Your Daily Phil: ‘HaOgen’ supports families of IDF reservists

Good Monday morning.

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on Jewish organizations pushing Congress to increase funding for the federal Nonprofit Security Grant Program, and feature an opinion piece from Arthur Maserjian, as well as one by Rabbi Jan Katzew and Rachel SeeAlso in this newsletter: Rabbi Sharon BrousBrent Landau and Jon Falk. We’ll start with an Israeli nonprofit, HaOgen LeMishpachot HaMiluim, which is supporting the families of reservists.

The latest offering of the Israeli sketch comedy show “Eretz Nehederet” takes the classic Israeli song, “Givat Hatachmoshet,” about the soldiers fighting to capture Jerusalem’s Ammunition Hill in the Six-Day War, and turns it on its head, focusing it on the growing frustrations of the wives of reservists as the war in Gaza drags on with no clear end in sight, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross.

“I’m sending an email with one hand, and in the other, I’ve got a frying pan,” one frantic, wild-haired woman sings. “And I’m already out of Clonex,” she adds, referring to a common anti-anxiety medication.

To offer some form of assistance to these reservists’ spouses, early in the war, Rachel Azaria, a former deputy mayor of Jerusalem and one-time Knesset member, along with social entrepreneur and activist Yael Yechieli and high-tech executive Racheli Shuraty, created HaOgen LeMishpachot HaMiluim (The Anchor for the Families of Reservists), a nonprofit that offers assistance to the spouses — and even ex-spouses — of reservists.

“We help with babysitting or even just providing an extra set of hands while the mother is still home, bringing cooked food, transporting kids, help around the house, taking the dog for a walk, moving apartments,” Azaria told eJP.

The nonprofit provides help to more than 10,000 families of reservists across the country — not one-off assistance but regular support, Azaria stressed — through a network of thousands of volunteers in 250 cities and towns.

One aspect of the “Eretz Nehederet” parody — dubbed “The Wives of Tzav Shemoneh (Order 8),” referring to the official term for the military orders issued to call up reservists — that Azaria said particularly and increasingly reflected reality was one woman on the phone demanding, “Get me the battalion commander!” While having to hear the complaints of a soldier’s family may seem like a minor inconvenience given the circumstances, these types of calls are increasing and can have a significant impact on morale and can distract from the war effort, Azaria said.

“Battalion commanders are contacting us and saying, “The biggest problem we are having is the families,’” Azaria said.

“The military is realizing that this is a problem, and that they don’t know how to do this. We know how to do this custom-tailored assistance,” she said.

The nonprofit’s leaders initially had a mindset that its services would be needed  “one more month, then one more month,” but after a recent meeting with the military they understood that some reservists would be deployed — with occasional breaks — for at least a year, requiring additional staff, technological services and funds to pay for it all.

“We’ve had to change from a sprint to a marathon,” Azaria said.

Read the full report here.


A Miami Beach police patrol drives past Temple Emanu-El synagogue in Miami Beach, Fla., on Oct. 9, 2023. Photo by Marco Bello/AFP via Getty Images

As Congress works to finalize 2024 government funding by the new mid-March shutdown deadline, Jewish communal groups are urging lawmakers to increase funding for nonprofit security grants to $500 million, in addition to funding expected as part of the emergency aid bill for Israel and other U.S. allies, reports Marc Rod for eJewishPhilanthropy’s sister publication Jewish Insider.

Must do more: A coalition of 14 Jewish groups sent a letter on Thursday to the Republican and Democratic leaders of the House and Senate, as well as the leaders of each chamber’s appropriations committee, calling for the funding increase. “We are grateful that Congress has delivered record funding to protect America’s Jewish and faith institutions. Sadly, the new reality requires us to do more to keep our communities safe,” the letter reads. “A key way is by including increased funding for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program in the annual appropriations and supplemental funding bill, so at-risk communities can be protected from the rising threat of hate.”

