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Dear Lynn Schusterman: Please Stop Funding Shady Organizations.

Dear Lynn Schusterman,

I am a documentary filmmaker and a member of the ROI Community, an initiative of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation. I attended the ROI Summit in Jerusalem in 2011 and have since received funding for various stages and aspects of my film, Punk Jews.

The ROI network has been invaluable to my work and has led to many collaborations for which I owe much of my personal and professional development.

However, right now I feel a great moral obligation to speak out in light of the recent reports of the Schusterman Foundation’s funding of the Israel on Campus Coalition.

The ICC spends at least some of their multi-million dollar budget running anonymous social media campaigns that violate Facebook’s policy against misrepresentation (and basic conventions of transparency).

The most important skill I have learned as an ROIer is the art of the pitch. Pitching my ideas, my passions, and my desire to help build a world of peace is a skill I owe to you and your foundation. So here I make my ROI pitch to you:

Lynn, you don’t know me personally, but I am one of many people whose passion you have helped bring to life. Therefore, what you do matters.

It really matters.

Your choices affect every ROIer — every talented and passionate person, every creative project, every innovative entrepreneur you have ever believed in or supported.

Your foundation’s funding of the ICC, however, casts a black cloud over all of this. As an artist whom you have generously supported through your grant opportunities, I list the Schusterman Foundation in the credits of all of my films. Therefore, I promote the Schusterman brand wherever I take those projects — in every theater where I screen, on every stage from which I present.

But now I am asking questions that I never imagined I would ever ask about the Schusterman organization. By accepting this funding and standing alongside this name, am I, too, complicit in covert Facebook harassment campaigns? Will other organizations, film festivals, or events I would normally partner with see this affiliation and not want to work with me? Could it bring my own integrity into question? Could it hinder my opportunities? Could it even discredit the ROI name as a whole?

I have been unable to understand why you would fund such dishonest activities. The $6.8 million you donated to the Israel on Campus Coalition could surely be put to better use. You have at least hundreds, if not thousands, of inspiring projects through the ROI Community at your fingertips, projects relating to everything from environmental causes, LGBT rights, and Muslim-Jewish relations, to bringing water technologies to remote African villages.

The funding of the Israel on Campus Coalition is in complete conflict with my own Jewish values of truth, justice, and repairing the world (Emet, Tzedek, and Tikkun Olam). So I take this matter very seriously, as I believe everyone who has received funding from the Schusterman Foundation should.

Before writing this letter, I contacted a number of my fellow ROIers to hear their thoughts. While many welcomed the conversation and felt strongly opposed to the funding of the Israel on Campus Coalition, none that I spoke with felt comfortable speaking up. The funding of the ICC silences your own community. However, I can assure you they are watching and listening — and you have the power to correct this. In this day and age, silence is not an option.

Are we at ROI on the side of honesty, transparency, justice, positivity, love, peace, tolerance, and integrity? Or will we continue to support intimidation, harassment, and secrecy?

Perhaps you were not fully aware of what your money was being spent on. That is possible and forgivable. But you know now, and now we all need to know: Which side are you on?

These acts go against Jewish and moral values, and continuation of these activities will alienate ROIers and negatively impact the Community as a whole.

I believe you will do the right thing. I call upon you to cease your funding of the Israel on Campus Coalition and commit to only conducting open, honest, and positive philanthropy that promotes peace and tolerance.


Evan Kleinman, ROI Summit 2011


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