Your Daily Phil: 280 Jewish groups set environmental goals for Tu B’Shevat

Good Thursday morning.

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on efforts to assist Holocaust survivors in light of the latest findings by the Claims Conference and a new survey by the Jewish People Policy Institute in Jerusalem about American Jews’ opinions of the Israel-Hamas war. We feature opinion pieces from Andrés Spokoiny and Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi drawing meaning and mission from today’s Tu B’Shevat holiday. Also in this newsletter: Alon TalMark Treyger and Jere­my Eich­ler. We’ll start with the release of the Jewish Climate Leadership Coalition’s action plans for the coming year. Tu B’Shevat sameach!

The overwhelming majority of the members of the Adamah’s Jewish Climate Leadership Coalition offer a plant-based option at events where food is served (89%) and are in the process of reducing the emissions from their buildings (97%), according to new data gathered by the organization, eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross reports.

To coincide with Tu B’Shevat, the 280 organizations who are members of the coalition will be releasing their “Climate Action Plans” for the coming year today, recording the measures that they have already implemented and the ones they plan to undertake in the coming year.

Adamah reviewed the plans before their release and found that many groups are working to move their buildings to renewable energy and that the majority — 61% — are moving away from natural gas and other fossil fuels and toward electric options.

“The story being revealed through these Climate Action Plans is one of commitment, progress, and hope,” Liore Milgrom Gartner, Adamah’s deputy climate action director, said in a statement. “We are seeing the myriad of ways that Jewish community organizations in the coalition are setting ambitious but attainable climate action goals, both to reduce institutional greenhouse gas emissions and to expand our collective impact by engaging our networks to undertake climate action alongside us.”

Adamah also found that more than 67,000 members of the coalition organizations have “engaged in climate-focused programming in 2023.”

In addition to offering advice and counseling to organizations through regular meetings, Adamah has also developed a Climate Action Fund to help organizations finance their ecological programs. Throughout 2023, the group provided $450,000 in matching grants and interest-free loans to 16 Jewish organizations — synagogues, camps, Jewish community centers, schools — to install sustainable infrastructure, which Adamah expects will pay for themselves in a little over a year and will “reduce emissions by over 900 metric tons each year.”

Adamah launched the coalition in September 2022 with 20 founding members, including the Foundation for Jewish Camp, Hillel International, JCC Association of North America, Jewish Federations of North America and the Reconstructionist, Reform and Conservative movements. It now includes synagogues, JCCs, federations, camps, schools and a host of other Jewish organizations from across the country and denominational spectrum, though it does not have as much purchase in the Orthodox community.


Marcy Gringlas, president of the Seed the Dream Foundation, reads the hagada with her father, Joseph Gringlas, at a Passover Seder, in an undated photograph. Courtesy/Seed the Dream

On International Holocaust Remembrance Day this Saturday, the world will commemorate the murder of 6 million Jews. Yet Marcy Gringlas, the daughter of Holocaust survivors who works on their behalf, told eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen that there is an even more critical task than remembering those who perished — caring for the approximately 245,000 survivors who are still alive, especially now as 20% of them are over 90, resulting in increased need for care and services, according to a new report from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, more commonly known as the Claims Conference.

Hand to mouth: “The more we understood and learned, the more we were shocked about what wasn’t being told about the situation that [some] Holocaust survivors are living in; to make decisions between food or rent and dental care or adult diapers,” said Gringlas, president of Seed the Dream Foundation, a private grantmaking foundation that initially focused on improving educational access but since 2019 has teamed up with Kavod – Ensuring Dignity for Survivors to include a special focus on helping impoverished Holocaust survivors.

Survivors’ needs: The study, “Global Demographic Report on Jewish Holocaust Survivors,” found that the nearly 250,000 living Holocaust survivors are spread out across more than 90 countries, though roughly half live in Israel. The United States has the second-largest survivor population with 38,400. Some 18% live in Western Europe — mostly France and Germany — and approximately 12% reside in countries of the former Soviet Union. The median age of Jewish Holocaust survivors is 86, the youngest being 77 and the oldest being 112. Survivors’ needs include home care, food, medicine, transportation and socialization, the Claims Conference found.

History repeats: Gringlas’ mother, who survived the Holocaust as a baby by being hidden in a non-Jewish home in Slovakia, “is part of a class of survivors who have lived long enough to unfortunately see history repeat itself,” she said. “Following the horrific massacre of Oct. 7, and amid the historic rise in antisemitism in the United States and around the world, Holocaust survivors are the remaining witnesses to history’s darkest chapter. They know antisemitism because they lived it, and they are sadly watching it again. They have much to teach us as history seems to be repeating itself, and we now have a new generation of ‘survivors.’”

Read the full report here.


Most American Jews support war against Hamas, think U.S. not doing enough

American politician Dianne Feinstein, her arms outstretched in celebration, in her office after she was elected mayor of San Francisco, at San Francisco City Hall in San Francisco, California, circa 1978.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The majority of American Jews support Israel’s ongoing war against Hamas, even at the expense of Palestinian civilian casualties, and believe the United States is not doing enough to support Israel, according to a new survey by the Jerusalem-based Jewish People Policy Institute, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross.

