Your Daily Phil: Daniella Mechnikov, the communications pro who runs a food pantry + Chabad in Atlanta hosts wellness summit

 Good Friday morning!

The Chabad-Lubavitch movement’s mental health organization, the Wellness Institute, will hold its first in-person summit on Aug. 11, Rabbi Zalman Abraham, the institute’s director, told eJewishPhilanthropy.

Jeff’s Place, an addiction recovery center in Atlanta that’s supported by the Clinton Foundation, will host the summit, which Abraham described as non-denominational, but spiritual.

The Blue Dove Foundation, whose mission is to destigmatize mental illness in the Jewish community; the Berman Center, a treatment facility in Atlanta and the local Jewish Family & Career Services are partners in the event. Patrick Kennedy, a former congressman who is a mental health advocate; Allan Berger, an addiction expert; and Rona Novick, dean of the Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education, are among the speakers.

The summit will be in-person only, as Rabbi Eliyahu Shusterman,founder of Jeff’s Place and the spiritual leader of Chabad Intown Atlanta, felt people were “Zoomed out,” Abraham said. The goal is to attract about 100 people, although more might attend because they will be in town for the National Jewish Retreat, an annual educational event sponsored by the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute, which housed the Wellness Institute until it became independent.

The event is open only to people who have been vaccinated against or recently recovered from COVID-19, but Abraham didn’t know if Jeff’s Place would require proof of vaccination.

UNLIKELY STORY

How Daniella Mechnikov went from doing communications for a food pantry to running it

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Daniella Mechnikov was a communications professional who longed to add meaning to her work by adding mission-driven nonprofits to her client list when she was hired as a consultant for Yad Ezra, a kosher food pantry in Berkley, Mich., a suburb of Detroit. Then the pandemic struck, and she volunteered to create the organization’s food delivery system — which led to her eventually becoming executive director, Mechnikov told eJewishPhilanthropy’s Helen Chernikoff.

Better than expected: “I thought I would be helping with events, editing some stuff online, helping with messaging,” she said. “But they needed someone to do another role, and my work was quiet. I became very enmeshed.” Founded in 1990 when the local Jewish community realized that Jews in their midst included people living in poverty and relying on government programs like food stamps, Yad Ezra offers only kosher products, Mechnikov said. The organization has a staff of six and a list of 400 volunteers, and provides about 2,500 individuals every month with food. It also offers kosher school lunch programs and financial assistance for life-cycle events. It has a farm on the grounds of a Catholic church that donated the land; volunteers run the farm and its produce goes to Yad Ezra clients.

Sacrificing choice: The role Mechnikov was called to fill was a necessity born of the pandemic. Yad Ezra had been known as a “client choice” food pantry, in which those who needed food assistance visited a warehouse, picked out their groceries and took them home. “It’s the most respectful way to do it,” Mechnikov said. “That was such a big part of our identity.” The pandemic made it unsafe to gather in the warehouse, which meant Yad Ezra was forced to sacrifice the choice model for one in which staff packed boxes of food, identical but for the amounts, which were determined by the size of the recipient family. Volunteers delivered the packages, and Mechnikov was tasked with organizing the delivery operation, a complicated job that involved using spreadsheets to match hundreds of drivers with more than a thousand clients.

New experience: “The skill set that was required had very little to do with my recent use of my brain,” she said. “But we all connected as a team and it saved me, to have a purpose like that.” Mechnikov grew up in the Detroit area. She attended the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor, and as a young adult worked in Boston, where she met her husband. They returned to her childhood home to be near family while raising their own kids. Originally a Yiddish instructor at the University of Michigan and Brandeis University, she became a supplementary school administrator at various synagogues in the Detroit suburbs and then, 12 years ago, started a marketing company. She served a diverse clientele, including many local lawyers, whom she helped with websites, promotional materials, billboards and television advertising.

Read the full story here.

FUTURE FOCUSED

Investing for impact

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“When I had my Bar Mitzvah, I was lucky to have friends and family who gave me many gifts; there were books, Judaica, paints, and of course, the one that everyone wants, cold hard cash (or checks). I must have raked in around $5,000, which was a lot of money. I put it in my bank account, and no one said anything. But there it sat, like a hole in my pocket. I invested a large portion of it in an experience that I would never forget, and the rest I invested in purchasing candy – an investment I am still paying off the losses for with dental bills.” writes Rabbi Alon Meltzer of Or Chadash Synagogue in Sydney, Australia, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

New initiative launched: “A few months ago, I was sharing this anecdote with colleagues. Most people had similar situations and feelings, and what ensued was a brainstorming session around how we could take this issue and develop a comprehensive program to engage post Bar and Bat Mitzvah kids. Fast forward three months, and we have just launched The Nadav Project.”

The Nadav Project: “The Nadav Project is an intergenerational learning program set over five workshops, that sets out to redefine the role of money in society through a Jewish perspective and create a culture of sustainable and impactful giving. Teens and their parents will learn about the financial institutions and tools to create impactful and sustainable portfolios, while also deeply advancing their Jewish knowledge.”

Read the full piece here.

