Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Insert Your Story Here

I’m spending these next few days preparing for a series of presentations next week in Budapest. I’ve been asked to come in and spend a few days with our leadership and management working on presentations, storytelling and fundraising concepts.

Going through my notes and stories, one thing struck me – the most challenging thing about how we tell our stories in the Joint is how personal and individualized they are. The most difficult area we have to focus on, when we teach field staff and others to tell their stories, is helping them choose their stories. Once you start using someone else’s stories, or ideas – it smells fake. And inauthentic stories aren't very inspiring.

All of this came up the other day in a conversation with a colleague who wanted “my” JDC introduction presentation that others could use. The problem is … I don’t have one. Because there isn't one.

You have to talk from your own passion, with your own stories. My awesome story about how we do such-and-such a thing sounds great, but only because I've been there, smelled the perfume, touched the brick and can convey the sound. So I can relay the entire experience authentically. But it's only my story. 

I can’t tell your story as well as you can.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The most fascinating statistic I’ve heard this month

I had a meeting the other week in Israel with Roi Assaf, Head of the Social Department in The Authority for Economic Development of the Minorities Sector, which sits in Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Office.
He gave a fascinating presentation on “Governmental Policy towards Economic Development of the Arab Sector.”

One quote, in particular, really struck me … because, in addition to low standards of living and difficult conditions on individual and community  levels, high rates of poverty mean high costs to the country in state welfare services,  lost productivity, lost tax revenue, and low consumer activity. 
So low employment and high poverty have a macro-level impact, not just on the individuals concerned but on the strength and economic vitality of Israel as a whole. 

And then Roi said:
"Arab citizens, despite constituting more than 20% of the population, contribute only 8% to Israel's GDP, at an estimated loss of over NIS 30 billion each year."

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Thursday, December 26, 2013

The loveliest video I've seen in ages

100th Anniversary birthday wishes to JDC from the Athens Jewish Community ....

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Monday, December 23, 2013

More on Israeli women

I've looked in the past at challenges faced by disadvantaged women in Israel. It's a really important issue, and not one that's given enough time and focus.

One of the key areas where you can see the challenge is in the field of employment ...

Here's the problem: disadvantaged groups face lots of barriers on the road to employment:
They tend to have very large families, there are often cultural barriers to employment. there are issues of stereotypes and discrimination. Many of these groups have lower education and all kinds of language barriers. They often have much less access to employment opportunities

So how are we doing? It's a mixed story ....

 In 2009-10, 61% of Haredi women worked, significantly up from 47% in 2009-10.

 The most dramatic growth has been with the employment of Ethiopian-Israeli women. In 2001, only 30% of Ethiopian-Israeli women were employed. By 2010, the rate more than doubled to 62%.

 Even among those with less than 12 years of education, employment rose from 26% to 46%.

 The low levels of education of Ethiopians contribute to a very large gap in average monthly earnings - 4,000 NIS compared with 6,400 NIS for all Jewish women.

 Arab-Israeli women face the biggest employment barriers, with only 26% of 25-64 years olds employed in 2009-10, up from 19% in 2001.

 36% of employed Arab-Israeli women work part time, most of whom cannot find full-time employment.

 By contrast, employment gaps are very small for women with academic degrees: 77% for Arab-Israeli women and 83% for Jewish women.

If you want more information and sources on these findings, message me, or contact my colleagues at Myers-JDC-Brookdale. If you want to receive this blog on a regular basis by email (about twice a week, depending on what else I'm up to), sign up in the top-right box where it says "follow" ...

Friday, December 20, 2013

A Century of Service

I love this video ... yashar koach (well done) to my colleagues who created it. Makes me proud ....

Since 1914, JDC has been empowering the most vulnerable Jews around the world, bringing relief to those who need it most, and making a powerful investment in the Jewish people's future. Explore our global impact, from the former Soviet Union to Israel and Europe to North Africa. And join us for our next 100 years!

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Earners and Learners

I had a fascinating meeting with some of my colleagues recently who are dealing with issues of Haredi (Ultra-Orthodox) employment in Israel. I knew we were going to have an interesting meeting when one of my colleagues, who herself comes from the Haredi world, framed the entire conversation in one sentence. “Haredi women,” she said, “are a society of earners. Haredi men are a society of learners.”

