Your Daily Phil: Documenting the Oct. 7 attacks — 200,000 videos at a time

Good Thursday morning.

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on a massive effort by the National Library of Israel to collect documentation about the Oct. 7 attacks and speak to the cowboys seen making their way to Israel this week. We feature an opinion piece from Naomi Strongin about effective giving. Also in this newsletter: Charlotte Knobloch, Henry Swieca and Maverick the dog. We’ll start with last night’s screening of footage from the Hamas attacks in Los Angeles.

When Daniel Housman approached the Museum of Tolerance on Los Angeles’ Pico Boulevard on Wednesday evening, he saw 20 or 30 protesters on opposite sides of the street. He was there for a screening of a 47-minute compilation of raw footage from Hamas’s murderous spree across southern Israel on Oct. 7, so emotions were already high. Some protesters were screaming “Free Palestine,” while almost as many pro-Israel demonstrators were across the street waving Israeli and American flags. The Los Angeles Police Department was present, and various passersby captured footage on their phones, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Esther D. Kustanowitz.

Inside the theater, Housman — a writer who is involved in Jewish life in Los Angeles — and about 150 other people, including journalists, people in the entertainment industry and other thought leaders, watched the unrelenting horrors unfold on the screen; at the most quiet moments during the screening, the audience could hear the shouts of protesters through the walls, but it was hard to tell which set of demonstrators the voices came from, Housman said.

Multiple fights broke out between the groups on the street; footage from outside the museum shows protesters shoving, punching and tackling each other. Housman did not witness the physical altercations, as the protesters had been cleared by law enforcement before he exited the building.

Housman, who is Israeli-American, said the footage of the kibbutzim “brought back memories of visiting family friends in places just like that as a kid. The lower-income Israel, the simple porches people have, growing herbs and plants, with old chairs and cheerful tchotchkes, the small yards overlapping with their neighbors’,” he said. “Seeing this [community] so vulnerable through a Hamas body-cam is just sickening and sad… it made me homesick in a way I can’t explain, and [made me] want to cry.”

The screening was organized by the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League. Israeli actress Gal Gadot was reportedly involved in organizing the screening but did not attend.

“We cannot allow current worldwide tension to devolve into this unacceptable violence in our city,” Mayor Karen Bass wrote in a Facebook post in response to the incident. “This is a time of immense pain and distress for thousands of Angelenos. We must stand together.”


Film director Talia Finkel interviews Yifat Ben-Shushan, a resident of Netiv Ha’asara, which was attacked by Hamas on Oct. 7, 2023, in an undated photograph. (Kobi Yonatan/National Library of Israel)

The National Library of Israel has launched a massive project, expected to take years and cost millions, to collect and catalog all materials connected to the Oct. 7 attacks and ongoing war that resulted from them. It has already gathered more than 200,000 videos, and are only just getting started, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross.

Core mission: “The library both by law and by mission is the repository of Israeli and Jewish collective memories,” Raquel Ukeles, the head of collections for the library, told eJP this week. “Our mission is to document, collect, preserve and make available — in the broadest way possible — Israeli culture and society, Jewish religion, traditions, history and society for our generation and for generations to come, so this work sits at our core mission.”

But the kitchen sink: The scope of the collection project is vast, including almost anything you can think of: video footage, photos and audio recordings from the attacks; testimonies from survivors; news broadcasts; social media posts; sermons and divrei Torah; fundraising materials; information about volunteering efforts; letters written to Israeli soldiers; and much, much more. “This is a massive, perhaps unprecedented, collection effort that we’re engaged in,” Ukeles said, estimating that the library will end up collecting “terabytes and terabytes” of data.

Testament, justice, history: “I view this project as a threefold effort: it provides those survivors who wish to tell their story to have it remembered for eternity in the most respectful way; it will serve as an evidence resource for those wishing to seek some justice; and it will stand for generations, for young people who will wish to explore their heritage, and for future historians worldwide who will try to understand these events and their implications,” Sallai Meridor, chairman of the board of the library, said in a statement to eJP.

Read the full report here.


American cowboys lend a hand to Israeli farms in the West Bank

American volunteers from Montana and Arkansas arrive in Ben Gurion Airport to work on Israeli farms in the West Bank with an evangelical organization, HaYovel, in November 2023. (Screen capture/Facebook/Gaby Shine)

Photos of men in cowboy hats and plaid shirts making their way to Israel, with captions indicating they were going to help with Israel’s struggling farms near the Gaza border, spread widely on social media this week both in Hebrew and in English. But the cowboys and farmhands were not going to the Gaza border. From Ben Gurion Airport, they made their way to the West Bank to work on olive groves in and around Israeli settlements with an evangelical group, HaYovel (the harvest), which says it brings hundreds of American Christian farmhands each year to “confirm Israel’s right to their ancestral homeland,” referring specifically to the West Bank, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen.

