Ms. Tare goes to Washington

Ms. Tare goes to Washington

OU Advocacy’s development director talks about passion, honesty, and advocacy

Robin Tare
Robin Tare

Not everyone can ask for money.

It’s hard to do. It courts rejection. It can be embarrassing. It takes chutzpah.

But it’s also necessary. Just because an organization is nonprofit, that does not mean that it gets by on aromatic air, warm wishes, and the occasional wisp of unicorn hair.

Effective fundraising needs a cause that has real meaning, and a fundraiser who really believes in it. Someone whose goal — to help better the world, in a highly specific way — is so clear, whose understanding of the need is so thorough and heartfelt, that the task of fundraising is less a job than a mission.

Meet Robin Tare of Englewood, OU Advocacy’s new national director of development.

Her group, an Orthodox Union agency, is a nonpartisan public policy organization. In normal times, the group, which is headquartered not in Manhattan, like most OU agencies, but in Washington, lobbies for such issues as government help for day school tuition, and it trains young Orthodox Jews in advocating for their part of the Jewish world. It works with government on all levels, but it is most visible in the nation’s capital.

But these are not normal times.

Now, OU Advocacy focuses on protecting the Jewish community, as threats rise, both in the United States and around the world.

Ms. Tare did not begin her career as a fundraiser.

She grew up right over the George Washington Bridge, in Riverdale, the daughter of now-retired public-school teachers. Her father, Victor Mindlin, taught in downtown Manhattan, at the High School for Health Professions and Human Services, and her mother, Susan Mindlin, taught fourth grade in the Bronx.

“I had a very typical modern Orthodox upbringing,” Ms. Tare said. Her family belonged to the Riverdale Jewish Center; she graduated from SAR, close to home in Riverdale, which then went only to eighth grade, and then to the Ramaz School in Manhattan. Next, she went to Barnard College.

“It’s been particularly painful to watch what’s been going on at Barnard now, because when I was there, my experience was idyllic,” she said. “There was a huge Jewish community there. I think that the rot in many colleges has been going on for a long time — certainly it didn’t happen overnight — and many of us were asleep while it happened.”

Last year, Charlie Tare graduates from the Yavneh Academy, and his family celebrates with him. From left, it’s Josh, Gabe, Charlie, Robin, and Nathaniel.

Ms. Tare graduated from Barnard with a degree in economics. Like many elite liberal arts colleges, it does not offer a degree in finance, but a bachelor’s in economics offers entrée into that world. “Econ majors get thrown into that pool, they drop their resumes, they get interviews, you are thrown a ton of money. I didn’t really pause to think if that’s what I wanted, I just did it.”

Ms. Tare also got married as soon as she graduated. Her husband, Joshua Tare, is a lawyer, a partner at Rivkin Radler, where he specializes in landlord/tenant law. He grew up on Manhattan’s Lower East Side; his mother, Miriam, was born in a DP camp in Germany and his father, Alex, the son of Polish immigrants, was a public-school principal. Mr. Tare, like his wife, is the product of modern Orthodox day schools; in his case it’s Manhattan Day School and then MTA.

The couple first moved to Forest Hills, then to the Lower East Side, where they lived for seven years.

Ms. Tare did take a job as a banker, first at Chase Manhattan and then at JP Morgan Chase, after the two merged. But there was no glamour in finance, she realized, at least not for her. “I was in the private banking division, I realized that data entry and spreadsheets really weren’t for me, and I wasn’t feeling fulfilled. So I talked to the dean of Barnard, Dorothy Denburg.”

Dr. Denburg, who graduated from Barnard and spent 42 years working there, later became head of college counseling at the Abraham Joshua Heschel School in Manhattan. Ms. Tare had been her daughter’s babysitter. She was a perfect person to offer Ms. Tare advice.

“I told her that I didn’t know what next steps to take, and asked what she suggested,” Ms. Tare said. “She told me there was an opening in Barnard’s development department, for a job working with young alumnae.

“That was my first development job.”

