Your Daily Phil: Breaking down the New York Jewish census

Good Friday morning.

For less-distracted reading over the weekend, browse this week’s edition of The Weekly Print, a curated print-friendly PDF featuring a selection of recent eJewishPhilanthropy and Jewish Insider stories, including: First-of-its-kind exhibit chronicles Oct. 7 atrocities, highlighting women’s voices, hostages’ plight; Speaking in Doha, Bridgewater’s Israeli-born CEO says Middle East ‘setting itself up for next tech wave’; Druze Israelis remain on Lebanon border: ‘We’ll die defending our land if we have to’; Paying homage to Israel’s fallen female soldiersPrint the latest edition here.

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on the winners of the first round of a $1 million competition to combat antisemitism and on the Israeli government’s public diplomacy struggles. We feature an opinion piece by Ahmir Lerner about the mental health needs of Israelis with disabilities. Also in this newsletter: David BashevkinMarc Benioff and Laura Blajman KadarWe’ll start with a new survey of the New York Jewish community. Shabbat shalom!

Even in bustling Manhattan, amid towering skyscrapers and tony neighborhoods, lies an often overlooked reality: poverty in the Jewish community. 

“[Just in Manhattan] we have 24 distribution centers serving those in need,” David Greenfield, CEO of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty (better known as the Met Council), told Efrat Lachter for eJewishPhilanthropy. “The sheer number surprises many.”

According to a recent census conducted by UJA-Federation of New York of the New York City area — designated by the federation as the five boroughs and Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester counties — 15% of Jewish households in Manhattan are “poor” or “near-poor,” signifying households with incomes that are below 150% of the federal poverty level or below 250% of the FPL, respectively.

But poverty rates — for both Jews and non-Jews — have improved over the past two years, the study found. (In 2021, 23% of Jewish households reported being at poverty or near-poverty levels; in 2023, it was 20%.)

“There has been a certain decline in the poverty numbers,” Jacob Brzowsky, manager of community research at the New York federation, told eJP. “Poverty actually went down from our 2021 COVID impact study. It’s part of a broader phenomenon in New York after the peak in 2011,” he explained.

In addition to providing details about poverty rates overall, the study also sheds light on the challenges facing specific portions of the Jewish community, including recent immigrants from Russia, Ukraine and Israel, Holocaust survivors and members of the Haredi community.

Poverty or near-poverty is concentrated in Brooklyn (36%), the Bronx (26%), and Staten Island (22%). It is far less prevalent in the suburban counties, with 10% in Nassau and Suffolk, and 6% in Westchester. 

Nearly 1 in 3 (29%) of the poor and near-poor Jewish households are Haredi households, and more than half — 53% — of Haredi households are poor or near poor, according to the federation study. 

The second largest group of poor households in the New York area isRussian-speaking Jewish (RSJ) households with seniors (over 65), with 47% of these households living in or near poverty. Financial precarity is particularly acute among Russian-speaking seniors who live alone, of which nearly 7 in 10 (69%) are poor or near-poor.

Eric S. Goldstein, CEO of UJA-Federation of New York, emphasized the importance of the census, “Jewish Community Study of New York 2023,” as it provides clear data on both the area’s demographics and on many of the struggles facing the Jewish community there.

“Particularly in this challenging moment, these insights will help guide funding decisions, ensuring the strength of our Jewish community and the institutions serving them,” Goldstein told eJP.

New York City and the adjacent Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester counties boast the highest concentration of Jewish people in the United States, with 1.372 million Jewish adults and children — 960,000 in New York City and 412,000 in the suburban counties — residing in 736,000 households, according to the census. (For the purpose of the study, a Jewish person is defined as someone “who identifies with Judaism, either by religion or in any other way.”) 

Racial and ethnic diversity also characterized the community, with 12% of Jewish adults identifying as non-white or Hispanic. It’s not entirely clear from the data what that means; when asked, “Do you describe yourself as a person of color?” 3% of respondents answered yes.

