Your Daily Phil: Jewish groups in Ukraine press on after 2 years of war

Good Friday morning,

For less-distracted reading over the weekend, browse this week’s edition of The Weekly Print, a curated print-friendly PDF featuring a selection of recent eJewishPhilanthropy, Jewish Insider and The Circuit stories, including: New study finds that Jews who experience antisemitism, have strong Jewish identity are more likely to make charitable gifts; The former Facebook exec seeking to re-center Harvard; Rep. Andy Kim keeps his distance from some progressive backers; Keir Starmer facing the ghost of Jeremy Corbyn within the Labour partyPrint the latest edition here.

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on the Conference of Presidents’ mission to Israel this week and interview Brandeis President Ronald Liebowitz. We feature an opinion piece by Gerald Freisleben about “trust-based philanthropy” in the Jewish nonprofit sector, and another by Rabbi Irina Gritsevskaya marking the second anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Also in this issue: Steve SchwarzmanGabriel Barnett and Julie Katz. We’ll start with a look at the ongoing work of Jewish groups in Ukraine two years into the war. Shabbat shalom!

Classrooms remain empty. Children have become orphans. More than 10,000 civilians have been killed. The world has turned its attention to Israel’s war against Hamas. 

This is life in Ukraine today, a country still shattered by a grinding war that broke out two years ago this week when Russia invaded on Feb. 24, 2022, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen

The Jewish groups that have provided psychological support, material aid and relocation assistance for civilians in war-torn cities say they are still hustling two years later, even as Israel’s war with Hamas and recovery from the trauma of the Oct. 7 massacre have become a central priority for Jewish federations and donors. 

“The Jewish communal infrastructure of support and rescue has been tested these past few years more seriously than any time since WWII,” said Eric Fingerhut, president of the Jewish Federations of North America. “Our ability to maintain historic levels of response to multiple crises over a long period of time has proven the necessity and strength of the Jewish Federation system,” he continued. JFNA has raised and distributed $96.1 million for Ukraine, and among other services, has helped 180,000 Ukrainians find refuge in the U.S. and assisted 91,925 people make aliyah to Israel because of the Russian invasion.

Among the initiatives JFNA is helping to support on the ground in Ukraine include the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee’s effort to provide ongoing care to more than 41,000 Jews in Ukraine — the elderly, poor, displaced and newly impoverished — including basic and emergency essentials such as food, medicine, water, homecare for the homebound and sick as well as evacuation services. They are also currently helping 3,479 internally displaced people of all ages. 

Pivotal boots-on-the-ground care has also been led by a prominent Jewish humanitarian aid group affiliated with Chabad, which has been organizing humanitarian aid in Ukraine since the fall of the Soviet Union under the name Federation of Jewish Communities. When the war started, it spun off into a separate entity called Jewish Relief Network Ukraine (JRNU) to focus solely on Ukraine, using the same infrastructure that had already been in place for decades. 

“Early on, it was easy to raise money,” Judi Garrett, COO of JRNU, told eJP, adding that Oct. 7 was “a major turning point.” 

“That definitely hurt in terms of major grants,” Garrett said. In terms of individual donors, she said it “dropped off immediately but has come back quite a bit. People are recognizing that they need to help Israel but can’t forget about Ukraine. They forgot about Ukraine for a minute but we have very loyal donors.” 

“Still,” Garrett said, “that does not replace the major loss of [funding from] foundations, which we are hoping will come back at some point.”

Read the full report here.


Members of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations with Israel President Isaac Herzog and his wife, Michal, in the President’s Residence in Jerusalem on Feb. 20, 2024.

The reports of divisions between the United States and Israel over the war in Gaza are grossly exaggerated, according to William Daroff, CEO of the Conference of Presidents of American Jewish Organizations. This assessment comes after weeks of discussions with Israeli and American officials, capped off by the conference’s mission to Israel, which concluded on Thursday. “The amount of daylight and the amount of disagreement is not as substantial as it is reported in anonymously sourced pieces in news media,” Daroff told eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross on the final day of the mission.

