Your Daily Phil: Holocaust survivors fight denial online

Good Thursday morning.

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on the Nazarian family rejecting calls for UCLA to shutter the Israel studies center that it funds, and feature an opinion piece by Daniel Smokler about the “Jewish journey” versus the “Jewish homecoming.” Also in this newsletter: Tsofit Gordon, John Arnold and Shira FrankWe’ll start with a new campaign to combat Holocaust distortion and denial by the Claims Conference.

As the last generation of Holocaust survivors ages, and with antisemitism and Holocaust denial and distortion spreading across social media, a new digital campaign, launched on Thursday by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, will spotlight survivor testimony that debunks misinformation, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen.

The project comes ahead of Yom HaShoah — Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day — which begins Sunday night. The day will resonate differently this year, as Jews worldwide are focused on the aftermath of a more recent crisis, the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks in Israel and the 133 hostages remaining in Hamas captivity. But Greg Schneider, executive vice president of the Claims Conference, told eJP that it was important that the monthlong campaign, called #CancelHate, centers on the Holocaust.

“There’s the spoken and the unspoken,” he continued. “The spoken is that we are witnesses to what happened in the 1930s and ’40s. You can survive, you can overcome, and people who say it’s not true are liars, they are wrong. [They will hear survivors say] ‘I was there.’”

At the same time, there is an overlap in the messages between the Holocaust and today’s antisemitism, Schneider said. “The underlying feeling is that we are in dark and dangerous times but we have a responsibility to stand up and tell the truth and not let hate go unchecked,” he said.

The campaign features video clips of Holocaust survivors reading Holocaust denial posts from across social media platforms. Each post illustrates how Holocaust denial and distortion can not only rewrite history but perpetuate antisemitic tropes and lead to hate, according to the organization.

#CancelHate comes on the heels of a recent Claims Conference study which found that 49% of American millennials or Gen Z over age 18 report having seen Holocaust denial or distortion posts on social media or elsewhere online. In the U.K., 29% of adults saw denial or distortion on social media. The group also found that in Canada, 22% of millennials and Gen Z were not sure if they had heard of the Holocaust, and in France, 25% of millennials were unsure if they have ever heard of — or have not heard of — the Holocaust. 

A fifth of Americans ages 18-29 believe the Holocaust was a myth, according to a December poll from The Economist/YouGov.

Abe Foxman, former national director of the Anti-Defamation League, is one of the #CancelHate participants. In a statement, Foxman said, “I survived the Holocaust, but 13 members of my immediate family were murdered because they were Jewish. Holocaust denial on social media isn’t just another post. These things we say matter. Posts that deny the Holocaust are hateful and deny the suffering of millions of people. We must take our words seriously. Our words matter.”

Read the full report here.


UCLA donor Sharon Nazarian decries anti-Israel protesters’ demands to shutter school’s Israel studies department

Inside the Palestine Solidarity Encampment on the campus of UCLA in Los Angeles on Wednesday, May 1, 2024. Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images

Sharon Nazarian, the president of her family’s foundation and chair of the advisory board for UCLA’s Israel studies center, which it funds, stressed the need for the center in light of demands by anti-Israel activists on the campus — and across the country — to boycott both Israeli academic institutions and the department, calling such demands “blatant censorship” on par with “book burning,” reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross.

It’s medieval: “Our family and our Nazarian Center Advisory Board unequivocally and stridently reject any calls for boycotting academic centers of learning and research of any country, and specifically of Israel,” Nazarian said in a statement. “Impeding access to knowledge is a medieval and anti-democratic tactic that has never led to any positive societal change. Those targeting such scholarship — in many cases animated by antisemitism and anti-Israel hatred — aim only to vilify Israel and those who study and teach about it.”

Enabling chaos: The Jewish Federation of Los Angeles condemned Tuesday night’s violence, specifically the “abhorrent actions of a few counter protestors,” whom the organization said “do not represent the Jewish community or our values.” At the same time, the federation cast blame on the UCLA administration and the chancellor, Gene Block, which “enabled the chaos” by failing to enforce its rules and protect Jewish students. “The chancellor has allowed for an environment to be created over many months that has made students feel unsafe, allowed for illegal encampments in violation of its own laws, refused to censure faculty and staff who flouted UCLA’s code of conduct, and has been systemically slow to respond when law enforcement is desperately needed,” the organization said in a statement.

Read the full report here.


