Your Daily Phil: A Black-Jewish Seder looks to mend communal ties

Good Tuesday morning.

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on the first-ever antisemitism panel at this week’s Milken Institute Global Conference and how Jewish leaders are responding to the deals universities are reaching with anti-Israel protesters. We feature an opinion piece by Gila Romanoff about the need to embrace queer Jews, particularly youth from the Orthodox community. Also in this newsletter: David MetzlerBetsy Berns Korn and Marc Rowan. We’ll start with a report on a bridge-building Black-Jewish Passover Seder in Los Angeles.

Tiffany Haddish found the afikomen at a Seder no one was expected to know about, one that included advocates and award-winning actors and musicians from the overlapping Black and Jewish communities, reports Jay Deitcher for eJewishPhilanthropy.

The idea for the event was sparked during a conversation between CNN political commentator Van Jones and Deborah Marcus, executive at the Creative Artists Agency (CAA) Foundation, the talent agency’s philanthropic arm, about hosting an event that would help bring the Black and Jewish communities together during this tumultuous time when the Gaza war has driven a wedge between many in both communities.

“Pick a date,” Marcus said, and she offered to hold it at her house.

The mock Seder, which was held in Los Angeles last Monday, on the final night of Passover, was inspired by past “Freedom Seders” that first brought together members of the Black and Jewish communities in 1969. Black and Jewish communities have a storied history of working together, such as during the Civil Rights Movement, but have found themselves increasingly divided. A December 2023 New York Times/Siena poll showed that Black voters sympathized more with Palestinians than with Israelis, unlike white, Hispanic and “other” respondents who sympathized more with Israelis.

The 25 attendees included Grammy-nominated songwriter Freddie Wexler, singer Aloe Blacc and actor (and Seder leader) Jonah Platt. They were invited from across the advocate and entertainment world, including talent not affiliated with CAA. Marcus said she invited people she knew who shared similar values.

Bringing people together over meals, over rituals, is just a fabulous way to build bridges and to reconnect,” Marcus told eJP. “The story of Exodus is an important one to Jews and is also one that is relevant to many in the Black community.”

The Seder was not an official CAA event and received no funding from the agency. Marcus never expected so much buzz around it. There were no press releases, no interviews scheduled. But within days, pictures flooded the internet because attendees were so moved.

“Nights like this are super important,” singer and actress Malynda Hale told eJP. She hopes to launch her own Soul Food Shabbat events later this year to help inspire “more discussions on how our communities can come together and be there for one another and others.” She is not Jewish, but said, “It was beautiful to share a night learning about someone else’s culture.”

Things got especially emotional during the Four Questions, Berman said, when Rabbi Yoshi Zweiback, the senior rabbi at Stephen Wise Temple and Schools, prompted other attendees to share about their challenges, personally, professionally and based around the chaos of the world.

“It was such a moving and meaningful moment because there was so much solidarity and feeling of love and connection that everyone felt comfortable enough to really share what they were struggling with,” Berman said. “They felt so much support from the people around them. People were holding hands, touching each other’s shoulders.”

Attendees spent much of the Seder reflecting on the history of Black-Jewish partnership and how it’s impacted their communities and the nation. They recognized that being Black and Jewish are not binary, there are many Jews of all backgrounds.

“It’s so important especially now to spend time listening to one another’s stories with curiosity and empathy, asking questions, opening ourselves to new perspectives. This is how we grow.” Zweiback told eJP. “Our stories are deeply intertwined. Our struggles are shared ones. We are better and stronger and freer together.”

Read the full report here.


Milken conference holds its first-ever session entirely dedicated to fighting antisemitism

Members of a panel at the Milken Institute Global Conference happening this week in Beverly Hills. Daniel Lubetzky/X

Inside the exclusive Milken Institute Global Conference happening this week in Beverly Hills, attendees schmoozed and took investing advice from some of the world’s most successful leaders. So when some people wiped away tears in a Monday afternoon panel discussion about addressing antisemitism, it was noticeable; the $25,000-per-seat conference does not have a reputation for sentimentality. But the honest conversation and the speakers’ cautious optimism, even at this difficult moment, emotionally moved some crowd members. Several of them wore yellow ribbon pins in honor of Israeli hostages. It was the first time in the conference’s 27 years that organizers held an entire session focused on antisemitism, reports Gabby Deutch for eJewishPhilanthropy’s sister publication Jewish Insider from the gathering.

