Your Daily Phil: Evan Bernstein joins JFNA, leaving Community Security Service

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on Rabbi Shai Graucher’s efforts to help those affected by the war in Gaza and visit the Israelis displaced by the fighting, and feature opinion pieces from Barry Finestone and Tracy FrydbergAlso in this newsletter: Steve EismanDenise Govendir and Alana ZeitchikWe’ll start with Evan Bernstein joining the Jewish Federations of North America.

The Jewish Federations of North America hired Evan Bernstein, who has until now served as CEO of the Community Security Service, as its inaugural vice president of community relations, amid a major rise in antisemitic incidents in the U.S. in the wake of the Hamas-Israel war, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen.

Bernstein, who has a heightened awareness of the security issues facing Jewish communities around the country, told eJP that his work at JFNA will be a “different role given the community relations piece and working with federations around the country.”

Still, he plans to draw on his experience leading CSS – a group that conducts security training and works to grow an expansive network of Jewish communal volunteers, who assist in event and synagogue security – while working in the new position with law enforcement and security directors.

“One of the things I realized when I was at CSS is how important security directors for federations are to the community at large in understanding the community,” Bernstein said. “There are a lot of ways community relations work with interfaith elected officials. People in the security space need to understand what’s going on in the community. Communities need to be integrated at a high level.”

Shira Hutt, JFNA’s executive vice president, told eJP that hiring Bernstein is an “essential complement” to JFNA’s existing efforts to lobby for more federal funds for security in Jewish communities. “[We’re] making sure that the community relations work that’s happening in federations has the support it needs, and now that we’re in a post-Oct. 7 world that need is even greater,” she said.

Read the full report here.

Standing together

Rabbi Dina Brawer, executive director of the U.K.-based World Jewish Relief’s American branch, speaks at the Clinton Global Initiative in September 2023.
Rabbi Shai Graucher opens a truck containing laundry machines for soldiers to wash their uniforms near the Gaza border in October 2023.

In one video, Rabbi Shai Graucher is seen pulling up with an 18-wheeler hauling washing machines and dryers to an army base so soldiers can launder their uniforms. In another, he hands out iPads and AirPods in a hospital to victims of the Oct. 7 attacks. In a third, he is handing out pizza to kids from families that have been displaced by the fighting at a party featuring face-painting, magic shows and games. “We’re helping nonstop with everything — mamesh everything. Everything you can dream about,” Graucher told eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross, using the Yiddish/Hebrew word for “truly.”

Everything, everywhere: “We’re helping people who lost their loved ones with financial support. We’re helping families whose houses were broken to fix them. We’re helping soldiers with equipment… We’re doing barbecues with the army,” Graucher said. “We are helping the families who are in [evacuee] hotels. We’re sending [presents to the wives of reservists] who are home for three, four weeks without their husband. We’re helping [displaced people] with winter clothes. We’re helping women who gave birth and their husband is in the army. We have kitchens that are open 24-7, sending food, Shabbat meals, special things.”

Not just fed, but fed well: The aim is not necessarily to provide the basic needs for the recipients but to make them feel seen and appreciated — not to make sure that they are just fed, but to make sure that they are fed well. “I was on the border with Gaza. [The soldiers] are eating bread, only bread,” he said. So he and his team put on a barbecue with “meat, like you never saw in your life.” Graucher explained: “[We’re trying] to show the people that we are really thinking about them. We are the hands and we are the heart of those people that are giving the money. I’m just the shaliach [emissary]. So we’re trying to make them feel the best.”

Read the full report here.

Refugee crisis

Israel grapples with country’s biggest internal displacement in history

American politician Dianne Feinstein, her arms outstretched in celebration, in her office after she was elected mayor of San Francisco, at San Francisco City Hall in San Francisco, California, circa 1978.
Photo by Ruth Marks Eglash

From a distance, Ein Bokek, Israel’s popular vacation spot on the shores of the Dead Sea, looks as picturesque and peaceful as ever. Yet the lowest point on earth – some 60 miles away from the deadly war now raging in Gaza – shows its own signs of war, serving for the past month as a shelter for thousands of Israelis displaced following Hamas’ brutal terror attack on Oct. 7 and Israel’s military response, reports Ruth Marks Eglash for eJewishPhilanthropy’s sister publication Jewish Insider.

Everything destroyed: “We are refugees,” Ayelet Hakim, 55, told Jewish Insider. “It’s true that we are not on the streets, but we have nowhere to go back to, everything we had was destroyed.” Hakim, whose older sister, Raz, and brother-in-law, Ohad, are among the 241 hostages, added: “The clothes I’m wearing are not mine, everything is donations… Me, my husband, and my two kids live in one room – we are in limbo with no certainty about our future.” Hakim is one of roughly 30,000 residents of the kibbutzim and moshavim who were quickly evacuated from their homes by the Israeli military after the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks targeting their communities.

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

Dig deeper

American Jewish philanthropy today needs a ‘yes, and’ approach

Illustration by Anastasia Usenko/Getty Images

“This is a moment to dig deeper than we ever have for Jewish-related philanthropy, and we need to give more than ever by a large factor. The time is now. The need is urgent,” writes Barry Finestone, CEO and president of the Jim Joseph Foundation, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Thinking ahead: “Yes, we absolutely need to support Israel and Israelis. We need to contribute mightily to the multitude of needs Israel has — for the orphans, the evacuees, the businesses whose employees are now on the front lines, the mental health of the traumatized. All of these causes need our philanthropic support. But unless philanthropy steps up in the U.S. as well, there is a genuine chance that much of the organizational structure we have spent generations building will be stretched to its limits. The structure is holding for now, but I am looking more long term over months and perhaps years as this war continues.”

