Your Daily Phil: Combating antisemitism Down Under

Good Friday morning.

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on a new survey by Brandeis University about antisemitism on college campuses. We feature opinion pieces by Rabbi Shirley Idelson about the leadership style of Rabbi David Ellenson, who died last week, and Natalie Barth about her recent trip to Israel. Also in this newsletter: Ginny Gendelman, Sarah Levin and Rabbi Shalom Ber Stambler. Shabbat shalom!

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 Jewish InsidereJewishPhilanthropy and The Circuit stories, including: Sylvan Adams says $100 million gift to Ben-Gurion University, his largest yet, marks pivot in giving; Voices against Hamas growing louder as war in Gaza continues; Judaica sales surge as community members seek ‘a little Jewish joy’ during a difficult time; Northern Israel a ‘waking nightmare’ amid efforts to push Hezbollah from border, says resident and security analyst. Print the latest edition here.

After the Oct. 7 attacks, as antisemitism spiked in Australia, a small team of Australian-Jewish professionals cobbled together a media campaign to galvanize support for Jewish community members, particularly in workplaces, Marc Schwartz, one of the initiative’s leaders, told eJewishPhilanthropy’s Esther D. Kustanowitz

It launched on Nov. 27, with 600 signatures, and, as of press time, had reached upwards of 16,000 signatures from CEOs and other high-level corporate leaders from diverse industries and professions. Through a coordinated media blitz across legacy news platforms and social media sites, the message — “We stand against antisemitism, Islamophobia and any form of racism in our workplaces” — has now reached more than 8 million people across Australia, Schwartz said.

“Jews around the world are inherently struck and distracted and affected in many ways about what’s happening on the other side of the world,” Schwartz said. “And there’s a lack of understanding globally that because you are Jewish, you are affected by what’s happening in Israel.” Making the corporate community aware of that, and “getting CEOs who employ hundreds of thousands of people to take a stand and say we’ve got your back,” is the goal, he added.

At various points in developing the document, the initiative’s creators were asked to reassess who their target audience was, with some believing it should be aimed at the government and others at the everyday citizen, but ultimately, “we came back to where we started [with executive leadership],” Schwartz said. 

The goal of the initiative isn’t putting a letter on a CEO’s desk for a signature, he added, but starting a conversation about antisemitism with major companies across Australia.

“There are people around Australia, employees behind the desks in the factories or in the workforce, who are scared to be Jewish and scared to maybe wear a yarmulke, they’re scared to voice their support for Israel,” Schwartz said. “Jewish employees need to feel safe and supported.”

Read the full report here.

ON THE QUAD

Survey of Jewish students shows antisemitism varies greatly, campus to campus

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.
Students participate in a protest in support of Palestine and for free speech outside of the Columbia University campus on Nov. 15, 2023. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

When researchers at Brandeis University set out in 2016 to measure antisemitism on college campuses across the country, they found a small number of “hotspot” schools where Jewish students faced a hostile environment. Now, in a new survey in the wake of Oct. 7 and the ensuing war between Israel and Hamas, that same team of researchers has found many more “hotspots” — including top universities such as Columbia, NYU, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of California, Berkeley — where hostility toward both Jews and Israel is increasing dramatically, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen in Jewish Insider.

Not all top schools: The study, “In the Shadow of War: Hotspots of Antisemitism on U.S. College Campuses,” found that at a number of other top schools, including Duke, Washington University in St. Louis, Tulane and the University of Florida, Jewish students report far lower — though still significant — levels of antisemitic hostility. According to its authors, the study is the first to identify levels of antisemitism at specific campuses and to compare campus levels of antisemitism since Oct. 7.

Looks can be deceiving: “There’s no question that after Oct. 7 there has been a dramatic increase in the level of antisemitism on campuses,” Leonard Saxe, one of the study’s authors and a Brandeis professor of contemporary Jewish studies and social policy who heads the Steinhardt Social Research Institute and the Cohen Center, said. “But one of the most important takeaways of this study is that there’s a huge amount of variance among campuses… not all campuses have the high rates of antisemitism that are perceived on the campuses in that top quartile.”

