Kenissa Konnections


April 2021

Message from Rabbi Sid

Last month I provided a link to an article that appeared in JTA featuring the work of Kenissa, authored by Gary Rosenblatt. Subsequent to its publication, one of our Kenissa members, Kohenet Keshira haLev Fife, published a letter to the editor that appeared in the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle. It raises a critical issue that faces so many Kenissa organizations: how shall we position ourselves vis a vis the mainstream Jewish community? Keshira points out, rightly in my view, that notwithstanding the flattering coverage of Kenissa in the article, the headline of the article undermined the very mission of Kenissa. I not only want to give a shout-out to Keshira here, but we are also reprinting her Letter to the Editor. Tell us what you think about the point Keshira makes here.

Headline misrepresents intention of innovative groups
This letter is in response to “Don’t call them ‘fringe’: Innovative groups seek respect from the mainstream” (online, Feb. 19, 2021). While the article itself did a wonderful job lifting up the work of Sid Schwarz and Kenissa, it seems to me that the headline of this article is not only inaccurate, it also undermines the article itself. The article primarily focuses on Kenissa, demonstrating that its network of 400-plus “fringe” organizations is having a significant impact on many parts of the Jewish community across the country.

As a member of the Kenissa network, I can attest that there are some on the fringe who are working toward strengthening relationships, or collaborations, with legacy institutions. However, there are also plenty who recognize that being on the fringe sometimes requires a willingness to lead without the respect or validation from those in the seat of power. In fact, some would even say that until the legacy institutions are willing to forgo the paternalism that holds old structures in place, it’s almost guaranteed that any tight association will suffocate any effort of fringe organizations to be innovative.

The recent announcement of the Jewish Community Response and Impact grant fund invites innovative ideas which can transform the future of Judaism — it explicitly invites proposals to support new and innovative projects. At the same time, legacy institution leaders are asking those of us on the fringe for insights and ideas of what might be next.

Nowhere in the article do I see organizations on the fringe seeking the respect of the mainstream; to the contrary, I see an argument for why legacy institutions might look to innovative groups and individuals for inspiration and vision. The headline as written inverts the intention of the movement and plays into old power structures that are precisely what many fringe groups have been founded in response to. A more apt headline would have been “Don’t call them ‘fringe’: The mainstream seeks inspiration from innovative groups.”

Kohenet Keshira haLev Fife
Kesher Pittsburgh


Build and Raise

Ephraim Gopin

Plan. It’s a 4-letter word which many nonprofits fear. Who has time to think about tomorrow when we’re dealing with 1,001 things today? Word to the wise: That’s the mindset that prevents you from growing. Which means less revenue rolling in. Which means servicing fewer people in your community.

You should be thinking about tomorrow today. Consider your long-term vision and then build a strategy to meet the goals you’ve jotted down.The overall goal? Not survival. Thrival. (And yes, it’s a word I made up.) Having a thrive attitude means that when the next rainy day comes, you’re fully prepared to meet the challenge.

Part of your strategy includes planning how you’ll fundraise over the next 3-5 years. Understanding fundraising principles and knowing your donors are critical to success. That includes:

I am well aware of the day-to-day grind and the difficulties that you face just keeping up with today’s tasks. But before you know it, it’s December 2021 and you haven’t met your yearly goals. And 2022 is right around the corner…

Craft a strategy. Plan ahead. You and your organization will be better off for it.

P.S. Two bonus links that will interest you:

1) Listen/watch as the author of the book Robots Make Bad Fundraisers discusses how to boost your donor retention rate; turn first time donors into recurring donors; two “weird” groups of people you should be fundraising from; and what donors want to know when you communicate with them.

2) Storytelling is central to fundraising. I encourage you to take two minutes and watch the creators of South Park explain the ‘but’ and ‘therefore’ rule of storytelling.

Ephraim Gopin is the founder of 1832 Communications, an agency which helps nonprofits build relationships and raise more money by connecting their fundraising and marketing strategies. You can subscribe to Ephraim’s free daily enewsletter which includes relevant content for any NPO role you fill.


