Your Daily Phil: Israel Police ordered to cut ties with Wexner + BaMidbar charts new course 

Good Tuesday morning!

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on the mental health program BaMidbar’s expansion plans and feature an opinion piece from Mindy Sherry, Rabbi Joshua Stanton and Cantor Olivia Brodsky. Also in this newsletter: Addie Goodman, Alex Soros and Bob Barker. We’ll start with the Israel Police being ordered to cut ties with the Wexner Foundation.

Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir ordered the Israel Police to stop cooperating with the Wexner Foundation on Monday, specifically with its program sending senior Israeli officials to study at Harvard University, alleging that the U.S.-based organization was involved with “obvious left-wing political movements,” reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross.

The decision, which went into immediate effect, will prevent five officers — with the rank of chief superintendent and above — from attending Wexner’s fellowship program at Harvard next year as they had been selected to do.

“Due to political involvement and cooperation with obvious left-wing political movements like Breaking the Silence, I have ordered the bodies within my ministry to halt the involvement of officers in the Israel Police in continued education and all other activities with the Wexner Foundation,” Ben-Gvir wrote in a tweet (Hebrew).

A Wexner Foundation spokesperson rejected Ben-Gvir’s allegation, telling eJP: “We are not now nor have we ever been associated with any political party or ‘movement.’”

The spokesperson also highlighted the organization’s long-standing relationship with the Israeli civil service, which he said stretched back nearly 35 years.

“A review of the names of our alumni will reveal that we support the full diversity of the civil service in Israel. We operate our programs in full cooperation with the Civil Service Commission,” the Wexner spokesman said.

Read the full story here.

the great outdoors

Members of Boston’s Combined Jewish Philanthropies take part in a BaMidbar training program for Jewish professionals, in an undated photograph. (Brett Lubarsky/CJP)

The mental health initiative BaMidbar, which translates to “in the wilderness” and refers to the biblical book (Numbers) and the Torah portion of the same name, spun off from Ramah in the Rockies in Colorado in September 2021 and has since gone national with programs in California and Massachusetts. In May, the group launched a new strategic plan aimed at shifting the organization away from long-term programming and toward shorter, more accessible sessions, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen.

Rapid expansion: BaMidbar plans to provide more than 18,000 individual, group and family therapy sessions by 2026. The strategic plan and move toward independence come as teen mental health has emerged as a communal focus in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Within the next three years, Jory Hanselman Mayschak, the group’s founder and CEO, said BaMidbar’s clinicians and fellows will train over 4,000 Jewish communal professionals who will support more than 100,000 Jewish youth.

A growing problem: Levels of anxiety and depression, along with increasing suicide, self-harm and eating disorders, skyrocketed during the pandemic, especially among teenagers. “This period dramatically highlighted how ill-equipped the North American Jewish community was, and is, to address the deteriorating rates of mental health and well-being among our young people,” Hanselman Mayschak said.

Read the full story here.

New year resolution

Meeting the needs of our religious school students

Getty Images

“Even preceding the COVID-19 pandemic, the news was stark: our kids are suffering, and many are experiencing severe emotional distress. According to the 2022 National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Report, ‘Nearly 20% of children and young people ages 3-17 in the United States have a mental, emotional, developmental, or behavioral disorder, and suicidal behaviors among high school students increased more than 40% in the decade before 2019.’ According to an additional study, young women are particularly vulnerable to mental health crises, with one in five experiencing acute depression before the age of 25,” write Mindy Sherry, Rabbi Joshua Stanton and Cantor Olivia Brodsky of the East End Temple in New York City, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Renewed commitment: “If you consult any Jewish educator, clergyperson, or synagogue professional, they will, unfortunately, confirm these findings, having witnessed the struggle firsthand. As much as synagogues and Jewish communities need to grapple with isolation and mental health challenges that span generations, we cannot lose sight that our young people – our future – remain in crisis. Especially as we approach the Jewish New Year and the beginning of the school year, we must renew our commitment to care for the most vulnerable members of our community.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Pet Project: In The New York Times, Chris Cameron reviews the game show host Bob Barker’s longtime activism and philanthropy on behalf of animal rights. “Bob Barker, the longtime host of the television game show ‘The Price Is Right’ who died on Saturday, made animal rights advocacy a hallmark both of his career in show business and his life after retirement… Over decades as the host of the longest-running game show in American television history, Mr. Barker, beginning in the 1980s, used his bully pulpit to remind millions of viewers to ‘help control the pet population; have your pet spayed or neutered’… Mr. Barker supported a wide range of efforts to fight what activists saw as rampant animal cruelty in American society… Mr. Barker put $25 million into founding the DJ&T Foundation, which finances clinics that specialize in spaying and neutering… Estimates show that the number of dogs and cats euthanized in shelters has been reduced to a fraction of what it was in the 1990s, at least partially attributable to ‘the drive to sterilize pet dogs and cats,’ according to a 2018 study.” [NYT]

The Trick is Making Kids Feel Valued: In The Washington Post, Amy Joyce interviews Jennifer Breheny Wallace, the author of a new book about how parents can relieve the unhealthy stress facing teenagers. “I wanted to find ‘healthy achievers,’ and I wanted to know if they had anything in common. I found these healthy strivers had a lot in common: It all boils down to this idea psychologists call ‘mattering.’ It’s a psychological construct that’s been around since the 1980s. Kids who felt a healthy level of self-esteem felt like they mattered to their parents, that they felt important and significant. Over the past few decades, researchers have found kids who felt valued for who they were at their core, by their family and friends and communities. These kids were relied on to add meaningful value back; those kids had a high level of mattering that acted like a protective shield. It worked like a buoy that lifted them up and helped them be resilient.” [WaPo]

