Your Daily Phil: ADL’s Never is Now summit kicks off

Good Wednesday morning.

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on the 50 biggest American donors of 2023 and Sefaria’s 10th anniversary gala. We feature an opinion piece by Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz about answering the call of the mitzvah to care for vulnerable children, each of us through our own work; and one by Jonah Hassenfeld offering guiding principles for Israel education during the ongoing conflict. Also in this issue: Pamela NadellNoah Feldman and David GreenfieldWe’ll start with the Anti-Defamation League’s Never Is Now summit.

With nearly 4,000 attendees set to pack the Jacob Javits Convention Center in Manhattan today and tomorrow for the Anti-Defamation League’s Never Is Now summit — billed as the largest gathering worldwide on antisemitism and hate — the group’s signature event comes at a particularly critical and fraught time, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen.

According to the ADL’s preliminary data, released in January, there were a total of 3,291 antisemitic incidents between Oct. 7 and Jan. 7, a 361% increase over the year prior, putting 2023 on track to be the worst year for anti-Jewish hate since ADL started tracking this data in the late 1970s.

The summit will kick off with the group’s CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt, delivering the keynote “State of Hate” speech, excerpts of which were shared in advance exclusively with eJP.

“Today, in our Oct. 8 world, American Jews – and Americans of all kinds – are hearing with their own ears and seeing with their own eyes the hollow claim of those who purport to be anti-Zionists but not antisemites,” Greenblatt is expected to say.  “That’s rich. It’s like saying in 1964, I don’t hate Black Americans, but I just don’t think we need to pass the Civil Rights Act or end Jim Crow…the time for complacency is over. We can’t assume American Jewish life will continue to be a comfortable life – unless we do something now, unless we transform ourselves from observers to activists, from onlookers to advocates…the time has come to say: The harassment and the attacks must stop. Explaining away your antisemitism will no longer be tolerated. Refusing to prosecute the laws or to enforce the policies of your institution when the perpetrators are targeting Jews must cease. The twisting of language, the moral cowardice, and the blind eye toward antisemitism must end now.”

Throughout the two-day gathering, dozens of high-profile speakers — global experts, advocates and leaders in the fight against antisemitism — will take the stage and lead panels, including Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, the State Department’s special envoy to combat and monitor antisemitism; Marc Rowan, CEO of Apollo Management and UJA-Federation of New York chair; and Rabbi David Wolpe, the ADL’s inaugural rabbinic fellow.

Ahead of the conference, ADL’s National Leadership gathered for programming on Monday and Tuesday.

For the first time, the summit will also feature college and high school tracks geared toward students, who have been facing considerable antisemitic incidents in recent months. The ADL has recorded a total of 746 antisemitic incidents on university campuses from Oct. 7 through Feb. 20, compared to just 87 incidents during the same time frame a year ago.

During Thursday’s closing session, Chabad on Campus International is expected to announce an inaugural partnership with the ADL, eJP has learned. Through the collaboration, ADL will provide support and guidance to Chabad directors nationwide, ensuring they have the tools and knowledge to address antisemitism effectively and foster inclusive environments, according to the groups.

“This joint initiative with ADL represents a significant step forward in our efforts to boost a safe Jewish life and combat antisemitism on college campuses, and we are proud to join forces with ADL in the fight against hatred, discrimination and prejudice,” Rabbi Avi Weinstein, president and COO of CCI, said in a statement. “Together, we will make a difference in the lives of Jewish students and in the broader campus community.”

Read the full report here.

TOP 50

Mike Bloomberg attends the opening night of “The Music Man” at Winter Garden Theatre on February 10, 2022 in New York City.

Michael Bloomberg topped The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s newly released list of the country’s biggest donors for last year, having given $3 billion to arts, education, environment, public health and urban projects around the world, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross.

Jewish giving: Bloomberg is joined by three other Jewish donors or donor couples in the top 10: Michael and Susan Dell, at No. 3; John and Laura Arnold, at No. 5; and Bernie Marcus, at No. 10.

A 28% dip: The 50 donors on the list gave a total of $11.9 billion to charity in 2023, a substantial decrease from the previous year, when the top 50 donors gave $16.5 billion, when adjusted for inflation.

