Tag Archives: ruderman foundation

Being in Two Places at Once: Our Foundation’s Challenge and Advantage


I’m writing to share an op-ed I wrote this week for ejewishphilanthropy.com.  I have been reflecting on why — even with the logistical difficulties of running a foundation with offices thousands of miles apart — the strategic advantages to having a dual presence far outweigh the challenges.

As always, I welcome your comments.

— Jay

Being in Two Places at Once

by Jay Ruderman

There’s an old Yiddish expression that says you can’t have “ein tuchus oft da ganze velt” or, simply put, you can’t be all over the place at once.

But like many foundations today, our agenda transcends nations. We work toward the goal of full inclusion for Jews with disabilities wherever they may live and we also seek to strengthen the bond between Israel and the Jewish community in the United States.

Unlike many foundations, however, we felt we could not be fully effective at this work without a physical presence in both Israel and in the U.S. Our foundation is one of the few to have its principal decision maker live in Israel, while keeping the organization headquartered in the U.S. This unusual arrangement has given us a broader perspective from which our organization and those we serve truly benefit. It has also given us the opportunity to be a peer-to-peer resource for other funders in both the U.S. and Israel.

There are times that the increased coordination required by this arrangement is challenging. But the advantage of having feet on the ground in both places, and the additional involvement with grantee programs that it provides, cannot be measured. We believe that our twin locations provide us with a distinct perspective on philanthropy. Being in two far-away places at one time truly lets us understand the special and unique relationship between Israel and the U.S. Jewish community and how to most effectively pursue our foundation and program goals.

Looking back to Israel’s failed ad campaign in 2011 to woo expatriates to return home, we had a unique vantage point. We could both see the particular forces in Israel that led to the development of the campaign and better understand why it was so poorly received among American Jews.

More recently, during the military conflict with Hamas, we were able to provide our partners in the U.S. with a first-hand account of what it was like in Israel living beneath the thunder of the Iron Dome explosions, as Israeli anti-missile defenses collided with incoming rockets from Hamas, and also report to the public about how Israelis with disabilities were adversely impacted by a shortage of services during the crisis.

Such a perspective is helpful in an environment where major Israeli philanthropists tend not to fund programs outside of Israel. At the same time, many American foundations that fund programs in Israel do not have offices and staff here, even if they visit frequently.

The fact that I choose to live in Israel makes a statement to our board and partners that our foundation understands how Israeli civil society operates. It would be hard for our foundation to be as effective without this structure, in the same way that it would be hard for a newspaper to report on a community if it did not have a presence there.

Similarly, our Ruderman Fellows program, which brings Members of the Knesset to the U.S. so that they can learn more about the Jewish community in the U.S., benefits from our presence in both places. By being located in Israel we are able to directly recruit Members of the Knesset for the program and our operation in the U.S. is able to design the right experience for the participants as well as handle the thousands of details that make these trips a success.

The power of a dual or multi-location operation for foundations should not be underestimated today. In a world where information, influence, and contacts defy boundaries, the strategic advantage of being in two places at once often translates into the greater fulfillment of goals and the coalescing of mission.

Jay Ruderman is President of the Ruderman Family Foundation.  For more on this topic, please follow Zeh Lezeh, the Ruderman Family Foundation’s blog.


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Filed under In the Media, Initiatives, Israel Diaspora Understanding, Philanthropy trends, Uncategorized

Educating MKs on the Nuances of Diaspora Life: An Op-Ed

Dear Friends,

Today I share with you the first of two op-eds by members of the Israeli Knesset that appeared recently on JTA, the primary global news service of the Jewish community.

As always, please feel free to share your thoughts and comments with me and all our readers.  We want to hear from you.

– Jay Ruderman

Educating MKs on the Nuances of Diaspora Life

By Faina Kirshenbaum, Knesset member from the Yisrael Beitenu party

As an immigrant to Israel, a woman and a member of the Knesset, I must juggle many sensitivities and responsibilities. I do this with great honor and try to be responsive to competing demands and ideals. Sometimes this means that I have to examine fundamental beliefs.