CLIMBING THE MOUNTAIN

Supporting novice educators through induction

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“CASJE’s latest research paper, ‘Preparing for Entry: Fresh Perspectives on How and Why People Become Jewish Educators’ uses the image of a funnel to describe how candidates enter the field of Jewish education. As someone who leads a program that supports novice educators in Jewish day schools, I would like to suggest that the metaphor of a mountain is more apt. People don’t enter the field through a gravitational force that pulls them in unless they actively step out. We need to provide prospective Jewish educators with evidence-based support structures – ‘enabling experiences’ – that allow the prospects to successfully scale the mountain of knowledge and skills that are needed to thrive in Jewish education careers and effectively serve their learners,” writes Nina Bruder, executive director of the Jewish New Teacher Project of New Teacher Center, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Induction: “New teacher induction draws upon research in the fields of adult learning and professional learning. It is job-embedded. It leverages the expertise of more experienced educators to support novice educators. It is based on a set of teaching standards and best practices that have clear indicators of practice and growth. It involves goal setting along a continuum of practice. It employs a coaching model that solicits reflection rather than instruction. It utilizes an iterative inquiry cycle of idea-implementation-reflection. It focuses more on pedagogy than on subject matter so it is equally effective in Judaic subjects and secular subjects, across all grades, and across all religious denominations.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Ideal Number: Society’s passion for metrics and measurements is increasingly infiltrating philanthropy, with the result that acts of charity are being treated like widgets to the detriment of the enterprise, suggests Jack Fowler in Philanthropy Daily. Not everything can be measured, he notes, and sometimes what is measurable is not valuable — but making that judgement is difficult when numbers are assumed to be the ultimate evaluation tool. “While we are bound to live in an age of measurement, we live in an age of mismeasurement, over-measurement, misleading measurement, and counterproductive measurement,” Fowler writes. [PhilanthropyDaily]

New Rules: Writing in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Lorri L. Jean, the CEO of the Los Angeles LGBT Center, reveals the thought process behind her organization’s decision to require its nearly 800 employees to get the COVID-19 vaccination and to say goodbye to nine who resigned rather than get inoculated. While some who didn’t want to vaccinate worked from home, Jean and her colleagues didn’t feel it would be fair to force front-line workers to vaccinate and let others refuse; they also felt any refusals could jeopardize client safety. “In short, public health overrides many of those concerns, particularly since some of our clients, due to lack of access or social and economic barriers to health care, may not be vaccinated. If our own staff is unvaccinated, we expose our clients to unnecessary risk — a risk we simply cannot take. [ChroniclePhilanthropy]

Prodigal Philanthropist: Donna Stoering, the piano prodigy and philanthropist who founded the music-focused nonprofit Listen for Life, has launched a project that creates world-class musical programs for hospital use, reports Heather Graham in a Daily Utah Chronicle profile of Stoering, who recently moved to Salt Lake City. Founded in 1998, Listen for Life is a volunteer organization that supports various international music projects, such as Travels With Music, an archive of video whose aim is to preserve traditions that struggle to compete with global pop culture. “There’s a soundtrack to everything,” Stoering said. “And music is so much more than a soundtrack. It’s a healing tool. It’s communication. That’s the thing I try to get across to people.” [DailyUtahChronicle]

Community Comms

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Word on the Street

President Joe Biden has selected Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt to be his antisemitism envoy… The Equality Can’t Wait Challenge, an effort launched in 2020 with support from Pivotal Ventures, MacKenzie Scott and Dan Jewett and the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies, announced grants totaling $40 million in support of projects dedicated to advancing women’s power and influence in the United States by 2030… Hartford Seminary has been awarded a five-year, $5.3 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to fund research into how congregations are changing, innovating, and establishing new ministry practices as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic… Taiwan’s Jewish community announced the expected December opening of an extensive center to serve both tourists and locals… Rebecca Randall has been appointed managing director of philanthropy at San Francisco’s Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund… The U.K.’s United Synagogue can expect to see a modest fall in attendance at in-person services post-pandemic, according to a landmark survey that also shows nearly a third feel more connected to their communities now than before the pandemic…

Pic of the Day

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Cyclists with Team Israel Start-Up Nation posing on the Champs-Élysées