Braver Leadership

Arinne Braverman

According to the Society for Human Resources Management, employee quit rates reached their lowest level in 9 years in 2020. Unfortunately, rather than reflecting an increase in job satisfaction, this was indicative of employees staying put to ride out the uncertainty of a global pandemic. Increased workloads, blurring of work-life boundaries, Zoom fatigue, and greater social isolation due to working at home are among the many factors that subsequently contributed to increasingemployee burnout. As we emerge from the pandemic, and the fear of economic insecurity decreases, organizations should anticipate an increase in employee turnover.

Burnout is routinely identified as a major reason that employees leave jobs. While the usual burnout prevention recommendations (i.e. meditation, yoga, therapy, etc.) are focused on aiding an individual employee, leaders need to recognize that burnout is not an “individual” problem when it impacts a majority of employees. In a study conducted by Limeade of companies with 500 or more employees, a shocking 72% reported feeling burnt out in August of 2020. A HubOne survey of 88 non-profit organizations in Michigan similarly reported staff stress levels at nearly 7 out of 10.

If you heard of an employee benefit that was being described by employees as “the best benefit I’d ever had,” a benefit that would increase employees’ mental and physical health, and cost your organization nothing to implement, would you be interested in learning more? What if research confirmed that the practice reduces burnout, increases well-being and creativity, and leads to happier and more productive workers?

For a win-win analysis of the merits of giving your team a day off once every other Friday, check out this Fast Company article by Jake Goldwasser.

Far better than an email reminding overextended employees about using their banked Paid Time Off, consider implementing an alternating 4-day work week to normalize a healthier environment within your organization.

As a leader, you can proactively implement policies now to help strengthen employee resilience, and hopefully employee retention.

Arinne Braverman is a Kenissa Network member, Jewish Organizing Initiative alumna, and currently serves as the Executive Director of Returning the Sparks and President of From Strength to Strength.


March 2021

Click here to download the March 2021 Kenissa Konnections.

Message from Rabbi Sid

It feels like a time of great promise. Living in the Washington D.C. area, there is a sense that there are now people of experience and competence taking charge of the levers of government. Attendant to that, the commitment to use all available resources to beat the Covid pandemic has everyone hopeful that, by the summer time, our society can begin returning to normal. And, of course, in the Jewish calendar, we are approaching Pesach, the festival celebrating our redemption from slavery. May it be a metaphor for a larger redemption that our world desperately needs.

There are some exciting developments in our Kenissa world as well. A couple of weeks ago, JTA ran a feature storyabout Kenissa by Gary Rosenblatt, the editor emeritus of the New York Jewish Week and the dean of Jewish journalism. Gary joined us for our fifth Kenissa National Consultation last March at Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center in CT. We met right on the eve of the pandemic, with over 70 people in attendance (and no cancellations!). As we had done the previous year, we had a small delegation of senior professionals from major Jewish Federations around the country. Their presence was part of our strategy to give more visibility to the creativity of so many of the organizations that we have brought together under the Kenissa umbrella. The JTA story gave our effort wonderful visibility and also helped us advance this important agenda.

One of the organizations highlighted in the story was TischPDX of Portland, OR. Started and still led by Eleyna Fugman, who joined us for a Kenissa National Consultation in 2019, TischPDX was just selected by Slingshot as one of “10 organizations to watch” in 2021. This is a huge honor and is the result of the old “inspiration/perspiration” success formula. You need a solid concept that meets a need and then you need to work your tail off to make it happen. Sound familiar? We send our congratulations to Eleyna. And like my grandmother used to say: “soon by you”.

Finally, we want to invite you to participate in a new offering that you may find interesting and of value. For the last few years, every Kenissa gathering offered the chance to be part of a Peer Consulting Protocol. Used extensively in many leadership settings, it allows you to get some valuable advice for your organization without incurring the significant costs of hiring a professional consultant. Peer consulting is based on a solid design and the theory of crowdsourcing—there is significant wisdom in the group itself if properly tapped.