Middlemen: David Campbell, a Binghamton University professor who focuses on nonprofit organizations, noted that the largest recipients of the top donors’ gifts were their own foundations. “That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean that a significant amount of the money these wealthy Americans technically gave away in 2023 didn’t get in the hands of charities right away,” he told the nonprofit publication The Conversation. “While these gifts are formidable, I still think about those who are not showing up. Only 23 of the top givers are from the Forbes 400 list of the wealthiest Americans.”


Delayed by Israel-Hamas war, Sefaria holds sold-out 10th anniversary gala

The Sefaria 10th anniversary gala at the New York Public Library on March 4, 2024.

Torah commentary by women. Artificial intelligence to boost translations of Jewish texts. Kabbalah interwoven with traditional texts. These are a few of the ongoing and future-facing initiatives that 400 attendees heard about on Monday night at Sefaria’s sold-out 10th anniversary gala at the New York Public Library, which raised millions of dollars toward the free of charge digital library of Jewish texts’ $44 million fundraising campaign, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen from the event.

Like father, like daughter: “Sefaria has built the modern luchot [tablets] — opening up the world of Jewish learning to everyone, helping to make genuinely universal Jewish literacy a true possibility, perhaps for the first time in modern times,” Gila Sacks, the youngest daughter of the late renowned British chief rabbi, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, said in a speech at the event. Sacks’ speech was a testament to her father’s enthusiasm about Sefaria, Sara Wolkenfeld, chief learning officer of the virtual Jewish library, told eJP after the event. “I remember hearing [Rabbi Sacks] speak,” Wolkenfeld recalled. “He really believed in digital Torah to carry Torah into the 21st century. I was present to hear him speak about that, and so it was very powerful for me to hear Gila speak.”

Not only but also: Sefaria, which was founded by journalist Joshua Foer and former Google product manager Brett Lockspeiser, has a particularly ambitious fundraising goal, having raised $14 million in the past year, with another $22 million needed to meet its ultimate $44 million goal. “Thoughtful donors are clearly very focused on what needs to be done in this moment to support all of the acute needs that exist in Israel and will continue to exist for a long time in light of Oct. 7,” Sam Moed, Sefaria’s board chair, told eJP. “But at the same time, they understand that it needs to be additive to essential sources on meaning for Jewish life, in Israel and around the world. Seeing and hearing the room last night, I am very confident that all kinds of leaders in the Jewish world understand the importance and centrality that Sefaria occupies and will invest further in Sefaria because it’s so important to the future of Jewish learning and identity.”

Read the full report here.


Why every Jewish org should take up the cause of child welfare

“If we pay attention to the Hebrew Bible, we’re hit with constant reminders to care for the yatom, the vulnerable child… Why, then, don’t we place child welfare more front and center in Jewish communal life? Even if our communities do a decent job of supporting those who need food or clothes, we ignore children in need of a family,” writes Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz, founder of YATOM: The Jewish Foster & Adoption Network, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

A support system: “We [at YATOM] help potential foster parents and those looking to adopt overcome the barriers in their way, offering financial support to those who need it, expert guidance to those who don’t know the steps involved in the process and a peer community so foster parents and adoptive parents don’t feel so alone in this crucial yet challenging undertaking. We also support those who are already foster or adoptive parents by providing microgrants. Caring for vulnerable children is a long-haul endeavor, and we want to prevent burnout.”

Find your way to help: “We seek to inspire the American Jewish community to do its part in caring for the yatom. Foster-parenting is an extraordinary undertaking, but we also need advocates, volunteers and donors in addition to those who can foster and adopt. We’d like to see a world in which every agency in Jewish life is doing something to support vulnerable children, in whatever way it can, be it with camping, day schools, youth groups, bar/bat mitzvah programs — we want people to get creative. The Dave Thomas Foundation and The Annie E. Casey Foundation are examples of funders supporting child welfare nationally, but we need foundations to support the Jewish community in doing our part to address this national crisis. The directive to care for the vulnerable child is ubiquitous in our religious texts, so it should no longer be a niche issue. It is something we must all figure out how to do.”

Read the full piece here.


Teaching Israel in a time of war

“I have been an Israel educator for the past 15 years and have taught people of all ages about the history of Israel and how we should talk about Israel. Never in my career have I faced a moment as difficult and as fraught as the tragic events of Oct. 7… Getting to talk to so many people dealing with the war in various ways has helped me articulate three guiding principles that ought to shape our approach to Israel education,” writes Jonah Hassenfeld, director of learning and teaching at Schechter Boston, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Take time for the basics: “Most conversations about Israel education focus on how we can cultivate deep feelings of connection to Israel among our students, but it’s hard to connect to something that you know very little about. Educators need to build factual frameworks that allow students to organize and make sense of what they are seeing, hearing and feeling. These frameworks, when constructed thoughtfully, don’t scare or alienate students. On the contrary, they make connection possible.”

