Your Daily Phil: Hillel launches Talmud-inspired mental health fellowship

Good Wednesday morning!

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In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on a new mental health initiative for college students by Hillel International, and feature an opinion piece from Hal M. Lewis. Also in this newsletter: Jonathan Barsade, Rachel Beanland and Nermine Khouzam Rubin. We’ll start with the latest in the ongoing spat between Elon Musk and the Anti-Defamation League.

Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt dismissed billionaire Elon Musk’s threat of a defamation suit against the organization as “frivolous,” saying the group’s primary concern is rising, violent antisemitism in the United States ahead of the High Holidays, reports eJewishPhilanthropy‘s Judah Ari Gross.

After initially saying it would not discuss Musk’s legal threat, on Tuesday evening Greenblatt released a statement saying that it was “profoundly disturbing” that the owner of X, previously known as Twitter, was “engaging with a highly toxic, antisemitic campaign” against the ADL. This was in reference to an effort, led by a group of white supremacists, to “ban the ADL,” which has primarily been seen on social media but has also taken place in the real world, with a group of neo-Nazis marching in Orlando, Fla., over the weekend, holding flags with swastikas and chanting the slogan.

Though Musk said he would not ban the ADL from X, he “liked” and responded favorably to many of the calls to do so over the weekend, and on Monday he wrote in a tweet that he may “have no choice but to file a defamation lawsuit” against the ADL, accusing the organization of causing companies to stop advertising on the platform, significantly reducing X’s revenues.

Greenblatt responded: “To be clear, the real issue is neither the ADL nor the threat of a frivolous lawsuit. This urgent matter is the safety of the Jewish people in the face of increasing, intensifying antisemitism.”

American Jewish Committee CEO Ted Deutch spoke out on behalf of the ADL, saying in a statement that social media companies must do more to remove antisemitic content from their platforms and that they must be held accountable for failing to do so.

“Pointing out the rampant antisemitism on X is not ‘controlling’ anyone or threatening X’s business. Platforming bigotry is,” Deutch wrote.

In addition to the AJC, a number of Jewish organizations and figures — including some staunch critics of the ADL — came to the group’s defense, from far-left groups like IfNotNow to right-wing commentators like the Washington Examiner‘s executive editor, Seth Mandel, and many in between.

sage advice

Illustrative. University students take part in a Jewish Learning Fellowship program, in an undated photograph. (Courtesy/Hillel International)

Who am I? How do I make friends? What communities am I a part of? These are some of the questions students across the country will explore through the Jewish Learning Fellowship’s (JLF) program “Ancient Wisdom for Modern Wellbeing,” a 10-week seminar led by Hillel International starting this fall, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen.

A new field: Mental health and well-being have not traditionally been Hillel’s primary focus. But when Leenie Baker started in fall 2021 as wellness director at USC Hillel, she noticed that there was no way for students to engage with well-being skills as a community that meets together on a regular basis outside of a clinical setting. “There were so many cultural norms that needed to be rebuilt that year,” Baker said. “Students needed to navigate how their boundaries changed during lockdown.”

A textual basis: The wellness seminar curriculum is structured around a foundational text from the Babylonian Talmud that quotes Micah 6:8, “It was told to you what is good and what God demands of you: only [1] to do justice, [2] to love kindness, [3] and to walk humbly with your God.” Mollie Feldman, senior director of the Joseph and Rebecca Meyerhoff Center for Jewish Experience at University of Maryland, told eJP that “commentary on the text understands that the Micah verse reflects all 613 mitzvot through three categories: reflexive mitzvot between a person and themself (bein adam l’atzmo), mitzvot between people (bein adam l’chaveiro), and mitzvot between people and God (bein adam l’makom).” She added: “With this framing, the curriculum explores each of these core categories, relationship to self, relationship to others and relationship to God/the divine, through both Jewish texts and applied practices to support holistic wellness.”

Read the full story here.

