Oct. 8, 2020

Phyllis Costanza on Deuteronomy 16:20 – “Just Ends and Just Means, Together”

Mark is delighted to welcome Phyllis Costanza, Head of UBS in Society and CEO of the UBS Optimus Foundation, to the podcast today. In her role, Phyllis applies an investment-based approach which makes it simpler for clients and their families to manage their philanthropy in order to tackle some of the world's most pressing social and environmental issues. Mark’s African Mission Healthcare is one of the only 5% of charities that applied to work with Phyllis’ organization to have been approved, and he feels truly blessed that they are in partnership together. The passage Phyllis has chosen to discuss today is Deuteronomy 16:20.

Phyllis begins by sharing her summary of the passage and the meaning it holds for her, which leads to an extensive analysis of the different theories regarding the repetition of the word ‘justice’ within it. Paired with this discussion is their exploration of how this passage resonates with Phyllis’ work with Optimus and the rigorous selection process they use when considering charities and in guiding philanthropists. Woven throughout is the notion that philanthropy done with love will always be the most successful and that the potential exists for actually making situations worse when love and rigor are absent. Phyllis also shares her lessons about mankind which reveal precisely who make up the most generous donors, and she offers details regarding the challenge of having to reject charities for the sake of upholding her organization’s rigorous selection process.

Episode Highlights:

  • Phyllis’ summary of the passage and the meaning it holds for her
  • The different theories on why the word ‘justice’ is mentioned twice
  • How this passage resonates with Phyllis’ work at Optimus
  • Rigor in forming philanthropic decisions
  • ‘Spray and pray’
  • How Optimus educates and guides philanthropists
  • Phyllis’ example of philanthropy which actually made a situation far worse
  • The dangers of a ‘the one with the pesos has the say-so’s’ attitude in philanthropy
  • The rigor that Optimus applies when approving charities
  • Doing philanthropy with love
  • The lessons about mankind that Phyllis has learned
  • The most generous donors
  • The challenge of rejecting charities for the sake of upholding their rigorous process


“This absolutely applies to social justice.”

“The Torah, as we know, is an incredibly concise document. Every single word counts in the Torah.”

“We say it twice because it is so damned important.”

“We should expect there to be justice, but…don’t count on it. It is up to each and every one of us to make sure that we live our lives justly, but that we also call out injustices wherever we see them. And we have an obligation to do this.

“Your means have to be just and your ends have to be just. And it’s not one or the other, it’s both.”

“We see it right now…how this pandemic has really underscored some great injustices.”

“The work of a good person is never done.”

“No one ever started a successful business by not talking to the customers.”

“It’s actually sort of an arrogant sense of superiority, you know, which is the ultimate injustice.”

“It matters that we’re trying to do the absolute best thing that we can with your money because we have an obligation to do that, and that is the just thing to do.”

“When one does philanthropy with love, they’re going to welcome the rigor that you apply.”

“It’s the love of God that inspires so much of this kind of giving.”

“Generosity comes in incredible ways.”

“We’re not here simply to help you, we’re here to catalyze the work that you’re doing so that we can bring our other wealthy clients on board to help solve this problem.”

Deuteronomy 16:20 Justice, justice shall you pursue, that you may thrive and occupy the land that the LORD your God is giving you. https://www.sefaria.org/Deuteronomy.16.20?lang=bi&with=all&lang2=en


The Rabbi’s Husband homepage: http://therabbishusband.com/

Mark’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/markgerson?lang=en

For More Information About African Mission Healthcare and to Donate visit: https://africanmissionhealthcare.org/donation/gerson-ubs-matching/