Your Daily Phil: How one New York synagogue is pulling in young members

Good Wednesday morning. 

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we interview Matan Adelson — the son of Sheldon and Dr. Miriam Adelson — about his purchase of the Israeli  professional basketball team Hapoel Jerusalem, and feature an opinion piece by Amy Spitalnick about the importance of raising awareness and deepening understanding of the connection between antisemitism and broader threats to democracy. Also in this newsletter: Naomi Eisenberger, Rachel Kalikow and Sally Angel. We’ll start with how one Upper East Side synagogue is bucking trends and attracting young members.

Polls in recent years show that synagogue attendance is dwindling for the majority of American Jewish young adults — especially those unmarried and without children — who either don’t attend regularly, or hop around between different synagogues without joining and paying dues. Yet people under 36 are increasingly flocking to the Upper East Side Orthodox synagogue Altneu — and committing to the $1,200 per person, per year price tag, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen.

The synagogue’s leaders attribute this both to their own efforts to develop a welcoming, attractive community and to the broader rise in engagement that is being seen throughout the Jewish world after the Oct. 7 terror attacks and accompanying rise in global antisemitism, what the Jewish Federations of North America has referred to as “The Surge.”

According to the synagogue’s data from May, nearly 40% of the 430 paying member units are under 36 (this does not include children). Members between 36-55 and members older than 55 make up the remaining 30.42% and 30.76%, respectively. Congregants under 36 who spoke to eJewishPhilanthropy, several of whom did not come from a traditional Orthodox background, attributed Altneu’s allure to the newness and innovation of the synagogue that still hews to tradition. Additionally, they pointed favorably to the congregation’s lack of marketing specifically to young professionals, which some said make it feel like more of a “scene” than a community, as well as the relative young ages of its leadership: Rabbi Benjamin Goldschmidt, 36, and his wife, journalist Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt, 32.

Altneu was founded in 2022 by Goldschmidt and Chizhik-Goldschmidt after the couple abruptly split from the 130-year-old Park East Synagogue, one of the city’s most established and moneyed Modern Orthodox congregations, also located on the Upper East Side. Until this spring, Altneu had no permanent location. In March, after extensive fundraising from a board that includes bankers, CEOs and a Blackstone executive, Altneu purchased a Tudor Revival townhouse on East 70th Street for $34.5 million. (The donors have declined to be identified.)

In an interview with eJP, Chizhik-Goldschmidt noted the significance of the new location’s timing — which she said will allow for more extensive classes and programming. “Post-Oct 7.,” she said, “there are those who are giving towards fighting antisemitism and looking outward. Now is also a time to focus inward, not just on strengthening Diaspora Jewry, but building sustainable, creative, innovative, forward-thinking communities that are not shells of themselves but real and vibrant.”

According to Chizhik-Goldschmidt, “the shul is not a classic Modern Orthodox synagogue.”

“We have a broad spectrum,” she said. “Everyone from people who were unaffiliated before to those who grew up quite Orthodox. Everyone is looking for a spiritual experience. It’s a place where they matter and are seen. The beauty of a new synagogue — which I never thought about until this was my life — is that in a new synagogue, everyone is new. So there’s no dodgy, stuffy snobbery. The culture isn’t ‘who are you, what’s your name, where are you from’ like in a lot of New York City.” 

Judith Frishman, 31, joined Altneu with her husband, Shlomo, 30, in 2022. “I would hop between a few Upper East synagogues every week, usually Shlomo didn’t want to come,” Judith, who works at JP Morgan, recalled. “I tried out Altneu and since that time we basically stopped going anywhere else.”

Shlomo described going from the type of person who wanted to stay home instead of going to synagogue to the “guy pushing my wife out the door to go to shul.”

Read the full report here.