For the last four months, Kenissa hosted follow up webinars with one of our two columnists, Arinne Braverman or Ephraim Gopin. Starting this month, specifically, Wednesday, March 17th at 1pm (Eastern), Arinne and Ephraim will join me in facilitating a peer consulting session for members of the Kenissa Network. Anyone getting this newsletter is welcomed to join the Zoom call. If you do, you will be in the role of advisor/consultant. We will feature two case presentations by members of the Kenissa Network. If you would like to be the recipient of some guidance, both from a peer group as well as from a 3-person Kenissa team of experts, send me the situation that you would like to workshop (rabbisid@hazon.org). I will work with presenters on their presentation. The details and link for the March 17th peer consulting are in the shaded box in the newsletter. I hope you will choose to join us.

Rabbi Sid


Build and Raise

Ephraim Gopin

How are you incorporating email into your fundraising, marketing and storytelling mix?

Like me, your Inboxes are probably overflowing. Many organizations, in place of in-person meetings, have used email to solicit, solicit, solicit. But the fact is that email should be used for a lot more than just asking for a donation.

What’s important to understand is that when someone subscribes to your emails and eNewsletter, it’s a very big deal. They’re saying that they want to create a relationship with you. They want to learn more about your organization, be educated about your mission and potentially become a partner in helping you solve a problem in the community.

However, if you treat subscribers like a cash cow, if all you’re doing is asking them to ‘buy your product’ like you were an eCommerce company, your efforts will fail. Email is a two-way street and you need to provide in order to get. Sending impact updates, educational pieces, emotional stories which connect the subscriber to your service recipients- that’s how you build a relationship.

The average donor retention rate is an abysmal 40-45%. Inviting people to subscribe to your emails and then utilizing the platform correctly and smartly will have great benefits for your organization. And yes, when the time is right, subscribers who feel connected will step up and donate.

P.S. Looking to get started with your email marketing and fundraising? That begins with encouraging people to sign up via your website. Click here to learn how to successfully onboard people and grow your list.

Wishing you and your family a happy- and YUMMY- Passover!

Ephraim Gopin is the founder of 1832 Communications, an agency which helps nonprofits build relationships and raise more money by connecting their fundraising and marketing strategies. You can subscribe to Ephraim’s free daily enewsletter which includes relevant content for any NPO role you fill.


Braver Leadership

Arinne Braverman

In this KelloggInsight article, Carter Cast advises against getting “stuck” in our career by encouraging us to continue to invest in professional development. He recommends “testing your provisional self” with suggestions for self-reflection through journaling to identify motives, interests, and blind spots. Once one’s direction is clear, he encourages testing out new roles in low-risk and low-cost ways, like volunteering or serving on a task force.

One additional low-cost option not addressed in the article is virtual or in-person job shadowing. Job shadowing often is well-utilized by students and recent graduates at the beginning of their careers, but woefully under-appreciated as a professional development opportunity. Just as an organization would invest in proper preparation to recruit the best talent, those looking to use this tool for professional development should create a schedule to maximize the experience.

You can anticipate needing time “off” to respond to emails or to take closed-door meetings. After some initial shadowing, you can plan a few projects to give your shadow to work “on” during such times. For instance, a Development Director or Executive Director might invite her shadow to write a major donor thank you letter, using a sample she provides, based on a recent program or experience the shadow has personal knowledge of.

Be sure to leave time for a virtual lunch and coffee break to process observations and projects, and consider arranging for a colleague from another nonprofit, operating in a similar role, to join you. If your job regularly requires less-glamorous-but-essential tasks (like data entry for program tracking, donor tracking, expense reports), you can incorporate a taste of the software by sharing your screen as you make updates. If significant travel is required for your job, share how often and some advice on how to make the best use of the commute.