The federation survey found that while the rate of interfaith marriage in New York is not necessarily higher than other areas — 37% of married couples had one non-Jewish partner — a lower percentage of interfaith couples said they raised their children Jewish than in other locales.

“In other big Jewish communities like L.A. and Chicago, we’ve seen higher percentages [of people saying their children are Jewish],” Emily Sigalow, the federation’s vice president of data and insights, said. She attributed the difference to how pollsters phrase the questions: “We asked about how children are raised, whereas others asked about their Jewish identity,” she said.

Read the full report here.


Adir Challenge names 3 winners for first phase of $1 million competition to tackle antisemitism

Morielle Lotan, with her nephew Addir Mesika when he was one year old. The Adir Challenge was created in his memory after he was killed on Oct. 7 at age 23.
Morielle Lotan, with her nephew Addir Mesika when he was 1 year old. The Adir Challenge was created in his memory after he was killed on Oct. 7 at age 23. Courtesy/Morielle Lotan

How can technology prevent antisemitism? On March 6, Morielle Lotan and Shay Hershkovitz issued a call to action to answer that question under the name the Adir Challenge, named for Lotan’s 23-year-old nephew who was murdered in the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks. The competition, which plans to carry a prize of $1 million, is underway to source bold, creative ideas for shaping major technology competitions aimed at combating antisemitism and hate on a global scale. On Thursday, three finalists for the first phase of the competition were announced, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen.

The winners are: Divided into Track A (high school students), Track B (college students) and Track C (general solvers, mostly entrepreneurs), the winners of the IDEA competition will each receive $10,000 and be invited to compete in the culminating event later this year. The Track A winner was SAR High School student Tzvi Hirshaut; the Track B winners were MIT duo Zack Duitz and Avi Balsam; and a team composed of data analysts, data scientists, language specialists and graduates of the Israeli Military Intelligence’s elite Unit 8200 won in Track C.

Going international: Nearly 500 people from over 20 countries registered for the competition, and entries incorporated crowdsourcing, virtual reality, blockchain and more in their approaches to the challenge. “The three topics that people are mostly concerned with are [tackling] social media, including news and online content; games or apps; and education — either educating common people or specifically educating antisemites,” Hershkovitz told eJP.

In his memory: What drives Lotan most is the memory of her oldest nephew, who was killed alongside his two closest friends while trying to escape the Nova music festival. “To say that he was the best human being you’d ever meet is an understatement,” Lotan said. “He cared very much about his community [and] his friends.” Having recently finished the army, Mesika “was thinking about what to study, engineering or sustainability, anything that would create impact,” Lotan said. “He wanted to solve big problems using technology. That was a lot of the personal conversations between me and him.” 

Read the full report here.


Eylon Levy: Israel’s ‘whole public diplomacy’ is ‘improvised’

Eylon Levy. Alexi J. Rosenfeld/Getty Images

Two of Israel’s highest-profile spokespeople since Oct. 7 – former government spokesman Eylon Levy and Lt. Col. (Res.) Jonathan Conricus – lamented the state of Israel’s public diplomacy on Wednesday in a webinar for the Misgav Institute for National Security and Zionist Strategy, reports Lahav Harkov, who moderated the discussion, for eJewishPhilanthropy’s sister publication Jewish Insider. “The whole public diplomacy operation…was improvised and set up on the fly,” Levy, who recently departed his government role amid reports of political infighting, said. “The fact that I was able to become a government spokesman tells you the best and worst about Israel. The best is that Israel knows, in times of emergency, to be flexible and agile and creative and give young people responsibility. The worst, because this is not the way it should work.”

Civilians forward: Levy said that while IDF Spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari “is wonderful,” there are bad optics associated with having no civilian address for the public and the media to get information. Conricus, the former IDF spokesperson to foreign media and a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, also said that the military taking the lead in communications “is not how it’s supposed to be. It should be driven by men and women, preferably women, in suits who do not represent the military.”