Matan Adelson’s hoop dreams for Hapoel Jerusalem

Teens from across the country celebrate Opening Session of USY International Convention in Orlando, Fla. with teens from the Metropolitan New York area.
Matan Adelson (center) courtside. David Michaeli

Just a few hours from Jerusalem’s Pais Mivtachim Arena, IDF soldiers continued to battle terror groups in Gaza and in Lebanon, but inside the stadium, Hapoel fans cheered, chanted and sang passionately as their beloved team, Hapoel Jerusalem, battled up and down the court against Maccabi Tel Aviv in a pivotal semifinal game. It was this unwavering support and thrilling environment, with the fans in red keeping up their chanting for the whole game, that drew Matan Adelson – youngest son of Miriam and Sheldon Adelson – to buy out the team’s previous owners a year ago and take on the unique challenge of turning Hapoel, which has all the charm of a community team, into the face of Israeli basketball and, he hopes, an international brand, reports Ruth Marks Eglash for eJewishPhilanthropy’s sister publication Jewish Insider.

Lifelong dream: Adelson, who moved to Israel three years ago, is no stranger to the world of professional basketball. As he tells it, he’s been in love with the game since he was a child and his lifelong dream, he explained to JI in a rare interview, has been to own his own basketball team. “But when I turned 18, my dad sat me down and said, ‘If you ever have the chance to buy the Lakers, don’t do it,’” Adelson, 25, told JI. When the younger Adelson asked why, his father replied: “Because the Lakers will always be the Lakers, they’re always going to be in the biggest market with the most championships and the sexiest brand, and you’ll have very little room to create value with the Lakers” Adelson continued: “He told me to ‘buy a team that’s down here and build it up to here.’ By creating value, you’re going to learn a lot and you’re going to be very personally fulfilled.”

What Jerusalem deserves: Fast-forward a few years, when the opportunity to buy Hapoel Jerusalem came across his desk. Adelson, who also invests in startups, realized the purchase could be the “opportunity to create the value that my dad was ultimately referring to,” he said. When Adelson announced his takeover of the iconic Jerusalem team in a press conference last June, he laid out his vision for Hapoel, saying that “Jerusalem deserves a basketball team that reflects just how magnificent it is.” Among the goals outlined, Adelson said he hoped to boost the team’s brand internationally, including entering it into the Euroleague alongside Maccabi Tel Aviv, bringing the Basketball Champions League’s finals to Israel, as well as setting up exhibition games with international teams, including those in the NBA.

Joining the family: Adelson counted at least 20 diehard Hapoel fans who were killed on or since Oct. 7 and two who were taken hostage: Ofir Engel, who was released during the cease-fire last November, and Hersh Goldberg-Polin, have been consistently highlighted by the team and the fans. Last month, Engel, 18, joined the players in lifting the trophy after their win in the Israeli State Cup, while Goldberg-Polin’s image now adorns some of the team’s merchandise and a full-size banner calling for him to be brought home hangs in the stands.“At the beginning of the war, I attended a few funerals and shivas; it has been a powerful experience,” recounted Adelson. “I asked all those I met what Hapoel means to you, and they all responded that it was like family,” he said. “While it’s very cliche to say, ‘my sports team is my family,’ it is very apparent that this is actually what Hapoel is – it means so much for so many people.”

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


We must work across communities to fight antisemitism and defend democracy

Amy Spitalnick, CEO of JCPA (right), Maya Wiley, president of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights (center), and Idit Klein, president of Keshet discuss Jewish safety and inclusive democracy during a session of JCPA’s Jewish Communal Summit on June 17, 2024 in New York. Perry Bindelglass

“Recent research from the University of Chicago, the Anti-Defamation League and others underscores the deep connection between antisemitism and broader threats to democracy and diverse communities,” writes Amy Spitalnick, CEO of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Important insights: “Belief in conspiracy theories such as the antisemitic Great Replacement are among the biggest drivers of political violence and anti-democratic extremism. Similarly, belief in conspiracy theories is among the best predictors of antisemitism. We’ve seen this in the recent cycle of white supremacist violence targeting the Jewish, Black, Latino, Muslim and other communities, as well as in post-Oct. 7 conspiracy theories related to Jewish or ‘Zionist’ power and influence. All of this tells us that the fight for democracy and the safety of all communities requires countering antisemitism because it animates and fuels broader extremism and hate.”

More informed conversation needed: “Jewish safety is most assured in inclusive, liberal democracies where the safety and rights of all communities are protected. Yet the conversation on antisemitism in the United States is too often myopic, lacking context on how this ancient form of hate is interconnected with other forms of bigotry and anti-democratic extremism. This has multiple consequences.”