Employees who invest time in hosting a shadow observer stand to benefit as well. A shadow’s questions and feedback may lead to fresh thinking and identifying opportunities for improving inefficiencies. You can encourage such exchanges by asking a shadow what approach they might anticipate taking before you share standard operating procedure and the rationale behind a given existing process.

Done right, providing job shadowing opportunities for staff can help improve productivity by increasing communication and collaboration among employees. It might even aid with employee retention–providing opportunities for growth within your organization.

Arinne Braverman is a Kenissa Network member, Jewish Organizing Initiative alumna, and currently serves as the Executive Director of Returning the Sparks and President of From Strength to Strength.


February 2021

Click here to download the February 2021 Kenissa Konnections

Rabbi Sid Message

Upstart, one of Kenissa’s five organizational partners, recently announced the creation of four Change Accelerator cohorts.

The Reimagining Institutions cohort will focus on redefining the purpose of Jewish institutions in a post-COVID world and weaving innovation into the framework of institutional operations.

The Deepening Connections and Thriving Communities cohorts will focus on exploring new ways to meet constituents’ needs, deepen relationships across their communities, and create more inclusive institutions.

The Power in Partners cohort will focus on fostering meaningful partnerships among stakeholders and creating a coalition of leaders who share a commitment to community success.

A total of 52 Jewish communal professionals were accepted into these four cohorts and that included several Kenissa Network members and over a dozen organizations that were represented at a Kenissa Consultation by someone else on staff. This Upstart initiative builds upon and deepens the work of Kenissa in equipping Jewish pros to reimagine the Jewish community. We are thrilled to see this initiative launched. Aliza Mazor, a senior member of the Upstart staff and a member of Kenissa’s Steering Committee, is confident that there will be another round of the Upstart Change Accelerator in the near future. When it is announced, we will feature it in this newsletter.


February 2021

Build and Raise

Ephraim Gopin

Americans watch 84 minutes of video per day. That does NOT include Netflix, streaming or cable TV. Let me repeat that stat: Americans watch 1 hour, 24 minutes of video DAILY. Whether it’s via Instagram Stories, their Facebook or Twitter feed or they fell down a YouTube rabbit hole, people are watching endless amounts of videos.

The implications for your charity? You had better be recording and posting videos in order to engage your online audience. They’re looking for it- give ‘em what they want!

There are plenty of different types of videos you could be sharing: Testimonials, introducing staff and volunteers, highlighting impact stories about service recipients, a “behind the scenes” look at how your organization operates. Obviously, professionally made promo videos highlighting your mission, work and impact should be shared. But those videos probably weren’t shot in one take. Have B-roll? Have funny bloopers and outtakes? Share that as well. People want to smile and laugh. Give ‘em what they want!

Important: Don’t forget user generated content videos. If your followers post a video about your organization, share it with your entire audience. Give a shoutout to the creators of the video. Gratitude goes a long way to building relationships.

And it’s not just on social media. Video should be part of your email marketing strategy. Including a thumbnail and link to a video in your email is a great way to drive eyeballs to your site. Once they’re on your site and watching the video, use that opportunity to drive them to take action: Sign up to volunteer, participate in an advocacy/awareness program, subscribe to your eNewsletter. And yes, donate online.

This month I have two video related links that will help you understand why video is central to your marketing and fundraising efforts:

  • My podcast episode with nonprofit digital marketing and video strategist Taylor Shanklin. Listen/watch/read and learn how your nonprofit can use video as part of your storytelling, marketing and fundraising efforts.
  • Watch this Charity: Water video. It’s longer than your regular 3-minute video. But it’s an excellent example of using video to tell your story. Even better is how they utilize what I call the “story of one”- the story is told from the perspective of one person, connecting the viewer to that person. Watch till the end and see their call to action (CTA). It’s not the biggest ask, but it has a very high upside.

Braver Leadership

Arinne Braverman

Since the first COVID-19 lockdown, I’ve seen more articles on professional growth and development aimed at supervisees than supervisors. In her article, 9 Ways to Keep Growing in Your Career During Covid 19, Meredith Galante recommends multiple paths to ensuring that professional growth continues, even given the social distancing and budgetary constraints faced by many organizations in 2021.

