Your Daily Phil: Jewish Agency CEO to step down

Good Tuesday morning.

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on a group of Nice Jewish Runners coming together after Oct. 7, and feature an opinion piece about convergence and divergence in the field of Israel education by Aliza Goodman, and another offering insights from post-Oct. 7 conversations with unaffiliated liberal Jews by Rabbi David Levin-Kruss. Also in this newsletter: Carly NormanMax Manasevit and Sami Michael. We’ll start with Jewish Agency CEO Amira Ahronoviz announcing she will step down.

Jewish Agency for Israel CEO and Director-General Amira Ahronoviz will step down from her position in six months after more than five years in the position, she informed the organization’s staff and leadership last night, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross.

“With great pride and love, at the end of a long and intensive journey that has filled me with endless meaning, I am preparing to complete my chapter in the leadership of this organization,” she wrote in an email to staff.

In her missive, Ahronoviz did not give a reason for her decision to step down or what her plans were after leaving the organization, where she has worked for nearly 30 years. She indicated to staff plans to relax, following a particularly stressful period as CEO of the international organization.

Ahronoviz, who served in a variety of positions at the Jewish Agency before becoming CEO and director-general in 2019, helped lead the organization through the COVID-19 pandemic; waves of immigration from Ethiopia; the massive rise in immigration from Ukraine and Russia following Moscow’s invasion in February 2022; the political turmoil in Israel last year; and through the aftermath of the Oct. 7 terror attacks and the ongoing war in Gaza and fighting along the northern border.

In addition to the external challenges facing the organization, Ahronoviz also steered the Jewish Agency through a nearly yearlong, contentious search for a new executive chair after Isaac Herzog stepped down from the role to become the president of Israel.

We wish to express, already at this time, our gratitude and deep appreciation for Amira’s remarkable leadership of this organization… she has led us during a period full of challenges that our people have never known since the establishment of the State of Israel,” wrote Mark Wilf, chair of the agency’s board; Doron Almog, its chair of the executive; and Bruce Sholk, chair of the budget and finance committee, in a joint letter to workers.

“Her remarkable contributions have driven the organization to new heights and achievements. These accomplishments under her leadership will leave a legacy that will positively impact our work long into the future,” they said.

Ahronoviz was the first female CEO of the nearly 95-year-old organization. The Jewish Agency said it was creating a search committee to find her successor. As Ahronoviz said she will remain in her position for the next six months, an interim replacement has not yet been selected.

Read the full report here.


Nice Jewish Runners offers community, support in 19 cities around the world post-Oct. 7

Members of a Nice Jewish Runners club go for a jog in January 2024.

Every Friday at 7:30 a.m., Joey Abrams meets a dozen or so runners on the corner of 90th Street and Fifth Avenue to embark on a three-and-a-half-mile loop around Central Park. The group, which calls itself Nice Jewish Runners (NJR), ends each run with a quick bite at Cafe Aronne on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, then heads out by 9 to log on to work. Then, Abrams counts the days until the next NJR run. “On Monday, I’m like ‘OK, four more days til NJR,’” he told eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen.

Come for a run?: NJR was formed days after Oct. 7 as a way to help the group’s founder, Ezra Feig, cope with the trauma in Israel. An avid runner, Feig, 32, recalled “how lonely it felt” participating in running clubs after Oct. 7. “There was silence from a lot of people in the running community, and a lot of my friends felt the same.” “So I just wrote on Instagram, ‘How about we do a run together?’ And that turned into our own running club with its own Instagram page.”

Rapid expansion: Since the group’s first run on Oct. 12 in Central Park, which 40 people participated in, NJR has expanded to groups in 19 cities worldwide — including Tel Aviv and Toronto. “The community was very involved with starting this up from the beginning,” he said, “from a member creating our logo to people participating in an online poll to [express interest and later] come up with the group name… it was very obvious that this was something a lot of people needed at the time.”

Read the full report here.


Everything has changed, and nothing has changed, all at the same time

iFellows Cohort 13 gathers for the second of three seminars in Chicago in January 2024. Courtesy/iCenter

“In the days, weeks and months since war broke out on Oct. 7, we’ve been asked countless times, ‘How has your work been affected by the war?,’” writes Aliza Goodman, who leads the design and implementation of The iCenter’s professional development initiatives, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Touchstones of Israel ed: “My answer has always been our work has changed both in every way and in no way at all. While current events may shape and influence educational priorities and many of our content choices, the outbreak of war underscored the importance of being adaptive to meet the needs of educators as they navigate increasingly complex realities. Now more than ever, it is essential to help practitioners engage with authentic, nuanced and dynamic Israel education so its foundation is strong and its impact is long-lasting.”