An uphill battle: Still, Conricus argued, “even if we were 10 times better, I think Israel would face a very hostile and difficult media environment. That doesn’t mean we are relieved and don’t have to be much, much better. … We are scrutinized more than any other country, as a democracy fighting to defend its civilians.” Israel needs to establish a communications structure, with funding and personnel in regular times, which would then be prepared during wartime, Conricus said, adding that public diplomacy needs to be “addressed systematically, not just a one-off.” A holistic approach would have to include Israeli, Arabic and international media.

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


Ensuring care for both body and mind — the whole individual — for all individuals

Illustrative. Cultura Creative/Adobe Stock

“Approximately 20% of the Israeli population — more than 1.5 million people — have a disability… As CEO of Beit Issie Shapiro, an organization that has been pioneering cutting-edge services for people with disabilities for over four decades, I’ve witnessed firsthand the sizable gap in adequate mental health care for this population,” writes Ahmir Lerner in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy

Post-Oct. 7 perspective: “According to a survey conducted by Maccabi Healthcare Services, 1 in 4 Israelis — and 45% of evacuees — reported needing professional mental health support… While efforts have been underway since the start of the war to increase access to mental health services, those efforts have been geared primarily toward the general population, not those with disabilities… Today, during Mental Health Awareness Month in the U.S. and Israel and Mental Health Awareness Week in the U.K., is the perfect opportunity to give this need the attention it deserves.”

A multidimensional challenge: “In Israel, the mental health sector of the health-care system lacks the knowledge, trained professionals and capacity to treat this sector of the population. Those with disabilities are neither encouraged nor educated to advocate for their mental health care, and the cadre of skilled therapists in the country are not incentivized in any way to overcome the challenges of working with patients with disabilities. In the long shadow of Oct. 7 and the ongoing war, Beit Issie Shapiro is stepping up to tackle the tsunami of mental health issues by expanding services and developing research and professional training in this area.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Too Much Too Soon: Rabbi Shira Koch Epstein contemplates collective memory and the Jewish grieving process in an opinion piece for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “This week, I find my heart as scraggly as the wilding beards I see on the Brooklyn subway, because we are not only midway through the Omer, but also just marked a trio of ‘yoms’ — Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Memorial Day), Yom Hazikaron (Israeli Memorial Day) and Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israeli Independence Day). In Zakhor: Jewish History and Jewish Memory, Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi calls our holiday observances acts of ‘ritual remembering,’a method by which Jewish collective memory is preserved through rituals, ceremonies and liturgical practices rather than just historical records… How can we engage in acts of ritual remembering when we are living in between ‘they tried to kill us’ and ‘we prevailed?’ Our processes of mourning and memory can provide some guideposts. When a close loved one dies, we sit shiva, seven days at home in which our community ensures we do not grieve alone. Friends provide food and comfort, listening as we share raw expressions of loss and memory. We aren’t ready to make meaning. It is too soon with our fresh losses and ongoing trauma. Instead, we gather, share stories and support those in the depths of grief, collectively waiting for the time when we might begin to make meaning. This sharing is the beginning of a narrative process during which memories become stories, eventually burnished into legacy when they motivate our actions.” [JTA]

Under Pressure: In Nonprofit Quarterly’s Spring Issue, which focuses on challenges facing Black female leaders in the sector, Kerrian Suarez shares three tropes of Black female identity she encounters in the workplace. “There is the trope of the Mammy, the beneficent, all-powerful mother who is supposed to take care of everybody’s emotional and physical needs. The flip side of that coin is the Angry Black Woman, who hurts everyone’s feelings. And then there’s the Magical Superwoman, who can do everything for everybody immediately, regardless of organization’s constraints like timelines or budgets… A colleague once pointed out that a stakeholder was engaging me as if I were their personal ‘race equity doula.’ That observation rang painfully true, because it called out both the stakeholder’s inappropriate expectations and my conscious fulfillment of them.” [NonprofitQuarterly]