When I made aliyah in 1973 from the former Soviet Union, I was of the firm opinion that Jews everywhere should come and live in Israel. But over the years I have come to see things differently. This was brought home to me in an even more persuasive way following a week-long visit to the American Jewish community earlier this year as part of the Ruderman Fellows Program for members of the Knesset sponsored by the Ruderman Family Foundation.

Together with five colleagues from across the Israeli political spectrum, we engaged with American Jewish leaders and activists who opened our eyes to American Jewish thinking and priorities. In New York and Boston, Ruderman Fellows met many different streams — Reform, Conservative and so on, and learned about the growing phenomenon of non-traditional approaches to Judaism. This was not easy for me.

I believe that sooner or later we will lose a large part of this community. Therefore it is of the greatest importance that we work hard to embrace these non-traditional families and help them sustain Jewish identification and affiliation to turn as many as possible into Jews.

Along with the tremendous religious diversity, I also found many differences of opinion on Israel among American Jews. I was especially struck by a sense of hostility that we found in the Boston community. At some points I even thought, “What use is a Diaspora that thinks this way about Israel?”

Of course, the very purpose of the Ruderman program was to introduce Israeli legislators to the variety of opinion and activity that characterizes the American Jewish community– to get us to understand what this community is thinking even if that thinking is anathema to our own. But we must establish a shared platform for discourse and exchange because only in dialogue can the Jewish world find the commonality of spirit and commitment to ensure our joint future.

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Announcing: A New Opportunity for Social Entrepreneurs in the Field of Inclusion and Disabilities in the Jewish Community

Dear Friends,

I am pleased to announce a wonderful new opportunity for advancing inclusion in the Jewish community.

The Joshua Venture Group (JVG) is searching for a committed, passionate social entrepreneur who has a groundbreaking idea that will shift the Jewish communal landscape through advancing inclusion and public awareness of people with disabilities.

In partnership with the Ruderman Family Foundation, JVG has opened the application process for the 2012-2014 Ruderman Fellowship.

The 2012-2014 Ruderman Fellow will join JVG’s 2012-2014 Dual Investment Program, in which emerging leaders receive over $100,000 in funding, technical support, and skills development.

The winning person and project will advance inclusion and public awareness of people with disabilities and may include:

·      Innovative use of social media by and for the Jewish disability community.

·      Addressing issues related to employment within the Jewish community.

·      Any issue of importance regarding disabilities in the Jewish community with the exception of Jewish education.

The submission deadline is 1:00 p.m. EST on Friday, July 20. For the application, eligibility rules and criteria, visit www.JoshuaVentureGroup.org/apply.

In all of its work, JVG seeks to reinvigorate and expand the Jewish community by cultivating the leadership and management capability of talented, passionate young Jewish social entrepreneurs, and by investing in their visions and in the growth of healthy, sustainable organizations.

I look forward to keeping you posted on this exciting new partnership initiative between our Foundation and the Joshua Venture Group.

— Jay Ruderman



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Filed under Disabilities rights, Disabilities Trends, Initiatives, Philanthropy trends, Uncategorized

ADL’s Abe Foxman Raises Awareness in Knesset Caucus

The Israel-American Jewish Community Knesset Caucus for strengthening relations with the American Jewish Community convened Monday for a special session with guest speaker Abraham Foxman, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League. Established by MK Ronit Tirosh following her participation in the first Ruderman Fellowship Program in the US, the caucus promotes awareness and engagement among MK’s on issues affecting relations between Israel and the American Jewish Diaspora.

Foxman addressed MK’s on issues of anti-Semitism in America, the Jewish vote and Israel-American Jewish relations. He told participants that “Israel is not an overwhelming concern to the majority of America Jews,” and also explained that American Jews perceive Israeli policy and legislation through the prism of their value system and their liberal and democratic sensibilities.

