Your Daily Phil: Conference of European Rabbis gets HQ in Munich + Hochul vows to step up fight against antisemitism

Good Wednesday morning!

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s pledge to combat antisemitism and the publication of the Library of Congress’ Hebraic collection. We also feature an opinion piece by Stephanie Blumenkranz and Julie Wiener. We’ll start with an update from the Anti-Defamation League and the opening of the Conference of European Rabbis’ headquarters in Munich.

Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt reversed course and decided that he will attend a meeting on Friday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and American Jewish leaders that is scheduled for Friday in New York, an ADL official told eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen.

On Monday, the official said that Greenblatt would not attend the meeting, which is scheduled for Friday afternoon, as he had a prior engagement. Last night, the ADL spokesperson said Greenblatt had changed his mind.

“Due to the importance of meeting with the prime minister, Jonathan will be attending,” the official said.

The Conference of European Rabbis opened its first headquarters in Munich on Tuesday night at an event attended by the organization’s president, exiled Moscow Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, members of the local Jewish community, visiting rabbis, Bavarian government officials and supporters, reports eJP’s Judah Ari Gross from Germany.

The offices, located in Munich’s tony Maxvorstadt neighborhood, will allow the organization, which has until now operated out of the various leaders’ personal offices, the chance to further professionalize the organization and expand its operations, those involved with the effort told eJP.

“We will be focusing on strengthening small communities, strengthening the rabbinate and strengthening the rebbetzins,” Goldschmidt told eJP on the sidelines of the opening. “The rabbis coming out of the yeshivas don’t always know how to run communities.”

The Conference of European Rabbis, which was formed in the mid-1950s, serves as an umbrella group for Orthodox rabbis from across the continent — particularly those who are not affiliated with the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, which is something of a rival. Most recently, the group has focused its efforts on protecting religious practices like kosher slaughter, or shechita, and circumcisions as some politicians move to ban them. Goldschmidt said with its new offices and budget, his organization won’t “just be playing defense [on these issues], now we’ll be a bit more proactive” in preventing them before they get to the stage of legislation.

The longtime head of the Jewish community in Munich and Upper Bavaria,Charlotte Knobloch, 90, was noticeably moved by the opening of an international Jewish group in her city. “Those of us who have been around here for quite some time know how important it is that CER and Rabbi Goldschmidt have found a home here,” she said. “Nobody could have expected what is now a reality.”

In her speech at the opening, Knobloch added: “Now the heart of European Jewry beats in Bavaria.”

Read the full report here.

fighting hate crimes

Governor of New York, Kathy Hochul speaks onstage at the 2023 Concordia Annual Summit at Sheraton New York on September 19, 2023 in New York City.
Governor of New York, Kathy Hochul speaks onstage at the 2023 Concordia Annual Summit at Sheraton New York on September 19, 2023 in New York City. (John Lamparski/Getty Images for Concordia Summit)

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul pledged on Tuesday to use the power of government to combat antisemitism by announcing the state’s first Anti-Hate in Education Center and Annual Convening as well as distributing an additional $38 million to nonprofit organizations throughout the state that face an increased risk of hate crimes, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen for Jewish Insider

State funding: “As governor of the state with the largest Jewish population outside the State of Israel, I feel a solemn responsibility to protect and uplift New York’s vibrant, diverse Jewish communities,” Hochul said at a Rosh Hashanah reception held at the Center for Jewish History in Manhattan. The governor said that $500,000 would go to community organizations to fight antisemitism and hate, while an additional $38 million would be used to upgrade security at synagogues and other nonprofits, an initiative that had previously received $150 million in funding. The American Jewish Committee will be partnering with Hochul’s office in the new effort.

Jewish communal partners: “AJC is proud to partner with my friend and former colleague Governor Kathy Hochul on New York’s comprehensive State Action to Combat Antisemitism,” AJC CEO Ted Deutch said at the event.  “We look forward to working with the Governor and the many other Jewish organizations engaged in this vital work to help New York be the first state to implement the U.S. National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism.”