What Jew Are You?: Writing in 18Forty, David Bashevkin considers the utility of Jewish denominations. “For the past half-century, and even more so in the last two decades, different forms of Jewish life and practice are rarely introduced to those who haven’t grown up with it, and the ideology behind each of these movements is rarely discussed in any sort of serious historical or theological way. For the most part, we take the Jewish world that we grew up in for granted… Everyone has essentially three different levels of Jewish identity: individual, familial, and institutional… On an individual level, we are all Reform, on the familial level we are all Conservative, and on the institutional/communal level we are all Orthodox… I really do think there is something to learn from each denomination, their histories, and their struggle. And I think, especially in this moment, where so many are searching and reflecting on their Jewish identity, it is important to understand that our individual, familial, and institutional identities will never perfectly align even though we need all three to nourish our Judaism. We need to discover individual identity of our deepest beliefs, family life that allows others to discover their own, and communal institutions that provide spiritual nourishment in ways that individuals can’t do on their own.” [18Forty]

Around the Web

Some 1,200 pro-Israel activists from around the country affiliated with NORPAC, a bipartisan political action committee, took to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to advocate for continued support of Israel in its war against Hamas and to demand action from members of Congress to curb the unprecedented levels of antisemitism on U.S. college campuses… 

Alexa Lipp was hired as the next executive director of the Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters Association

Baltimore’s Shaarei Tfiloh Synagogue is being converted from an Orthodox synagogue into “nonsectarian gathering place for intellectually curious Baltimoreans to explore Jewish wisdom and its deep traditions of communal learning and engagement,” which will be called Third Space at Shaarei Tfiloh

World Union for Progressive Judaism’s president, Rabbi Sergio Bergman, and senior leadership held a rare private meeting with Pope Francis this week. During the visit, WUPJ gave the pope a yellow ribbon and a “dog tag” in support of the hostages being held by Hamas in Gaza, as well as a mezuzah…

Joel Eisdorfer, a senior adviser to New York City Mayor Eric Adamswill depart the mayor’s office next month…

Hawaii Pacific Health broke ground on the Straub Benioff Medical Center yesterday as part of a broad effort to improve the state’s health-care system following a $100 million donation by Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and his wife, Lynne

The United Kingdom’s largest Israel charity, the United Jewish Israel Appealraised $242,000 from hundreds of supporters at its annual Yom HaAtzmaut business breakfast on Monday in central London…

A man accused of striking Paul Kessler during dueling protests outside of Los Angeles last year will face manslaughter charges, following a determination by the city’s medical examiner that the 69-year-old pro-Israel activist died from blunt force trauma associated with being struck with a megaphone and the subsequent fall…

“We Will Dance Again,” the documentary about the Oct. 7 Hamas terror attack at the Nova music festivalwill premiere exclusively on Paramount+ this fall…

Laura Blajman Kadar, a survivor of the Oct. 7 attack at the Nova music festival, appeared at the Cannes Film Festival this week wearing a yellow dress decorated with the faces of some of the remaining hostages…

The New York Times Magazine features an in-depth investigation into violence against Palestinians in the West Bank by Israeli extremists

The Jewish Heritage Fund donated $3 million to the University of Louisville to support biomedical research. The fund has donated some $40 million to the school over the past decade…

The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures will open an exhibit titled “Hollywoodland: Jewish Founders and the Making of a Movie Capital,” this Sunday, two years after the museum came under fire for omitting the contributions of Hollywood’s Jewish founders

The Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundationawarded a $40,000 grant to Hillside Food Outreach, which combats food insecurity in New York and Connecticut…

The Cleveland Jewish News published its annual charitable giving guide

The Washington Post is facing criticism after publishing a story that implies wealthy Jewish donors wield outsized influence over New York City Mayor Eric Adams and his decision to send police to break up the anti-Israel encampment at Columbia University

The BBC apologized after one of its presenters repeatedly referred to the “Jewish lobby” and its power over British politicians in a discussion about the London mayoral race… 

A new report by the House Committee on Education and the Workforce suggests that Harvard University continuously and repeatedly sidelined its Antisemitism Advisory Group and its recommendations… 

Pic of the Day

David Azagury/U.S. Embassy Jerusalem

U.S. Ambassador to Israel Jack Lew (center) and his wife, Ruth Schwartz, visit the Tikkun Olam Makers (TOM) Innovation Center in Tel Aviv on Wednesday.

