Jewish AdvocacY Strategy
This page is meant to highlight JLens' Jewish values-alignment and advocacy efforts for the Jewish Advocacy Strategy.
It should not be construed as an investment offering or investment advice.
Mission: The Jewish Advocacy Strategy was established in 2015 by Jewish institutional investors to align investment capital with Jewish values and advocate for communal concerns in the influential economic advocacy arena - an area previously void of Jewish leadership.
Management: Lens Investments (strategy oversight), JLens (Jewish values overlay and advocacy), RhumbLine Advisors (subadvisor with 28-year track record of index optimization strategies) [i]
Holdings: Approximately 300 large-cap US public companies
Anchor Investors: Jewish Community Foundations, Federations, Nonprofit Endowments, Private Foundations & Family Offices, Donor-Advised Funds, Individual Investors
Minimum Investment: $1 million for a separate account. The minimum may be less if investment is via an institution, for example, a donor-advised fund at a Jewish Community Foundation
Fees: based on investment size, 0.30% for $1-5M, 0.25% for $5-10M, 0.15% for $10M+
Performance: As a values-enhanced index strategy, gross returns closely track the US equity market. The strategy's since inception return (December 3, 2015 - December 31,2018) is 30.64% compared to the benchmark S&P500 return of 30.24% for the same time period.[ii]
JLens' Jewish Values-Based Investing Process: The overarching Jewish value guiding JLens' approach to investing in public companies is hocheach tocheah (constructive rebuke). As there is no perfect company, attempts to solely screen out 'bad actors' or only invest in 'good actors,' miss the greatest opportunity for impact through the constructive rebuke inherent in investor advocacy. JLens utilizes six pillars from Judaism’s framework of mitzvot (obligations) to evaluate companies and engage in long-term investor advocacy:
Obligation to Investors - Nosei Ve’Notein be’emunah (conduct business in good faith)
Ethical business, expressed as good governance and transparency, is of paramount importance in Judaism. The rabbis of the Talmud remarked: “at the moment of Divine judgment in the World to Come, the first question a person will be asked is not ‘did you pray’, nor ‘did you keep kosher’, but ‘did you transact your business dealings ethically?’” (BT Shabbat 31a) According to Jerusalem’s Business Ethics Center, more than 100 of the 613 commandments in the Torah relate to business conduct, far exceeding all the commandments concerning kosher food.
Obligation to Society - Dei Machsoro (help those in need with whatever they lack)
Jewish tradition speaks with a compelling moral voice about a range of obligations to society, motivating JLens’ advocacy on issues such as human trafficking, the opioid epidemic, and women and girls’ empowerment. The Torah obligates a society to sustain everyone’s basic needs: "If, however, there is a needy person among you...you must open your hand and give him sufficient for whatever he needs." (Deut. 15:7-8) This includes access to medicine, nutrition, water, and healthcare. Jewish law prohibits businesses from charging exorbitant prices for consumer staples, and historically every Jewish community paid for healthcare for those who could not afford it (Shulhan Arukh, Yoreh De’ah 336:3; Tzitz Eliezer 5, V, Ramat Rahel - Collection of Responsa on Medical Issues #4.)
Obligation to the Worker - Lo Ta’ashok
Jewish tradition prizes dignity of the worker, particularly defined by employer obligations. Deuteronomy 24:14-15 states: “You shall not abuse a needy and destitute laborer, whether a fellow countryman or a stranger in one of the communities of your land.” The rabbis of the Talmud added a theological basis for this obligation: "‘For the people of Israel are servants to Me’ – they are servants to Me, and not servants to other servants.” (BT Bava Metzia 10a, quoting Leviticus 25:55). JLens advocates on a range of worker issues, from the gender pay gap and fair wages, to child labor and paid family leave policies, all grounded in Jewish tradition’s obligation to respect the worker.
Obligation to the Environment- Bal Tashchit (do not destroy)
The mandate to cultivate, protect, and nurture the environment is deeply rooted in Jewish tradition. The rabbis of the Talmud extended a prohibition from destroying fruit-bearing trees while in conflict to encompass a general prohibition against the wasteful consumption or destruction of any natural resource, termed bal tashchit. Jewish tradition emphasizes that human dominion over nature does not provide a license to abuse the environment; rather we are called to “till and tend” God’s Earth (Genesis 2:15) and reminded that if we fail to do so, there will be nobody after us to repair our damage (Ecclesiastes Rabbah 7:13). Jewish tradition inspires JLens’ advocacy on many environmental issues, from reducing carbon emissions, chemical pollution, and food waste to expanding renewable energy capacity and ensuring clean watersheds.
Obligation to Coexistence – Rodef Shalom (pursuing peace)
The rabbis saw the commandment to pursue peace as uniquely important within the pantheon of Jewish values. The Sages taught, “The Law does not order you to run after or pursue the other commandments, but only to fulfill them on the appropriate occasion. But peace you must seek in your place and pursue it even to another place as well” (Jerusalem Talmud, Pe’ah 1:1 [4a]). Corporations have a unique role to play in fostering coexistence in the many areas around the world where conflict exists among people. Examples include respect and equal treatment of clients of diverse backgrounds; having a religious inclusion policy in the workplace as well as clear policies against hate speech; coexistence and peacebuilding initiatives; and operating responsibly in—rather than divesting from—conflict regions to bring economic development and social stability to lay the groundwork for peace.