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

REMEMBERING A ROLE MODEL

Lessons in leadership from Rabbi David Ellenson, z”l

Rabbi David Ellenson. Photo by Jim Heaphy from Wikimedia Commons

“As the Jewish world mourns the loss of Rabbi David Ellenson, tributes are coming in from an astoundingly diverse array of individuals and organizations,” writes Rabbi Shirley Idelson, director of the Zelikow School of Jewish Nonprofit Management at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Friend, educator — and leader: “All of us who were fortunate to know him remember not only his achievements but also his kindness and warmth, his beaming smile and laughter, his generosity and, most importantly, his menschlichkeit. Scholars will explore his multifaceted legacy as a brilliant and loving rabbi, teacher and seminary president. He must also be remembered as a Jewish communal leader par excellence… Today, as I teach a new generation of students preparing for Jewish professional leadership, David represents the kind of ideal professional with whom I hope my students will be fortunate to work and to which I aspire.”

Read the full piece here.

LOTS WE CAN DO

Am Yisrael Chai: 10 takeaways from 10 days in Israel

Photo by Eduardo Castro from Pixabay

“My family and I traveled to Israel this month concerned about what we would find, but our visit reminded us of the resilience of Israelis in the face of tragedy. Here are my 10 takeaways from 10 days in Israel, and suggestions for supporting Israel in any way you can,” writes Natalie Barth, a former trustee of UJA-Federation of New York, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Bear witness: “The most powerful part of my trip was hearing firsthand the stories that I will now share with my community. We are the story holders and have a responsibility to treat the stories of the survivors and their families with dignity and respect: like the account of a woman I met from Ashdod, whose family survived when a rocket destroyed their home and fled to Jerusalem with only the clothes on their backs.”

Support the economy: “Israel’s economy depends on tech, tourism, agriculture, financial services and innovation. With 350,000 reservists called up, some sectors of the workforce are on pause. With international airlines canceling flights, tourism is at a standstill. Every shopkeeper, restaurant and organization we visited thanked us for supporting them and coming to Israel.” 

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Banish the Dark: In The New York Times, Elizabeth Dias speaks with American Jewish leaders about how they and their communities have interpreted this year’s Hanukkah through the lens of the war in Israel and rising antisemitism at home. “[Rabbi Elka Abrahamson] remembered a story from the Talmud. Two great rabbis had a dispute about how to light the menorah. One said they should start with eight candles and wind down. But the other said to start with one candle, and every night add one more. His way became tradition. It was a way to show that light must increase, must be added to the world, she said. ‘We have to just have that in mind constantly right now,’ Rabbi Abrahamson, the president of the Wexner Foundation, a philanthropic group that supports Jewish agencies and programs, said of the lesson on light… This year, it is especially important to light menorahs publicly, said Rabbi Jesse Olitsky, 39, of Congregation Beth El in South Orange, N.J…. Younger generations have taken for granted the safety of what it means to be a Jew in America, [Olitsky] said. He wanted his school-aged children to wear their Star of David necklaces proudly, not tuck them under their shirts in fear. ‘I have no doubt that the Maccabees were scared,’ he said. ‘The miracle was even in their fear they were proud of who they were.’” [NYTimes]

Teach Your Children Well: In Jewish Insider, Gabby Deutch examines California’s contentious ethnic studies curriculum, which has taken on fresh urgency during the Israel-Hamas war. “California is one of 18 states to mandate some form of ethnic studies education in public schools, although most do not go as far as California. When the state was first considering making a semester of ethnic studies a mandatory graduation requirement, the original draft curriculum faced strong pushback from California’s Jewish community for its hostility toward Israel and support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement… ‘This is a debate that has been going on for years now: Do we fight this outright? Or do we find a way to fight it from within, to protect our students?’ asked [Sarah Levin, executive director of JIMENA: Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa], who was one of the most prominent voices in the push to include more Jewish representation in the model ethnic studies curriculum. ‘We’re not going to rebuild a separate Jewish bubble here in California, even though some people probably would like to tell us to do that. No. This is our state, too. We have to make it better.’” [JewishInsider]

Don’t Give In to Discomfort: In Tablet, Columbia sophomore Elisha Baker argues that now is not the time for Jewish students to abandon American universities. “[M]any Jewish students I know have been telling me they want to just get out. Whether that means cramming credits to graduate early, changing graduate school plans, or spending weekends at home, a high number of my peers reasonably want no part of life on campus anymore… If my fellow American Jews and I can’t manage to stay on college campuses, something is seriously wrong. When we focus only on those who hate us, we give them power over us, we homogenize an overly negative Jewish experience, and we ignore key aspects of what college is supposed to be about: learning how to confront adversity. Strengthening our Jewish identities and communities. Taking on leadership roles… A college experience void of these fundamental areas of growth does not, to me, resemble a college experience at all.” [Tablet]

