Your Daily Phil: Instagram fundraising for Holocaust ed + The L.A. rabbi boosting the Iran protests
Good Thursday morning, and happy fourth day of Hanukkah!
In today’s Your Daily Phil, we report on a rabbi in Los Angeles mobilizing support for the anti-regime protests in Iran, and feature op-eds by HUC’s Steven Windmueller on leadership lessons and by Brandeis University’s Moises Arbitman on the Maccabees’ victory. Also in this newsletter: Benjamin Netanyahu, Olaf Scholz, Barbra Streisand and Jason Alexander. We’ll start with an unexpected fundraiser for Holocaust education on Instagram.
On her Instagram feed, which boasts more than 3 million followers, Claudia Oshry, aka “GirlWithNoJob,” usually documents her personal life, pop culture and other topics that appeal to her audience, which is mostly made up of millennial and Gen Z women who live in cities such as New York or L.A., Oshry told eJewishPhilanthropy.
But as of Thursday morning, Oshry’s most recent post featured a different offering: an interview with Mark Schonwetter, who survived the Holocaust by hiding with his mother and sister in the Polish forest. In the interview, which has been viewed close to a million times, Oshry, the 28-year-old influencer, and the survivor discussed his memories of living in hiding, how he remains optimistic and his annual tradition of frying latkes with his family.
“The video was essentially meant to be more inspiring than getting really dark,” Oshry, who also hosts a podcast with her sister, told eJP on Wednesday. “A great way to not eliminate, but hopefully diminish a lot of the antisemitism and hate that’s being perpetuated in the culture right now is by Holocaust education.”
The post has racked up likes and positive comments, but one result that Oshry didn’t expect was for her two-minute video to become a boon for Schonwetter’s eponymous foundation, which funds Holocaust education in public schools. Seeing the response to the video, Oshry decided to put a link to the foundation at the top of her profile. Within the first 24 hours, it raised more than $50,000 from more than 1,800 donors, with an average donation of roughly $27.
“A lot of the time, people who listen to my podcast from all over the country are really not even familiar with Judaism,” Oshry said. “Listening to the podcast is their first interaction with a Jew. So I take that responsibility very seriously, and I had a feeling once the interview came out, people would be so taken with Mark and his story and they would be like, ‘What can I do to help?”
The video is part of a series, called “Eight nights, eight stories,” produced by Daniella Greenbaum and Rachel Kastner, that recruited eight influencers and celebrities to post Jewish content during the eight nights of Hanukkah. Kastner and Greenbaum were also producers on a series of videos about the Holocaust by influencer Montana Tucker.
Other nights of their Hanukkah project feature content including: A conversation between author Bari Weiss and Tiffany Haddish; influencer Danielle Bernstein talking with Holocaust survivor Tova Friedman; and former NFL player Julian Edelman discussing the eight most Jewish sports moments. Bernstein as well as influencer Moti Ankari helped conceive of the project.
“It is celebs, and increasingly content creators on Instagram and TikTok, who make the biggest impact,” Greenbaum told eJP. “When confronting rising hatred against Jews, or any other societal ill, it is these voices that can make the biggest difference.”
Asked by Oshry about the importance of teaching young people about the Holocaust, Schonwetter said, “If we teach the young generation that we don’t want to live in hatred and we don’t want to create hatred between us, then maybe we will avoid the hate.”
Meet the L.A. rabbi who found a national stage for her support of the Iranian protests
When Rabbi Tarlan Rabizadeh began serving as vice president for Jewish engagement at Los Angeles’s American Jewish University (AJU) in mid-August, she had no idea where the rest of the year would take her, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Jay Deitcher.
Gut feeling: ??She never expected to emerge as a national figure for speaking out against the Iranian crackdown on protesters, and never expected to be recognized at the People’s Choice Awards as a leading advocate in support of the uprisings. She was an Iranian American rabbi trying to act on a gut feeling: that she couldn’t sit silent as her people suffered. One month after she started the job, she found out about Mahsa Amini, the 22-year-old who was detained by Iran’s morality police on Sept. 13 for improperly wearing a hijab, and who died under suspicious circumstances soon afterward.
