Your Daily Phil: Holocaust Museum LA breaks ground on major expansion

Good Thursday morning.

In today’s edition of Your Daily Philwe report on Jewish Agency emissaries in the United States and calls in Congress to strip federal funding for universities that tolerate antisemitism. We feature an opinion piece from Elliot B. Karp about this week’s March for Israel and one from Addie Goodman and Lily Rabinoff-Goldman about Jewish community centers. We’ll start with the groundbreaking of the Holocaust Museum LA’s expanded campus. 

Under gray skies, with a large tent providing cover for guests from renegade raindrops, 200 people — among them 15 Holocaust survivors, civic officials and Jewish community leaders — gathered at Pan-Pacific Park in Los Angeles on Wednesday for a ceremonial groundbreaking on the expansion of the Holocaust Museum LA’s campus, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Esther D. Kustanowitz from the scene. 

Museum leadership says the expansion will double its capacity and enable it to engage 150,000 students in education about the Holocaust and against hate each year. It is expected to be completed in 2025. 

At the event, Holocaust survivor Paul Kester recalled the “death and destruction, hopelessness and fear” in his childhood in Germany during and after Kristallnacht. “No country wanted us, the doors were closed… [now] at the age of almost 98, I again experience not fear, but concern, disgust and disappointment over a new wave of antisemitism,” he said.

“This time it is not government-organized. But it is not limited to acts by ignorant and confused individuals. It is pervasive among all levels of society, especially among this country’s intellectual elite, among the faculties and students of our best and greatest universities. But today, I can say times are different. We can fight this new antisemitism and the Holocaust Museum of Los Angeles is uniquely qualified to do this.”

The museum’s CEO, Beth Kean, told eJP that the capital campaign had already raised $43 million, taking them to 80% of their goal.

“Today is a big celebration because this is four years in the making. And with the frightening surge in antisemitism that’s here locally and around the world, we’re really feeling a sense of urgency,” Kean said. 

Read the full report here.


Yearning for Israel, Jewish Agency emissaries find community in America

A vigil for Israel led by a Jewish Agency emissary that was held on an American college campus following the Oct. 7 attacks. Courtesy/Jewish Agency

When Aya, a Jewish Agency for Israel emissary, moved from a kibbutz near the Gaza border to a city in the American South with her husband and three children in August to help tell Israel’s story, she knew she was facing a heavy lift. Then Oct. 7 happened. “I spoke to myself and tried to prepare myself for an event like this,” Aya told Jay Deitcher for eJewishPhilanthropy, saying she had known that she might face unfair criticism of her home country as well as antisemitism. “But this is my worst nightmare times a million. I did not, I could not imagine something like this.”

It hits home: The job of a Jewish Agency emissary, or shaliach, a kind-of Israeli cultural ambassador in Jewish communities around the world, is challenging at any time. But last month’s Hamas massacre has added a new, and emotionally fraught, element to the job. “This is not what they signed up for,” Neta Katz Epstein, chief program officer of the Jewish Agency’s North American delegation, told eJP. “Among all 363 [American] shlichim, everyone knows someone who was either murdered, kidnapped or injured.”

Renewed resolve: Aya, whose community was evacuated, said she misses her friends and family, but knows she is doing what she can for them. “They need me to make sure that people don’t forget. They need me to make sure that people understand what happened. They need me to make sure people understand Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak is not just a name, it’s a community of almost 700 people who are going through hell, no less,” she said. “I definitely want to be with my people. I really do. But I also have another new people. I’m a part of a community, an amazing community that has been supporting me and my family through all this… As much as it’s hard and it’s painful, I think that it’s a true honor and blessing to be doing this.”

Read the full report here.


Lawmakers move to cut federal funding to colleges over antisemitic activity, push for federal probes of SJP and AMP

Aaron Schwartz/Xinhua via Getty Images

In response to growing antisemitic activity, including threats, harassment and intimidation of Jewish students on college campuses, House lawmakers on Wednesday moved to cut federal funding to schools that don’t respond forcefully to such activity, as well as floated investigations of groups involved with anti-Israel campus demonstrations, reports Marc Rod for eJewishPhilanthropy’s sister publication Jewish Insider.

Dire warning: Adam Lehman, the president and CEO of Hillel International, who testified, warned that “if we don’t act, if we don’t collectively find a way… to heal these communities, to eradicate the hate that we allowed to fester, we will see” an incident similar to the deadly shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue on a college campus.

What’s the limit?: The hearing, which also featured testimony from Cornell student Talia Dror, was marked by a significant degree of public anger and frustration from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, including some who have been critical of Israeli policy in the past, about the situation that has unfolded on campuses. “There is no excuse for tolerating violence. Freedom of speech is not a get-out-of-jail-free card to abuse others,” Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) said.