What’s important to note here, though, is that Ultra-Orthodox society isn’t black-and-white. It’s not monolithic, there’s a huge variety of cultures within. “Haredi” is more of a self-definition … but there are some common themes in all Haredi society:
·        -  Torah is in the center of life
·         - You get married early
·         - Women mostly go to education for employment (95%), so therefore it’s a very crowded and underpaying sector.

What we need to do is find ways to respect the Haredi way of life, while developing menus of services that are culturally sensitive and appropriate … to help the learners also become earners, and help the earners move from dependence to independence.

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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Are you coming?

Terrific promo video for Chotam - Teach First Israel, supported by JDC (and one of my favorite programs).

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Philippines, recovering from typhoon, honored by JDC for WWII rescue effort

By Larry Luxner/JNS.org

WASHINGTON—Thanking one Asian country for its kindness towards Jews faced with annihilation 75 years ago and warning another not to even think about harming Israel, top Jewish officials at a Dec. 11 dinner wrapped up three days of meetings that marked the 100th anniversary of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC).

José L. Cuisía, Philippine ambassador to the United States, accepted the JDC’s Or L’Olam Award on behalf of his country for giving refuge to 1,305 Jews fleeing Nazi Germany during World War II. At the same event, U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob “Jack” Lew—the highest-ranking Jew in the Obama administration—cautioned any CEO, general counsel or business executives to “think again” before trying to evade international sanctions against Iran or helping the Islamic Republic acquire nuclear weapons.

About 400 guests attended the JDC centennial dinner at Washington’s Ronald Reagan International Trade Center. The evening, emceed by CNN anchorman Wolf Blitzer, also featured short presentations by noted sexologist Dr. Ruth Westheimer and New York businessman Abe Biderman, who was recently elected co-chairman of the World Jewish Restitution Organization. In addition, participants enjoyed a medley of Israeli songs performed by the University of Maryland’s Kol Sasson choir.

“The Philippines was the only Asian country that voted for the creation of Israel in 1947, and we heroically helped save the lives of many Jews at a time when most other doors were shut,” Cuisía said as he accepted Or L’Olam (Light Unto the World) Award from philanthropist Penny Blumenstein, the new president of JDC.

Among those rescued by the Philippines under its wartime president, Manuel Quezón, were the mother and grandparents of Teaneck, NJ, resident Danny Pins—a disaster-relief expert who currently leads the JDC’s humanitarian efforts in that country.

“While we pay tribute to the Philippines for its role in saving 1,305 people, we Filipinos also pay homage to our Jewish friends for helping save the lives of our people just over a month ago, when Typhoon Haiyan tore across the Philippines, leaving behind a trail of death and destruction,” said Cuisía.

In addition to more than 6,000 killed, Typhoon Haiyan injured at least 27,000 people and displaced an estimated 3.9 million Filipinos from their homes.

“During this period, among the first humanitarian organizations on the ground was the JDC, which raised more than $1.6 million for clean water and sanitation to victims in affected areas,” Cuisía said. “JDC also worked with 148 members of the Israel Defense Forces deployed in the Philippines, assisted in search and rescue, and helped reconstruct damaged buildings and restore water supplies. The JDC also supported the Israeli field hospital that treated 2,800 patients, including 900 children.”

In addition, Israeli doctors performed 60 emergency surgeries and delivered 66 babies, one of whom was a boy named “Israel.”

“There is a great sense of loss and grief across the Philippines. However, we are able to draw on our faith in a just and compassionate God,” said the ambassador. “We see His face, and we certainly feel His presence through the work of our Jewish brothers and sisters. I assure you that the Filipino people will always remember the kind gestures you have extended to us.”

Like Cuisía, Lew was honored by the JDC, which bestowed upon him its Morgenthau Award to commemorate the group’s 100 years of partnership with the U.S. government. The son of Polish immigrants, Lew said the U.S. “has a moral obligation” to use all the diplomatic and economic means at its disposal to make Iran give up its nuclear ambitious—while reserving force as a last resort.