Urging Israeli legislators to consider beforehand how their remarks and actions will play out abroad, Foxman pointed out that “Jews all over the world identify with Israel, but Israelis do not always see themselves as an integral part of world Jewry.”

 On the upcoming presidential elections, Foxman noted that, contrary to what Israelis may think, Jewish voters are mainly focused on the economy, and not Israel. “Israel is not the central issue of these elections and we shouldn’t make it so,” he added.

Foxman also alluded to the demographic changes in America, and predicted that the Hispanic community would soon be the largest caucus in Congress and would determine, to a great extent, allocations of foreign aid to Israel.

 MK Ronit Tirosh said that the caucus plays an important role in facilitating dialogue between Israeli legislators and American Jewish leaders, and contributes to greater understanding. “At the end of the day we need each other to ensure the future existence of the State of Israel,” she added.

 Jay Ruderman, President of the Ruderman Family Foundation said,” I founded the Ruderman Program because of the disturbing lack of knowledge among Israeli elected officials of the complexities and challenges facing American Jews today. The program raises awareness of the impact that Israeli policy decisions and legislation can have on ties with the Diaspora.”

Vice PM and Minister for Regional Development Silvan Shalom, who also attended the caucus session, remarked that American support for Israel is long-standing and bipartisan. Minister Shalom commended the activities of the ADL and the Ruderman Foundation which contribute to strengthening ties between Israel and the US.

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Overcoming Disability to Parent with Pride: A Father’s Day Tribute

By Guest blogger Avital Sandler-Loeff, Director, Israel Unlimited, JDC Israel

Yesterday was Father’s Day. And, while many parents may commiserate about the hardships of raising young children, most can happily take for granted many of their daily abilities. But for some parents with disabilities, lifting a baby out of a crib, helping a child with homework, or making their teenager feel comfortable with their limitations can be an insurmountable challenge.

In Israel, there are approximately 336,000 parents with disabilities—including physical, sensory, mental, and cognitive disabilities as well as chronic diseases—raising young children.  But with the exception of a few, small, local initiatives, there have historically been no services to help them with their unique issues—until now.

Israel Unlimited—a strategic partnership with JDC, the Ruderman Family Foundation, and the Government of Israel that aims to meet the needs of Israel’s 700,000 adults with disabilities (17.9% of the population)—has developed a special new program tailored for parents with disabilities.

Facilitated by an occupational therapist and an educational counselor, the group includes parents with a wide range of sensory, physical, and mental disabilities; it is the first of it’s kind in Israel. “I learn a great deal from my peers because everyone shares their unique angle and offers perspective and helpful tools,” says Ella, who has been attending the course for the past three months.

While Ella’s sight was degenerating, her self-confidence declined too. She felt deeply embarrassed, depressed, and alone. Joining the group helped her change her outlook, built her self-esteem, and empowered her to address her situation with her family.

“The program gave me the strength to confront my disability, to ask my son, ‘how do you feel about my cane and my limitations?’ for the first time. Today my son isn’t ashamed of me anymore. When his friends come over I can’t see their faces but I can talk with them without making him uncomfortable.”

In addition to dealing with all the daily challenges of raising children, parents with disabilities face additional hardships including lack of support from extended families, isolation, and societal disapproval; difficulty communicating with their children; and lack of physical access to children’s daily lives and activities.

Oren, 37, is a father to one-year-old Michal and knows these issues all too well. Both Oren and his wife have cerebral palsy, so when their daughter was born, his in-laws became deeply involved—and family tensions arose quickly. Oren has a Masters in Economics and works at a medical logistics services company, but convincing his in-laws that he could parent independently was been difficult nonetheless. He came to the course to enrich his parenting know-how and to learn how to address his challenges with the extended family.