Van Jones again: More than anyone else, CNN host and entrepreneur Van Jones shared a perspective that appeared to resonate deeply with many in the crowd. He led the other panelists — KIND Snacks founder Daniel Lubetzky, Sinai Temple Rabbi Emeritus and Harvard Divinity School scholar Rabbi David Wolpe and Arielle Mokhtarzadeh, a former UCLA student body president — in considering the role of allies in fighting antisemitism, and discussing ways for them to become more strongly engaged.

‘Destroyers versus builders’: Daniel Lubetzky, the founder of KIND Snacks who has worked to build ties between Jews and Arabs in Israel and between Israelis and Palestinians, argued that the recent anti-Israel protests on college campuses are meant to divide the Jewish community — and to keep Jews separate and apart from other communities, unless Jews decide to continue engaging. “This is not Israelis versus Palestinians or Jews versus Muslims or Blacks versus whites or left versus right. This is extremism versus problem solvers. This is destroyers versus builders,” said Lubetzky. “They cannot defeat us because they don’t know how to build. They can only destroy, divide, diminish.”

Read the full report here and sign up for Jewish Insider’s Daily Kickoff here.


Jewish leaders worry that university presidents are appeasing anti-Israel protesters — at any cost

Protest signs hang on a fence at Northwestern University as people gather on the campus to show support for residents of Gaza on April 25, 2024 in Evanston, Ill. The university’s president struck a deal with protesters acceding to several of their demands, a deal that is being slammed by Jewish leaders. Scott Olson/Getty Images

As universities around the country strike various deals with anti-Israel protesters to quell the turmoil on college campuses — including giving protesters a seat at the table regarding investment decisions — Jewish leaders fear that even these largely symbolic concessions could further poison the atmosphere for Jewish students, eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen reports for Jewish Insider.

Benefits and rewards: Negotiating with protesters sets up a climate in which “Jewish students — who are not violating rules —- are being ignored, bullied and intimidated,” said Mark Rotenberg, vice president and general counsel of Hillel International. “People who violate university rules should not be rewarded with financial benefits and rewards,” he continued.

Jews left out: Rotenberg expressed ire over universities’ lack of consulting with Jewish faculty or students ahead of making the agreements. At Northwestern, seven Jewish members of the university’s antisemitism advisory committee stepped down from the body last Wednesday, citing Schill’s failure to combat antisemitism while quickly accepting the demands of anti-Israel protesters on campus. “Any meeting with the board of regents at University of Minnesota that relates to these issues, must include Jewish voices — voices of the overwhelming majority of the Jewish community who identify with and support Israel,” Rotenberg said.

Read the full story here.


After Oct. 7, Jewish unity must include queer Jews

chaofann/Getty Images

“With antisemitism on the rise worldwide and American Jews reportedly feeling more fear for their lives, there has never been a more important moment to embrace every Jewish person, regardless of sexuality and gender identity,” writes Gila Romanoff, the teen and community program manager at JQY, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Even more isolated: “Many queer Orthodox Jews (and youth in particular), who have historically been ostracized by their communities, need that embrace even more so now. In the past, they have turned to queer-friendly spaces outside the Jewish community for love and support when they have felt abandoned by Orthodox families and institutions. For months, however, many of those same queer communities have felt hostile and unwelcoming to Jews… Teen participants at JQY’s drop-in center in New York City and in our online groups have expressed feeling extreme loneliness. As one recent anonymous commenter on a JQY social media post put it: ‘It’s so painful, I don’t feel like I belong anywhere.’”