Birthdays

Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images

CEO of the National Council of Jewish Women, Sheila Katz celebrates Sunday… 
 
Friday: Commissioner emeritus of Major League Baseball, Allan Huber “Bud” Selig… Retired attorney from the firm of Hatton, Petrie & Stackler in Aliso Viejo, CA, Ronald E. Stackler… Long-time owner and editor-in-chief of The New Republic, he was chairman of the Jerusalem Foundation for 12 years, Martin H. “Marty” Peretz… Film director, writer, actor, producer, critic and historian, Peter Bogdanovich… The first female justice on the Nebraska Supreme Court (1998-present), as a teen she won two gold medals and a silver medal as a swimmer at the Maccabiah Games in Israel, Justice Lindsey Miller-Lerman… Actor, director and producer, Ken Olin… Businessman known as the “King of Diamonds,” Lev Leviev… Former Mayor of Arad and then a member of the Knesset for the Kulanu and Likud parties, Tali Ploskov… President of C&M Transcontinental, he served as COO for the Trump campaign in 2020, Michael Glassner… Emmy Award winning actress, comedian and producer, Lisa Kudrow… Best-selling non-fiction author and co-creator of the HBO series “Vinyl,” Rich Cohen… District director for House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold L. Nadler (D-NY10), Robert Gottheim… Motivational speaker, author and entrepreneur, he served as a law clerk in 2008 for Justices O’Connor and Ginsburg, the only blind person to clerk for the U.S. Supreme Court, Isaac Lidsky… SVP and head of programming at CNN, Rebecca M. Kutler… Assistant director of media relations and public outreach at UCLA Arts, Avishay Artsy… President and founder of Dallas-based ECA Strategies, Eric Chaim Axel… Clinical therapist after five years as a division director at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh, Lewis Sohinki… Author of “Jerusalem Drawn and Quartered: One Woman’s Year in the Heart of the Christian, Muslim, Armenian, and Jewish Quarters of Old Jerusalem,” Sarah Tuttle-Singer… Former director of policy and public affairs for the Jewish Community of Denmark, Jonas Herzberg Karpantschof… Head of new media at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel, Tamar Schwarzbard… Research analyst at WPA Intelligence, Joshua Weintraub… Winner of the Miss Israel pageant in 2014, Mor Maman

SATURDAY: Investment banker and chairman of Blum Capital, he is married to U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, Richard C. Blum… Actress who went on to become CEO of Paramount Pictures and president of production at 20th Century Fox, Sherry Lansing… Nobel laureate in Economics in 1997, known for his quantitative analysis of options pricing, long-time professor at both Harvard and MIT, Robert C. Merton… Scholar, professor, rabbi, writer and filmmaker, who specializes in the study of the Holocaust, Michael Berenbaum… Founder of Apollo Global Management, in 2015 he bought a 16th century copy of the Babylonian Talmud for $9.3 million, Leon David Black… Author of 35 best-selling mystery novels, Faye Kellerman… Software entrepreneur, he is president of Ameinu and serves on the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency, Kenneth Bob… Manhattan-based criminal defense and civil rights lawyer, radio talk show host and television commentator, Ronald L. Kuby… Owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, he has been a “shark” investor on the ABC reality program Shark Tank since 2011, Mark Cuban… CEO at Leenie Productions, she served for 5 months in 2018 as a member of the Illinois House of Representatives, Helene Miller-Walsh… Israeli libertarian politician and activist, Moshe Zalman Feiglin… Professor at USC, UC Berkeley and Pepperdine, Dan Schnur… Born in Nazareth, Israel, investor and owner of the Detroit Pistons, Tom Gores… President at Ellicott City, Maryland’s Old Town Construction LLC, Jared Spahn… Manager of MLB’s San Francisco Giants, he was an MLB outfielder and the first player known as the “Hebrew Hammer,” Gabe Kapler… Founder and creative director at Wide Eye Creative, Ben Ostrower… Political activist and the founder and president of Stand Up America, Sean Simcha Eldridge… Manager of global policy communications at WhatsApp, Danielle Meister… Sales development representative at Ayyeka Technologies, Aryeh Samet Canter… 

Sunday: Culver City, California resident, Allene Prince… Former CEO of Cendant Corporation, now CEO of 54 Madison Partners, Henry Silverman… Israeli film director and screenwriter, winner of the Israel Prize and professor emeritus at Tel Aviv University, Ram Loevy… Founder and chairman of NYC-based Midtown Equities, Joseph Cayre… Former president of Brandeis University, now president of the Cleveland-based Mandel Foundation, Jehuda Reinharz… British businessman, he has been described as “the father of British venture capital,” Sir Ronald Mourad Cohen… Israeli born businessman and film producer, later CEO of Marvel Studios, Avi Arad… Second generation owner of a Los Angeles flooring business, Eric Kalman Biren… President of Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Rhoda Smolow… Media analyst at Fox News, Howard Kurtz.. Director of New York government relations at Agudath Israel of America, Yeruchim Silber… US career diplomat now serving as Ambassador to Columbia, Philip Seth Goldberg… CEO of Atlanta’s Jewish Family & Career Services, Terri E. Bonoff… Professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Rachel Yehuda, Ph.D…. Policy director in the DC office of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, Andrew “Drew” Littman… Retired senior Rabbi of the British movement for Reform Judaism, Laura Naomi Janner-Klausner… Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel during the Obama administration, Daniel B. “Dan” Shapiro… Producer for CBS’s 60 Minutes since 2007, Shachar Bar-On… Professor of mathematics at Princeton and Hebrew U, Elon Lindenstrauss… CEO of NYC’s Quantum Media Group, Ari Zoldan… Founder and CEO of Moishe House, David Cygielman… Chief communications officer at The Center for Strategic and International Studies, H. Andrew Schwartz… Chief operating officer at Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, Noam Gilboord… VP of public relations at Burford Capital, David Helfenbein… Board certified family physician, Mor Toledano Shapiro, M.D…. Analyst in the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, Yael Rabin… 2019 graduate of Harvard Law School, Asher Perez                         

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