“I got the tools I needed to look at my situation in a new way and to find ways to emphasize my abilities rather than my disability,” shares Oren. I learned how to communicate with my wife and in-laws more clearly, to reduce disputes, and conflict in my family. My disability may be visible but I want my daughter to see my unique abilities instead. I want to teach her to be like me: to identify challenges and find solutions, to strive to achieve her goals.”

Israel Unlimited is forming three more groups similar this year, including a special course for parents with cognitive disabilities. “Our society needs to know that people with disabilities are like everyone else,” says Oren. “Despite our physical limitations we have other abilities, and discovering that will not only improve our lives, but also strengthen all of Israel.”

— Avital Sandler-Loeff

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Funders Put Inclusion on the Jewish Agenda: Second Annual ADVANCE Conference December 6 in NYC

By Jay Ruderman

For funders from around the Jewish world who are passionate about the inclusion of all those with disabilities, ADVANCE: The Ruderman Jewish Special Needs Funding Conference is the place to network, share strategies and take next steps.

Last year’s sold-out conference, hosted by the Ruderman Family Foundation in partnership with the Jewish Funders Network, along with Boston’s Combined Jewish Philanthropies, was a clarion call for the growing field of Jewish philanthropies dedicated to full inclusion of those with disabilities in the Jewish community and Jewish future.

At last year’s Conference, more than 100 funders came together – double the number expected – to learn about the programs available, network with other funders to find opportunities for shared action and be inspired to make even greater impact on this long-underserved segment of our people.

At the second annual Conference on December 6 at the Baruch College Conference Center, the sponsors, which now include the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), will build on last year’s success with an all-new menu of inspiring presentations, interactive workshops and networking sessions.

Whether you’ve been funding in the field for decades and want to take your impact to the next level, or you’re just beginning to think about how to integrate people with disabilities into your funding vision, the ADVANCE conference will help you gain the knowledge and contacts you need.

Stay tuned to https://zehlezeh.wordpress.com/ or http://www.rudermanfoundation.org in the coming weeks for a complete list of presenters and workshops.

ADVANCE is open to funders (and their full-time professionals) who give a minimum of $25,000 annually, or $10,000 to disability-related programming.

Registration has now opened.  For more information, contact David Ezer at conference@jfunders.org.

— Jay Ruderman


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Fighting to Include the Disabled in New York City

The Jewish Week has a terrific article by Jeffrey Yablonka about the challenges facing disabled members of the Jewish community in New York. The piece looks at the difficulties in observant Jewish communities, and goes into some detail on the gradual, fundamental shift in Jewish attitudes towards disabilities, from the time of the Torah to today.

Yablonka details the experience of several people either living with or caring for someone with disabilities, including Sharon Shapiro-Lacks. Shapiro-Lacks is the founder and director of Yad HaChazakah, the first Orthodox Jewish organization to be operated by Jews with disabilities. Like Yoav Kraiem, she wants neither pity nor charity; rather it is inclusion and involvement that she and her organization are fighting for.

It is not an easy fight; while progress is slowly being made, many institutions are resistant or even hostile to the cause of disabilities advocacy.

            Jodi Samuels became a cause célèbre last year when a prominent Orthodox day school in Manhattan refused to consider admitting her Down syndrome daughter Caily — even denying her an interview, despite the fact that Samuels had two other children enrolled in the school. When she went public with her story, Samuels says a board member of the school threatened her. Her community ostracized her, she says, with many withdrawing funding for the nonprofit she founded.

The experience Jodi Samuels and others with children with disabilities still have in the observant Jewish community in New York City inspired Rabbi Laurie Katz Braun. She has launched a new initiative called Let My People In, with the goal of emulating Boston’s Day School Initiative, a $45 million partnership which enables children with disabilities to attend Jewish day schools, of which the Ruderman Family Foundation is proud to be a part.

The piece is an excellent summary of the progress that Jewish disabilities advocacy has made at changing attitudes and actions within the community. It also illustrates how much remains to be done, in New York and elsewhere.

We wish Let My People In the best of luck.

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