Your Daily Phil: In the Knesset, U.S. Jewish leaders decry rising antisemitism

Good Wednesday morning.

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on United Synagogue Youth replacing its Israel trips with a new joint program with Ramah, and feature an opinion piece by Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz on improving workplace culture in the Jewish nonprofit sector. Also in this issue: Baruch SpinozaDeborah Camiel and Yair Bar-HaimWe’ll start with the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations appearance in the Knesset.

There have been 44 physical antisemitic attacks against Jewish college students since Oct. 7, more than occurred in the previous 10 years combined, Hillel International CEO Adam Lehman told an Israeli Knesset committee yesterday, during a meeting between Israeli parliamentarians and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross.

“It is truly a catastrophe at this point,” Lehman said, noting that the total number of antisemitic incidents on campuses since Oct. 7 has surpassed the 1,000 mark.

The meeting of the Knesset’s Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee and the Conference of Presidents focused both on the struggles of the American Jewish community — specifically rising antisemitism in general and on college campuses in particular — and on the strong ties between the U.S. Jewry and Israel.

“The State of Israel could not exist without Diaspora Jewry, and Diaspora Jewry could not be secure without the State of Israel,” said committee chair MK Oded Forer, of the Yisrael Beiteinu party, at the start of the session.

Forer said Israel and the Conference of Presidents had planned to work together to ensure that Zionism is a protected belief in the United States, an effort that he said they should restart. “We must work through American government channels to ensure that Zionism receives protection under U.S. law,” Forer said.

The American and Israeli leaders also discussed the role of foreign-born lone soldiers in the IDF, particularly during the current war. The committee meeting began by honoring one such soldier, Simon Shlomov, who immigrated to Israel from Kazakhstan in 2021.

Carol Ann Schwartz, the president of Hadassah, thanked the committee for acknowledging Shlomov, who had lived on and graduated from one of Hadassah’s youth villages. “He was loved by the entire village and was still very active there. My heart breaks with every mother, with every parent,” she said.

MK Elazar Stern, of the Yesh Atid party, noted that while it was tragic, the phenomenon of seeing large numbers of Israelis attending the funerals of lone soldiers, who have no or limited family in Israel, was heartwarming.

“If you look at the best soldiers and if you go to the cemeteries, unfortunately, you will see soldiers that were born in Israel, soldiers that were born in the United States, in the United Kingdom, in Russia, in Ukraine, Ethiopia,” Stern said. “I think, seeing the Jewish citizens here in Israel coming to give a last dignity to soldiers that have no family in Israel shows us how much the Jewish people is a one big family from all over the world.”

Read the full report here.


Participants in a Ramah Israel program.
Participants in a Ramah Israel program.

The United Synagogue Youth, the Conservative youth movement, is shuttering its own Israel trips — EPIC Israel — and replacing them with a new program in partnership with the Ramah camping movement, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross.

Come together: Rabbi Jacob Blumenthal, CEO of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, said the merger was part of a general effort to streamline and unify the movement. Denying that the partnership indicated that the movement was struggling, Blumenthal said it was “a sign of strength” that these organizations were coming together. “We are investing in efforts to build a leadership pipeline of teenagers and young adults,” he said. “This kind of partnership is key to creating that strong effort.”

Sends a message: Meir Hoyzman, the CEO of Ramah Israel, acknowledged the cost-saving aspect of the merger, but stressed that this was also a move that was meant to correct a long-standing, unnecessary disconnect between Ramah and USY. “Finally the Conservative movement is sending a statement that there’s one trip for the movement, that it’s not divided anymore between Ramah and USY. This is something that should have been done a long time ago,” Hoyzman told eJP.

A challenging year: It is not yet clear how many participants the inaugural Yuval Yisrael will have as Israel trip organizers of all kinds are expecting a far smaller than normal level because of security concerns. “I’ll be happy if we have one bus,” Hoyzman said. “A lot of people are postponing their decisions to wait and see [what happens with the war].”

Read the full report here.


Reimagining Jewish nonprofit culture

“Jewish nonprofits need to incorporate Jewish values internally, not just pursue them externally, in order to build spiritually thriving workplaces. By offering employees something experientially rich — a form of spiritual compensation, if you will — we might be able to compete with the higher salaries and often lower stress levels offered by the for-profit world,” writes Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Middot culture: “The Jewish concept of middot offers us a built-in system for asking ourselves what character traits — and the values behind them — are important to us. When an institution examines itself through the lens of middot, it can become a place that offers personal growth on the level of the collective and the individual. Considering the value of simcha (happiness), for example, we might ask: How might our work be joyful? Regarding anivut (humility): How do we bring empathy and a celebration of others to the workplace? And in moments of kaas (anger): How can we help people respond rather than react, and do so in that way cultivates menuchat hanefesh (equanimity) and hitlamdut (an opportunity to learn from each moment)?”