Meaningful learning at any age: “Anything can be taught to every student at some level. This principle, first articulated by cognitive psychologist Jerome Bruner, represents my deepest educational belief. Whether trying to teach calculus to a kindergartener or the ins and outs of the Palestinian-Israel conflict to eighth graders, I take for granted that there is some way to teach any topic. While our students might not be ready to look at a map of how the Oslo Accords divided the West Bank, they could engage authentically with some of the deepest questions about Israel and the conflict… Sometimes when I talk to friends and colleagues, they say, ‘Now is not the time for critical thinking about Israel.’ I disagree. Engaging deeply with Israel can mean more than volunteering, donating or traveling there. Studying Israel and its history, talking to people with whom we may disagree and showing young people that we are all on a journey of understanding holds the key to a future where all people can live in peace.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

You Were Listening: In a blog post for Candid, Valerie Threlfall and Megan Campbell share advice for nonprofits seeking to collect useful feedback, from whom to bring into the feedback process to how to identify trends. “‘Closing the loop’ is the essential step of telling clients what you heard from their feedback overall and how you plan to respond. You can send out a summary email, hold a town hall, or follow up individually with respondents. In our study, nonprofits that closed the loop were more likely to see feedback positively impact their overall culture and decision-making processes than those that didn’t. Yet it’s also the step that nonprofits often skip. Nonprofits often tell us that they’re worried about upsetting clients if they can’t take action on every suggestion, so they avoid reporting back. But in our experience, clients understand that nonprofits can’t act on every idea and appreciate a response, even if it’s: ‘We heard you, and here’s why we can’t act on your suggestion.’ If you close the loop, your clients will be more likely to respond the next time you ask, since they’ll remember that you respected their feedback enough to let them know how you acted on it.” [Candid]

Combat ‘Quiet Quitting’: In Forbes, executive coach Naz Beheshti details actions employers can take to check and reverse “quiet quitting,” the trending term for the phenomenon of diminished productivity, dwindling morale and an uptick in turnover rates. “Quiet quitting takes a hefty toll on employers, surpassing the costs of traditional turnover. Its stealthy nature often evades detection for prolonged periods, yet its cumulative impact is undeniable… Organizations can forge a dynamic and cost-effective workplace ecosystem by weaving together strategic cost-cutting measures with targeted employee engagement initiatives. By embracing flexibility and efficiency, businesses can optimize resources while nurturing employee satisfaction and loyalty. Concurrently, investments in employee development, recognition, and well-being sow the seeds of a thriving work culture, bolstering morale and productivity… Confronting quiet quitting isn’t just about protecting the bottom line; it’s a strategic imperative for fostering a resilient, innovative, and engaged workforce.” [Forbes]

Is It Enough?: In the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Jacob Gurvis looks at how rabbis and community leaders are reconsidering the Passover song, “Dayenu,” in light of the ongoing struggles facing the Jewish people. “The classic Passover song, whose title means ‘It would have been enough,’ expresses gratitude about how much God has done for the Jewish people. But [American-Israeli poet Marty] Herskovitz, the son of a Holocaust survivor who has lived in Israel since 1986, thought the words would ring hollow at a time when so many Jews are at risk. ‘We have to take the text and find a way to make it relevant and not just say the words that seem so impossible to say,’ Herskovitz told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. ‘“Dayenu, it’s enough.” It’s clearly not enough. As long as people are trapped in Gaza, that’s not enough. As long as our soldiers are still risking their lives, it’s not enough. We can’t say “Dayenu.” It can’t be, you know, “Praise God for this situation.” So we have to find new texts’… This year, at Herskovitz’s urging, Schechter [Institutes] convened dozens of rabbis and Jewish community leaders from across Israel last month to reimagine the haggadah, the core text of the Passover seder. The result of their work will be a supplement for Israeli families to use during their seders.” [JTA]

