Your Daily Phil: itrek absorbs Schusterman’s ‘Reality’ Israel trips

Good Wednesday morning.

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on how MAPS-Israel is using psychedelics to treat post-traumatic stress disorder and on Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon’s diary from his doomed space flight being given to the National Library of Israel. We feature an opinion piece by Rabbi Doug Kahn urging the Jewish community to continue to seek allies and not turn inward, even after Oct. 7. Also in this newsletter: Maya MazinYair Golan and Rachel Gelman. We’ll start with the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies’ “Reality” program moving to itrek.

Two months after announcing that it was cutting its “Reality” trips to Israel for emerging leaders, the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies has found a new home for the program in its longtime grantee itrek, the organizations exclusively told eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross.

itrek will officially take over the Reality program on July 1, though no trips are planned for this summer. The organization will, however, take responsibility for the program’s alumni network, which is made up of the more than 3,000 people who have gone on a Reality trip. To kick off the transition, itrek’s CEO, Gil Galanos, is slated to appear at a virtual gathering of Reality alumni on Thursday.

“We have long admired the Reality program and are delighted to bring it to itrek,” Galanos said in a statement. “We believe now more than ever it is essential for leaders to experience Israel, engage in dialogue and grapple with complexity.”

At least some of the Reality staff members currently employed by Schusterman will be offered positions at itrek. An itrek spokesperson declined to comment on how many staff members it would hire, citing employees’ privacy concerns.

To support itrek as it absorbs the Reality program, Schusterman Family Philanthropies is awarding the organization a multiyear grant. The foundation would not immediately comment on the size and exact duration of the grant, which will be in addition to Schusterman’s regular support for itrek.

“We are incredibly proud of the impact Reality has had and are thrilled that the program will continue under itrek,” Stacy Schusterman, chair of Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies, said in a statement. “itrek has a strong track record of connecting diverse leaders with Israel, and Reality will enable itrek to expand its reach into new sectors and communities. It is critically important to invest in meaningful Israel travel that enables people to experience Israel firsthand and learn about its history, diverse society and role in a complex region of the world.”

In March, Schusterman Family Philanthropies announced that it was refocusing its U.S. operations solely on grantmaking, cutting loose its Reality program and an eponymous leadership fellowship. Schusterman also scaled back its ROI program, focusing it primarily on Israel.

Lisa Eisen, Schusterman’s co-president, told eJP at the time that the organization was looking to find someone to absorb Reality, which it found in itrek. A Schusterman spokesperson said there is no such plan for the Schusterman Leadership Fellowship, which has ended and whose alumni network will have to be self-sufficient in order to continue.

Until now, itrek has focused on offering trips to Israel for graduate students. Since it launched in 2011 — with support from Schusterman — more than 25,000 graduate students from schools across the United States, Canada and Europe have traveled to Israel with the organization.

Two years ago, itrek began expanding its offerings to young professionals as well. The itrek spokesperson said that this made it a “real natural next step in itrek’s growth” for it to take over the Reality program.

Read the full report here.


With $2 million already raised, MAPS-Israel looks to use psychedelics to treat post-Oct. 7 wave of PTSD

A person visits the site where hundreds of revelers were killed and kidnapped in the deadly Oct. 7 terror attack at the Nova music festival in Re'eim, Israel, as seen on April 7, 2024.
A person visits the site where hundreds of revelers were killed and kidnapped in the deadly Oct. 7 terror attack at the Nova music festival in Re’eim, Israel, as seen on April 7, 2024. Amir Levy/Getty Images

Almost eight months after the Oct. 7 massacres, MAPS-Israel — an affiliate of the U.S.-based Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies — has raised $2 million (out of a projected goal of $2.3 million) for HealingOct7, a new multi-site study offering group therapy to treat the post-traumatic stress disorder of three specific groups: Nova Festival partygoers; residents of the Gaza border region; and Israeli soldiers who served in the area. The group therapy program centers on the use of MDMA, a psychedelic drug more commonly known as “ecstasy,” reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Esther D. Kustanowitz.

Crisis on the way: The number of PTSD cases in Israel is expected to rise dramatically in the coming months and years. Conducting MDMA therapy in groups “can be much more cost-effective and create much more access” to treatment for trauma victims of the Oct. 7 attacks, Keren Tzarfaty, a psychologist and the co-founder and CEO of MAPS-Israel, told eJP. The treatments would likely consist of six participants and two co-therapists working together over the course of 4.5 months in Sheba Tel Hashomer, Haemek, Beersheva, Lev HaSharon and Beer Yaakov medical centers; only two of the sessions would use MDMA, Tzarfaty said, and the rest would be based in mindfulness-based group psychotherapy. She noted that MAPS-Israel also intends to include Bedouins who were injured on Oct. 7.

