Your Daily Phil: Contentious debates at the GA + Netanyahu poised to win
? Good Wednesday morning!
Today’s Your Daily Phil looks at communal divisions highlighted at the JFNA General Assembly, which concluded yesterday, and features op-eds by JEP’s Samantha Vinokor-Meinrath on teen hookup culture, and by Jewish Virtual Academy’s Rabbi David Siff on productive disagreement. Also in this newsletter: Jordan Fruchtman, Erica Riddick, Janey Sweet, Judy Zeidler and Michael Reiner. We’ll start with a rundown of the results so far from Israel’s election yesterday.
With 85% of the votes counted from Israel’s election yesterday, Benjamin Netanyahu and his allies are poised to return to power, slated to hold 65 out of the Knesset’s 120 seats. The left-wing Meretz party, meanwhile, may be shut out of Knesset for the first time in its three-decade history.
Netanyahu called the projected results a “huge victory.”
“There’s no minimizing the magnitude of change that took place here in the past year,” he told a crowd of supporters. “I’ll set up a national government that will take care of everyone’s needs.”
Netanyahu’s fortunes could yet change as 500,000 votes of Israel Defense Forces personnel, diplomats and some others have yet to be counted. Israel’s electorate has been split during all five rounds of voting that have taken place since 2019, and Netanyahu has been projected to hold leads that he has later seen evaporate.
Whether Netanyahu’s lead holds depends on the fate of two of his most strident opponents, the Arab nationalist party Balad and Meretz, both of which did not form alliances with like-minded parties that they had joined in previous elections.
If each of those parties garners at least 3.25% of the vote, they will each gain four Knesset seats, and the tallies of the remaining 10 parties will shrink. If they do not pass that threshold, the votes will not count toward Knesset representation, cementing Netanyahu’s chances of victory. Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked’s Jewish Home party also failed to cross the threshold.
Netanyahu’s Likud party won the most votes, with a projected 31 seats, and the centrist Yesh Atid party of Prime Minister Yair Lapid finished second with a projected 24 seats. But one of the election’s biggest stories is the rise of Religious Zionism, a Netanyahu-allied party that includes the far-right politician Itamar Ben-Gvir, and which won a projected 14 seats, coming in third. Ben-Gvir celebrated Tuesday’s result, saying, “I’ll work for all of Israel, even those who hate me,” according to the Times of Israel.
Some Jewish leaders in the diaspora have condemned Ben-Gvir, as have a few Democratic politicians known to be pro-Israel stalwarts. But leaders of large, centrist American Jewish organizations, several of whom have condemned Ben-Gvir in the past, are generally avoiding comment this time and adopting a wait-and-see approach, as it will take weeks, if not longer, for a coalition to form.
Lapid, meanwhile, is telling supporters to hang tight until the votes are counted and said, “It’s not over yet,” but Haaretz reported that he has begun preparing for a transfer of power and canceled a planned appearance at the upcoming climate conference in Egypt.
At JFNA GA, attendees confront division amid calls for unity
One of the priorities of the Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly was engendering Jewish communal unity — and that mission felt most successful when people were discussing the gathering’s first two priorities: combating antisemitism and aiding Ukraine’s humanitarian crisis. But on a range of other issues, from Jewish continuity to questions surrounding diversity and inclusion, the conference highlighted enduring divisions in the Jewish community, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Ben Sales.
Internal threat: “The greatest threat to the Jewish community is internal,” Eric Goldstein, CEO of UJA-Federation of New York, said at Monday’s plenary session. “Mirroring society at large, we’ve become incredibly polarized… This demonization within our own community significantly weakens our ability to address external challenges. In short, we’re our own worst enemy.”
Division by design: Some of the divisions were baked into the schedule of the conference, which brought some 1,200 attendees to the Hilton in downtown Chicago from Sunday through Tuesday. Sessions prompted panelists to discuss communal debates across religious denominations, generations and income levels.
Backlash: But a panel that was meant to explore how the Jewish community could have conversations across a broad ideological spectrum has sparked backlash due to an exchange on transgender rights, and Keshet, the Jewish LGBTQ group, has relayed its concerns to JFNA.
From Salt-N-Pepa to Jewish educators: Let’s talk about sex, baby
“In Jewish teen spaces, sex is central, both explicitly and implicitly. Whether or not parents want it to be, or if staff acknowledge it, questions of sex come up in schools, camps, synagogues and youth movements,” Samantha Vinokor-Meinrath, the Jewish Education Project’s senior director of knowledge, ideas and learning, writes in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy in advance of “Sexual Citizenship: Shifting Teen Hookup Culture,” an inaugural summit hosted today by The Jewish Education Project and additional partners.
Across the system: In youth movements, the ‘points system’ sets teens up in youth group spaces up to rank each other’s sexual desirability based on their perceived social capital. At camp, during Israel trips, and in other immersive experiences, sex and gender roles are often held under a microscope, with hierarchical standards put in place that determine if someone is ‘worthy.’ And in schools, learning environments are often coupled with the knowing glances, the social media gossip about who’s doing what and the pressure to go further and do more than one might be comfortable with.”
The imperative to educate: “While hip-hop group Salt-N-Pepa brought up the subject of sex in their 1990 hit, the Jewish people have been talking about it since moments after the creation of the world. The commandment of procreation is the first one in the Torah, in the very first chapter… And since that first pronouncement of procreation, the topic has never gone away. The Jewish Education Project, together with our partners, seeks to kickstart new, critical conversations about sex and hookup culture, with the vision of empowering educators, clergy and communal leaders with the tools to shift this culture in our respective spaces.”
teens and torah
What is authentic community?