The treasury secretary said that in comparison with the cost global sanctions have imposed on Iran’s economy, the relief package Washington offered Tehran under the interim nuclear deal reached last month in Geneva is “quite modest”—amounting to no more than $7 billion. A Dec. 11 report in Haaretz, however, cited security sources in Israel who said the relief could amount to $20 billion. 

Lew said the current Iran sanctions framework immobilizes $100 billion in Iranian foreign-exchange holdings while causing Iran to lose $30 billion in oil revenues during the six months the interim nuclear deal remains in effect.

“This agreement does not prevent us from implementing existing sanctions or imposing new sanctions. All of our targeted sanctions on Iran’s sponsorship of groups like Hezbollah remain at full strength, so any CEO or businessperson who wants to test our resolve better think again,” he said.

The interim nuclear deal allows Iran to continue production of 3.5-percent enriched uranium while the agreement is in force, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders, as well as advocates for new sanctions in Congress, believe a final deal with Iran should halt all enrichment.

Friday, December 13, 2013

JDC Centennial: Vice President Biden Address

"Everything that is right about America and righteous about the Jewish people is brought to the world by what you do."

We were humbled and profoundly honored by Vice President Joe Biden's remarks at our centennial celebration and grateful to call him a longtime friend of JDC.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Secretary of State remarks

Secretary Kerry spoke at JDC's Centennial Celebration the other day ... these are his remarks (video below). I particularly enjoyed the flying anecdote towards the end...