Thanks, Joe: He acknowledged that while there are differences of opinion both within and between the United States and Israel regarding the “day after” in Gaza. But he said that it was anyway “premature… to get into the nuts and bolts of Gaza 2.0 while Hamas still rules.” According to Daroff, the Israeli leaders and officials primarily asked the attendees “to thank President Biden, Secretary of State Blinken for their support for Israel, both as it relates to moral support — Secretary Blinken has been here seven times; the president made his historic first trip by an American president into an Israeli war zone in the aftermath of the Oct. 7 attack — and to the continuing support in international organizations, including the president’s veto [in the United Nations Security Council] on Monday,” Daroff said.

Keeping the faith: Daroff said the American Jewish leaders maintained their faith in Israeli leadership as it relates to Israeli national security policies and domestic politics, even as the government’s failures in preventing the Oct. 7 attacks and its response to it, which is widely seen as having been slow and insufficient, have caused Israelis to question their faith in the country’s political leaders and top civil servants. “We opine all the time on issues, whether it’s the judicial reform or the Kotel,” Daroff said. “But I haven’t heard any second-guessing [on security issues].”

Read the full report here.


Brandeis president speaks up about campus challenges in the post-Oct. 7 world

American politician Dianne Feinstein, her arms outstretched in celebration, in her office after she was elected mayor of San Francisco, at San Francisco City Hall in San Francisco, California, circa 1978.
Brandeis University President Ronald Liebowitz. Courtesy

Brandeis University was founded in 1948 “by the American Jewish community at a time when many elite universities were discriminating against Jews,” according to its website. As Jewish students today at many elite universities are facing levels of discrimination on campus not seen in several generations, Ronald Liebowitz, who has served as the president of Brandeis since 2016, sat down to discuss this precarious moment in academia with eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen for Jewish Insider.

Why they’re here: “At our 50th anniversary, there was a telling article in The New York Times that asked what’s the purpose of Brandeis now? Jews have entered all aspects of society, so is there a mission for Brandeis? Fast-forward 25 years, I don’t think people are asking that question any longer.”

On banning SJP: “I’m a firm believer in free speech. One thing I’m also opinionated about is selective free speech and a university cannot take selective stances on when it’s OK to do what some might describe as hate speech — I call it gratuitous speech. I look at gratuitous speech as speech that is unnecessary to advance the mission of the institution. To me the mission of the institution is to promote the engagement of different ideas, even as difficult as they are. The [Students for Justice in Palestine] situation to me was one of those examples where they were simply being a mouthpiece [for Hamas], which has been designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S.”

Robert Kraft partnership: “Unless and until leaders of colleges understand antisemitism and be given some sort of tool kit to deal with it, all the student engagement in the world is not going to matter. We need it from the top. So we created the program last year. First, it was an undergraduate internship program [where] students are placed at Robert’s Foundation to Combat Antisemitism, doing work for that foundation, engaging in research. That’s been going on now for three semesters.”

Read the full report here.


Flexible funding and Jewish nonprofits: Meeting the moment calls for a trust-based model

“There is a paradigm shift in funding underway, part of a movement toward enterprise capital: treating longer-term and flexible-use capital as high-value currency that propels nonprofits to fulfill their missions,” writes Gerald Freisleben, president of FolFry LLC,  in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Essential investments: “Consider the federal budget as an analogy: Moonshot promises to cure cancer and to explore Mars grab headlines, but critical and essential infrastructure projects — highways, bridges, dams and power grids — allow the country to run… Now, more than ever, nonprofits are struggling to achieve short-term security, long-term continuity and the ability to withstand future turbulence. The needs of the moment require more flexible solutions than ever before that will strengthen the underpinnings of Jewish nonprofits and ensure their ongoing viability.”

From strength to strength: “Reciprocally, frontline nonprofits must look peripherally at their organizations to assess where they need to build capacity and how to use funding most productively… Organizations are obligated to their funders and the stakeholders they serve to evaluate their needs and make sure dollars used to these ends align closely with organizational needs. But let’s dispel the notion that the term ‘capacity-building’ implies a weakness or defect in our Jewish nonprofit sector or a lack of human capital necessary to succeed. Instead, we should look at this moment affirmatively: It is an opportunity to direct resources that allow organizations to achieve growth and address the complex challenges inherent to far-reaching visions that can uplift lives.”

Read the full piece here.


After two years and two wars, we still choose life

A woman with shoulder length brown hair and glasses wearing a light blue collared shirt and dark smiles faintly
Rabbi Irina Gritsevskaya has returned to Ukraine from Israel several times since the beginning of the war.