Around the Web

In a joint effort, the Jewish Fertility Foundation and the National Council of Jewish Women are funding out-of-state treatments for some Alabama clients after the state’s supreme court effectively halted in-vitro fertilization in the state after it ruled that fertilized embryos were unborn children…

An Israeli state commission of inquiry into the April 2021 Mount Meron disaster, in which 45 people were trampled to death at a Lag B’Omer celebration, found that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was personally responsible for the tragedy, as were then-Public Security Minister Amir Ohana, Police Chief Kobi Shabtai and then-Religious Services Minister Yaakov Avitan

Mia Schem, one of the hostages freed from Gaza in November, will attend tomorrow’s State of the Union address as a guest of House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA)…

Cornell Hillel plans to construct a new building on campus, estimated to cost $14.5 million, which it hopes to break ground on next spring…

The Times of Israel interviews Pamela Nadell, the director of the Jewish studies program at American University, who testified in December before Congress — to far less fanfare — alongside the presidents of Harvard, Penn and MIT, about the state of antisemitism on college campuses…

The University of Florida eliminated more than a dozen full-time diversity, equity and inclusion positions, including that of the flagship campus’ chief diversity officer…

A new mixed-bag poll of Moldovans found that nearly half of respondents — 48% — said they dislike Jews, while 40% said they “really like” Jews…

In an effort led by the State Department and World Jewish Restitution Organization, 22 countries signed a new “best practices” agreement on restitution for Nazi-looted art that clarifies some ambiguities in a 1998 agreement…

The Washington Post published an excerpt of Noah Feldman’s upcoming book To Be a Jew Today: A New Guide to God, Israel, and the Jewish People

A new report by the Schott Foundation for Public Education found that donors to K-12 education have stepped away from making grants related to racial justice since 2020…

Rabbi Ellen Bernstein, who founded the Shomrei Adamah environmental group, died at 70…

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.
Courtesy/Met Council

The New York-based Met Council, America’s largest Jewish charity dedicated to combating poverty, hosted a meeting on Tuesday with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships to advocate for the expansion of kosher and halal food options for recipients of USDA’s national food pantry programs. The roundtable session featured elected representatives and over 60 communal leaders and pantry providers from across the tristate area.

“We understand that major change can only happen at the policy level, which is why outside of our daily work supporting the needs of Jewish and Muslim New Yorkers suffering from food insecurity, we are advocating the increased availability of culturally sensitive food being provided through government programs,” said Met Council CEO David Greenfield. “We’re not only the largest provider of free kosher and halal food; we are also a collective voice and partner for other faith groups and food distribution agencies to ensure that our shared constituents are not forced to choose between their faith and going hungry.”


Annie Liebovitz smiles
Screenshot/Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

Writer, lecturer and professor emeritus of Jewish communal service at HUC-JIR, Steven Windmueller

Former chair of the Federal Reserve of the United States for 18 years, Alan Greenspan… Actor, writer, director, producer and political activist, he directed “When Harry Met Sally” and “A Few Good Men,” Rob Reiner… Television personality, author and pundit, John Stossel… Award-winning musical theater lyricist and composer, Stephen Schwartz… Member of the New York State Senate, Shelley Mayer… Aliza Tendler… Actor, comedian and sports show host, he converted to Judaism in 1990, Tom Arnold… Senior leadership development manager at Momentum Unlimited, Judy Victor… Israeli swimmer who competed in the 1992, 1996 and 2000 Summer Olympics, he is the founder of a sports ticketing and travel company, Yoav Bruck… Founder of Talenti Gelato & Sorbetto which he sold to Unilever in 2014, he has since co-founded Iris Brands, Joshua Hochschuler… Head of innovation communication at Bloomberg LP, Chaim Haas… VP of philanthropic services at NYC-based Jewish Communal Fund, Michelle Lebowits… Former football quarterback who played on six NFL teams, he is member of the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, Sage Rosenfels… Israeli journalist and author of the book Revolt: The Worldwide Uprising Against GlobalizationNadav Asher Eyal… Managing director at Berkshire Partners, Blake L. Gottesman… Fourth-generation developer, owner, and operator of commercial real estate throughout the Eastern U.S., Daniel Klein… Natalie Lazaroff… Israeli fashion model, Esti Ginzburg… Artist Tova Suissa… Associate at Williams & Connolly, Riley Clafton… Film actor, he finished in second place on season 27 of “Dancing with the Stars,” Milo Manheim… Sandra Brown…