Remarks at the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee's 100th Anniversary Celebration
Dec 10, 2013 (Menafn - M2 PRESSWIRE via COMTEX) --John Kerry
Secretary of State National Women in the Arts Museum
Washington, DC
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you. Thank you very, very much. I much appreciate your welcome. I will inform you that Winston Churchill once said the only reason people give a standing ovation is they desperately need an excuse to shift their underwear. (Laughter.) But I will believe that you had a much more noble goal. (Laughter.)
Stuart, thank you. Stu, you are a marvel. And I tell you, I'm honored to be introduced by Stu Eizenstat. He is a great, really one of our sort of unsung heroes and treasures in our country for the remarkable work that he has always done and -- (applause). Absolutely. I got to know him pretty well. His pro bono work that he's done for years to help Holocaust victims and their families be able to recover the assets that were taken from them during the horrors of World War II is one mark. But I've seen him in his roles at the White House with the Carter Administration, the Clinton Administration.
And I will never forget when I was in Kyoto working on the global climate change treaty, Stu came flying in, literally, I think from Switzerland, where he'd been negotiating to pick up the negotiation responsibilities, which had, frankly, not been thoroughly and properly prepared in an appropriate way. And he kind of picked up this negotiation at half capacity, and I was stunned by his negotiating skill, his ability, and he put together an agreement -- it's now a matter of history that we had a difficult Senate that never did what it should have done, but this guy did what he was supposed to do and he did it brilliantly. And we are lucky to have public servants like him, so I thank him again for his great work. (Applause.)
President Penny Blumenstein, thank you very much. She was telling me back there that nobody gets her name right. I told her I will. (Laughter.) But she says she's called Bloomberg and Blumenthal and a whole bunch of things whenever she gets introduced. Alan Gill, thank you for your great stewardship as CEO. And to every single one of you, thank you for an extraordinary job as civic-minded, good citizens of our nation who recognize a global responsibility. It's an honor for me to be to be here to help you mark 100 years of the Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. And I said to Penny when I came in here, I said, "You don't look 100 years old." She said, "I feel it some days." (Laughter.) So we thank her for her commitment to this effort. I know what it takes to do this.
Some of you may know that the bond between the State Department -- and Stuart referred to this a little bit in his introduction of me. The bond between the State Department and the JDC has been a longtime association and it runs deep. Stu described to you how Henry Morgenthau had a profound impact on the startup and what happened, and it responded to the needs of Jews at that time who were locked in the struggle of the Ottoman Palestine and Eastern Europe. And ever since then, it has performed -- you have performed -- brilliantly.
Today, you work alongside the State Department, USAID, and Congress, and embassies on a worldwide basis -- the 70 nations that Stuart mentioned a minute ago -- is really quite extraordinary. We collaborate superbly on infrastructure programs that foster economic development and growth in communities in Africa, Europe, Middle East, and Latin America. We work side by side and provide humanitarian relief. And again, Stu talked for a moment about what happened. I am heading to the Philippines the day after tomorrow and to Vietnam, where we are engaged. But obviously, Typhoon Haiyan has left just stunning devastation across the Philippines, and your relief effort -- JDC effort -- in a short span of time has already contributed 1.4 million in aid to that effort.
We, the United States -- I speak for President Obama, who as you all know has gone off to Nelson Mandela's funeral -- I gather tomorrow you will hear from the Vice President and then later from Jack Lew, Secretary Lew. But all of us are deeply, deeply grateful for the incredible sense of responsibility that is manifested in your generosity and in your commitment in order to make a difference around the world. You have provided relief to millions of people from every corner of the globe, all of whom are in desperate need of a helping hand. And part of the mission -- and I should thank, actually, Chair Andrew Tisch, who -- where did Andrew go? He's sitting somewhere. Andrew, thank you for your great friendship to me and many years of involvement in this kind of thing.
But the ways in which all of you in the doing of this also support Jewish life around the world. Throughout history, of course, but particularly right now you are involved in ways that connect young Jewish men and women to their communities and that inspire them to address social challenges. The job training programs that you're creating to address unemployment, the steps that you're taking to alleviate hunger and poverty among the neediest Jews in the world, including in Israel, where despite the stunning growth and amazing prosperity that has been reached by so many, still sees about 25 percent of the country living under the poverty line. And the contributions that you continue to make to the Jewish community are changing lives everywhere.
I want to say a few words to you about another way in which hopefully we in the government are trying to also preserve and nurture Jewish life. And I'm talking about Jewish life in the state of Israel. I know this is not a political group in any way, but it would be a shameful omission if I didn't honor the fact that everybody here obviously comes here with a passion for the preservation of life in Israel, and more importantly for the long term, the possibility of peace and of stability.
We are deeply committed to the security of Israel and of the well-being of the Jewish people by virtue of that. (Applause.) From the support that we've provided as a nation before I was in government, shortly after I'd come back from Vietnam, from the support we provided during the Yom Kippur War in 1973, to the hundreds of millions that we have contributed to help develop weapons systems like the Iron Dome as well as the military technology that we provide the Israelis with today, the United States has long viewed Israel's security as absolutely fundamental to our own.
So when it comes to the range of issues that face the region today, there can be, in my judgment, no doubt -- there should be no doubt -- about where the United States stands. We stand squarely beside our Israeli friends and allies, and that bond is ironclad; it will never be broken. (Applause.)
This morning, I talked to Prime Minister Netanyahu. Bibi and I know each other really well now. We've known each other for about 25 years, maybe even 30. I knew him when he was in Cambridge, Massachusetts on an interval in politics that some of us have had occasionally. And I have visited with him many, many times, both when he was in office and out of office, and likewise for me. I just got back from what I think was my eighth trip to Israel since becoming Secretary of State, and I leave the day after tomorrow and I will be having dinner with Bibi again on Thursday night. So this is a commute, folks, nowadays. (Laughter.)
I want you to know that every single time that big blue and white plane that lugs me over there comes in for a landing at Ben Gurion Airport, I truly feel in my gut, for reasons of friendship as well as affiliation that Stu mentioned, how precious and how vulnerable and how real the security challenge of Israel is. It's an extraordinary nation which, when you fly over it and you see what has been blooming out of a desert and built in this short span of time, is absolutely stunning. And when you compare GDPs and per capita incomes and other things to other nations that were in the same place in 1948 and 1950 and '52 and see the differential today, it tells you a remarkable story of accomplishment and capacity.
