Your Daily Phil: Finding the next ‘Fauda’ in L.A. + Doing Jewish divorce better

Good Wednesday morning!

Activists with The Jewish Federations of North America are descending on Washington, D.C., today and tomorrow for the group’s conference in the capital, its first major in-person advocacy event since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and first Washington conference in 14 years.

Elana Broitman, JFNA’s senior vice president for public affairs, told Jewish Insider on Tuesday that the group has four major priorities for the conference: increasing funding for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program, which secures houses of worship, to $360 million; providing funding for the Jabara-Heyer NO HATE Act, which improves hate crime reporting; providing supplemental funding for humanitarian assistance to Ukraine; and combating antisemitism.

Around 300 JFNA activists will be discussing the first three priorities with approximately two dozen members of Congress who, Broitman said, will meet with the activists at the conference site rather than on Capitol Hill, where COVID-19 protocols continue to complicate in-person lobbying efforts.

“When you’re talking about getting over 300 people into meetings and then asking them to go from one office to another with escorts, I was actually nervous that that would put more of a roadblock to meeting as many members as possible,” Broitman said. “Hopefully in the near future we will be able to get back to these meetings with large groups on the Hill.”

The JFNA conference website lists 26 lawmakers as participating in the event — Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Bill Hagerty (R-TN), and Reps. Kelly Armstrong (R-ND), Jake Auchincloss (D-MA), Don Beyer (D-VA), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Al Green (D-TX), Sara Jacobs (D-CA), Bill Johnson (R-OH), Dusty Johnson (R-SD), Brenda Lawrence (D-MI), Elaine Luria (D-VA), Kathy Manning (D-NC), Marianette Miller-Meeks (R-IA), Seth Moulton (D-MA), Steve Scalise (R-LA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Brad Schneider (D-IL), Elissa Slotkin (D-MI), Pete Stauber (R-MN), Dina Titus (D-NV), Beth Van Duyne (R-TX), Marc Veasey (R-TX) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL).


Israeli films and TV hits get exposure at Israel Film Festival in L.A.

A frame from the runaway comedy hit "Saving Shuli."

Courtesy of the Israel Film Festival

A Los Angeles film festival hopes to draw attention to Israeli screen productions, with the hope that some may follow in the footsteps of shows like “Srugim,” “Shitsel” and “Fauda,” and catch the eye of Hollywood producers. The 35th annual Israel Film Festival, which began last week and is running in person and online through May 26, will screen 32 movies and TV shows, festival founder Meir Fenigstein told eJewishPhilanthropy’s Esther Kustanowitz.

TV takeover: Selections include films such as “Greener Pastures,” a comedy about a retired widower who becomes a cannabis dealer, and “Plan A,” a drama about a group of Jewish vigilantes that aims to avenge the 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust by killing 6 million Germans. In a nod to the recent popularity of Israeli TV, the festival will also screen episodes of Israeli shows, including the spy thriller “Tehran.” The historical dramatic series “The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem” will premiere at the festival’s closing night, a day before it starts streaming worldwide on Netflix. In addition to bringing Israeli features to Hollywood, the festival hopes to familiarize audiences with a new side — or multiple sides — of Israel, Fenigstein told eJP.

Cultural ambassadors: “What the festival is about is to learn and to be educated culturally — and not just culturally, I think — what’s going on in Israel, so films are the best ambassador of Israel…With the success of ‘Fauda,’ [which streams on Netflix] and ‘Tehran’ [on AppleTV+], the competition is very big.”

Middle East to Southern California: Over the years, the festival has brought 1,100 feature films, documentaries, television dramas and short films to nearly a million filmgoers, and brought hundreds of Israeli filmmakers to the U.S. to share their art and receive some Hollywood exposure, Fenigstein said. He added that Hollywood wants to produce high-quality films and series, something Israel’s TV market has proven able to do on a budget that’s a fraction of most major Hollywood productions. Israeli film and TV producers are also looking for co-production partners and investors from Hollywood, who can give their content a bigger launchpad.

Read the full story here.


