Your Daily Phil: Behind the Jewish-led effort to rescue 450 Afghan women and girls

Good Friday morning!

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we profile a Jewish-led initiative to evacuate Afghan women and girls to Canada following the U.S. withdrawal in 2021 and report on proposed cuts to the federal Nonprofit Security Grant Program. We also feature opinion pieces from Erica Brown and Danielle Foreman, Elana Schuldt and Rich Walter. We’ll start with $2 million in new grants from the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles.

The Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles announced new “capacity-building” grants, totaling $2 million, to eight local Jewish groups, with the aim of bolstering the organizations’ day-to-day operations, reports eJewishPhilanthropy‘s Judah Ari Gross.

The “Next Stage” grants — each worth up to $300,000 over the course of three years — are meant to serve as “investments in infrastructure, systems, and resources to improve the effectiveness and sustainability of the recipient organizations,” the foundation said. This includes upgrading technology, hiring or promoting staff and leadership development.

The recipients are: the Bureau of Jewish Education of Greater Los Angeles; Hillel 818; the Jewish Free Loan Association; the National Council of Jewish Women-Los Angeles; the Shalom Institute Camp and Conference Center; Sharsheret; the Silverlake Independent Jewish Community Center; and Trybal Gatherings.

“The eight organizations receiving 2023 Next Stage Grants collectively support Jews of all ages and backgrounds and sustain Jewish life throughout our community,” said Rabbi Aaron B. Lerner, president and CEO of the foundation, in a statement.

“As such, ensuring that their operations are healthy is vitally important to increasing effectiveness of these nonprofits and the long-term impact on the stakeholders they serve. Our capacity-building funding is intended to help them flourish well into the future,” he said.

Flying free

Soomaya Javadi (right) and her sister in Saskatoon, Canada. (Courtesy)

Soomaya Javadi’s aspiration of becoming a dentist was stolen overnight when the Taliban swept back into power in August 2021 following the rapid withdrawal of American armed forces from Afghanistan. Women were swiftly prohibited from attending school, holding jobs or even going to a restaurant without a male chaperone. Javadi, along with her parents and two younger siblings, were evacuated in October 2021 to Saskatoon, a small Canadian city where they have begun to rebuild their lives. Javadi is among more than 450 schoolgirls and women rescued by the 30 Birds Foundation, a Jewish-led effort to evacuate activists for girls education and their families, all of whom come from a progressive community in Afghanistan that taught human rights and religious freedom, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen.

Inspired by history: The Javadi family’s former community, rooted in an impoverished slum of West Kabul, is inhabited by a persecuted ethnic Persian minority: the Hazaras. Seeing comparisons to his own family’s experiences, Justin Hefter, the co-founder and executive director of the 30 Birds Foundation, jumped to help. “The Hazaras have faced genocide and slavery, and share many similarities with my Jewish ancestors,” Hefter, 34, told eJP. “Some of the girls in this school even studied the Holocaust, and so when they learned that Jews were helping, they didn’t bat an eye.” 30 Birds has raised more than $4 million — at least a quarter of which has come from the Jewish community.

They did it themselves: “The girls were the ones making decisions on the ground of where to go, where to bring their families, what to say to the Taliban at checkpoints,” Hefter told eJP. “We did this as a partnership, which makes 30 Birds unique. It’s a collaborative relationship with the young women… This is not the story of a group who saved Afghan girls,” Hefter continued, “it’s how an extraordinary group of people collaborated with Afghan girls to establish a miracle. I don’t think of it as myself saving them. We helped them escape but they helped themselves to escape, too.”

Like the kindertransport: “Jews were oppressed and now you see many of them having the greatest influences in society,” Javadi continued. While she didn’t learn about the Holocaust at school, Javadi said she read about it on her own time while growing up in Afghanistan. “What the 30 Birds did, in some ways, reminds me of the kindertransport,” she said, referring to the rescue effort of Jewish children from Nazi-controlled territory to Great Britain that took place in 1938-39 prior to the outbreak of World War II. “30 Birds saved 450 girls, they saved 450 worlds in a world where the international community is ignoring us,” she said.

Read the full story here.


Senate Appropriations proposes cutting nonprofit security grant funding

A police car sits in front of the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, on January 16, 2022. (Andy Jacobsohn/AFP via Getty Images)

In a move that supporters of the Nonprofit Security Grant Program called “deeply troubling,” the Senate Appropriations Committee proposed cutting $18 million in funding from the federal assistance program in 2024, reports Marc Rod for eJewishPhilanthropy’s sister publication Jewish Insider.

