Your Daily Phil: A home for neurodivergent people in L.A. + Updating the Hebrew school paradigm

Good Friday morning!

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on U.S. lawmakers celebrating American Jewish history and Israel’s 75th Independence Day. We also feature op-eds from Erica Brown, Rabbi Stacy Rigler and Lisa Langer. We’ll start with the groundbreaking of a new housing community for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Los Angeles.

For less-distracted reading over the weekend, browse this week’s edition of The Weekly Print, a curated print-friendly PDF featuring a selection of recent Jewish Insider and eJewishPhilanthropy stories, including:Utah Sen. Mike Lee breaks with his party on foreign policy; Mark Robinson’s run for N.C. governor to test GOP in battleground state; How Montana Tucker’s TikTok series on antisemitism made it to the White House; Establishment Republican donors reckoning with Trump’s staying power; In ‘Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret,’ a fictional crisis of faith at a real-life synagogue; Kyrsten Sinema’s consistency on reform — in the U.S. and in Israel; In Jerusalem, DeSantis teases presidential announcement; In electability pitch, Nikki Haley tests out ‘consensus’ line on abortion; and Herzog unveils new dialogue initiative, ‘Voice of the People,’ at JFNA General Assembly. Print the latest edition here.

Also check out Jewish Insider‘s series by Gabby Deutch on the unsolved murder of a rabbi in Washington, D.C., in 1984, Who Killed Kesher’s Rabbi? Parts 1 and 2 are available for download here. Parts 3 and 4 are available here. Part 5 comes out Monday.

For Michael Held, last week’s groundbreaking of The Bhatia Family Village, a new housing community for neurodiverse adults in the heavily Jewish Pico-Robertson neighborhood of Los Angeles, was “as perfect as it could be.” The project had been years in the making, but standing with his partners in the effort, shovels in the dirt in an audience of community leaders, “there was really a feeling of joy,” Held told eJewishPhilanthropy’s Esther D. Kustanowitz.

Held is the founder and executive director of ETTA, an organization that launched in 1993 to provide programs and services to adults in the Jewish community with developmental disabilities, now often referred to as Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities, or I/DD. He is also executive director of Cornerstone Housing for Adults with Disabilities, a separate 501(c)(3) that spun off from ETTA to manage the real estate aspects of the organization, including the development of The Village. Though Held and his organizations are Jewish, The Village will cater to people of all backgrounds.

“The hardest thing to tackle is housing because it’s expensive and permanent,” Held told eJP. He and the other people behind The Village hope that their efforts will help make better housing an option for people with I/DD, especially as many of their caretakers are aging. Prospective residents of The Village must have the capacity for independence, meaning they can handle their own medications and hygiene, and don’t require an overnight staff member devoted to their care. Formal admission parameters and registration will be online in January 2024.

Because neurodiverse adults often experience loneliness, as well as difficulty in starting relationships or knowing what activities to do, ETTA specialists will be on-site to promote fitness, health and wellness and steer residents toward work in a rooftop garden, Held said.

Anita Bhatia, executive director of the Ramesh and Kalpana Bhatia Family Foundation, which is supporting The Village with a donation of $5 million, said this was a personal issue for her family. “As the parent of a neurodiverse teenager, I am acutely aware of the housing crisis in our country for children like mine,” she said in a statement.

Previous North American efforts to create supported, independent apartments have been situated in suburban or more rural areas, where land is less expensive, Held said, but the Cornerstone board, which includes Jewish real estate developer and philanthropist Kam Babaoff, rejected that option as it would, in effect, cut off people with I/DD from the city and from local Jewish community. “It’s contrary to our values: respect the dignity of each person who has a disability is a core Jewish value, that we’re the same,” Held said. “They have the same heritage, the same God, the same capacity to be part of a community.”

Read the full story here.

Jewish American Heritage Month

Combat Antisemitism Movement

Lawmakers offered remarks yesterday in Washington, D.C., at a Jewish American Heritage Month breakfast event organized by the Combat Antisemitism Movement and a separate lunch event to celebrate Israel’s 75th anniversary and the introduction of legislation honoring former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, organized by lobbyist Ezra Friedlander and real estate developer Bobby Rechnitz, who leads the Golda Meir Commemorative Coin Commission, reports Marc Rod for eJewishPhilanthropy’s sister publication Jewish Insider.