Through mentors at that job, Ms. Tare learned its essentials. You have to like people, and enjoy connecting with them, she said. You have to be honest. “You can’t be an effective development officer if you are not working for a cause that you believe in deeply. When you ask, you are not asking for yourself. You are asking for a cause — and it also has to be a cause the donor resonates with.

“I look at philanthropy as giving people a chance to do something powerful with their money, something that will have a positive outcome.

“It’s still not easy to ask — there always will be some type of discomfort — but I really do look at it as giving people a chance to do something really powerful and positive.”

Because the relationships that she develops with potential donors are so deep, often they turn into real friendship. “Some of my closest friends are people I met as donor prospects,” she said. “People I have lunch with. People I talk to about things that have nothing to do with work.

“People see through acting, through someone assuming a persona, really quickly. To do this work, you have to have a shared passion, and to truly believe that you are asking people to do something that would make a difference.”

Standing in the drizzle, OU Advocacy staff and supporters prepare to deliver 180,000 letters to the White House asking for continued support of Israel in its fight against Hamas, and for help in freeing the hostages.

She worked for Barnard for about four years.

In 2011, the family — Robin and Joshua have three sons, Nathaniel, Charlie, and Gabe — by then too big for Lower East Side apartments, moved to Bergen County.

“We love it,” Ms. Tare said. “What really attracted us was that there were so many options for schools for our kids. You can have a school that works well for one kid, but that doesn’t mean it’ll be right for the next one.”

As it turned out, the family didn’t need that flexibility. Nathaniel graduated from Yavneh and Frisch, and is headed for the University of Chicago after a gap year. Charlie, just out of Yavneh, is a freshman at Frisch, and Gabe, who will become bar mitzvah in June, is a seventh-grader at Yavneh.

Ms. Tare took 10 years to be at home with her sons, first in lower Manhattan and then in Bergen County, but she was not inactive. (It seems unlikely that she ever could be inactive.) Before they moved to Jersey, she earned a master’s degree in education from Hunter College. Once ensconced in Englewood, “I got very involved with Yavneh, first as a parent volunteer, helping out, going in as often as I could,” she said. “Then they asked me to join the board, and it was lovely. And when my youngest son was in pre-K, I started subbing at Yavneh.”

So there she was, often at school, volunteering, sitting on the board, teaching as a substitute, the mother of three children either at, graduated from, or slated to enter Yavneh, when the school’s development director, hired after a long search, in place for less than a year, suddenly gave notice.

Not surprisingly, the school’s administrators and lay leaders had no stomach for beginning another search. But they realized that they didn’t have to. They had on hand someone who loved the school, knew it well, and had professional experience in development. “They told me that they knew my background and my passion for the job,” Ms. Tare said. “They said that ‘if you want the job, it’s yours.’”

She wanted the job.

“It was amazing,” she said, years later. “I had a 10-year gap in my resume.” That kind of time out for having and nurturing children full-time often makes it difficult for parents to find work when it’s time for them to do so. “The school was my passion. I already was doing some of the job as a volunteer.

“That job was a gift.”

Ms. Tare stayed at Yavneh for six years. Then she moved to AIPAC, where she was the Bergen County director. “It was a great next step for me,” she said. “A great opportunity.” The organization’s advocacy for Israel and Jews spoke powerfully to her. She could represent AIPAC with complete honesty.

Still, she couldn’t leave Yavneh right away. “I was so connected and dedicated to Yavneh — I still am so connected and dedicated to Yavneh — that I asked for a longer start date. I got the offer in January, and I couldn’t start until July 1. I was very committed to the school, and I couldn’t leave it hanging. If AIPAC had said no, that would have been a deal-breaker.”

OU Advocacy’s executive director, Nathan Diament, speaks.

Yavneh has a wonderful leader in its principal, Rabbi Jonathan Knapp, she added. “They are very lucky to have him,” she said.

While she was at AIPAC, Ms. Tare frequently was approached by other organizations. Most of them were easy to refuse — once again, “you have to match the passion. You can’t be effective if you are not fully aligned with the mission.”