Thinking differently: People who suffer from PTSD would, generally speaking, have a hard time connecting to their experience of a traumatic event, Tzarfaty explained. “It’s too much: the horror, the sadness, the grief, the pain. So it’s also hard to have a clear narrative, because you’re not so much present because it’s too scary or too painful,” she said. Because the pharmacological profile of MDMA contains dopamine and serotonin and feeds oxytocin, she added, it “creates a sense of safety and connection and empathy, regulating the nervous system and enabling the patient to stay present.” MDMA’s temporary high helps patients “experience themselves in a different way,” which can help them cope with PTSD, Tzarfaty said. (There are also researchers who warn against the “hype” of psychedelics, citing concerns about lack of evidence due to insufficient sample sizes and lack of longer-term follow-up with patients post-treatment.)

Read the full report here.


Family of Israel’s first astronaut, Ilan Ramon, gives diary from ill-fated space flight to National Library of Israel


The family of Israel’s first astronaut, Ilan Ramon, has given the diary that he kept during his ill-fated space flight to the National Library of Israel as a long-term loan. The diary, which largely survived the 2003 crash that killed Ramon and his six fellow astronauts, will be kept in a temperature and humidity controlled vault for safekeeping, according to the library, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross.

From Texas to Jerusalem: The diary was recovered among the debris from the crash site in Texas and sent to the Israel Museum for restoration and preservation, with help from the Israel Police’s forensic department. It remained at the Israel Museum until March when it was moved to the library, accompanied by two of Ramon’s sons, Tal and Yiftach. (His other son, Assaf, who was also a pilot, was killed in a training flight accident in 2009; and Ramon’s wife, Rona, died of cancer in 2018.)

Prosaic and profound: According to the library, at least one page in the diary was written before takeoff, while the rest were written in space. “Some entries are prosaic — describing brushing his teeth in low-gravity, conducting scientific experiments, and expressing longing for his family — but there are also casual mentions of conversations with the prime minister of Israel and the president of the United States,” the library said.

Standing guard: “The National Library is privileged to be entrusted with safeguarding and preserving this artifact, and to honor the memory of this man who created it, a hero of Israel and the Jewish people, now and for future generations,” Sallai Meridor, chairman of the board of the National Library of Israel, said in a statement.


Don’t make the same mistake twice

Johnstocker/Adobe Stock

“In the early-to-mid 1990s, many Jewish funders determined that the external threats to the Jews had receded and we needed to refocus resources on the internal challenges facing the American Jewish community,” writes Rabbi Doug Kahn, executive director emeritus of the Jewish Community Relations Council Bay Area, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

In retrospect: “It was a short-sighted approach. Without taking anything away from the legitimate concerns around Jewish identity and education, the decision to devalue Jewish community relations — because the external front was suddenly perceived to be in better shape than the internal front — reflected a misunderstanding of two core principles of American Jewish life: However good things are for the Jews we must always be vigilant; and that our security is and always will be tied to the health of our democratic society. This is why, when the community battlefronts proliferated in the wake of Oct. 7, too many of our community-based advocacy organizations, our JCRCs, were woefully under-resourced.”

Beg to differ: “In his May 3 opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy (“What died at Columbia”), Andrés Spokoiny — the influential president and CEO of the Jewish Funders Network and an important voice on many issues — wrote: ‘The notion that Jews, historically reliable allies to other minorities in America and around the world, could count on those allies in our time of need also lays dead in Morningside Heights… For now, there is one practical lesson that funders need to take when they see the figurative dead bodies strewn on the Columbia lawn: Focus inward. Invest your resources in strengthening the Jewish community and Israel because Columbia proves, yet again, that we can only count on ourselves.’ I have great respect for Spokoiny, but his call should not go unchallenged.”