During their visit, Lew and Schwartz saw TOM products such as the 3D-printed prosthesis being shown here by TOM and Reut Group’s founder and president, Gidi Greenstein, as well as a mobility chair for toddlers and a crib designed for parents who use wheelchairs. 

TOM is a project of Reut and a recipient of the Nita M. Lowey Middle East Partnership for Peace Act grant, which supports Jewish and Arab collaboration within Israel as well as collaboration among Israelis and Palestinians who use innovation in technology and design to create and disseminate affordable solutions for marginalized groups.


People participate in a Jewish solidarity march in New York City on Jan. 5, 2020, in response to a growing number of antisemitic attacks in the greater New York metropolitan area.
People participate in a Jewish solidarity march in New York City on Jan. 5, 2020, in response to a growing number of antisemitic attacks in the greater New York metropolitan area.

News anchor for 45 years at WPVI-TV (ABC Channel 6) in Philadelphia until he retired in 2022, known professionally as Jim Gardner, James Goldman, celebrates his birthday today… 

FRIDAY: President of the Philadelphia-based Honickman Foundation, her family owns one of the largest soft drink bottlers in the U.S., Lynne Korman Honickman… Annapolis, Md., attorney, Robert M. Pollock… Canadian philanthropist and the first woman to serve as lieutenant governor of Nova Scotia, Myra Ava Freeman… Corporate and securities attorney at NYC’s Eilenberg & Krause, Sheldon Krause… Comedian, puppeteer and actor, Marc Weiner… Founder and president of ENS Resources, a D.C.-based consulting and lobbying firm focused on natural resources and sustainable energy, Eric Sapirstein… Host of “Marketplace Morning Report” on public radio, David Brancaccio… Author of the 2005 book Stars of David: Prominent Jews Talk About Being Jewish and a 2017 book about Jewish holidays, she is an honorary president of NYC’s Central Synagogue, Abigail Pogrebin… and her identical twin sister, Robin Pogrebin, reporter on the culture desk for The New York Times, both turn 59… Former general manager for corporate strategy at Microsoft, she was also an executive vice president at Hillel, Kinney Zalesne… CPA and founder of the Baltimore Hunger Project, it provides food packs for the weekend that are discreetly slipped into over 2,100 poverty-stricken public-school children’s backpacks each Friday, Lynne Berkowitz Kahn… Israeli author and playwright, Sarah Blau… Reporter for The New York Times covering campaigns and elections, Reid J. Epstein… Former member of Knesset, when elected in 2013 she became the youngest female Knesset member in Israel’s history, Stav Shaffir… Executive director of Informing Democracy and digital strategy adviser to Democratic organizations and candidates, Jenna Ruth Lowenstein… Digital and social media strategist at AARP, Sarah Sonies… Senior writer at Microsoft’s Future of Work group, Rebecca Rose Nelson Kay… Israeli judoka, he was the 2019 World Champion and won a team bronze medal at the 2020 Olympics, Sagi Aharon Muki… Program advisor to the education director at the Boston Jewish Education Program, she is also a student rabbi at Temple Shir Tikva, Heather Renetzky… External communications representative at Apache Corporation, Katherine (Katie) Keenan