Lifesaving: Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt highlighted his organization’s recent finding that more than 630 incidents — including bomb threats and swatting incidents — have targeted Jewish institutions. “This is why increased funding for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program is more important than ever,” Greenblatt said. “The Jewish community is united in urging Congress to act expeditiously to fund this potentially life-saving program in both the yearly appropriations bill and the national security supplemental.”

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


With antisemitism skyrocketing, American universities need to adopt the IHRA definition now

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“Antisemitism can only be confronted and combated if we can first identify it. Many good-intentioned people today fail to recognize contemporary forms of antisemitism that are not dressed in the language of neo-Nazism or the imagery of the Holocaust,” writes Arthur Maserjian, chief of staff of the Combat Antisemitism Movement, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Why the resistance: “The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism is the most widely accepted definition of the phenomenon, allowing for a universal framework for understanding what constitutes antisemitic behavior in the 21st century. The IHRA is an international institution with 35 member states, including the U.S. Despite this, because several examples of contemporary antisemitism under the IHRA’s definition deal with Israel-related antisemitism, and because our institutions of higher learning are increasing held captive by views drenched in anti-Zionist forms of antisemitism, many U.S. colleges and universities have balked at adopting and using it… Institutional adoption and use of the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism is a crucial first step in identifying and crafting effective policies to combat this scourge.”

Read the full piece here.


Learning as healing

iFellows Cohort 13 gather for the second of three seminars in Chicago earlier this month. Courtesy/iCenter

“We need to co-create as many opportunities as possible for our people to learn, to teach, and to translate learning into living,” write Rabbi Jan Katzew, a senior consultant to The iCenter, and Rachel See, program director of the group’s iFellows master’s concentration in Israel education, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Meeting of the minds: “Jewish education, and consequently Israel education, is a conversation with people in the room and with people on the page. Amos Oz claimed that Jews are connected by textlines, and for three intensive days at an iCenter experience during the first week of January, students and faculty were connected by an enduring, sometimes endearing, conversation. This conversation was with each other and with diverse and divergent voices about the places of Israel in Jewish learning and living… Now more than ever, we are leaning on the strength of this community to help chart a path forward in Israel education and to support educators and communities in this crucial moment.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Israel Needs YOU: In The Times of Israel, Jonathan Riskind — fresh off a Jewish Federations of North America volunteering trip — insists that Israel needs volunteers right now, and not only because there is lots of work to be done. “Just being there, being present, is extremely meaningful to Israelis. Several soldiers came to eat with us before taking the burgers back to their units. They were a bit dumbfounded, yet very happy that we were willing to come to Israel in the middle of the war and spend time cooking for them… [A]t the end of our volunteer mission, we walked around an outdoor shopping area next to the Old City in Jerusalem. During past visits, we would hear English and other languages. This time we heard almost no English, only Hebrew as it was nearly all Israelis walking around, and in much smaller numbers than normal. We walked into a shoe store where we have frequently shopped and the saleswoman recognized us with a startled and disbelieving look: ‘What are you doing here?’ When we responded that we were here to volunteer, to help in some small way, and to see our friends, she started to cry. It means so much, she said, to see that Americans are not abandoning us. So, please go to Israel. Work. Observe. Hug people. You won’t be sorry.” [TOI]

Good or Bad, Just Show Up: In The New York Times, Rabbi Sharon Brous, of Los Angeles’ Ikar community, discusses a Mishnaic ritual of recognizing grief, which she says remains relevant and powerful today. “Several times each year, hundreds of thousands of Jews would ascend to Jerusalem, the center of Jewish religious and political life. They would climb the steps of the Temple Mount and enter its enormous plaza, turning to the right en masse, circling counterclockwise. Meanwhile, the brokenhearted, the mourners (and here I would also include the lonely and the sick), would make this same ritual walk but they would turn to the left and circle in the opposite direction: every step against the current… do not take your broken heart and go home. Don’t isolate. Step toward those whom you know will hold you tenderly. And on your good days — the days when you can breathe — show up then, too. Because the very fact of seeing those who are walking against the current, people who can barely hold on, and asking, with an open heart, ‘Tell me about your sorrow,’ may be the deepest affirmation of our humanity, even in terribly inhumane times… We cannot magically fix one another’s broken hearts. But we can find each other in our most vulnerable moments and wrap each other up in a circle of care.” [NYTimes]