I want to make it clear today that we are deeply committed going forward to honoring the bond and honoring those security needs. And I want to reiterate something that President Obama and I have said many times, and I underscored last week when I was in Israel and I underscored again two days ago when I spoke to the Saban Forum here in Washington. And that is: We will not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon -- not now, not ever. And I promise you that. (Applause.)
Now, I know that some people are apprehensive and wonder sort of have we somehow stumbled into something or created something where in fact the Iranians have pulled the wool over our eyes and we're going to not know what they're doing. Let me just say to you very simply: I've spent, as Stu said, almost 30 years in the Senate. I chaired the Foreign Relations Committee. I understand military and security issues. And I understand the fundamental basics of -- as does the President and most of the people around us -- what is necessary for a nation to prove it has a peaceful nuclear program. And I can't stand here today and tell you that the Iranians are going to do what they need to do. But I do know that Israel is actually safer today than it was the day before we made the deal, because in this deal they have to destroy all of their 20 percent enriched uranium; they have to hold their 3.5 percent low enriched at the current level; they are not allowed to install any new centrifuges; they have to allow us daily inspection inside that secret mountaintop, Fordow; they have to allow us daily inspection in Natanz in the nuclear plant; they have to allow us regular inspection in the heavy water reactor that has the potential of plutonium; they are not allowed to install any further nuclear components into that construction site; they cannot test additional fuel; and we are allowed to go into the storage sites and manufacturing facilities of all of their centrifuge production facilities -- all things we couldn't do before we made this first step agreement.
Because of what we've done while we negotiate the final comprehensive agreement, which is what Bibi wanted in the first place, we will actually be setting their program backwards, expanding the amount of time that it might take if they were to try to break out. That means we have more time to respond, more time to know what is going on. That is why I can say to you in good conscience I believe Israel is safer today than it was before. Now, does that mean this will be successful in the long run? I don't know. But here's what else I do know: If we aren't successful, if we get to the end of these six months and they don't do the simple things you need to do to prove your program is peaceful, then we will have kept united the P51, we will have shown the global community our bona fides to attempt to give them an opportunity through diplomacy to do what they need to do, and we will not have taken any sanction off the table. We can ratchet them up when we want. We will go back to Congress, we will ratchet them up, we will ask for additional sanctions. And if needs be, if we cannot get this done on time, we will take no other option, military or otherwise, off the table. So I am confident that we are going to approach this with a view to making Israel more secure.
Let me also say to all of you there are other issues that go to Israel's existential security, and none more so than the ticking time bomb of demographics in the region and the realities of the de-legitimization campaign that has been taking place for some period of time. I believe, as President Obama does, that Israel will be far more secure if we can also put to test the possibilities of the two-state solution. And so we will continue to attempt to do that despite the skepticism, despite the cynicism in some quarters, that that day can never come where you would actually achieve a two-state solution with two peoples living side by side in peace and security.
I believe, though, that it remains a possibility. And it seems to me that for all of you, for anyone who cares about the security of Israel -- and all of you do -- for anyone who cares about the future, as I know all of you do, and engaged in the activities you are here at the JDC, you must also believe that peace is possible. And as these tough but very critical negotiations continue, I hope that you will understand we will continue to consult, we will continue to work closely, we will do everything in our power to make sure that our friends in Israel are comfortable with the direction we're moving in and are part of it.
And I talk to Bibi at least two or three times a week. We are hand in hand and mind in mind trying to figure out how to do this in a way that protects the security of Israel, that establishes the sovereignty and dignity of an independent and viable Palestinian state. If it was easy, it would've done a long time ago. It isn't. But I think the effort is worth it.
And I know why it's worth it. I spent a lot of time -- when I first went to Israel in 1986, I spent an entire week, and I traveled everywhere. And this wonderful fellow by the name of Yadin Roman, who's the publisher of Eretz Israel magazine, was my guide and took me around. And he was brilliant, and he knew the history of everything and told me all the details of everything I was seeing. And I went up to Kiryat Shmona, and I went down into a bomb shelter where kids had to run and side from the Katyusha rockets. And I visited all the different religious sites -- Christian and Muslim and Jewish, obviously. Went to the Wailing Wall, left my note, which I'm still working on. And visited -- tried to swim in the Dead Sea, cloaked in black mud, everything else. And climbed Masada, which is one of the most stirring things I've ever done in my life, because we had this huge debate on top of Masada. And Yadin provoked us, purposefully. And he gave us the whole history of Josephus Flavius and told us all the writings in this great contentious debate about had these Jews really died there, had they in fact been there at this moment, or did they escape because they didn't find a whole lot of skeletons, and people were wondering what happened.
Well, we had this long debate. And I'll tell you, even before that, I had this marvelous experience of flying a jet out of (inaudible) air base. I'm a pilot. I love to fly. And I persuaded this ace colonel from the war to take me up in a jet, and he got it cleared in Tel Aviv. Somehow they let me do it. And they won't let me do it now, but it was fun then. And I remember taking off, and he said, "Okay, it's your airplane the minute you get up in the air." I went up above the air, and I remember he -- I was turning, and he said, "Senator, you better turn faster; you're going over Egypt." And so I turned the airplane and came back. And we did some aerobatics, and I was doing a loop, and I went up -- way up high and came down. And as you look, you put your head back and catch the horizon underneath you. And I looked, and I looked out and I could see all the way out in the Sinai, all the way down in the Gulf of Aqaba. I could see all the way over into Jordan. And I said to myself, "This is perfect. I'm looking at the Middle East the right way, upside down -- (laughter) -- and I can understand it now."
But after the debate on Masada, we took a vote, and we all voted unanimously that it happened exactly the way it is recorded, that they had fought and died. And at the end, Yadin took us to the edge of the precipice. And there, where a lot of the air force, I understand, and other military are sworn in and take the oath, we yelled across the chasm, " Am Yisrael chai ." (Applause.) And the echo came back. And I will tell you, it was stunning to hear that echo. You sort of felt like you were listening to the souls of the past tell you Israel is going to survive. And that's why, my friends, you have a Secretary of State who gets it, who understands this mission. And with your help and your support, we'll get it done the right way.
Thank you. (Applause.)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The best anecdote about the Soviet economy you'll see all day

