Your Daily Phil: Deborah Lipstadt on the NYC circuit + Coffee and the Jewish future
Good Friday morning!
Ed. note: Your Daily Phil will not be publishing on Monday, May 30 in honor of Memorial Day.
Fighting antisemitism across the political spectrum was the order of the day at a gathering of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations on Thursday at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Lower Manhattan. Speakers — from keynote Deborah Lipstadt to the head of a recent campaign against antisemitism — emphasized the need for a broad-based Jewish fight against hate, even as different speakers focused on different manifestations of the prejudice.
Lipstadt, who was officially sworn in earlier in the week as the U.S. special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, focused the majority of her speech on threats from the right (more on Lipstadt’s day in New York below). William Daroff, the CEO of the Conference of Presidents, spent almost all of his speech decrying antisemitism from anti-Zionists and progressive activists.
“What we experienced during and after Operation Guardian of the Walls is a paradigm shift, the culmination of a confluence of movements and events that have… provided a license to discriminate against and target Jews for their mere possible association with the Jewish state,” Daroff said in his speech, referring to the spike in antisemitic attacks in the U.S. that accompanied Israel’s 2021 conflict with Hamas in Gaza. “It is disingenuous and appallingly ignorant to argue that antisemitism and anti-Zionism are unconnected.”
The conference also featured a video and speech by Kirsh Foundation CEO Carly Maisel celebrating Shine A Light, a campaign against antisemitism endorsed by dozens of Jewish organizations, including all four major Jewish religious denominations. The campaign, which reached nearly 13 million unique users, recently won an award in the social activism category of this year’s Shorty Awards, a social media prize. And multiple speakers praised the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism, which has been endorsed by dozens of countries and states that some criticisms of Israel are antisemitic.
The rest of the conference was off the record, and featured sessions on antisemitic threats, antisemitism on campus, outreach to non-Jews and how corporations can combat antisemitism. The conference took place at the Battery Park City museum just weeks after it emerged that the museum had barred Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis from speaking there. No elected officials spoke at Thursday’s event.
‘I’m here to depress you.’ At home in New York City, Deborah Lipstadt plays to the crowd
Deborah Lipstadt gave a pair of speeches in New York City yesterday, her first in her hometown since being ceremonially sworn in earlier in the week as the antisemitism envoy, and she appeared at ease in her morning appearance, throwing Yiddish into her speech and joking about getting lost in the State Department headquarters, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Ben Sales.
Watching her words: Prior to her appointment, Lipstadt gained renown as a Holocaust historian and for decades was a professor at Emory University. “I was looking at a very nice life in Atlanta, traveling, saying what I wanted to say,” she said, talking about how she decided to take the envoy position, and drawing laughter from the crowd. “I’m putting spontaneity in the rearview mirror. Many of you know me and know that’s hard to imagine.” Earlier, she joked, “I’m here to depress you.”
Main points: Lipstadt appeared before the Conference of Presidents, and later keynoted Yeshiva University’s commencement ceremonies. The bulk of her remarks at the first speech, if not depressing, were far from lighthearted. Judging from a few of her appearances since she was confirmed by the Senate in March, Lipstadt appears to have composed a stump speech of sorts explaining how antisemitism is interconnected with other forms of hatred, that its associated conspiracy theories cross borders and that antisemites from left and right can agree on hating Jews despite disagreeing on everything else.
The value(s) of a cup of coffee
“In my home, I have a beautiful painting from my colleague and friend Rabbi Me’irah Illinsky. It sits above my espresso machine, and I look at it every morning while I impatiently wait for the machine to heat up. It is the scene of Moses standing in front of the burning bush. What moves me about that story is that it is where Moses learns that Judaism is not about the past or the present. When Moses is seeking his missing animal in the wilderness, he turns aside to notice a bush that is burning but is not being consumed. In that moment, he encounters the Source of All and receives God’s name, ‘Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh — I will be what I will be.’ This future-tense phrase means that God’s name belongs to the future tense. As Rabbi Jonathan Sacks (z”l) wrote in his book Future Tense, ‘God’s call is to that which is not yet. Judaism is a future-seeking civilization,’” writes Rabbi James Greene, president of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.
The Starbucks experience: “To stick with our coffee theme — there was a meme that floated around the internet recently of cars lined up around a Starbucks all waiting for their morning coffee. As someone who makes my espresso at home most days, I was somewhat surprised that people would wait in line for 20 minutes and pay $5 for a cup of coffee that could just as easily be made at home. It was just another reminder that people are not just purchasing a product. They are purchasing an experience and the atmosphere on top of the item itself. For folks who need that particular experience of Starbucks, the wait and cost are simply worth it, regardless of the price, wait and aggravation. For others, they will drive on by because that is not their point of availability, and the experience of a home-brewed coffee may serve them better. Both individuals are looking for the same product but are trying to figure out how to build the components to their liking.”
