Your Daily Phil: ‘Breaking Bread’ to break antisemitism

Good Tuesday morning.

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on the Jewish Federations of North America’s establishing a $25 million loan fund for Israeli small businesses and how, despite political pressure, the presidents of Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology appear secure in their roles. We feature an opinion piece by Dana Talmi about designing volunteer programs. Also in this newsletter: Eric FingerhutMayim Bialik and Chuck LorreWe’ll start with Shine A Light’s new “Breaking Bread” campaign. Happy Hanukkah!

Tearing into a shiny braided challah, actress Tea Leoni, comedian Elon Gold, heiress and activist Hannah Bronfman and Rabbi Angela Warnick Buchdahl, senior rabbi of New York City’s Central Synagogue, sit around a table talking about the joys of being Jewish, apparently so convincingly that at one point Leoni, who is Christian, interjected, “I want to be Jewish,” to which Buchdahl quipped, “We’ll take you!” Turning to the topic of antisemitism, Gold recounted a conversation with his teenage son, who “literally out of nowhere just said, ‘Now I see how the Holocaust happened.’ And I’m like, whoa, because he feels that he is hated by everyone just scrolling through social media,” reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Esther D. Kustanowitz.

This is the new video, “Breaking Bread,” an effort by Shine A Light, which partners with dozens of organizations and companies each year to raise awareness of antisemitism, work that has taken on fresh urgency since Oct. 7. By literally breaking bread together, the initiative’s leadership says, people can learn more about each other and build bridges across differences.

“It’s been difficult for your average person in America to really understand how and what the Jewish community is feeling right now,” Carly Maisel, global CEO of Kirsh Philanthropies and a representative of Shine A Light, told eJP, adding that it makes this work “feel so much more necessary, urgent and challenging.”

Other projects by Shine A Light include a list of resources provided by the initiative’s partner organizations, a guide about talking to young children about a Shine A Light Shabbat conversation guide and a workplace toolkit — published within 48 hours of the Oct. 7 attacks — to help companies create space for Jewish employees who may need support in the aftermath, as well as outreach to the gamer community.

“People are really hungry to do something positive and joyful,” said Megan Nathan, the program and special initiatives director at Kirsh Philanthropies, “and to address a really difficult conversation, especially now, but in a way that kind of breaks down the barriers.” Everything Shine A Light does, she added, is “aimed at creating an environment where we can talk about a tough topic in a way that still provides hope.”

Read the full report here.

FUNDRAISING UPDATE

JFNA surpasses $710 million mark for Israel Emergency Fund, allocates $242.6 million

Rabbi Dina Brawer, executive director of the U.K.-based World Jewish Relief’s American branch, speaks at the Clinton Global Initiative in September 2023.
Courtesy/Yakir Amos/Latet

The Jewish Federations of North America has raised more than $710 million toward its Israel Emergency Fund, of which more than a third has already been allocated, including toward a new loan fund that is meant to help Israeli small businesses rocked by the ongoing war with Hamas, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross.

Supporting partners: As of last week, JFNA has raised $711.6 million since launching its fundraising drive in October. It has so far allocated $242.5 million, with roughly a fifth — $47.6 million — going to the Jewish Agency for Israel and $29.2 million going to Israeli frontline communities. The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee has so far received $13.1 million; the one-time protest movement, now volunteering organizer Brothers and Sisters for Israel, has received $5.8 million; and the Israel Trauma Coalition has received $5.5 million.

New focus, the future: In its most recent round of allocations, the oversight committee, which is co-chaired by Jeffrey Schoenfeld and Stephen Hoffman, set aside $25 million to establish the Israel Emergency Loan Fund. The fund “will address Israel’s large-scale impending economic crisis stemming from the critical liquidity issues faced by tens of thousands of businesses amid the war,” JFNA said. The loans will be distributed through existing organizations.

