Your Daily Phil: Bringing Holocaust survivors’ messages to NYC

Good Monday morning.

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on Deborah Lipstadt’s warning that autocratic regimes are fanning the flames of hate to undermine Western democracies and J Street’s rare decision to revoke its endorsement of Rep. Jamaal Bowman. We feature an opinion piece by Dvir Cahana about his changing relationship with investment in infrastructure as a nonprofit founder. Also in this newsletter: Rabbi Moshe HauerMenachem Rosensaft and Daniel and Carole Kamin. We’ll start with a new initiative, Live2Tell, bringing portraits of Holocaust survivors and their messages to New York City landmarks.

When Rabbi Aliza Erber is asked what her first language is, her response is “mute.” Erber’s statement invokes her harrowing history — as a baby she had her mouth taped shut while hiding from the Nazis in a forest in the Netherlands. But Erber, 80, had a voice on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen.

A portrait of the rabbinic pastor and retired podiatrist’s face was projected onto the base of the Brooklyn Bridge on Saturday night, along with her words, “It was not okay then, it’s not okay now.”

The image of Erber was part of the launch of Live2Tell, a project started as a result of the rise in antisemitism in the U.S. and globally in the wake of the Oct. 7 terrorist attack in Israel.

Through photography, video and first-person interviews by New York-based photographer Gillian Laub and her team, Live2Tell the testimony of the last living Holocaust survivors and projected them onto more than 25 New York City public landmarks including the Williamsburg Bridge, Whitney Museum, West Side Highway and Midtown Ferry Terminal.

The initiative, funded through Reboot Impact Fund and Laub’s network, was a one-night-only project as it did not receive permits from the city.

The 48-year-old photojournalist told eJP on Sunday that the idea to photograph Holocaust survivors, and display their pictures in such a striking way, was a response to increasing antisemitism. “I just felt like this was urgent,” she said, pointing to a recent poll that found 20% of 18-29-year-olds believe the Holocaust is a myth.

“I want to continue to photograph more because I think their stories are so important right now to record and to share,” Laub said, adding that while International Holocaust Remembrance Day was picked as the day to make the project public, “it’s really just the beginning for me.”

Read the full report here.

ANTISEMITISM MONITOR

Lipstadt warns that authoritarian regimes fanning flames of antisemitism to weaken West

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.
Deborah Lipstadt, U.S. special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, speaks during an event with the American Jewish Committee on Jan. 26, 2024 ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Screenshot/AJC

Deborah Lipstadt, U.S. special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, warned that authoritarian regimes around the world were “adding fuel to the fire” of global antisemitism and bigotry, not necessarily or solely out of hatred toward Jews but as part of a campaign to delegitimize Western democracies. She made her remarks during an event with the American Jewish Committee on Friday ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross.

‘Useful’ antisemitism: “I’m not saying the rise in anti-Semitism we see is strictly from these foreign countries. They may be adding fuel to a fire, but a fire has to already be burning for them to add fuel to it,” Lipstadt said, speaking to AJC’s Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights. “If you convince particularly the citizens of the country that you are targeting that their country is riddled with antisemitism, with racism, with other hatreds, you’re essentially saying [it’s] a failed state. So for authoritarian regimes to direct this at Western democratic regimes is a very useful tool.”

A bigger threat: For this reason, Lipstadt said the U.S. government was committed to combating antisemitism, not only in order to protect the country’s Jewish population, but to ultimately protect itself. “America sees this as a danger,” she said. “This is not just about being good to a vulnerable minority… I would urge that we begin to think of this in a much broader and expansive fundamental threat to Western liberal democracies.”

BRIDGE TOO FAR

J Street rescinds endorsement of Jamaal Bowman over anti-Israel rhetoric

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.
Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) leaves the U.S. Capitol Building. Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

J Street, the progressive Israel advocacy group, said on Friday that it had rescinded its endorsement of Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) over his increasingly inflammatory rhetoric on the war in Gaza, crediting the decision to growing concerns that his comments have gone too far, reports Matthew Kassel for eJewishPhilanthropy’s sister publication Jewish Insider.

Finkelstein flaw: The final straw apparently came earlier this month, when JI first reported on a recent event in Westchester County at which Bowman appeared alongside Norman Finkelstein, a controversial anti-Israel scholar who has celebrated Hamas’ Oct. 7 terror attacks and been accused of promoting antisemitic conspiracy theories.

