Your Daily Phil: ADL reports record antisemitism in 2021 + The importance of Hebrew ed.

Good Tuesday morning!

Last year saw a record number of antisemitic incidents in the United States, according to an annual audit by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

The 2,717 antisemitic incidents tabulated by the ADL in 2021 mark a 34% increase over the 2020 total of 2,026, which included months of pandemic-induced shutdowns that rendered streets largely empty. This is the second time in three years that the ADL audit set a record: 2019’s total of 2,107 incidents was, at the time, also the highest recorded since 1979, when the group began tallying incidents. And those numbers are far higher than the totals of less than a decade ago: the 2021 figure is nearly triple 2015’s tally of 942.

The ADL sources its numbers from victims, law enforcement, the media and community leaders, and its tally includes a wide range of incidents — from physical assaults to vandalism to harassment to anti-Israel statements that the group says cross the line into antisemitism. But the 2021 audit found that perhaps the most serious form of antisemitism, physical assault, jumped from 33 total incidents in 2020 to 88 last year. Reports of vandalism and harassment also rose.

The return of street life may be one reason for the jump in physical assaults, though the 2021 number is also significantly higher than 2019’s total of 61. In addition, the ADL pointed to a wave of antisemitic incidents in May 2021, surrounding the conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, which saw a series of attacks on Jews nationwide. More than 10% of the year’s total — 297 incidents — occurred during the three weeks between May 10, when the conflict started, and the end of the month. That number includes 15 assaults and 71 instances of vandalism.

The ADL said that the spate of violence in May exceeded what the group had observed during previous rounds of conflict in Israel and Gaza. “The violence we witnessed in America during the conflict last May was shocking,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement. “Jews were being attacked in the streets for no other reason than the fact that they were Jewish, and it seemed as if the working assumption was that if you were Jewish, you were blameworthy for what was happening half a world away.”

One silver lining, if one could call it that, is that last year’s record number of incidents did not include any deadly attacks. That’s in contrast to 2019, in which there were fatal antisemitic assaults in Jersey City, N.J.; Poway, Calif.; and Monsey, N.Y.; and 2018, the year of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting.


Why a Rhode Island rabbi is preparing to store 100 out-of-print machzors at his house

Courtesy of congregation sinai

At this moment, Rabbi Lex Rofeberg is awaiting the arrival of 100 used High Holiday prayer books, which he plans to store in his attic in Providence, R.I. Rofeberg works at Judaism Unbound, a digital Jewish organization that seeks to interrogate Jewish ideas and assumptions. This latest project is almost the opposite: Instead of challenging Jewish tradition, he hopes to preserve a vestige of it before it disappears, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Ben Sales.

Saving books: The 100 High Holiday prayer books, called machzorim, are editions of Gates of Repentance, first published by the Reform movement in 1978, and retired about seven years ago in favor of a new machzor. Rofeberg’s childhood Reform synagogue, Congregation Sinai in Milwaukee, Wis., ordered the new machzors last year, and planned to bury its 500 copies of Gates of Repentance at a local Jewish cemetery next month. Rofeberg decided to ask the synagogue for 100 copies, and to see if he could distribute them himself to communities in need.

Any takers: Rofeberg has paid $108 to ship the tomes, which are currently in the mail and set to arrive in the coming days. He’s also posted on Facebook to see if anyone wants a copy or 50. He’s already gotten tentative commitments for most of the books: a Jewish chaplain at a small Southern university and a rabbi at a synagogue in the Mountain West have each inquired about taking 30. “I think in a world where there are people who don’t have prayer books and communities that don’t have prayer books that would love to have them — they’d prefer to have a prayer book from [nearly] 50 years ago than none at all,” Rofeberg told eJP.

Tradition, tradition: Rofeberg wants to make sure that the machzor used by millions of Reform Jews for decades isn’t forgotten. Congregation Sinai’s former rabbi, Jay Brickman, served on the editorial board of Gates of Repentance, and his successor, Rabbi David Cohen, still sees beauty in it even though the synagogue opted for the new machzor last year. Brickman died earlier this year at 96. “It’s the one I grew up with so of course I’m going to miss it, but I also recognize the need for moving on,” said Cohen, who will still be burying about 400 copies. “I’m pleased that so many of them are going to have a living home.”

Read the full piece here.


The critical role Hebrew language learning plays in identity development

Painting by David Rakia; created in 2002; courtesy.

“Last month I participated on a panel at Hebrew at the Center’s annual Hitkadmut Hebrew Educators Conference. The group’s focus was on ‘systemic strategies for integrating Hebrew through schools,’ and on the head’s role in this work,” writes Rabbi Mitch Malkus, head of school at the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School of Greater Washington, D.C., in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Learning a second language: “Numerous studies indicate that students experience cognitive benefits as a result of second language learning, particularly when the target language is so different from the native language with a different alphabet and directionality. Research shows that learning a second language improves your performance in other academic areas, enhances your memory and other brain functions, and can help increase your understanding of the languages you already speak.”