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


Fighting the (other) good fight

Jewish students participate in the March for Israel on the National Mall Nov. 14, 2023 in Washington, DC. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

“I do not want our young people to develop a Jewish identity built upon fear and persecution, hostages and hate. Instead, I want the Jewish community to provide even more opportunities for our Jewish youth to continue to be strong, fearless and vocal Jews filled with Jewish pride and a love for Israel and the Jewish People,” writes Elliot B. Karp, former president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Las Vegas, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Positive pathways: “While support for Israel and combating antisemitism during this war is critical, now is the time for the American Jewish community to double down on its efforts to instill a positive sense of Jewish identity and enhance experiences that contribute to Jewish pride. How? There are many opportunities…”

Read the full piece here.


It’s time to opt in

Two young staff members at JCC Greater Boston’s Camp Grossman. Courtesy/JCC Greater Boston

“Jewish people are recalibrating what it means to be American and Jewish, Jewish and American. Our Jewish community centers are poised to be the place for this exploration, connecting community members to their Jewish identity and to one another,” write Addie Goodman and Lily Rabinoff-Goldman, CEOs at the Chicago JCC and JCC Greater Boston, respectively, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Impactful resources, underutilized: “The research is clear: choosing Jewish early learning centers is when young families enter a lifetime of Jewish communal engagement, and choosing Jewish summer camp has long been vital to ensuring deep Jewish identity development and choice-making. At the same time, the 2020 Jewish Population Study shows that only 31% of Jewish-defined households in Chicago send their children to Jewish preschool, trumped by the 40% who send to non-Jewish preschools. National Jewish overnight camp participation statistics share that well under 20% of kids going to camp are going to Jewish camps.”

Existential and pragmatic considerations: “Kids and families need to gather, to connect, to feel affirmed and to contribute to building strong, meaningful and enduring Jewish communities. At the same time, the vast majority of Jewish communal institutions are supported not only by the generosity and dollars of visionary philanthropists, but also by the tuition dollars and program fees paid by everyday people who choose excellent programs and Jewish experiences for themselves and their families. Our respective JCCs in Chicago and Boston, for example, earn about 80% of their revenue from program dollars. Participation is the most vital factor for strong JCCs across the American Jewish home front.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Don’t Forget the Little Guy: In Arizona’s Jewish News, Len Gutman, the vice president of philanthropic services at Jewish Family & Children’s Service, makes the case for modest donations to nonprofits, which are often overshadowed by major gifts. “Very large gifts by some of the wealthiest Americans have increased and these gifts have received more than their share of publicity… A mega-gift can transform an organization, but the vast majority of nonprofits still rely on modest gifts from local individuals… The truth is small donations are essential for nonprofits, especially for those with smaller budgets. Most nonprofits need a steady flow of moderately sized gifts to fund their work. A large one-time gift may create a lot of buzz and fund a single short-term need, but mega donors tend to be one-and-done donors… Charitable giving makes people feel good, builds community, evokes gratitude and is even good for your health, as it has been shown to decrease stress. However, more than that, nonprofits need money to do work that government and private business have abandoned. Every dollar counts for your local pet shelter, arts group, children’s charity or social services organization.” [JewishNews]

No Exceptions: “The beauty of international humanitarian law is that it applies universally, to all people fighting all wars, whether just or unjust,” writes Noah Feldman in an opinion piece for The Atlantic. The challenge is that when laypeople throw around words like “genocide” and “proportionality,” the disparity between the colloquial use and legal definition of those terms leads to more than confusion about their application. “The whole point of international humanitarian law is to establish a minimal morality that can apply even during the terrible and bloody business of war. The rules of conflict in war do not address the underlying question of which side is right. Instead they bracket that question, on the understanding that, in wartime, neither side is going to concede that the other’s cause is worthy. The terms, in other words, are designed to adjudicate what may and may not be done while fighting a war, not whether the war is just. The reason to do this is to protect human life and dignity under conditions of the deepest human disagreement. Using these terms in ways that either differ from or actually contradict their legal meaning erodes the power of international humanitarian law.” [TheAtlantic]

Supporting the Art(ist)s: In addition to his storied career as an artist, Alex Katz, 96, is a philanthropist with a distinctive form of giving, James Tarmy reports in Bloomberg. “To date, the Alex Katz Foundation has donated more than 700 works to institutions and millions of dollars to various arts organizations. … Unlike many artist foundations, which dole out grants and prizes, Katz’s takes a novel approach. It tends to buy the works of midcareer or young, up-and-coming artists from their galleries and then donates them to museums — particularly a small group of institutions in Maine, where Katz has had a vacation house since 1954. This unconventional model supports the art world ecosystem by spreading funds through galleries, artists and museums, elevating lesser-known artists in the process.” [Bloomberg]