Further dialogue: Explaining its reason to revoke its endorsement, J Street said in a statement that there were “significant differences between us in framing and approach” — which the group left unspecified. The group added that even as it was pulling its support for Bowman’s campaign it looked “forward to continued dialogue” with the congressman, a prominent member of the Squad, while vowing that it was “committed to make no endorsements in” his primary.

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

EYE ON INFRASTRUCTURE

The conveyor belt mentality

Illustration by 200 Degrees from Pixabay

“In my work as the founder of the Amen Institute, I think constantly about how to construct a Jewish nonprofit organization that is built to last. While most of my time and attention have been directed at the project’s actual mission — empowering Jewish creatives and connecting artists and rabbis with the wider Jewish community  — I have learned over time that there are other things that are also foundational to sustaining my organization,” writes Dvir Cahana in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Easy to dismiss: “I considered myself too busy with the day-to-day mission of the Amen Institute — organizing fellowships, classes and other events — to think that the website was more than an ancillary aspect of the project. I had initially created a placeholder website, and I knew that the Amen Institute was not maximizing its reach online; still, I felt that the website was more of a cosmetic than a foundational element of this endeavor, so I continued ignoring it.”

Form should match function: “I realize now that I saw the role of my website like that of a conveyor belt — merely the means by which I was churning out a product… Nobody cares whether the conveyor belt looks pretty while it facilitates the creation of a masterfully crafted product. It is judged only by its functionality and efficiency. In my case, however, my conveyor belt of a website was on full display, simultaneously serving as both production line and storefront… Effort invested in building the right infrastructure for your mission yields efficiency, ease and a better engagement experience for the people you aim to reach.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Who Is This For?: In Time, Rabbi Moshe Hauer, executive vice president of the Orthodox Union, questions the purpose of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, marked annually on Jan. 27. “The Holocaust deniers, including President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, many Western nations’ preferred steward of Gaza for the day after the war, and Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, whose country funds Hamas and the other armed groups attacking Israel and its allies on multiple fronts, will not benefit from it. They cannot commemorate something they claim never occurred… The United Nations, which at the initiative of its Israeli delegation designated the day back in 2005 to build Holocaust awareness and prevent further acts of genocide, now deploys the lessons of the Holocaust against the Jewish people… Jews surely don’t need this day. Many of us have been remembering the Holocaust every day since that dark day in October… But let us not cancel Holocaust Remembrance Day… [It] is an opportunity for American and allied leaders and citizens to stand in our place and see Hamas, the United Nations, the ICJ, certain protestors and university leaders, and a long list of others through the eyes of Jews, the survivors of the Nazis and the Jew-haters of each and every generation, experiencing once again an all-too-familiar existential threat.” [Time]

AI Anxiety: “Responsible AI Adoption in Philanthropy: An Initial Framework for Grantmakers” was released last month by the Technology Association of Grantmakers to help funders answer questions about if, whether and how to implement AI internally, reports Dawn Wolfe in Inside Philanthropy. “Like it or not, generative AI is going to be one of the biggest issues in philanthropy tech for years to come… The speed of AI development, and its scope and potential impact, mean that funders also need to be proactive in terms of creating policies about how, when and whether to adopt AI tools within their organizations. Combined with existing social media and data technology, new developments in AI could cause disruptions that dwarf past tech stumbles in the sector, potentially compromising a funder’s ability to carry out its mission… The bottom line is that, yes, it will take a lot of work to get AI adoption right. But that work is going to have to be done — either on the front end, with systematic planning and implementation, or at the back end, with crisis management when things go wrong.” [InsidePhilanthropy]

Lost and Found: Scholar Ilana Cruger-Zaken weaves family history into the story of her research on Lishana Deni, a rare Judeo-neo-Aramaic language, in New Lines Magazine. “The history of Jews in Iraq’s Kurdish region is both ancient and largely undocumented, as the communities themselves have produced few written records, relying instead on storytelling in their ancestral Aramaic tongue as the primary mode of cultural transmission from generation to generation… Living in isolated, mountainous towns, the small Jewish communities of northwestern Iraq spoke unique variants of the language that had once been spoken the world over, preserving Aramaic centuries after its demise under the rolling spread of Arabic and Islam across the Middle East in the seventh century… The conditions for this dialect are fading from existence. Zakho [the author’s ancestral village] in 2023 survives without its Jews, who are now enfolded into the long history of the town but, like the language itself, will soon pass out of living memory as those who have memories of a Zakho that was home to Jews depart the world… So this becomes my challenge and my quest: How do I engage with this language, with this place, with this history, with this present, with this future? What is the purpose of learning this language?” [NewLinesMagazine]