Less instead of more: The committee introduced and approved on Thursday its version of the 2024 Homeland Security Appropriations Bill, which included $286.7 million for the NSGP, down from $305 million in 2023 — an amount that itself fell well short of meeting demand. The program provides funds to nonprofits and religious institutions to improve security. The House Appropriations Committee had proposed a $10 million increase in funding, to $315 million. The White House, as well as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and other lawmakers, have supported $360 million in funding.

Deeply disappointed: “At a time of rising antisemitism, it would be outrageous and dangerous to decrease funding for this life-saving program,” Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) said in a statement to JI. Elana Broitman, the senior vice president of public affairs for the Jewish Federations of North America, said that JFNA is “deeply disappointed” by the proposal, highlighting this year’s funding gaps and “alarming high” levels of faith-motivated hate crimes. “That is certainly why the administration’s budget and the White House Antisemitism Strategy proposed $360 million for the NSGP,” Broitman continued.

Read the full story here and sign up for Jewish Insider’s Daily Kickoff here.

proof positive

Using data to guide strategic grantmaking in Jewish early childhood education


“A few years ago, independent of each other, we all wanted to gain a deeper understanding of the Jewish early childhood education (ECE) ecosystem in the regions we serve, knowing that Jewish ECE is a critical entry point for families into Jewish life. As we each began our own journeys in this space, we wanted to first gather data to understand the needs of our communities and ultimately make informed, strategic decisions,” write Danielle Foreman, chief program officer of the Koret Foundation; Elana Schuldt, president and CEO of the Rodan Family Foundation; and Rich Walter, chief of programs and grantmaking at Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Finding the problems: “We each gained a much deeper understanding of what many ECE directors experience daily — low bandwidth, challenges attracting teachers and frequent turnover… We know that convenience drives much of the decision about where a family enrolls their child. Unfortunately, there are many ‘ECE deserts’ where a significant population of Jewish families with young kids now reside and no Jewish early childhood center exists.”

Knowledge is power: “Our communities are experiencing the positive results of thoughtful, evidence-based investments in Jewish ECE. In this important field — which for too long did not receive the attention it deserves — understanding the needs of young families, educators, and other factors in the marketplace is critical to making strategic future investments that will help our communities thrive across generations.”

Read the full piece here.

The Torah of leadership

Words on fire: Thoughts on Parshat Ve’etchanan


“‘Take utmost care and watch yourselves scrupulously,’ Moses advised in this week’s Torah reading Ve’etchanan, ‘so that you do not forget the things that you saw with your own eyes and so that they do not fade from your mind as long as you live. And make them known to your children and to your children’s children’ (Deuteronomy 4:11-12). The foundational experiences of becoming a nation may fade over time so Moses asks that his people – our people – bear witness to what they have gone through and share it with the power of story,” writes Erica Brown, vice provost for values and leadership at Yeshiva University and director of its Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks-Herenstein Center, in her weekly column for eJewishPhilanthropy, “The Torah of Leadership.”

Burning passion: “The metaphor of a burning mountain as a symbol of intellectual charisma reminds us that if the words we use are on fire, they will be received with fire. When we are passionate about a cause or an idea, we can generate passion in others. When we are unmoved by our own words, so too will those hearing them be unmoved. Leaders understand this. Followers want charisma in their leaders. They want to feel inspired, stimulated, and motivated.”

Fire’s not enough: “There are dangers, though. Fire burns. Jim Collins in his book Good to Great discusses the liability of charisma. The passion of a leader for an idea or a strategy can blind him or her to other opinions. Egos and tempers can be high when followers do not achieve the desired results. Followers may not buy into the prevailing zeitgeist with the same level of commitment. This can lead to burnout. Sometimes passion can falsely compete with content or real work.  Words on fire become meaningless if they are not backed up with outcomes.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

We the (Israeli) People: In eJewishPhilanthropy’s sister publication Jewish Insider, Ruth Marks Eglash interviews the head of Israel’s Movement for Quality Government about his hope to start a conversation about a written constitution in light of the country’s current turmoil. “As tensions peaked this week, with tens of thousands of angry citizens taking to the streets to protest the passing into law of a government bill that will effectively reduce the oversight of the Supreme Court over the government, there was one man who remained oddly optimistic: Eliad Shraga, chairman of the Movement for Quality Government in Israel… Shraga believes that now – in the midst of a deep constitutional crisis over Israel’s system of government – is the perfect time to reevaluate the relationship between the branches of government and push forward a core plan for a written, or at least a formal, constitution. ‘There is no chance that things will be worked out unless we have this,’ Shraga told Jewish Insider… ‘From every breakdown, something new grows, and there is a crazy breakdown happening here right now that might even end in a civil war, but there is also a crazy opportunity,” added Shraga… ‘This is a historical opportunity, it is a historical moment.’” [JewishInsider]

