Your Daily Phil: Getting knighted by the Vatican + Being better ‘American Friends’

Good Thursday morning!

In today’s Your Daily Phil, we interview a rabbi who’s about to be knighted by the Vatican, and feature an op-ed by Lisa J. Silverman about “American Friends of” organizations. Also in this newsletter: Tamara Klinger-Levi, Marjan Keypour Greenblatt, Dani Shapiro and Lizzy Savetsky. We’ll start with a look at Hadassah’s conference in Jerusalem, which concludes today.

Looking out over the panorama of the Old City of Jerusalem from the Haas Promenade, the leadership of Hadassah together said the Hamotzi blessing over bread on Tuesday morning, the second day of the group’s 100th convention. ??Hundreds of women then linked arms and spun around in pairs to the sounds of “Hava Nagila.”

The convention is the organization’s first big gathering in three years and the first time in a decade that it has been held in Israel. It also marked the formal introduction of the Hadassah Evolve Leadership Fellows, a cohort of members under 55 from across the country who are meant to guide the future of the 110-year-old women’s Zionist group.

During an award ceremony yesterday held at the Jerusalem Waldorf Astoria, Marlene Edith Post, a former national president of the organization, received the group’s highest honor, the Henrietta Szold Award. In addition, Rhoda Smolow, Hadassah’s national president, presented the inaugural Power of Esther Award to Israeli First Lady Michal Herzog.

Herzog expressed gratitude to the “long history of Hadassah women who showed up and dedicated their time, energy resources, and most importantly, their heart to the collective Zionist endeavor.”

She called the biblical Esther, after whom the award is named, “the perfect example of soft power,” who “influences the critical outcome by using her accumulated wisdom, by compelling narrative, her power of persuasion. Soft power is perhaps the central tool available to first ladies. For me, it has become the best instrument for promoting the causes dear to my heart, such as awareness [of] mental health, social mobility and quality and psychological humanitarian support.”

Post, an octogenarian who has been to Israel more than 300 times, is a nurse by training and was also an early champion of Birthright Israel, mobilizing Hadassah to make the first organizational donation to the fledgling program in its first year.

“I never dreamed that I would be standing here today,” she said upon accepting the award. “This organization represents a big chunk of my life. I am so honored, so touched, to receive the award that bears the name of Henrietta Szold.”

Hosted by Israeli journalist Tamar Ish-Shalom — who was born at Hadassah Medical Center, she told the crowd — the event also featured remarks from U.S. Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides; entertainment by Israeli singer-songwriter Marina Maximilian; The Israel Camerata, a leading Israeli chamber orchestra; famed Israeli singer Yehoram Gaon; and Israeli mentalist Lior Suchard.

The convention concludes today, with many of the 400 delegates participating in add-on touring or programs surrounding the main event and connected to 20 different thematic tracks ranging from Hadassah’s medical work in Israel to geopolitics and history to culture, food and wine.

a different knight

Rabbi A. James Rudin speaking at the Archdiocese of Atlanta in 2015.
Rabbi A. James Rudin speaking at the Archdiocese of Atlanta in 2015.

For more than 50 years, Rabbi A. James Rudin has worked to advance Jewish-Catholic relations. On Sunday, in recognition of his work, Rudin is being honored with the Papal Knighthood of the Order of St. Gregory the Great — only the third rabbi in history to receive the designation, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Ben Sales.

A new era: Rudin began working for the American Jewish Committee in 1968, just three years after the Second Vatican Council concluded, transforming Catholic belief, liturgy and practice. Most significantly for Jews, Vatican II included Nostra Aetate, a declaration by the Church affirming that Jews were not responsible for the death of Jesus — overturning centuries of Catholic teaching — and adopting an attitude of “mutual understanding and respect” toward Jews and people of other religions. Some Jewish groups and their Catholic peers welcomed the declaration as an open door toward dialogue and bridge-building.

Residual prejudice: Rudin retired from his position at the AJC in 2000. Where interfaith work particularly remains to be done, he said, is in dispelling stereotypes from rank-and-file Jews and Catholics, especially in light of rising antisemitism. Although the United States is becoming more secular, Rudin said, nonreligious people who grew up in a Catholic milieu may still be susceptible to traditional Catholic anti-Jewish prejudice. The same may be true, he said, for secular Jews.

Built-in animosity: “In the atmosphere and the teaching, and in the 2,000 years of tradition, there has been built-in animosity toward Jews and Judaism,” he said. “Even if a person doesn’t go to church… that doesn’t mean they don’t have in their heads certain feelings they’ve inherited… It doesn’t really matter whether [someone] goes to church or goes to synagogue. They’ve inherited in the culture, unfortunately, certain opinions, tropes, and that’s what we have to deal with.”

Read the full story here.

let’s be friends

Shortening the distance between ‘American Friends of’ organizations and their Israeli partners

“Jewish tradition imparts that we teach the miracles described in the Tanach (Hebrew Bible). The phrase ‘with an open hand and an outstretched arm’ repeats itself. While we can think of the various lessons this sentiment bears for many relationships, it also offers lessons for partnerships — lessons that are now at the forefront of my mind as I near the completion of my interim tenure as CEO for the American Society of the University of Haifa,” Lisa J. Silverman writes in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Connected, but independent: “‘American Friends of’ organizations — a type of nonprofit with charitable tax status in the U.S. that fundraises for and supports an organization based abroad — are associated with significant challenges. Although each was established by founders, typically to support one foreign hospital, university or other nonprofit, American tax requirements consider these entities as independent. Each is overseen by a board of directors that must be independent from the foreign organization. With the funds raised from American donors, each ‘American Friends of’ organization can legally choose to use that funding for any purpose — not necessarily for the foreign organization that shares its name.”