Shared goals, different approaches: “While unity around these core values persists, there is still room for diversity in approach. Indeed, the field of Israel education is strengthened when the many individual organizations that make up the field view their differences as complementary. Only when we understand that the unique elements of our approaches play a part in the development of a larger and unified whole will we be able to strive for long-term sustainability and effectiveness in Israel education.”

Read the full piece here.


‘I belong nowhere’: Conversations with unaffiliated Jews post-Oct. 7

It is hard to feel like you are suddenly the black sheep of your social circle or ideological community. Is there anywhere you truly belong? Katrina_S from Pixabay

“‘I belong nowhere,’ said my client, expressing how she felt when her liberal friends did not call her to express sympathy after Oct. 7. ‘I no longer feel comfortable in my progressive network, but the organized Jewish community, which I have weak ties with anyway, feels very alien to me,’” writes educator and life coach Rabbi David Levin-Kruss in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

The need revealed: “It all started when a former colleague told me a friend of his was experiencing personal, political and identity issues post-Oct. 7, and suggested that Jews like him were ripe for life-coaching. So, I sent a simple WhatsApp message to some people who fit this demographic or who know those who do. I went to make a cup of tea, and when I came back to my phone it was vibrating incessantly: ‘That’s me!’ ‘That’s my cousin.’ ‘I’m not in the group you mention but I am in touch with these people. What can you teach me?’… Almost everybody I have spoken to is looking for a stronger connection with the Jewish community, which they either left or were never really part of, but they are having trouble connecting.”

Show respect and acceptance: “Though their Jewish identity may be tenuous, their exploration of it is serious. However, approaching these people as ‘once lost but now found’ is not an effective way to connect with them. They cannot be reduced to statistics to be shifted or fresh meat to be turned into committed Jews; some will choose not to go this route, and anything that smacks of conversion will be counterproductive… Rather than wringing our hands about how we ‘lost’ these people, their ‘return’ is a reminder that there is a wellspring of Jewishness out there that can be tapped, and hopefully by means more positive than Oct. 7.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

The Time is Now: In Inside Philanthropy, Dawn Wolfe makes her case for philanthropists to proactively get involved in funding legal aid for communities hit by natural disasters. “2023 marked the fourth consecutive year during which there were 18 or more billion-dollar disasters in the U.S., a situation the [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency] described as ‘a consistent pattern that is becoming the new normal.’ In the immediate aftermath of a natural disaster, the most pressing focus is on rescuing survivors, treating injuries and addressing issues like failing infrastructure and water purity. But even as first responders leave the scene, and for years afterward, survivors can face a host of legal issues — everything from replacing birth certificates and Social Security cards to applying for FEMA assistance and negotiating unpaid rent when the lease continues even though the apartment has been destroyed. These tasks can be annoying at best, even with the help of an attorney, but only 44% of adults polled for a 2023 survey said they had $1,000 in cash on hand to deal with an emergency, let alone to pay for the hours of legal assistance that they may need in the wake of that emergency. And given what will likely be an ever-increasing level of need, the public service law sector isn’t well resourced enough to address the old normal, let alone the new one.” [InsidePhilanthropy]

Too Rich: In The Atlantic, Christine Emba explores ideas about wealth accumulation and agency from Dutch philosopher Ingrid Robeyns’ new book, Limitarianism. “Any individual’s wealth is dependent on the resources, effort, and cooperation of the society that surrounds them [, writes Robeyns]. Yet today, even though multibillionaires make their fortunes using the resources of a broader society — profiting off customers, employees, and public infrastructure; protected by government regulation and international accords — they are able to make unilateral decisions that shape society according to their desires, without that same society having much input at all. Robeyns proposes two upper limits on personal wealth. Most countries with a solid social safety net should bake a 10-million-euro (approximately $10.8 million) cap into their social and fiscal systems, she argues. As an ethical guide, individuals should limit themselves to 1 million (perhaps $5 million in the less secure United States, where one mistimed hospital bill could be enough to thrust a household into bankruptcy)… The numbers are somewhat arbitrary and context-dependent, but precise amounts are less important than having a socially recognized upper limit in play — a line between being reasonably wealthy and being unethically super-rich. After a certain point, extra money brings decreasing marginal utility for an individual — instead, Robeyns suggests, those surplus funds should be used to address society’s most urgent and unmet needs, ‘redistributed to those who have very little or else used to fund public goods that benefit us all.’” [TheAtlantic]