Local News is Important News: In the journalism-focused Poynter news publication, Jon Quinn and Caroline Suozzi of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors argue that donors should do more to bolster local news outlets. “Preserving and strengthening democracy is one of the toughest challenges facing our country, and local journalism can help address this challenge by reducing the spread of misinformation, increasing voter engagement and holding leaders accountable. Many democracy funders recognize that the health of local news is closely intertwined with the health of our democracy… However, it’s no secret that social media and 24-hour cable news have broken the news industry’s traditional business model and many news outlets (especially newspapers) are struggling to survive… Philanthropy should leverage its unique access to flexible funding and ability to take risks to fuel work that reimagines and strengthens how democracy works by funding local journalism outlets that are currently struggling.” [Poynter]

Around the Web

Ronald Lauder, philanthropist and president of the World Jewish Congress, is leading a media campaign calling on Israeli political leaders to form a national unity government, writing opinion pieces to that effect in Hebrew and English

The Hillel International offices in Odesa, Ukraine, sustained “significant damage” from a Russian missile strike earlier this week. A Hillel chapter in Kharkiv was also destroyed last year by Russian shelling…

Larry Mead, a 36-year veteran of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, was named vice president of the Community Security Initiative of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles

Jacob Rosenblum was hired as the director of Jewish community grants and partnerships for the Rose Community Foundation

Rabbi Lily Solochekwas named director of Reconstructing Judaism’s new Wenger-Markowitz Family Education Initiative, which is meant to improve the movement’s K-12 education programs. The initiative was funded by a $1 million donation from Jonathan Markowitz and Ruth Wenger

Rabbi Orli Moss was hired as the next director of the Union for Reform Judaism’s Heller High School program in Israel, which recently underwent structural changes…

The Fundación Hispanojudía, a Spanish nonprofit promoting Jewish heritage and culture, signed a lease for a building for the first major Jewish museum on the Iberian Peninsula…

Cheryl Lutts, the former director of business operations for Philadelphia’s Jewish Exponent, was sentenced to more than a year in prison for embezzling $1.4 million from the local Jewish newspaper and another $280,000 from a local orchestra, Philly Pops… 

Pic of the Day


Twenty Israeli teenagers who each have a parent or sibling who died in the military attended the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces’ Legacy Camp at Capital Camps in Waynesboro, Pa., earlier this summer.

During the 10-day camp, the participants also visited Washington, D.C., and New York City, and met former NBA player — now assistant coach of the Yeshiva University men’s basketball team — Michael Sweetney.


Courtesy/Harold Grinspoon Foundation

Real estate developer and philanthropist, best known for his PJ Library program, Harold Grinspoon turned 94 yesterday…

FRIDAY: Survivor of Auschwitz-Birkenau as a teen, he emigrated to Israel and became an artist, Yehuda Bacon… Chicago news personality, Walter David Jacobson… Former U.S. District Court Judge in Manhattan until 2006, then U.S. attorney general for the last 14 months of the Bush 43 administration, now of counsel at the international law firm of Debevoise & Plimpton, Michael Mukasey… Swedish industrialist, chairman of the Nobel Foundation from 2005 to 2013, Marcus Storch, Ph.D…. In 1986 she became first woman in the IDF to hold the rank of brigadier general, she later served as a member of Knesset, Amira Dotan… Oldest active quarterback, he also manages football teams in Baltimore and Jerusalem, Joey Pollak… President of the Council on Foreign Relations for 20 years until last month, Richard N. Haass… Sports columnist, commentator and author of 48 sports-related books, John Feinstein… Tel Aviv-born real estate developer, he has restored many historic buildings in Downtown Los Angeles, Izek Shomof… Partner and managing director of private investment bank DH Capital, Marty Friedman… French-Israeli hairdresser and entrepreneur, Michel Mercier… Sports executive, attorney and former president of basketball operations for the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves, David Kahn… Longtime Israel-based journalist, who has reported for NPR and The Jerusalem Post, Linda Gradstein… Television and radio personality in Atlanta, Mara Davis… Tech entrepreneur and New York Times bestselling author, Joshua M. “Josh” Linkner… Co-founder and CEO of the personal genomics and biotechnology company 23andMe, Anne Wojcicki… Actress and reality show personality, Elizabeth Berkley Lauren… Jewish life venture fellow at the William Davidson Foundation, Jennifer Lew Goldstone… Jerusalem-born actor with more than 30 movie and television roles in the U.S., Ori Pfeffer… Associate justice of the Supreme Court of California, Leondra Kruger… Israeli journalist and former member of the Knesset, Ksenia Svetlova… Managing partner at Altitude Ventures, Jay Zeidman… Senior reporter at Bloomberg News, Laura Nahmias… CEO and CTO at Diagnostic Robotics in Jerusalem, Kira Radinsky, Ph.D…. Major league analytics coordinator at MLB’s Chicago White Sox, Samuel Mondry-Cohen… Project and program manager at the World Zionist Organization, Shiran Yahav… Director of operations at Lehigh Valley Homecare in Allentown, Penn., Menachem (Mark) Perl… National political enterprise reporter at the Washington Post, Ruby Cramer… Larry Gordon…

