Your Daily Phil: Getting kosher options in food pantries + Yoga for Israeli combat vets

Good Wednesday morning!

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on a new group using yoga to help Israeli combat veterans with post-traumatic stress and feature an op-ed from the Jim Joseph Foundation. Also in this newsletter: David Beckham, Itamar Eichner and Jonathon Sherman. We’ll start with efforts to secure more kosher and halal options in American food pantries.

Some 200 representatives of Jewish communal groups participated in a virtual conference with the U.S. Department of Agriculture last week as part of an effort to increase access to kosher and halal foods under the White House’s strategy to combat antisemitism, according to New York’s Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, which hosted the event, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross.

During the meeting last Wednesday, the more than 200 “national Jewish communal stakeholders” – officials from organizations that are involved in this effort – received an update on where things stand today and what next steps need to be taken in order to ensure that people who observe the laws of kosher and halal and who are dealing with food insecurity are able to receive the food that they need, according to Met Council. The event was also organized by UJA-Federation of New York and Jewish Federations of North America.

Met Council CEO David Greenfield told eJP that the mere fact that all of those people, representing 16 states and dozens of communities, were together in a meeting on this issue was itself a milestone. “I’ve been doing this for 20 years. For the first time in my lifetime, we gathered everybody across the country who cares about these issues. We had 200 people from 30 cities, and we’re now working together on behalf of the community. I think that’s a game changer,” he said.

There are no definitive estimates for how many Jews or Muslims nationwide who are experiencing financial hardship only eat kosher and halal food, but a recent food distribution program in New York City found that more than a fifth of the recipients requested kosher or halal meals, according to a Met Council study.

To that end, the Met Council – along with JFNA and other Jewish organizations across the U.S. – is working to increase the number of kosher- and halal-certified foods in the USDA’s food pantries, either by getting the USDA’s vendors to certify the existing brands that they use or by getting them to switch to kosher options. In either case, Greenfield said, the change should not affect the cost of these items.

There are currently eight items in the USDA’s food pantries that are required to be certified kosher, out of roughly 200 – a low number but far higher than the one item that was certified until a few years ago. “The ability to move that number is significant. I think that’s really what we’re trying to do,” Greenfield said.

As part of that effort, the Met Council and the other organizations spearheading this effort are pushing for the USDA to create an office specifically focused on kosher and halal foods.

Read the full story here.

warriors pose

Courtesy/Brothers in Yoga

About seven months ago, Gil Vivante – a successful mechanical engineer who had worked at a number of large and small tech companies following his military service – realized that he had to take a break. The post-traumatic stress disorder that he had been grappling with off and on for some 15 years had returned, mostly triggered by stress from work. He hadn’t slept for weeks. He was constantly on alert and on edge. He wasn’t functioning at home with his family or at work. He and his wife knew that this situation couldn’t continue. He began undergoing traditional psychological and psychiatric treatments. He also started to do yoga. “I was in a WhatsApp group for veterans of the 890th Battalion… and one of the guys posted something about ‘Brothers in Yoga’ – so that’s how I got to them,” Vivante told eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross. “We did our retreat in the Jerusalem hills, and that’s how I started my internal journey.”

Giving the tools: Neta Margalith developed the idea for Brothers in Yoga soon after she returned to Israel in 2020 after spending several years abroad — in the United States, the Bahamas and India — in yoga ashrams. As she began studying trauma-sensitive yoga, a specific variety of the practice that is specifically geared toward treating complex trauma and PTSD, Margalith said inspiration struck. “One day, I just decided that this is what I want to do. I didn’t know how, I didn’t have proper training, but there was just this understanding that there are tens of thousands of people who aren’t being helped and who don’t have the tools that they need,” she told eJP.

The body is key: “One of the ways in which people become combat soldiers is through physical exercise… In that training, we treat our bodies differently. We learn to suppress certain feelings, we learn to use the body as a tool, to ignore certain sensations [like pain or fatigue],” Alon Weltman, a psychologist studying the mind-body connection in combat veterans, said. “Yoga allows you to do the opposite with the body. You pay attention to your body and don’t just use it.” Weltman stressed that yoga is not a “standalone” treatment for PTSD, but said that it can complement other therapies or allow people to seek additional treatment.

Read the full story here.

Getting help

Best practices for selecting the right consultants for a job

Getty Images

“Retaining consultants with expertise in different areas enables the Jim Joseph Foundation to better support grantee-partners and take a more holistic approach to philanthropy. Whether looking for consultants for evaluation and research, strategic planning, event facilitation, or any other specialized area, we crowd-sourced ideas from our team to think about best practices borne from our own experience hiring consultants and from supporting many grantee partners through this process,” writes the Jim Joseph Foundation in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

A healthy relationship: “Talk with people who have worked with the consultant (or consultants) before on similar projects to learn about the experience. Find out if the consultants’ work proved to be valuable. If you are considering a larger firm, ask for references who have worked with the specific team or individual who would lead your project… A client-consultant relationship should have a high level of comfort, which leads to a more honest and trusting relationship.”