Modest like Moses

Rejecting the ‘false alternative’

Getty Images

“Inspired by millennia of Jewish teachings and persuaded by the plethora of recent academic and business literature, I am convinced that if we want engaged partners and followers, increased efficiency and a pipeline leading to viable succession planning, we must reject the ‘I alone can fix it’ mindset. And yet, much as I would love to assert the principle of humble leadership uber alles, the evidence is far from dispositive,” writes Hal M. Lewis, the immediate past president and CEO of the Spertus Institute, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

The ‘Mosaic model’: “Moses, the greatest Jewish leader, is counterintuitively described as the ‘most humble of all people on earth’ (Numbers 12:3). The link between Moses’ efficacy and his humility is not coincidental. As I have written in From Sanctuary To Boardroom: A Jewish Approach To Leadership, his modesty led him to recognize his own limitations, learn from the wisdom of others, acknowledge his mistakes, and reconsider his own decisions on several occasions.”

When an absence seems like an asset: “Though it is hard for some to admit, leaders who elevate cocksureness over humility convey a sense of confidence and ease that their followers find reassuring, and those leaders can attract a substantial following. … At the core of this conundrum lies a fundamental misunderstanding about what it means to lead humbly.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Won’t Somebody Please Think of the Parents?: In The Washington Post, Abha Bhattarai looks at the impending childcare crisis in the United States and its ramifications on the economy. “Millions of parents — mothers, in particular — could soon be [considering quitting their jobs to stay home with their children due to rising daycare costs], as states run out of $24 billion in stimulus money Congress had set aside for child care during the pandemic. That record investment has helped keep the industry afloat by propping up workers’ salaries, boosting training programs and waiving family payment requirements. Now, with the last of that money expiring this month, an estimated 70,000 child-care programs could close as a result of lost funding, causing 3.2 million children to lose care, according to a study by the Century Foundation, a liberal think tank. That translates to $10.6 billion in lost U.S. economic activity, researchers found, adding new strain to a nation already struggling with a profound lack of child care.” [WashPost]

First, Admit There’s a Problem: In J. The Jewish Weekly of Northern California, Dan Pine explores the opioid epidemic in the Jewish community and the issue of addiction more generally. “Although no studies have specifically examined the impact of fentanyl on the Jewish community, a 2020 survey conducted by UJA-Federation New York found that ‘10% of Jewish adult respondents indicated that they have a substance abuse problem.’ The survey included adults of ‘all levels of observance, religious belief and belonging to Jewish communal organizations’… [Rabbi Paul] Steinberg sees addiction as something practically unavoidable for the Jewish community — and anyone else in America, for that matter. ‘We are inculcated into a very toxic culture,’ the rabbi said. ‘Two-thirds [of American adults] are on prescription medications for some illness, and that’s not including self-medicating with illicit drugs and alcohol. We could also talk about food, gambling, the internet, shopping, self-mutilation, sugar, caffeine. This is all part of our culture.’” [J.]

Around the Web

U.S. Jewish groups hailed the Biden administration’s nomination of former Treasury Secretary Jack Lew for the post of U.S. ambassador to Israel, with the Orthodox Union calling him a “seasoned negotiator and dedicated public servant.” The Zionist Organization of America, however, said it “strongly opposes” him for the role…

The first U.S.-based charity dedicated exclusively to funding the protests against the Israeli government’s judicial overhaul, the America-Israel Democracy Coalition, was launched recently, led by Israeli-American Jonathan Barsade

Four “amazingly preserved” 1,900-year-old Roman swords, which may have been used in the Bar Kochba revolt, were found in the Judean Desert…

British communal leaders had a “frank, and not always comfortable” meeting with Israeli Diaspora Affairs Minister Amichai Chikli in London yesterday. During the meeting, those in attendance voiced their concerns to Chikli about the government’s judicial overhaul, as well as the “pressures faced by the Israeli LGBT community, the rights of Reform Jews in Israel and the severe challenges facing Arab citizens of Israel”…

Enrique Tarrio, the former head of the Proud Boys fascist group, was sentenced to 22 years in prison for his role in planning the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol building…

The Samuels Family Foundation provided a grant for an undisclosed amount to the Joan and Stanford Alexander South Texas Jewish Archives at Rice University to digitize thousands of pages of Houston Jewish history, including decades worth of Jewish Federation of Greater Houston board minutes, program guides and newsletters…

Ten researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have received nearly $18 million (16.7 million euros) in “starting grants” from the European Research Council for a variety of projects, with each receiving between 1.5 to 2.5 million euros…