A Leader’s Legacy: Following the recent death of Bernie Steinberg — a founding fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute, a founding teacher at the Pardes Institute of Jerusalem, and director of Harvard Hillel for almost 20 years — Rabbi Julia Appel shares how he impacted her life on The Wisdom Daily news publication. “It’s hard to fully explain what it meant to sit in Bernie Steinberg’s office at Harvard Hillel and have him just believe in me to the edge of the earth and beyond… [T]he thing Bernie gave me the most was his belief in the fact that my life was important. That what I would do with my life was important. That I should make choices to ensure that my contribution to the world could be most clearly and powerfully made. It was different from simply mentoring with Bernie. He looked at me and basically said, you are important, don’t ever forget it, and you owe it to the Holy Blessed One who put you here to rise to your purpose. This was his leadership philosophy. It wasn’t about getting followers or convincing others you were brilliant or right. It was about following your highest purpose… I know I’m not alone in this. The number of Jewish professionals who took this path because Bernie was their teacher, mentor, and friend is significant. And the number of students who took the path to their calling, whatever it might be, because of their time with Bernie is also significant.” [TheWisdomDaily]

Around the Web

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla and columnist Bret Stephens both wrote opinion pieces (in Time and The New York Times, respectively) reflecting on their meetings at last week’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, with the families of Israelis being held hostage in Gaza …

Several families of hostages set up an encampment outside of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s home on Jerusalem’s Azza Street as a form of long-term protest, demanding the government reach a deal to secure the release of the captives…

Dozens of Hispanic Christian leaders from across the U.S. sent a letter to lawmakers pledging their support for Israel and urging “fasting and prayer” for the hostages held in Gaza…

The popular police procedural show “Law & Order” kicked off its 23rd season with an episode about a murder case centered around campus antisemitism

Elon Musk is expected to speak onstage in Auschwitz this week as part of the European Jewish Association’s annual delegation of leaders to the concentration camp for International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which falls on Saturday…

The American Friends of Hebrew University held an awards dinner in Las Vegas on Saturday night honoring local philanthropist and attorney David Z. Chesnoff. More than $1 million was raised at the event, which will go toward student scholarships and the university’s Clinical Legal Education Center

San Francisco Mayor London Breed declined to veto a city council resolution calling for an extended cease-fire in Gaza, which she had criticized as pointless and inflammatory. Breed visited Israel earlier this year with the Bay Area Jewish Community Relations Council, which has until now commended her response to the Oct. 7 attacks and the ongoing Israel-Hamas war…

Brent Landau, a prominent Philadelphia attorney and treasurer of the city’s Congregation Rodeph Shalom synagogue, was named the next executive director of the Public Interest Law Center

The World Zionist Organization will hold an emergency conference in Jerusalem next month to discuss the challenges facing Israel and the Jewish people after the Oct. 7 attacks…

The United Kingdom’s Jewish Chronicle profiles Laurie Rackind, who is stepping down at the end of this month as CEO of the Jewish mental health nonprofit JAMI after 18 years in the role…

Israeli First Lady Sara Netanyahu is reportedly looking to oust one of Israel’s English-language government spokespeople, Eylon Levy, over his past public criticism of her husband and his coalition…

The Wall Street Journal interviewed Ben Sasse, the University of Florida’s president and former U.S. senator, about antisemitism on college campuses, in which he criticized many of his colleagues’ responses to the Oct. 7 attacks but warned against adopting a “let it all burn” mentality about higher education…

Jon Falk, the vice president of Hillel International’s Israel Action and Addressing Antisemitism Program, argues in The Times of Israel that despite some worrying trends, there are “reasons to be hopeful” about the situation on college campuses…

The Columbia University chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace will remain suspended for the spring semester after they refused to commit to following the school’s policies. Despite being suspended, the groups have continued to hold unofficial events on campus…