Pitching in: Zeke Strain arrived in Israel on Monday, his fourth time volunteering through HaYovel. The 20-year-old, also from Montana, was already planning — before the war broke out — to help with farming in the West Bank. But he pushed up his flight after Hamas’ massacre in southern Israel. “We decided to come early because they are in desperate need in these little communities in Judea and Samaria,” Strain told eJP, using the biblical term for the West Bank. “We’ll help out in any way we can.”

Read the full report here.


Tips for giving effectively to a country in crisis

(FANDSrabutan/Getty Images)

“Aharon Ariel Lavi’s recent commentary [in eJewishPhilanthropy] caught my attention, as it raises important questions about support for Israel in these challenging times. Lavi’s frustration over contributions of excess or ineffectual goods rather than pinpointed support, generally in the form of monetary contributions, is a common one,” writes Naomi Strongin, vice president of the Center for Designed Philanthropy at the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Timely and on-target: “Donors seek confidence that recipient organizations are capable of managing the influx of funds coming to them, as well as awareness of which causes are most desperately in need of increased funds. It can feel overwhelming. With that in mind, the following recommendations are intended as helpful guidelines for how to give with purpose and efficacy during the current emergency. These are offered in conjunction with our experts on the ground in Israel, where in the last decade alone we have directed $180 million in funding to about 500 causes.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

A Mixed Bag: In Mosaic, Arieh Kovler argues that social media is at least as important as traditional media outlets in shaping the global public’s perception of what is happening in the war between Israel and Hamas. “The French philosopher Jean Baudrillard, in his essay collection The Gulf War Did Not Take Place, claimed that most people experienced the 1991 conflict not as a war, but rather as a hyperreal simulation of war mediated through TV news networks like CNN… the world now experiences wars through both traditional and social media, with many younger people getting their news primarily or exclusively from apps and websites like TikTok, Instagram, and X (formerly Twitter). This is a different kind of mediation. Social media are inherently personal and proudly subjective, as people share their own eyewitness experiences, videos, reactions, and emotions… Social media, though, also have a corrective role. When the Hamas-controlled Gaza health ministry claimed Israel had killed 500 Palestinians by bombing the Al-Ahli hospital in Gaza City… it was open-source researchers on social media who were able to examine photographs from the site, videos of rocket launches, and more to back Israel’s account and to cast serious doubt on Hamas’s claimed death tolls.” [Mosaic]

The Body Keeps the Score: In Haaretz, Linda Dayan profiles an initiative to provide emotional support and resilience to Israeli kids from the Gaza border area who have been displaced by the fighting. “A couple times a week, [members of the Israel Life Saving Federation] set up a series of games to help the kids rebuild their resilience… ‘We’re making the brain tell the body that things are okay, we’re getting the movement going,’ says federation founder Paul Hakim. They also do grounding and breathing exercises, and a short, child-friendly meditation… Clinical psychologist Dr. Naama de la Fontaine… says children often feel overwhelming experiences through the body in a way that is more obvious than in adults. ‘For children, their experience of trauma is different, because they’re experiencing it through their own cognitive ability and understanding of reality…,’ she explains. ‘Because they’re often less verbal or communicative about these experiences, their body speaks louder and speaks on their behalf.’” [Haaretz]

A Fitting End: In The Atlantic, Daniel Schulman delves into the origins of automobile magnate Henry Ford’s anti-Jewish beliefs and details his role in fomenting a new era of antisemitism. “Ford did eventually reckon with the lethal hatred he had helped whip up, according to Josephine Gomon, who oversaw female personnel at a Ford plant. She was among a group of executives who joined Ford in May 1946 for a screening of ‘Death Stations,’ a government-produced film documenting the liberation of Hitler’s concentration camps. For an hour, horrifying images flashed across the screen: a crematorium at the Majdanek camp, torture chambers, a warehouse filled with the confiscated belongings of murdered Jews. When the film ended and the lights rose, Ford’s colleagues found him clinging to consciousness. He had had a major stroke. Ford died the following year at the age of 83. It is impossible to know what flickered through his mind in the moments before he was afflicted, but Gomon believed that he was deeply disturbed by the footage. Finally, Ford ‘saw the ravages of a plague he had helped to spread,’ she wrote in her unpublished memoir. ‘The virus had come full circle.’” [TheAtlantic]

Around the Web

The Claims Conference, working with the USC Shoah Foundation, UNESCO, Meta, World Jewish Congress and production studio makemepulse, created a virtual reality project that tells of the story of Kristallnacht, which took place 85 years ago today, through the personal experiences of Charlotte Knobloch, a Holocaust survivor and the head of the Jewish Community of Munich and Upper Bavaria…

Speaking to Congress yesterday, Biden administration officials cast doubts on Hamas’ willingness to voluntarily release the more than 240 hostages it is holding in captivity in Gaza and accused the terror group of committing genocide…