MASSACHUSETTS MATTERS

After Magill’s ouster, Harvard and MIT’s presidents face renewed pressure

American politician Dianne Feinstein, her arms outstretched in celebration, in her office after she was elected mayor of San Francisco, at San Francisco City Hall in San Francisco, California, circa 1978.
Claudine Gay, president of Harvard University and Liz Magill, president of University of Pennsylvania, testify before the House Education and Workforce Committee at the Rayburn House Office Building on December 05, 2023, in Washington, D.C. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Following Elizabeth Magill’s resignation as the president of the University of Pennsylvania, public attention is now focusing on Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which are facing calls to unseat their own presidents. But Harvard’s Claudine Gay and MIT’s Sally Kornbluth have faced far less political pressure from inside the commonwealth for their resignations, and both appear likely to stay in their roles despite the criticism, reports Marc Rod for eJewishPhilanthropy’s sister publication Jewish Insider.

Up to the board: Pressure from Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro and other politicians from the commonwealth played a role in Magill’s ouster. But such calls have been less prevalent so far from within Massachusetts. “Strong, moral leadership should be qualification number one for the president of the world’s leading university, but as a tireless advocate for ending the ‘cancel culture’ so pervasive at Harvard over the past decade, I’m not going to rush to cancel the president,” Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA), a Harvard alum, said in a statement to JI on Monday. “That’s a decision the university’s governing boards should consider carefully.”

Outside calls: Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), who led the questioning at a House hearing last week that fueled outrage toward the three college leaders, renewed her calls on Monday for Gay and Kornbluth to be fired. “As clear evidence of the vastness of the moral rot at every level of these schools, this earthquake has revealed that Harvard and MIT are totally unable to grasp this grave question of moral clarity at this historic moment as the world is watching in horror and disgust. It is pathetic and abhorrent,” Stefanik said in a statement. “The leadership at these universities is totally unfit and untenable.”

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

HELPFUL BY DESIGN

How do we show up for Israel right now?

Dana Talmi, executive director of Yahel, and Anuar Hmzah Zeed, Faradis resident and active member of the Zichron Yaakov – Faradis partnership, prepare packages of food for families in need in southern Israel. Photo by Osnat El Az.

“For the past 20 years I have staffed, created and built many volunteer programs, first through American Jewish World Service and then for the past 14 years through Yahel, an Israeli nonprofit dedicated to bringing volunteers from around the world to Israel for meaningful and impactful service experiences,” writes Yahel founder and executive director Dana Talmi in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy. 

More than good intentions: “In this moment, focusing on the empowerment and resilience of Israeli society should be our main goal… Wherever possible, let’s create situations where we are volunteering together, because these connections have never been more important. Israel does not need saviors right now. It needs friends who stand in solidarity, ready to rebuild together… It is also imperative that we return to the basics of ethical volunteering and ensure that our volunteer efforts answer real needs. All too often, volunteer experiences are built with the volunteer in mind — what will be most meaningful and fun for them. This can be part of the design of the experience, but the anchor has to be in understanding what the needs on the ground are and making sure they are not already being met.” 

Help where you can: I am hoping that many people from around the world will want to come to Israel in the coming months to help us recover and rebuild. It is crucial that we ensure that the volunteer work they undertake aligns well with their skills, experiences and abilities… Not everyone will be able to come to Israel, and that is fine — showing up for Israel at this time also means doing internal work in communities around the world. Making sure young people know the difference between being empathetic to the Palestinian people and supporting a vicious terrorist organization is crucial right now. So is fighting antisemitism. ”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Insights for Our Times: The Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks-Herenstein Center at Yeshiva University, in conjunction with Koren’s Maggid Press, has released Staying Human: A Wartime Chronicle by Erica Brown as a free download. The book is a personal journal of the pain, hope and resilience in the face of the war against Hamas and the battle against antisemitism globally. “From October 7th until now, I find myself, often at dawn, asking how to stay human in a time of inhumanity. These musings are not in chronological order; they are a product of a disordered mind during wartime, a period of hell I pray will never be repeated. They interweave classical Jewish sources and rituals with the events of the day because the haunting sense of oppression and battle fatigue trails us like a shadow from the beginning of time. News changes by the hour. Sometimes it changes by the minute. I had to stop someplace, but the story of this war and its aftermath continues… Good deeds will not bring back the dead, but they do affirm our belief in the living.” [Maggid Press]