Against the grain: The survey — part of a series of polls conducted by JPPI — asked 812 self-identifying American Jews about their views on the war, finding that many opinions align neatly with domestic U.S. politics — nearly 9 in 10 “strong conservatives” think the Biden administration isn’t doing enough to support Israel, for instance. But others appear to buck those trends, with the majority of “strongly liberal” respondents saying they support the war against Hamas, provided steps are taken to mitigate harm to civilians.

Don’t mind us: A sizeable majority of respondents from across the denominational spectrum — 89% of Modern Orthodox, 84% of Conservative and 72% of Reform Jews — said Israel should not take into account rising antisemitism around the world as it decides how best to prosecute the war in Gaza.

Keep it going: “The support of the majority of Jews in America for Israel and its positions is not self-evident,” Shuki Friedman, vice president of JPPI, said in a statement. “Since the outbreak of the war on Oct. 7, the level of support of Jewish Americans for Israel and its challenges has increased significantly. This is a strategic asset for Israel. After the war it is the obligation of Israelis and the state to leverage this change to bring the two major Jewish communities in the world closer and strengthen the relationship between them.”


Rooted in darkness, reaching for the sun

Illustration by Almeida from Pixabay

“Jews who grew up in the Southern Hemisphere, as I did, have something in common: We are used to Jewish holidays being upside down… Maybe because of that, one of the symbols of [Tu B’Shevat] eluded me until I heard a great dvar Torah from my friend and colleague Deena Fuchs, former executive vice president of the Jewish Funders Network and now CEO of the Micah Foundation. In it, Deena reflected on why this holiday falls at what appears to be the most unlikely time of the year,” writes Andrés Spokoiny, president and CEO of the Jewish Funders Network, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Timing is everything: “Planting in Israel is timed for midwinter, not towards its end, because the last rains, which may fall at the beginning of the spring, are the malkosh: strong, stormy rains that usher the winter out with a bang. The malkosh bring a lot of water, which Israel needs, but they can wash away a sapling that is not firmly planted on the ground; and since they come at the point in the year when there’s increasingly more sunlight, they result in an almost immediate blossoming of flowers and undergrowth, which would compete with your fledgling tree for resources. In fact, the name malkosh comes from the root of the word ‘tardiness,’ but the sages in the Talmud propose that it’s a combination of two words: maleh (full) and kash (hay). In other words, the malkosh fills the fields with vegetation and puts grain on the stalks.”

An act of faith: “We are now in the dead of winter, both literally and figuratively. As Jews, I don’t think that we have never felt more dejected, more alone, more dead inside. We are struggling to see the light, which fails to pierce the dark clouds of pain, anger and grief. And yet, our traditions tell us that this is the ideal time to plant. It forces us to see hope when there seems to be none, for few things convey more hope than planting a tree. It means that we believe that there will be a future, and the very presence of that tree will make the future better. It means that there’s life and growth beneath the surface of horror. It means that, even in the darkest of times, we’re becoming stronger, wiser and firmer.”

Read the full piece here.


Unleashing the power of philanthropy for climate action

Kevin Snyman from Pixabay

“Jews have long held the responsibility of being shomrei adamah, guardians of the earth. From dedicating trees in Israel to celebrating Tu B’Shevat, our connection to the environment runs deep. This Jewish Earth Day, as the roots of new trees embed themselves in the soil, it’s time to acknowledge the urgent threat of human-induced climate change — and to act,” writes Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, co-founder and director of the Mizrahi Family Charitable Fund, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Design for accountability: “While admirable work is being done by our grantees, implementing climate goals remains a challenge. Many organizations, even those dedicated solely to climate impact, lack specific, measurable goals and mechanisms for accountability. This underscores the tremendous growth potential within the Jewish and nonprofit sectors to become leaders in environmental stewardship.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Hug a Tree: In The Times of Israel, environmental leader and former Knesset member Alon Tal looks to Israel’s trees as a rebuttal to claims that Jews have no ties to the country. “Every year, during Tu Bishvat, Israeli schoolchildren are told the curious story of Honi the Circle-Maker… Honi is probably most famous as a Rip Van Winkle figure in the well-known midrash (Taanit 23a) where he chanced upon a man planting a carob tree. He asks him how many years will it be before it produces fruit, and is told it would take 70. In a lapse into cynicism, Honi then mocks: ‘Really?! You really think you’re going to live 70 years and eat from it?’ And the man responds: ‘I found a world with carob trees. Just as my fathers planted for me, I need to plant for my children’… The message is clear: when you are an indigenous people — posterity matters. intergenerational commitments matter… There is no more concrete manifestation of the Zionist impulse, as the national movement of an indigenous people, than Israel’s forests… Empirical evidence from aerial reconnaissance photography of the British army in World War I confirms the absolute bareness of Palestine following 2,000 years of Jewish exile. Since then, almost two million dunams of woodlands have been planted. There is something deeply meaningful about this profound act of national, ecological revival during these troubled times.” [TOI]

