Your Daily Phil: Gene Simmons fights hate in LA + The young Israelis fundraising for Poland trips

Good Monday morning!

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we spotlight the teenagers crowdfunding their educational trip to Poland, and feature op-eds on Jewish studies programs in Ukraine, “quiet quitting” and lay leadership. Also in today’s newsletter: Sender Cohen, Rabbi Justin David and Anne E. Tasca. We’ll start with a report from eJP’s Esther Kustanowitz on the unveiling of a new hate-fighting mural in Los Angeles.

A little more than a week after two Jewish men were targeted and shot near their synagogues in Los Angeles’ Pico-Robertson neighborhood, a mural unveiled last night in the city’s downtown arts district is reminding Angelenos that art can be a powerful tool of resistance against hate. 

The mural, painted by local artist Andrew Hem, depicts Irene Gut Opdyke, a woman who saved a dozen Jewish people in Poland during World War II, and is the fourth in Artists 4 Israel’s Righteous Among the Nations Global Mural Project, which celebrates the humanity and self-sacrifice of non-Jews who rescued Jews during the Holocaust. The 60-foot exterior wall is visible to anyone who passes through the intersection at East 7th Street and Santa Fe Avenue, near the 7th Street Bridge, where cars cross the L.A. River from Boyle Heights into the arts district.

Kiss rock icon Gene Simmons, who attended Sunday’s event, began his remarks by introducing himself “in the language of my forefathers and a culture that goes back 6,000 years, hashem sheli Chayim, v’ani noladti b’Haifa. [My name is Chayim, and I was born in Haifa.]” Simmons then spoke about Gut Opdyke, saying that she “risk[ed] all for a higher ideal. She is a better person than I will ever be. And it’s important to honor people like that because the world needs more love.”

Read the full story here.

class act

Students from the Upper Galilee Leadership Institute who will be embarking on an independent journey to Poland after their graduation in February 2023

In March 2021, three weeks before their 12th-grade class was scheduled to fly to Poland to learn about the Holocaust, Ilan Averbuch and Abigail Porat received the news that the trip was canceled because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. As they approached the end of their six-month mechina (preparatory) program at the Upper Galilee Leadership Institute earlier this month, Averbuch and Porat, both 18, decided to organize this long-awaited journey themselves, Daniela Cohen reports for eJewishPhilanthropy

Must-do: “We felt that we can’t finish our education and go to the next step in our life without the Holocaust. It’s a big part of the Jewish nation’s memory, our historical memory, and it shapes so much of modern Israel and Jews all around [the world],” Averbuch told eJP. “So, we felt that it’s really important for us to do a trip in Poland and to physically witness what happened. And through standing on the ground, seeing it with our eyes, I think that can really strengthen our identity, both Jewish and Israeli.”

Trip talk: Thanks to Averbuch and Porat’s efforts, 33 students from the Upper Galilee Leadership Institute will have the opportunity to fly to Poland for seven days starting on Saturday, visiting Holocaust memorial sites with both Polish and Israeli guides. Averbuch told eJP that since students in their mechina program come from various countries, and many don’t have a strong connection to Israel, going on this trip could help them decide whether to stay in Israel long term. In Porat’s view, undertaking the trip as a small group whose members know each other well, and without the additional adult supervision that is usually present on traditional school trips, will allow them to support each other through the emotional challenges of the experience, making the journey more meaningful.

Equal-opportunity education: Through negotiations with a travel agency, Averbuch and Porat significantly reduced the trip’s cost from the average of $1,800 per person it would usually cost through the Ministry of Education-funded delegation to $1,090. Through the generosity of parents in the group, they have also provided scholarships to five students. And although their intensive mechina schedule leaves little free time, participants have put aside a day to do work in the local community to raise funds for another student needing financial support. “Remembrance of the Holocaust shouldn’t be only for the rich. It should be for everyone,” said Averbuch. “And that’s why we said that we’re ready to sleep in less-good hotels and fly in the middle of the night, just so everyone can go. And as the mechina, we all raised the money to contribute.”