CUNY question: “What are you going to do to end Jew hatred at CUNY?” one man shouted, referencing recent reports of anti-Israel bias on the City University of New York campuses. CUNY officials have in recent months drawn scrutiny from critics who believe that the university system — long viewed as a haven for Jewish students — has failed to address a broader rise in anti-Israel activity across its campuses, making Jewish students and faculty members feel targeted. Hochul said that the new education center will bring together numerous institutions, including CUNY, to create more inclusive environments. 

Read the full report here.

ancient manuscripts

Vast Library of Congress Hebrew collection published online for the first time

Ann Brener, Hebraic specialist, holds an 18th-century prayerbook that was written and illustrated by the artist Joseph ben Meir Schmalkalden in Mainz, Germany. (Hilary Phelps/Jewish Insider)

For more than a century, the Library of Congress has built up an impressive collection of Hebrew-language manuscripts that are hundreds or even thousands of years old. Now, for the first time, amateur researchers and serious scholars alike can access 230 items from the library’s Hebraic section online, thanks to a digitization effort that began during the pandemic with a $50,000 grant from the David Berg Foundation, reports Gabby Deutch for eJewishPhilanthropy’s sister publication Jewish Insider.

Just a click away: “It’s a library-wide push to digitize, and we’re just part of that,” said Sharon Horowitz, a reference librarian in the Hebraic section. “Since the pandemic, the library as a whole has been trying to digitize as much as is legally possible, and as much as they can afford, because they realize that there are distant researchers who can’t get here.” Earlier efforts to digitize the documents, many of which are handwritten and incredibly fragile, relied on volunteers and limited technology. Now, the works will also appear in high-resolution on the website of the National Library of Israel alongside other Hebrew-language documents housed in libraries and museums around the world.

Hands off: Putting these documents online also protects some of the old and fragile works. A team of people trained in handling manuscripts in the library’s “Scan Lab” handled the digitization, with Horowitz — who can, of course, read Hebrew — occasionally showing up to make sure the pages appeared in the right order. “It’s better for people to be looking at the digital format than actually touching them, than turning the pages, which in some cases are falling apart,” said Horowitz.

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

communication is key

Sparking conversations between funders and the nonprofits we support

Women conversing while seated around a conference table in a brainstorming session.
Courtesy/Hadassah Foundation

“Earlier this year, the Hadassah Foundation was in the midst of preparing to launch a new category of grants. … We could have sought advice from other grantmakers, or hired a consultant. Instead, we reached out to the philanthropic field’s least-listened-to authorities: the professionals who invest countless hours applying for grant dollars in order to keep the doors of their nonprofits open,” write Hadassah Foundation Director Stephanie Blumenkranz and Assistant Director Julie Wiener in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Starting small, thinking big: “It was a modest experiment, with seven nonprofit sector professionals weighing in, and it worked in large part because we received expert help from our partner, UpStart, a nonprofit that provides targeted support to social entrepreneurs of Jewish ventures. In the short term, the project affected just one category of grants totaling $60,000 – about 10% of our annual allocations – but the long-term lessons and potential were enormous. We believe we’ve hit upon a strategy that could be transformative if replicated on a larger scale.”

What if?: “What if most, if not all, foundations made a conscious effort to listen to their grantees and potential grantees? What if there were a slew of opportunities for grantmakers and grantseekers to be in conversation, not only about the grantmaking process, but about one another’s overarching needs and challenges? Based on our history, we could have told ourselves that we know all there is to know about grantmaking. … The fact is, however, that we know only half (at most) of all there is to know, and that’s because there are two players in grantmaking: the funder and the funded.” 

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Meet and Greet: With JPB’s founding donor and president stepping down in February 2024, the ascension of President-elect Deepak Bhargava will mark the first-ever leadership change at the $4 billion foundation, writes Michael Kavate for Inside Philanthropy. “Given JPB’s annual grantmaking total of roughly $350 million — it has long spent well over the 5% minimum — this is a significant development in the world of progressive philanthropy, particularly when it comes to JPB’s three current focus areas: environment, poverty and medical research. … I recently chatted with Bhargava about the transition and what lies ahead for the JPB Foundation. Immigration, for instance, will ‘certainly’ be part of the foundation’s future funding, said Bhargava, who made it a signature focus at the Center for Community Change and wrote in 2021 that how we respond to climate migration will be a ‘defining political fault line for our generation.’” [InsidePhilanthropy]