Not just Israel: While the majority of speakers at the breakfast addressed Israel, antisemitism or both issues, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), who helped found Jewish American Heritage Month during her first term in Congress, emphasized that neither issue should be the focus of the commemoration. “As much of a Zionist as I am, JAHM is not about Israel. JAHM is an annual May celebration, which is a time to educate the American public, to pay tribute to the generations of American Jews who have helped shape American history, culture and society,” she said. “JAHM also isn’t about antisemitism. It’s about celebrating and educating Americans about the significant contributions that American Jews have made to our success story.”

But also Israel: Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) was the only lawmaker to mention the ongoing controversy over Israel’s judicial reform efforts. “Israel has always been a democracy and has faced every challenge. Now Israel faces probably the greatest challenge it has ever faced — an internal challenge, an internal challenge to its own democracy,” Nadler said. “Will democracy survive in Israel? That is not at all certain right now.”

Read the full article here.

The Torah of leadership

Leadership and the scapegoat: Thoughts on Parshat Achrei Mot


“One of the most unusual rituals in the entire book of Leviticus is found in this week’s Torah reading, Achrei Mot. Aaron is commanded to take two male goats and place lots upon them as a means of expiation. One goat was to be sacrificed, and the other, the mysterious Azazel, was to be sent off into the wilderness,” writes Erica Brown, vice provost for values and leadership at Yeshiva University and director of its Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks-Herenstein Center, in her weekly column for eJewishPhilanthropy, “The Torah of Leadership.”

Effects of sin: “This ancient rite had important and potent symbolism for those cleansing themselves of sin. The effects of sin can be crippling. It can lead people to internalize that they are only the sum total of the wrongs they have ever done. Wrongdoing can make people label themselves as unworthy and lead to a downward psychic spiral of behavior.”

Scapegoat: “This fascinating ritual also gave birth to the word ‘scapegoat’ – someone who is blamed for the mistakes or faults of others, often unfairly, to relieve others of responsibility. When we blame others, we remove the burden of accountability from ourselves. Yet its use today in common parlance is the exact opposite of its ancient meaning, according to Maimonides. The goat was there to help make sin visible and pronounced to all of Israel; it worked as a symbol only when the community was committed to change.”

Read the full piece here.

Old narratives

Reform Jewish education today

Courtesy/Union for Reform Judaism

“With the release of The Jewish Education Project’s report ‘From Census to Possibilities’ we find ourselves reflecting on the changes in Jewish education since the 2008 census and marveling at the strength and diversity of Reform Jewish education,” write Rabbi Stacy Rigler, executive director of the Association of Reform Jewish Educators, and Lisa Langer, associate director of congregational innovation and education at the Union for Reform Judaism, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Wide breadth of Jewish education settings: “While the census focused on students enrolled in weekly, supplementary Jewish education, the field and its leaders encompass many more forms and settings. Reform Jewish education happens in worship experiences, immersive family programs, social justice opportunities, after-school programming, summer camp, home engagement and online experiences.”

One-size-fits-all models are out: “Educational leaders have abandoned one-size-fits-all models and are working toward individualized Hebrew learning, meaningful B Mitzvah preparation and relevant family-centered engagement. Their work has created collaborative endeavors, forged community partnerships and emphasized an experimental atmosphere amongst congregations, summer camps and early childhood centers… Many of these significant changes in the landscape are lost in old narratives around religious schools that dim the bright spots we see.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

What Would Herzl Do?: In The Wall Street Journal, Rabbi Yosie Levine considers how Theodor Herzl’s position on religious pluralism could be applied to the present debate in Israel over judicial reform and the country’s future in general. “Herzl was a dreamer but also an arch pragmatist. His imagined state would be hospitable to all comers, Jews and Gentiles alike… Herzl believed it was possible for the state to embrace a universalistic ethic even as it remained particularistic. The founders, several decades later, concurred. Israel’s Declaration of Independence doesn’t name ‘liberty, justice and peace’ as the nation’s values, but ‘liberty, justice and peace as taught by the Hebrew prophets.’ The best of Jewish and democratic values were meant to reinforce each other.” [WSJ]

Around the Web

The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia has sold the Jewish Community Services Building in Center City for $12 million as part of a plan to assess its real estate ownership. The federation will save about $500,000 annually in operating costs. Nearly all of the proceeds of the sale — some $11 million — are going to the federation’s endowment…

