Your Daily Phil: Jewish aid orgs in hurricane-battered Puerto Rico + Dan Shapiro on Israel ed

Good Friday morning!

Ed. note: Your Daily Phil will not be publishing on Monday, Sept. 26 and Tuesday, Sept. 27 in observance of Rosh Hashanah. We will return on Wednesday, Sept. 28. Shana tova to all!

In today’s 
Your Daily Phil, we look at what Jewish groups are doing to aid Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Fiona, and profile Rabba Amalia Haas, a Jewish beekeeper, ahead of the honey-centric holiday of Rosh Hashanah. We feature op-eds by Clal’s Rabbi Julia Appel on how to increase synagogue donations and former U.S. Ambassador Dan Shapiroon Israel education. Also in this newsletter: Lin-Manuel Miranda, Rebecca Needler Dinar, Jenna Beltser, Rabbi Marla J. Feldman, Jackie and Omri Dahan and Stanley R. Zupnik. We’ll start with a dispatch from an awards dinner in a rabbi’s home honoring an unlikely cause. 

After a week of conferences and galas featuring a laundry list of world leaders making an even longer list of bold pledges to transform the world, several dozen people attended an awards dinner of a different kind last night to honor a cause that — it’s safe to say — does not receive much global attention: nuns providing medical care to women in East Africa.

The intimate event took place in the apartment of Rabbi Erica Gerson and her husband, Mark, on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, and was held on behalf of African Mission Healthcare, an organization co-founded by Mark Gerson in 2010 and on whose board the couple sits. The group, which had a budget of approximately $9.5 million in 2021, funds medical care by Christian missionaries in Africa.

The night’s honoree was Dr. Sr. Priscilla Busingye, an ob-gyn and Catholic nun who provides medical care to women across western Uganda, performing cesarean sections, treating birth injuries and encouraging women to seek medical care during and after their pregnancies. Busingye was the most recent winner of the L’Chaim Prize, a $500,000 award launched by the Gersons to fund recipients’ work.

That money will go toward funding the Ngozi Nsa, or only love, Initiative, which seeks to expand the quality of maternal and child medical care in Uganda as well as its availability, in addition to training more health care workers. “We are seeing life… babies are coming, and they are going home alive,” Busingye said, describing her work.

Last year, the Gersons donated $18 million to African Mission Healthcare. In addition, Mark Gerson serves as international chairman of United Hatzalah, the Israeli emergency medical service.

“It’s not just healthcare,” Rabbi Gerson said at the event. “It’s bringing the compassion and the dignity that comes from knowing that every person is created in God’s image.”


Lessons from previous hurricanes guide Jewish groups as they aid Puerto Rico after Fiona

The Cadena team meets local Puerto Ricans in the disaster zone in Ponce this week.

Courtesy of cadena

On Tuesday, two days after Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico — knocking out most of the island’s power, limiting access to drinking water and displacing people from their homes — a team from the Jewish humanitarian aid group Cadena landed in the disaster zone and got to work, reports Daniela Cohen for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Moving quickly: For Cadena, a nonprofit based in Mexico, it was important to mobilize as quickly as possible instead of waiting for the government to respond — a lesson the group learned from witnessing the delayed government response during Hurricane Maria five years earlier. “The most important thing is to be there as soon as possible and secure the way of life of the people,” Benjamin Laniado, Cadena’s general secretary, told eJP. “And then they have the capability to wait. But to wait in security, with protection… they have to live with dignity.”

Confronting trauma: A psychotrauma and crisis response team from the emergency medical service United Hatzalah is set to arrive on the island today to provide “psychological first aid,” Raphael Poch, an EMT and the group’s spokesperson, told eJP. Poch said that unit was created in 2016 after Hatzalah saw how people were traumatized after witnessing a Hatzalah EMT being hit by a car. “If someone’s traumatized by seeing a car accident where the person who was hit gets up and walks away, how much more so are they traumatized by an actual severe trauma that either happens to them, their family members, people close to them or if they witness something like a terror attack?” he asked.

Read the full story here.