Trying, but not succeeding: “Institutional leaders within the Jewish community should be asking: Are we simply providing an item and trying to quantify its value so people will purchase it, or are we considering the full experience when we are looking to engage people in Jewish life? More importantly, are we seeking information from those we hope to engage about the experience they are looking for, and not just the end product they want? I would argue that we may be trying, but not actually succeeding, in shifting away from a value-proposition model to a vision-guided model of community development.”
Post-pandemic Priorities: In Debra Kahn’s interview in Politico with Darren Walker, the president of the Ford Foundation — now the author of a pandemic playbook — spoke about the relationship between philanthropy and capitalism, as well as how to move forward after the pandemic. “We will surely see the reverberations of this pandemic for generations to come, but it is not too late to decide how these impacts will shape our collective futures. In order to achieve a truly equitable recovery to the pandemic, we need to go beyond relief and short-term fixes. The only viable way forward is to lay the foundation for a true, reformative recovery that is inclusive of all people. We need to prioritize workers by expanding access to opportunity and making them owners so they have equity in the businesses that employ them, protect our environment and quality of life, and put the needs of the people who we depend on to dig us out of these crises first.” [Politico]
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Word on the Street
A joint venture led by the Federation of Jewish Communities of the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) has established a fleet of 10 ambulances to rescue and evacuate patients in danger in Ukraine…
The New York State Senate unanimously passed a bill on Wednesday that will ensure that schools across the state are teaching students about the Holocaust, as required by law. The bill, which unanimously passed the State Assembly earlier this week, will now be sent to Gov. Kathy Hochul for consideration…
With support from Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, the Jewish Fertility Foundation has opened its fifth location nationwide in that city…
Paula Goldstein, president and CEO of Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Greater Philadelphia, was appointed board chair for the Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies…
Florida’s Saint Leo University Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies announced the appointment of Rabbi David Maayan as the center’s inaugural Maureen and Douglas Cohn Visiting Chair in Jewish Thought and assistant director. He will join the university in August…
Pic of the Day
Nearly 200 physicians, medical referral professionals, rabbis and others gathered Tuesday night at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for an event with Chai Lifeline to meet and hear from physicians and scientists who are pioneering surgical techniques and developing new treatments for childhood diseases.
Founding rabbi of both Lincoln Square Synagogue in NYC and then later the city of Efrat, Rabbi Shlomo Riskin celebrates his birthday on Saturday…
FRIDAY: National security advisor and secretary of state under Presidents Nixon and Ford, he won the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize, Henry Kissinger… Retired professor of international marketing at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, Philip Kotler… Founder of Val d’Or Apparel and Cannon County Knitting Mills, Martin “Marty” Granoff… CEO of British real estate firm Heron International, Gerald Ronson… Actor, producer and real estate developer, Zack Norman… Senior U.S. district judge for the Central District of California, Christina A. Snyder… Retired school rabbi and director of Jewish studies at The Rashi School, Ellen Weinstein Pildis… Analytical psychotherapist, author, and Jewish Renewal rabbi, Tirzah Firestone… Former MLB pitcher, now a financial advisor at RBC Wealth Management, Ross Baumgarten… Emmy Award-winning actor, comedian and director, Richard Schiff… Owner of a 310-acre plant nursery in Kansas, and a former All Star MLB pitcher, Mark Clear… Marriage counselor, therapist and author, Sherry Amatenstein… U.S. ambassador to Argentina since earlier this year, he was a Dallas-based class-action trial lawyer and served for six years as chairman of the National Jewish Democratic Council, Marc R. Stanley… Beverly Hills-based immigration attorney, founder and chairman of the Los Angeles Sephardic Jewish Film Festival, Neil J. Sheff… Political strategist best known as the campaign manager for Barack Obama’s successful 2008 presidential campaign, David Plouffe… General manager of Phibro Israel and co-founder of LaKita, a nonprofit crowd-funding platform for Israeli public schools, Jonathan Bendheim… Workplace and labor reporter at The New York Times, Noam Scheiber... Actor, producer and co-owner of a wine label called Angelica Cellars, Ben Feldman… Director of philanthropic initiatives at Touro College, Grant Silverstein… Sports reporter for The Wall Street Journal covering the NBA, college basketball and college football, Benjamin Zachary Cohen… Director of government relations at Raytheon Technologies, Katherina “Katya” Dimenstein… Assistant district attorney for Bronx County, Joshua A. Fitterman… Philadelphia Inquirer‘s reporter covering Pennsylvania politics, Andrew Seidman… Emily Cohen…