The post-Oct. 7 reality: “Over the last year, I’ve worked with a group of Jewish and democracy-focused foundations to better understand how we can more effectively connect the conversations on antisemitism and democracy in hopes of charting a different path forward… Here’s the good news: The research shows that messaging connecting Jewish safety with our democracy, democratic norms and values, and the safety of others isn’t just accurate — it resonates strongly with the communities who must be engaged in this fight.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Numbers Game: In The New York Times, Peter Coy examines the pros and cons of effective altruism, a data-driven philanthropy strategy whose main champion was recently convicted. “You don’t hear so much about effective altruism now that one of its most famous exponents, Sam Bankman-Fried, was found guilty of stealing $8 billion from customers of his cryptocurrency exchange… Effective altruism is a new movement inspired by philosophers (including Peter Singer and William MacAskill) and embraced by Silicon Valley engineers who pride themselves on taking a logical, data-driven approach to life. Its emphasis on issues it describes as important, neglected and tractable has led to a focus on global health and development along with animal welfare and threats to humanity such as bioterrorism and nuclear war… Effective altruism’s dispassionate calculation of benefits and costs can take it to weird places… Some effective altruists focus single-mindedly on preventing the extinction of the species so that those unborn generations have the opportunity to exist. Bettering the lives of living human beings pales in significance… ‘Some of the data that E.A. has brought to bear is helpful in challenging people about what good they can do,” [Phil Buchanan, the founding chief executive of the Center for Effective Philanthropy,] said. “But I want to resist the temptation to say there’s a formula. That’s not going to persuade folks. People have to make these judgments for themselves. For some people, faith will enter into it.” [NYTimes]

A Lifelong Impact: In The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Eboo Patel, founder and president of Interfaith America, recounts learning about community, civil society and democracy as a child from spending time at his local YMCA. “At the Y, you learned life lessons through actions, not words. The one crucial exception was a sign above the front desk that read, ‘No Youth Turned Away for Inability to Pay.’ I had grown up comfortably middle class, and a Y membership was just one of the regular privileges of daily life for my friends and me. But looking at that sign each afternoon helped instill in me a consciousness that what I took for granted many others lacked and that it was the job of institutions to help level that playing field… Kids who were mean to each other at school were nice to each other at the Y. Somehow, the Y created a space where it was easier for people to be good to one another. In so many ways, my whole career has been about trying to replicate those spaces. One of the projects through which my organization is attempting to do that is called Team Up, which is committed to cultivating cooperation across differences. Fittingly, one of our key partners is the Y. Running high-profile national initiatives such as Team Up has brought me into lots of fancy rooms with lots of famous and influential people. But no place matters more than the place where you first learn those values. And no people are more important than those who first teach them to you.” [ChronicleofPhilanthropy]

Around the Web

Rachel and Jon Goldberg-Polin, whose son, Hersh, is being held captive in Gaza, met with a bipartisan group of Senate lawmakers and business leaders on Capitol Hill yesterday to strategize on potential paths forward amid stalled hostage release negotiations…

The social lender Ogen launched two programs to assist Israeli farmers whose work has been affected by the fighting in Gaza and along Israel’s northern border: one program, in coordination with the food security nonprofit Leket Israel, offers loans of up to NIS 300,000 ($80,550) over five years at a below-market 3% fixed interest rate; the other, the Long-Term Agricultural Relief Track, is geared toward farmers who need more substantial capital investments, with prime-rated loans of up to NIS 1 million ($268,500) over 10 years…

A new report by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) warns that artificial intelligence technology may be used to spread Holocaust denial and distortion…

In an effort to address this threat, the World Jewish Congress, which co-sponsored the UNESCO report, launched the WJC Institute for Technology and Human Rights, an initiative that is meant to combat “online antisemitism and its real-world consequences”…

Northern New Jersey’s Jewish Standard profiles the Good People Fund and its founder, Naomi Eisenberger

A group of GOP donors, including several prominent Jewish funders including Marc Rowan and Bill Ackmanwill participate in a fundraiser/policy summit today on behalf of Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), who is seen as a top contender for Donald Trump’s vice presidential nominee…

