Your Daily Phil: Arab-Jewish summer camps in the shadow of Oct. 7

Good Wednesday morning.

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on the struggles facing Arab-Jewish summer camps in Israel following the Oct. 7 terror attacks. We also feature an opinion piece by Jennie I. Schaff — formerly a nonprofit grant-seeker, now a foundation CEO — about room for improvement on both sides of the giving process; and an opinion piece by Ben Shovers about institutional leadership in Jewish Pittsburgh. Also in this newsletter: Yehuda Kurtzer, Sen. Jacky Rosen and Bret StephensWe’ll start with the Union for Reform Judaism’s decision to divest from fossil fuel companies.

The Union for Reform Judaism yesterday became the first Jewish denomination to divest its investment portfolio from fossil fuel companies, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen.

The resolution, which was adopted by the movement, was backed by the Dayenu Jewish environmental nonprofit. It comes on the heels of two Jewish federations in Oregon — one in Portland and the other in Eugene — making the same commitment, a first for federations. 

In making the decision, which URJ leaders said was years in the making, they cited Genesis 2:15, which says that God settled man in the Garden of Eden to “till and tend it,” noting that fossil fuels are the main drivers of climate change.

“When we act together, we can help care for the earth as Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden. And we can care for our financial health, recognizing that fossil-free portfolios over time perform equal to or slightly better than those holding fossil fuels,” Rabbi Jonah Pesner, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, said in a statement.

Jennifer Brodkey Kaufman, URJ North American board chair, added: “Climate change’s impacts are being felt in communities worldwide. We have the ability and responsibility to use our dollars to make a positive difference on climate, rather than to continue funding investment in damaging fossil fuels. Through this resolution, which was crafted by the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism before being adopted by the URJ, we can build on decades of past action and advocacy on climate and socially responsible investing.”

Climate activism has been a cause at the forefront of the Reform movement for several decades. In a 1991 resolution, titled “The Environment,” URJ called for the U.S. and Canadian governments to provide “significant resources for the study of mitigation of global warming and destructive environment change.”

Rabbi Jennie Rosenn, CEO and founder of Dayenucited the Jewish value of considering the next generation as a reason for additional Jewish groups to remove fossil fuel companies from their investment portfolios.

“We have an ever-shortening window in which to address the climate crisis, avert the worst of climate devastation, and build a just and sustainable world so that we may live – l’dor v’dor – from generation to generation,” Rosenn said in a statement. She called on “all Jewish institutions to follow the Reform movement’s leadership and make their own public commitments to move their investments out of fossil fuels and instead invest toward a just and livable clean energy future.”

Read the full report here.


Some Arab-Jewish camps in Israel look forward to a summer of healing, others halt

Arab and Jewish Israeli participants in the Parents Circle Families Forum summer camp harvest crops from a garden, in an undated photograph.
Arab and Jewish Israeli participants in the Parents Circle Families Forum summer camp harvest crops from a garden, in an undated photograph.

In Israel and the West Bank, a number of summer camps have spent decades working to cultivate connection between Arab and Jewish communities, but the Oct. 7 attacks and ensuing war in Gaza are threatening — or at least halting — those attempts at coexistence. While many camps look forward to a summer of healing, others have ground to a halt, reports Jay Deitcher for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Give them space: Rabbi Shaul Judelman, the co-director of Roots, which holds a camp for Palestinians and Israelis living in the West Bank, told eJP that he can’t imagine Roots’ camp will take place this year. “We know we’re going to seriously disagree about a lot of things right now. When the fight is over, we’re going to still have the work of Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation in front of us. Let’s not burn ourselves out [debating] the war.”

All year round: Meanwhile, the Leo Baeck Education Center in Haifa, Israel, said there are waiting lists to attend its camp for Jewish and Arab Israeli 6- to 11-year-olds. Most families in the community have known each other for years. They needed to be together, according to Rabbi Oshrat Morag, senior rabbi and head of the center’s community department. Normally camp is held for one week, from Sunday through Friday, but there is hope that they can extend it to 10 days, so parents can attend programming too. They also are aiming for a winter camp to bridge relationships over the year.