The Eisner Foundation, started by Michael D. Eisner and his wife Jane, announced nearly $1.6 million in grants to 17 New York City-based organizations. This is the foundation’s second round of funding to New York City organizations following the first round of $1.5 million in April 2022 to 13 nonprofits doing intergenerational work. Included is $150,000 in program support to Dorot to expand its GENuine Connections program, a virtual community that benefits older adults and teens throughout New York City…

The Walter & Elise Haas Fund committed $24.5 million to seven nonprofit groups with leaders who are Black, Indigenous or people of color and that work to strengthen Bay Area communities and close the region’s racial and gender wealth gaps…

HIAS Europe and the European Union for Progressive Judaism Foundation launched a new program, Neighbors, in eight Jewish congregations across the continent in which they invite members of their local communities to visit to “discuss antisemitism and other forms of hatred and xenophobia and how to resist, debunk and counter them.” Primary funding is being provided by the European Commission

Foundation for Jewish Camp announced the appointment of David Korenthal as Midwest regional director. Previously, Korenthal served as director of talent acquisition at Hillel International…

The YIVO Institute for Jewish Research named David Braun as the academic advisor in Yiddish language, pedagogy and linguistics for the Max Weinreich Center for Advanced Jewish Studies…

Rabbanit Rachel Haber, chair of the Matnat Chaim kidney donation organization, Druze social activist Amel Nasraldin and Mobileye founder Amnon Shashuareceived the Israel Prize for Lifetime Achievement at a ceremony held this week. The Israel Prize is the country’s highest civilian honor…

Jacob Steinmetz, the first practicing Orthodox Jewish baseball player drafted into the MLB, joins Jewish Insider’s podcast…

Britain’s United Synagogue released a new adaptation of Adon Olam as part of the Jewish community’s celebrations in honor of the Coronation of His Majesty King Charles III. The hymn was recorded by 200 primary school children from five Jewish schools across London…

Former Cincinnati mayor and talk show host Jerry Springer, died at 79…

Pic of the Day

Hillel International

Eight Hillel student leaders from the U.S. meet with Israeli President Isaac Herzog, center-right, and philanthropist Matthew Bronfman, center-left, in the President’s Residence in Jerusalem earlier this week, as part of a joint mission with the Jewish Agency.


Greg Doherty/WireImage

Psychologist, author of several children’s books and president of the Saban Family Foundation, Cheryl Saban

FRIDAY: Former Israeli ambassador to the U.S., he also served four terms in the Knesset, Zalman Shoval… White House chief of staff for Presidents Reagan and Bush 41, secretary of the Treasury and secretary of state, James Baker… Retired judge of the Maryland Court of Appeals, Judge Irma Steinberg Raker… Co-founder of Mirage Resorts and Wynn Resorts, Elaine Wynn… Retired four-star United States Marine Corps general, Robert Magnus… SVP and COO of IPRO and former president of the Bronx/Riverdale YM-YWHA and the Riverdale Jewish Center, Harry M. Feder… Cantor who has served in Galveston, Houston and Buffalo, Sharon Eve Colbert… Criminal defense attorney, Abbe David Lowell… Director of congregational engagement at Temple Beth Sholom of Miami Beach, Mark Baranek… Cantor Sharon Colbert… Associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, Elena Kagan… American-born writer and translator in Israel, David Hazony… Director of criminal justice innovation, development and engagement at USDOJ, Karen Chaya Friedman… Retired soccer player, she played for the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team from 1997 to 2000, Sara Whalen Hess… Executive editor and senior director of content at The Points Guy, Scott Mayerowitz… Actress and film critic, she is the writer and star of the CBC comedy series “Workin’ Moms,” Catherine Reitman… Co-founder and managing partner of the Arena, he is also the founder and CEO of The Branch, Ravi Gupta… Senior editor of investigations and enterprise at Sports Illustrated, Jason Schwartz… Senior editor at Politico Magazine, Benjamin Isaac Weyl… President of Saratoga Strategies, a D.C.-based strategic communications and crisis management firm, Joshua Schwerin… Israeli artist and photographer, Neta Cones… Senior director of strategic communications at Jewish World Watch, Jeffrey Hensiek… Associate in the corporate department of Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson, Robert S. Murstein… Cybersecurity reporter, Eric J. Geller… Founder and CEO of Diamond Travel Services, Ahron Fragin