Culture gap: “Cultural differences also challenge the relationships between the foreign nonprofit and the ‘American Friends of’ organization. Since making aliyah eight years ago and engaging in numerous conversations with native Israelis… I can’t tell you the number of times they ask for my ‘Rolodex.’ In addition to the outdated nature surrounding the lack of technology, the assumption that a list of names of American philanthropists will produce gifts because of one turnkey phone call or meeting is ludicrous. The cultural difference in relationship-building between Israelis and Americans is a bridge begging to be shortened.”

Read more here.

Worthy Reads

Igniting a Fire: Jewish Insider’s Madison Hahamy interviews author Dani Shapiro about the Jewish themes in her latest novel, Signal Fires. “The book is also influenced by the author’s own Jewish identity. Shapiro, who grew up in an Orthodox household, had previously written a New York Times bestselling novel, Inheritance, about learning that her biological father was actually a non-Jewish sperm donor. Growing up, Shapiro’s blonde hair and blue eyes meant that she often heard from others that she “didn’t look Jewish,” comments that oftentimes led to her focus her writing on her Jewish identity. ‘I wanted people to know that I was Jewish before they could say something that I might not want to hear,’ she added. Signal Fires is different. ‘To me, it is a very Jewish book that doesn’t announce itself as such,’ Shapiro said. ‘It really was a feeling of wanting the Jewishness to simply be embedded in this family.’” [JI]

Around the Web

Googleis making a $10 million donation to Feeding America to upgrade its technology and increase capacity over the winter holidays…

Tamara Klinger-Levi is joining the Gimprich Family Foundation as its Israel representative…

Speaking at the Milken Institute’s Middle East and Africa Summit in Abu Dhabi about the women leading protests in Iran, human rights advocate Marjan Keypour Greenblattsaid that “it is really a sin to be quiet about it and not to reflect their voices.”

Instagram influencer Lizzy Savetskyceased filming for Bravo’s “Real Housewives of New York City,” citing antisemitic backlash to her casting…

Community leaders in Waukegan, Ill.condemned the recent vandalism of dozens of Jewish headstones in a local cemetery. One instance of the graffiti read, “Kanye was rite,” referencing Kanye West’s recent antisemitic comments…

The Anti-Defamation League and GLAAD, the LGBTQ media advocacy organization, have launched a partnership to combat hate against the LGBTQ community in the United States by tracking incidents of hate and extremist activity…

The Orthodox Union’s Yachad division is embarking on a national expansion of its Reach program, a resource and referral service that connects people with disabilities to the services and information they need…

The University of Haifa signed a memorandum of understanding with United Arab Emirates University and the Germany-based GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, launching a five-year research program to address harm to marine ecosystems in the Middle East and the Gulf…

Pic of the Day

Today marks the opening of the New Light Memorial Chapel, which is dedicated to the memory of Richard Gottfried, Daniel Stein and Melvin Wax — the three members of New Light Congregation who were killed, along with eight other worshippers, in the 2018 Pittsburgh synagogue shooting. The chapel is located at the congregation’s cemetery in Pittsburgh.


NEW YORK, NEW YORK – NOVEMBER 01: Lorne Michaels speaks onstage during National Action Network’s (NAN) 30th Anniversary Celebration at Carnegie Hall on November 01, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Johnny Nunez/WireImage)

Original creator and producer of “Saturday Night Live,” Lorne Michaels (born Lorne Lipowitz)…

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK)… Rabbi of Agudath Israel of Baltimore, he is also the rabbinic administrator of the Star K Kosher Supervision service, Rabbi Moshe Heinemann… Detroit philanthropist and director of the William Davidson Foundation, Karen Davidson… Global editorial director of the Huffington Post Media Group, his bar mitzvah was at Tree of Life – Or L’Simcha Congregation in Pittsburgh, Howard Fineman… Editor-at-large for Washingtonian magazine and author of a biography of Bernie Sanders, Harry Jaffe… Film and television director, writer and producer, Jon Avnet… Founder and principal of ourCovenant, Diana Aviv… Warehouse logistics manager at NPC Global, Daniel Gastaldi… Nonfiction author and journalist, he lectures in the graduate journalism program at Stanford University, Gary M. Pomerantz… Attorney and business executive who once played on the South African national teams in both cricket and field hockey, Mandy Yachad… Retiring U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA)… Director of the Domestic Policy Council in the Biden administration, Susan Rice… “The Travelling Rabbi” of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies who serves 11 sub-Saharan countries, Moshe Silberhaft… U.S. ambassador to Switzerland during the Obama administration, Suzan Gail Davidson (Suzi) LeVine… Executive editor and Washington bureau chief of Talking Points MemoDavid Kurtz… Segment producer at HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher,” Michele Tasoff… Partner in Seven Letter, Ralph Posner… Director of human resilience at Apeiron ZOH, Michael Ostrolenk… President of NBC News, Noah Oppenheim… Executive director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, Halie Soifer… Partner at AKPD Message and Media, Isaac Baker… Baseball player for 14 seasons, NL Rookie of the Year, five-time NL All-Star and NL MVP in 2011, Ryan Braun… NFL fullback for six seasons (2010-2016) with the Bucs and Saints, he has since earned an MBA from Wharton, Erik Lorig… U.S. foreign affairs and defense correspondent for the Financial TimesFelicia Schwartz… Mortgage lender at Baltimore-based River Holdings, Zack Teichman… Student at Harvard University, he serves as executive director of the Israel Summit at Harvard, Aidan Golub

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