An investment in our future: “The post-Oct. 7 period has been a wake-up call to reevaluate our standing in American society. But drawing the conclusion that we should focus inward exposes our community to even more risk. Vigilance on behalf of the Jewish community — the idea that Jewish history requires us to stay on alert, even in quieter times — is baked into the mission of every JCRC. To argue in this moment that we should once again move away from investing in seeking allies and building relationships with influential leaders is to take away an essential tool for effective vigilance… We must be far more visible and engaged in bridge-building activities even as we are simultaneously more selective in our alliances. It is not a time to walk away. It is a time to seriously invest.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Turning Pain into Art: In Jewish Insider, Lahav Harkov spotlights “Writing on the Wall,” a new creative writing community founded in the wake of the Oct. 7 terror attacks. “The workshop, led by Bar-Ilan University English professor William Kolbrener and novelist and Ph.D. student Ronit Eitan, was titled ‘Haven’t the Jewish People Suffered Enough’ — how humor ‘transforms tragedy into laughter.’ Humor, Kolbrener told attendees, ‘is a long Jewish tradition. That’s how Jews deal with tragedy’…  Kolbrener, who has taught English literature and creative writing at Bar-Ilan University for nearly 30 years, led ‘an impromptu writing workshop’ on Oct. 17, for students who would not be able to return to classes for over two months. ‘Writers were on fire,’ Kolbrener later wrote about that workshop. ‘Their stories: a grad student home with four young children, her husband “somewhere” in Gaza; a writer, her son-in-law, identifying the still burning bodies of Kibbutz Beeri; the undergrad who stayed home from the [Nova] rave, but whose friend did not. But they found words, and images – to transmute the horror into art’… The idea, Kolbrener wrote, is ‘to make something of our desolation, of that day,’ citing precedents in Jewish history: ‘The desolation caused by the sin of the Golden Calf led to the second tablets, and human creativity. The destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem led to the creation at Yavne of the Oral Law, the beginning of the Mishnah and Talmud and Midrash, the inspired poetry of the rabbis.’ Kolbrener wanted to create ‘a different kind of community,’ a post-Oct. 7 creative outlet.” [JewishInsider]

Source of Strength: In J. The Jewish News of Northern California, 13-year-old Maya Mazin writes about the role her Jewish day school in Palo Alto, Calif., has played in her life during this tumultuous time to be a Jewish teen in America. “When I learned about the attack [on Oct. 7], I couldn’t help thinking: What if my siblings had been there? What if my parents and I had gone to Israel in October? What if we had been visiting our family in Ashdod? During those first weeks, I would go up the stairs to my classrooms each day and know that, no matter what, I was not alone. I had my friends who were going through the same challenges. I had caring teachers who were willing to have discussions and answer questions at any given time. And I had my school, which was already finding ways to support Israelis… Through all the turmoil that these last months have been, one thing has been astoundingly clear: I should never have to hide my Jewish identity. Instead, I should be unapologetically Jewish and use these values to better our world. [Gideon Hausner Jewish Day School]  has helped me to do just that. It has allowed students like me to find our voices by providing us with a caring, supportive community that will always be there to lift us up. I have been given the most important gift of all — knowledge — through the countless speakers that we have heard from… The support and community at Hausner during these last months has inspired me to apply to a Jewish leadership organization to continue speaking up against hatred. Because, as history has shown time and time again, Jewish voices cannot, and will not, be silenced.” [J.]

Payments on the Prairie: While grantmakers focused on addressing the racial wealth gap in the U.S. usually direct their support to organizations working on specific related issues — community underinvestment, barriers to home ownership — the Bush Foundation choose a different tact when it awarded $50 million apiece for two organizations to put toward wealth-building initiatives in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, reports Mike Scutari in Inside Philanthropy. “Attuned to the transformative potential of direct cash payments, the Bush Foundation adopted an issue-agnostic approach, stipulating that Nexus and the NDN Collective directly fund individuals and empower them to define what wealth-building means for their communities… Plans can include multiple categories. For example, an individual could propose using a portion [of their $50,000 grant] toward starting a business (‘economic power’) and paying down debt (‘financial wellbeing)… The fund also provides individuals with an array of support services to see that their plans come to fruition… In late April, Nexus published its first deliverable, ‘Open Road Fund Year 1: Mini-Report,’ which, among other things, found that the fund’s support enabled awardees to ‘obtain stability’ and inspired them to give back to their communities.” [InsidePhilanthropy]

Around the Web

Foreign visitors to Israel will have to receive electronic travel authorization, or ETA, before arriving in the country, a move away from the visa-free travel that Israel has been offering to many countries, including the United States. A pilot program for U.S. and German passport holders will begin on June 1, and the ETA requirement will go into full effect on Aug. 1…

El Al, which has faced criticism for raising ticket prices to and from Israel as other airlines cut flights, saw its most lucrative quarter ever in the first three months of 2024, bringing in $738 million in total and $80 million in profit…

Melinda French Gates penned an opinion piece in The New York Times explaining why she stepped away from the foundation that she had established with her ex-husband: to focus her attention on helping women and girls, specifically around reproductive rights. The Associated Press considers which organizations may become grantees of French Gates’ new foundation…

The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, D.C., appointed Craig Mintz as its next chief financial and administrative officer, beginning next Monday…

The IDF Widows & Orphans Organization awarded hundreds of grants, scholarships and gifts at its annual gala on Monday evening to people with a parent or spouse who were killed in the line of duty as members of one of Israel’s security services…

Yair Golan, a former general and two-time Knesset member who led a number of daring rescue operations in southern Israel on Oct. 7, won the Labor Party primary election handily yesterday — receiving some 95% of the vote — to replace Merav Michaeli as the head of the party…