Around the Web

Volcani International Partners, one of Israel’s leading agricultural NGOs, and Western Negev Farmers, which represents farmers from the Gaza border area, launched a new emergency fund, ReGrow Israel, which is aimed at helping the farms hardest hit by the Oct. 7 attacks. They hope to raise $50 million for the fund…

The British Jewish News profiled the Jewish Child’s Day nonprofit’s efforts on behalf of Israeli children throughout the Israel-Hamas war…

Mazi Melesa Pilip, an Ethiopian-born county legislator and Israel Defense Forces veteran, was selected by New York Republicans to run for the seat recently vacated by expelled Rep. George Santos (R-NY)

Anna Goldstein Koenig will succeed Ginny Gendelman as the executive director of the Milwaukee Jewish Free Loan Association, which Gendelman founded 15 years ago…

The trade publication American Theatre looked into how the Israel-Hamas war and rising antisemitism are affecting people within the theater industry…

Iconiq Capital, a wealth management and investment firm, launched the Ocean Co-Lab this week through its philanthropic arm to combat the effects of climate change. The initiative has so far raised $42 million…

Nabisco launched a new flavor of Oreos this week: a black-and-white cookie. Could rugelach-flavored Oreos be next?…

Michael J. Stern, USA Today columnist and former prosecutor, wrote about how the past two months have brought him closer to Judaism and the Jewish community…

The Lawfare Project filed a lawsuit against Carnegie Mellon University on behalf of a student who said she experienced antisemitism at the school…

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency highlighted the hanukkiot that have been used in official Hanukkah candlelighting ceremonies around the world, from one pulled from the ashes of Kibbutz Kfar Aza, which was lit in the White House, to one constructed out of wreckage from the Oct. 7 attacks, which was used by New York City Mayor Eric Adams…

Earlier this week, Adams presented Shine A Light’s Civil Courage Award for Community Building to Michael L. Lomax, president and CEO of the United Negro College Fund, and television host Eboni Williams for their work in combating antisemitism…

The New York Times investigated how the Israel-Hamas war, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in general, has caused a rift within the Bronx Defenders, one of the most influential public defense organizations in the country…

Pennsylvania’s Commission on Crime and Delinquency approved over $19 million in nonprofit security grants, much of it to synagogues and other Jewish institutions…

Argentina’s new president, Javier Milei, is expected to appoint his Torah teacher, Rabbi Shimon Axel Wahnish, as the country’s ambassador to Israel, a position that has been unfilled for over 1.5 years…

Pic of the Day

Courtesy/Western Wall Heritage Foundation

Holocaust survivor Marian Torski lights a candle on a hanukkiah in the Polish parliament last night as Rabbi Shalom Ber Stambler, Chabad of Poland’s director, stands to his left and Polish President Andrei Duda (third from right) watches. Last night’s candlelighting ceremony was held after a right-wing lawmaker, in a widely criticized move earlier this week, used a fire extinguisher to put out the candles on a hanukkiah.

“As we all know and have recently been reminded of the darkness of antisemitism,” Stambler said at the event. “Be it the October 7 pogrom in Israel, which saw innocent civilians attacked on one of the holiest days in the Jewish calendar, brutally murdered, raped, tortured and taken captive, or events closer to home in Europe and in this very room itself. So tonight, as we light the menorah in this room for its 18th time, let’s spread the light of religious tolerance, let’s stand together as one Poland united against antisemitism in every place and let’s celebrate life and the continuity of the Jewish community of Poland.”

Birthdays

Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images for Freedom House

President of Freedom House, Michael J. Abramowitz, celebrates his birthday on Sunday…

