Your Daily Phil: AJC launches new task force + A boundary-smashing Berkeley spiritual leader

Good Tuesday morning!

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we interview Zvika Krieger, the spiritual leader of Berkeley, Calif.’s Chochmat HaLev synagogue. Also in this newsletter: Kyra Lilien, Stuart Weitzman and Beverly Pollock. We’ll start with the launch of a new American Jewish Committee task force to help implement the White House’s national strategy to combat antisemitism.

The American Jewish Committee will form a new task force to monitor and assist the White House as it implements its recently released national strategy to combat antisemitism, AJC CEO Ted Deutch announced on Monday, eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross reports.

Speaking onstage at the AJC Global Forum in Tel Aviv, Deutch said the organization planned to draw on the “experts and the incredible talent we have in our 25 regional offices around the United States of America to ensure that every one of the items in the national action plan is followed through on [and] to make sure that the timelines in the national action plan are carried out.”

“Our task force will ensure that when we return to Global Forum next year, we will be able to celebrate the implementation, not just the existence of the national action plan, but the very concrete actions that will be taken by the federal government, by state and local governments, by our staff around the country who will work with businesses and nonprofits, with sports leagues and cultural institutions, who will work with nonprofits, our intergroup partners, our interfaith partners, all to ensure that the White House action plan becomes a reality in ways that will keep the Jewish community safe, secure, and strong,” Deutch said.

AJC did not immediately provide additional details about the task force, namely who would lead and serve on it.

Deutch made the announcement as part of AJC’s Global Forum, which kicked off on Sunday with some 1,500 people in attendance. The conference has featured speeches and onstage interviews with top Israeli leaders, including a short video address by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in which he thanked AJC for its efforts on behalf of Israel. Leaders from around the world also participated in the conference, including the prime minister of Lithuania, Ingrida Šimonyt?, who flew in for the event, and Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita, who sent a video message.

Read the full story here.

Not Your Bubbe’s Rabbi

Zvika Krieger leads Shabbat services at the Milk and Honey camp at Burning Man in Black Rock City, Nevada, on Sept. 2, 2022.

Growing up in Los Angeles, Zvika Krieger had a traditional Orthodox Jewish upbringing, but his journey into spiritual leadership is an unusual one that includes a Jewish day school education as well as the discovery of Burning Man as a place for Jewish prayer and connection. After a two-year stint at Meta, where he served as its first director of responsible innovation, he was chosen to serve as the spiritual leader for the progressive, Berkeley, Calif.-based Chochmat HaLev synagogue. Krieger sat down for an interview with eJewishPhilanthropy’s Esther Kustanowitz.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Esther Kustanowitz: You describe yourself as a “subversive ritualist and radical traditionalist,” held jobs in journalism, with the U.S. government and tech companies, and tackled issues ranging from Middle East politics to climate change and responsible innovation. What professional description best describes your work?

Zvika Krieger: Whenever a new opportunity comes my way, the first question I ask is, where can I make the most impact, help the world and advance the causes I care about? But the second question is, where can I learn the most? [In] the world that we’re living in, where challenges are so multimodal, you can’t just have a government solution, or just a private sector solution, or an NGO or civil society solution. You need to be able to see things from multiple different perspectives… A throughline in most of my career is innovation and challenging the status quo of stodgy traditional organizations that have brought me in to shake things up, to challenge conventional wisdom. Whether that’s the U.S. military or the U.S. State Department; the World Economic Forum; or an 80,000 person company like Meta, I’ve always been the intrapreneur or entrepreneur [who brings] a new perspective. My latest version of that is Judaism, the oldest institution of them all. While I was at Meta, I was also in rabbinical school.

EK: How are you intersecting with Jewish philanthropy?

ZK: Chochmat is funded primarily through dues and donors. We have a pretty healthy membership base, which has been steadily growing post-COVID. My goal is to make Chochmat self-sustaining… People in the institutional Jewish world hear about the work that I’m doing, [and say] “Jewish foundations will never fund this work. It’s too provocative, too out of the box.” But the numbers speak for themselves. We’ve tripled the number of people coming to Friday night services at Chochmat over the past year, 200-300 people praying, singing and dancing, some staying until midnight for “heartspace,” a progressive spin on this Hasidic tradition of a tisch, sitting around a table singing, chanting, eating and drinking, sharing Torah and having guest speakers on topics like Judaism and polyamory, or Judaism and psychedelics. That’s been funded by the San Francisco Federation. In conversations with foundations, I often say, “Don’t think about whether this resonates for you. But there’s lots of people, many of whom you’ve probably never met, whom this does resonate for.”

Read the full interview here.