Jewish professionals: It’s time to focus on homecomings, not journeys

Illustration by arthobbit/Getty Images

“The philosopher Richard Rorty famously argued that a culture’s moral aspirations can be discerned from the metaphors it favors… What does it say about Jewish culture that we so ubiquitously use the metaphor of the “Jewish journey” to describe the experience of being Jewish in America today?” writes Dan Smokler, chief innovation officer of Assembly, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

The hero’s journey: “A journey is a classic narrative motif that imagines a hero breaking from family, community and culture to set out on a purposeful search. It can take the form of a quest, pilgrimage or internal odyssey to self-understanding… There are, however, glaring limits to a journey metaphor. For instance, it is hard to speak about ‘we’ when using a language of personal journeys. Collective interest and the demands of history or family fall to the wayside when an individual focuses solely on the next step in their unique, ever-unfolding odyssey. The journey metaphor is powerful — and I have indeed used it a great deal in my years as a Jewish educator and rabbi — but it is also limited, especially at a historic juncture like the one we are living through today.”

An alternative framing device: “A homecoming is another kind of classical narrative image, one where the individual returns to a group, place or culture to which they once belonged, either in reality or in their imagination. In listening to the stories of Jewish adults over the last six months, I observed that they did not want to embark on a Jewish quest; rather, they wanted to be embraced, rooted and called upon as a member of a Jewish community… Homecoming challenges us to imagine that being Jewish is not only about making unique life choices and being the hero of our own quest. It is also about being obligated to family and extended family in ways both wonderful and infuriating. It means showing up as part of the collective, sometimes in ways that aren’t what we might have expected or chosen ourselves. It means giving of our time, talent and other resources to something bigger than ourselves, because it is in our collective interest.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

State Assistance: In the Israel Hayom newspaper, Tsofit Gordon argues that the Israeli government needs to create a “Socioeconomic Security Council” to evaluate the needs of Israeli society and direct donors to the nonprofits addressing them. “For many years, the Israeli government has preferred to step back and let NGOs manage Israeli society through professional non-profit organizations, volunteer work, and donations. The intent may have been well-meaning… But the pendulum has swung too far. The bottom line is that civil society in Israel today is almost entirely managed by the social sector. The social sector has indeed demonstrated its tremendous operational capabilities, but the recent months have also highlighted that in times of distress, people and organizations choose to donate to the visible, media-focused areas… This is where we return to the role that the state can and should take upon itself: the establishment of a professional and experienced body to advise it on matters of the social sector… Within its role, it will be able to coordinate the resources not only to the places that are front and center at that particular moment but also to provide an in-depth and strategic view of the less-visible needs, where the contribution and assistance are sorely needed now.” [IsraelHayom]

Not Inherently Noble: In the Los Angeles Times, Jonah Goldberg makes a distinction between the act of protesting and the content of protests, and offers insight to why quelling today’s campus demonstrations is an ideologically hard task for today’s leaders. “Organized protest is a form of speech, and, like speech, it is rightly protected by the 1st Amendment. But, also like speech, its morality — though not its legality — is wholly dependent on the content. You have a right to say, or protest for, awful things. Invoking that right doesn’t make your view any nobler. The Jim Crow-era civil rights protests were noble because the cause was noble. They did not prove that protesting is always good, merely that it can be… As a generation, progressive baby boomers take a back seat to nobody in their stunning self-regard and overestimation of their historical importance. But these people have shaped the narratives of academia, entertainment and journalism. They’ve convinced themselves, and the young minds they shape, that protest is self-justifying, a rite of passage of enlightened youth. Elite universities, run by acolytes of this cult, struggle to deal with protests because they believe, as a matter of educational philosophy, that giving voice to authentic passion is the route to self-actualization… Performative protest feels good for those drunk on their own, unearned sense of importance. But such spectacles are often terrible for their intended ends. That’s one more reason not to glorify protest for its own sake.” [LATimes]

A Candid Mea CulpaIn The Chronicle of Philanthropy, an executive at Candid acknowledges criticism of the nonprofit organization, which provides data and research on nonprofits and foundations. “Most notably, some have accused us of using extractive practices because we ask nonprofits to contribute their data for the organizational profiles we run on our platform but charge a fee to those who want deep access to that data. We believe our efforts to respond to such criticisms and revamp our approach during the past few years could be a helpful guide to other organizations that recognize the need to change but aren’t sure how… What’s best for an organization and what’s best for the larger social sector aren’t necessarily the same. Through collaborative problem solving, those of us with power and resources can change our practices and demonstrate the behavior needed to create a truly equitable charitable world.” [ChronicleofPhilanthropy]

Around the Web

The law firm Greenberg Traurig, representing the families of nine Israelis and Americans killed in the Oct. 7 Hamas terror attacks, announced a suit against American Muslims for Palestine and National Students for Justice in Palestine for serving as “collaborators and propagandists” for Hamas in the days after the attack…

The White House will host a celebration later this month to mark Jewish American Heritage Month; next week, President Joe Biden will also deliver the keynote address at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s “Days of Remembrance” ceremony for Yom HaShoah…

Police in Poland arrested a teenager accused of throwing a firebomb into Warsaw’s No?yk Synagogue, the city’s only synagogue to survive the Holocaust; nobody was injured in the attack, which caused minimal damage…

