Your Daily Phil: Bringing Israelis, Palestinians and tech together to help Gaza

Good Tuesday morning. 

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on Jewish leaders’ reactions to the requests for arrest warrants sought against Israeli politicians over the war in Gaza and profile the Jewish Girls Rights Club, whose members are second graders, and its recent advocacy trip to Capitol Hill. We feature an opinion piece by Melissa Rivkin defending the necessity of visits to the communities in southern Israel physically and emotionally gutted by Oct. 7. Also in this newsletter: Steven Windmueller, Miriam Adelson and Barbara J. RismanWe’ll begin with an effort by an Israeli academic institution to bring together Israelis and Palestinians with companies from around the world to address the water crisis in Gaza.

For nearly 30 years, the focus of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, located in Kibbutz Ketura in the Negev, has been bringing together Israelis, Palestinians, Jordanians and others to develop solutions to the region’s environmental challenges.

Last Wednesday, Tareq Abu Hamed — the Arava Institute’s executive director and the first Jerusalem Palestinian to head an Israeli academic institution — shared the institute’s latest collaborative effort during a roundtable discussion at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., reports Haley Cohen in eJewishPhilanthropy from the event.

“Gaza needs immediate relief with resilient, adaptable infrastructure networks,” said Abu Hamed. To help, the institute is leveraging its networks of Israeli and Palestinian nongovernmental organizations to launch a response that will bring off-grid water, sanitation and energy solutions to communities impacted by the war.

Before Oct. 7, 96% of Gaza’s freshwater sources were declared by UNICEF to be unsuitable for drinking. Since Oct. 7, Israel’s war against Hamas has left Gaza — and the 2.2 million Palestinians who live there — with destroyed water and sanitation infrastructure. The only source of drinking water has come from outside of Gaza with the assistance of international aid organizations.

The institute has partnered with Watergen, an Israel-based global company that develops atmospheric water generator systems, a means of creating local sources of potable water. Other Israeli, Palestinian and global entities involved in the coalition include Damour, Gigawatt Global, Comet-ME, Sun Box, Green Cake, De Novo Group, Energy Global, Laguna Innovation and Atheer.

The event in D.C. was open to a select group — journalists, Israeli Embassy staff and environmental nonprofit employees — and came on the heels of the Arava Institute’s nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize earlier this month.

“The vast majority of people want peace, but they think the other side doesn’t want peace,” Abu Hamed said. “And that’s because of the lack of communication between the two sides. This is the role of Arava Institute. We use science and the environment to bring people together.”

He noted that after Oct. 7, the institute received several inquiries about new Palestinian partnerships. “This shows how much trust plays an important role. Through the discussion of science, you give people the opportunity to see the human in one another.”

Read the full report here.


Biden, Jewish leaders denounce International Criminal Court for issuing arrest warrants for Israeli politicians

Teens from across the country celebrate Opening Session of USY International Convention in Orlando, Fla. with teens from the Metropolitan New York area.
President Joe Biden. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

President Joe Biden slammed the International Criminal Court yesterday after the body’s lead prosecutor announced plans to seek arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, calling the warrants “outrageous.” The forceful condemnation by the Biden administration joined a flurry of criticism by American Jewish groups and members of Congress from both parties, reports Marc Rod and Gabby Deutch for eJewishPhilanthropy’s sister publication Jewish Insider.

‘Most perverse’: “The ICC Prosecutor’s appalling and misguided decision to seek warrants for Israel’s elected leaders and defense officials is among the most perverse taken by an international body, and only serves to further undermine the court’s already fractured legitimacy,” the Jewish Federations of North America said in a statement. “The prosecutor’s decision to single out the Jewish state, which goes above and beyond the requirements of international law to protect civilians, while the court has turned a blind eye to the world’s real human rights violators, is antisemitism, pure and simple.”

‘A moral outrage’: AIPAC urged Congress and the administration to reimpose sanctions on the ICC and to demand that other countries reject the warrants, calling them “morally obscene.” The American Jewish Committee likewise condemned the decision and noted that the ICC has no jurisdiction over Israel. “This effort is a moral outrage based on blatant falsehoods that will harm the Court’s credibility, completely undermine its core mandate, and embolden enemies of democracies around the world,” AJC said in a statement, saying the claims are “slanderous, factually unsupported, and contribute to a broader effort to demonize the State of Israel and the Israeli people.”

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


For these Jewish 2nd grade girls, lessons in advocacy — and a life-changing D.C. trip

Jewish Girls Rights group meets with Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D – FL). Courtesy.

It was a meeting that began like countless others at the White House: “Thank you for inviting us to meet with you today. We are so honored to be here,” said Hazel Nisenbaum, the advocacy group’s leader. She wore a sky-blue suit and white kitten heels. What followed made clear that the group’s business in Washington was anything but typical, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch reports. “We are a group of second grade girls at Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School in Chicago, Ill.,” Hazel continued, before White House Jewish liaison Shelley Greenspan interrupted and asked if she could take notes. Eight-year-old Hazel, all business, agreed. “We may only be 7 and 8 years old, but we know we can make a big difference in the world. We are proud to be Jewish and are proud to be girls.” (That’s according to a video provided to JI by Kara Goldman, Hazel’s mother, who can’t stop kvelling.)

