Your Daily Phil: Documenting the horrors of Oct. 7 to counter denialism

Good Tuesday morning.

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on the latest round of seed funding for Hatch, which helps nonprofits use artificial intelligence, and a new partnership between the Anti-Defamation League and Masa Israel Journey. We also feature an opinion piece by David Bernstein on a post-Oct. 7 rift between many rank-and-file Jews and progressive Jewish organizations; and a piece by Jacob Feinspan on the continued value of maintaining intergroup relationships, even — and especially — when it is hard to do. Also in this newsletter: Joan NathanElizabeth Tsurkov and Allison Weinger. We’ll start with a National Library of Israel conference on documenting the atrocities of Oct. 7.

If journalists are writing, as Washington Post publisher Philip Graham once put it, “the first rough draft of history” about Oct. 7, the foundations for the later drafts are being prepared by historians, archivists, librarians and others — many of whom attended a conference at the National Library of Israel in Jerusalem on Sunday, the six-month anniversary of Hamas’ invasion of southwestern Israel, reports Lahav Harkov for eJewishPhilanthropy’s sister publication Jewish Insider from the event.

The topic of “Telling War: The conference for documenting Oct. 7 and the war that broke out in its wake” focused on initiatives to collect testimony and preserve artifacts. But the topic of authenticating the massive collection amassed by the library’s staff and representatives of over 180 documentation initiatives loomed large amid the wave of atrocity denial that has grown online and in some corners of the news media.

Former IDF spokesman Ronen Manelis, who was involved in creating and screening a compilation of footage of Oct. 7 atrocities, lamented onstage that “there were Israeli spokespeople who spoke about events for which we do not have documentation, and that hurt our legitimacy. That created difficulties.”

Cochav Elkayam-Levy, the founder of the Civil Commission on Oct. 7 Crimes by Hamas against Women and Children and recipient of this year’s Israel Prize for Solidarity, has been dogged by accusations made by those who deny Hamas’ sexual violence.

Speaking at the conference, she said that from the outset, she “warned to reach the highest standards of documentation. At the time, I didn’t know what it meant, but I’m glad I aimed for that standard.”

Raquel Ukeles, the National Library’s head of collections who is spearheading its Oct. 7 documentation collection efforts, lamented to Jewish Insider that “libraries don’t traditionally authenticate material, but this has come up again and again.”

Participants included kibbutz archivists and historians who normally centered their role around telling the story of their agricultural communes’ establishment or managing the “nostalgia bungalow” in Be’eri with artifacts of how the kibbutzniks lived decades ago, and since Oct. 7 found themselves documenting a massacre and an arson attack. Experts in visual history, collecting and cataloging objects from decades, centuries and even millennia ago, began doing that for some of the over 3,000 artifacts gathered from the attack that took place six months ago. Government employees tasked with declaring sites around the country to be of historic value considered what sites to dedicate to the memory of what recently happened, and where to let life in the western Negev move on.

Ukeles told JI that she viewed the collection and preservation of documentation from Oct. 7 and beyond as part of the library’s “core mission to collect and preserve and make available Israeli and Jewish culture and history.”

Shira Shapira works for the Israeli Heritage Ministry and is involved in its project to memorialize the events of Oct. 7 and set up “heritage spaces,” or historic sites. “The whole [western Negev] has to be a heritage space that has to tell a variety of stories,” said Shapira, who is also the mother of Aner Shapira, who caught and threw back seven grenades that Hamas terrorists lobbed into a bomb shelter near the Nova music festival, before the eighth exploded, killing him.

Six months later, Shapira said she is “glad, if I can say that, to mark this morning with [conference attendees] and think about the national mission that we are all a part of. We have to understand that we have a job to do, to preserve and tell these stories to ourselves and the world.”

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


Hatch, which brings AI to nonprofits, raises $3 million in latest round of seed funding


In an indication of the growing adoption of AI in the philanthropic industry, the firm Hatch, which helps nonprofits use artificial intelligence for fundraising, raised $3 million in seed funding from venture capitalists, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross.

AI empowered: Hatch, which CEO Moshe Hecht launched in 2021, uses AI to create in-depth profiles of current and potential donors that nonprofits can use to better connect with them and also to draft marketing materials — blog posts, fundraising materials, letters, invitations and “thank you” notes. “It became abundantly clear to me that the biggest gap that charities have is in not leveraging data to engage their donors,” Hecht said in a statement. Last year, Hecht told eJP that the goal is not to replace human employees but to make them more effective.

Doing good: The fundraising round was led by Differential Ventures, with participation from Character, venture capitalist Howard Morgan and a group of prominent angel investors. This round of funding brings Hatch’s total funding up to $5 million. “We are proud to partner with Hatch on their mission and see a path to doing well by doing good,” David Magerman, a partner at Differential Ventures, said in a statement.


