January 12, 2021
- Effective Philanthropy
More than three decades ago, my parents, Charles and Lynn Schusterman, decided to start a family foundation.
This came as no surprise to me. Long before they had the means to do so, my parents were always deeply passionate about giving back to their community. At home, they raised us with the tradition of passing around a charity (tzedakah) box at our Shabbat dinner table every week. Launching the Foundation to maximize their giving was a source of meaning and pride for our family.
Of course, the purpose of our Foundation has grown and evolved to meet new opportunities and challenges. When the Foundation launched in 1987, our philanthropy focused on supporting a vibrant future for the Jewish people, Israel and our hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Today, our work has expanded to support organizations in seven grantmaking portfolios: Criminal Justice, Education, Gender and Reproductive Equity, Israel, Jewish Community, Tulsa and Voting Rights. In addition, we invest in young leaders by operating three signature programs: ROI Community, REALITY and the Schusterman Fellowship. And our family has expanded beyond our established charitable giving, contributing to public policy and advocacy efforts as a means to advance our key issue areas.
To encompass the full scope of our work, while also retaining a connection to our founding legacy, we are updating our public name to Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies. In Israel, we will use Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies – Israel.
While a technical change, this new name gives us the flexibility to use the full range of our grantmaking, programmatic and advocacy investments to advance our values and work. Our newer advocacy activities in the U.S. are focused on supporting policies, legislation and, at times, elected officials who share our commitment to ensuring people have equitable access to resources and opportunities, as well as to ensuring the strength of the special relationship between the U.S. and Israel.
While our name is changing, our work and our values remain the same. Our Jewish values have always been—and will always be—at the core of our family’s philanthropy: a commitment to the pursuit of justice (tzedek), repairing the world (tikkun olam) and treating all people with dignity and civility (derekh eretz). In 2018, we also made explicit our organizational values of equity, impact, optimism, humility and collaboration to reflect our growing commitment to working to change the systems that perpetuate structural inequalities and how we want to show up as we do that work.
Going forward, we remain deeply committed to our work in the U.S. and Israel to achieve a more just, inclusive and equitable society. In the U.S., we will focus on addressing systemic racial, gender and economic inequities through our work in education, criminal justice reform, gender and reproductive equity, voting rights and in our hometown of Tulsa. We are also committed to building a joyful and inclusive Jewish community that lives by Jewish values, strengthens support for Israel and contributes to a more just world. In Israel, we are investing in strengthening Israel as a secure, Zionist homeland of the Jewish people, a thriving democracy and an inclusive society that cares for its most vulnerable.
At the core of our work will be our commitment to embracing humility through ongoing learning and to listening deeply to our grantees and to the communities we seek to empower. We believe we all need to seek to understand each other’s stories and perspectives, and to foster complex conversations to better understand the full context of the issues we support. We believe this is essential to the effectiveness of our work.
Today, as I reflect on the decision my parents made to launch a foundation so many years ago, I am inspired by their leadership and proud to build on their legacy as I lead the next steps of our philanthropic and advocacy journey. As we look to the future, we will continue to live out our values through Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies and to invest in the people and organizations that make our work happen.