Step up: “From many private conversations that I have had with friends, family and rabbinic leadership, I know that there is certainly more acceptance and support of queer Jewish people in the Orthodox community than others realize. But people are often hesitant to express that support publicly and proudly, often due to their own fear of ostracization, which means teens don’t know they could be accepted in these communities. It is not enough to have quiet, individual acceptance. There needs to be a communal move towards acceptance, which will expand our community and unite us further in times of tragedy… I urge Orthodox community leaders and rabbis to speak up in this moment and make it perfectly clear that these teens have a place in your community — that they are still part of the family.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Supporting Those Left Behind: In The Jerusalem Post, David Metzler, the director of international relations for the IDF Widows and Orphans Organization, reflects on the significance of the approaching Yom Hazikaron in Israel, the first since Oct. 7 and the start of the ongoing war. “[O]ur hearts are weighed down by the immense, numbing loss our country has suffered. On the one hand, it’s a loss on a national scale, and on the other, the loss for each of us is also deeply personal… Since Oct. 7, the number of orphans under the care of the IDFWO has surged by 130%, and we have had to welcome over 230 new widows. At our last Otzma Camp before the war, a key component of our comprehensive Otzma Program, 70 orphans participated. At our most recent camp in April, this number dramatically increased to 270, with the potential to exceed 600 in future sessions. In addition to providing emotional support for an unprecedented number of new widows, we launched targeted projects for groups with specific needs. This included the Letzidech program for 29 pregnant war widows, offering comprehensive support; and a therapeutic retreat for widows without children, addressing their unique emotional challenges. These initiatives, and many others, are aimed not just at practical assistance but also at fostering emotional healing within a community of women experiencing similar loss.” [JPost]

A Post-Oct. 7 Seinfeld: Comedian Jerry Seinfeld’s increased public engagement with his Jewish identity and what is happening in Israel reflects the shift many American Jews like him are undergoing (albeit more privately) in response to Oct. 7 and the Hamas-Israel war, write Matt Flegenheimer and Marc Tracy in The New York Times. “[In the 90s,] Jerry Seinfeld became a mic-cradling, cereal-eating, ‘did-you-ever-notice’-ing avatar of American Jewish life with a brazenly shrugging persona: a merry indifference to weighty material as a comedian and in his megahit TV show about nothing, as petty and apolitical as he seemed to be. Now — off-camera, at least — Mr. Seinfeld appears to have reached his post-nothing period… He has shared reflections about life on a kibbutz in his teens, and in December traveled to Tel Aviv to meet with hostages’ families, soberly recounting afterward the missile attack that greeted him during the trip. He has participated, to a point, in the kind of celebrity activism with which few associate him — letter-signing campaigns, earnest messages on social media — answering simply recently when asked about the motivation for his visit to Israel: ‘I’m Jewish.’ … He remains far less outspoken on the subject than other celebrities and comedians, such as Amy Schumer. But for a figure long held up, like few others in entertainment, as a generational narrator of the American Jewish experience, even a cautious exploration of his identity has been notable.” [NYTimes]

Terminal Turbulence: In the Financial Times, Stephen Bush zooms out from the political struggles of British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to explore how institutions and their leaders cope when failure seems like the only option left. “So deep-rooted is the aversion to admitting that your plans have failed — that they can’t be revived and that you are now in the business of selling something for pennies on the dollar — that some studies of organisational difficulty don’t even have a separate stage for organisational collapse. Similarly, public conversations about a political party’s strategy have to pretend that ‘winning’ is always an option. One exception can be found in the work of the researcher Steven Jay Gross of Temple University. He categorises the challenges that an educational institution’s leadership can face using ‘turbulence theory.’ This models the level of disruption from ‘light’ turbulence, or ordinary day-to-day difficulties such as a school suffering from geographic isolation, all the way to ‘extreme’ turbulence, when the institution’s very existence is in trouble… As any experienced pilot knows, sometimes turbulence is so bad that your job is no longer to complete your journey, but to head for the nearest airfield and land.” [FinancialTimes]

Around the Web

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations nominated Betsy Berns Korn, AIPAC’s national board chair and former president, as its chair-elect. Harriet Schleifer was nominated for a second one-year term as chair….

Marc Rowan, CEO of Apollo Global Managementtold Bloomberg that university trustees “have been asleep at the wheel” for 20 years regarding the atmosphere on college campuses but warned against them now overstepping. “I think trustees for the most part of these big institutions, myself included, have failed to act. We have not done our job in the most fundamental way,” Rowan said…

Jewish Insider interviews University of Florida President Ben Sasse about anti-Israel protests on college campuses and how his university is responding to them…

Columbia University canceled its main commencement ceremony amid ongoing anti-Israel protests on the campus…

UC Santa Cruz appears to reject anti-Israel protesters’ demands that it cut ties with Hillel, saying it “value[s] and intend[s] to continue” its relationship with the Jewish campus group…

Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) and Michelle Steel (R-CA) are set to introduce a bill today directing the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum to create a curriculum to teach about the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel…

New York University’s new Center for the Study of Antisemitism hosted its first conference on April 18, called “Four Critical Questions: Confronting Antisemitism in 2024 and Beyond”…

In an opinion piece for Time, journalist and Holocaust educator Boaz Dvir offers ideas for better curricula to teach about the Holocaust in light of rising antisemitism…

The Belfer family is donating $20 million to the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center for the study and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. The donation brings the family’s total giving to the institution to $53.5 million in just over 10 years…

In its latest annual tally, B’nai Brith Canada found that the number of antisemitic incidents in the country more than doubled from 2022 to 2023…

The British Jewish education nonprofit Seed is trying out a hot new idea to raise money for its “Power of Belief” campaign: getting fundraisers to walk across burning coals…

Executives from Patricia Bauman’s foundation and others who worked with her eulogize the New York-based philanthropist who died in March…

Pic of the Day

Courtesy/Rebecca Hammel

A replica of the cattle cars used by the Nazi regime to transport Jews and other targeted groups to concentration camps and death camps during the Holocaust is seen yesterday on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The opening event for the traveling immersive exhibit, organized by the nonprofit Hate Ends Now, featured public officials and Jewish institutional leaders. It coincided with Holocaust Remembrance Day, which also marks the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

The exhibit, which will be on the Mall through May 9, also features 25 original artifacts from the Holocaust rarely permitted outside of museum walls. Trained docents greet visitors outside of the cattle car, familiarizing them with the exhibit and providing critical context and framing the presentation.

“Placing the Hate Ends Now cattle car in the capital of the free world during a time of alarming increase in antisemitism globally sends a powerful message, reminding us of what happens when hate is allowed to go unchecked,” said Todd Cohn, CEO of Hate Ends Now. “People of all ages have a visceral reaction when they step foot in the Cattle Car and when it seemingly comes to life with the voices, pictures and stories of this dark era.”


Annie Liebovitz smiles
Sean Zanni/Patrick McMullen via Getty Images

Chairman and CEO of Hertz until a few months ago, following 30 years at Goldman Sachs, Stephen Scherr

Member of the New York State Assembly from 1993 to 2022, Sandra R. “Sandy” Galef… Senior member of the Mobile, Ala., law firm of Silver, Voit & Thompson, Irving Silver… Napa, Calif.-based media executive and podcast host, Jeffrey Schechtman… Theatrical producer at Press the Button Productions in Monterey, Calif., Jane J. Press… Former member of the Knesset for the Shas party, Rabbi Meshulam Nahari… Former deputy secretary of state, deputy national security advisor, currently the dean of Johns Hopkins SAIS, James Braidy “Jim” Steinberg… Director of films including “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” “National Lampoon’s European Vacation,” “Look Who’s Talking” and “Clueless,” Amy Heckerling… Interim president of Harvard University, Alan Michael Garber… Professional poker player and hedge fund manager, Daniel Shak… CEO of Rationalwave Capital Partners, Mark Rosenblatt… Emmy Award-winning film, television and music video director, Adam Bernstein… Mexican actor best known for his work in telenovelas and the stage, Ari Telch… Founder of JewBelong, Archie Gottesman… Former member of the Virginia House of Delegates, Mark H. Levine… CEO of the American Jewish Committee, he was previously a member of Congress for 12 years, Ted Deutch… Senior adviser to House Democratic Whip Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA-5), Keith Stern… Former member of the Knesset who served as interior minister and justice minister, she now chairs Kardan Real Estate Group, Ayelet Shaked… AIPAC national board member and the regional political chair for AIPAC’s Northeast Region, Yana J. Lukeman… VP of sales at Harvey, Robert Warren Saliterman… Head of school at Manhattan Day School, Dr. Pesha C. Kletenik… Social entrepreneur, winemaker and CEO of Napa Valley’s OneHope, Jake Kloberdanz… Director of strategic initiatives for the Port of Los Angeles, Arthur L. Mandel… CEO of Austin-based Harris Media, Vincent Robert Harris… Las Vegas-based fashion blogger, DJ and writer known as Bebe Zeva, Rebeccah Zeva Hershkovitz… Film and television actress, Dylan Nicole Gelula… Actor and singer, Andrew Barth Feldman