SATURDAY: Long-time activist in the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater (Virginia) and past member of the board of visitors of the University of Virginia, Arnold H. Leon… Director of UCSF’s Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases, he won the 1997 Nobel Prize in Medicine, Dr. Stanley Benjamin Prusiner… Executive director at Ner Israel Rabbinical College, Jerome H. Kadden… Former mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani… Mayor of Toronto, John Howard Tory… Winnipeg-born attorney and Jewish leader, Gail Sheryl Asper… U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)… Member of the Knesset with the Likud party, Ofir Akunis… Incoming rabbi of Boston’s South Shore Congregation Sha’aray Shalom, Rabbi Eric M. Berk… Manager of the executive office at The Pew Charitable Trusts, Lauren Mandelker… Singer-songwriter, artist and filmmaker, Adam Green… Entrepreneur Matthew Pritzker… VP at lobbying firm Kasirer LLC, David A. Lobl… Founder in 2015 of At The Well, Sarah Michal Waxman… CEO of American Blockchain Political Action Committee, Adelle Malka Nazarian… Freelance journalist Thea Glassman… Harry Weinstein… Named for his father who was The Wall Street Journal bureau chief that was kidnapped and murdered by Pakistani terrorists a few months before he was born, Adam Daniel Pearl turns… Irwin Weiss… Assistant director of the StandWithUs legal department, Jonathan Bell…
SUNDAY: Resident of Toronto and Longboat Key, Fla., Paul G. Morton… Former member of the Knesset and later Israel’s ambassador to Japan, Eli Cohen… Actor, singer-songwriter and record producer, Danny Elfman… U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS)… Television writer, producer and actor, Mitchell Hurwitz… Wichita, Kan., philanthropist, Ellen Ginsburg Beren… Professor at the University of Chicago, co-author of the best-selling books in the Freakonomics series, Steven Levitt… CEO and executive editor of 70 Faces Media, Ami Eden… Policy analyst at Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Yaakov Feinstein… Founding partner of Blandford Capital, Nathaniel Jerome Meyohas… Fashion designer and the founder and creative director of the fashion label Shoshanna, Shoshanna Lonstein Gruss… Film producer and former corporate lawyer at Skadden Arps, Edward Frank “Teddy” Schwarzman… Senior political reporter at The Forward, Jacob Kornbluh… Swedish-born pro-Israel activist, commentator and reporter, Annika Hernroth-Rothstein… Managing director at Hudson Bay Capital Management, Alexander Berger… Jewish liaison for New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, Jacob “Jake” Adler… Israeli-born baseball player and coach, now working in the Seattle Mariners’ player development program, Alon Leichman…
MONDAY: Santa Monica-based historian of Sephardic and Crypto-Jewish studies, Dolores Sloan… Real estate developer and former chair of UJA-Federation of NY, Larry A. Silverstein… Partner in the NYC law firm of Mintz & Gold, Ira Lee “Ike” Sorkin… Board member of the Colliers County chapter of the Florida ACLU and the Naples Florida Council on World Affairs, Maureen McCully “Mo” Winograd… Agent at Creative Artists Agency, Alan Louis Berger… Cape Town native, she is the owner and chef at Los Angeles-based Catering by Brenda, Brenda Walt… Former chief rabbi of France, Gilles Uriel Bernheim… Encino, Calif.-based business attorney, Andrew W. Hyman… Literary critic, essayist and novelist, Daphne Miriam Merkin… Former member of the U.S. House of Representatives, author of two novels, Steve Israel… Former science editor for “BBC News” and author of six books, David Shukman… Editorial writer at The New York Times, Michelle Cottle… Film, stage and television actress, she sang the national anthem at Super Bowl XLIX, Idina Menzel… Israel’s minister of agriculture, Oded Forer… Director of engagement and program at NYC’s Congregation Rodeph Sholom, Scott Hertz… Deputy director of the White House Office of Legislative Affairs, Reema Dodin… Bay Area’s Alina T. Katz… and her husband, manager of Howard Properties, Jason Friend… Counsel at Gilead Sciences, Ashley Bender Spirn… Deputy chief of staff for U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-GA), Miryam Esther Lipper… Senior writer for CNN, Eric Levenson..
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