“Every Shabbat, Masorti communities in Ukraine start their prayers with the prayer for Israel and end with the prayer for Ukraine. This is symbolic of how Jews in Ukraine view their predicament: They find themselves in the midst of two wars, each of which deeply and personally touches their own existence,” writes Rabbi Irina Gritsevskaya, executive director of Midreshet Schechter Ukraine and Midreshot Schechter in Israel, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Dark night of the soul: “This Shabbat, two years will have passed since Feb. 24, 2022, the day the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine started. It is a day I will never forget. This day changed the lives of all the Jews in Ukraine. So many of their dreams and life plans collapsed as many of them became displaced persons in search of new communities. Unfortunately, destruction, fear, loss and uncertainty about what their future holds remains the reality two years later… As a regular visitor to the country, I used to ask people about their plans for the future. At this point, most will not even consider this a proper question, because even the events of the coming night and day are uncertain.”

Spiritual muscle memory: “In regular times, we Jews train ourselves to observe Jewish rituals that help balance and control our emotions. On Sukkot, to be happy even if we are sad. On Yom Kippur, to feel awe and the presence of the Holy even if we are depressed and fighting inner darkness. And on Shabbat, we force ourselves to be part of the community, even when the pain practically paralyzes us from leaving the house. In times of crisis, all of these Jewish ‘skills,’ these long-trained mental muscle memories that can so easily be questioned in everyday so-called normal life, come to our rescue in unconscious ways, even when our conscious self falters and fails.” 

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

AI Ally: Steve Schwarzman doesn’t fit the image of an AI tech bro, but the Blackstone CEO is playing a major role in the field — by supporting AI research and education, reports Miriam Gottfried in The Wall Street Journal. “A chance encounter in 2015 led Steve Schwarzman, the septuagenarian private-equity billionaire, to become one of the biggest and most unlikely champions of artificial intelligence. On a bus ride in Beijing with other global business leaders, the Blackstone chief executive happened to sit next to Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma, who started talking about AI. The technology, he explained, would soon change drug development and education and reshape how people across all industries do their jobs. Nine years later, Schwarzman, 77 years old, might be the biggest individual funder of AI education and research, having pledged more than half a billion dollars to the effort… A major Republican donor, he worked behind the scenes to help secure passage of the Chips and Science Act of 2022. Schwarzman was particularly interested in the funding it provided for areas such as AI and quantum computing and the $80 billion-plus authorized for the National Science Foundation… ‘I was concerned that the U.S. was falling behind on the most promising new technology in generations.’” [WSJ]

Food for Thought: According to Anna Lappé, executive director for the Global Alliance for the Future of Food, only 3% of climate change-related funding goes toward improving food systems even though the sector contributes roughly one-third of greenhouse gas emissions globally, reports Elena Seeley in Food Tank. “Philanthropic organizations are increasingly investing in systemic food and agriculture solutions, says [Lappé]. By leveraging their influence, the Global Alliance is working to close the gap in funding that is needed to drive the positive transformation of food systems. ‘It is possible to produce food in a way that’s good for our bodies, that doesn’t destroy the planet, that doesn’t contribute to the climate crisis,’ Lappé tells Food Tank. ‘Those are possible pathways that we’re able to scale if we invest in them and support their growth around the world.’ The Global Alliance has worked to unite foundations to leverage resources and networks in a way that promotes more regenerative and equitable food and agriculture systems… ‘There’s a significant amount of philanthropic dollars going to what I would just call charity… going to put a bandaid on the problem,’ Lappé continues. And while she acknowledges that there is a need to address acute hunger, it is critical to ensure that funders are also investing in the root causes of these issues.” [FoodTank]

Around the Web

The White House named Gabriel Barnett its interim Jewish liaison. He will temporarily replace Shelley Greenspan, who has held the role since 2022, while she is on maternity leave…

The Chabad-Lubavitch movement is partnering with the Jewish Federations of North America on its Israel Emergency Campaign, similarly to how the organizations worked together on JFNA’s Ukraine relief campaign…

David Lubin, whose daughter, Rose, moved to Israel and was killed in a stabbing attack in Jerusalem while serving in the Israeli Border Police, will run against Georgia state Sen. Sally Harrell in the Democratic primary in May after she abstained from voting on an antisemitism measure…