ADL, Masa Israel partner to ready gap-year students for campus antisemitism

Participants on Nativ’s 2022 gap-year program. Courtesy

The Anti-Defamation League is partnering with Masa Israel Journey to prepare its gap-year fellows to respond to antisemitism on college campuses, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross. Under the agreement between the two organizations, the ADL will provide resources and training for both Masa staff and participants.

Powerful alliance: “Joining forces with Masa Israel Journey represents a powerful alliance in our fight against antisemitism,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of ADL. “By equipping Masa fellows and alumni with the necessary tools and resources to counter antisemitism, we are empowering the next generation of Jewish leaders to stand up against hate, protecting Jewish communities worldwide.”

More than ever: “ADL has a lot of knowledge and experience to share with our fellows,” said Yael Sahar Rubinstein, acting CEO of Masa Israel Journey. “Now more than ever, our fellows and alum need the skills to fight antisemitism in their next stages of life, and this partnership will greatly help them attain those tools.”


The growing disconnect between American Jews and mainstream Jewish organizations

Illustration by Andrii Yalanskyi/Adobe Stock

“Six months after Oct. 7, I have an inkling, to borrow the words of New York Times columnist Bret Stephens, of ‘the Oct. 8 Jew,’ but little sense of the Oct. 8 Jewish organization,” writes David Bernstein, founder of the Jewish Institute for Liberal Values, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

A telling interaction: “A few weeks ago, I presented at a Jewish federation meeting in a Midwest city… After the meeting, I spoke with a woman who had spent years as chair of her local Jewish community relations council, conducting outreach to progressive groups. ‘I hear what you are saying about identifying new partners for our intergroup work, but we should not write off our traditional civil rights partners,’ she said emphatically… ‘Haven’t we always been willing to hold back on some of our concerns to be in relationship with others?’ It dawned on me after the discussion that this communal leader was talking herself out of making any change in approach to Jewish outreach and advocacy.”

The clock is ticking: “Indeed, mainstream Jewish organizations will increasingly find themselves at odds with Jews whose kids and grandkids face indoctrination in high school and belligerent protests on campus. Newly minted parent activists will not be satisfied with the typical accommodationist posture, behind-the-scenes dialogue and conciliatory rhetoric. They could not care less about maintaining old alliances and are more than open to new ones. They want hard-hitting action that protects their kids. Unless American Jewish groups rise to the occasion, it won’t be long until a disconnect turns into a gulf.”

Read the full piece here.


The power of partnerships — especially now

Prostock-studio/Adobe Stock

“I’ve noticed a pattern over the last few months,” writes Jacob Feinspan, executive director of Jews United for Justice, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy. “At shul, at conferences, when catching up with friends and colleagues within the Jewish community — whenever people ask me how things are going, it seems like they expect the answer to be that things are terrible, that I’m feeling alone and isolated. But that’s not true.”

Defying expectations: “Since Oct. 7, dozens of partners and colleagues have reached out to me with a call, text, email or hug to see how I’m doing and how Jews United for Justice is doing… We are living in hard times. I know that, in contrast with my experience, many in the Jewish community are feeling alone right now; and when we feel alone or afraid, our brains are wired to shout ‘Danger!’ at anything that might be threatening. In this moment of incredible pain and hurt, I see people pulling away from each other, but this is precisely the time that we must run toward each other.”

Better together: “If we want to build a space where all of us can thrive and where all of us are treated with respect, there is literally no way to get from here to there unless we come together… Over the past six months, I’ve been part of dozens of conversations with people trying to make sense of the horror of this time — often painfully, and often starting from dramatically different personal experiences. And in almost every case, we can have these difficult conversations and continue to work together.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

One Eclipse, Many Opinions: In Tablet, Jeremy Brown writes about historical attempts of Jewish scholars to explain Talmudic statements about solar eclipses like the one that took place yesterday afternoon. “For most, the event is a celebration of a glorious natural event, caused by the random fact that the sun and the moon appear to us to be the same size in the sky, allowing the former to be covered by the latter. But, perhaps rather surprisingly, traditional Jewish teaching about a solar eclipse raises several profound religious questions, as the rabbis wondered what, exactly, caused it… The famous Maharal of Prague (d. 1609) … acknowledged that an eclipse is a mechanical and predictable event, but he further suggested that if there was no sin, there would indeed never be a solar eclipse… More recently, the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson (d. 1994), wrote that while a solar eclipse was predictable, the local weather was most certainly not. On a clear day the solar eclipse would be visible, but on a cloudy day the sun’s disk would be harder to see. It was this aspect — the weather — that was under divine control, and presumably God could change it in response to the local actions of people.” [Tablet]