Connective thread: “Hebrew is the essential connective thread to Jewish civilization, Jewish peoplehood, Israel and its people and to most Jewish literature. Hebrew provides a sense of belonging and familial connection, and offers access to the historical references and meanings conveyed in classical Jewish ideas, texts, constructs and memories. Hebrew competency is an essential element in understanding modern Israel and its people and culture.”

Read the full piece here.


Designing a new Jewish world

Daniel Grizelj/Getty Images

“After reading Andrés Spokoiny’s address at Jewish Funders Network’s recent conference, I was inspired to know that I am not the only one who has been critical of the organized Jewish world,” writes Josh Hoffman, CEO of the Israeli film platform IZZY, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Being decisive: “‘The challenge of our time,’ Spokoiny began, quoting Bertrand Russell, ‘is how to be decisive in the face of uncertainty.’ Being decisive is important. Following it up with consistent actions that align with such decisiveness — even if they are perceived to be unpopular or unconventional, and even if they seem to contradict past actions in our dynamic, rapidly changing world — is imperative. This is especially true when the Jewish world is facing what Spokoiny described as ‘a crisis of potentially devastating consequences’ that requires dramatic urgency.’”

No lack of challenges: “[W]here does someone with a bold, ambitious dream for the Jewish world go? Probably to the nonprofit sector, because it represents 99% of the organized Jewish world. The Jewish nonprofit world is integral as part of a bigger picture… but it has also shown a decades-long propensity to be stuck in buzzwords, groupthink, bureaucracy, territorialism and vanity metrics. Unfortunately, these compounding habits have created a serious lack of consistently delivering remarkable experiences to constituents, meaningful and ongoing sharing and collaborating with other organizations, systematically incubating fresh ideas, taking calculated risks, giving younger generations a real seat at the table, measuring true impact and the list could go on.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Digital Shabbat Fail: While many people are seeking boundaries around tech usage, efforts to invent a day of rest from tech outside a religious paradigm are largely doomed to fail because of a “potentially insurmountable problem with trying to secularize the practice,” Kelsey Osgood writes in Wired. “Orthodox Jews do not observe Shabbat as a way to spend more time with their families or to prevent burnout induced by living under the tyranny of modern capitalism or to stick it to Zuckerberg once a week. Shabbat does allow us to do those things, and it’s an extremely effective tool for all the above. But no, we do it for a very unfashionable, very simple, supremely awesome reason: because God told us to. The Torah is often terse and cagey about the reasons underpinning certain demands, but it does shed a little more light on why we observe Shabbat: It’s a behavioral manifestation of the covenant between God and the Jews, a way of imitating God’s own cessation from creation in the Book of Genesis, a reminder of our calling to be holy and sanctified.” [Wired]

Putting ‘Ability’ into ‘Accountability’: 
The key to fundraising is structure and accountability, Jeff Schleifels writes in NonProfitPRO. “We know without a shadow of a doubt that a frontline fundraiser will be successful if they have the proper structure and accountability. And, in many cases, the fundraisers who fight the whole accountability thing at first but quickly realize it has some merit are the ones who become the most successful. If you’re a manager, this is no small thing. Your success depends on your ability to hold your staff accountable to their goals and actions in a caring, kind and nurturing way. If you’re a frontline fundraiser, allowing yourself to be held accountable and working within a structure will give you immense freedom and creativity to develop meaningful relationships with your donors.” [NonProfitPRO]

Is ‘Woke’ Broken?: 
The political correctness wave may be ebbing, writes New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait, due to factors such as the 2020 elections. “The Democrats’ middling performances in 2020 and the 2021 off-year elections, and the lessons they might contain for the upcoming midterms, have brought elected Democrats face-to-face with the consequences of allowing the most militant members of the progressive movement to bully their party into adopting maximalist stances on issues like school closings, immigration enforcement, and crime. It’s now much harder for progressives to depict, say, support for enforcing immigration law or opposition to defunding the police as inherently racist when it’s clear the communities supposedly offended by those positions support them.” [NYMag]

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Word on the Street

Israeli astronaut Eytan Stibbe, a 64-year-old investor-philanthropist, was part of the all-private astronaut team that completed a two-week science mission hailed as a milestone in commercial spaceflight. Stibbe was the second-ever Israeli to go to space after astronaut Ilan Ramon, who was killed in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster in 2003. This was the first all-commercial team welcomed to the space station as working astronauts, bringing with them 25 science and biomedical experiments on brain health, cardiac stem cells, cancer and aging, among others to conduct in orbit, and team members were charged $50 million-$60 million per seat…

East London’s King Solomon High School removed the name of its principal charitable funder, Moshe Kantor, from the school this week, following the Russian billionaire’s being sanctioned by the British government for his ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin…

A fire destroyed the Chabad House in Louisville, Ky., on Saturday afternoon, the last day of Passover. The movement’s local emissaries are vowing to rebuild. There were no injuries, and the shul’s Torah scrolls were rescued…

A survey of U.S. and Israeli Jewish millennials by the American Jewish Committee found that most of the American respondents feel a connection to Israel is important to their Jewish identity, and most Israeli respondents want a closer connection with American Jews.