Faith in Arms: In Tablet, psychotherapist and author Alter Yisrael Shimon Feuerman taps into the post-Oct. 7 itch some American Jews are feeling to arm themselves (in self-defense, of course), and shares insights from growing up in New York City during the heyday of the Jewish Defense League. “The JDL initially made my classmates and me proud. We were not the young men of our parents’ and grandparents’ generations. We were strong. We would know not just the power of prayer and study, but also the feel of an M-16… There was only one thing that stood in the way of our somewhat grandiose thinking: our rebbe. He wasn’t just any rebbe. He was Reb Chaim Segal, a Holocaust survivor, a majestic man of great passion and learning… Reb Chaim was not saying that resistance was not kosher. He well knew that the greatest sages had participated in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. Rather, he was against placing ‘resistance’ — even in the name of self-defense — at the center of the Jewish story. According to his thinking, a Jew holds two heroisms: the heroism of the battlefield and the heroism of belief through a strenuous search for God through the study of His word and at the same time, a brave resistance to the temptations of a hedonistic world. If you glorified the gun over the Torah, he was not the rebbe for you.” [Tablet]

Cloudy Forecast: In The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Emily Haynes spoke with fundraisers about what they expect for end-of-year giving. “The calendar year’s final fundraising push comes on the heels of a lackluster GivingTuesday, where donor participation fell 10 percent and total giving stayed flat at $3.1 billion. But that outcome doesn’t mean year-end giving will also be flat, according to Laura MacDonald, principal at Benefactor Group, a fundraising consulting firm. ‘I don’t think it’s a good indication of the sentiment of high-net-worth donors,’ she says. That’s because GivingTuesday typically appeals to donors giving small sums. Major donors, she says, are generally more responsive to the highs and lows of the stock market, giving more when the market soars and giving less when it falters. However, the decline in participation seen on GivingTuesday worries MacDonald. While it’s not yet clear why fewer donors joined in this year, she says it’s ‘continued evidence of the troubling trend that we’ve been seeing for a while, which is the declining rate of participation in charitable giving in America.’” [ChronicleofPhilanthropy]

Around the Web

The Anti-Defamation League recorded 2,031 antisemitic incidents in the United States between Oct. 7 and Dec. 7, the highest ever two-month total since the group started tracking incidents in 1979. It also represents a 337% increase over the same period last year…

A new poll by The Wall Street Journal found that the majority of Americans, 55%, support Israel’s war against Hamas, while 25% of respondents said Israel’s military actions are disproportionate and go too far…

Despite being suspended last month, the Columbia University chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace have continued to hold events on campus and administrators have reportedly not taken steps to prevent them…

Yale University President Peter Salovey condemned the placement of a Palestinian flag on a hanukkiah in New Haven, Conn., during a rally co-sponsored by Yalies4Palestine, which he said “conveys a deeply antisemitic message to Jewish residents” of the city…

Jewish students at the University of Pennsylvania say the rise in antisemitism on campus and the national conversation around it has made it “really difficult to concentrate on school”…

In The AtlanticGraeme Wood made the case for resignation — both by university presidents now and, for different reasons, by Israel’s entire intelligence and military leadership and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once the Israel-Hamas war is over…

A campaign to tie blue ribbons on trees to show support for the hostages being held by Hamas has been so successful that it exhausted the inventory of the initial supplier. A replacement producer was later found…

Mosaic United and the Israeli Ministry for Diaspora Affairs are investing $1 million to expand Birthright Israel’s alumni volunteering program to allow an additional 2,000 Jews ages 18-40 — regardless of past Israel experiences — to come to the country for two-week volunteering missions…

The Chuck Lorre Family Foundation pledged $10 million to the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles to support education for high school and college students from nearby under-resourced communities…

