Your Daily Phil: Amy Spitalnick to take helm of JCPA + Jewish learning in Chicago

Good Tuesday morning!

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on the Melton Conference of Learning in Chicago. Also in today’s newsletter: Raoul Wallenberg, Amb. Tom Nides and Helen Kahan. We’ll start with an interview with Amy Spitalnick, the incoming CEO of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs.

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs announced that Amy Spitalnick, who rose to national prominence with a successful multimillion-dollar lawsuit against neo-Nazis, will take the helm of the umbrella organization as it charts a new course following its recent pivot away from the Jewish Federations of North America, eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross reports.

Spitalnick’s appointment was widely seen as an indication that the newly independent advocacy group would maintain a more progressive policy agenda as part of a restructuring strategy that it unveiled late last year.

Speaking to eJP, Spitalnick said she planned to focus on two areas in her new position: combating hate, discrimination and extremism, and “protecting and expanding democracy.”

“I think the two issues that are going to be at the core of this new chapter for JCPA are direct reflections of what I think the most urgent issues of the moment are for the Jewish community and for so many others. The first being protecting and expanding pluralistic, inclusive democracy,” she said. “And I think that that work will go hand in hand with the other core priority, which is fighting bigotry, hate, discrimination and extremism. And I think those two issues are inextricably linked.”

When JCPA distanced itself from JFNA, it did so with a slight cushion as it got on its feet, receiving a three-year grant from the UJA-Federation of New York, as well as significant gifts from JCPA Chair David Bohm and Lois Frank, the previous JCPA chair and a member of the restructuring team. In addition to any policy objectives, one of Spitalnick’s priorities going forward will also have to be securing funding to sustain JCPA.

Rori Picker-Neiss, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis and a member of the committee that led the restructuring of JCPA, told eJP that she and her fellow JCRC heads are excited about Spitalnick’s appointment but that it remained to be seen how it would affect the future of the organization. “A lot of it is going to be really shaped by Amy in this new role,” Picker-Neiss told eJP. Citing private conversations and emails with directors of other JCRCs across the country, Picker-Neiss added: “I can just say that the JCRC heads are incredibly excited about the energy that she’s bringing. There’s enthusiasm mixed with curiosity.”

JCPA’s restructuring in December was met with criticism from conservative commentators, with Jonathan Tobin writing it off as “redundant” and “another left-wing group.”

Spitalnick told eJP that the need for coalition-building was both an end in itself and also a necessary means of ensuring the safety and representation of the Jewish community. “We as Jews know, in our kishkes [guts], that we are safest in a society that is inclusive and pluralistic in which people’s fundamental civil rights and human rights are protected,” she said.

Read the full story here.

Text study

Roman Mykhalchuk

The Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning held its inaugural Conference of Learners in Chicago last week, bringing together participants from 14 U.S. states and Israel, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross.

Commitment to learning: The conference, which was held from May 1 to 4, was meant to “shine a light on the importance of adult education and to develop stronger connections to the Jewish community and tradition,” the organization said. “Each of these dedicated learners come from different walks of life, have had different life experiences and different relationships with Jewish practice,” Melton’s international director, Rabbi Morey Schwartz, said in a statement. “What’s brought them together is their yearning to learn more about their shared religion, and what keeps them together as a global community is their commitment to regular learning.”

Tik-Tok Talmud: The event featured a variety of speakers, including rabbis, professors and storytellers, as well as Sara Wolkenfeld, the chief learning officer of Sefaria. Miriam Anzovin, the so-called “Tik-Tok Talmudist,” gave a keynote address on her connection to Daf Yomi, the study of one page of Talmud each day. Participants also had a “meet and greet” with Nancy Spielberg about her latest documentary, “Closed Circuit,” about a 2016 terror attack in Tel Aviv, and toured Jewish sites in Chicago.