Little changes, big impacts: “[W]e should embrace our awareness of the needs of the spirit, part of our institutional DNA. One way to do this could be emphasizing the importance of meals. After all, so much of Jewish spiritual life takes place over food. We could promote a healthy eating culture, one in which employees do not always eat at their desks but take time to nourish themselves with a walk, breathing and recentering. We might consider creating a dedicated space for communal eating in the office. This can be as simple as a breakroom with a table… Sitting and eating together, for those who want that, does not make a work environment less professional — to the contrary, it can allow leadership to happen from a deeper and more meaningful place.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Coming Full Circle: In The Detroit Jewish News, Steve Lipman reports on the unexpected development of Jews from war-torn Ukraine donating money to Israel after the Oct. 7 terror attacks. “‘Our hearts stopped on the 7th [of October],’ [Olga Sherbak, one of the Ukrainian Jews who has donated to the Jerusalem-based Schechter Institutes’ Israel Emergency Campaign,] said. She and her fellow Jews in Ukraine asked themselves, ‘How can we help?’… The Schechter Institutes call the phenomenon of Jews in a country at war helping people in another country at war hafuch al hafuch, Hebrew for upside down (literally a twist on a twist). The attitude of Ukrainian Jews was ‘we can’t stand aside when something happens’ to other people in need. ‘It was time to help,’ said Lev Kleiman, leader of Chernivtsi’s Conservative Jewish community. ‘They said they were sorry they could not give more,’ Kleiman said.” [JewishNews]

Start ’Em Young: In Tablet, Samantha Baskind explores the strengths that characterize the Cleveland Jewish community, including its federation’s role in cultivating local leaders. “In addition to supporting Israel, and its own local agencies and other diaspora communities, fostering future leadership is key to the organization’s mission. The biennial, six-month Mandel Symposium, founded in 1983, nurtures emerging visionaries by building peer relationships and offering hands-on philanthropic experiences… ‘I owe much of my own success to what I learned through participating in the program and then later going on to chair the initiative, which is that leaders take risks,’ remarked Scott Simon, author of Scare Your Soul, and founder of the attendant movement inspiring change through small acts of courage. Even teenage Clevelanders are not too young to learn core values of community engagement. Every year the Maurice Saltzman Youth Grant Program brings together fledgling philanthropists from all denominations, challenging them to research and then allocate tzedakah to what they deem as worthy Jewish causes. Jewish Cleveland’s entrepreneurial spirit combined with its powerful sense of solidarity lies at the core of its communal success.” [Tablet]

Inspired by Spinoza: In an opinion piece in the The New York Times, Ian Buruma, author of Spinoza: Freedom’s Messiahoffers an explanation for what he sees as a sudden surfeit of new books on the Enlightenment-era Jewish philosopher. “[Baruch] Spinoza suffered much for his lifelong dedication to the freedom of thought and expression. His view that God did not create the world, and his disbelief in miracles and the immortality of the soul so enraged the rabbis of his Sephardic synagogue in Amsterdam that he was banished from the Jewish community for life at the age of 23. Only one of his books, about the French philosopher Descartes, could be published under his own name during his lifetime. His other works, arguing against religious superstition and clerical authority, and for intellectual and political liberty, were considered so inflammatory that his authorship had to be disguised… Living now as we do in a time of book-banning, intellectual intolerance, religious bigotry and populist demagoguery, his radical advocacy of freedom still seems fresh and urgent… The freedom to act and think rationally, not dogmatically, is by far Spinoza’s greatest legacy. It is the only way to combat the threat of irrational ideas, stirred up hatreds and the confusion of science and faith. And it may be the only way to save our Republic.” [NYTimes]

Stretched Thin: In Part 2 of a series in Nieman Lab on funding for nonprofit journalism, Sophie Culpepper writes about challenges facing the overextended newsrooms among the Alliance of Nonprofit News Outlets. “These outlets’ reporters and publishers share a dedication to telling stories that nobody else is covering — stories like the ones recognized in the New York Times list of local journalism worth reading from 2023, which featured reporting from at least seven current ANNO members… [Local newspaper founder Joe] McCarthy described two of his reporters to me — one who specializes in environmental deep dives, the other an Apache photojournalist who worked on the lithium mining story. What haunts McCarthy, he told me, is, ‘I’ve got to be able to pay these people better. They deserve to be paid for the quality of the work…they shouldn’t be out there scrambling around, working for three or four or five different entities, trying to put together a living wage, which they still are unable to.’ The factors that leave small newsrooms at a disadvantage when applying for grants from national funders have a lot to do with broader patterns in how philanthropy works, and how funders think about quantifying impact and risk.” [NiemanLab]