The Washington Post looked into the shrinking number of Americans who volunteer, which is putting a strain on organizations that normally rely on them…

Eric Fingerhut, president and CEO of the Jewish Federations of North Americadelivered a fiery speech last Friday at the City Club of Cleveland, a local debate forum, in which he recounted specific atrocities committed by Hamas on Oct. 7, defended Israel’s military campaign against the terror group in Gaza and described the fears felt by Jewish Americans…

Darlene Goins was named president of the Wells Fargo Foundation and head of its philanthropy and community impact…

The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany hosted its seventh annual, virtual International Holocaust Survivors Night event last night, featuring a number of Jewish celebrities, including Barbra Streisand, Billy Crystal, Rob Reiner, Jamie Lee Curtis, Jason Alexander and Mayim Bialik…

The Union for Reform Judaism’s Camp Harlam experienced two losses in recent weeks: Gal Meir Eisenkot, a former counselor at the camp and the son of Israeli Minister Gadi Eisenkotwas killed in battle in Gaza last week at 25. And Rabbi Martin S. Rozenberg, who helped raise the money to create the camp and served as its first educational director, died on Nov. 30 at 95…

Estelle Fishbein, who became Johns Hopkins University’s first female general counsel and later a university vice president, died earlier this month at 89…

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.
Doug Mills/Pool/AFP

President Joe Biden watches as Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff lights five candles on a hanukkiah last night during a Hanukkah reception in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C.

“We know this year’s Hanukkah is different,” Biden said in his remarks, according to Jewish Insider Executive Editor Melissa Weiss who was at the event. The president said his administration is “working relentlessly for the safe return of the hostages.. And we’re not going to stop until we get every one of them home.”

Reiterating his support for Israel, Biden told the roughly 800 people in attendance: “Folks, were there no Israel, there wouldn’t be a Jew in the world who is safe. I ran into trouble and criticism when I said a few years ago that you don’t have to be Jewish to be a Zionist, and I am a Zionist.”

Birthdays

Annie Liebovitz smiles
Gregg Deguire/WireImage

Actress, game show host and neuroscientist, she played the role of neuroscientist Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler on CBS’s “The Big Bang Theory,” Mayim Chaya Bialik, Ph.D.

Attorney, author and television commentator, Lanny Davis… Chairman of Full Stop Management which represents recording artists, Irving Azoff… Israeli mathematician of Latvian origin, he co-authored a paper on Bible codes, Eliyahu Rips… Two-term Congressman starting in 2007 (D-Wisconsin-8), he is a physician who founded four allergy clinics, Steven Leslie Kagen, M.D.… 2007 Nobel Prize laureate in economics, he is a professor at Harvard University, Eric Stark Maskin… Member of the rock band Grand Funk Railroad, Bruce Kulick… Professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, Richard J. Davidson… Associated Press science writer and adjunct professor at NYU’s academic center in Washington, Seth Borenstein… Israeli-born real estate developer active in Los Angeles, partner in Linear City Development, Yuval Bar-Zemer… CEO at Chicago-based Next Realty, he chairs JFNA’s domestic policy and government affairs council, Andrew S. Hochberg… Afternoon anchor on the Fox Business Network, Elizabeth Kate “Liz” Claman… Rabbi of the Bet Israel community in Zagreb, Croatia, Kotel Dadon… Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon… Israeli celebrity chef, Moshe Aharon “Moshik” Roth… Former account director at Lewis Global Communications, Sarah R. Horowitz… Freelance producer for ABC News, Rebecca “Becky” Perlow… One-half of the duo known for their YouTube channel h3h3Productions, Hila Hakmon Klein… Managing director at Narrative Strategies DC, David Pasch… Brazilian mixed martial artist, Neiman Gracie Stambowsky… Senior advisor for policy at the U.S. Department of Commerce’s CHIPS for America program, Jeffrey S. Goldstein… Co-founder of The Next 50, Zak Malamed… Film and television actor, Lucas Jade Zumann