But then she was made an offer it would have been very hard to refuse. That was for the job she holds now, with OU Advocacy.

“What I love about it is that it is Israel advocacy — that’s a big piece of our legislative agenda — but we also work on all legislation that impacts the Jewish community.

“The cornerstone of what OU advocacy has done this year is the nonprofit security grant program — the NSGP.”

This year, Ms. Tare reported, the amount the federal government had budgeted for NSGP grants was about $40 million below the $305 allotted to it the year before. “But then our office, in partnership with other organizations — they’re all nonprofit, but they’re not all Jewish — lobbied for an additional $400 million.

“And we got it.

“Now we have a total somewhere north of $650 million.” In fact, it’s $674.5 million.

That is, of course, a mixed blessing. It is good to have all the money thought necessary for security earmarked for it — but it is not at all good to need all that security.

The grants were in a bundle of bills, including aid for Israel, presented along with two other, separate bills, one helping Ukraine, the other helping Taiwan, that first the Senate and then later, contentiously, the House, passed earlier this year. Because Congress is particularly fractious now, and so deeply divided, the bill’s approval had not been assured.

Surrounded by boxes of letters to President Biden asking for help freeing the hostages, Maurice Shnaider talks about his family. Behind him, a screen displays a photo of his niece, Shiri Bibas, her husband, Yarden, and their very young red-headed sons, All are held hostage in Gaza.

But it passed.

“The other piece of legislation we’re working on is to quell what’s happening on university campuses,” Ms. Tare said. “We don’t want to need that $650 million. We’d much rather need only $305 million.”

On April 3 — 180 days since Hamas invaded Israel, randomly and barbarically butchered 1,200 people, Israelis and non-Israelis, civilians and IDF members, and took an estimated 240 people hostage — OU Advocacy arranged for approximately 180,000 hardcopy letters to be delivered to the White House, asking President Joe Biden to fight antisemitism, support Israel in its fight against Hamas, and work to free the hostages.

“It was amazing,” Ms. Tare said. “It was a really incredible effort to get all those physical letters to the White House.” People wrote them online, often using the template that OU Advocacy posted, and then they were printed out in Washington.

“I had the pretty incredible opportunity to go to Washington to deliver the letters,” Ms. Tare said. (Most of the time she works remotely, either from home or from the OU’s offices in lower Manhattan, but on average she goes to the D.C. office once a month.) “I had a chance to have conversations with the people I met who are on the president’s staff.”

Although OU Advocacy is a quarter of a century old, “I’m the first development director,” Ms. Tare said. “They brought me in to expand the development we do.” That was about two months ago. “There is so much more to do now, post October 7,” she continued. “The community’s needs have grown exponentially, and we need the funding to do it.

“That’s why we are here. That’s why I am here.”

Not only is the work that OU Advocacy does nonpartisan, but both by inclination and of necessity, “we work on both sides of the aisle,” Ms. Tare said. “We have a Republican House, a Democratic Senate‚ both of them just barely, and a Democratic White House. We have to work with everybody. Otherwise, we couldn’t move anything forward right now. We’re already lobbying for the NSGP for 2025. And the wheels already are in motion for the Antisemitism Awareness Act, which recently passed in the House.” (Representative Josh Gottheimer — D-NJ Dist. 5 — is one of the nonpartisan bill’s cosponsors.)

“One of the reasons why the Antisemitism Awareness Act is so important is that it gives a definition to what antisemitic acts are,” Ms. Tare said. “When you do that, students have a framework, and they can file a civil rights violation. There are examples that codify it. It will allow students to be able to say, ‘Yes, this was an antisemitic act.’

“Another bill we’re working on will make it easier and let colleges be transparent about how to file, and it lets Congress look at the violations that have been filed and make their own determinations about how universities handle those complaints.”

OU Advocacy also is working on what it calls the DETERRENT act — all those upper-case letters stand for the Defending Education Transparency and Ending Rogue Regimes Engaging in Nefarious Transactions. (Really. And yes, Ms. Tare had to look it up.)