Save the (Chopped) Liver!: In The New Yorker, Hannah Goldfield profiles Joan Nathan, the doyenne of Jewish American cooking, who is coming out with a new cookbook-cum-memoir, My Life in Recipes. “You could make the case that Nathan is a household name, as long as you’re referring to a Jewish American household. If a Jewish home cook doesn’t own a copy of ‘The Jewish Holiday Kitchen’ (1979) or ‘Jewish Cooking in America’ (1994), she has at least encountered Nathan’s dozens of recipes in the Times, and perhaps attempted her latkes or brisket. Nathan has often been referred to as the Jewish Julia Child; as it happens, she knew Child, quite well… She has catalogued the Jewish culinary diaspora and often explored beyond it… In the nineties, she made ‘Jewish Cooking in America’ into a show of the same name on PBS, sponsored by Hebrew National and Lender’s Bagels. One episode featured Mandy Patinkin and his mother making vegetarian “chopped liver” out of peas, walnuts, and egg whites; another, called “What Is Kosher?,” guest-starred her friend Julia [Child]. “She’s the blueprint,” Jake Cohen, a thirty-year-old Jewish American cookbook author, told me. “You couldn’t get Seinfeld to say the word ‘Jewish,’ and she was dragging Julia Child through a supermarket looking for kosher food!”” [NewYorker]

Around the Web

The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Business School has seen a drop in charitable gifts since Oct. 7 in light of tensions between donors and the school over its response to antisemitism on campus…

A group of 16 House Democrats is calling for the Biden administration to push the Iraqi government to work to secure the release of Princeton doctoral student Elizabeth Tsurkov, who has been held hostage by an Iran-backed Iraqi militia group for more than a year…

Allison Weinger, the COO and interim CEO of ORT America, was appointed the permanent CEO last week…

The New York Jewish Week spotlights P&T Knitwear, the Lower East Side bookstore and coffee shop owned by political consultant and venture capitalist Bradley Tusk

Real estate investor Susan Milman is donating $16 million to Florida’s Sarasota Memorial Hospital’s new outpatient cancer pavilion. It will be named the Milman-Kover Cancer Pavilion in honor of her family…

California Gov. Gavin Newsom released a statewide Golden State Plan to Counter Antisemitism, made up of policy initiatives and calls to action. The Jewish Public Affairs Committee of California hailed the plan, saying it “will help us reverse the normalization of rising antisemitism and make California a safer place for all”…

Administrators at American University placed the school’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine on disciplinary probation, after the group organized a march through campus buildings in violation of university rules…

The New York Times profiles J Street and its founder and president, Jeremy Ben-Ami

Amy Ettinger, an author who chronicled her last months of life for The Washington Postdied last month at 49…

Pic of the Day

Madison Chastain/Courtesy of Malka Simkovich

Catholic and Jewish scholars take a pause during the Hayim Perelmuter Conference in Jewish-Christian Dialogue at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago yesterday to witness the solar eclipse together.


Annie Liebovitz smiles
Nina Beth Cardin/Facebook

Rabbi, author, and environmental activist, Nina Beth Cardin

Retired singer-songwriter, satirist and mathematician, Thomas Andrew “Tom” Lehrer… Board certified internist, he is a consultant at the Disney Family Cancer Center at St. Joseph Hospital in Burbank, Calif., Dr. Lester Simon Garfinkel… Retired fighter pilot and brigadier general in the Israeli Air Force, listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest-ever and longest serving combat pilot, Uri Gil… EVP at nationwide homebuilder KB Home, former chair of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, Albert Zane Praw… Dean at Reichman University in Herzliya and emeritus professor at Tel Aviv University, Zvi Eckstein… Gail Kritz… Fashion designer for his own world-wide chain of eponymous stores, Marc Jacobs… CEO of the RedBird IMI and an Operating Partner at RedBird Capital Partners, Jeff Zucker… Executive director of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East and the Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa, Asaf Romirowksy… Visual artist, performance artist and co-founder of Processional Arts Workshop, Alex Kahn… Attorney, author, political commentator, movie critic and blogger, Debbie Schlussel… Clinical psychologist in Boca Raton, Dr. Lori Gutmann Fineman… Former senior program manager in marketing operations at Freddie Mac, Jill Gershenson-Cohen… Founder and CEO at NYC-based Wall to Wall Communications, Ross M. Wallenstein… Chairman and CEO of Interwoven and creator of the Israeli documentary series “The New Jew,” Moshe Samuels… Actress and writer, Rachel Sarah Specter… Israeli actress, Moran Atias… Owner of D.C.’s Baked by Yael, Yael Krigman… Actress, Lili Mirojnick… Founder and managing partner of Kesher Capital Management, Soraya Hoberman… Figure skater, she competed for Israel at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, Paige Conners… Zurich resident, Jonathan Bollag… Herbert Levine…