Your Daily Phil: Inside the Tower of David Museum + Joshua Malina and Rabbi Shira Stutman team up

Good Friday morning!

Actor Joshua Malina and Rabbi Shira Stutman are launching a new podcast, “Chutzpod!” today.

The first episode centers on an examination of “Parashat Bo,” the weekly Torah portion that, “counterintuitively, is read in January, but is about the Exodus,” Malina told us, “of course nowhere near Passover.”

One phrase in particular, Malina said, seemed relevant at a moment of profound disunity in American politics. “There’s a specific mention of the phrase ‘mixed multitude’ — erev rav left Egypt with the Hebrews,” he mused. “What is the mixed multitude? Why did some Egyptians leave with the Jews? Were they converts? Were they just non-Jews? Did they add to the experience in the desert?”

Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel spoke to Malina this week about the podcast and the actor’s efforts to shine a light on antisemitism in Hollywood. Read the full interview here.


In Jerusalem, an ancient site undergoes renovations with modern technology

Ricky Rachman

When renovations began on Jerusalem’s Tower of David Museum in March 2020, those behind the project were excited, not only about creating a new and innovative way to tell the intricate 3,000-year-old story of one of the world’s most important cities, but also because it offered a chance to rediscover and carefully preserve Jerusalem’s history-filled stones for a new generation, Ruth Marks Eglash reports.

Strategic spot: The museum, which sits inside the iconic citadel adjacent to the Jaffa Gate, is traditionally one of the most visited sites in the Old City, attracting more than 500,000 visitors a year pre-pandemic. Its draw is that it is perhaps the only spot in the city where the handiwork of every previous ruler is still visible, with well-preserved remnants telling Jerusalem’s story — layer by layer — and sweeping panoramic views from atop the ancient Phasael Tower making clear why this location was so essential for those in power. “It’s the highest point in the Old City and very strategic,” Caroline Shapiro, director of international public relations for the museum, told JIduring an exclusive tour of the renovations and preservation efforts this week. “Anyone wanting to defend or rule the city had to do so from here.”

Preserving the past: Extensive archeological excavations and renovations were carried out at the site before the museum opened in the 1980s, but the methods of conservation and preservation popular at the time were rudimentary and often misguided or insensitive to the techniques and skills of the original builders. Now, thanks to a $50 million remodeling project — with funding from Dame Vivien Duffield and the Clore Israel Foundation, the Patrick and Lina Drahi Foundation, the Jerusalem Municipality, the Ministry of Jerusalem and Heritage, the Ministry of Tourism, the American Friends of Museums in Israel and Keren Hayesod — archeologists and conservationists are applying new concepts and new technology to better understand Jerusalem’s past and better preserve its venerable architecture for the future.

Jerusalem’s story: “The Tower of David is a special site that represents all the archeological layers of Jerusalem,” said the museum’s director and chief curator, Eilat Lieber, who is the visionary and driving force behind this ambitious project. Lieber said that after three decades, the museum needed to be updated not only to include the most recent layer of history but also to incorporate the living history of the actual building. “In the past, the building was just a venue for the museum, but the story of the Tower of David is the story of Jerusalem,” she said.

Read more here.


Embracing the ‘plague of gray’

Vita Leonis/Unsplash

“If I have learned anything since the start of the pandemic, there is no such thing as normal and there is really no such thing as a new normal,” writes Jodie Goldberg, an education consultant at The Jewish Education Project, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

2020 too: “During 2020, we dreamt fondly of the year 2022. 2022 represented a year of glistening light in which our problems would dissipate from our pandemic-ridden world. With the recent rise of the Omicron variant, however, social media memes are renaming 2022 as “2020 too.” In just two years we seem to have traveled right back where we started: canceled events, postponed life-cycle moments and limited contact with loved ones. Is this the next beginning?”

Grayness: “In ‘Parashat Bo,’ we will read about the plague of darkness that sweeps over the land of Egypt, frightening and disabling the Egyptians. Today we are living with the plague of grayness. In the gray, nothing is clear. It is opaque, inviting only brief moments of light to shine through. This gray is the liminal space sandwiched between our present and our future. The gray is the scaffolding that engulfs the building-lined streets, the color of the clouds, the minutes before the rainstorm, the charcoal left between fires, the paper clip that temporarily holds papers together in transit.”

The world in which we live: “While the gray can be a space of immense discomfort, it’s become oddly familiar as it’s loomed across our existence as an uninvited dinner guest since the start of the global pandemic. In 2020, we were quick to label this liminal space of unfamiliarity with emotions like isolation, disappointment and fear. While these emotions might still characterize this space of gray for many of us, it’s become the world in which we live. Almost two years into the pandemic, we now have a deeper understanding of our world: one in which we must think, feel, educate and lead through the many tones of gray.” 

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Progressive Philanthropy: In an opinion piece in The New York Times, Thomas B. Edsall suggests that the surge in progressive philanthropic giving that emerged after the murder of George Floyd may damage long-term progress. “There are Democratic strategists who worry about unintended political consequences that could flow from this surge in philanthropic giving. Rob Stein, one of the founders of the Democracy Alliance, an organization of major donors on the left, argued in a phone interview that while most foundation spending is on programs that have widespread support, ‘when progressive philanthropists fund groups that promote extreme views like “defunding the police” or that sanction “cancel culture,” they are exacerbating intraparty conflict and stoking interparty backlash.’ The danger, according to Stein, is that ‘some progressive politicians and funders are contributing to divisiveness within their ranks and giving fodder to the right.’” [NYTimes]

Modeling Faith & A.I.: Model Lior Cole is a science buff studying information science at Cornell, who – in her spare time – explores artificial intelligence and how it merges with spirituality and religion, writes Liana Satenstein in Vogue. “When she’s not modeling, she’s developing Robo Rabbi, an artificial-intelligence project that taps into the teachings of the Torah. Think spiritual guidance via a computer. ‘People look at computers as if they are calculators and are binary, but I like computers so much because there is this algorithm of giving advice and showing how A.I. has humanlike abilities,’ she says… Cole began thinking about the project during Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year and a time of new beginnings. Robo Rabbi starts with a person’s birth parsha — a Torah portion with a lesson that corresponds to a person’s birthday. From that, Cole developed a system that will give a challenge derived from the parsha that is intended to help the person strive to become their best selves. If a person’s parsha focuses on giving back, Cole’s A.I. program will give the person a 10-day challenge that encourages a person to be charitable.” [Vogue]

Yiddishkeit, Digitized: The YIVO Institute has digitized its archives in a project known as the Edward Blank YIVO Vilna Online Collections Project, writes Joseph Berger in The New York Times. The 4.1 million pages of documents go online starting Monday. “Among its notable pieces are a diary handwritten by Herzl, a founder of modern Zionism; pages from S. Ansky’s handwritten Yiddish manuscript of his classic play “The Dybbuk”; letters from Einstein to writers and theater folk; witness accounts of pogroms in Russia, Poland, Ukraine and Belarus; business and personal papers of the Rothschild family; Yiddish songs about love, crime, drinking and Stalin; etchings by Marc Chagall; and a homespun astronomical dial that calculates when religious holidays would fall.”  [NYTimes]

Community Comms

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Word on the Street

Israel ended restrictions on international travel at midnight. Among the places where two-way travel may now resume are the U.S., the U.K. and Turkey… 

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee named Lisa Gurwitch chief advancement officer, effective March 1…

The Ronald S. Roadburg Foundation in Vancouver, British Columbia, appointed Mark Gurvis chief executive officer, effective in February… 

The Simon Wiesenthal Center will be receiving $1.5 million in funding from the New York State Assembly to build a mobile museum of tolerance for New York State. The center currently operates mobile tolerance museums in Illinois and Canada…

After more than 70 years, the compass from the Exodus 1947 – the ship full of Holocaust survivors that was intercepted by British forces on its way to Mandatory Palestine – is on display at the Palmach Museum in Tel Aviv…

The Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies, in partnership with The Jewish Federations of North Americalaunched “Project EM: Empowering and Employing our Community,” a nationwide network providing job seekers with the assistance, resources and tools they need to find work…

Brandeis University received a $10 million gift from alumna Bobbi Samuels and her family in support of a center for civic and community engagement…

A new Life & Legacy initiative administered by the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Hartford received 148 pledges, totaling nearly $5 million since it was established in April….

The Boston-based Institute for Nonprofit Practice is expanding to the San Francisco Bay Area, with its core certificate program set to launch there in April…

A conference on the legal aspects of NFT, the first of its kind, according to CTech, was held this week in Tel Aviv. An NFT is a unique digital token associated with an artwork utilizing blockchain technology to prove its originality…

Pic of the Day

Masa Israel Journey

Masa Israel Journey hosted 140 participants at its five-day Masa Wilf Leadership Summit last week on the outskirts of Jerusalem. The summit, funded by the Wilf Family Foundations, brings together select Masa post-college fellows.


