In his March 29 column (“Who’s To Say How Funders Spend Their Money?”), Gary Rosenblatt selectively covered a moment in a panel discussion that I was a part of at the recent Jewish Funders Network Conference.
I wish to clarify one statement (in the context of a larger, 90-minute conversation) that I flippantly made and on which Rosenblatt decided to focus. The specific topic that I raised, in the context of multiple programs that are offered for free in the Jewish world, was about the lack of independent research in the Jewish community, and that the connection between funding programs and funding research is, in my opinion, often too close.
In response to a direct question from an audience member I stated something that I had misconstrued previously said by Len Saxe, a professor at Brandeis University, and I did not intend in any way to disparage the work that is being done by him and his team to better understand Taglit/Birthright. I categorically apologize to Saxe and his team of researchers for any aspersions that my comments — and Gary Rosenblatt’s coverage of the panel — may have raised.
All of that being said, the underlying issue that should have been the focus of my comments remains: how do we as a community develop more useful and rigorous research, along the lines that Saxe et al have advocated for over an extended period of time? A more thoughtful response from me to the audience member should have been, “No, I am not referring to any specific researcher or research institution. But are we as a community totally satisfied with the current state of research and evaluation that informs how resources are being dispersed in the Jewish world today?”
For me, and many individuals who have approached me privately over the past few weeks, the answer is a categorical “no.” And that is the real question that warrants communal attention.
Chief Learning Officer The Jewish Education Project Manhattan