Read the full story here.


Supporting Jewish studies scholars in Ukraine: What we’ve learned and where we’re going

The Jewish cemetery in Czernowitz, Ukraine

“When Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, we watched in fear as millions of people fled violence in frigid temperatures — often without food or water and without knowing where they would sleep at night. Among those who faced mounting threats were scholars, researchers and students of Jewish studies,” write Jewish studies and Jewish history professors Elissa Bemporad, Jeni S. Friedman, Anna Shternshis, Magda Teter and Steven Weitzman, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Academic partnerships: “Less than two months after the start of the war, a group of Jewish studies professors from four universities in North America partnered with the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture to form an emergency grant program that provides support for Jewish studies scholars in Ukraine… Around that same time, the American Academy of Jewish Research partnered with Fordham University’s Center for Jewish Studies and the New York Public Library to provide fellowship support to Jewish studies scholars who have been displaced, deprived of employment or otherwise at risk due to the war.”

Rich history and also tragedies: “We cannot underestimate Ukraine’s important role in the history of Jewish peoplehood and culture. For more than a thousand years, Jewish communities have existed in what is now the territory of Ukraine. The region is known as the birthplace of Hasidism and boasts a rich legacy of Yiddish culture, klezmer music and modern Hebrew literature. But Ukraine is also the site of antisemitic violence and genocide, where many Jews were slaughtered during pogroms and the Holocaust.”

Read the full piece here.

structural overhaul


“I’m not a quitter. Although it’s been tempting at times. The term ‘quiet quitting’ was coined to define a working style that evolved during the pandemic,” writes Sally Berkovic, CEO of the Rothschild Foundation Hanadiv Europe, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Trends: “While swathes of dedicated Jewish community professionals show no sign of quiet quitting as they clock extra hours and expend surplus energy, the concept gave me the opportunity to frame several quiet quitting trends I’ve observed that are impacting Jewish life – trends that community leaders are ignoring at their peril.”

Economics drives quitting: “The high costs of Jewish life, both essential infrastructure such as tuition, synagogue membership and kosher food and the self-imposed socially constructed costs of extravagant bar/bat mitzvah celebrations and weddings, fuel additional pressures.”

Communal politics infuriates: “The small ‘p’ politics within communities and organizations is the definitive anaphrodisiac. Squabbling, power plays and ego-driven decisions simply reinforce the notion that a fresh new perspective is the last thing the establishment wants and causes emerging talent to quit.”

Read the full piece here.

lay-led connections


“If a global pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we can’t take human connection for granted,” writes Rhonda Abrams, director of development & engagement at Mishkan Chicago, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Endless possibilities: “When I tell you that our fast-growing 11-year-old Jewish spiritual community in Chicago already has 11 small group gatherings planned with 11 different members hosting (and no staff presence) with over 90 participants thus far, all in the first quarter of the year, I promise that it’s not too good to be true. Oh, and these events cost us $0 in supplies and only several hours a week of one staff person’s time.”

Sustainable model: “In 2021, after a few years of trying out different models for expanding lay-led connections, we put pen to paper and landed on a strategy that has already proven to be a sustainable model for deepening connections across our growing community. We launched Mishkan Small Groups, an opportunity for our members to own their spiritual journeys by designing small group experiences for others with shared interests or in a common life stage, all with valuable yet minimal staff support. Through empowering our members to create groups based on their needs, we are also able to celebrate and uplift more marginalized identities.”