Genevieve Shaker of the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University breaks down a new survey by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, which found that colleges and universities received $58 billion in charitable donations in 2023…

In the Jewish News Syndicate, consultant Erica Baruch discusses ways that synagogues can make themselves accessible while still maintaining their security standards…

Julie Katz, the Atlanta associate director of the American Jewish Committeewas appointed to a special one-year role at the State Department’s Office of the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism

Denmark has recorded the highest number of antisemitic incidents in the country since the Holocaust…

The nonprofit Cancer Research UK launched a £400 million ($507 million) fundraising campaign, which it says is the largest ever by a British charity…

The British nonprofit’s fundraising campaign comes as leading cancer experts from around the world issued a public call to philanthropists to fund what they call a “golden age” of scientific research…

The Mark Foundation for Cancer Research and the Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation, with additional support from the Melanoma Research Allianceissued three grants totaling $1.5 million to three projects focused on cancer and aging…

An investigation by the Israeli media watchdog The Seventh Eye found that the Jerusalem Post and its Hebrew sister publication, Walla, ran pro-Russian articles sponsored by the Russian government without informing readers…

The Siegel Family Endowment and the Walton Family Foundation launched the Learning Landscapes Challenge, a $2.2 million competition to design and build “future-ready” K-12 education environments…

Pic of the Day

Over 50,000 people attend the traditional Birkat Kohanim (Priestly Blessing) at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City today, during Chol Hamoed (the intermediary days) of Sukkot.
Courtesy/Merkos 302

Jewish teens from Buenos Aires, Argentina, one of 12 delegations from Spanish-speaking countries on their way to participate in a special Spanish-language track at the 16th annual CTeen Summit. The international convention of the Chabad-Lubavitch youth movement is taking place this weekend in New York City. 

A total of 3,000 teenagers are expected to attend, converging from across North America, Latin America, Europe and Israel.


Annie Liebovitz smiles
Tobias Hase/Picture Alliance via Getty Images

Founder of WhatsApp, Jan Koum, celebrates his birthday on Saturday… 

FRIDAY: Retired senior counsel in the Baltimore office of DLA Piper, he served as president of the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, Shale D. Stiller… Former New York City comptroller for 16 years, Harrison J. Goldin… EVP emeritus of the Orthodox Union and editor-in-chief of the Koren Talmud Bavli, Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb… Bethesda, Md., resident, Lois Copeland… Dean of a yeshiva high school in Israel, in 1967 he co-founded a popular band called The Rabbis’ Sons, Rabbi Baruch “Burry” Chait… Philosopher, novelist and public intellectual, she was a winner of a MacArthur Genius Fellowship in 1996, Rebecca Newberger Goldstein… Chairman of Agudath Israel of America and CEO of the OuterStuff sportswear line, Sol Werdiger… Film director, writer and producer, he is the president emeritus of the Producers Guild of America, Marshall Schreiber Herskovitz… Investor, holder of both Kazakh and Israeli citizenship, he served as president of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress, Alexander Mashkevitch… Former minister of foreign affairs for Israel, he was chief of the general staff of the IDF until 2011, Gabi Ashkenazi… 25-year veteran of USAID’s Foreign Service, she was the mission director for USAID in the West Bank and Gaza, Monica Stein-Olson… Strategic communications consultant, he was previously director of communications and PR for the Jewish Federations of North America, Joe Berkofsky… Political consultant and pollster, he is the founder of Luntz Global, Frank Luntz… Founder and CEO of Dell Technologies, Michael Dell… Best-selling author of young adult novels, Nova Ren Suma… Actor, comedian and singer, Josh Gad… CEO of film production firm Benaroya Pictures, Michael Benaroya… Founder of Tahrir Scarf, Johnathan Morpurgo… Chief operating officer and director of research at The Lawfare Project, Benjamin Ryberg… Member of the Knesset for the Likud party, Dan Illouz… Chief communications officer at USAID, Rebecca Chalif… Reporter at Bloomberg covering residential real estate with a focus on NYC’s housing market, Jennifer Epstein… Founder of an eponymous real estate brokerage in Tel Aviv, Barak Daon… Engineering manager at Business Insider, Reuben A. Ingber… Strategy and impact officer at Walton Enterprises, Mary Ann Weiss… National politics breaking news reporter at The Washington PostPatrick Svitek… Head of public affairs and regulatory strategy at Polymateria, Gidon Feen