Happening abroad: For attendees of the Parents Circle – Families Forum’s Peace & Reconciliation Camp, tension is unavoidable at its camp. Everyone involved has lost an immediate family member to the conflict. Due to travel difficulties in the West Bank, for the first time, this year’s Peace & Reconciliation Camp will be held outside Israel. “I would imagine that we will have to do a lot more circles of discussion and sharing [this year] because there’s so much to share,” said Robi Damelin, an Israeli peace activist whose son was killed by a Palestinian sniper in 2004 and who works for the group. “Israel is really such a small country. All of the kids know somebody who either is a hostage or got killed. For the Palestinians, even though they live in the West Bank, they have a lot of family that live in Gaza, and the situation in the West Bank is pretty dangerous at the moment.”

Read the full report here.


Strategic compassion: Infusing ‘Hineni’ into the heart of Jewish philanthropy

This is not how local foundations work. Illustration by Pavlo Syvak/Adobe Stock

“During a recent call with a dedicated member of our local Jewish community, he ended the conversation with a poignant request — one which admittedly strayed from our foundation’s Jewish giving strategy… [H]is words left me thinking about the complex interplay between strategy and compassion in philanthropy,” writes Jennie I. Schaff, CEO of the Max and Marian Farash Charitable Foundation, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Hello from the other side: “I recall a time, back when I was leading a local Jewish agency, when I was certain that a specific initiative that we were launching would fit within the parameters of the foundation that I currently lead. It wasn’t that I understood the strategy for Jewish giving that the foundation had laid out; from my perspective at the time, the foundation existed to give to our Jewish community, so I was sure that the funding for this program would come through. I also remember how frustrated I was when the funding did not come through. I felt like the foundation had missed a tremendous opportunity that aligned with exactly who I knew them to be. That, in essence, is the problem — and yes, I was a part of it.”

Attitude adjustment: “Framing local Jewish philanthropy with a ‘Hineni lens’ encourages a shift from transactional charity to transformative support. For the foundations, it is about being fully present in the act of giving, responsive to the needs at hand and committed to making a genuine difference through partnership… For the grantees and local communities, it is about being fully present in understanding the priorities and strategies their local foundations set forth. It is also about recognizing that while Jewish communal professionals and leaders are experts in what they do, the foundations are entitled to their own vision and strategy and have a responsibility to be able to measure the impact of their dollars.”

Read the full piece here.


Pittsburgh Strong: A city of collaboration and resilience

Karla Goldman (far right), director of the University of Michigan School of Social Work’s Jewish Communal Leadership Program, visits Rodeph Shalom Congregation in Pittsburgh, Penn., with JCLP students (author is second from right). Courtesy/Ben Shovers

“The word ‘resilience’ is often tossed around when discussing communal life and institutions, but after a recent trip to Pittsburgh with the Jewish Communal Leadership Program at the University of Michigan’s School of Social Work, I have a much deeper understanding of what resilience truly means,” writes graduate student Ben Shovers in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

No rest for the weary: “Arduous does not begin to describe the past five years for Pittsburgh, and its Jewish community in particular. The brutal massacre of 11 Jewish community members at the Tree of Life synagogue on Oct. 27, 2018, represented the deadliest act of antisemitism in American history. The local and national Jewish community responded with heroic resolve… That resolve was tested again by the struggle to sustain community institutions in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic; and then once more when Russia invaded Ukraine, deeply affecting the over 21,000 Ukrainian citizens living in Allegheny County. And now, in the wake of Hamas’ horrific attack against Israel on Oct. 7 — the deadliest act of antisemitism the world has witnessed since the Holocaust — relationships between Pittsburgh’s Jewish community and other local ethnic and religious communities are being tested.”

