Your Daily Phil: A Jewish psychedelic summit + Ukrainian kids experience U.S. summer camp

Good Thursday morning! 

In late March, Rabbi Bill Kaplan, executive director of the Shalom Institute, a Jewish camping and education organization in Los Angeles, received an unexpected ask from Lena Geller. Geller, director of the institute’s Camp Gesher – a Russian-speaking Jewish overnight summer camp in California – had just come back from a trip to Poland to volunteer with Ukrainian refugees.

“She called me…and said, ‘I think we have an obligation to provide an experience for these kids who are fleeing the war, who need just what Gesher offers,’” Kaplan told eJewishPhilanthropy. “Love, care, camp, hugs, just to be in an environment for a couple of weeks that’s so different from what they’ve experienced.”

Kaplan agreed, and together with the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and the Genesis Philanthropy Group, the Shalom Institute raised over $80,000 to sponsor 29 Ukrainian Jewish refugee campers and four staff members to attend Camp Gesher at no cost to the families. The GPG is an annual funder of Camp Gesher. The camp’s two-week session starts on Tuesday, with 150 total campers attending.

Mobilizing “in support of the Ukrainian refugees fleeing the war and leaving behind their belongings – and in many cases loved ones – was at times overwhelming,” Geller said in a federation statement. “We have an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of Ukrainian refugees here in the United States, especially children.”

The participating refugees now reside across the U.S., with some coming to camp from San Diego and New York. Having raised $32,895 for the initiative, the federation is sponsoring 15 campers living in L.A. and bringing a crew of Russian-speaking mental health professionals to support campers and staff.  

Many of the campers’ fathers are still in Ukraine, conscripted to defend the country against Russia’s invasion. At least one camper has been displaced twice by Russian forces: first from eastern Ukraine when Russia invaded in 2014, and again earlier this year. All have stories of fleeing their homes, sometimes coming to the U.S. after weeks of journeying through Europe and Mexico.

The refugees’ stories remind Rabbi Noah Farkas, CEO of the L.A. federation, of his family’s immigration story. “My grandparents talked about how they got to the United States running away from the Cossacks, on their own at 14,” he said. “It feels just oddly familiar in a very dark way.”

Farkas referenced the long-term need to support Ukrainian refugees, and how that obligation reflects a Jewish community largely made up of recent immigrants. Half of the 300,000 Jewish households in L.A. include an immigrant or someone with a parent who immigrated to the U.S., according to a recent population study.

“We have a responsibility to make sure that if [Ukrainian] refugees end up in our neighborhoods, that we take care of them just like we were taken care of when we came over generations ago,” Farkas said. “This is a long-term commitment that [Jews] have to each other.”


Peace, philanthropy and psychedelics: A Jewish lens on the ascendant popularity of psychoactive substances

Courtesy of Natalie Lyla Ginsberg

Tune in, turn on…and heal Jewish trauma using psychedelics? The use of substances that are entheogenic — derived from the Latin entheos, “full of the god, inspired, possessed” — can also provide an opportunity for people of various faith communities to connect more deeply to their spiritual tradition, to heal from mental illness, and to cope with Jewish trauma. Despite the fact that many may still not see the words “Jewish” and “psychedelics” as natural companions, the renewal of interest in psychoactive substances is finding an audience and a group of supporters who are funding medical trials and faith-based explorations, Esther D. Kustanowitz reports for eJewishPhilanthropy.  

Seeking the mystical: “Since the 1960s, Jews have been using drugs in casual and conscious ways,” Rabbi Zac Kamenetz, founder and CEO of Shefa, an organization that offers virtual “integration” circles and other kinds of Jewish-related community for people who have had entheogenic experiences, told eJewishPhilanthropy. “They’ve been using them at concerts, in their basements, at dinner parties, Shabbat dinners… But there’s also been Jews who have been using psychedelics and other substances as a way of investigating or deepening their own Jewish sense of self, their own practice, their own desire for mystical experience,” he said.

Philanthropy angle: The work of psychedelics research and drug reform could not have happened without philanthropy, Natalie Lyla Ginsberg, the global impact officer for the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), said. “This work literally would not have happened without philanthropists, because it historically has not been supported by the government, and at times has even been opposed by the government,” she said, adding that although they do work within government systems (including the FDA) to do the research, philanthropy is “a huge part of MAPS, we’ve raised over $130 million, philanthropically over 36 years.”

Psychedelic community: In 2021, Ginsberg and Kamenetz teamed up with journalist Madison Margolin, founder of Double Blind: A Psychedelic Magazine about Science, Culture & Consciousness, to found the Jewish Psychedelic Summit, a virtual gathering of 1,500 participants who tuned in for conversations about why ending the war on drugs is a Jewish and psychedelic imperative, why so many Jews are drawn to India and whether or not Jewish mysticism can be a psychedelic framework and more.

Read the full story here.


RootOne’s impact on the Jewish communal landscape

Courtesy of RootOne

“As the CEO of The Jewish Education Project, responsible for powering the RootOne initiative, it is easy for me to get caught up in the scale and scope of this 2-year-old initiative,” writes David Bryman in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Power of partnerships: “RootOne’s partnerships with over 40 trip providers and 30 educational providers across the spectrum of Jewish life in Israel and North America make it one of the broadest initiatives in the Jewish communal ecosystem. These partnerships lead to impressive numbers. In two summers, even with COVID anxiety, more than 9,000 Jewish teens traveled to Israel with RootOne — double the number who would have gone to Israel without RootOne vouchers. In 2022 alone, 98% of the more than 5,000 Jewish teens completed an average of 14 hours of learning prior to boarding the plane to Israel — over 85,000 hours of online Jewish learning on one platform.”