The Atlantic’s Peter Wehner, a senior fellow at the Trinity Forumargues against efforts to supplant Jewish history with Palestinian history in the land of Israel, particularly as it relates to Jesus…

An argument broke out in a recent meeting of the Reno City Council over its decision to donate $3,000 to the local federation, Jewish Nevada

Tim Delaney, who has served as president & CEO of the National Council of Nonprofits for 16 years, will retire in July…

Menachem Daum, a filmmaker who co-produced, an influential 1997 documentary about American Hasidim, “A Life Apart,” died earlier this month at 77…

Pic of the Day

Over 50,000 people attend the traditional Birkat Kohanim (Priestly Blessing) at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City today, during Chol Hamoed (the intermediary days) of Sukkot.
Ardon Bar-Hama

This poetry manuscript in Judeo-Arabic by Yemenite rabbi and poet Shalom Shabazi, in the author’s original handwriting, is just one of 60,000 Yemenite-Jewish manuscripts and fragments donated to the National Library of Israel by the family of the late collector and author Yehuda Levi Nahum. The Nahum family formally presented the collection to the library at a ceremony on Thursday in Jerusalem.


Annie Liebovitz smiles

Founder and executive director of the Brooklyn-based Bridge Multicultural and Advocacy Project, Mark Meyer Appel

Professor at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, she is regarded as a founder of cancer immunology, Eva Klein… Co-founder in 1965 of the Japanese video game company Sega, David M. Rosen… Nobel Prize laureate in chemistry in 2000, he is a professor emeritus at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Alan J. Heeger… Los Angeles resident, Ruth Lynn Kopelove Sobel… Managing director and founder of Brave Warrior Advisors, he is the son of Hall of Fame baseball star Hank Greenberg, Glenn H. Greenberg… Rabbi Mark Samuel Hurvitz… Brooklyn-born conductor, who during his tenure as artistic director of the Kraków Philharmonic became friends with Pope John Paul II for whom he later conducted multiple Papal concerts, Gilbert Levine… Senior political law counsel and consultant at Akin Gump, Kenneth A. Gross… Publisher at Chicago Public Square, Charlie Meyerson… Partner in the Cleveland law firm of Meyers, Roman, Friedberg & Lewis, Lisa Arlyn Lowe… Former director-general of the Israeli Defense Ministry, he is a retired Major General in the IDF, Ehud “Udi” Adam… Member of the Knesset for Likud, Katrin (Keti) Shitrit-Peretz… Justice on the Supreme Court of Israel since 2012, Noam Sohlberg… Michael S. Marquis… President of the World Jewish Restitution Organization, Gideon Taylor… American-Israeli composer, pianist and music producer, Roy Zu-Arets… Actor best known for his role as Harvey Specter on the series “Suits,” Gabriel Macht… Play-by-play broadcaster for the Washington Commanders, Bram Weinstein… Rabbi at the Midway Jewish Center in Syosset, N.Y., Joel Mark Levenson… Director of the Chabad House in Kathmandu, Nepal, Rabbi Yechezkel “Chezki” Lifshitz… News editor at Mishpacha MagazineYochonon Donn… Senior project specialist for the International Rescue Committee, Heidi Rosbe… Managing director at SKDKnickerbocker, Kendra Barkoff Lamy… Financial services editor at PoliticoZachary Warmbrodt… Houston native and philanthropist, Serena Hines… Music composer Justin Hurwitz… Corporate associate at Covington & Burling LLP, Mark Donig… NYC-based managing director at PoliticoJesse Shapiro… Tax reporter for the Washington Post, she is also a professional balloon twister and was a 2018 contestant on “Jeopardy!”, Julie Zauzmer Weil… Israeli singer known by the mononym Netta, Netta Barzilai… Jewish hockey player most recently playing for a Russian team, he was a first-round pick of the New York Islanders in 2014, Josh Ho-Sang… Actress, best known for her role as Nicky Reagan-Boyle in the CBS series Blue Bloods, Sami Gayle… Banking and finance associate in the Chicago office of Mayer Brown, Matthew Lustbader