Galante offers practical tips, recognizing that many professionals are feeling burned out due to increased demands at the office and at home, and may be reluctant to take on more. One suggestion she makes embracing the current reality: “If you’re feeling too busy, make a commitment to listen to a podcast that will help with your growth for five minutes a day.”

There are other ways that you can help people on your team advance their professional growth. While some organizations can afford to hire consultants and coaches, organizations on a tighter budget can consider encouraging a barter system for skills, whether done through an organizational platform like CatchAFire.org, individual platform like Simbi.com, or arranged informally through networking with colleagues.

Supervisors can work with self-motivated learners to identify mutually agreed upon professional development topics “on the clock.” Beyond suggestions that you might each identify, reference librarians at local public libraries or through the career development center of the employee’s alma mater can help kickstart an employee’s exploration for free by diversifying resource recommendations or by helping to pare down a longer list.

To connect with relevant leadership and professional development opportunities, including online conferences and webinars in the Jewish community, check out the JEDLAB page on Facebook, Jewish Educators Portal through The Jewish Education Project, and the JPro.org website.

As a supervisor in 2021, it’s important to initiate the supervision conversations that will create the foundation for sustained organizational success by investing in employees’ learning, adaptability, and professional growth.


January 2021

Click here for January 2021 newsletter

Message from Rabbi Sid

I’m an old-fashioned news hound. I can’t start my day without reading the newspaper. The Washington Post is my paper of choice. And I read the hard copy that gets thrown on my lawn every morning around 5am. But then, as I start my workday, I work in a professional bubble of my own creation. I get no news feeds at all. Given how upsetting the news has been for the past four years, putting the news out of sight and out of mind once my day gets going has been an act of self-preservation.

On January 6th, I had a 4pm call with a rabbinic colleague. It started with him asking me: “Have you seen the footage of the U.S. Capitol being overrun by Trump supporters?” I was incredulous. My friend filled in a few more details, we agreed to proceed with our business and, when the call ended around 5pm, I left my study to watch TV for the next few hours.

It has taken a few days for some of the details to get filled in. The colossal failure of the Capitol Police to heed the warnings from the FBI about the threat posed by those who came to Washington to stop Congress from ratifying the election of Joe Biden as our next President. The heroism of many police who, badly outnumbered, tried to protect the Capitol and the legislators inside from an angry mob. The complicity of other police who aided and abetted the insurgents. The courage of members of Congress to come back that same evening to finish the business of certifying Joe Biden’s victory. The craven actions of other legislators who, even after living through an attempt to sabotage a democratic election through violence that cost five lives but could have taken many more, still voted to reverse the outcome of the election.  

Donald Trump’s culpability for, what can only be called, an insurrection, is beneath contempt. From the Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville in 2017 to the sacking of the U.S. Capitol on January 6th, he has given Presidential sanction to White Nationalists, Neo-Nazis, racists, anti-Semites and other purveyors of violence and hate. What has long lurked on the peripheries of American society has now been given a national spotlight. Who would have ever thought that these dark and evil forces would be championed by a sitting U.S. President?

I, like many Americans, find myself deeply rattled by the events of January 6th.  Is America a land of equal opportunity for all? Does the American justice system treat all people the same? Do we welcome to our shores, (in the words of Emma Lazarus, carved on the Statue of Liberty) “the huddled masses, yearning to breathe free?” Black Americans, living a totally different reality than White Americans, have long despaired of these American myths. For the rest of us, this new consciousness creates a crisis of faith.

The Talmud tells the story of Elisha ben Abuyah. Born to a prominent Jerusalem family, Elisha earned a reputation as a most promising, young, rabbinic scholar. It is told that he witnessed a young boy climbing a tree to take some eggs from a bird’s next. Following Jewish law, the boy chased away the mother bird before taking the eggs, showing a concern for the feelings of the mother bird. And yet, when coming off the tree, the boy was bitten by a snake and died. Having fulfilled a mitzvah for which the Torah promises a long life, Elisha witnessed the opposite and he suffers from a crisis of faith. Elisha abandons Judaism, becomes an apostate and from that time forth, is only referred to in the Talmud as Acher, “the other one”.