Worthy Reads

Better Late than Never: In Haaretz, Swedish Ambassador to Israel Erik Ullenhag apologizes for his country’s treatment of Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat who saved thousands of Jews in the Holocaust and died under mysterious circumstances. “Sweden did not do enough to save Raoul Wallenberg, our heroic diplomat, we left his family alone for too long [a] time, and did not give him the proper recognition that he and his extraordinary deed deserved… As the Ambassador of Sweden to the State of Israel, I am both humble and proud to represent the same country as Wallenberg. His brave work in Budapest saved tens of thousands of Jewish lives, but ultimately cost him his own. But to be honest I cannot be proud of Swedish history concerning Wallenberg. Sweden did not do enough to find out what happened to him, possibly sealing his fate. Sweden also left Wallenberg’s grieving family too alone, without the support they deserved. And we did not, for a long time, tell the story of Wallenberg and his heroic deeds. For all this, I am sorry as is my country.” [Haaretz]

Around the Web

The Jewish Federations of North Americareleased an open letter to Secretary of State Tony Blinken, reiterating the American Jewish community’s support for imprisoned Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich and the U.S. government’s efforts to secure his release…

Approximately 1.2 million people in Israel – more than a fifth of the population – say they care for at least one family member with a disability of some type with no financial compensation, and many of them care for more than one person, according to a study released by the Taub Center think tank today…

Jewish philanthropist Gerald B. Shreiber will provide a $30 million gift to Rowan University in southern New Jersey. The institution’s veterinary program will be renamed the Shreiber School of Veterinary Medicine…

Pamela Nadler Emmerich was named the new president of American Friends of the Hebrew University, taking over for Clive Kabatznik, who was installed as board chair…

U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides is expected to resign later this summer, following nearly two years in the role…

Google announced it is teaming up with Tel Aviv University and providing $1 million in funding to create the Center for Artificial Intelligence and Data Science at TAU…

Pic of the Day


Holocaust survivor Helen Kahan tosses out the first pitch at the Rays-Yankees game ahead of her 100th birthday at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., last Friday night.


Ben Hider/Getty Images

Holocaust survivor, philanthropist and social activist, she marched in Selma with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1965, Eva Haller

Owner of St. Louis-based Harbour Group Industries, investor in 200 companies in 40 industries, former U.S. ambassador to Belgium, Sam Fox… Academy Award-winning director, producer and screenwriter, James L. Brooks… Guitarist and record producer, best known as a member of the rock-pop-jazz group “Blood, Sweat & Tears,” Steve Katz… Israeli rabbi who is a co-founder of Yeshivat Har Etzion, Yoel Bin-NunMashgiach ruchani (spiritual guide) of Ner Israel Rabbinical College, Rabbi Beryl Weisbord… Winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, he is a professor of structural biology at Stanford University, Michael Levitt… Pianist, singer-songwriter and one of the best-selling recording artists of all time, Billy Joel… Physician in Burlington, Vt., she was the first lady of Vermont from 1991 until 2003 when her husband was governor, Judith Steinberg DeanSharon Mallory Doble… Co-founder and CEO of PlayMedia, Brian D. Litman… Film director and producer, Barry Avrich… Staff writer at The Atlantic, Mark Leibovich… Co-managing partner of Bain Capital and owner of a minority interest in the Boston Celtics, Jonathan Lavine… VP of global public policy at Meta / Facebook, Joel D. Kaplan… NYC-based celebrity chiropractor, Arkady Lipnitsky, DC… and his twin brother, managing director at Baltimore’s Pimlico Capital, Victor “Yaakov” LipnitskyLesli Rosenblatt… Owner of NYC’s Dylan’s Candy Bar, proclaimed the largest candy store in the world, Dylan Lauren… Senior advisor to the secretary of veterans affairs, Aaron Scheinberg… Founder and managing member at Revelstoke PLLC, Danielle Elizabeth Friedman… Opinion columnist and podcast host at The New York Times, Ezra KleinJenna Weisbord… Investor for Blackstone Growth Israel, Nathaniel Rosen… Graduate of Harvard Law School, Mikhael Smits