 23 or [email protected].


Repair the World is a national nonprofit organization that mobilizes Jewish Americans to address the world’s most pressing issues through volunteering. Headquartered in New York City, we connect individuals with meaningful service opportunities to help their local, national and global communities, and we enable individuals and organizations to run effective programs rooted in Jewish values. For more information, visit Follow us on Twitter @RepairtheWorld.




The Best of Both Worlds: Back to the Future of Philanthropy

Ask anyone to name the greatest philanthropists of all time – Jewish or otherwise – and they will invariably identify people known for giving away huge sums of money. From Rockefeller to Rothschild, from Buffet to Blaustein, from Morgan to Montefiore, most of us have come to equate philanthropy with the charitable contributions of people of immense wealth.

And justifiably so; quite recently, much attention has been directed to the nearly 70 high net worth individuals and families in America who have signed the Giving Pledge, publicly declaring their intent to spend hundreds of millions, even billions, of dollars during their lifetime in an effort to help redress the most vexing and complex societal challenges of our day.

The impact of this kind of giving cannot be overstated. When given strategically, effectively and with an eye toward accountability, huge grants have the potential to accelerate the pace of positive change in many situations and even completely ameliorate others.

And yet, philanthropy is not about money alone.

If we turn back the hands of time all the way to the origin of the word “philanthropy,” we discover that it is actually a derivation of the Greek word philanthropos, one that translates into “the love of what it means to be human.”

Put another way, a philanthropist is actually anyone who undertakes to improve the quality of human life and, in turn, to increase the general well-being of humankind. It is the pursuit of tikkun olam – striving to make the world a better place – that renders someone worthy of being called a philanthropist, not the amount of money they spend in that effort.

Indeed, while financial contributions are central to addressing some of the most entrenched challenges the world is now confronting, philanthropy is actually at its best when it combines the giving of both time and money. As we learn in the Talmud, the imperative for Jews to give of themselves derives from the values ofchesed (loving-kindness) and tzedakah (justice); gemilut chasadim (acts of loving kindness), however, are actually considered greater than acts of tzedakah because the latter centers solely around money whereas the former can include both money and service.

The giving of time and the giving of money are both essential and worthy endeavors in and of themselves. But they are even more powerful when combined. Together, they can enable us to really understand a particular issue, to build relationships with those affected by it and to create partnerships with those best positioned to achieve substantive change.

Those of us who have the privilege of working in the Jewish world are witnessing the convergence of these two trends: 1) a renewed focus and energy on Jewish giving, both within the foundation world and among new donors; and 2) a heightened spotlight on serving others, especially among young Jewish adults eager to explore their culture, their faith and their ties to Israel.

That is why I am more optimistic than ever about the future of Jewish philanthropy.

recent study by the Institute of Jewish & Community Research (IJCR), Following the Money: A Look at Jewish Foundation Giving, found that Jewish foundations remain committed to Jewish causes and continue to have an enormous impact on the Jewish world and beyond, despite severe and ongoing economic challenges.

According to the IJCR report, approximately $335 million of the funds distributed by the 56 largest Jewish foundations went to Jewish causes in 2009 and 2010. The study also reports that as the number of foundations in the U.S. increased to 76,545 between 1999 and 2009, an estimated 10,000 of them made grants to Jewish causes.

In this landscape, with the rise of technology and online tools expediting the giving process, new foundations and younger donors are emerging to support both Jewish and universal causes, with contributions to the latter often being a direct expression of the Jewish values of those donors.

Indeed, in a world where anyone can be a donor, young people are increasingly using new channels to give small amounts of money to specific causes to which they feel connected. Though the $5 donors, as they are often called, may seem insignificant now, many nonprofits have had enormous success inspiring them to share causes virally with their vast social networks, as well as building long-term relationships that studies show will result in more giving as the donor ages.

This is key, as it is a harbinger of further involvement and giving. After all, young people are more loyal to relationships than to institutions, and they want to be actively involved in defining the experiences and organizations in which they participate. They have a more holistic definition of success for their lives – one that balances time spent earning with time spent serving.

They also bring a unique skill set to the table – well versed in technology, naturally inclined toward network theory, they can build websites, create videos and use new media tools to maximize awareness of some of our most entrenched challenges.

Jews are among those at the nerve center of this growing movement of young people who do not just want to pay to build the trenches – they actually want to work in them. Passionate about their ability to make a positive impact on the world, they are joining Teach For America in droves, traveling abroad with American Jewish World Service and serving domestically with Avodah.

As a community, we must figure out how to make the most of this convergence of the worlds of time and money. By taking full advantage of human as well as financial capital, we will ensure a stronger Jewish future and deepen our impact on the broader world.

Jewish philanthropy came of age in an era where people expressed their Jewishness in specific ways – by joining a youth group, attending synagogue and giving a donation to their local federation and to Israel. By extension, federations often counted money and gifts received without correlation to people volunteering in the Jewish community, and for a long time that worked well.

In the 21st century, however, Jewish philanthropy will need to reflect the much more multifaceted expressions of Jewish identity. Organizations like Repair the World and Moishe House are leading the way by creating more opportunities for young people to serve, both in a Jewish context and in nonsectarian programs with Jewish framing. They are creating connections and experiences, as well as enabling young givers to contribute in ways that unite their Jewish and universal values, thereby fostering a lifelong commitment to social responsibility.

The landscape is not and will not be without its challenges, of course – an economy that is still causing financial stress and raising issues of sustainability and leverage, less communal giving via federations and the increasingly complicated relationship between Diaspora Jewry and Israel that could impact giving to the Jewish State, to name but a few.

But in thinking about the opportunities and challenges ahead, our focus must remain on how we use the vast network of resources at our disposal to secure a vibrant future for the Jewish people. Indeed, we are blessed to have many passionate, committed individuals, organizations, institutions and funders, each of whom brings a unique set of strengths and relationships that are vital to ensuring this future.

The ideal formula will depend on a generosity of both time and money. As a result, the future Abraham Joshua Heschels, Ruth Messingers and Ralph Goldmans will not just be considered great leaders – they will be considered great philanthropists, and Jewish philanthropy will enjoy the best of both worlds.

Sandy Cardin is president of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation.