Your Daily Phil: Jewish leaders in Ashkelon for firsthand view of war’s toll

Good Tuesday morning.

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on North American Jewish groups expressing solidarity and raising funds for Israel following Saturday’s deadly terror attack and how organizations are briefing their members about how they can help. We feature opinion pieces from Steven Windmueller and David Bryfman. We’ll start with Jewish leaders visiting Israel’s war-torn south.

A delegation of top officials from the Jewish Federations of North America, UJA-Federation of New York and the Jewish Agency for Israel toured Israel’s war-torn south on Monday, visiting a hospital in the city of Ashkelon that has treated hundreds of casualties since the Hamas attack on Saturday morning, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross, who accompanied them on the tour.

During their tour of the Barzilai Medical Center, JFNA President and CEO Eric Fingerhut, director general of JFNA’s Israel office Rebecca Caspi, UJA-Federation CEO Eric Goldstein, chair of the Jewish Agency’s Budget and Finance Committee Bruce Sholk and the director of the Jewish Agency’s Fund for Victims of Terror, Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin, met with hospital staff, spoke with victims and families of victims and saw new casualties coming in as a rocket directly struck a car a few blocks away from the hospital during their visit.

Their tour was led by the hospital’s head of emergency services, Dr. Ron Lobel, a resident of the nearby community of Netiv Ha’asara, which was invaded by terrorists on Saturday morning. Lobel and his wife barricaded themselves in their home’s bomb shelter for a full day until they were rescued by the Israeli military. At least 17 people out of the community of 900 were murdered. The next day, Lobel returned to work.

“Can you imagine?” Fingerhut told eJP after the visit. “He is caring for these emergency patients and he himself was basically held captive, defending his life and his wife’s for almost 24 hours.”

Fingerhut said the tour of the hospital “really brought home… the magnitude of the atrocity.” He added: “I just felt so clearly the depth of this.”

Fingerhut said that JFNA is dividing its efforts into two distinct missions: fundraising and advocacy.

“The first is to care for our brothers and sisters in Israel who need our help,” he said, including not only the victims of the attacks but also the services and organizations that are supporting the country. Fingerhut said the second, and in some ways more important, effort will be in using the North American Jewish community’s connections and relationships to shore up support for Israel by the American and Canadian governments, as well as the American and Canadian people.

“When I meet with Israeli leaders, the No. 1 thing that they are asking us for is support and maintaining the support for Israel’s upcoming military actions,” he said.

Read the full report here.


Israeli soldiers walk in front of an Israeli police station in the town of Sderot that was damaged during battles to dislodge Hamas terrorists inside, on Oct. 8, 2023.
Israeli soldiers walk in front of an Israeli police station in the town of Sderot that was damaged during battles to dislodge Hamas terrorists inside on Oct. 8, 2023. (Jack Guez/AFP via Getty Images)

In a near wall-to-wall display of solidarity, American Jewish organizations from across the political spectrum came out in support of Israel following an unprecedented assault by Palestinian terrorists from the Gaza Strip on Saturday morning, releasing statements and launching fundraising campaigns despite the attacks taking place on Shabbat and Shemini Atzeret, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross.

Across the spectrum: The statements of support came from large umbrella organizations, individual federations, museums, community security groups, religious movements, left-wing groups, right-wing groups, socialist groups and Jewish community centers, as well as Jewish senators and representatives. Most expressed their support unequivocally, including liberal groups like J Street, Americans for Peace Now and T’ruah, but a small number of far-left groups, such as IfNotNow, condemned the loss of Israeli civilian life but also put blame on Israel for its treatment of Palestinians.

Raising funds: In the wake of the attacks, a number of Jewish federations created “crisis funds,” to raise money for projects related to the war. The Magen David Adom and United Hatzalah emergency medical services have also launched fundraising drives, as have many Israel hospitals, which have already been inundated with patients from the initial attacks and subsequent rocket fire. Within Israel, various organizations — some established, some makeshift — have sprung up to provide tactical gear, food and other supplies to Israeli soldiers.

Read the full report here.


