Earlier this week, in celebration of Israel’s 70th anniversary of statehood, Andrés Spokoiny, the former head of Federation CJA in Montreal, now the president and CEO of the Jewish Funders Network, delivered powerful, inspiring remarks to a group of some 600 philanthropists of the Jewish world.
In his remarks he relied upon historic and cultural themes that have shaped the Jewish soul and psyche through the millennia. His key message was that Jewish history teaches that Jews do not accept the status quo. Spokoiny points to biblical figures such as Abraham and Moses and to modern individuals such as Einsten and Ben-Gurion to prove his point. Jews are here to change the world. “We do philanthropy,” Spokoiny tells his audience, “because we believe that we can change people’s lives and the world.”
Spokoiny is quite categorical in pleading with the men and women who have the financial means to make a difference for the better – to change the world around them – to believe that indeed they can. Moreover, he provides a formula for doing so, for tackling the difficult, seemingly intractable problems. “Diversity, curiosity, collaboration, patience, and vision – that’s how Jewish funders can rewrite fate and change the world.” (He develops these criteria fully in his remarks.)
GAJE offers Spokoiny’s presentation to emphasize their importance and their relevance to the problem of the unaffordability of Jewish education. Making Jewish education affordable to all middle-income families is indeed a complex problem. But it is not intractable. There are solutions that include reimagining the cost of providing Jewish education along with the funding of that education. Those solutions however, require the whole-hearted, enthusiastic involvement of the generous philanthropists of our community.
We must follow the example of our biblical and even more recent forebears, refusing to shrug our shoulders in apathy or succumb to the anti-Judaic notion that we are helpless to find an answer.
Spokoiny is very confident that “people can alter what appears to be an inescapable destiny through philanthropy.” We appeal to the philanthropists in our midst to follow his charge.