Meet the Orthodox Jewish beekeeper who sent out 1,000 pounds of honey before Rosh Hashanah

Rabba Amalia Haas with bees

Rachel Rovner Photography

With less than a week before Rosh Hashanah, Rabba Amalia Haas has been, well, busy as a bee. All day Wednesday, the CEO, or “chief bee whisperer” of Bee Awesome was packing and preparing shipments of honey in time for the Jewish New Year. Between in-person and online sales this year, she’s sold about 1,000 pounds of honey, reports Ruben Brosbe for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Bee season: For the 53-year-old beekeeper, part-time congregational rabbi, chaplain and Jewish educator from the heavily Jewish Cleveland suburb of Beachwood, Ohio, Rosh Hashanah is predictably the busiest time of year. “It’s like people who run a haunted house in October,” she told eJP. “Everyone from the most unaffiliated to the most Orthodox gets pretty obsessed about bees and honey,” she said, adding half-jokingly, “No Jews buy honey after Rosh Hashanah.”

Sweet sorrow: This year, beekeepers have had to contend with declining honey production rates. Haas produces honey on a small scale, and says her experience is not representative of national or global trends. She operates four to eight hives at her apiary at home, and an additional 10 to 20 hives on another property. Still, Haas’s hives have “absolutely” been impacted by both mites and climate change, she said. “When we get too much rain in the spring, the bees can’t fly,” she said. “My beautiful population of bees is standing at the entrance of the hive sort of saying, ‘When will the rain let up?’”

Read the full story here.


Want to increase donations? Try increasing congregants’ sense of belonging first


“I once checked out a new synagogue through its Shabbat dinner for young families, with my husband and two young children. The social hall was packed and noisy. We put our stuff down at a table, struggled to find foods the kids would agree to eat and finally sat to eat our own meal while the kids ran around the room. No one spoke to us. Eventually, we packed up and went home,” writes Rabbi Julia Appel, senior director of innovation at Clal – The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Are we using the correct metrics? “In the synagogue world, we often measure attendance, membership numbers and fundraising goals to know how we are doing. This week, synagogue staff across North America are processing membership renewals and finalizing flower arrangements and making signage to welcome hundreds, or even thousands, of congregants for the High Holidays… However, it turns out that no matter how beautiful the choir or how delicious the honey cake, what will really prompt more donations is whether a congregant feels deeply and authentically known in the congregation – whether she feels that she belongs.”

New research: “A groundbreaking new study by Clal – the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership and the Springtide Research Institute shows a clear and direct correlation between congregants’ sense of belonging at the synagogue and their likelihood to give. Seven synagogues across the U.S. and Canada, from different denominations and sizes, participated in the pilot of Clal’s Belonging Project by sending out a belonging survey, reaching 1,100 congregants. The difference between those with a high sense of belonging and those with no sense of belonging is striking: The former were 12 times more likely to donate money, 3.5 times more likely to recommend the synagogue and basically infinitely more likely to donate time and leadership skills.”

Perspective shift: “With the knowledge from the Belonging Project’s survey, it’s clear that we need to shift our perspective: Let’s see successful volunteer engagement and fundraising as symptoms instead of goals – symptoms of a synagogue culture in which congregants feel deeply known and connected. How might we design all our synagogue experiences around helping congregants learn each other’s names and hear each other’s stories? Our research shows that this would make all the difference.”

Read the full piece here.


The unique value of Israel studies


It has been more than two years since I became board chair of the Israel Institute. During these past two years, I’ve watched with concern as some members of the Jewish community dismiss the significant ways that Israel studies contributes to deep knowledge and enriched discussion of Israel,” writes former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro, chair of the board of the Israel Institute, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

A growing field: “Starting nearly 40 years ago Israel studies emerged as a distinct field of study. Following the example of the Schusterman Center at Brandeis University, strong centers dedicated to Israel studies have emerged across the United States to help foster a space where Israel can be studied and taught with rigor, nuance and sophistication. These centers are augmented by a growing number of permanent professorships, book series and flagship journals. All of these have contributed to making the study of Israel a more regular and accepted part of university curricula. There is much more work to be done and many, many more schools that lack Israel studies than have access to it.”