FRIDAY:  Former member of the New York State Assembly, attorney general of New York and member of the New York City Council, Oliver Koppell… Senior rabbi emeritus at Congregation Mt. Sinai in Brooklyn Heights, now EVP of the New York Board of Rabbis, Rabbi Joseph Potasnik… Film, stage and television actress and voice artist, best known for her role in the 1990s Fox sitcom “Parker Lewis Can’t Lose,” Melanie Chartoff… Owner of the largest construction company for gas pipelines in Russia, Arkady Rotenberg… Associate lecturer in religious studies at the University of Wyoming, Seth Ward… President and CEO at JFCS of the Suncoast in Sarasota, Fla., Dr. Helene Lotman… Chairman and founder of BizBash, David Adler… Sportscaster, best known as the radio voice for the Alabama Crimson Tide football team, Eli Gold… U.S. senator (D-VA), Mark Warner… Executive chairman of South Africa’s Resolve Communications, Tony Leon… Executive director at Silicon Couloir in Wyoming, Gary S. Trauner… Partner at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz specializing in M&A, Adam O. Emmerich… Actress, singer and songwriter, she appeared in the title role of the 1984 film “Supergirl,” Helen Slater… Television and movie producer, screenwriter and executive, producer of the first eight seasons of the Pokémon TV series and writer of most of the Pokémon films, Norman J. Grossfeld… Rabbi serving communities in California’s Central Valley, Paul Gordon… Chicago-born stand-up comedian and author, Joel Chasnoff… Director of community relations and Israel affairs at the Jewish Federation of Greater Charlotte, Tal Selinger Stein… Actor, writer and musician, Adam Brody… Former mayor of Bal Harbour, Fla., he is an attorney, Gabriel Groisman… Washington, D.C.-based chef and restaurateur, Spike Mendelsohn… Israeli singer-songwriter and actress, Marina Maximilian Blumin… Client solutions manager at Samsung Ads, Julie Winkelman Lazar… Musician and actress, her first major film, Licorice Pizza, was released in 2021, Alana Mychal Haim… Principal at Activate Consulting, Lily Silva… and her twin brother, a communications specialist at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Nicholas Silva… Figure skater who represented the U.S. at the 2014 and 2022 Winter Olympics, Jason Brown

SATURDAY:  CBS News journalist who has won 13 Emmy Awards, she has reported for CBS’s “60 Minutes” since 1991, Lesley Stahl… Numismatist specializing in ancient Jewish and Biblical coins and their archaeology, David Bruce Hendin… British chemist and research professor at the University of Nottingham, Sir Martyn Poliakoff… Attorney, professor and author, she was the first woman to serve as president of the Harvard Law ReviewSusan Estrich… Litigator in Denver, Craig Silverman… Novelist, journalist and lecturer, Allen Kurzweil… President and co-founder of The New Agenda, Amy Siskind… First OMB director in the Obama administration, now CEO of Lazard, Peter R. Orszag… Astrophysicist and professor at Johns Hopkins University and the Space Telescope Science Institute, he was a winner of the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics, Adam Guy Riess… Deputy national director of AIPAC’s synagogue initiative, Rabbi Eric Stark… Director of public affairs at Charles Schwab, Adam Bromberg… Director of lifelong learning at Congregation Beth Emeth in Albany, NY, Shara Siegfeld… VP of crypto risk at Ciphertrace, a Mastercard company, Melissa Wisner… Chief of staff for U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, Matthew Bennett Klapper… Middle East analyst at Christians United For Israel, Kasim Hafeez… Founder of Punchbowl NewsJake Sherman… Actress best known for her role on The CW’s teen drama Gossip Girl and more recently ABC’s General Hospital, Amanda Setton… Congressional reporter at Bloomberg Government, Zachary C. Cohen… Senior technology consultant at the Ignyte Group, Drew Liquerman

SUNDAY: Life-long advocate on behalf of refugees and asylum seekers for the International Rescue Committee and KIND (Kids in Need of Defense), Sheppie Glass Abramowitz… Retired attorney and vice chair of The American Jewish International Relations Institute, Stuart Sloame… Former CEO of multiple companies including the San Francisco 49ers and FAO Schwarz, Peter L. Harris… VP of strategic planning and marketing at Queens-based NewInteractions, Paulette Mandelbaum… Professor of Jewish history, culture and society at Columbia University, Elisheva Carlebach Jofen… Retired chair of the Physician Assistant studies program at Rutgers, Dr. Jill A. Reichman… Former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. and senior foreign policy advisor to prime ministers Sharon, Barak and Netanyahu, Danny Ayalon… Former chairman and CEO of HBO for 28 years, he now heads Eden Productions, Richard Plepler… Founder and CEO of LionTree LLC, Aryeh B. Bourkoff… Israeli soccer goalkeeper, now on the coaching staff for the national team, Nir Davidovich… CEO of the New Legacy Group of Companies, he is also founder and chairman of Project Sunshine, Joseph Weilgus… Co-director of the Civic Signals project at the National Conference on Citizenship, Eli Pariser… Associate editor of Commentary and author of Unjust: Social Justice and the Unmaking of AmericaNoah C. Rothman… Director of foundation partnerships at the UJA-Federation of New York, Julia Sobel… National correspondent for Vanity Fair and author of the 2018 book Born Trump: Inside America’s First FamilyEmily Jane Fox… Consultant at Boston Consulting Group, Daniel Ensign… Actor, singer-songwriter and musician, he starred in the Nickelodeon television series “The Naked Brothers Band,” Nat Wolff