Secret sauce: “The small group opportunities are endless, and this quarter alone Mishkan will offer: Shabbat dinner potlucks for our Queer small group, 20s/30s small group and Mussar Jewish study group, a weekly virtual Sunday Torah study and an empty nesters Shabbat brunch club. In 2022, the first year executing on our refined small-group strategy, we served 277 people, including 34 hosts, for a total of $100 in supplies. Our small group numbers will undoubtedly grow in 2023, and of course, these groups don’t entirely run themselves — there is a secret to our sauce.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Disaster Philanthropy for Year 2: With the war in Ukraine passing the one-year mark, philanthropy should “break the typical boom-and-bust pattern of disaster philanthropy” by investing in conflict prevention and mitigation, conflict resolution and supporting stable, resilient societies, Alexandra Toma writes in The Chronicle of Philanthropy. “An important part of resolving conflict and building peace involves supporting the process by which a country makes amends for past abuses and atrocities committed by a government. These judicial and nonjudicial processes are a critical component of peace-building work and a place where philanthropy can play an important role by, for instance, hosting gatherings for civil-society organizations. That is the approach taken by the Bergof Foundation, which recently hosted an international symposium with the Reckoning Project to exchange best practices on collecting testimony about war crimes committed by Russia against Ukrainians. The goal is to reduce duplication of efforts among experts engaged in this work and to begin analyzing results.” [ChronicleofPhilanthropy]

Clutter-free Philanthropy: 
To achieve a caring, multiracial and inclusive future, now is a good time to consider the future of philanthropy, to “let go of practices that no longer serve us, and create new ones that move us forward,” Crystal Hayling writes in the Stanford Social Innovation Review. “From individualistic to interconnected. Having a great deal of money can be isolating, and perhaps that’s why so many wealthy donors hold tight to the illusion of the importance of self-sufficiency. Ironically, the way that traditional philanthropy is practiced further distances wealthy donors from the communities they seek to serve through their philanthropy. Trust-based philanthropy, practiced thoughtfully over time, helps donors lock arms with communities working toward shared goals of equity and fairness…From dominion to reciprocity. Philanthropy is a two-way street. Donors give but they also receive. It is only habits of oppression that encourage donors to see themselves as givers and others as takers. Receiving a gift does not make the recipient less than the gift giver. Giving isn’t a conquest, it is a relationship of mutuality and of equals. Traditional philanthropy is often a terrible partner. How do we gain the self-awareness that we are receiving at the same time we are giving?” [SSIR]

World on the Street

As the Russian invasion of Ukraine reached the one-year mark, global philanthropy remains attuned to the ongoing need for humanitarian aid, and major funders and nonprofits continue their efforts to deliver needed relief. According to Candid, as of the end of January, foundations and NGOs around the world have awarded 1,591 grants totaling more than $1.58 billion, and announced an additional 194 pledges totaling $1.21 billion…

JFNA has raised $85 million for humanitarian aid to Ukraine and, in collaboration with the Boston-based Shapiro Foundation, has helped resettle Ukrainians in 18 Jewish communities across the U.S. and Canada…

The International Fellowship of Christians and Jewspledged to increase its funding to Jewish communities in Ukraine and the former Soviet Union by $4 million. The group stated that it has already raised more than $30 million, which it distributed along with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and the Chabad-Lubavitch movement…

Americares, a Connecticut-based relief and development organization that supports local health systems during natural disasters and armed conflict, has provided more than $70 million in aid to meet the health needs of displaced families and survivors of the war in Ukraine, including $63 million in medicine and relief supplies…

Fidelity Charitable announced that its donor-advised funds awarded $11.2 billion in grants in 2022, nearly $1 billion more than in 2021, a 9% year-over-year increase…

New York University Stern School of Business received a gift of $53.6 million from alumna Anne E. Tasca for undergraduate and MBA scholarships with a focus on global study and immersive travels. Tasca’s gift is the largest single donation in the school’s history; the largest total giving amount from a woman donor; and the largest total testamentary commitment ever received from a single donor…

In its latest grant cycle, SRE Network (Safety, Respect, Equity) announced nearly $300,000 in grants to eight organizations in the Jewish nonprofit sector to build on their existing efforts to prevent harassment and discrimination and support safe, respectful and equitable workplaces and communal spaces… 