Israel studies is about knowledge: “Issues surrounding Israel are often subject to sharp political debate. But it is precisely when the discourse on Israel becomes so politicized – both on and off campus – that the work of making more classes about Israel available, for more students, at more schools, on more subjects is most vital. As opposed to other forms of engagement that ask students to ‘pick sides,’ to be advocates either for Israel or against it, Israel studies asks only that students come to class motivated to learn. That is unique, and it is what many students demand and deserve.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Not Throwing Away His Shot: USA Today’s Sandra Guzmán interviews Lin-Manuel Miranda about his family, career and philanthropic efforts. “Before he was an international star, Miranda was a philanthropist; giving back was a family tradition. ‘What is really amazing is that all our philanthropic efforts are really things we were working on when we had no money,’ Miranda explains. ‘The success of “Hamilton” has allowed us to put greater resources to the things we cared about.’ Miranda tapped college classmate Sara Elisa Miller to run the Miranda Family Fund, which consists of a donor-advised fund that gives considerable amounts to nonprofits and personal contributions to political campaigns.” [USAToday]

Community Comms

Be featured: Email us to inform the eJP readership of your upcoming event, job opening, or other communication.

Word on the Street

A $5 million gift from Jackie and Omri Dahan will establish the Harvard Chabad Endowment for Jewish Leadership. The gift will endow the position of Rabbi Hirschy Zarchi, founder and president of Harvard Chabad, which will be named The Jackie and Omri Dahan Harvard Chabad Jewish Chaplain. The gift will also fund the Dahan Fellowship for Jewish Leadership. The new fellowship, piloting this September, aims to nurture a new generation of Jewish leaders, to be known as Dahan Fellows

T’ruah, the progressive rabbinic human rights group, launched Emor, the Institute for Bold Jewish Thought, a think tank dedicated to advancing progressive ideas in public discourse and policy in the United States, based on Jewish sources…

Rebecca Needler Dinar has joined the Knight Foundation as director of communications. Dinar was previously associate vice president of strategic marketing and communications at the Jewish Federations of North America…

Jenna Beltser has been named program director of Jewish Woman Entrepreneur. Beltser was previously the founding executive director of the Orthodox Union’s Impact Accelerator…

Women of Reform Judaism announced that Rabbi Marla J. Feldman, the organization’s executive director, will retire on June 30, 2023…

More people around the world donated money to charity last year and helped a stranger than in any year of the previous decade, according to the Charities Aid Foundation’sWorld Giving Index 2022. For the fifth year in a row, the world’s most generous country is Indonesia, followed by Kenya and the United States.…

University of Maryland alumnus Stanley R. Zupnik, president and CEO of Majestic Builders, made a $25 million commitment to the university’s A. James Clark School of Engineering…

Pic of the Day

Michael Priest Photography

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid met with leaders from a range of Jewish organizations in North America on Wednesday in New York. Pictured with him are Dianne Lob, chair of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations (left), and Julie Platt, chair of the Jewish Federations of North America.



Pioneering female television anchor/host of “Today,” “The View,” “20/20” and the “ABC Evening News,” Barbara Walters (family name Abrahams), celebrates her birthday on Sunday…