Busy day: In the Friday meeting at the White House, Hazel was tasked with introducing the Jewish Girls Rights Club, whose 11 members were in Washington with their mothers for a high-level advocacy day that even the most seasoned Washington veterans would envy. Their day began on Capitol Hill, in meetings with Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) and the chief of staff to Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and a private tour of the Capitol, followed by a White House visit that included conversations with Greenspan, White House national security spokesperson John Kirby and White House Gender Policy Council Director Jennifer Klein. They ended the day at the Supreme Court. (They all read I Dissent, a biographical picture book about Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, before the trip.)

Grown-up issues: “I was so encouraged by how tenacious and precocious these girls were. Yet as young as they all were, I was very impressed by how they had a keen sense of the ancient prejudices that fuel this recent rise in antisemitism that they have grown up with, and the need to stand up for the rights of women and girls,” Wasserman Schultz told JI on Monday.

Protect Jewish girls: Hazel started the Girls Rights Club to talk with her friends about issues like pay equity and reproductive choice “in an age-appropriate way,” Goldman said. It was only after the Oct. 7 terror attacks in Israel that Hazel and her friends decided to add “Jewish” to the name of their club. “They heard in an age-appropriate way that we have to protect Jewish girls,” Goldman said.

Read the full story here.


Voices of Sderot and Be’eri: One grantmaker’s visit to southern Israel

Israeli soldiers walk in front of an Israeli police station in the town of Sderot that was damaged during battles to dislodge Hamas terrorists inside, on Oct. 8, 2023.
Israeli soldiers walk in front of an Israeli police station in the town of Sderot that was damaged during battles to dislodge Hamas terrorists inside, on Oct. 8, 2023. Jack Guez/AFP via Getty Images

“Before going to Israel in March, several people warned me about visiting the sites of the horrific terror attacks of Oct. 7. They worried I might be participating in ‘trauma tourism,’ a term used by critics who fear that such trips exploit historical sites of violence to increase charitable giving,” writes Melissa Rivkin, director of day school strategy for the Samis Foundation, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

The reality: “I am sensitive to the power dynamic of funders coming to visit, but I also learned that for some survivors, the urge to share their stories had nothing to do with whether their visitors were funders or not. For many, they share what happened because their loved ones cannot… The trauma was palpable and pervasive. Still, it was very clear that for the people whom we met, telling their stories was cathartic. Of course, for every person we meet, there may be a dozen who don’t want to meet or even speak to anyone. We need to understand that, too.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

War and Reconstructionism: In Forward, Talia Werber and Steven Goldstein share what led them to leave their studies at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College despite their passion for becoming rabbis within the movement. “Before Oct. 7, we were surprised that RRC’s curriculum did not include much about how and why Reconstructionism’s progressive Zionist positions developed. We were also surprised by the loud anti-Zionist sentiment among the student body and the culture of silence and intimidation that dissuaded students from expressing any positive connection with Israel… [After Oct. 7,] we asked [senior leaders in the movement] to address the growing anti-Zionism and erosion of civil discourse in the school with urgency and care. Instead, both the president and the executive vice president of Reconstructing Judaism, Rabbis Deborah Waxman and Amber Powers, went so far as to tell us that not everyone ordained by RRC had the maturity and skill set required of rabbis, but that the school assumed this would develop in their rabbinates… We are deeply concerned about the impact to the collective and individual psyches of the Jewish people in being led by rabbis who have chosen intimidation over dialogue, who believe that, unlike all other peoples, we are not deserving of autonomy, self-definition, self-determination, safety or home.” [Forward]

Mary Jane Morals: In The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Marc Gunther examines the role that big donors played in the marijuana legalization movement and what it could mean for other causes. “In 1969, smoking a joint anywhere in the United States could land you in jail, and only 12 percent of the U.S. public supported the legalization of marijuana. Today, marijuana for medical or recreational use is legal in 40 states… Guiding — and funding — this half-century movement were a few very rich, ideologically diverse donors… These donors did not necessarily collaborate. But they supported charitable organizations in ways that made full use of nonprofits’ ability to do advocacy work on key issues, as long as it stopped short of direct involvement on behalf of a specific political candidate, bill, or referendum… For today’s philanthropists, three key lessons can be drawn from the marijuana story. First, centralizing power in the hands of a few donors and their advisers can work, at least in terms of changing laws… Second, however, big-donor dominance can be less attuned to issues of race or class because their approach disregards a key tenet of contemporary philanthropy… Finally, the marijuana campaign underscores the importance of providing the long-term unrestricted funding that all nonprofits crave.” [ChronicleofPhilanthropy]