A new survey by the European Forum at the Hebrew University found that a significant percentage of Europeans believe that antisemitism is a serious issue — 63% in France; 59% in Germany; 48% in the United Kingdom; and 30% in Poland. The respondents were generally divided on the cause of it however, with the blame primarily going to the far right and Muslim immigrants…

The Houston Chronicle profiles John Arnold, who made billions as an energy trader and created a foundation with his wife, Laura, focused on criminal justice reform and climate change infrastructure…

Philadelphia 76ers owners Josh Harris, David Blitzer and David Adelman — as well as former owner Michael Rubin — are buying and distributing 2,000 tickets to tonight’s playoff game in Philadelphia against the New York Knicks, in an effort to keep Knicks fans from buying up the arena’s tickets; the tickets will be given to first responders, community organizations and health care professionals…

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency profiles Joseph Abruzzo, a Palm Beach County, Fla., comptroller who has purchased $700 million in Israel Bonds for the county since Oct. 7, making it the single largest Israel Bonds holder in the world…

Shira Frank was hired as the next executive director of the Jewish LGBTQ Donor Network

Dalia Fleming is stepping down as executive director of the British LGBTQ nonprofit KeshetUK, after seven years in the role…

New Jersey’s Drew University will revise its harassment policies, support the creation of an Israeli student association and improve security around the campus Hillel, as part of a mediation agreement with the Department of Education in response to a complaint by Jewish students over the school’s response to antisemitism on campus following the Oct. 7 terror attacks…

Seven Jewish members of Northwestern University’s antisemitism advisory committee stepped down from the body over university President Michael Schill’s handling of anti-Israel demonstrations on campus…

CNN interviews Jewish high school seniors who are reconsidering their college choices amid rising antisemitism on a number of campuses; the deadline to confirm enrollment for the coming academic year for most schools was yesterday…

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof suggests that the campus anti-Israel protests are hurting, not helping, the Palestinian cause…

The House of Representatives passed the Antisemitism Awareness Act yesterday by a 320-91 vote…

The Financial Times spotlights GOP donor Jeffrey Yass, a major backer of TikTok parent ByteDance, amid efforts on Capitol Hill — including by Republicans — to force the company to sell the social media platform…

Pic of the Day

Illini Hillel/Facebook

Students at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign — home of the first campus Hillel, founded in 1923 — demonstrate for Israel at a gathering on Wednesday beside Alma Mater, a statue on campus that serves as a symbol of the university.


Annie Liebovitz smiles

Co-founder and president of private equity firm NCH Capital, philanthropist who has established a literature prize in honor of his father, Sam Rohr, and hundreds of Chabad Houses at universities throughout the world, George Rohr

Former U.S. ambassador to Denmark, he financed the visitors center at the Touro Synagogue in Newport, R.I., John Langeloth Loeb… Former lord chief justice and president of the Courts of England and Wales, Baron Harry Kenneth Woolf… Retired professor at NYU’s Center for Global Affairs, journalist, international negotiator and private consultant, Alon Ben-Meir… Author of 23 books and conservative political activist, Alan Merril Gottlieb… U.S. senator (D-VT) since 2023, Peter Welch… Former member of the Texas Senate, she was born in NYC to Holocaust survivor parents, Florence Shapiro … Former USAID contractor imprisoned by Cuba from 2009 to 2014, Alan Phillip Gross… Former under secretary of state for public diplomacy following a stint as managing editor of Time magazine, Richard Allen “Rick” Stengel… Member of the New York State Assembly since 2010, he was previously a member of the NYC Council and former deputy superintendent of the NYS Banking Commission, David Weprin… Former U.S. secretary of commerce in the Obama administration, she is on the board of Microsoft, Penny Sue Pritzker… Partner at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, she is active on many nonprofit boards including Penn Law School and the Jewish Federations of North America, Jodi J. Schwartz… Television writer and reality television personality, Richard G. Rosner… Rear admiral in the Israel Defense Forces (reserves), he served as the commander of the Israeli Navy, Ram Rothberg… Director of the Chabad Center in Bratislava, Slovakia, Rabbi Baruch Myers… Founder and CEO of Shutterstock, Jonathan E. Oringer… Israeli writer known for his novels, essays and philosophical work, Yaniv Iczkovits… SVP of Drumfire Public Affairs following four years as deputy chief of staff to then-Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, Stephen Schatz… D.C.-based CBS News correspondent, Julianna Goldman… Podcast host and founder and president of ETS Advisory, Emily Tisch Sussman… Judicial law clerk at the USDC in Seattle, Gabe Cahn… Deputy executive director at Cornell Hillel, Susanna K. Cohen… Running back for the NFL’s Green Bay Packers, A. J. Dillon