“For our teens, true community can be hard to find. They spend hours at desks, not allowed to talk with peers. I was surprised when my own daughter told me she liked history class. Why? Because they had small groups, and she had the rare opportunity to say what she thought. She is thirsty for authentic community, a space where it is safe for her to express what she thinks, even if others may disagree when she does. But text study is a perfect medium for true community. It can create a safe, open space where disagreements can be aired and worked through,” writes Rabbi David Siff, executive director of the Jewish Virtual Academy, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.
Creative differences: “Jewish texts invite dialogue, disagreement and can allow us to discuss otherwise taboo topics. The Talmud relates that after the death of his hevruta Resh Lakish, Rabbi Yohanan was dissatisfied with his new learning partner: ‘When I study with you, you give me a source that supports me; Resh Lakish used to give me 24 reasons I was wrong, and I would respond to him, and thus learning became sharpened!’ Disagreement is a creative process.”
Changing the frame: “We saw this clash of opinions as an opportunity, challenging the students to frame their dispute in terms of how Talmudic sages Hillel and Shammai interacted: Hillel would quote Shammai (respectfully, I assume) before disagreeing. If we were to suppose that Hillel was an advocate of BLM and Shammai [opposed], how might Hillel describe Shammai’s views? This frame challenged them to imagine respecting each other’s views.”
Environmental Efforts: Funding to combat climate change remained less than 2% of global giving, and according to the top executive of the ClimateWorks Foundation, the sector must do more, Stephanie Beasley reports in Devex. “‘Philanthropy needs to break through the 2% funding barrier if it is to do its part to keep the world aiming for a 1.5 degree Celsius future,’ [ClimateWorks President and CEO Helen Mountford] said in a statement, referring to the threshold beyond which scientists say the effects of climate change could become catastrophic. ‘A 25% annual increase in giving is encouraging, but philanthropy needs to accelerate its efforts even more and move more funds faster to the places that need them the most to give people and the planet a fighting chance.’ […] Some foundations are stepping up. In July, The Rockefeller Foundation said it would put climate change at the forefront of all programmatic, operational, and investment strategies. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is prioritizing climate-resilient food production in Africa. Open Society Foundations has brought on a climate justice director to lead its efforts to implement the Paris climate accords and the Sustainable Development Goals on climate action.” [Devex]
Word on the Street
Candid and Human Rights Funders Networkreleased an annual report, “Advancing Human Rights: Annual Review of Global Foundation Grantmaking 2019 Key Findings,” revealing insights from the most up-to-date, comprehensive data available for global human rights philanthropy…
Jordan Fruchtman was named chief program officer at the Lawrence Family JCC, Jacobs Family Campus in La Jolla, Calif.; he previously held positions at Repair the World and Moishe House…
Erica Riddick was named the Jewish Women’s Archive’s 2022 Twersky Education Fellow…
Janey Sweet, a philanthropist and former mortgage broker, will be the next president of the American Technion Society…
Cookbook author Judy Zeidlerdied at 92…
Michael Reiner, founder and president of the LEAD Foundation and general representative of the Koret Foundation in Israel, died on Monday…
Pic of the Day
Charlotte Knobloch, president of the Jewish community of Munich and Upper Bavaria, talks to German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier after his speech during an official ceremony to celebrate Knobloch’s 90th birthday in Munich this week.
Chairman and CEO of BlackRock, Larry Fink…
Former NASA astronaut who made five flights in the space shuttle and is currently a professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT, he was one of NASA’s first two Jewish astronauts, Jeffrey A. Hoffman… County executive of Montgomery County, Md., Marc Elrich… Former chair of the Maryland Democratic Party and vice chair of the DNC, Susan Wolf Turnbull… Professor of Jewish studies at the University of Virginia, Vanessa L. Ochs… Research fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, Alan D. Abbey… CNN special correspondent, Jamie Sue Gangel… Former head of school at Weizmann Day School in Los Angeles, Lisa Feldman… Professor of Jewish history at UCLA and president of the board of the New Israel Fund, David N. Myers… Financial planner at Grant Arthur & Associates Wealth Services, he is the author of a book on the complicity of Lithuania in the Holocaust, Grant Arthur Gochin… President of global content at Viva Creative, Thomas Joseph (Joe) Talbott… Marc Solomon… Managing director of government affairs at Microsoft Azure, John Sampson… Actor, director and producer, best known for playing Ross Geller in the sitcom “Friends,” David Schwimmer… Former assistant attorney general for antitrust at USDOJ during the Trump administration, now a partner at Latham & Watkins, Makan Delrahim… Professor of economics at MIT, she won a MacArthur “Genius” fellowship in 2018, Amy Nadya Finkelstein… Founder and CEO of Spring Hills Senior Communities, Alexander C. Markowits… Journalist and bestselling author, he is the publisher of The Daily Poster and a columnist at The Guardian, David Sirota… Eastern director at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Michael Cohen… Member of the Knesset for the Yisrael Beiteinu party, Alexander Kushnir… Education editor for The Washington Post, Adam B. Kushner… Marc B. Rosen… Director of government relations at the Israel Policy Forum, Aaron Weinberg… Two-time Emmy award-winning video producer, now working as a staff editor for the home page of The New York Times, Celeste B. Lavin…
Email Editor@eJewishPhilanthropy.com to have your birthday included.