Support for Israel – Yishuv Eretz Yisrael
Jewish tradition values productive economic development within the Jewish homeland of Israel. JLens encourages companies to expand their economic ties with Israel in alignment with Jewish social and environmental values. Additionally, JLens is the only organization counteracting the BDS campaign’s economic warfare efforts against Israel by educating responsible investors and companies before they fall victim to BDS pressure and divest their Israeli investments. JLens’ role as a representative of the Jewish community in the socially responsible investing and corporate social responsibility movements makes JLens uniquely positioned to advocate for Israel as these movements become increasingly popular and influential.
Portfolio Selection Methodology: JLens’ internal research process ensures alignment with Jewish values and avoids the value judgements and biases embedded in industry standard ESG (environment, social, governance) research. Analysis includes meetings with management and corporate social responsibility teams.
Step 1: Scoring - Portfolio construction begins with the universe of the 500 largest US public companies. Each company is evaluated on the criteria described above, guided by Jewish values and law (halacha) as well as JLens’ annual investor and community survey. Each company receives a score of metzuyan (excellent), tov (good), treif (not a fit), or lo hashuv (not important).
Step 2: Negative Screening - The approximately 200 companies that fail to receive a score of metzuyan or tov are excluded from the portfolio. The treif score is given to companies that are antithetical to Jewish law or values. Examples include the tobacco, coal, and for-profit prison sectors.Additionally, companies receive a lo hashuv score if they are not deemed influential enough to warrant shareholder advocacy efforts by the Jewish community. While the core Jewish Advocacy Strategy owns and advocates with (non-coal) energy companies, a fossil fuel free option is also available.
Step 3: Weighting - The approximately 280 companies that receive a score of tov are held in the Jewish Advocacy Strategy portfolio in accordance with their weight in the benchmark.
Step 4: Positive Tilt - The approximately 18 (chai) companies that receive a score of metzuyan are slightly overweighted compared to their benchmark weight. The metzuyan score is given to companies that are sensitive to religious minorities, often have strong economic ties to Israel, and demonstrate corporate behavior that aligns with Jewish social and environmental values. These companies also have demonstrated solid corporate governance and a robust commitment to maintaining positive working relationships with shareholder advocates. In the long-term, these companies are expected to outperform financially and serve as examples of good corporate citizenship for other companies in their sectors. An option is available to add an additional positive tilt to Israeli companies with strong social and environmental metrics.
The Jewish Advocacy Strategy's Tactics To Achieve Positive Impact:
Investor Advocacy: Investors in public companies generate positive impact by changing corporate behavior. JLens is the only organization conducting investor advocacy on behalf of Jewish communal concerns through frequent discussions with corporate leaders, participation in shareholder campaigns, and resolution filings. Advocacy priorities align with JLens six pillars described above.
Communal Representation: Values-based investing now accounts for over 25% of all professionally managed assets worldwide. While other faiths are key leaders in the field, the organized Jewish community lacked representation in this influential economic arena prior to JLens. JLens represents Jewish concerns at dozens of interfaith and values-based forums annually and strengthens relationships with other faith communities by collaborating on shared values.
Proxy Voting: Annual shareholder proxy statements are carefully researched and voted to ensure alignment with Jewish values. Unlike most responsible investing organizations, JLens votes against the growing number of anti-Israel shareholder resolutions.
Jewish Engagement: The growing demand for values-based investing is an untapped gold mine for Jewish engagement providing a modern context for the exploration of Jewish wisdom. JLens’ engagement opportunities, such as the Jewish Impact Investing Summit, surveys, articles, and advocacy meetings, are in high demand. Compared to the top-down approach of most values-based investments, JLens intentionally seeks input and provides participation opportunities for investors and the community.
[i] The Jewish Advocacy Strategy is a collaboration between JLens and Lens Investments. JLens is an organization that focuses on Jewish values-based investing education, communal engagement and shareholder advocacy. Lens Investments is an impact investment advisory firm. Lens Investments selected RhumbLine Advisors, a leader in enhanced index strategies with a 28-year track record and $54 Billion in assets under management, as the subadvisor for the Jewish Advocacy Strategy.
[ii] Performance figures are gross of management fees and include trading expenses and the reinvestment of all income for an institutional client relationship established December 3, 2015. Performance figures incorporate a subadvisor change to RhumbLine Advisors that occurred Q4 2017. Past performance is not indicative of future results. Lens Investments makes no performance guarantees. Every investment program has the potential for loss as well as gain. Investing involves risk. Accounts are not insured by the FDIC. Carefully review Lens Investments’ Form ADV prior to investing. Composition of the strategy’s portfolio is subject to change. The information contained within this webpage was carefully compiled from sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy is not guaranteed.