Read the full piece here.

Shared strength

Building an ‘Iron Dome’ of global Jewish resilience

“The tragedy of Oct. 7, 2023 — the deadliest day for the Jewish people since the Holocaust — challenges the basic Zionist story, which presumes that the creation of a Jewish sovereign state would be enough to break the cycle of atrocities that previously befell the Jewish people. This narrative formed the prism through which Israeli and world Jewry saw themselves and each other for 75 years. In the aftermath of Oct. 7, this story is in flux,” writes Tracy Frydberg, director of the Tisch Center for Jewish Dialogue at ANU: The Museum of the Jewish People, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Can-do attitude: “Based on research conducted in the aftermath of 9/11, psychologist Marshall Duke and his team at Emory University discovered that youth who receive what is called an ‘oscillating family narrative’ are most resilient when faced with a crisis. Why? An oscillating family narrative provides the present generation with an understanding that they and their ancestors have navigated through challenging times; that they, too, should expect to experience them; and that they, too, can likewise survive them. In conversations with Duke following the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas, the following points emerged about where we are in the Jewish people’s oscillating narrative and how to use that narrative to build global Jewish resilience…”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Can Anybody Hear Me?: In an opinion piece in The New York Times, Brooklyn-based media professional Alana Zeitchik shares the deep sense of isolation and disappointment she feels as an American Jew of Yemenite heritage advocating for the Israeli hostages taken into Gaza — all the while waiting for word on the status of her own relatives, six of whom were among those kidnapped on Oct. 7. “Recently, my brother and I hung ‘kidnapped’ posters of our family around Williamsburg in Brooklyn, a famously liberal community I’ve been part of for over a decade. Within a day, almost all of them had been ripped down. Some were replaced with posters reading, ‘Honor the martyr.’ The behavior feels so senseless, even hateful, but it is not these overt acts that make me feel isolated…  All around me I have witnessed a silence so enormous, it feels cacophonous; I have seen former co-workers be so quick to share unverified headlines fed by Hamas yet say only a few private words of sympathy to me. It would appear they believe my suffering to be collateral damage in service of some universal truth they hold higher. Is it really impossible to hold these two truths at the same time — that both Israeli and Palestinian civilians are suffering at great cost? Or are they simply unwilling to express that publicly? I’m not sure which is worse.” [NYT]

‘Zero-Problem Philanthropy’: If prioritizing preventative medicine can help the medical community shift from “sick care” to true “health care,” can prioritizing philanthropic efforts to address the contexts of social problems be a better long-term investment to addressing those problems? The co-director of Stanford University’s Global Innovation for Impact Lab writes in favor of this idea in an opinion piece in the Stanford Social Innovation Review. “[P]roblem-solving approaches often overlook the dynamics of problem supply, the ongoing creation of problems. … Russell Ackoff, a pioneering systems thinker and organization scholar, famously described the dangers of thinking in terms of problem-solving because ‘we walk into the future facing the past — we move away from, rather than toward, something. This often results in unforeseen consequences that are more distasteful than the deficiencies removed.’ Ackoff highlights our tendency to be reactive rather than proactive in addressing social problems. What would it take to shift from a reactive, past-oriented solution perspective to a proactive philanthropy oriented towards a healthy future that does not create so many problems?” [SSIR]

Around the Web

As one of his first acts in office, newly installed U.S. Ambassador to Israel Jack Lew met with the families of American citizens who are being held hostage by Hamas…

The Wall Street Journal profiled Marc Rowan and his campaign against the University of Pennsylvania over its response to antisemitism on campus…

Similarly, investor Steve Eisman instructed the University of Pennsylvania to remove his name from a scholarship they fund in protest of the school’s response to antisemitism…

Israeli President Isaac Herzog wrote an opinion piece in The New York Times, arguing that the war against Hamas won’t just affect Israel but the entire world…

Jewish Women’s Aid, a British charity that helps women and children affected by domestic or sexual violence, has reported a 72% drop in referrals, which it believes is due to people being focused on the war in Israel and not having the “head-space or inner strength to prioritize their own safety”…

The U.K.’s Community Security Trust reported more than 1,000 antisemitic incidents over the past 28 days, the largest number since the organization started tracking in 1984…

The New York Times profiled the Ner Tamid Society, a fraternal organization for Jewish members of the New York Fire Department

New studies found that people who consider themselves to be victims are more likely to adopt a “vigilante identity,” looking for wrongdoing and meting out punishments…

The Washington Post compared modern-day industrialist Elon Musk’s criticism of the Anti-Defamation League with Henry Ford’s animus for Jewish organizations and the Jewish people…

The British Jewish community’s leading mental health charity, Jamiwill merge with Jewish Care, its largest health and social care charity…

Police in New South Wales, Australia, are offering an AUD 1 million ($650,000) reward to anyone with information about the unsolved 1998 murder of Denise Govendir, who was the executive director of the local Jewish charity Beth Wizo

Pic of the Day

Matt Burkhartt/Getty Images

People greet each other at the entrance to the Center for Jewish Living at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., before the Unity Shabbat dinner last Friday night.

The university canceled all classes for the day, announcing a “community day” to give people time to recover from the stress of antisemitic threats and increased tensions on campus. “We hope that everyone will use this restorative time to take care of yourselves and reflect on how we can nurture the kind of caring, mutually supportive community that we all value,” the announcement said. 


Former president and CEO of American Jewish World Service until 2016, prior to that she served as the Manhattan borough president, Ruth Wyler Messinger

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