On their journey, we must be blessings, comfort and strength

Courtesy of JDC

“I’ve recently returned from Poland where I met and listened to the stories of Ukrainian refugees. It was a haunting but inspired experience, one that resonates with its glaring call to action,” writes Etta Gross Zimmerman, a veteran Jewish community leader, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Observer of Ukrainian Jewish life: “If you follow the news about this brutal war, you believe you are somewhat prepared for the discomfort you’ll feel when hearing their plight. Or you’ll feel immune because this conflict has exceeded our usual attention span and capacity for horrors… I am fortunate that I have not yet given in to these feelings, or to the helplessness that comes from sitting a world away. After all, I have been part of the journey of the Jews among these refugees for more than three decades. Prior to Feb. 24, I’d been privileged to witness and invest in the Ukrainian Jewish community’s miraculous rebirth.”

A culture of caring: “They also possessed an outsized desire to give back, a striking phenomenon in a post-Soviet society where there was no word, in either Ukrainian or Russian, for ‘volunteer.’ It is profound to think that much of the aid work happening inside Ukraine today, and beyond its borders, is enriched and enabled by people brought up in a culture of caring and service inculcated by local Jewish communities.”

Read the full piece here.


Can the Jewish community do divorce better?

Courtesy Camp Tawonga

“Since my ex-wife is a rabbi, I knew lots of rabbis at the time of our separation. They came to our house for dinner; we went skiing and camping and hiking together. I reached out to no fewer than five of them asking for help in navigating my divorce grief through a Jewish lens, and strangely, they had nothing to offer. They said, “You can get a get.” (A get is a Jewish legal divorce document),” writes Rabbi Deborah Newbrun, director emeritus at Camp Tawonga in California, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Missing Jewish rituals: “Where was the ‘Divorce Mikveh’ or the ‘Divorce Havdalah’ at the synagogue? What about the community ‘Divorce Tashlich?’ Where were the prayers (later written by Rabbi Naomi Levy) asking God for help to heal from anger and hurt at the end of a marriage? Or Rabbi Laura Geller’s idea of changing out the mezuzah into the bedroom, maybe even writing your own klaf (the interior parchment of a mezuzah containing prayers like the Sh’ma and V’ahavta)? These ideas were nowhere to be found. I was on my own. I had to turn to the secular world for support and comfort.”

Widespread disappointment: “Turns out, disappointment in Jewish rituals and response to divorce from our synagogues and schools has been the case for most divorced/divorcing Jews, including Jewish clergy. In a survey I created last year to better understand how to fulfill the needs of folks going through divorce in the Jewish community, I asked about satisfaction with Jewish paths to healing from divorce and discovered not one respondent was satisfied. Like me, they looked for therapy and grief retreats outside of the Jewish community. It became clear to me that Jewish folks facing divorce today seek a community of people going through the same thing and are hungry for Jewish ritual and wisdom texts about divorce.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Discernment in Donations: One factor in donors’ giving decisions may be discernment, “the process by which people clarify their choices and values in order to see which next step best aligns with what they believe to be the right thing, so that then they can make a decision,” Meredith McNabb writes in the Lake Institute on Faith and Giving: “In some sense, it is a process of clarifying one’s choices and comparing them with one’s ‘yardstick’ that holds meaning, with an expectation that God is in some way present and active in the process. In a purely financial decision for a giver or an organization, one might set the yardstick at the line of ‘tax advantage’ or ‘revenue maximization,’ and then compare one’s options to those goals in order to make a decision about a donation or an organizational course of action. For a number of religious organizations, a move toward business practices in their administrative work can creep beyond matters like accounting and financial controls and start to shape the yardstick of meaning by which they do their work.”[LakeInstitute] 

Big Guilt on Campus?: Universities and other academic institutions should not feel unease about accepting big gifts, University of Oregon President Michael H. Schill writes in The Chronicle of Philanthropy: “As I look at what philanthropy has funded in my institution and in others, the argument that donor largesse diverts us from our mission seems weak. My fellow presidents and I know how to say no to gifts that do not fit our institutional goals, and we do it regularly. We know how to say no to conditions on gifts that are unacceptable, and virtually all of us have gift-acceptance policies to prevent this from occurring. In my more than 18 years as first a law-school dean and then a university president, I can count on one hand the number of times I was offered gifts I felt were not in the best interest of my school. And I turned them down. Admittedly, there have been well-publicized instances where donors try to assert control over who gets an endowed chair or what types of perspectives can be included in a new or existing program. Although no one can say for sure how prevalent this is, based upon my experience and my conversations with other higher-education leaders, I believe that these cases constitute an extremely small minority of gifts and could be prevented altogether by increased transparency.” [ChronicleofPhilanthropy]