Organizing: Since then, Rabizadeh has been active in organizing people in L.A.’s large Iranian Jewish community and beyond to support the protests. On Dec. 4, AJU hosted the Baraye Iran (Farsi for “For Iran”) forum featuring leading Jewish and non-Jewish Iranian advocates, organized by Rabizadeh and 14 other Iranian leaders in L.A. Later in the month, the university hosted a conversation with Iranian-American journalist and women’s rights activist Masih Alinejad, titled “The Woman Whose Hair Frightens Iran.”
Backstory: Rabizadeh was born in Los Angeles in 1985 to Iranian immigrant parents who had been studying in the United States during the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Rabizadeh’s surname means “descendant of rabbis,” and since she was a teenager, Rabizadeh knew she wanted to become one. “I’m trying to go back to a kind of Judaism that I was raised with that no longer exists,” she said. “A lot of that has to do with the Persian kind of Judaism that I was raised with — this kind of feeling of opening your heart and talking to God and having it be messy, sitting with your grandmother [in] the synagogue and learning from her what it means to ask God for whatever you want in life.”
Elsewhere: West Coast activists are aiding the protesters on the streets of Iran in a variety of ways. Today, The Wall Street Journal reported that around 200 Starlink satellite dishes, from Elon Musk’s company SpaceX, have been smuggled into the country. The devices provide locals with internet access, which has been restricted by the government. The Journal reported that one of the teams working on the effort is “a group of Iranian-American activists and tech entrepreneurs in California, who began making plans to buy and ship the devices only days after the protests broke out.”
Read the full story here.
what i’ve learned
Lessons on leadership from my Jewish journey
“During my 50-year career framed around Jewish communal practice and teaching, I have developed lifelong friendships and met and engaged with an assortment of impressively dedicated leaders, while mastering new skills and accruing a lifetime of memories. I have also learned a lot about the nature of leadership,” the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion’s Steven Windmueller writes in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.
Anticipate, act, discern: “Leaders need to maintain a sense of self, examining how they perform in various settings, just as they need to measure outcomes, and even anticipate how they might operate moving forward. “Leading” is a dance, engaging with lay partners and professional colleagues to find a productive, balanced outcome in which people feel connected, successful and appreciated. “Leading” operates as a verb, representing a set of changing behaviors, with different leadership patterns coming into play as situations warrant.”
New behaviors for a new generation: “No doubt, the art and act of leading has changed over time. Today’s leaders have access to extraordinary leadership and management tools, training centers and research institutes, as well as new technologies, providing critical resources and allowing unprecedented access to information about legacy institutions, as well as exposure to newer boutique organizations, social platforms and educational resources. New generations — with their distinctive behavior patterns, priorities and interests, and their abundance of questions and insights and passions — are infusing the field with new perspectives and methods. Emerging questions [about topics] such as climate change, race and gender identity, and cultural conflicts join the ranks of long-standing concerns such as antisemitism, civil and human rights, and the embedded economic and political challenges facing our society. Today’s leaders also have access to an expanded base of financial resources, with new fundraising methods like crowdfunding and social media campaigns joining more traditional funding streams and traditional donor support.”
A half-century: “From each of my jobs, from my time at American Jewish Committee in 1969 until 2022, when I am serving as the interim director of the Zelikow School of Jewish Nonprofit Management at HUC-JIR in Los Angeles and an assortment of additional positions along the way, I learned how to effectively operate in the Jewish communal world.”
Read the full piece here.
twist of faith
Hanukkah, faith and human capacity
“What is the limit of human capacity? Who determines what we can or can’t do? On Hanukkah, we commemorate an event during the second century BCE, when a priestly family of the tribe of Levi, the Maccabees, led a successful rebellion against the Seleucid Greek empire, as a response to Antiochus IV forbidding the Jews to practice their religion. How could an army of approximately 7,000 barely trained Jews beat an army of more than 60,000 highly trained Greek soldiers? Throughout Jewish history, we have repeatedly seen how individuals have surpassed all expectations of what is achievable. The ancient teachings of Judaism and the modern field of psychology teach us that faith in God and in our own capacities can be the perfect combination to drive us through what others call impossible,” writes Moises Arbitman, a graduate student at Brandeis University, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.
Faith and feelings: “In recent decades, faith has become an important area of study among scientists, leading to important discoveries. One finding, for example, revealed that people who believe in God tend to be happier and healthier than non-believers. Other studies have found that believers tend to feel less depressed and have a more defined sense of the meaning of life. In other words, researchers have found that faith affects — usually positively — how an individual engages the world.”