Where Do We Go From Here: In an article for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Steven Windmueller considers the current status of the American Jewish community in the wake of the Oct. 7 attacks and what it portends for the future. “While this conflict is being waged on the ground in Gaza, it is having a profound and fundamental impact on Jews in the United States… A fundamental recalibration of the American Jewish experience is underway… Similar to June 1967, we are experiencing a ‘return’ as significant numbers of non-affiliated and disaffected Jews seek to reconnect with the Jewish people… Are we prepared to embrace these individuals?… As priorities shift to defending and supporting Israel, what will happen to the bottom line of the schools, social services agencies, cultural centers, and other Jewish institutions that don’t have a prominent Israel portfolio?… How we see ourselves as part of America, as well as how we understand our connections with Israel and the global Jewish community, are being refashioned. We are now redefining our identities as we revisit our political standing, communal priorities, and cultural moorings. We are encountering a totally different moment in our Jewish consciousness.” [JCPA]

Around the Web

The Shabbat meal nonprofit OneTable announced that it just received its 1 millionth Shabbat dinner reservation since its founding in 2014…

The Mike and Sofia Segal Foundation donated $1.5 million to ANU – Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv to create the Mike & Sofia Segal Center for Jewish Culture…

For its cover story, New York magazine profiles Miriam Adelson, focusing on her philanthropy and political donations over the years, as well as the prospects of her support for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in the upcoming election…

A video posted to former President Donald Trump’s Truth Social account on Monday included references to a “unified Reich” among theoretical news headlines if he wins the presidential election…

Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D-FL) told The Bulwark that he has spent days trying to calm down pro-Israel donors outraged with campus protests and President Joe Biden’s threat to pause the delivery of some weapons to Israel in a CNN interview last week…

Biden met the parents of American hostage Hersh Goldberg-Polin yesterday on the sidelines of the White House’s Jewish American Heritage Month reception and told them, “We won’t stop until every one of them is back home”…

Francis Najafi, an Iranian-American businessman who bankrolls the country’s largest pro-regime lobbying organization, the National Iranian American Council, has been found to also contribute to several Jewish organizations that are critical of Israel, including the publication Jewish Currents

Connie and Steve Ballmer donated $25 million to the National Park Foundation as part of a campaign aimed at raising $1 billion by 2028…

The Times of Israel interviews Barbara J. Risman, a sociology professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, who is retiring early over what she describes as “outright institutional antisemitism”…

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) publicly backed a bill that would strip New York nonprofits of their tax-exempt status if they support Israel’s military and settlement activity…

Dutch airline KLM suspended flights to Israel starting in July until at least the end of August, citing “the ongoing unrest”…

Ivan Boesky, an arbitrageur and major donor to Jewish causes who later pleaded guilty to insider trading, died on Monday at 87…

Pic of the Day


Since January, Israeli nongovernmental aid agency SmartAid’s on-the-ground operations in Gaza have included providing and setting up temporary shelters like the ones pictured here in Rafah. Thousands of additional shelters are currently being set up in the northern and central parts of the Strip as well.


Jonathan S. Lavine, co-managing partner and chief investment officer of Bain Capital Credit

CEO of the Boston-based hedge fund Baupost Group, Seth Klarman

Former U.S. senator from Minnesota, he was previously a comedian, actor and writer, Al Franken… Guitarist and composer, Marc Ribot… Executive vice president of American Friends of Bar-Ilan University, Ron Solomon… Chief rabbi of Mitzpe Yericho and dean of Hara’ayon Hayehudi yeshiva in Jerusalem, Rabbi Yehuda Kroizer… Northern California-based comedian, he celebrated his bar mitzvah, at 52, in Israel, Josh Kornbluth… Legal analyst at CNN, Jeffrey Toobin… Founder and former co-owner of City & State NY, Thomas Allon… Director of antisemitism education and associate director of the Israel Action Program, both at Hillel International, Tina Malka… Actress, artist and playwright, Lisa Edelstein… Former head of Dewey Square’s sports business practice, now a freelance writer, Frederic J. Frommer… Author and journalist, she was a reporter with The New York Times for eight years, Amy Waldman… U.S. cyclist at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia, she is now the executive director of the New England Mountain Bike Association, Nicole Freedman… President and CEO since 2015 of the Michigan-based William Davidson Foundation, Darin McKeever… University chaplain and rabbi for NYU, Rabbi Yehuda Sarna… Senior principal at Cityfi, Brandon Pollak… Professor of computer science at the University of Texas at Austin, Scott Joel Aaronson, Ph.D…. EVP and chief legal officer at Sinclair Broadcast Group, David Gibber… Chief operating officer at the Yael Foundation, Naomi Kovitz… President of Mo Digital, Mosheh Oinounou… Los Angeles-born, raised in Israel, international fashion model for Versace, Sharon Ganish… Partner at CreoStrat, Steve Miller… Windsurfer who represented Israel in the Olympics (Beijing 2008 and Rio 2016), she is now a SW delivery lead at SolarEdge, Maayan Davidovich… Player on the USC team that won the 2016 NCAA National Soccer Championship, she is now an associate in the LA office of Foley & Lardner, Savannah Levin… Comedian, actress and writer known for starring in the HBO Max series “Hacks,” Hannah Marie Einbinder