(or maybe even all week) ....

In many of my presentations I try to explain the workings of the Soviet economy, especially insofar as it created unique and quirky effects on people's lives that we're still seeing, and we'll continue to see for years to come.

This, however, is one of my favorites. It's from a 1967 book by Ben Ami called "Between Hammer and Sickle" looking at the Soviet Union's often contradictory attitude to its Jews.

Those who get the most out of the market are peasants from the far south, chiefly the Caucasus. 
It is worthwhile for the mustached Georgian father and his two tall, broad-shouldered sons to set out on a fine spring day, at four o'clock, before dawn, from their house on a kolkhoz about sixty miles from Tbilisi. Leaving the village, each carries a bag which contains 44 pounds of beautiful red tomatoes grown in the private vegetable patch near their house. They board a TU-104 jet [Tupolev] after checking their three bags (every passenger is allowed 44 pounds of personal baggage). Our three friends fly to Moscow at a speed of about 650 miles per hour and land at nine o'clock that same morning at the Moscow airport. They hire a cab and by ten o'clock they are in the kolkhoz market of the busy capital. Opening their bags, they set their tomatoes in rows and wait for customers. Housekeepers, mostly of the privileged classes, prefer these lovely tomatoes and buy them at four or five times their prevailing price in the government shops.

By four in the afternoon, our Georgians have disposed of all the tomatoes. They go shopping in GUM, the large department store in Red Square, and in Detskii Mir, the large children's store in the heart of Moscow, where they buy fine gifts for their wives and toys for their children. Then they spend a few hours at the Aragvy, a fine Georgian restaurant, where they enjoy good Georgian wine and hand out coins to the musicians who play sentimental Georgian tunes for them. Thus the busy day ends gaily. The next day they go back to Tbilisi and from there to their village. The money they bring back will be invested in their private farm. They repeat this routine a number of times during the season. 

These 'jet tomatoes' are yet another element of the parallel economy."

When I started learning about Soviet macroeconomics in University (it seemed like a good idea at the time ... in retrospect it was slightly less useful than I thought it would be) we heard several versions of this story. All have a lot of truth to them: highly subsidized transportation, incredibly expensive fruits and vegetables, and the ability of a small number of farmers to play the system and win big. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Poverty Level

My colleagues at the Myers-JDC-Brookdale Research Institute have some fascinating information on what poverty actually looks like across different sectors in Israel.

Here's what I think is really striking:

First, although only 14% of Jewish households are under the poverty line .... well over half of non-Jewish households are under it.

And second, poverty and employment are very tightly correlated. More on this later....