Raiders of the Lost Art: The heirs of a Jewish art collector are suing New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation in Athens for the return of Vincent van Gogh’s 1889 painting “La cueillette des olives (Olive Picking).” The painting was one of several looted by the Nazis in 1939, Sarah Cascone writes in ArtNews, and was then sold by the Met secretly in 1972 to avoid having to return it to Hedwig Stern and family. ”It is now on view at the Athens museum run by the family foundation of the late Greek shipping magnate Basil Goulandris and his wife, Elise Goulandris… The Stern heirs’ lawyers argue that the painting’s presence in Germany during World War II should have been a red flag unto itself, and that it should have been easy for the Met to track down its provenance. A report filed along with the complaint — written by Jonathan Petropoulos, an expert on Nazi-looted art and professor of European history at Claremont McKenna College — makes the case that the museum quietly sold the work in the ’70s because it realized the illicit circumstances of the painting’s original sale. Stern, who died in 1983, spent years trying to recover her looted art, including meeting in 1951 with Lane Faison of the U.S. Army Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives Division in Munich. During the war, the Monuments Men worked to protect and recover objects of cultural heritage — and to return them to the rightful owners afterward. The complaint notes that Theodore Rousseau, then the Met’s chief curator, also served as one of the Monuments Men, and was a friend of Faison’s.” [ArtNews]
Around the Web
Minutes before his deadline to form a coalition yesterday, Israeli Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu called President Isaac Herzog to inform him that he will be able to form a government. Netanyahu and his right-wing and religious allies now have until Jan. 2 to vote the government in, before which they must finalize ministerial positions and ink coalition agreements, several of which have not been signed…
The Jewish Agency for Israel has near-final numbers for aliyah, or Jewish immigration to Israel, in 2022 — a year in which tens of thousands of Ukrainians and Russians moved to the country. A total of 70,000 olim came to Israel in 2022, more than double the 28,600 who arrived in 2021.
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A survey of 136 K-12 schools by Prizmah, the umbrella organization for Jewish day schools, found that between two academic years ago and this one, 54% of schools increased their enrollment, while 34% saw a decline and 11% remained stable…
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Legislation introduced in the House of Representatives in the final days of this Congress seeks to examine Holocaust education efforts at a federal level…
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Groups of alumni of Wexner Foundation programs gathered simultaneously in Austin, Texas, and Zichron Yaakov, Israel, earlier this month for a summit on climate change…
Pic of the Day
A 15-foot tall menorah in the shape of a ship’s mast, designed by artist Yitzchok Moully, stands at the South Street Seaport in New York City.
Film and television actress, Dina Meyer…
Retired New York Supreme Court judge, Arthur J. Cooperman… Former president of the World Bank, U.S. ambassador to Indonesia, U.S. deputy secretary of defense and dean of JHU’s Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Paul Wolfowitz… NYC-based political consultant and ordained rabbi, his early career included stints as a policeman, taxi driver and bounty hunter, Henry “Hank” Sheinkopf… Retired assistant principal from the Philadelphia school district, Elissa Siegel… Associate at Mersky, Jaffe & Associates, Rabbi Kerry Olitzky… Retired Israeli brigadier general who then served as the national CEO of the Friends of the IDF, Yehiel Gozal… Rosh yeshiva at the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary of Yeshiva University, Rabbi Michael Rosensweig… Senior managing director in the D.C. office of Newmark, Lisa Benjamin… Former CFO of Enron Corporation, Andrew Fastow… Rabbi at Temple Sinai of Palm Desert, Calif., David Novak… Filmmaker, novelist, video game writer and comic book writer, David Samuel Goyer… NPR correspondent covering the State Department and Washington’s diplomatic corps, Michele Kelemen… CEO and co-founder of Next Titan Capital, Michael Huttner… U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)… CEO of American Council of Young Political Leaders, Libby Rosenbaum… Author and nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, James Kirchick… MFA candidate at the Helen Zell Writers’ program at the University of Michigan, Sofia Ergas Groopman… Israel programming admissions director at Jewish National Fund, Carly Korman Schlakman… Head of philanthropy and impact investment for EJF Philanthropies, Simone Friedman… Liberty Consultants’ Lisa Brazie…