FRIDAY: Vice chairman of the board of Chanel, the French fashion house, Arie L. Kopelman… Sarasota Jewish Federation executive, Richard Bergman… CEO of the American Jewish Committee, David Harris… President at Trendlines America, Mark J. Dollinger…. Co-chairman and COO of Chesapeake Realty Partners, he is also a founding partner of Boulder Ventures, Josh E. Fidler… Senior analyst at AIPAC, Colin M. Winston…. Partner at Steptoe & Johnson, Darryl Nirenberg… Business manager for Los Angeles Cardiovascular Medical Group, Angela Maddahi… Former vice chair of the board of trustees of the Jewish Federations of North America, she is a Birmingham, Ala., resident, Sheryl W. Kimerling… Israeli-American venture capitalist and head of Zeev Ventures, Oren Zeev… Co-owner of Major League Baseball’s Chicago Cubs, he is the RNC’s finance chairman, Todd M. Ricketts… Former U.S. ambassador to the E.U., now president and COO at the Business Roundtable, Ambassador Kristen Silverberg… President of Santa Monica-based PR firm Tower26, Naomi Seligman… Executive director of the Foundation at Alpha Epsilon Pi, Jay Feldman… Author of two best-selling books and co-founder of Sefaria and Atlas Obscura, Joshua Foer… Two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington bureau reporter for The New York TimesMichael S. Schmidt… Global head of news curation at Meta / Facebook, Gabriella Schwarz… VP of sales at Idomoo Personalized Video, Abby Glassberg… Saber fencing champion, he represented the U.S. at the 2016 and 2020 Summer Olympics and the 2017 Maccabiah Games, Eli Dershwitz… Record-setting powerlifter, Naomi Chaya Kutin… Deputy director general for Latin America at Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Jonathan Peled… Rabbi at The New Shul of America, Rabbi Seth Frisch

SATURDAY: Author of six books, best known for the semi-autobiographical novel I Never Promised You a Rose GardenJoanne Greenberg… Retired Israeli diplomat who served as Israel’s ambassador to Peru, Argentina, Brazil and Chile, Rafael Eldad… Former CEO of American Media, David Pecker… Feature writer for Sports Illustrated for 27 years, he is a 2015 inductee into the Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, Franz Lidz… Attorney and former judge advocate, Michael Alan Weiss… Founder, chairman and CEO of Hilco Global, Jeffrey Hecktman… Public safety success manager at FirstNet by AT&T, William Gross… President of Princeton University, Christopher L. Eisgruber… Co-founder and principal at D.C.-based PRG Hospitality, Alan Popovsky… EVP of governmental affairs at the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council, Chanina Sperlin… Economist, best-selling author and a great-granddaughter of former British Chief Rabbi Joseph Hertz, Noreena Hertz… Screenwriter, television producer, comic book writer and novelist, Marc Guggenheim… Israeli television host, actress and model, Yael Goldman-Pfeffer… Yale Law graduate and former executive director of Friends of the Brooklyn Queens Connector, Jessica Schumer… Former White House reporter at The Associated Press, Alexandra Jaffe… Actor, singer and songwriter, Ben Platt

SUNDAY: Foundation president, rabbi and teacher in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, Eliezer Ben-Yehuda… Member of the U.K.’s House of Lords, expert on prison reform, Baroness Vivien Helen Stern… Former member of Knesset, he also served as Israel’s ambassador to France and then the United Nations, Yehuda Lancry… Beachwood, Ohio, resident, Dvora Millstone… Israeli television anchor and popular singer, Yardena Arazi… Former member of Knesset for Yesh Atid, Ruth Calderon… Founder, chairman and co-CEO of Salesforce, Marc Russell Benioff… Best-selling author and serial entrepreneur, Marissa Levin… Director and co-creator of the award-winning HBO series “Game of Thrones,” David Benioff… Son and grandson of leading British rabbis, he is the senior rabbi at the Beverly Hills Synagogue, Pinchas Eliezer “Pini” Dunner… Bloomfield Hills, Mich., resident, Mary Elizabeth Aaron… White House correspondent for NPR, Tamara Keith… Member of the California State Assembly where he serves as chair of the legislative Jewish caucus, Jesse Gabriel… Member of the Wisconsin State Assembly, Jonathan Brostoff… Senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, Carmiel Arbit… Features writer at New York Magazine and its culture magazine VultureLila Shapiro… Media center director at the Democratic National Committee, Mitchell Israel Malasky… Assistant appellate federal defender at Federal Defenders of San Diego, Daniel Yadron… Yanky Rodman… Regional director at the Israel on Campus Coalition, Destiny Albritton… Director of national operations at the National Black Empowerment Council, Marvel Joseph… Senior associate at Laurel Strategies, Adam Basciano

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