Focus on synergy: “The JCLP had the opportunity to meet with the leaders of most of Pittsburgh’s Jewish communal institutions. What was fascinating was that the abovementioned tragedies were not the main focus of our discussions. Instead, our conversations centered on how each communal institution — and the city overall — have leaned into their core competencies in the face of adversity to build a stronger, more united community… [M]y impression from my visit to Pittsburgh is that its Jewish leaders’ genuine commitment to collaboration toward this shared goal predates the challenges of the past five years. They recognize that by working synergistically, they can optimize their financial resources and institutional knowledge to maximize their level of impact on the community writ large.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

The Monthly Option: New data from the Fundraising Effectiveness Project supports findings in a report by Neon One indicating that donors who give more often have higher retention rates, reports Emily Haynes in The Chronicle of Philanthropy. “The steady growth these groups achieved in five years should inspire more fundraisers to explore starting monthly giving programs, [Neon One’s Abby] Jarvis says… In 2022, the average recurring donor made monthly contributions to a nonprofit for 7.71 years. By comparison, one-time donors gave for just 1.68 years, on average, in 2022… ‘Even though they’re giving less per year, they’re giving more over the lifetime of their engagement with the nonprofit,’ Jarvis says… The report includes case studies from Neon One clients who have built successful recurring donor programs. One of the hallmarks of programs where donors are motivated to keep giving month after month is frequent communication with donors. ‘Helping someone feel like they are part of an in-group or part of a club or a society … is really important, especially if they’re getting more relevant regular updates on what is actually going on.’” [ChronicleofPhilanthropy]

Join the Counterculture: In J. The Jewish News of Northern California, Sue Fishkoff reports on a lecture by Yehuda Kurtzer, president of the Shalom Hartman Institute, in which he rejected the notion that the “golden age” of American Jewry was over but warned that it could end. “‘American Jews have built a magnificent Jewish community that has enjoyed greater affluence, influence, power and privilege than any other Jewish community in history, with the possible exception of the Jewish community in contemporary Israel,’ Kurtzer said. ‘We have been involved, not always consciously, in the creation of a remarkable Judaism, one that will remain a major contribution to the history of our people.’ American Jews did this, he said, by ‘redefining Judaism so it could thrive in this environment, and redefining this place in a particular way that could create hospitable conditions for that Judaism to flourish’… Today, however, we are at a point of transition that could be dangerous. What he calls ‘common Judaism’ is fracturing under the pressure of increasing polarization and hyper-partisanship… That is what needs to be resisted, Kurtzer said. American Jews must move against the dominant culture and be ‘counter-cultural’ for the sake of preserving the conditions under which they flourished… Strengthening the Jewish future will mean a collective effort to rebuild trust in the best of American institutions and values, from the Supreme Court to the media to universities. That won’t be easy, he said.” [J.]

Around the Web

A bipartisan group of lawmakers, led by Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV), is pushing a new bill, the Combating Antisemitism Act, that would create a dedicated position within the White House to advise the president and implement the administration’s strategy to combat antisemitism…

A new Pew report found that 69% of Jewish respondents identified as Democrats, while 29% affiliated with the GOP, which has been roughly the same breakdown for the past 30 years…

New York Times columnist Bret Stephens calls for “senior members in Israel’s government” to oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

The gender equality nonprofit Project Kesher received a $1.5 million grant from an undisclosed “national group of Jewish women philanthropists.” The funding is meant to allow the organization to expand its operations in Ukraine…

The European Union’s General Court annulled sanctions that had been imposed on Russian oligarch Mikhail Fridman and his business partner, Petr Aven, over what the bloc alleged were their ties to Moscow…

The Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights opened an investigation into Princeton University over its handling of antisemitism on campus in the wake of the Oct. 7 terror attacks…

StandWithUs, the Anti-Defamation League and the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law filed a complaint with the office on similar grounds against Ohio State University

New York Attorney General Tish James cautioned Jewish New Yorkers about scam “Passover specials” that actually charge more for their cleaning services, calling the phenomenon “antisemitic”…