Around the Web

The Anti-Defamation League named Deborah Camiel, a documentarian and journalist, as director of its Media & Entertainment Institute, which launched in September…

Sheila Lambert from New York and Monica Kibrit de Snaiderman from Mexico City were nominated as the next president and chair of JCC Global, respectively, beginning next month…

EasyJet, KLM, Iberia, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic announced they will resume flights to Israel in March and April…

The Jew­ish Book Coun­cil launched a new initiative to combat antisemitism in the literary world to both track it and direct people to relevant resources…

Mauricio Karchmer, a computer scientist who left MIT over the university’s handling of antisemitism on campus, has been hired by Yeshiva University

Israel’s Association of Rape Crisis Centers released a report on Hamas’ sexual violence on Oct. 7, based on testimonies, interviews and other sources, that found there as a “clear operational strategy involving systematic, targeted sexual abuse”…

Yair Bar-Haim, the head of Tel Aviv University’s newly opened National Center for Traumatic Stress and Resilienceestimated that there will be 30,000 Israelis diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder because of the Oct. 7 attacks and ensuing war…

After appearing at this weekend’s BBYO International Convention in Orlando, Fla., actor and comedian Tiffany Haddish is now visiting Israel to “see for [her]self” what is happening in the country…

The Economist spotlights how the Israeli satire show “Eretz Nehederet (A Wonderful Country) has responded to the Oct. 7 terror attacks and the ongoing Israel-Hamas war…

The British nonprofit Kisharon Langdon, which provides services to people with learning disabilities and autism and their families, hired Adam Overlander-Kaye as its next director of fundraising…

The New Yorker profiles singer-songwriter Noah Kahan, who calls himself “the Jewish Ed Sheeran”…

Stanley Plotnick, a donor and leader of the Canadian Jewish community, particularly on Israel-related causes, died on Monday at 82…

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.
Yoav Lin/KKL – JNF

A delegation of 25 leaders from the South African Jewish community is visiting Israel to show their community’s support at a time of increased tensions between the two countries. The delegation includes representatives from Jewish National Fund SA, South African Zionist Federation, the South African Jewish Board of Deputies and influential figures in the South African Jewish community. They are meeting with Israeli military personnel and family members of the hostages in southern Israel, and will also attend a ceremony at the Ramat David base in northern Israel in memory of the South African Israelis who have lost their lives in the ongoing war. 


Annie Liebovitz smiles
Michael Kovac/Getty Images for YES 20th Anniversary Gala

Co-founder of Dreamworks and noted collector of American artists’ work, David Geffen

Holocaust survivor and author of a book on systemic hate, he was the developer of the L’Ermitage Beverly Hills in 1976, Severyn Ashkenazy… Dean of Yeshiva Bais Yosef Novardok in Brooklyn, Rabbi Mordechai Jofen… Monica Oakes Agor… Vice-chairman of the NBA’s Detroit Pistons, Arn Herschel Tellem… Winner of two Pulitzer Prizes, he is the director of a fiscal and monetary policy group at the Brookings Institution, David Meyer Wessel… Chairman of the KABR Group, a New Jersey based real estate investment firm, Kenneth D. Pasternak… President of Yale University since 2013, Peter Salovey (family name was Soloveitchik)… Fitness personality, he develops businesses through the “Body by Jake” brand, Jake Steinfeld… Owner of the NFL’s Cleveland Browns until 2012, he also owned Aston Villa F.C. of the English Premier League until 2016, Randolph David “Randy” Lerner… Former member of the Knesset for the Kadima and Hatnuah parties, Orit Zuaretz… Executive director of Advancing American Freedom, Paul Teller… Reality television star Jonathan Cheban… New York Times best-selling novelist, writer-in-residence in the graduate creative writing program at New York University, Jonathan Safran Foer… Former Chicago Cubs player, Adam Greenberg… Emergency medical physician at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, Dr. Miriam Fischer Wachter… Former member of the Florida House of Representatives for six years, now in private law practice, Katie Edwards-Walpole… French actress, Mélanie Laurent… Director of strategic philanthropy for the northeast region of American Friends of Magen David Adom, Samuel Konig… Rochester, N.Y., resident, Joshua Futerman… Pitcher for the Israeli team at the 2017 World Baseball Classic qualifier, he is now a sales associate at Stryker, Brad Goldberg… Israeli judoka, she won a team bronze medal at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Shira Rishony… Director of campus support and action implementation at Hillel International, Reuben Berman… Rhythmic gymnast who competed in the 2012 Olympics in London as a member of the Israeli team, Polina Zakaluzny… Monsey, N.Y., resident, Efrayim Katz… Former professional tennis player, Noah Rubin… Associate at Cravath, Swaine & Moore, Jay S. Schaefer