American Jews briefed on attacks in Israel as communities look for ways to help

Candles are lit for a vigil in solidarity with Israel at Temple Emanu-El of New York on Oct. 09, 2023 in New York City.
Candles are lit for a vigil in solidarity with Israel at Temple Emanu-El of New York on Oct. 09, 2023 in New York City. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

Thousands of American Jews gathered virtually on Sunday afternoon for briefings from U.S. Jewish organizations directing Diaspora community members how to help following an unprecedented assault by Palestinian terrorists, primarily from the Hamas terror group, who infiltrated Israel from the Gaza Strip on Saturday morning, killing at least 900 Israelis, wounding some 2,500 and taking over 100 people hostage, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen.

Time for action: Ein Milim – there are no words, so this is the time for deeds,” Taly Levanon, founder and CEO of the Israel Trauma Coalition, said on a Zoom call hosted by UJA-Federation of New York, which drew some 1,100 viewers.

Get the word out: JFNA CEO Eric Fingerhut urged Diaspora communities to notify JFNA of plans to hold local events, including solidarity rallies and vigils. “We can elevate it [and] Israelis want to hear it. They need to know the support and we want to make sure our community understands the breadth and depth of the support all across North America.”

Read the full report here.


After unthinkable horror, a new Jewish paradigm

Family and friends of fallen IDF soldier Afik Rozental, who died in a battle with Hamas terrorists, attend his funeral on October 9, 2023 in Kfar Menachem, Israel. (Amir Levy/Getty Images)

“As with the Six-Day War and the Yom Kippur War, we are dealing with an existential moment. Following those historic events, Jews from different backgrounds helped to reframe the Jewish philanthropic and political story of their support for Israel,” writes scholar Steven Windmueller in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Pivotal decisions: “Beyond the immediate and long-term imperative to support healing for the physically and emotionally wounded in the aftermath of this war, our funders and leaders need to consider they are dealing with two distinctive generational populations. For those who have previously experienced the war and terror that shaped Israel’s evolution, there will be a need to provide renewed hope and a way forward. For those who are new to this experience, who are scarred and shaken in a different way by the weekend’s events, our leadership must be able to link them not only to Jewish history but to an appreciation of how, as a people and nation-state, we can constructively move forward.”

Read the full piece here.


Today, Jewish educators are flicking a switch

Maskot/Getty Images

“I remember the first time I cried in front of my students. It was an eighth-grade class, two days after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin in 1995. I couldn’t hold those tears back. Many of the students didn’t understand why I was crying; I struggled to explain it then, as many more Jewish educators will struggle in the days to come,” writes David Bryfman, CEO of The Jewish Education Project, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Keeping it together for the kids: “For many Jewish educators, this will be the first extended war that they have lived through, and certainly the most calamitous. If you are a principal or a headmaster, a CEO or an executive director, a rabbi or a board member, remember what your educators are going through at this moment. Give them the time to grieve and to hug, and then grant them the chizuk (support) to do what they do best: be there for our children.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Holidays in the Dark: In the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Gabe Friedman and Jacob Gurvis examine how observant Jews outside of Israel learned about the terror attacks in Israel after two days disconnected from technology because of the Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah holidays. “When Rabbi James Proops arrived at his Modern Orthodox synagogue in Livingston, New Jersey, on Saturday morning, he found three people waiting to meet him: two members of the security committee and a non-Jewish guard. ‘As I approached, they looked at me … you know, I could see there was something wrong with the look,’ Proops recalled on Monday. ‘And they said, “Rabbi, You don’t know yet, do you?” And I said, “Don’t know what?”’ That was how Proops learned about the horrors unfolding in Israel — an attack by Hamas that would leave more than 900 Israelis dead, wounded and taken captive in brutal fashion.” [JTA]

Lulled Into Submission: In eJewishPhilanthropy’s sister publication Jewish Insider, Lahav Harkov investigates the intelligence and operational failures that allowed Saturday’s deadly terror attack. “After the Yom Kippur War, one of the answers to how Israel was surprised by an attack from Egypt and Syria was the ‘conceptzia.’ The word literally translates to “preconception,” and it refers to groupthink or an idea that captivated the whole cabinet, without consideration of the alternatives… ‘We were apparently dependent on a conceptzia that Hamas wanted money from Qatar and was deterred,’ former IDF Military Intelligence Directorate head Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin told JI. ‘For every surprise, the surprisers come up with a distraction, and that is what we saw.’ Israel built its defense plans ‘on the idea that Hamas was not interested in a war. They distracted us and kept us busy with other violations on the [border] fence,’ Yadlin said. ‘It’s clear that there was a tactical and conceptual surprise that led to a strategic failing — though it can be turned around,’ he added.” [JewishInsider]