Chabad’s annual Shluchim Conference begins today in Brooklyn. More than 6,500 rabbis and Jewish leaders are expected to take part in this year’s gathering…

A Dutch watchdog reported an 800% rise in antisemitic incidents in the country since Oct. 7…

Artists that were meant to take part in the Jerusalem Biennale art festival, which was meant to begin today but has been put on hold until next year due to the war in Gaza, are instead having their work shown in exhibits in New York City; Buenos Aires, Argentina; and Casale Monferrato, Italy…

Volunteers stepped in to help a New York City cafe after the staff quit in protest of the owner’s support for Israel…

Sabrina Kerbel was hired as the next executive director of the Kindness Initiative, a San Diego, Calif., nonprofit that helps Jewish households that are struggling financially…

American Humane, a nonprofit animal welfare, named Maverick, a 150-pound European Blue Great Dane, its 2023 “Hero Dog” for his work comforting military members and their families…

Israeli government offices and nonprofits are working to rescue exotic animals from Israeli zoos and sanctuaries near the Gaza border…

Israel fast-tracked the immigration of 20 doctors so that they could start working more quickly at Beersheva’s Soroka Medical Center in light of the ongoing war in Gaza…

Nefesh B’Nefesh, Jewish National Fund-USA and Friends of the Israel Defense Forces launched a new initiative, Operation Hug, in which they will pay for the flight of a parent of a new immigrant “lone soldier” to visit their child in Israel…

The University of Austin, a private liberal arts school that launched two years ago, received official accreditation this week and is beginning to accept applications from undergraduate students. The university’s founders include former New York Times columnist Bari Weiss, former Harvard University president Lawrence Summers and playwright David Mamet

The Orthodox Union is planning to run advertisements in more than 20 university newspapers condemning antisemitism on campus…

Investor Henry Swieca quit the board of the Columbia Business School over the university’s response to antisemitism on campus…

Police arrested a suspect in the killing of Detroit Jewish leader Samantha Woll. Detroir Police Chief James White said the initial evidence indicates that antisemitism was not the motive…

Pic of the Day

People gather outside the Roonstrasse Synagogue in Cologne, Germany, last night to commemorate the people murdered in the Oct. 7 attacks and draw attention to those taken hostage by Hamas. The memorial coincides with the 85th anniversary of the Kristallnacht pogroms in Germany.
(Lukas Schulze/Getty Images)

People gather outside the Roonstrasse Synagogue in Cologne, Germany, last night to commemorate the people murdered in the Oct. 7 attacks and draw attention to those taken hostage by Hamas. The memorial coincides with the 85th anniversary of the Kristallnacht pogroms in Germany.


John Sciulli/Getty Images for L.A. Holocaust Museum

Executive director of Los Angeles-based Remember Us: The Holocaust Bnai Mitzvah Project, Samara Hutman

Israeli novelist and playwright, Shulamit Lapid… British businessman and philanthropist, formerly chairman of Lloyds Bank, a major U.K. bank, Sir Maurice Victor Blank… Professional baseball manager in the minor leagues and college, he managed Team Israel in 2016 and 2017, Jerry Weinstein… Israeli war hero and longtime past member of the Knesset, Zevulun Orlev… Principal of Los Angeles-based PR and public affairs firm Cerrell Associates, Hal Dash… San Diego-based media developer, Daniel Ajzen… Mitchell Bedell… Former deputy national security advisor for President Trump, Charles Martin Kupperman… U.S. senator (D-OH) and chair of the Senate Banking Committee, Sherrod Brown… Senior producer at “NBC Nightly News,” Joel Seidman… Political consultant and fundraiser, she founded No Labels in 2010 to take on problems across the partisan divide, Nancy Jacobson… Professor of journalism and media studies at Fordham University, Amy Beth Aronson Ph.D.… Partner in the Chicago office of Kirkland & Ellis, Douglas C. Gessner… Partner at Covington & Burling specializing in export controls and sanctions, he was previously the assistant secretary of commerce for export administration during the Bush 43 administration, Peter Lichtenbaum… Chairman and CEO of Sky Harbour, he is an American-born Israeli fighter pilot and author of a 2018 book on the future of Judaism, Tal Keinan… Grammy Award-winning record producer specializing in comedy, Dan Schlissel… Founding CEO of OneTable, Aliza Kline… Associate justice of the Michigan Supreme Court since 2015, despite being legally blind since birth as a result of retinitis pigmentosa, Richard H. Bernstein… Journalist and pioneering podcaster, he is the creator and host of “How I Built This” and “Wisdom from the Top,” Guy Raz… Israeli singer and actress, Maya Bouskilla… Co-founder and executive director of the States Project, he was elected the youngest member of the New York State Senate in 2008, serving until 2017, Daniel Squadron… COO at BerlinRosen, David Levine… Singer, songwriter and rapper, Ari Benjamin Lesser… Chess grandmaster, Daniel Naroditsky… Army JAG officer, Matthew Adam McCoy