SATURDAY: Former U.S. senator and then Democratic nominee for VPOTUS in the 2000 U.S. presidential election, Sen. Joe Lieberman… Chairman and CEO of Warner Bros until 2001, then chairman and CEO of Yahoo, Terence Steven “Terry” Semel… Professor of mathematics at Yale University since 1991, Grigory Margulis… Encino resident, Faye Gail Waldman… Rabbi and author of a book about chocolate and Judaism, Deborah R. Prinz… President of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Clifford D. May… Member of the New Jersey Senate since 2022 following 18 years in the NJ General Assembly, Jon M. Bramnick… Head basketball coach in a Puerto Rican league, he coached in the Israeli Premier League and has been on NBA and college basketball staffs in the U.S., Brad Greenberg… Film critic for Entertainment Weekly and then for Variety magazine, Owen Gleiberman… Former member of the Knesset for the Likud party, Nurit Koren… Founder of the Baltimore Center of Advanced Dentistry, Gary H. Bauman, DDS… Managing director at SKDKnickerbocker, Karen Olick… Former Israeli minister of health and leader of the Meretz party, Nitzan Horowitz… Professor of piano and artist-in-residence at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Yakov Kasman… Author, survival expert, anthropologist and TV host, Josh Bernstein… Member of the Knesset for the Likud party, now serving as Minister of Intelligence, Gila Gamliel… Professor of history at the Hebrew University, his books have been translated into 65 languages and have sold over 45 million copies, Yuval Noah Harari… NYC-based independent filmmaker, who, together with his older brother Joshua, directed and wrote the 2019 film “Uncut Gems” starring Adam Sandler, Benjamin Safdie… Partner at MizMaa Ventures, Aaron Applbaum… Israeli actress and model, she has appeared in advertising campaigns for Urban Outfitters, Samsung and Sephora, Dar Zuzovsky… YouTube beauty guru known as RCLBeauty101 with 14.3 million subscribers, Rachel Claire Levin… Mitchell Brown… 

SUNDAY: Former talk show host, Sally Jessy Raphael (born Sally Lowenthal)… Owner of both the MLB’s Chicago White Sox and the NBA’s Chicago Bulls, Jerry M. Reinsdorf… Former president of the Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore and then EVP of the UJA-Federation of New York and the first-ever CEO of United Jewish Communities, Stephen Solender… Science and medicine reporter for the New York Times and author of six books, Gina Bari Kolata… Graduate of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, formerly CEO of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Steve Gutow… Jerusalem-based attorney and chairman of Republicans Overseas Israel, Marc Zell… Opinion columnist for the New York Times since 2016, after nine years as the NYT’s editorial page editor, Andrew Rosenthal… VP of communications at CNN until 2022, Barbara Levin… Policy editor at The BulwarkMona Charen Parker… CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Buffalo since 2015 after a 20-year career at Hillel, Rob Goldberg… Co-president of Paterson, N.J.-based JNS-SmithChem, Michael F. Smith… U.S. ambassador to Israel until last July, now vice chair of Blackstone, Thomas Richard Nides… Mayor of Burlington, Vt., since 2012, Miro Weinberger… Founder of “News Not Noise,” she was previously the chief White House correspondent for CNN, Jessica Sage Yellin… Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, she is now VP of global curation for Meta / Facebook, Anne Elise Kornblut… Co-founder of Singapore-based Alchemist Travel, Lauren Raps… Comedian, actress and writer, Chelsea Joy Handler… Actress best known for her roles in NBC’s “Parks and Recreation” and Fox’s “Boston Public,” Rashida Jones… Managing director of Covenant Wines in Berkeley, Calif., Sagie Kleinlerer… Assistant director at San Francisco-based EUQINOM Gallery, Lyla Rose Holdstein… Founding partner of Parallel Capital and board chair of the Holocaust Museum LA, Guy Lipa… Actor best known for his role in Fox’s “Malcolm in the Middle,” Justin Berfield… CNN’s Jerusalem correspondent, Hadas Gold… 2013 U.S. national figure skating champion, now a regional VP at ProShares, Maxwell Theodore “Max” Aaron… Julie Goldman…