Around the Web

Addie Goodman joined the Harold Grinspoon Foundation as a new trustee for a three-year term beginning Sept. 1…

The Orkin Hillel Center, named for its main donors — the Orkin family, of pest control fame — opened at the University of Georgia over the weekend, at a ceremony attended by the Israeli consul general and representatives of the local Jewish community…

A Tennessee court ruled that a Jewish couple has grounds to sue a Christian foster agency that denied their application to serve as foster parents over religious differences… 

The Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue in Detroit reopened this weekend following a $6 million renovation…

Emma Tsurkov, the sister of Elizabeth Tsurkov, a Russian-Israeli academic who was kidnapped by an Iranian-backed Shiite militia in Iraq five months ago and remains in its custody, wrote an opinion piece in the Star-Ledger criticizing Princeton University for shirking its duty to get her sister released from captivity…

George Soros’ Open Society Foundations plans to significantly curtail its operations in Europe as part of a strategic shift that the organization is advancing under its new leader, Alex Soros

A new Washington Post-University of Maryland poll found that many Americans have incorrect beliefs about how to reduce the effects of climate change…

The Ukrainian Jewish community celebrated the 125th anniversary of the inauguration of the Brodsky Central Synagogue in Kyiv, Ukraine, over the weekend…

Israeli Ambassador to Romania Reuven Azar met with the head of the far-right Alliance for the Union of Romanians party, which has been accused of antisemitism and Holocaust denial, drawing ire from Yad Vashem and the Romanian government’s former special envoy on antisemitism. In the meeting, the party chief acknowledged Romania’s role in the Holocaust and denounced antisemitism…

A Rhode Island judgeruled that Congregation Shearith Israel in New York City can evict Congregation Jeshuat Israel from the historic Touro synagogue in Newport, R.I., the oldest synagogue in the U.S., which Shearith Israel owns but has rented to CJI for decades…

Pic of the Day

Courtesy/Bonnie Robinson

At a Friends of the IDF event on Sunday in Chicago, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (fourth from right) poses with Al Frank (left) and Izzy Levy (second from right) — co-founders of the organization’s IMPACT! scholarship program — as well as Brig. Gen. Guy Markizano, the minister’s military secretary (right); Maj. Gen. Hidai Zilberman, Israeli defense attaché to the U.S (third from right); Orna Pesach, executive director of IMPACT! (center); and Shuki Peretz, Doron Lavy and Dr. Dor Gilboa, three IMPACT! graduates (in white shirts).

At the event, Gallant stressed the importance of the Israel-U.S. relationship. “As Minister of Defense, I have set a clear directive, placing the ties between the United States and Israel, above all,” he said. “I will do everything in my power to defend the State of Israel, to protect the IDF and its commanders, and to unite our society.”


Courtesy/Jewish Community of Estonia/Facebook

CEO of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the first woman in JDC’s history to hold the position, Ariel Zwang

Interior designer and fashion icon, she is the only centenarian with more than 2 million followers on Instagram (2.8 million), Iris Apfel… Longtime movie and television actor, Elliott Gould… Former U.S. secretary of the Treasury during the Clinton administration, Robert Rubin… Retired IDF major general, he is the founder of Commanders for Israel’s Security, Amnon Reshef… Head of Yeshiva Ahavat Shalom in Jerusalem, Rabbi Yaakov Moshe Hillel… Hotel and real estate mogul, she is the U.S. ambassador to Malta since 2022, Connie Milstein… Former dean of Duke Law School following 17 years as a U.S. District Court judge, David F. Levi… Founder of Yad Sarah and former mayor of Jerusalem, Uri Lupolianski… Los Angeles resident, Warren B. Stern… Former U.S. secretary of the Treasury during the Obama administration, Jacob Joseph ‘Jack’ Lew… Former senior counsel at the Federal Communications Commission for 23 years, Amy L. Nathan… President and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation since 2017, Richard E. Besser… Director of operations at Kesher Israel: The Georgetown Synagogue, Laura Kamer-Israel… Journalist, author and blogger, Lisa Frydman Barr… District attorney of Queens since 2020, Melinda R. Katz… Associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States since 2017, Neil Gorsuch… Director, screenwriter and editor, Ra’anan Alexandrowicz… Head of the global business group at Facebook / Meta, Nicola Sharon Clyne Mendelsohn… Partner at D.C.-based HLP&R Advocacy, Jerr Rosenbaum… Election law guru at Dickinson Wright PLLC, Charles R. Spies… Hip-hop fashion designer, entrepreneur and artist, born in Lakewood, N.J., as Marc Milecofsky, Marc Ecko… Author and senior editor for books at The Atlantic, Gal Beckerman… Rosh Yeshiva and head of school at Bnei Akiva Schools in Toronto, Rabbi Seth Grauer… Israeli computer hacker, known as “The Analyzer,” Ehud Tenenbaum… Rabbi of Congregation Sons of Israel in Cherry Hill, N.J., Michael Z. Davies… Television and film actress, Lauren Collins… Winner of the Tiberias Marathon and the Jerusalem Marathon, mother of five, Bracha “Beatie” Deutsch… Robin Rubin… Adam Shapiro…

BIRTHWEEK: North American board chair of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies, Mark S. Freedman turned 72 on Sunday… JI podcast host, he is a senior advisor at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and served in the Trump admin National Security Council, Rich Goldberg turned 40 on Sunday…