Around the Web

Countries around the world, including the United States, have halted their funding of the Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA following revelations that at least 12 members of the organization had taken part directly in the Oct. 7 terror attacks and the aftermath, while some 10% of its Gaza employees are accused by Israel of having ties to Palestinian terrorist groups…

Google is launching a $4 million fund to support Israeli startups focused on artificial intelligence that are struggling amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas war…

In The Chronicle of PhilanthropyFrances Kunreuther and Sean Thomas-Breitfeld, the co-executive directors of the Building Movement Projectdiscuss their organization’s new study that found fewer people, particularly people of color, are interested in leading nonprofits…

The Arizona Jewish Historical Society hired Frank Jacobson to lead its $30 million capital campaign to build the Hilton Family Holocaust Education Center in Phoenix…

An 83-year-old Israeli man, Shalom Koray, who was orphaned as a child during the Holocaust, discovered that he had a long-lost family living in the United States after taking a DNA test…

Daniel and Carole Kamin donated $65 million to the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, the largest gift to the institution since Andrew Carnegie’s original contribution…

The Times of Israel profiles an initiative bringing the families of soldiers who were killed in the Gaza war to Cyprus for group therapy and relaxation…

Menachem Shemtov, leader of Chabad Georgetown in Washington, D.C., was assaulted by the driver of a Lyft ride that he’d ordered…

Germany’s Deutsche Welle looks at Jewish life in Poland, as people with Jewish roots are increasingly exploring their heritage in a country where nearly its entire Jewish population was wiped out in the Holocaust…

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.
AFP via Getty Images

President of the World Federation of Bergen-Belsen Associations and former general counsel for the World Jewish Congress, Menachem Rosensaft (right), and the religious leader of Bosniak Muslims, Husein Kavazovic, sign a “Jewish-Muslim Initiative for Peace” at the Srebrenica Genocide Memorial Centre in Srebrenica, Bosnia-Herzegovina. The signing took place on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Jan. 27.

“Both our peoples have suffered and had experienced attempts to destroy and eradicate them (and) at the present moment, when the evils of antisemitism and Islamophobia are gaining ground around Europe and the world, we must renew our vow to be good neighbors and care for one another,” Kavazovic told the gathering.

“Today, we remember. Today, we mourn. We join together in sorrow, and our tears become prayers — prayers of remembrance, but also prayers of hope,” said Rosensaft.

Birthdays

Annie Liebovitz smiles
Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP via Getty Images

Swimmer for Israel at the 2016 and 2020 Summer Olympics, Andrea (Andi) Murez

Rabbi, mohel, author and public speaker, Rabbi Paysach Krohn… First woman ordained by the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Sandy Eisenberg Sasso… Singer and songwriter, he is a two-time gold medal winner in the Maccabiah Games (1985 and 1989) in fastpitch softball, Steve March-Tormé… Regional director in the Houston office of the American Jewish Committee, Randall Czarlinsky… Louisiana resident, Jerry Keller… CEO of the Westchester Jewish Council, Elliot Forchheimer… Senior writer for JCCs of North America, a.k.a. Jane the Writer, Jane E. Herman… Actress known for her role as Amy MacDougall-Barone on the TV sitcom “Everybody Loves Raymond,” Monica Horan… Physician and an author of four New York Times best-selling books, he is a professor of medicine and engineering at USC, Dr. David Agus… Former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Paul Ryan… Founder of multiple tech firms, Sam Lawrence… Robyn Cooke Bash… Writer and occasional Bollywood film actor, he is known for his writing of the popular Jewish children’s comic book series Mendy and the GolemMatt Brandstein… Senior director and global lead of APCO Impact, Denielle Sachs… Former president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston, now a D.C.-based philanthropic consultant, Kari Dunn Saratovsky… Israeli actress, model and television host, Yael Bar Zohar … Chair of the American Institute in Taiwan (the de facto U.S. embassy in Taiwan), Laura Rosenberger… Associate at Booz Allen Hamilton, Yasha Moz… U.S. representative (D-MA) since 2021, Jake Auchincloss… Israeli multi-platinum record producer and songwriter specializing in pop, hip hop, dance and electronic music, Yonatan “Johnny” Goldstein… Software engineering analyst at Blackrock, Martha Baumgarten…