SATURDAY: Leader and rebbe of the Hasidic dynasty of Ger since 1996, Rabbi Yaakov Aryeh Alter… Chairman and co-founder of K2 Intelligence and Kroll Bond Rating Agency, Jules B. Kroll… Best-selling author of spy thriller novels, Andrew Gary Kaplan… Widow of Bernard “Bernie” Madoff, Ruth Madoff… Retired New York Times columnist and editorial writer, he was the NYT’s Jerusalem correspondent for four years in the early 1990s, Clyde Haberman… President of Everest Management and trustee of the Cheetah Conservation Fund, Gary Kopff… Managing partner for Volt Energy and former Senate Watergate Committee counsel, K. Barry Schochet… Los Angeles-based attorney and board member of American Friends of Nishmat, Linda Goldenberg Mayman… Long-time Washington correspondent for Newsweek, now writing for SpyTalkJonathan Broder… Longest-serving member of the Maryland House of Delegates, starting in 1983, Samuel I. “Sandy” Rosenberg… Chair of the executive of the Jewish Agency for Israel, a former IDF major general and leading activist for the disability community, Doron Almog… Senior advisor at Moelis & Company, he was previously a major general in the IDF, then CEO of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Shlomo Yanai… Director of nutrition and hospitality at Philadelphia’s Temple University Hospital, Nancy Baumann… Attorney in Atlanta, he was the director of congregational engagement at the Union for Reform Judaism for 9 years, Alan Kitey… Bethesda, Md., orthodontist and president of the Aleph Bet Montessori board, Dr. Alan Heller … Film producer, he is the CEO of Miramax since six weeks ago, Jonathan Glickman… Venture capitalist, podcast host, chairman of HaShomer Hachadash and author of a book on business principles derived from the Book of Genesis, Michael A. Eisenberg… Former CEO at Waze, Noam Bardin… Vice president for communications strategy at Strategic Marketing Innovations (SMI), Bryan Bender… Head of development at NYC charter school system, Uncommon Schools, Sarah Danzig… Author of Substack-based newsletter, Slow Boring, Matthew Yglesias… Director of a team of researchers at Gartner in London, Eliza Krigman… Staffer for the Senate Armed Services Committee, Eric Trager… Foreign correspondent for NBC News, Joshua Lederman… Former acting undersecretary of defense for intelligence and security, now a member of the National Archives Public Interest Declassification Board, Ezra Asa Cohen… Tech entrepreneur in the Web 3 and gaming space, Dan Garon… Co-founder of Rebel, which was acquired by Salesforce, Joe Teplow… Associate in the D.C. office of Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe, Lauren DePinto Bomberger… Executive producer of the “Net Zero Life” podcast, Netanel (Tani) Levitt… Director of communications at Anduril Industries, Sofia Rose Gross Haft… Five-time member of the U.S. Women’s National Gymnastics Team, now a technical program manager for Apple, Samantha “Sami” Shapiro… Chief development officer at TAMID Group, Rachel Philipson… Head of the Yad Vashem America desk, Chen Harkov… 

SUNDAY: Retired senior counsel in the D.C. office of Blank Rome, Harvey Sherzer… Retired chief judge of the New York Court of Appeals, now of counsel in the NYC office of Latham & Watkins, Jonathan Lippman… Clinical psychologist, author, teacher, public speaker and ordained rabbi, Dennis G. Shulman… Former member of the California State Senate, she was also a member of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus, Hannah-Beth Jackson… Israeli novelist and journalist, Edna Shemesh… Nurse and former member of the Wisconsin State Assembly, Sandra (Sandy) Pasch… Harvey D. Harman… Retired chief of the general staff of the IDF, now a member of the Knesset and a minister without portfolio, Gadi Eizenkot… Chabad-Lubavitch rabbi, born in Milan, now chief rabbi of Russia, Rabbi Berel Lazar… Journalist, teacher and playwright, Gersh Kuntzman… Professor of mathematics at the University of Chicago, Alex Eskin… Author of 28 novels that have sold over 40 million copies in 34 languages, Jodi Picoult… Business manager for NBA Hall of Famer Michael Jordan, Estee Portnoy… Former CEO of Bend the Arc, Stosh Cotler… Israeli-born chef, owner of multiple NYC restaurants, she is a cookbook author and comedian, Einat Admony… Israeli actress and fashion designer, Dorit Bar Or… Canadian food writer and cookbook author, Gail Simmons… Member of the Knesset for the Likud party since 2019, Ofir Katz… Pitcher for Team Israel at the 2017 World Baseball Classic and is now pitching coach for the UC Davis Aggies, Zachary “Zack” James Thornton… Activist, advocacy educator, engagement strategist and TED speaker, Natalie Warne… Ice hockey forward currently playing for SKA Saint Petersburg (Russia) of the Kontinental Hockey League, Brendan Leipsic