Around the Web

A poll by the nonpartisan Jewish Electorate Institute found that nearly three-quarters of Jewish voters (74%) approve of President Joe Biden’s handling of the war between Israel and Hamas. The poll also found that a large majority of U.S. Jews have an emotional attachment to Israel, with 51% saying they’re “very attached” and another 31% saying they’re “somewhat attached”…

The Combat Antisemitism Movement is hosting its 2023 North American Mayors Summit Against Antisemitism, bringing dozens fo mayors and city officials from across the country to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., for the two-day event… 

The U.S. government warned Israel that it was violating the terms of the Visa Waiver Program, putting its inclusion in the list of countries that do not require a visa to visit the U.S. at risk. The program has already allowed hundreds of family members of hostages held by Hamas to visit American Jewish communities and meet U.S. officials…

FBI Director Christopher Wray told Congress that a large majority of threats reported to the agency in the past month have targeted Jews…

Opposition Leader Yair Lapid called for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to be ousted — the first time he has issued such a call since the war with Hamas began — amid growing dissent over how the government is responding to the crisis…

Parents and teachers from Oakland, Calif., have teamed up to combat anti-Israel activism in local public schools, with help from the Jewish Community Relations Council Bay Area, after the teachers’ union released a statement decrying the “75 year long illegal military occupation of Palestine”…

Elon Musk is under fire again for appearing to support an antisemitic conspiracy theory that Jews are responsible for a concerted effort to bring immigrants to Western countries to undermine them…

Israeli First Lady Sara Netanyahu wrote a letter to First Lady Jill Biden in which she confirmed that an Israeli hostage who was pregnant on Oct. 7 is believed to have given birth in captivity…

The BBC apologized after falsely claiming that the Israel Defense Forces had targeted medical staff and Arabic speakers in Gaza (the report had in fact said the IDF brought medical teams and Arabic-speaking troops into Gaza to assist in its efforts to root out Hamas at Shifa Hospital). The gaffe came hours after the Israeli sketch comedy show, “Eretz Nehederet,” lampooned the British broadcaster for its coverage of the war…

A London art gallery postponed an exhibition by the artist Ai Weiwei over recent comments that he made, which were deemed antisemitic…

In a letter sent to a large number of Jewish groups, World Zionist Organization Chair Yaakov Hagoel called on Jewish funders to refrain from donating to American universities “that promote hatred of Jews” on their campuses…

The Bank of Israel warned Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich that the government ought to announce a freeze on pork-barrel spending for 2024 or it could scare off investors…

Gary Winnick, a telecommunications tycoon with close ties to Michael Milkendied earlier this month at 76…

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.

Board leaders and senior management of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee pose with Israeli President Isaac Herzog at his residence in Jerusalem as part of a solidarity mission earlier this week.


Annie Liebovitz smiles
Brett Forrest/SOPA Images/Lightrocket via Getty Images

1994 Olympic figure skating gold medalist, Oksana Baiul

Retired justice on the Supreme Court of Canada, Morris Jacob Fish… Professor of mathematics and statistics at Concordia University in Montreal, Abraham J. Boyarsky, Ph.D.… Milwaukee-based founder and co-managing director of A.B. Data, Ltd, Bruce A. Arbit… Manager of HR and operations at IKAR, Susan Brooks… Writer and producer for television and film, Jeff Pinkner… Executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, Matt Brooks… SVP of national programs at the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America, Rabbi Justus Baird… Israeli singer-songwriter, author and travel documentarian, known professionally as “Passerby,” Gilad Segev… Author of several novels, he was the book columnist for the Washington Post until 2022, Lavie Tidhar… SVP at The D. E. Shaw Group, Michael A. Levi… 1994 Olympic gold medalist in figure skating, she first discovered that she was Jewish when she was 25 years old, Oksana Baiul… Stage, film and television actress, Margalit Ruth “Maggie” Gyllenhaal… Israeli actress, model, film producer and TV host, Adi Ezroni… VP at Jetro Restaurant Depot, he is a former NFL placekicker and punter, Hayden Scott Epstein… After 15 seasons in the NBA, he became an owner and player for Hapoel Jerusalem and led the team to an Israeli League championship, Amar’e Yehoshafat Stoudemire… Snowboarder for the U.S. Olympic team in 2014 and 2022, he competes in the halfpipe, Taylor Gold