Community Comms

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Word on the Street

A special service held Sunday at Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford, England, to mark the 800th anniversary of the Synod of Oxford saw the presence of civic dignitaries and religious leaders, including Britain’s chief rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, and representatives of the archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. The service aimed to apologize for antisemitic laws and encourage Christians to reject contemporary forms of antisemitism…

A new American Jewish Committee survey indicates that 60% of the general German population considers antisemitism a widespread phenomenon in Germany, and that 64% say the problem has increased over the past 10 years. Significantly, 73% see antisemitism as a problem affecting all German society, while 8% say it is a problem only for Jews…

A rare first Hebrew edition of Igeret Orchot Olam, written by Rabbi Abraham ben Mordechai Farissol and published in 1586 in Venice, describing the discovery of the New World, will be up for auction in Jerusalem in two weeks…

A United Jewish Israel Appeal fundraising breakfast, the first since the beginning of the pandemic, exceeded its target and raised more than $615,000 to fund Israel trips for about one in five British participants…

Yeshiva University has secured a $1 million federal grant to renovate Weissberg Commons, a central gathering place on its Wilf Campus in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan. Money will be used for structural improvements to the multipurpose event space in Belfer Hall. The funding project is part of an omnibus appropriations agreement that addresses some of the most pressing needs in Washington Heights, Inwood, Harlem, East Harlem and the Bronx..…

The 92nd Street Y is officially becoming “The 92nd Street Y, New York” – a new identity that is being paired with a new logo and nickname, “92NY.” With this updated identity, 92NY plans to build on its deep connection with its home city…

Robin Hood Foundation, New York City Mayor Eric Adams and venture capitalist Alexis Ohanian announced the formation of a $100 million childcare quality and innovation initiative for New York City…

Rabbi David Russo will join The Wexner Foundation in July as the next director of the Wexner Heritage Program…

Pic of the Day

Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality, Layer 2.0

Jerusalem designers Leora Niderberg and Hadar Levi won special mention in a design competition sponsored by the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality, Layer 2.0, where architects from South Korea, Germany and Israel submitted design ideas to define Tel Aviv’s future skyline, combining urban renewal with the city’s Bauhaus-rich past.


Jason Mendez/Getty Images

Israeli actress, she appeared in 30 episodes of “Shtisel” and played the lead role in the Netflix miniseries “Unorthodox,” Shira Haas

Israeli optical and kinetic artist and sculptor Yaacov Agam… Retired judge of the International Court of Justice in The Hague, author of a memoir about his survival in Nazi concentration camps, Thomas Buergenthal… Sociologist and author, Pepper Schwartz… Israeli social activist focused on issues of women’s and human rights, Iris Stern Levi… Treasurer and receiver-general of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Deborah Goldberg… Past president and then chairman of AIPAC, Dr. Morton Zvi Fridman… Copy chief at Random House and the author of Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and StyleBenjamin Dreyer… Brian Mullen… Howard M. Pollack… CEO of hedge fund Pershing Square Capital Management, William Albert “Bill” Ackman… Senior fellow and a Middle East analyst at the Hudson Institute, Michael Pregent… Member of the California State Senate, Scott Wiener… EVP of development and digital at World Wrestling Entertainment, Jamie Horowitz… Filmmaker and podcast host, Dan Trachtenberg… Senior manager of strategic initiatives and engagement in the office of the president at Carnegie Mellon University, Pamela Eichenbaum… Senior cost analyst at the Israeli Ministry of Defense, Michael Jeremy Alexander… PR and brand manager for overseas resource development at Leket Israel, Shira Woolf… Staff writer at Time MagazineOlivia B. Waxman… Associate in paid search at Wavemaker, James Frichner… Paralympic track and field athlete, Ezra Frech….

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