Worthy Reads

Solving a Refugee Crisis: In The Daily Californian, Clarissa Arceo reports on the efforts by Berkeley Law School’s Asylum Law Practicum and the East Bay’s Jewish Family and Community Services to help resettle Afghani refugees. “After the Taliban took control of Afghanistan following the United States removal of its remaining troops in August 2021, tens of thousands of Afghans, many of whom were U.S. allies, fled to the United States under a temporary refugee status. With their status set to expire in the coming months, Afghan refugees in the Bay Area now face uncertainty. Berkeley Law’s Asylum Law Practicum paired its students with several of these individuals to assist refugees in navigating the convoluted and backlogged process that is the American asylum system, according to Kyra Lilien, the practicum’s instructor. Lilien is also director of immigration legal services program at Jewish Family and Community Services, or JFCS, East Bay, one of the two resettlement agencies working with the hundreds of Bay Area Afghan refugees.” [DailyCal]

From One Prisoner to Another: In the National Review, Jay Nordlinger interviews Natan Sharansky, the famed refusenik, former Israeli minister and onetime chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel. “Natan Sharansky spent 405 days in a punishment cell. This was considered ‘a kind of record,’ he says. A punishment cell is small, cold, dark. You get three pieces of bread and three cups of water a day. You are completely isolated. ‘According to the experts, you’re supposed to go crazy after 15 days,’ says Sharansky. He fears that Alexei Navalny will break his record. ‘He definitely will,’ on the current pace… [Sharansky says:] ‘I always recommend: If you’re thinking of going to prison, learn how to play chess, and marry someone who will fight for you’… Of one thing, Sharansky is sure: Trying to appease Putin would be foolhardy. If you feed him parts of Ukraine, or parts of Poland, or a Baltic state or two, he will not be sated. He will merely take this as proof that ‘his strategy or tactics are working,’ says Sharansky. The dictator will forge ahead. ‘So the only way to stop a dictator is to resist. The Western world, finally, is united in its understanding that Putin is a big threat. And we have to resist.’” [NationalReview]

Around the Web

The Jewish Community Relations Council of New York presented its Public Service Award last night to Bill Thompson, the board chair of the City University of New York…

The Hispanic Jewish Foundation received a building from the Madrid Metro that will house the Hispanic Jewish Museum it plans to open in the Spanish capital…

Four New York City Council members will have to resubmit their annual reports after they failed to disclose that the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York paid for their visits to Israel. All four said the omission was unintentional…

Susan and Henry Samueli, who recently made an unprecedented donation to Israel’s Beilinson Hospital, donated $50 million to the University of California Irvine’s engineering school to create three new multidisciplinary research institutes. The school will be renamed the Henry Samueli School of Engineering…

The heads of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and Jewish Federations of North America each met privately with Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich during the latter’s visit to the U.S. in March, despite outrage at the time over Israeli lawmaker’s call to “wipe out” the Palestinian village of Hawara, which he partially walked back

Robin and Marc Wolpow donated $10 million to establish the eponymous Fund for Healthcare Entrepreneurship at Venture Lab, the center for student entrepreneurship at the University of Pennsylvania…

Beverly Pollock, communications director at Pittsburgh’s United Jewish Federation, opinion columnist and AIDS activist, died on May 29 at 99…

Pic of the Day

Courtesy/Israel Tennis & Education Centers

An artist’s rendering of the Stuart Weitzman Tennis Complex in Jerusalem, named for the shoe designer – and avid squash and table tennis player – who made a “transformative gift” (of an undisclosed sum) to the Israel Tennis & Education Centers to build new facilities in the Israeli capital and the central town of Ramat Hasharon.

The Jerusalem complex, located in the Ben B. and Joyce E. Eisenberg Israel Tennis & Education Center, will be completed in approximately six months, while the Ramat Hasharon facility in the Larry Greenspon Israel Tennis & Education Center will open in roughly two years, according to ITEC.


Dan Sanger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Retired NFL player and co-founder of Stryve Biltong Snacks, Gabe Carimi

Existential psychiatrist, he is an emeritus professor of psychiatry at Stanford University, Irvin David Yalom… Professor at UCLA, he played an influential role in the development of the ARPANET, the precursor to the Internet, Leonard Kleinrock… Founder of Graff Diamonds, Laurence Graff… Former official in the Johnson, Nixon, Clinton and Obama administrations, winner of a 1985 MacArthur genius fellowship, Morton Halperin… Chairman and CEO of Oppenheimer & Co., then chancellor of Brown University and now CEO of Source of Hope Foundation, Stephen Robert… Member of Congress (D-NY) since 1992, Jerrold Lewis “Jerry” Nadler… Retired justice of the Supreme Court of Israel, he was previously attorney general of Israel, Elyakim Rubinstein… Assistant professor of ophthalmology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and director of retina surgery at Franklin Square Hospital, Michael J. Elman, MD… National political correspondent for National Public Radio and a contributor at the Fox News Channel, Mara Liasson… Co-founder and general partner of Andreessen Horowitz, Benjamin Abraham “Ben” Horowitz… Founder and CEO of Overtime, Daniel Porter… Yoga instructor, Jenny Eisen Verdery… Founder and CEO of Peninsula Group, Micah Lakin Avni… Family court judge of the City of New York, Judge Erik S. Pitchal… White House reporter for the Los Angeles Times, Eli Stokols… Founder and CEO of NYC-based JDS Development Group, Michael Stern… Principal at SKDK, Marissa Shorenstein… Policy advocate at Protect Democracy, Ariela Rosenberg… Actor, Max Samuel Spielberg… Actress, known professionally as Kat Dennings, she starred in the CBS sitcom “Two Broke Girls,” Katherine Litwack… Fashion blogger and creator of Something Navy apparel stores, Arielle Noa Charnas… Editor-at-large at Real Clear Investigations, Benjamin H. Weingarten… Speed skater who represented the USA at the Winter Olympics in 2014, 2018 and 2022, now a master’s degree candidate at Johns Hopkins University, Emery Lehman