SATURDAY: Chairman of BOK Financial Corporation in Tulsa, Okla., George Kaiser… Shoe designer, entrepreneur and founder of an eponymous shoe company, Stuart A. Weitzman… Denver-based trial lawyer, film producer and author of both fiction and nonfiction, Kenneth Eichner… Former deputy health and science editor at the Washington Post, Carol Eisenberg… Global economics correspondent for The New York Times, Peter S. Goodman… Twin brothers, Los Angeles-based philanthropists and businessmen, Shlomo Yehuda Rechnitz and Yisroel Zev Rechnitz turn 52… Actor, filmmaker and musician, he is best known for his role in the CBS sitcom “How I Met Your Mother,” Joshua Radnor… SVP of philanthropic engagement at BBYO, Jayme David… Director of the Straus Center at Yeshiva University, he is also the rabbi of NYC’s Congregation Shearith Israel (The Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue), Rabbi Meir Soloveichik… Co-founder and rabbi of Zichron Yaakov’s Moed synagogue, Rabbi Yair Silverman… Data scientist and journalist focused on elections for The Associated Press, Aaron Kessler… Former member of the Canadian Parliament, David de Burgh Graham… Iraq war veteran, political and communications strategist, now serving as an adjunct professor at Duke University, Allison Jaslow… News editor at The Times of Israel and actor, Itamar Sharon… Rabbi, writer, educator and physician assistant, Rabbi Levi Welton… White House deputy communications director, Herbie Ziskend… SVP in the Los Angeles office of Edelman, Jason LevinDanny Vinik… Israeli visual artist, Yuval Haker… Tony Award-winning actor, Ari’el StachelUriel Wassner… Broadcaster and media relations manager for the Chicago Dogs, Sam Brief

SUNDAY: Commissioner emeritus of Major League Baseball, his 2019 memoir is For the Good of the Game, Allan Huber “Bud” Selig… Retired attorney from the firm of Hatton, Petrie & Stackler in Aliso Viejo, Calif., Ronald E. Stackler… Long-time owner and editor-in-chief of The New Republic, Martin H. “Marty” Peretz… The first woman justice on the Nebraska Supreme Court, as a teen she won two gold medals and a silver medal as a swimmer at the Maccabiah Games in Israel, Justice Lindsey Miller-Lerman… Actor, director and producer, Ken Olin… Businessman, philanthropist and investor, of Uzbek Bukhari background, known as the “King of Diamonds,” Lev Leviev… Former Mayor of Arad and then a member of the Knesset for the Kulanu and Likud parties, Tali Ploskov… President of C&M Transcontinental, he served as COO for the Trump campaign, Michael Glassner… Emmy Award-winning actress, comedian and producer, Lisa Kudrow… Best-selling non-fiction author, contributing editor at Vanity Fair and Rolling Stone magazines, he is a co-creator of the HBO series “Vinyl,” Rich Cohen… District director for Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Robert M. Gottheim… Assistant attorney general for antitrust at USDOJ, Jonathan Seth Kanter… Motivational speaker, author and entrepreneur, he served as a law clerk in 2008 for Justices O’Connor and Ginsburg, the only blind person to clerk for the U.S. Supreme Court, Isaac Lidsky… SVP of content strategy at MSNBC, Rebecca M. Kutler… Senior producer at Vox and adjunct professor at USC’s Annenberg School, Avishay Artsy… President and founder of ECA Strategies, Eric Chaim Axel… Senior director of camp leadership for BBYO, Lewis Sohinki… Author of Jerusalem Drawn and Quartered: One Woman’s Year in the Heart of the Christian, Muslim, Armenian, and Jewish Quarters of Old Jerusalem, Sarah Tuttle-Singer… Former director of policy and public affairs for the Jewish Community of Denmark, now in the renewable energy and offshore wind industry, Jonas Herzberg Karpantschof… Head of digital operations at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel, Tamar Schwarzbard… Director of business development at Israel’s economic mission to the South and Midwest U.S., Joshua Weintraub… Winner of Miss Israel in 2014, Mor Maman