Around the Web

Jewish institutions around the world have been put on high alert following the outbreak of war in Israel

The mental health-care provider BetterHelp is offering six months of free online therapy to people “who have been impacted by the war in Israel”…

Athletes, musicians and artistsfrom around the world have issued statements of support for Israel following Saturday’s deadly attacks…

Jewish student leaders and alumni from Harvard University are criticizing the institution’s response to a letter by 31 campus organizations that claimed Israel was “entirely responsible” for Saturday’s attacks…

World Mizrachi held a special online prayer service for the State of Israel generally and for two sons of the organization’s executive chairman, Doron Peretz, after one of them was injured while battling terrorists in southern Israel and another is missing in action…

Six members of Jewish Agency for Israel Executive Chairman Doron Almog’s family were murdered by terrorists on Saturday in the massacre at Kibbutz Kfar Aza near the Gaza border…

The Israeli Air Force and Foreign Ministry are chartering flights home for Israelis abroad in order to get them to their units as the military has begun to call up 360,000 reservists, the largest such enlistment in decades. Some of these flights have been funded by Jewish Federations of North America

Personal data of Ashkenazi Jews who used the genetic testing company 23andMe were stolen by hackers and are being put up for sale online. The company says the data are personal details, not genetic information…

The Orange County, Calif., fairgrounds has opened a new exhibit honoring the 18 Jewish Americans awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor

A federal appeals court upheld a stay of execution for a Jewish man, Jedidiah Murphy, who was sentenced to death in Texas for the fatal shooting of Bertie Lee Cunningham in 2000…

Hal and Inge Marcus donated $2.5 million to Pennsylvania State University Hillel

Pic of the Day

Brandon Bell/Getty Images

People listen during a solidarity gathering for Israel at the Dell Jewish Community Campus on Monday in Austin, Texas.


Denise Truscello/Getty Images for Keep Memory Alive

Physician, philanthropist and the majority owner of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, Dr. Miriam Adelson

Professor emeritus of constitutional law at Harvard Law School, he has argued 35 cases at the U.S. Supreme Court, Laurence Tribe… Past chairman and CEO of KB Home, Bruce Karatz… Director of the Center for Information and Documentation Israel in The Hague, promoting a positive view of Israel within Dutch society, Ronald Maurice (Ronny) Naftaniel… Former member of the Knesset for 30 years on behalf of three political parties, he has served in six ministerial roles, Meir Sheetrit… Longtime IDF chaplain, Yedidya Atlas… Award-winning writer and photographer based in Albuquerque, N.M., Diane Joy Schmidt… Vocalist and songwriter best known as the lead singer of Van Halen, he is a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, David Lee Roth… Co-chairman and chief investment officer of Oaktree Capital Management, Bruce Karsh… Former NASA astronaut who flew on five Space Shuttle missions, he has held many positions at NASA including Chief Scientist, John M. Grunsfeld… Shareholder at the Bethesda, Md. law firm of Selzer Gurvitch, Neil Gurvitch… Founder and principal of two Los Angeles-based real estate firms, Freeman Group and Metro Properties, Rodney Freeman… Governmental relations and strategic communications principal at BMWL Public Affairs, Sam Lauter… Governor of California since 2019, Gavin Newsom… Israeli comedian and actor, twice voted as the funniest Israeli, Asi Cohen… Israel-Canadian writer and op-ed contributor for The New York Times, he is the author of four acclaimed books, Matti Friedman… Former Jewish liaison in the Obama and Biden administrations, now the director of The Sapir Institute, Chanan Weissman… President at the Alliance to Combat Extremism Fund, Ian Sugar… Head of U.S. government relations and corporate affairs at Glencore, Seth Levey… VP in the Chicago office of Goldman Sachs, Avi Davidoff… Rabbi of Congregation Bnai Yeshurun in Teaneck, N.J., Elliot Schrier… North American campus director at CAMERA, Hali Haber Spiegel… Winner of Israel’s National Bible Quiz as a teen and then a soldier in the IDF’s Combat Intelligence Collection Corps, he is a son of PM Benjamin Netanyahu, Avner Netanyahu… Adviser for human rights at Israel’s Mission at the United Nations, Or Shaked