The long game: “The Marcus Foundation decided to house RootOne at The Jewish Education Project because of the desire from the outset to create more than just an Israel trip. For this bold initiative to transform a generation of teens to be proud Jews and have a deep commitment to Israel, it needed to be based in an organization committed to ambitious outcomes.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Youth Movement: As second-generation family members became increasingly involved with the Perrin Family Foundation, they hired new staff and adopted new approaches that placed power directly in the hands of youth leaders of social change, Ade Adeniji writes in Inside Philanthropy. “[O]ver a series of conversations, David [Perrin] made his case for broadening grantmaking and seeing youth as advocates for change in their own communities. ‘I was always really a proponent that we weren’t single-issue or even a suite of issues, but that we should actually support a model of engagement that could cut across any area,’ David says…Laura [McCargar, the foundation’s president] believes that Charles and Sheila Perrin eventually could not deny the energy and momentum coming from the second generation. She also believes that as a smaller foundation (PFF has assets of less than $30 million), youth organizing was a niche where they could really dig in and make an impact. ‘The family also realized that the foundation had been funding youth programs here and there for many years, but that the underlying conditions weren’t changing. So shifting to a process focused on social change would position the foundation to have a greater impact,’ she explains.” [InsidePhilanthropy]

Instagram Affirmations: Tova Ricardo, an African American, Jewish, religiously observant, “in-your-face Zionist” and a nationally recognized youth poet, uses her  Instagram account to post “poetic declarations of pride in her Judaism,” Dan Pine writes in J: The Jewish News of Northern California: “Ricardo says her best-performing posts assert a refusal to forget or sideline her Jewish heritage, and ones that speak boldly rather than being tempered by a fear of antisemitic pushback… ‘For a lot of Jews in America and the West, we are constantly trying to reconcile our Jewish identities and our [Western] identities. We’re trying to find where our Judaism can be safe, and how we can continue our heritage.’…Sometimes her posts take on a cheerleading tone (‘You have an opportunity to love the life your ancestors could only dream of. Keep going’). Other times, she’s more defiant (‘I will not undermine my Jewish heritage, customs & covenant with Hashem to be accepted by the non-Jewish world’). ‘I simply can’t fit everything about myself into one post,’ she says. ‘There are times when I will speak about being a Black Jewish person. Or on exclusively Black topics. I want people to see that I have many different layers, and a lot of different opinions and perspectives. I have a lot of opinions about the importance of Torah in your life, Israel in your life … and how African Americans have been treated in our history.’” [J]

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Word on the Street

Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center opened the world’s largest emergency room. Philanthropist Sylvan Adams, a Canadian-Israeli who has funded several high-profile projects in Israel in recent years, donated $28 million to the hospital, which is naming its emergency room in his honor… 

Apple is expanding its operations in Israel and opening a development center in Jerusalem. This will be the U.S. tech giant’s third center in Israel after Herzliya and Haifa…

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association announced more than $4.5 million in grant awards for 2022-23, supporting a diverse range of nonprofit organizations that help underserved communities, universities and colleges; film restoration projects in the U.S. and overseas; and programs that provide assistance to journalists across the globe…

report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the United Way Center to Combat Human Trafficking highlights the importance of strategic philanthropic investments to combat human trafficking…

Henrique Morelenbaum, considered one of Brazil’s most prominent conductors and music directors, died at 90…

Pic of the Day


Rabbi Tzvi Alperowitz, who recently opened Chabad of Martha’s Vineyard, takes a photo with former late night host David Letterman.


Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for MAKERS

Co-founder and CEO of the personal genomics and biotechnology company 23andMe, Anne Wojcicki… 

Survivor of Auschwitz-Birkenau as a teen, he emigrated to Israel and became an artist, Yehuda Bacon… Chicago news personality, Walter David Jacobson… Former U.S. district court judge in Manhattan, then U.S. attorney general, now of counsel at the international law firm of Debevoise & Plimpton, Michael Mukasey… Swedish industrialist, chairman of the Nobel Foundation (manager of the Nobel Prize) from 2005 to 2013, Marcus Storch… In 1986 she became the first woman in the IDF to hold the rank of brigadier general, former member of Knesset, Amira Dotan… President of the Council on Foreign Relations, Richard N. Haass… Sports columnist, commentator and author of 45 sports-related books, John Feinstein… Tel Aviv-born real estate developer, he has restored many historic buildings in Downtown Los Angeles, Izek Shomof… Partner and managing director of private investment bank DH Capital, he serves on the boards of American Jewish World Service and Hazon, Marty Friedman… French-Israeli hairdresser and entrepreneur, Michel Mercier… Sports executive, attorney and former president of basketball operations for the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves, David Kahn… Television and radio personality in Atlanta, Mara Davis… Tech entrepreneur and investor, Joshua M. “Josh” Linkner… Actress and reality show personality, Elizabeth Berkley Lauren… Jewish life venture fellow at the William Davidson Foundation, Jennifer Lew Goldstone… Jerusalem-born actor with more than 30 movie and television roles in the U.S., Ori Pfeffer… Associate justice of the Supreme Court of California, Leondra Kruger… Managing partner at Altitude Ventures, a healthcare venture capital firm, Jay Zeidman… Senior reporter at Bloomberg NewsLaura Nahmias… Chairwoman and chief technology officer at Diagnostic Robotics in Jerusalem, Kira Radinsky… Former assistant general manager for the Washington Nationals, now a senior fellow at Wharton, Samuel Mondry-Cohen… Director of operations at Lehigh Valley Homecare in Allentown, Pa., Menachem “Mark” Perl… National political enterprise reporter at The Washington PostRuby Cramer… Larry Gordon…

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