Brave New World: Using AI, scientists could simulate every type of cell in the human body in every possible state, and then use modeling to predict how cells might respond to specific conditions and stimuli – at least that is the vision of Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg in their opinion piece for MIT Technology Review. “At the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, we’re helping to generate the scientific data and build out the computing infrastructure to make this a reality – and give scientists the tools they need to take advantage of new advances in AI to help end disease.” [MITTechReview]

Around the Web

impala, a digital platform that provides information to nonprofits, announced the launch of a new networking product, Paths, which it says is meant to “help organizations discover and maximize potential relationships opportunities to accomplish positive change in their communities.” Because of impala’s existing partnership with the Jewish Funders Network, its members and grantees will enjoy an exclusive discount, an impala spokesperson told eJP…  

The Blavatnik National Awards for Young Scientists, which is funded by British Jewish businessman and philanthropist Sir Leonard Blavatnik, were given last night to Shannon Boettcher, William Anderegg and Svitlana Mayboroda, at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Each recipient received $250,000… 

A new study by Nishma Research found that Modern Orthodox and Haredi Jews remain split in their political affiliations, with 90% of Haredi respondents saying they planned to vote for the Republican presidential candidate, while 61% of Modern Orthodox respondents said they planned to vote for the Democratic candidate…

Jewish leaders condemned 2024 Republican frontrunner former President Donald Trump after he accused “liberal Jews” of trying to “destroy America & Israel.” Amy Spitalnick, CEO of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, tweeted that Trump’s post was “antisemitic.” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said the post was “dangerous and wrong”…

Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan walked out of the General Assembly Hall in protest, displaying a photo of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who was killed by Iranian authorities for allegedly not wearing her hijab properly, as Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi took the stage yesterday. Outside of the U.N., hundreds of Iranians protested, asking the international community for help… 

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, will be one of the featured speakers at the Protest for Israel’s Democracy outside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hotel in New York on Thursday. In February, Jacobs was the first Diaspora leader to address Israelis protesting judicial reform in Tel Aviv…

Speaking of which… in her Rosh Hashanah sermon, which was recently posted on YouTube, Rabbi Angela Buchdahl, of New York’s Central Synagogue, called on American Jews to support Israeli protesters against the government’s judicial overhaul…

Irving Barocas, the president emeritus of the Sephardic Jewish Brotherhood of America, died Tuesday morning at 88…

Pic of the Day

Courtesy/Bavarian government

The president of the Conference of European Rabbis, Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, hangs a mezuzah on the front door of his organization’s new headquarters in Munich yesterday.


Michael Cohen/Getty Images for The New York Times

Senior chairman of Goldman Sachs, Lloyd Blankfein… 

Florida real estate developer of Aventura and Turnberry Isle Resort, Donald Soffer… Author, television personality and philanthropist, Candy Spelling… Wealth management advisor, he won four Super Bowls with the Steelers during his 8-year career as a tight end, C. Randy Grossman… Dean of the Yeshiva of Greater Washington, Rabbi Ahron Lopiansky… Co-founder of Broadcom and owner of the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks, Henry Samueli… Justice of the Supreme Court of Israel, Yosef Elron… Insurance agent in Tulsa, Okla., Lawrence M. Schreier… Real estate developer, sports agent and boxing promoter, Marc Roberts… Former rabbi of Congregation Beit Torat Chaim of Jakarta, Indonesia, Rabbi Tovia Singer… Emergency medicine physician in Austin, he was the goalkeeper for the U.S. field hockey team at the 1984 Summer Olympics, Randolph B. “Randy” Lipscher… Attorney, author and legal analyst on “The Today Show,” NBC Nightly News and MSNBC, Lisa Bloom… Former member of the Knesset for the Likud party, Keren Barak… Founder of PFAP Consulting, Melissa Jane Kronfeld, Ph.D…. Republican policy director at the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services, James Mazol… Deputy news team lead at Bloomberg Law, Drew Singer… Senior associate at Blue Laurel Advisors in Israel, Emily Grunewald… Climate activist in Oakland, Calif., Carter Lavin… Senior director of strategic initiatives at Sony Music Entertainment, Alison Bogdonoff… Director of brand and community marketing at Sakara Life, Zoe Plotsky… Isabel Eliana Tsesarsky… Lauren Ackerman…