Around the Web

The Tikvah Fund opened the Herut Center for Israeli Liberty, a Jerusalem-based think tank that will be led by Amiad Cohen, the director-general of the organization’s Israel office…

The Kohelet Policy Forum, the think tank behind last year’s Israeli judicial overhaul efforts, has cut staff and scaled back operations, citing “recent events and the need for budget cuts” following the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war and the loss of major donors…

The Times of Israel spotlights Brothers and Sisters in Arms, which started last year as a protest group against the government’s judicial overhaul, as it looks to become a more coherent civic movement going forward…

Israeli tech entrepreneur Liron Petrushka and his wife, Naomiwere killed when their plane crashed in inclement weather near the California-Nevada border…

Carly Norman was hired as the development officer at the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Hartford

Birthright Israel and OpenDor Media started a new collaboration in which OpenDor will provide Jewish and Israel-related content to Birthright participants and alumni…

The Board of Deputies of British Jews launched a “Seder Seat for a Hostage” campaign, encouraging people to leave a seat empty at their Passover Seder in honor of the 134 hostages still held in Gaza…

Writing an opinion piece for CNN, Wesleyan professor Peter Rutland takes issue with the lack of Jews in the Holocaust film “The Zone of Interest”…

Nechama – Jewish Response to Disaster hired Max Manasevit as its next director of operations…

The Israeli news outlet Ynet interviews Jasmin Freyer, chair of the Jewish Community Committee in Austria, about her community’s experiences since Oct. 7…

Lt. Col. Nadav Shoshani was named the next international spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces, succeeding Lt. Col. Richard Hecht, who has served in the role for the last two years…

The IDF said it is investigating an apparent strike on two World Central Kitchen vehicles in central Gaza yesterday, which killed seven aid workers, most of them foreign nationals…

Sami Michael, an award-winning Iraqi-Israeli author and activist for Mizrahi Jewsdied on Monday at 97…

Pic of the Day

St. Paul Jewish Federation/Facebook

Participants in a solidarity mission to Israel organized by the St. Paul (Minn.) Jewish Federation pose after a day of volunteering last week at Kaima Hukuk, a nonprofit organic farm overlooking the Sea of Galilee. The farm employs high school dropouts between the ages of 15 and 18, providing opportunities for these at-risk youth to reconnect to society, find meaning and fulfillment in working the land and elevate their self-worth.


Annie Liebovitz smiles
Andy Katz/Pacific Press/Lightrocket via Getty Images

New York Supreme Court judge in Brooklyn, she is the founder of Ezras Nashim, the first all-female volunteer ambulance corps in NYC, Rachel “Ruchie” Freier

Olympian, holder of the world record in the 50-mile walk which stood since 1972, he is a concentration camp survivor via the Kastner train and a professor emeritus at Ben-Gurion University, Shaul Paul Ladany… National security adviser under President Clinton, then executive director of UNICEF, he converted to Judaism in 2005, William Anthony Kirsopp Lake, best known as Tony Lake… Writer best known for being the first public editor of The New York Times and the inventor of Rotisserie League Baseball, Daniel Okrent… Israeli businessman Beny Steinmetz… Former deputy U.S. attorney general (and later acting AG) during the Trump administration, now counsel at Cravath, Swaine & Moore, Jeffrey A. Rosen… Academy Award-winning film director, screenwriter and producer, David Frankel… On-air ice hockey analyst for NESN during pre-game, post-game and intermissions of the Boston Bruins, Billy Jaffe… Singer, songwriter, guitarist and composer, he is a founding member of the Jewish rock band Moshav, Duvid Swirsky… Producer and screenwriter for the stage, television and film, best known as the creator and showrunner of the television series “Breaking In” and “The Goldbergs,” Adam F. Goldberg… Actress, producer and singer, she and her husband, Guy Nattiv, won the Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film in 2019, Jaime Ray Newman… Reporter for the NYT covering NYC politics and government, Dana Rubinstein… Chief counsel for China trade enforcement in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, Brian Janovitz… Ph.D. candidate at NYU, Isaac Roszler… Chief field officer at the Israel on Campus Coalition, Elisabeth Rosenfeld… Rabbinical student at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Evan Lerner Traylor… Executive director of the Warsaw Jewish Film Festival, Magda Strehlau… Attorney and strategic counsel at Medtronic, Rhona Shwaid… Miriam Rosen… Judith Berman…