The poverty line is defined as 50% of the after-tax median income, adjusted to household size. 
The monthly poverty line for a couple last year was 4,001 NIS or 1,118 USD. The monthly poverty rate for a couple with two children was 6,401 NIS or 1,788 USD.

If you want more information and sources on these findings, message me, or contact my colleagues at Myers-JDC-Brookdale. If you want to receive this blog on a regular basis by email (about twice a week, depending on what else I'm up to), sign up in the top-right box where it says "follow" ...

Friday, December 6, 2013

Argentinian rabbi sworn into National Parliament

Many of our missions to Argentina have met with Rabbi Bergman ... this is a terrific story about him ...

BUENOS AIRES (JTA) — Rabbi Sergio Bergman was sworn in to Argentina’s National Parliament.
Bergman, the first rabbi to take office as a national legislator in Argentina, wore a colorful yarmulke and swore the oath of office on a Jewish Bible Wednesday before “God, the motherland and the sacred scriptures of the Bible, the Tanach.”

Argentina’s 127 newly elected legislators were sworn in Wednesday at the opening ceremony of the Lower House of the National Parliament.

The parliamentary rabbi, whose PRO Party won 34.5 percent of the vote in elections in late October, is believed to be the only rabbi elected to a national parliament outside of Israel.

Bergman is also the senior rabbi of Argentina’s oldest congregation, Congregacion Israelita Argentina, which marked its 150th year last month with a series of celebrations, including the launching of the rabbi’s book about Pope Francis. Bergman’s book of religious essays, “A Gospel According to Pope Francis,” praises Jorge Bergoglio, the former Argentine bishop who became pope earlier this year, as a religious leader, social worker and political statesman.

Bergman, 51, is the author of five books and is recognized internationally. He founded a network of Jewish schools and educational projects that includes a gay alliance and a rural farm. In May, he received the Micah Award from the World Union for Progressive Judaism for his commitment to social justice at the organization’s convention in Jerusalem.

Read more: http://www.jta.org/2013/12/05/news-opinion/world/argentinian-rabbi-sworn-into-national-parliament-on-tanach#ixzz2mhcWyGC1

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Nope, we don’t do that anymore.

I’ve spent most of this week catching up on emails (nearly there, thanks), preparing presentations for future federation groups (still looking for inspiration) and talking to colleagues around the world about different programs we’re running.

And in some cases … programs we’re not running anymore.

Over the past few weeks I’ve seen more and more this concept of exit-strategies in the Joint. How we’re phasing down from programs, empowering local leaders where possible, building local capacity and encouraging on-the-ground stakeholders to “own” the process. If it’s going to stay in our hands, at the end of the day, it’ll never be real, genuine or local.

I’ve written in the past about why I think some communities will need more time before we can phase out. We’ve phased out of over 30 countries in our history, Matnasim (JCCs) in Israel, Malben old-age homes, and much more. There’s still a lot left. But there’s a basic idea here that’s important - we have the responsibility to start the work where we can, where we’re needed, where we can make a difference. But it's not our task to finish it.

Rabbi Tarfon said “"It is not incumbent upon you to complete the work, but neither are you at liberty to desist from it" (Avot 2:21) 
That’s not just a nice statement in the Ethics of the Fathers. It’s a business plan.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Haredi Poverty and Employment

My colleagues at Myers-JDC-Brookdale have done some fascinating research into Haredi (Ultra-Orthodox) families in Israel, and the connection to poverty.

These are some of the really interesting bits (ok, it's all interesting)

 In 2011, 54% of Haredi families were poor.

 The high rate of poverty is very strongly related to low rates of employment.

 Poverty rates are also related to low earnings. There's a significant gap in monthly earnings:
Haredi men: 6,600 NIS vs. 11,500 NIS for all men
Haredi women: 5,200 NIS vs. 7,300 NIS for all women

 Therefore, education and training are critical to narrowing these wage gaps.

 The large numbers of children to support is a further factor contributing to the high rates of poverty

Look at this chart for the difference ....

If you want more information and sources on these findings, message me, or contact my colleagues at Myers-JDC-Brookdale. If you want to receive this blog on a regular basis by email (about twice a week, depending on what else I'm up to), sign up in the top-right box where it says "follow" ...