The Rabbi Jonathan Sacks Legacy Trust is publishing a trove of free educational resources for the upcoming High Holidays inspired by the former British chief rabbi’s teachings…

George Soros’ Open Society Foundations pledged $107 million to start a new foundation to assist Europe’s Roma population. The announcement comes amid questions about the foundation’s future in Europe…

A new eye-tracking tool developed by the Marcus Autism Center, which is funded by philanthropist Bernie Marcus, may help doctors diagnose autism a year or two earlier than is currently possible…

The Mandel JCC in Boynton Beach and Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., retracted its invitation to author Rachel Beanland to speak about her new work, The House Is On Fire, due to the book’s focus on slavery (it’s about the true story of an 1811 fire at a theater that killed 72 people in Rich­mond, Va.), which the JCC said was a “complicated” topic to discuss in Florida. After Beanland published the emails disinviting her, the JCC re-invited her, but she declined…

The philanthropy research organization Candid is giving control of its website about community foundations, CF Insights and the staff that run it to the Council on Foundations, an umbrella group consisting of nearly 900 nonprofits. Candid’s CEO said this is to allow her organization to focus on its core issues…

Labour Friends of Israel held its largest-ever delegation to Israel and the West Bank, bringing seven prospective Labor parliamentary candidates, as well as former MP Dame Louise Ellman and LFI’s vice-chair MP Sharon Hodgson

A new report from the Council on Foundations and the Commonfund Institute found that U.S. foundations showed the largest year-over-year drop in their investment returns since 2008…

Shabtai Shavit, the seventh head of the Mossad spy agency, died yesterday at 84…

Bill Pinkney, a Jewish sailor who was the first Black person to sail around the Earth solo, died last Thursday at 87…

David Wolnerman, the last known Holocaust survivor living in Des Moines, Iowa, died on Monday at 96…

Pic of the Day

Courtesy/Water 4 Mercy

Water 4 Mercy founder and CEO Nermine Khouzam Rubin (center, blue shirt) cuts a ribbon to open the Israel-Kenya Don Bosco Agricultural Innovation and Technology Center in Embu County, Kenya, which will train and equip local farmers to produce better and more crops.

The opening ceremony was attended by Israeli Ambassador Michael Lotem; Embu County Deputy Gov. Kinyua Mugo; Don Bosco Technical Institutes of Africa Board Chairman Fr. George “TJ” Tharaniyil; CultivAid Co-Founder Tomer Malchi; and Don Bosco Embu’s rector, Fr. Babu Augustine.


Roberto Serra – Iguana Press/Getty Images

Author, he won the 2022 Pulitzer Prize for fiction for his novel The Netanyahus, Joshua Cohen

Retired 36-year member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Michigan Rep. Sander Levin… Co-founder and chairman of Murray Hill Properties in NYC, Norman Sturner… Madi Portugal… Chair of the New York State Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee, Helene Weinstein… Oncologist and bioethicist, he is the older brother of U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel and Hollywood mogul Ari Emanuel, Ezekiel Jonathan “Zeke” Emanuel… Co-founder in 2008 of Kol HaNeshamah: The Center for Jewish Life and Enrichment and co-author of a new siddur, Dr. Adena Karen Berkowitz… Founding managing director at Olympus Capital, Daniel R. Mintz… Former New Jersey Governor and presidential candidate, Chris Christie… Toronto-based publisher and entrepreneur, she serves on the board of governors of Shalem College, Elisa Morton Palter… Rabbi of Temple Shalom in Louisville, Ky., Beth Jacowitz Chottiner… Treasurer of Southfield, Mich., Irv “Moishe” Lowenberg… Chess Grandmaster since age 14, Ben Finegold… Co-founder and chairman emeritus of Fuel For Truth, Joseph S. Richards… Chief communications officer at Bloomberg LP, Jason Schechter… Israeli film, television and stage actor, Amos Tamam… Retired rabbi at Beth El Synagogue in Minneapolis, now a consultant, Avi S. Olitzky… Principal at Avisa Partners, Daniel Flesch… Communications director at the William F. Buckley, Jr. Program at Yale University, Ari Schaffer… Australian born entrepreneur, Ben Pasternak… Actor whose career started at 8 years old and continues through the present, Asher Angel