OU Advocacy’s work does not benefit only the Orthodox community, Ms. Tare said. It benefits the larger Jewish community. “The work we are doing on campuses affects all Jewish students,” she said. “The nonprofit security grants affect all shuls, regardless of their affiliation.

High-school students work on a project at an OU Advocacy-organized trip to Washington.

“At this point, we are all in this together,” Ms. Tare said.

Nathen Diament is OU Advocacy’s executive director. He’s a lawyer, “and the brains behind the operation,” Ms. Tare said. “He’s the only director OU Advocacy has ever had, he has incredible relationships on the Hill, he writes a lot of op-eds, and he’s very well respected on both sides of the aisle.

“I am very blessed because he puts a lot of trust and faith in me,” she continued. “He respects my experience in development, and he partners with me. He gives me the latitude to think critically and creatively about next steps, and he partners with me so that we all can be successful.”

Much as the Jewish community needed all that OU Advocacy could give it before October 7, that need has intensified greatly since then, she said.

And she’s all in for it, she added. She chooses to work in the Jewish world because “this is where my heart is. Jewish education. Jewish advocacy. Jewish community. I don’t think I could be a successful development professional outside the Jewish world. I couldn’t bring the integrity, the honesty, and the genuine heartfelt connection that I am able to bring to the Jewish nonprofit world.”

In taking on this task, Ms. Tare believes that she is tackling something doable, and she has some advice to offer. “I often say to people who are feeling really down on what they’re seeing on Instagram, on X, on TikTok, on other places online — all the vitriol, all the negativity — I say that I know that we can’t change the minds of millions of people, all those keyboard warriors who are against us. Don’t go into those comment sections. You are not going to change anybody’s mind there. Why do that? Why do it to yourself?

“We need to focus our energy on the 535 members of Congress who actually have the ability to make change. You are not going to win over millions of people. Winning a majority of 535 people is a much more manageable task.

“We have conversations with people who can make a difference. There are some fringes on both sides, but most people in Congress are very reasonable, very pro-Israel. I think that there are manageable things that we can do, and we can drown out the noise from social media.”

“The OU has been engaging in advocacy for the community in Washington for more than 25 years,” Mr. Diament said. “I started it in 1996. We have a real record of accomplishment, but there is so much more that we need to do, both in terms of the policy agency itself and in terms of expanding our community’s advocacy strength. And in the world in which we live, we need more resources in order to be able to do those things.

“We are very pleased and grateful that Robin, with her track record from her previous positions, was able to join us in this role.”

The threats to the community “are coming from both the far right and the far left,” he said. The horseshoe theory of politics is proving to be true. As “a vivid example” of that theory, Mr. Diament pointed to the recently passed antisemitism act. “It passed the House with more than 300 votes, but it was opposed by extreme left-wing members, led by the Squad, and by extreme right-wing members, led by Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz.

“There are a lot of things that people can do,” he said, and “thankfully, a lot of people in New Jersey are doing them. They’re coming on missions, engaging with elected officials, and reminding people to vote.

Senator Ben Cardin, Democrat of Maryland, addresses the OU Advocacy high-school group.

“I think that over the past weeks and months, everybody has seen clearly that those who wish Israel and the Jewish community ill are unrelenting. I know that it takes a lot of energy, but we have to be unrelenting also. One of the things we have to do is not only activate and mobilize people in our community, but we have to do more coalition-building,” Mr. Diament continued. “That is something that the OU has done for a long time in some ways, but we have to expand it.

“At the end of the day, the Jewish community is a small community, and we need as many friends and allies across as many communities as we can find. That’s something that local community members can engage with as well, each in their own way.

“If you look at what’s happening across the country, you see that some of the campuses where things have been better rather than worse are places where, at least in part, the Jewish student groups have good relationships with other student groups.

“We need to do that with other communities, whether it is rabbis engaging with other clergy, or whether it’s community leaders of any kind engaging with other people in the community,” he concluded.

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