SATURDAY: Nobel Prize-winning economist, professor at MIT, known for his analysis of Social Security policy, Peter Diamond… U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)… Marcy Smith… SVP of communications and journalist in residence at University of Maryland Global Campus, Michael Freedman… Comedian, actor, writer, producer and director, he is best known for playing a semi-fictional version of himself in the 180 episodes of the sitcom “Seinfeld,” Jerry Seinfeld… London-born actor with three Academy Awards for best actor, knighted at Buckingham Palace in 2014, Sir Daniel Day-Lewis… Sportscaster, best known as the radio and television play-by-play announcer for MLB’s New York Mets, Gary Cohen… Co-founder and first CEO of Netflix, Marc Bernays Randolph turns 65… Israeli diplomat, she is Israel’s ambassador to Ireland, Lironne Bar Sadeh… Former New York City comptroller, Scott M. Stringer… CEO and chairman of 20th Century Fox until its acquisition by Disney, she now leads the Los Angeles office of Sister Pictures, Stacey Snider… CEO of the United Democracy Project, Rob Bassin… Professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University, he is the founder of The Center for Advanced Hindsight and author of many books including Predictably Irrational, Dan Ariely… NYC-based award-winning artist who works with sound, kinetics, optics, magnetism and other materials to make sculptures and photographs, Julianne Swartz… Film and television actor, Paul Adelstein… Israeli-born, NYC resident, stand-up comedian, actor and sometimes chazzan, Modi Rosenfeld… Executive at Elliott Investment Management, Bennett J Schachter… Minister of environmental protection in Israel’s prior government, Tamar “Tami” Zandberg… Israeli model and actress, Bar Paly… SVP of government affairs at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Anne Brachman… Commercial, industrial and residential real estate developer in the Mid-Atlantic region, Samuel A. Neuberger… COO and director of government affairs for Teach Coalition, Daniel Mitzner… Baseball pitcher for Team Israel at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Jonathan de Marte… Surfer, she represented Israel at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Anat Lelior… Head of TV at WME, he is on the board of Israel Policy Forum, Rick Rosen

SUNDAY: Rabbi, scholar and professor of Jewish studies at Yeshiva University, Saul J. Berman… Founder and CEO of Kansas City-based American Public Square, he was the U.S. ambassador to Portugal during the Obama administration, Allan J. Katz… Brooklyn-based clinical social worker, Marsha S. Rimler… Israeli Supreme Court justice until 2021, he was previously attorney general of Israel, Menachem “Meni” Mazuz… Partner in the communications and ad agency GMMB, he served as an advisor to President Obama in both his 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns, James David (Jim) Margolis… London-based international real estate investor and developer, Zachariasz “Zak” Gertler… Cartoonist and illustrator, best known for his more than 100 magazine covers appearing on The New Yorker and other publications, Barry Blitt… Former commissioner at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Chai R. Feldblum… Professor of sociology at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, she served as president of Jerusalem’s Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, Eva Illouz… Senior fellow at the Institute for Zionist Strategy and National Security, David M. Weinberg… Borough president of Manhattan, Mark D. Levine… CEO of Newton, Mass.-based Gateways: Access to Jewish Education, focused on children with special educational needs, Tamar Davis… Senior director for U.S. Jewish grantmaking at the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies, David Rittberg… Head of federal and international affairs at Airbnb, Eric Feldman… National security advisor for U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Omri Ceren… Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot… Director of communications at The New York Times, Ari Isaacman Bevacqua… Founder of Lubin Strategies, he is also a fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center, Nathaniel (Nate) Lubin… Communications director for Senator Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Rachel S. Cohen… Associate in the D.C office of Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, Daniel E. Wolman… Elementary school teacher at Broward County Public Schools, Jenna Luks… Reporter at The Wall Street Journal covering consumer behavior, Rachel B. Wolfe… Senior manager for NextGen at the World Jewish Congress, Yonatan (Yoni) Hammerman… GM and operations lead at Israel’s Lightricks, Idan Megidish… Director of career development at Masa Israel for North America, Noam Aricha… Israel fellow at Israel Policy Forum, he is a former senior advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, Nimrod Novik… Board member at Israel Policy Forum, Marc Slutsky