Sender Cohen, chief investment officer of Schusterman Interests, will replace Shira Ruderman, executive director of the Ruderman Family Foundation, as Fulbright Israel’s chairperson… 

Rabbi Justin David has been named the next dean of Hebrew College’s rabbinical school. He succeeds Rabbi Daniel Judson and will transition into his new role on July 1. David is currently the senior rabbi at Congregation B’nai Israel in Northampton, Mass… 

The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany announced writer and director Robert Moniott as the winner of the emerging filmmaker contest focused on the Holocaust for his screenplay, “The Ice Cream Man,” the true story of a Jewish ice cream parlor owner who was targeted by the infamous “Butcher of Lyon,” Nazi Klaus Barbie… 

The Lubavitch Children’s Centre in the Stamford Hill area of London is the recipient of the Gold Award of the Healthy Early Years London program. Funded by local authorities, the centre, where about 30 Jewish babies are born each week,  provides support and guidance to young parents and their children, beginning with prenatal care before birth… 

Houston’s 87-year-old Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Sunday to mark the completion of a $50 million renovation program… 

Tennessee state Sen. Mark Pody, a Republican, has proposed a bill that would give charities in the state two years to distribute disaster relief funds they raise… 

Gerald Joyce, currently chief science officer at The Salk Institute in La Jolla, Calif., is replacing geneticist Rusty Gage as president of the institute, which works to help scientists demystify such diverse conditions as cancer and dementia…

Billionaire financier and philanthropist Thomas H. Leedied at 78. At the time of his death, Lee was an honorary overseer for Yeshiva University’s Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law…

In her latest column for eJewishPhilanthropy, on the weekly parsha, Erica Brown, vice provost for values and leadership at Yeshiva University, writes, “One of the most important functions leaders have is bringing people together, especially those with disparate interests and backgrounds, to work towards a common purpose using their God-given talents and motivating their participation…”

Pic of the Day

More than 3,000 Jewish teens gathered to celebrate their Jewish pride and unity on Saturday night as CTeen, Chabad’s teen network, hosted its annual Jewish Pride Takeover of Times Square. The event featured a variety of speeches and performances, including a concert and Havdalah ceremony by singer Benny Friedman.


EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND – AUGUST 18: Member of Parliament of the United Kingdom Julia Neuberger attends a photocall during the Edinburgh International Book Festival 2019 on August 18, 2019 in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by Roberto Ricciuti/Getty Images)

Member of the British House of Lords, she is a retired rabbi and the chair of University College London Hospitals, Baroness Julia Neuberger

Performance artist and filmmaker, Eleanor Antin… Writer and illustrator of children’s books, Uri Shulevitz… William Drykos… Investor and trader, chair of Juilliard, vice chair of Lincoln Center and on the Board of the Metropolitan Opera, Bruce Kovner… Haverford, Pa.-based attorney, mediator and arbitrator, Judith Meyer… NYC-based real estate developer, Michael Gervis… Professor of physics at MIT, Alan Harvey Guth… Historian, syndicated columnist, investigative journalist and talk show host, Edwin Black… U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH)… Actor who starred as FBI Agent Stan Beeman on the FX series “The Americans,” Noah Emmerich… Stand-up comedian, Wendy Liebman… Suzanne “Suzy” Appelbaum… President and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford, David S. Waren… Founder of Spanx and a part owner of the Atlanta Hawks, Sara Blakely… Founder and executive director of Toldot Yisrael, Aryeh Halivni… Director of Georgetown University’s journalism program, Rebecca Sinderbrand… Singer-songwriter, composer and prayer leader, Sam Benjamin “Shir Yaakov” Feinstein-Feit… Finance minister of Israel, he is the leader of the Religious Zionist party, Bezalel Smotrich… Chief baseball officer for the Boston Red Sox, Chaim Bloom… Massachusetts state senator until earlier this year, one of the originators of the White House Seder, Eric P. Lesser… Alana Berkowitz…