Debunking the Generation Gap: Younger employees today are reporting the absence of a sense of connection with their colleagues, manager or employer, which can be “a significant hurdle in creating cohesive, high-performing teams,” writes Liesbeth van der Linden in Forbes. “Today, there may be up to four generations working together in organizations. Their life experiences, values, and beliefs are bound to differ and can lead to disagreements or even conflicts. Frustration over this can easily lead leaders and their teams to fall back on common stereotypes such as ‘Baby Boomers are arrogant and inept with technology,’ ‘Millennials are entitled,’ or ‘Gen-Zers are lazy.’… There’s little solid empirical evidence to confirm that the era we were born in determines how we behave… Rather than using the generation gap as an excuse for disconnection and disengagement, leaders should initiate conversations that reveal individuals’ motivations, values, and aspirations to help build meaningful connections, fostering trust and understanding.” [Forbes]

Follow the Money: Three reports released last month examine whether the billions of dollars allocated by funders to aid Indigenous populations around the world are reaching community-led groups, reports Michael Kavate in InsidePhilanthropy. “[O]nly a tiny share of philanthropy is going directly to local organizations, with the bulk instead landing with large international nonprofits and intermediaries, a dynamic long decried by Indigenous communities. Bright spots? One of the studies, the annual report by the Forest Tenure Funders Group, the collection of governments and philanthropies behind the mega pledge, found that grants are flowing out the door at an impressive clip. And all three publications offer examples of how communities are creating and expanding the infrastructure to help more money move directly to the front lines in the future.” [InsidePhilanthropy]

Around the Web

The board of directors of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York hired Mark Treyger, a former New York City Council member, as the organization’s next CEO. He will succeed Noam Gilboord, the organization’s COO, who has filled the role in an acting capacity since Gideon Taylor stepped down in June…

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft’s Foundation to Combat Antisemitism will run its first Super Bowl ad as part of its ongoing “Stand Up to Jewish Hate” campaign…

Music critic Jere­my Eich­ler won the National Jewish Book Council’s book of the year for Time’s Echo: The Sec­ond World War, the Holo­caust, and the Music of Remem­brance, which examined how composers used their music to memorialize the Holocaust…

The Anti-Defamation League elected two new members to its board of directors: Bernard Taylor and Heidi Packer Eskenazi

The Community Security Service is partnering with the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington to provide training and information-sharing to synagogues and other institutions in the area…

Some 200 members of the Washington, D.C., Jewish community demonstrated outside the Qatari Embassy yesterday, calling for the country to do more to secure the release of Israeli hostages being held in the Gaza Strip…

AIPAC’s political action committee announced it was supporting Westchester County Executive George Latimer in his primary against Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY)…

The San Francisco-based Lisa and Douglas Goldman Fund issued $665,000 in emergency grants to “provide emergency relief in Israel and combat antisemitism in the U.S.”…

Maj. Gen. (res.) Tamir Hayman, a former head of Israeli Military Intelligence, was named the next executive director of Tel Aviv’s Institute for National Security Studies think tank, succeeding economist Manuel Trajtenberg

A new YouGov poll of Brits found that one-third of respondents — and more than half of 18-24-year-olds — believe Israel treats Palestinians the way Nazis treated Jews, and 10% of the young age group believe that Jews are less loyal than other British citizens — double the rate of the rest of the general population…

The Council of Jewish Institutions in France, better known as CRIF, found that the number of antisemitic incidents in the country nearly quadrupled in 2023 compared to the previous year…

The Wall Street Journal looks at the resentment brewing among Cornell University donors, including calls for the president’s ouster, over how the school has been responding to antisemitism…

Northwestern University is one of the latest schools to be under investigation by the Department of Education over its handling of antisemitism on campus and is also facing mounting criticism over its antisemitism task force, which includes at least one member who actively supports the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel…

Maccabee Task Force brought a delegation of some 40 U.S. college students, most of them not Jewish, to Israel on a solidarity and educational mission earlier this month…

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will not attend the annual International Holocaust Remembrance Day event at Park East Synagogue this year — the first time that the top U.N. official has skipped the gathering in at least a decade…

The British Jewish Chronicle profiles the local affiliate of Beit Halochem, an Israeli charity that rehabilitates injured veterans, which is expecting a surge in demands following Oct. 7 and the Israel-Hamas war…

A delegation of donors and alumni from the Christian Zionist organization Passages donated $500,000 to two Gaza-border communities — Kibbutz Kfar Aza and Netiv Ha’asara — during a solidarity mission to Israel this week…

Naomi Feil, a pioneer in dementia care whose family fled Nazi Germany in the 1930s, died last month at 91…

Joseph Brender, a major donor and mainstay of the Sydney, Australia, Jewish community, died on Tuesday at 92…

Howard Golden, who served as Brooklyn borough president for 25 years, died on Wednesday at 98…

Pic of the Day

Over 50,000 people attend the traditional Birkat Kohanim (Priestly Blessing) at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City today, during Chol Hamoed (the intermediary days) of Sukkot.

Participants in the Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning’s solidarity mission to Israel this month, drawn from across the United States, Canada and Australia, survey the atrocities committed by Hamas on Oct. 7 in Kibbutz Kfar Aza. 


Annie Liebovitz smiles
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky

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