Your Daily Phil: IsraAid CEO gets Bronfman Prize + Israel to memorialize slain Diaspora Jews
Good Monday morning!
In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on the Israeli government’s decision to consider memorializing Diaspora Jews killed in antisemitic attacks around the world, and feature an op-ed on teaching about Israel from Sharna Marcus. We’ll start with Yotam Polizer receiving the 2023 Charles Bronfman Prize.
Yotam Polizer, CEO of IsraAid, the Israeli humanitarian aid group, was awarded the 2023 Charles Bronfman Prize at a gala event at the New-York Historical Society on the Upper West Side of Manhattan last night, eJewishPhilanthropy’s Dan Brown reports from the event. Polizer pledged to donate half of the $100,000 prize money to his organization.
In his acceptance speech, Polizer announced that IsraAid planned to more than double its budget and deepen its operations around the world in the next five years, after tripling them in the previous five years. “Five years ago, IsraAid was an organization with a small team and a budget of less than $7 million. Today, five years later, our budget is almost $21 million. So we tripled ourselves. But it’s not just our budget, it’s our impact and our growth. And five years from now we plan to reach and become an organization of $50 million,” Polizer said.
“The first donor to this exciting growth will be myself. I will donate half of the prize that I won, $50,000. So we only need $49 million and counting,” he said, drawing chuckles from the crowd.
In his speech, Polizer stressed the work being done by IsraAid employees around the world, from Kenya to Turkey to Ukraine to South Sudan, saying “this prize is first and foremost for each and every one of them.” He also highlighted the concept of post-traumatic growth, the idea that after a disaster occurs, “there’s always an opportunity, not just to get things back to where they were before, but an opportunity for growth. There’s an opportunity for real resilience, and that’s what we’ve been seeing time and time again all over the world.”
The eponymous prize was established 20 years ago by Charles Bronfman’s children, Ellen Bronfman Hauptman and Stephen Bronfman, and their spouses, Andrew Hauptman and Claudine Blondin Bronfman, respectively, to honor their father on his 70th birthday. The Sunday night event was attended by many past laureates of the prize, as well as Rodaba Noori, a member of Afghanistan’s women’s robotics team who was covertly rescued by Polizer during the Taliban takeover in August 2021, as well as the former Afghani Ambassador to the U.S., U.K. and Russia, Said Tayeb Jawad.
In his remarks, Stephen Bronfman said he was proud that the prize’s judges selected Polizer for the award because IsraAid allowed “the world to see [the] raising of the Israeli flag at disaster sites, showing the world that Israel is there.”
Charles Bronfman concluded the award presentation by introducing Polizer’s wife and young children, saying, “Behind every successful Jewish man is a Jewish mother,” to laughter and much applause.
Israel to consider memorializing Jews killed in antisemitic attacks abroad
The Israeli government this week voted to form a committee to consider formally honoring the memories of Diaspora Jews who have been murdered in antisemitic attacks abroad, as it currently does for people killed in terror attacks or war in Israel, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross.
A ‘historic’ decision: The initiative is being led by the Ruderman Family Foundation, together with the World Zionist Organization and the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs and Combating Antisemitism. Shira Ruderman, executive director of the Ruderman Family Foundation, called the decision “historic” and told eJP that it represented an idea to solidify and “expand Israel’s responsibility to Jews outside of the country.”
We can all agree on: Ruderman said this initiative offered an opportunity for Israel and Diaspora Jewry to come together on a non-controversial issue of mutual importance at a time of tension between American and Israeli Jews. “We are growing apart in our realities. We are growing apart in our common values,” she said. “And this creates opportunities for common values, for common memories, and it hopefully will bring us back to the table to talk about creating common goals together. Because once we come together, we know how to be successful.”
Setting criteria: The committee will be led by the director-general of the Diaspora Affairs Ministry, Avi Cohen Scali. “It will put together recommendations for the official commemoration of Jews who are not citizens of Israel who were murdered because of their Jewishness in antisemitic terror attacks in the Diaspora,” the government said in a statement. The committee, which will also include representatives from the World Zionist Organization, will establish criteria and standards for recognition. It will submit its findings by September 1.
A group effort: Around the same time as the Ruderman Family Foundation began researching the matter nearly two years ago, Yaakov Hagoel, chairman of the World Zionist Organization, started considering a similar idea. Ruderman said that once it became clear that WZO was also working on the same idea, the two organizations banded together. “There’s no room for competition. There’s no room for two entities to work on this matter separately. The research is Ruderman research. But the effort is a dual partnership,” she said.
Much obliged: Ruderman said that once the research was complete a few months ago, her organization approached Diaspora Affairs Minister Amichai Chikli about it. “He took it with open arms. We have tremendous respect for him,” she told eJP.
Teach about Israel as it really is
“This past year, more than ever, teachers have been discouraged from covering controversial topics in their classroom. From book bans in Florida to parents shaming educators on social media, many teachers are afraid to tackle controversial subjects for fear of losing their jobs,” writes Sharna Marcus, an Israeli-based educator, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.
Majority rules: “I teach Middle East history to 12th graders at a non-sectarian private school in Israel. The student body consists of children of diplomats, journalists, foreign employees and Jewish and Palestinian Israelis. The course has a curriculum, but with each students’ consent, I tossed it out the window for this semester and began a new one: Israel – Democracy’s Precipice or Majority Rules Rules.”
Modeling democracy: “I adapted the inquiry model provided by the International Baccalaureate Organization. It is meant to be used when teaching during or immediately after a ‘crisis.’ Students were given text and videos to read and watch and annotate them by asking questions. After compiling those questions, students chose a topic to research. To model democracy, I allowed them to choose when I should provide direct instruction during the unit, and they designed their own rubric.”
The King’s Literal Lifelong Connection to Jews: In the U.K.’s Jewish News, Louisa Walters writes about the unlikely connection between the Kindertransport and the birth of the newly crowned King Charles III. “On 5 July 1939 two Jewish sisters from Berlin – Ingelore (15) and her sister Marion (11) Czarlinski – arrived in Harwich, a port town in Essex, on the Kindertransport. Just nine years later, Ingelore (now Susan) was the first person in the world to hold the future King Charles in her arms… [In a 2005 article for the Association of Jewish Refugees magazine] Marion explained that Susan was chosen for this role because not only was she a dedicated nurse, she was also incredibly discreet. So discreet in fact that her two daughters, Rebecca and Debra, didn’t know anything about their mother’s important role in the future king’s life until she and their father were invited to Princess Anne’s wedding in 1973… Susan died in 1994 so when Prince Charles hosted a reception at Clarence House on 5 July 2005 for Kindertransport children Marion had to go alone. ‘I told him I was lucky to arrive in England 66 years earlier, but that my sister was even luckier as she was the first person in the world to hold him,’ wrote Marion. ‘He seemed fascinated, so I told him the whole story. At the end of the reception he said, “What a small world it is. Here is the sister of the nurse who looked after me when I was born. She even saw me being bathed. What a sight I must have been!”’” [JewishNews]
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Pic of the Day
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