Alexa, Buy Whole Foods and Give me a Philanthropy Strategy

Perhaps timed to coincide with Amazon’s announced purchase of Whole Foods, or POTUS Trump’s trip to Miami to discuss Cuba, Jeff Bezos, CEO, tweeted that he is soliciting ideas for charitable projects. Some media reporterd that Bezos, one of the world’s wealthiest business leaders, hasn’t publicly donated large amounts to charities. I mean, he and his family ONLY gave $102 million in the past decade. Now, he announced that he is interested in giving funds to directly help people in immediate despair.

“I’m thinking about a philanthropy strategy that is the opposite of how I mostly spend my time — working on the long-term,” Mr. Bezos wrote. “For my philanthropy, I find I’m drawn to the other end of the spectrum: the right now.” He especially likes “Mary’s Place,” a homeless shelter in Seattle. If you have an idea, please, please contact him ASAP. And if you think that focusing on immediate needs and not long term systemic issues, then let him know also. Maybe he needs a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Call it the Anatevka Fund.

According to Forbes, Mr. Bezos’s net worth is greater than $82 billion. Giving $102 million since 2009 is like someone with a net worth of $100,000 giving $125 to charity over eight years.


You know who doesn’t need your charity advice? Gal Gadot, star of Wonder Woman, who is saving a film studio, theaters, and Brand Israel. She and her fictional Amazonians all speak with an Israeli-esque accent and she kicks ass in the name of freedom and justice. One film in three weeks has done more than an Israeli ministry in years. Please see below as she kicks butt with pale American, Conan O’Brien


Speaking of kicking butt, did you watch last Sunday’s Tony Awards from Manhattan’s Radio City. A Camp Ramah alumnus kicked butt and made audiences swoon. Ben Platt (of the Van Platt’s family) has performed since age six. At Camp Ramah he starred in Guys and Dolls. He received the Tony Award for Leading Actor in a Musical for his role in “Dear Evan Hansen.”

Another winner on Sunday was director Rebecca Taichman for INDECENT. It will close in a few more performances. INDECENT by Paula Vogel was inspired by the controversial 1923 Broadway debut of Sholem Asch’s God of Vengeance, which was closed down by the police after its first performance (after the internetion by Temple Emanu-El’s rabbi who was embarassed by the charactre of a Jewish brother owner).


INDECENT… a lost world of Yiddish speakers. Speaking of lost worlds, CNN INTERNATIONAL profiles The old Jewish school in Calcutta, India which is being preserved by the Muslim community in Kolkata. The swelling ranks of Muslim girls in the Jewish school offer a glimpse into the deep ties between Kolkata’s Muslim and once-thriving Jewish community. More than 1,200 of the nearly 1,400 students are Muslims, as is the school’s vice principal and half the faculty.


Speaking of raising Jewish children and creating Jewish families, Manhattan’s B’Nai Jeshurun congregation announced that its clergy will officiate at intermarriage ceremonies and welcome families in which one of the spouses is not identified as Jewish. Their video on their initiatives, focus, and policies is below:


Speaking of ceremonies, Heathrow Airport in London reported that El Al airlines is the noisiest and dirtiest of 24 carriers studied. Almost half of the airlines were found to have a poor rating in at least one category measured, but El Al was rated poorly in five out of seven areas. The next worst airlines were Oman Air, Pakistan International Airlines, Middle East Airlines and Kuwait Airways. The cleanest was BRITISH AIRWAYS. Surprise. (and Air Lingus)


Our prayers are with Otto Warmbier, and his family in Ohio; he remains in a coma and has been released from a North Korean prison. The University of Virginia undergraduate is a Birthright Israel alumnus and was active in his campus Hillel. He was detained over a year ago by the brutal regime of North Korea on a trip, accused of taking a sign containing North Korean propaganda. He was supposed to graduate from U Va last month and was headed to Manhattan for a job in financial services.

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  • Since we mentioned Jeff Bezos’ tweet seeking philanthropy ideas, it has generated over 42,000 replies. Including one from Madonna. Nearly all were lazy, with just comments, and some were snarky. A fetish museum in Chicago asked for money. He really needs specific proposals.

  • Sadly, Otto Warmbier succumbed to his brain injuries after being released from North Korea’s gulag of torture and prison. Over 2,500 attended his funeral in Ohio, including U.S. Ambassador Joseph Yun (may he be blessed for the mitzvah of helping to release a hostage). It was held at high high from, from which he graduated as the 2013 salutatorian. A rabbi conducted the service. RRC graduate and University of Virginia Hillel Director Rabbi Jake Rubin, who had led Otto on his Birthright Israel trip, said in his eulogy that Otto was one of the most intellectually curious young men he ever met.

  • Rabbi Abigail Treu writing in New York Jewish Week on the topic of Conservative movement rabbis officiating at an intermarriage asks

    whether it matters what rabbis think anymore, outside of the Orthodox communities.

    “It turns out that in 2017, very few Jews care what rabbis say. Just look at The New York Times’ wedding announcements, and count the number of weddings performed by friends rather than clergy. Or ask around to find out how many people ask a rabbi when they have a question of Jewish law, and how many more turn to Rav Google. The question then is not “What should rabbis do? Officiate at interfaith weddings or not?” The question is: “What does it mean to be a rabbi at all?” And its corollary: “How can rabbis create connection and community for what I call “Jews and those who love us”?