Laura Shaw Frank was named the inaugural director of the American Jewish Committee’s new Center for Education Advocacy, and Jason Isaacson was picked to lead the group’s new Center for a New Middle East; both of the new centers were announced last week at AJC’s Global Forum…

The David and Nicole Tepper Foundation donated $3 million to the Charlotte, N.C., food security nonprofit Nourish Up, in the largest single gift that the organization has ever received…

Rachel Kalikow was hired as the next CEO of the Friends of the Arava Institute

Margot Friedländer, a 102-year-old Holocaust survivor, will appear on the next cover of the German edition of Vogue…

Orit Mizner was appointed the next chief operating officer of the Jewish women’s movement Momentum

International March of the Living and Canadian Jewish organizations are raising concerns about a summer camp hosted by the anti-Israel encampment at McGill University that they say is glorifying terrorism…

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese condemned an attack this week on the office of a Jewish member of parliament, Josh Burns, calling the incident “an escalation of the attacks that we’ve seen”…

Sally Angel was appointed the next CEO of London’s Jewish MuseumKing Charles recently renewed his royal patronage of the institution…

Released Israeli hostage and former peace activist Ada Sagi told the BBC that her kidnapping and the Oct. 7 terror attacks destroyed her belief in the possibility of Israeli-Palestinian peace, at least so long as Hamas is in power…

Sandy Wolf and the Melvin & Elaine Wolf Foundation made a “transformative gift” of an undisclosed size, to the Global Down Syndrome Foundation to support a program for dancers with Down Syndrome…

Jacob Shemano, the Jewish best friend of baseball legend Willie Mayseulogized his childhood pal who died yesterday at 93…

Pic of the Day

Roberto Pfeil/Picture Alliance via Getty Images

From left: Nicole Pastuhoff, president of Germany’s Jewish Student Association; Jörg Rensmann, project manager of the Research and Information Center on Anti-Semitism North Rhine-Westphalia (RIAS NRW); and Josefine Paul, minister for Children, Youth and Family in North Rhine-Westphalia, present the RIAS NRW report on antisemitic incidents in 2023 in the state parliament in Dusseldorf yesterday.

The organization, which collects data on antisemitism throughout Germany, documented 664 antisemitic incidents in 2023, a 152% increase from the previous year.


Jonathan S. Lavine, co-managing partner and chief investment officer of Bain Capital Credit
Jewish Federation Los Angeles/Facebook

Retired president and CEO of the Jewish Federation Los Angeles, Jay Sanderson

Attorney, investment banker, film producer and former deputy mayor of NYC, Kenneth Lipper… Rabbi emeritus of Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple in New Brunswick, N.J., Rabbi Bennett F. Miller… Historian of the Jews in Muslim lands in the modern era, Yaron Tsur… Retired territory sales manager for GlaxoSmithKline, Harry E. Wenkert… Inna N. Zalevsky… Overland Park, Kan., resident, Kathi Shaivitz Rosenberg… Former director of communications for Kings Bay Y, Adrienne M. Knoll… Member of the European Jewish Parliament for Latvia, Valery Engel, Ph.D…. OB-GYN physician specializing in reproductive endocrinology and infertility, Jessica Rosenberg Brown, MD… Co-founder of Centerview Partners, Blair Effron… Singer-songwriter, actress and television personality, Paula Abdul… Former member of Knesset for the Zionist Union party, Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin… Human rights activist and advocate for women and minorities in Iran, Marjan Keypour Greenblatt… Co-founder of nine venture-backed companies in the telecom, high-tech, pharmaceuticals, energy, water, and biotechnology industries, Andrew Perlman… Director of the export control department in Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Eitan Weiss… Staff writer at The New YorkerIsaac Chotiner… Director of affinities and major giving at the Minneapolis Jewish Federation, Tslil Shtulsaft… Founder of the JSwipe dating app, David Austin Yarus… Rhythmic gymnast from Israel who competed in the 2008 (Beijing), 2012 (London) and 2016 (Rio) Olympics, Neta Rivkin… Senior program officer at Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies, Anna Langer… COO at P3 Technologies, Alex Jakubowski… Finance director at M/O Strategies, Cydney Couch… Singer, popular on video and streaming services, known as Skye for short, Daniel Skye