A group of 130 senior Israeli economists issued a public letter warning Israeli lawmakers that the government’s policies regarding Haredi Israelis — namely a hands-off approach to education, exemption from national service and encouraging non-employment — are “leading the country towards an abyss”…

Dozens of staff members at Seattle’s Wing Luke Museum went on strike, forcing the institution to close, in protest of an exhibit about fighting antisemitism, racism and other forms of discrimination because they said it included “Zionist perspectives”…

Harvard University announced yesterday that it will refrain from taking official positions on controversial public policy issues…

Rachel Gelman, the daughter of former Israel Policy Forum Chair Susie Gelman, has been one of the leading funders of anti-Israel activist groups involved in campus demonstrations, according to a report in the Daily Beast

Sens. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and James Lankford (R-OK) wrote to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona on Monday urging him to appoint a dedicated official to oversee the Department of Education’s efforts to combat antisemitism in schools…

St. Olaf College hired Rav Michaela Brown as its new associate chaplain of Jewish life, beginning on Aug. 1…

Lewis Bloch was named the next CEO of Shalva U.K., which raises money for the Israeli disability nonprofit of the same name. He succeeds Gaby Hirsch, who has served in the role for a decade…

A group of Palestinian Americans is suing Joseph Abruzzo, who oversees investments for Palm Beach County and has purchased more than $700 million in Israel Bonds, claiming that the investment was risky and ideological in nature, when he is meant to be unbiased…

Jerry Seinfeld sat down with Bari Weiss to discuss his trip to Israel after Oct. 7, and being the target of antisemitic protesters at his recent comedy shows…

New York State Sen. Jessica Ramos, a Democrat, said yesterday that she won’t introduce legislation needed by Mets owner Steve Cohen in order to advance his plan to build an $8 billion casino and entertainment complex next to Citi Field…

The Post and Courier, a daily newspaper from Charleston, S.C., spotlights the construction of the city’s first mikveh in 50 years…

The Haredi-focused news outlet Shtetl looks into the use of psychedelics in the Haredi community

A  2,300-year-old gold ring was found in the City of David, Jerusalem, in a joint excavation by the Israel Antiquities Authority and Tel Aviv University

The United Arab Emirates’ Manara Center — The Regional Center for Coexistence, which was established with the Anti-Defamation Leaguesigned a memorandum of understanding with Germany’s Friedrich-Alexander University’s Research Centre for Islam and Law in Europe…

Marc Klein, the former editor of J. The Jewish News of Northern Californiadied on Saturday at 75…

Pic of the Day

Courtesy/Jewish Agency for Israel

Hundreds of new olim (immigrants) from Ethiopia attend a job fair held at the Altshul absorption center in Beersheva on Tuesday hosted by the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Ministry of Aliyah and Integration.

About 30 companies and organizations presented a variety of employment opportunities in southern Israeli communities such as Beersheva, Sderot and Ofakim. Sessions were also presented on the job market in Israel, labor laws and workers’ rights, targeted resume writing and more.


Jonathan S. Lavine, co-managing partner and chief investment officer of Bain Capital Credit
Screenshot/Jamie Gellar/YouTube

Chief media and marketing officer at Aish, she is also a cookbook author, Jamie Geller

Former member of the Knesset for the Likud party and then Israel’s ambassador to Japan, Eli Cohen… Award-winning actor, composer, singer, songwriter and record producer, Danny Elfman… U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS)… Retired senior diplomat in the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, she was previously a brigadier general in the IDF, Ruth Yaron… Television writer, producer and actor, best known as the creator of the sitcom “Arrested Development” as well as the co-creator of “The Ellen Show,” Mitchell Hurwitz… President of Ahavath Achim Congregation in Wichita, Kan., Ellen Ginsburg Beren… Professor at the University of Chicago, co-author of the best-selling books in the Freakonomics series, Steven Levitt… CEO and executive editor of 70 Faces Media, Amiram (Ami) Eden… Policy analyst at Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Yaakov Feinstein… Founding partner of Blandford Capital, Nathaniel Jerome Meyohas… Founder and creative director of the fashion label Shoshanna (launched in 1998), style director for Elizabeth Arden, Shoshanna Lonstein Gruss… Film producer and former corporate lawyer at Skadden Arps, Edward Frank “Teddy” Schwarzman… Senior political reporter at the ForwardJacob Kornbluh… Swedish-born pro-Israel activist, commentator and reporter, Annika Hernroth-Rothstein… Managing director at Hudson Bay Capital Management and Jewish communal activist, Alexander Berger… Jewish liaison for New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, Jacob “Jake” Adler… Israeli-born assistant pitching coach for the Cincinnati Reds, he pitched for Team Israel at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Alon Leichman… English actor, his bar mitzvah was at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, Gregg Sulkin