Meeting the Moment, Young Professionals Give Back
During pandemic isolation, JDC Entwine brought people together through its virtual Giving Circles, an opportunity to gather and pool charitable contributions.
October 6, 2021
At first glance, you might have mistaken it for a dinner party — six young Bay Area Jews coming together for lively conversation, sharing, and good food.
But there was a deeper meaning: a discussion about values and the importance of philanthropic giving that ended with the group examining charities in need of support. The evening, entirely virtual, was one of JDC Entwine’s Giving Circles — opportunities to gather and pool charitable contributions, deciding together on a meaningful cause to apply their collective funds.
These events are powerful tools for building community and strengthening personal, professional, and philanthropic networks.
And they were a key Entwine touchpoint during 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic halted in-person get-togethers. Throughout the year, the virtual Giving Circles drew Entwine alumni from Los Angeles to Boston and Israel to England. Despite their distance, participants leveraged a matching gift from JDC Board Members and ultimately raised over $20,000 in the last year.
Marit Doshi, a Community Representative from the Bay Area, was skeptical at first about the effectiveness of virtual philanthropy — “I’m an in-person kind of person,” she explained — but decided to organize her own three-part virtual Giving Circle series a few months into the pandemic.
“The impact was something I never would have imagined,” she said. “Unlike in-person, people were willing — and able — to attend three separate virtual events, and with that, our mission and discussions were kept top of mind for longer, spanning the three weeks when they took place.”
Though Entwine has historically used offline gatherings and travel to connect with young Jews, it quickly pivoted to virtual programming during the pandemic, offering online experiences like cooking classes, book clubs, Giving Circles, and Zoom trips.
“It was important that we figure out a way to maintain the connections we had already built and continue to cultivate and engage — even from a distance,” said Andrew Belinfante, Entwine’s Director of Engagement.
But more than 8,000 miles from Doshi’s Bay Area apartment, there was one in-person opportunity Entwine couldn’t pass up.
When the Abraham Accords were signed in Sept. 2020, normalizing relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, the Dubai Jewish community was given a unique opening. After years of meeting in members’ homes and other private locations, the local Jewish community was now able to proudly come together — in public — to celebrate holidays and events.
Reva Gorelick, Entwine’s 2020 Global Jewish Service Corps Fellow, arrived in Dubai four months later with a simple but profound goal: meet the moment, and strengthen cultural, social, and educational programming alongside local leaders of this largely expat community.
As much of the world remained in lockdown and with international travel inaccessible, Gorelick threw herself into life in Dubai, working hard to secure locations to host events for this Jewish community long hungry for in-person gatherings.
Her efforts culminated in a previously unimaginable sight: 150 Dubai Jews gathered together in a hotel ballroom for a Passover seder.
“Talk about a ‘pinch me’ moment, the experience of making that happen — from a COVID perspective and this being the first time the community was able to have a holiday celebration like that in a public space,” she said. “We never could have imagined that something like that would be possible, and it happened in part because Entwine sent me here.”
Around the world, in-person and on their screens, JDC Entwine and its alumni faced the challenges and seized the opportunities of the last year — whether it was a creative twist on a legacy program or launching an innovative new initiative.
“With Giving Circles and other virtual events and through Reva’s work in Dubai, Entwine proved that, no matter what is going on in the world, our global Jewish connection is unflappable,” Belinfante said.