So much of our faith in America has been shaken. It is easy to despair. We could take Elisha’s path—by becoming cynical; by disengaging from politics; by demonizing all those who don’t agree with us. And each of those options will accelerate the erosion of America’s democratic fabric. No. Despair is not an option.

The Jewish community has a large stake in what is unfolding in Washington D.C. A significant number of Jews turned a blind eye to manifold examples of Donald Trump’s assault on truth and alleged criminal behavior because he was “good for Israel”. It is no different than Evangelical Christians who ignored the many ways that Donald Trump’s ethical behavior violated core teachings of the Church just because he could deliver a few, reliable conservative justices for the Supreme Court. The Jewish people paid a heavy price when a previously democratic country came up with all kinds reasons to allow a demagogue called Adolf Hitler to take over Germany. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s powerful video this week draws the obvious parallels between the rise of Nazism in Europe, which his family lived through, and the behavior of Donald Trump.

After four years of Trump’s Presidency, we have suffered tremendous damage to our country’s democratic institutions and principles. Within days of this writing, we will have a new President and a Democratic-led Congress. What is certain, is that the road back to an America that is worthy of cherishing, will require the commitment and energies of every person who cares about liberty, tolerance and justice.  May we be equal to the challenge.


Diversify Your Development Program

If you had money to invest, would you dump it all into Tesla stock? Or would your investment advisor tell you to diversify your portfolio- maybe some stocks, some real estate, some mutual funds. And, of course, today’s hottest investment–Bitcoin.

Fundraising is no different. If a gala event was your main source of revenue, you may have had quite the rough year in 2020. But if you “invested” in raising money via direct mail, email marketing, corporate partnerships, gifts in wills and more, then you’re set up for success. A diversified fundraising portfolio for your organization is an absolute must.

How about monthly giving? Recurring givers have higher retention rates and a higher lifetime value. Do you offer this option to your current and potential donors?

How’s your phone call game? Calls are a great way to stay in touch with supporters and donors. It’s a one-to-one conversation and helps build stronger relationships. My advice? 2 calls a day, 10 minutes each. Do the math: That’s 10 calls per week, about 500 calls over the year. If fundraising is about building relationships and finding shared values with your donors, 500 calls to say hi and thank donors for their support will help your long-term fundraising efforts.

Foundation giving should also be part of your fundraising portfolio. Though here I caution: Just because a potential funder is offering money doesn’t mean you should submit an application to get it! Donations from certain funders or foundations come with a lot of strings attached. Which is why it is imperative you ask yourself two questions before approaching a funder/foundation. If the answer to either question is “no,” walk away.

Finally, here’s one many organizations forget about: Lapsed donors. They don’t have to be gone forever. They’ve already given to you. At the time they felt connected to the mission. Lately, they haven’t donated but that’s not a reason not to reach out to them. Lapsed donors were once donors. Remind them why.

Your website, online giving, email marketing, social media engagement, direct mail, events, foundation giving, monthly giving and more should all be part of your nonprofit’s diversified fundraising portfolio. Plan for success!

Ephraim Gopin is the founder of 1832 Communications, an agency which helps nonprofits build relationships and raise more money by connecting their fundraising and marketing strategies. You can subscribe to Ephraim’s free daily enewsletter that includes relevant content for any NPO role you fill. 


Braver Leadership

January is the first month of a leaner, new fiscal year for many of us.  As we go about the difficult business of trying to decide what to trim from budgets that may have been strained even before the pandemic, it’s important to continue to invest in our people. If you are your organization’s only employee, you may need to self-advocate to ensure that your board understands that targeted professional development produces significant organizational return on investment.