A force multiplier: “No matter which side of the funding relationship you are on, having highly skilled, trusted consultants often is critical to both advancing and elevating your work, and for fundraising. The more information you have, the more likely you are to select the consultant most equipped for your project at hand.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Philanthropy as a Lifesaver: In The Dallas Morning News, the interim president and CEO at Philanthropy Roundtable argues that philanthropy is the key to addressing America’s mental health crisis. “With 1 in 5 U.S. adults living with some degree of mental illness, millions of families across the country are touched by this issue. But a lack of mental health resources and access to quality care remains a concern in communities around the country… Solutions to this growing problem, however, are complicated. There are various types and levels of disease that need to be treated in different ways. Depending on where one lives, the need for services can far outnumber the trained mental health professionals available, especially in rural areas. And while government agencies are attempting to address the lack of mental health resources, research and access to care, there is no way the government can solve this problem… Fortunately, Americans have a secret weapon in fighting this battle — private philanthropy. Philanthropy has historically played a life-saving role in the medical field from helping us to eradicate polio to the more recent development of the COVID-19 vaccine. And, today, philanthropy is supporting numerous nonprofits that serve those living with mental illness, advance vital research and train mental health practitioners who can provide quality care.” [DallasMorningNews]

Home is Where the Shul Is: In The New York Times, Rabbi David Wolpe reflects on his time at the pulpit of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. “After 26 years in the rabbinate, as I approach retirement, I have come to several realizations. All of us are wounded and broken in one way or another; those who do not recognize it in themselves or in others are more likely to cause damage than those who realize and try to rise through the brokenness. This is what binds together a faith community. No religious tradition, certainly not my own, looks at an individual and says: ‘There. You are perfect.’ It is humility and sadness and striving that raises us, doing good that proves the tractability of the world and its openness to improvement, and faith that allows us to continue through the shared valleys… Religion may be on the decline in this country and in the West, but if you wish to see the full panoply of a human life, moments of ecstatic joy and deepest sorrow, the summit of hopes and the connections of community, they exist concentrated in one place: your local house of worship.” [NYT]

Around the Web

The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust issued an $18 million grant for the construction of a computer science building at Ben-Gurion University in Beersheva…

B’nai B’rith presented its World Center Award, recognizing excellence in “Diaspora reportage,” to Yedioth Aharonoth and Ynet reporter Itamar Eichner last night. Maariv reporter Josh Aronson and eJewishPhilanthropy news editor Judah Ari Gross received certificates of merit. Izhak Hildesheimer received the organization’s Lifetime Achievement Award…

The Israeli NGO IsraAid is opening a new office in Sydney to better facilitate the organization’s activities in the Pacific, particularly in a long-term project in Vanuatu…

Jonathon Sherman, the son of slain Canadian billionaire philanthropists Honey and Barry Sherman, donated $52 million to the Toronto Jewish community so it can build a new hockey rink, the Honey and Barry Memorial Arena…

Open Society Foundations will lay off at least 40% of its staff. The mass termination announcement came a month after George Soros handed control of the multibillion-dollar foundation to his son Alexander

Jewish groups denounced the BBC after one of its presenters, Anjana Gadgil, said on-air that “Israeli forces are happy to kill children” in an interview last night with former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett about the IDF’s recent operation in the West Bank city of Jenin…

Soccer star David Beckham, whose maternal grandfather was Jewish, said he was “proud to be part of the Jewish community” at the the launch of the Lira Winston Fellowships, which nurture Jewish education leaders, at St. John’s Wood Synagogue in London…

Fox News agreed to pay $12 million to settle a lawsuit from a former staffer, Abby Grossberg, who accused the network of maintaining an antisemitic and sexist workplace atmosphere…

A gala event for Beit Halochem U.K., which donates money for a network of Israeli facilities that help wounded IDF veterans, raised $1.59 million for the organization…

The New York City Department of Education found that 18 Hasidic yeshivas in the city had failed to provide the education required by state law, following an eight-year investigation…

Gerald Benstock, chairman and CEO of Superior Group of Companies who donated to many Jewish causes, died last week at 93…

Evelyn Phyllis Berkowitz, a longtime member of Texas’ Jewish community and donor to Hadassah, died this week at 90…

Eva Kastan Grove, a Northern California-based philanthropist and social worker who was born to Austrian Jewish parents who fled the Nazis, died recently at 87…

Pic of the Day

Courtesy/Tamara Leigh

Middle and high school teachers visit the Holocaust Museum LA last week as part of the Summer Institute held by the California Teachers Collaborative for Holocaust and Genocide Education. The more than 100 teachers who attended the event heard the testimony of 100-year-old survivor Joe Alexander and toured the museum.


Courtesy/Hadassah Facebook

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