Tasia Wells/Getty Images

Music director of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Lahav Shani celebrates his birthday today… 

FRIDAY: U.S. district court judge for the Eastern District of Michigan, Judge Paul D. Borman… Pulitzer Prize-winning sports writer, Ira Berkow… Co-founder and publisher of Rolling Stone magazine and co-founder of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Jann Wenner… Scottsdale, Ariz., resident, Bruce Robert Dorfman… Retired president of the University of South Florida System, Judy Genshaft… Former Israeli minister of Jerusalem affairs, Rafi Peretz… Author and former “Today Show” co-anchor, Katie Couric… Former CEO of Glencore, Ivan Glasenberg… Dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon in Beverly Hills, and oversees a nationwide real estate company, Dr. Ezra Kest… Documentary filmmaker Roberta Grossman… Heir to the Hyatt Hotel fortune, Tony Pritzker… U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-SD)… U.S. Sen. Rand Paul(R-KY)… Managing director and senior relationship manager at Bank of America, Zoya Raynes… Actress and model, Lauren Cohan… Author of the recently published Paths of the Righteous and founder of Keystone Strategy + Advocacy, Ari Mittleman… Concord, N.H.-based public affairs consultant, Holly Shulman… Assistant director at Hillel of Stanford University, Jeremy Ragent… Drummer and founding member of The Groggers pop punk band, Chemy Soibelman… Reporter for Walla NewsYaki Adamker… Los Angeles-based creator and host of the history podcast “Noble Blood,” Dana Schwartz… National chair of Israel Policy Forum Atid and senior account executive at Admix, Jonathan Kamel… Baseball pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles, the first Israeli player ever drafted by an MLB team, Dean Kremer

SATURDAY: Actor and comedian, Larry Storch… Talmudic scholar living in Bnei Brak, Israel, widely acclaimed as the leader of the Haredi community, Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky… Classical pianist, Vladimir Feltsman… Founder and chief investment officer of Pzena Investment Management, Rich Pzena… Co-founder and co-owner of Pizza Shuttle in Milwaukee,  Mark Gold… VP of wealth management at GCG Financial in Deerfield, Ill, he was an NFL tight end for the Bears and Vikings, Brent Novoselsky… Founder and president of DC-based Professionals in the City, Michael Karlan… Founder and CEO of lobbying firm, Invariant, Heather Miller Podesta… Former state senator in Maine, Justin Loring Alfond… Singer-songwriter, musician and actress, Jenny Lewis… Public policy program manager for Facebook, Avra Siegel… Dayton, Ohio, native, former at Newsweek, the NYTimes and WSJRoss M. Schneiderman… Actor, screenwriter and director, son of film director Barry Levinson, Sam Levinson

Sunday: Zvi Garcy, longtime representative and shaliach of The Jewish Agency and Keren Hayesod turns 100 years old… Law professor at Georgetown University, Peter Edelman… Swiss politician, she was president of the Swiss Confederation in 1999, Ruth Dreifuss… Rabbi emeritus of Kehilath Israel Synagogue in Overland Park, Kan., Herbert Jay Mandl… Vice chairman of Gilbert Global Equity Partners, Steven Kotler… Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, now a research scholar at Yale Law School, Linda Greenhouse… Former MLB umpire, he worked in 3,392 major league games in his 26-year career, Al Clark… Presidential historian and visiting lecturer at Harvard, Princeton, Yale, GW, Hopkins and Penn universities, Alvin S. Felzenberg… Singer-songwriter under the name “Country Yossi,” Yossi Toiv… Australian author of over 40 books of children’s and young adult fiction, Morris Gleitzman… Former governor of the Bank of Israel, Karnit Flug… Chairman at Odyssey Engines, Joel Darren Plasco… NFL insider and reporter for the NFL Network, Ian Rapoport… Film producer and CEO of Skydance Media, David Ellison… Director of development and community relations at Manhattan Day School, Allison Liebman Rubin… Pulitzer Prize-winning staff writer at The New YorkerBen Taub… Strategic growth manager at Compass, Madeline Peterson… Television and film actress, Nicola Peltz

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