In his Gallup article, 4 Ways to Continue Employee Development When Budgets Are Cut, Vibhas Ratanjee points out that it’s important not to cut learning opportunities that ultimately can help increase productivity and adaptability.

The article quotes a Gallup study that found that organizations that made a strategic investment in employee development reported greater profitability and were TWICE as likely to retain their employees. With the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reporting that it costs employers an average of 6-9 months’ salary to replace a salaried employee, it’s wise for nonprofits to invest in this proven strategy to boost employee retention.

If you’ve ever benefited from having been mentored, you already know how transformational the experience can be.  For many small non-profit founders, however, mentoring may seem like a luxury you cannot afford, in terms of time or money. While there is no way to expand time, the good news is that there are places where you can get mentoring for free. SCORE Association is a wonderful resource, supported by funding from the U.S. Small Business Association. Not only can you find a mentor through the site but SCORE Association also provides a range of free workshops. Some are live and others can be accessed through their library of previously sponsored webinars.  

A more modest and fun new resource is LunchClub. Here you can be matched with another professional who will offer free advice in a single online session, based upon interests you identify in your profile and your availability. With any session with a mentor, don’t forget to do your homework. You will get more from the experience by spending time upfront creating a list of questions related to the skills you want to develop.

Arinne Braverman is a Kenissa Network member, Jewish Organizing Initiative alumna, and currently serves as the Executive Director of Returning the Sparks and President of From Strength to Strength.


Click here to download the December 2020 Kenissa Konnections

Message from Rabbi Sid

One of the great joys of our national Kenissa gatherings was bringing together creative individuals who were pioneering new forms of Jewish life and community all over North America and having them discover that they were not alone. Innovators often work at the margins of a community; it is among the many things that distinguish innovators from the mainstream. Even as the work can feel lonely at the margins, we know that change in society almost always gets catalyzed from the margins.  Kenissa gatherings always generated a unique energy in that innovators were meeting and connecting with other innovators; even as their methods might have been different, there was electricity in the air, knowing that new forms of Jewish life and community were being seeded. We are hoping this newsletter will continue that process for folks in the Kenissa Network. Drop me a note (rabbisid@hazon.org) about developments with your respective organizations and we will find ways to share it.

Meanwhile, we always celebrate when some of our Network members get some public recognition. Such was the case in a recent article in JTA about the Jewish Co-housing movement.  We were pleased to see four Kenissa members mentioned: Roger Studley of Urban Moshav in Berkeley, CA; Jakir Manela of Pearlstone Retreat Center in Reisterstown, MD; Sephirah Stacey Oshkello of Living Tree Alliance in VT; and Aharon Ariel Lavi who runs the Hakhel initiative from Israel. Thusfar, only Living Tree Alliance has actual residents but all the communities mentioned are well on their way to making this vision a reality. At a time when there is heightened awareness about lifestyles that are environmentally sustainable and supportive of the development of strong personal connections between residents, we should cheer on those who are committed to this residential model of intentional community.

A Chanukah Present for You

Kenissa is partnering with Days of Gratitude, a six-month journey to notice and give gratitude for the unnoticed blessings in our lives. By clicking here to join Days of Gratitude (for free), every month between December 2020 and April 2021, you will receive a set of activities, prompts, and inspiration to guide you through a three-day gratitude journey. The experience is designed to help you find hope and build resilience in the face of the pandemic and current challenges. Developed in partnership with dozens of organizations, Days of Gratitude is framed around the Jewish tradition of blessings. In May 2021, Days of Gratitude will culminate with a seven-day worldwide celebration of gratitude, leading up to the festival of Shavuot.Join the Kenissa community, hundreds of organizations, and thousands of individuals to enjoy the Days of Gratitude—and forward to others as well.

Wishing all of you a light-filled Chanukah!


Build and Raise

Building relationships to help raise more money

Ephraim Gopin

What role does gratitude play in building relationships with your donors? Are your donation thank you notes just a perfunctory, stale letter so that the donor can grab their tax deduction? Or is it a heartfelt, personalized, impactful, emotional outpouring of gratitude so that supporters feel appreciated?