The surveys also found that the two groups disagree on key issues:  Most American respondents felt it was appropriate for U.S. Jews to influence Israeli policy, while most Israeli respondents disagreed. And most American Jewish millennials thought a viable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is possible, while most Israeli Jewish millennials did not. The surveys of Jews ages 25-40 were conducted by YouGov in the U.S. and Geocartography in Israel…

An audit by B’nai Brith Canada finds, for the sixth consecutive year, that the number of antisemitic incidents in Canada has increased. According to the report, a total of 2,799 incidents were recorded in 2021 — up 7% from 2020…

The Koret Foundation launched a three-year, $3.25 million civic-learning initiative aimed at improving the quality of civic education in California and beyond…

Investor Warren Buffett will auction off a private meal to raise money for the Glide Foundation, a California charity combating homelessness, for a final time. The auction has been on hiatus the past two years. Every winning bid since 2008 has topped $1 million, and Buffett has raised nearly $34.5 million for the charity over the years…

Limmud North America will pilot the Limmud Leadership Accelerator in Los Angeles this spring. A cohort of  fellows will be selected for the yearlong program where they will gain community building skills aimed at developing Jewish learning experiences. The program is supported by The Diane and Guilford Glazer Foundation

UpStart announced the 13th cohort of its flagship Venture Accelerator Program…

The Forbes Under 30 Summit is returning to Israel May 29-June 2…

Netflix will stream Israel’s Yes Studios’ “The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem,” a series starring Israeli actors who are familiar to American audiences from their roles in “Shtisel,” “Beauty and the Baker,” “Fauda” and more. “The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem” opens in 1917 and tells the story of a Judeo-Spanish family set against the backdrop of the Ottoman Empire, The British Mandate and Israel’s War of Independence…

Pic of the Day

Bora Chung | Survival Media Agency

As part of the Jewish environmental group Dayenu’s ongoing All Our Might campaign to combat the use of fossil fuels, Laura Bellows waves matzah during a protest at a Chase Bank branch in Washington, D.C., telling the institution to “move your dough” away from companies that contribute to climate change.


Suzanne Kreiter/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

President of Brandeis University, Ronald D. Liebowitz

Early investor in Berkshire Hathaway and a member of its board of directors, David Sanford “Sandy” Gottesman… Radio astronomer and 1978 Nobel Prize laureate in physics, he escaped from pre-WWII Germany as part of the Kindertransport rescue operation, Arno Allan Penzias… Computer expert, Jewish genealogy researcher and publisher of Avotaynuthe International Review of Jewish GenealogyGary Mokotoff… Retired CEO of the Jewish Community Federation of the Greater East Bay (Oakland, Calif.), Loren Basch… Investment banker best known as the chairman and CEO of Lehman Brothers through its bankruptcy filing in 2008, Richard S. Fuld Jr… Professor of computer science and engineering at MIT, Hal Abelson… Conservative journalist and political activist in Israel, Avigdor Eskin… Senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and contributing editor of The AtlanticJonathan Rauch… Journalist, biographer and the author of five books, Jonathan Eig… Former member of the Maryland House of Delegates and the Maryland State Senate, Roger Manno… Member of the California State Assembly, he is a candidate for California Insurance Commissioner, Marc Levine… SVP of content and partnerships at Snapchat, Benjamin Schwerin… Weekend editor of the international edition of The New York Times, he is based in Hong Kong, Russell Goldman… Senior director of federal government affairs at Greenwich Biosciences, Karas Pattison Gross… Media relations manager at NPR, Benjamin Fishel… Reporter for The Wall Street Journal covering startups, he is the co-author of a book on WeWork, Eliot Brown… Fashion model and actor, Brett Novek… Head coach of the UC Irvine Anteaters baseball program, he played for Team Israel in the 2012 World Baseball Classic, Ben Orloff… Associate account director at Real Chemistry, Alisha Katz… Strategy and next generation subscription services at Apple, Kenneth Zauderer… Writer for Mediaite and a contributor to The Washington ExaminerJackson C. Richman… Development and recruitment manager at Encounter, Ross Beroff… Ahron Singer…

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