Keren Kayemet Le’Yisrael-Jewish National Fund reopened its Nahal HaShofet (Judge’s Stream) national park in central Israel following a $6.75 million renovation of its paths that made it fully accessible. (Fun fact: The stream and a nearby kibbutz, Ein HaShofet, were named for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis)…

Montgomery County, Pa., court ordered a Philadelphia theater to screen a film for a local Israeli film festival after the cineplex tried to cancel the showing because of protests by anti-Israel activists. A spokesperson for the Bryn Mawr Film Institute acknowledged in an apology statement that the theater “handled all of this very badly”…

The 10.27 Healing Partnership, a nonprofit that is meant to address the mental health issues caused by the Oct. 27, 2018, Pittsburgh synagogue shootinghas received sufficient state and federal funding to keep it running through 2029, at which point it plans to “sunset”…

Lawyers for a California man with ties to a neo-Nazi group who is on trial for murdering a gay, Jewish classmate argued that the killing should not be classified as a hate crime, denying that it was committed because of his antisemitic beliefs…

Holocaust survivors living in Israel will receive an additional one-time payment of $238 from Germany as a show of solidarity following the Oct. 7 attacks…

Pic of the Day

Sholem Srugo/Merkos 302

The JewQ International Championship hosted in Stamford, Conn., on Sunday drew 4,000 participants from public schools in 250 communities in 25 countries worldwide, who demonstrated their mastery of a vast array of topics related to Jewish tradition and culture. This year’s five top champions were, from left: Daniel Marquez from Mississauga-Oakville, Canada (Grade 3 Champion); Naomi Cohen from Great Neck, N.Y. (Grade 4 Champion); Yael Jontof-Hutter from Tri-Valley, Calif. (Grade 5 Champion); Isabella Gupta from Newbury Park, Calif. (Grade 6 Champion); and Stella Tolin from Potomac, Md. (Grade 7 Champion).

Geared towards children without formal Jewish education and participants in Chabad Hebrew School programming worldwide, JewQ aims to address the growing issue of antisemitism by fostering pride in Jewish identity through knowledge. Participants engage in a regimen of intensive study for four months leading up to the competition.


Annie Liebovitz smiles
Andy Katz/Pacific Press/Lightrocket via Getty Images

White House liaison to the American Jewish community and director for partnerships and global engagement at the National Security Council, Shelley Greenspan

Past president of the U.S. Soccer Federation, he was previously an executive of both the LA Lakers and the LA Clippers, Alan Rothenberg… Author of four novels and a political history book, he is a former senior editor at The New Yorker and a deputy editor of the Outlook section at the Washington PostJeffrey Frank… Author of 265 books including 56 books in the Cam Jansen series, 68 biographies and books for youth on the Holocaust, David Abraham Adler… Naomi Atlani… Former member of the Knesset for 26 years, he once served as vice prime minister, Haim Ramon… Founder of Gantman Communications, Howard Gantman… Scarsdale, N.Y., resident, Robin Stalbow Samot… Soviet-born Israeli-American pianist, Yefim “Fima” Bronfman… Member of the Knesset for the Likud party for 23 years, now chairman of Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, Yuval Steinitz… Journalist and author of four books, Lisa Belkin… Dana B. Fishman… CEO of NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association, Shirley Ann Bloomfield… Tom Kohn… Author of five best-selling memoirs and six novels, Dani Shapiro… Editorial director for audio for New York MagazineHanna Rosin… Former governor of Missouri, Eric Greitens… President of NJI Media and co-founder of FamousDC blog, Josh Shultz… Movie producer best known for the 2016 musical romantic-drama film “La La Land,” Jordan Horowitz… Senior vice president of entertainment and news media at RespectAbilityUSA, Lauren Appelbaum… Litigation associate at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, Yishai Schwartz… Associate at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, Daniel E. Wolman… Basketball player for Gran Canaria based in Las Palmas, Spain, Sylven Landesberg… Phil Hayes… Susie Diamond…