According to fundraising researcher Dr. Adrian Sargeant, the thank you is the single most important piece of communication that your donors get. They have a higher recall of it than the appeal that generated the gift. 

We spend a LOT of time putting together our appeals. But it’s the thank you letter that’s going to help you strengthen the bond, retain your donors and see a higher lifetime value of donations.

Some ideas for saying ‘toda’ in a manner that’s remarkable and memorable:

  • Let them know how their gift has solved a problem for your beneficiaries.
  • Tell them how kind and compassionate they are. How generous they are. Then tell them again.
  • As fundraising expert Beth Ann Locke says: Remember that it’s not the size of the gift they gave (generousness); it’s the act of giving (generosity) that matters. Change up your thank you letters: Don’t lead with the amount they gave. Lead with gratitude.
  • Pick up the phone! Phone calls made to donors within 90 days of a gift improve both retention AND subsequent gift amount.

Gratitude is often discussed around Thanksgiving and year-end. But it should be a year-round endeavor. The more gratitude shown, the more you and the donor will get out of the relationship. Which is why it’s important to say thank you before your next ask. Show donor love and appreciation. They’ll be happy to reciprocate.

P.S. If you’re looking for ideas of how to say a heartfelt thank you via email, check out these 6 examples.

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Ephraim Gopin is the founder of 1832 Communications, an agency which helps nonprofits build relationships and raise more money by connecting their fundraising and marketing strategies. You can subscribe to Ephraim’s free daily enewsletter which includes relevant content for any NPO role you fill. 


Braver Leadership

Gain Insight. Lead Braver.

Arinne Braverman

In a Harvard Business Review article by Andy Molinsky, “Everyone Suffers from Impostor Syndrome, Here’s How to Handle It”, we learn about the common fear “that you’re a poser, that you’re not worthy, that you couldn’t possibly be qualified to do whatever you’re aiming to do.” Even experienced leaders likely asked themselves at some point in 2020 whether they were really qualified to lead their organizations through a global pandemic. Impostor Syndrome may initially present as a personal problem, suggesting a lack of self-confidence or low self-esteem. However, if “everyone” suffers from a version of it, as Molinsky’s title suggests, Impostor Syndrome actually seems more likely to be rooted in feelings of anxiety that many people experience.

As Molinsky notes, maintaining a learning mindset is one way to ease the anxiety associated with feeling like an impostor. Instead of focusing on the mistakes you make along your way, as though collecting evidence for a case against your current skillset, focus your energy on learning from your mistakes and improving your skillset for your organization’s benefit. The learning mindset contextualizes mistakes as a normal part of the learning process, while the alternative can lead to a paralyzing fear of failure, compromising outcomes.

Management issues in organizations, as in our school systems, are too often addressed through rewards and incentives or punishments and discipline, aimed at conditioning desired behavioral responses. However, a fundamental principle of Dr. Ross Greene’s problem-solving based Collaborative and Proactive Solutions (CPS) programis that behavioral problems are best addressed by understanding that the presenting issue is primarily a matter of “skill, not will.” That is, the person presenting with the problematic behavior would benefit from gaining additional skills, enabling them to respond better in the future.  

When a colleague or supervisee confides that they fear that they will fail at a new challenge, a common response is to dismiss their worries with an encouraging, “You’ve got this!”…as though a “can-do” attitude will fix it. It may be more constructive to follow a modified CPS approach by sitting with them in their uncertainty, asking them to surface specific concerns, and collaborating to identify a plan of action. To begin with, you could ask the colleague about previous times in their lives when they overcame some self-doubt and were able to “rise to the occasion”. You could also explore with the staffperson what resources might help to build their skillset, and offer to make the relevant professional introductions or professional development investment to make the training possible.

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Arinne Braverman is a Kenissa Network member, Jewish Organizing Initiative alumna, and currently serves as the Executive Director of Returning the Sparks and President of From Strength to Strength.

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