Your Daily Phil: Jewish leaders mourn Joe Lieberman

Good Thursday morning.

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on a new collaboration between Hillel and AJC to prepare university administrators to combat antisemitism, and on Jewish groups stressing their concerns over Congress’ cuts to the Nonprofit Security Grant Program. We feature an opinion piece by Mike Leven about the need to address antisemitism on college campuses, and another by Rabbi Laura Novak Winer about how the field of Jewish education must adapt following the Oct. 7 terror attacks and rising antisemitism. Also in this newsletter: David Rubenstein, Agata Rakowiecka and Tom Secunda. We’ll start with Jewish leaders mourning the death of Sen. Joe Lieberman.

Jewish leaders from across the political and religious spectrum mourned the death of longtime Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, the first Jew to appear on a major party ticket and a dominant, if at times controversial, force in American politics for much of the past three decades, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross.

“Senator Liberman was a true mensch, whose legacy of leadership and service will continue to inspire future generations,” Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress and of an eponymous foundation, said in a statement.

“While we might not have agreed on every issue, his integrity, and devotion to the Jewish community and to strengthening Israel-U.S. relations were always a constant,” Lauder continued.

Lieberman’s family said he died yesterday at New York-Presbyterian Hospital as a result of complications from a fall. He was 82.

William Daroff, CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organization, described Lieberman as a “mentor and friend who was always willing and able to provide counsel – on issues public and private.”

The Jewish Federations of North America hailed Lieberman as a “true trailblazer, [who] represented the hopes, aspirations, and ideals of the Jewish community in the United States.”

The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism said his candidacy for vice president “affirmed the religious freedom that has been a blessing to Jews and other religious minorities. His decades of public service continue to reverberate years after his name last appeared on a ballot.”

Agudath Israel of America described Lieberman, who famously observed Shabbat while in office, as an inspiration to young religious Jews. “I regularly was asked by Jewish students if I knew ‘Senator Lieberman, the Sabbath observant Jew,’” said Rabbi Abba Cohen, Agudath Israel’s vice president for government affairs. “It was clear that he was a source of pride and inspiration to young people. He was an exemplar of Orthodox Judaism to the world. The senator and his Torah observance made an impression on people and intrigued them. People were influenced by, and attracted to, him and his values.”

Daroff also noted Lieberman’s “prescient warnings and efforts to avert a nuclear Iran.” In 2015, Lieberman was appointed chairman of the United Against Nuclear Iran advocacy group.

In a post on X, the National Council for Jewish Women highlighted some of Lieberman’s other legislative priorities. “He championed abortion access, LGBTQ+ equality and gun safety,” the organization said. “Our communities are safer because of his leadership. May his memory be for a blessing.”

Rabbi Ari Berman, president of Yeshiva University, where Lieberman had served on the faculty since 2014, described the former senator as “our champion.” In December, the university also opened the Senator Joseph Lieberman Center for Public Service and Advocacy, which was funded by the Ira Mitzner and Riva Collins Families, with the goal of training future civil leaders “deeply rooted in Jewish values and tradition, and deeply connected to Israel.”

“Senator Lieberman embodied Yeshiva University’s mission: to produce excellent leaders and excellent citizens, empowered by faith and obligated by the bonds of duty,” Berman said in a statement.

Read Jewish Insider’s obituary of Lieberman here.


Hillel, AJC team up to train university administrators to better combat antisemitism

Students participate in a pro-Palestinian and “pro-free speech” protest at Columbia University campus on Nov. 14, 2023 in New York City. Last week, the university suspended two student organizations, Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace, for violating university policies. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Hillel International and the American Jewish Committee will expand their partnership to focus on university leaders on the front lines of rising campus antisemitism, eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen has learned exclusively.

Expanding programs: According to the organizations, the collaboration will include local and national meetings with students and college and university administrators. The collaboration expands upon existing programs that the organizations run separately that bring university administrators to Israel and train them on combating antisemitism.

Needed now: Under the new partnership, the organizations are slated to host another university presidents’ summit with the American Council on Education later this year, as well as bring a joint delegation of American university leaders to Israel in 2025. The announcement comes on the heels of a Hillel survey that found that 56% of college students say their lives have been directly affected by antisemitism on campus since Hamas’ attack in Israel. The group has tracked more than 1,150 incidents of antisemitism on campus since Oct. 7.

Bolstering students: AJC CEO Ted Deutch told eJP that the partnership was designed to “bolster” the existing efforts of student leaders “to create the campus environments that they deserve.” Adam Lehman, president and CEO of Hillel International, added: “Now more than ever, our partnership with AJC is vital to equipping university presidents and senior administrators with the tools they need to assert stronger and more effective leadership in protecting and supporting their Jewish students… We are grateful for our close collaboration with AJC, as we work together to fundamentally improve the campus climate for Jewish students and all students.”


Jewish communal groups stress concerns about security grant funding cut

The U.S. Capitol building is seen at sunrise on Feb. 8, 2021. Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images

In a new joint statement on Wednesday, Jewish communal groups stressed their concerns about Congress’ decision last week to cut funding for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program by more than $30 million in 2024 — about 10% from the previous fiscal year, reports Marc Rod for eJewishPhilanthropy’s sister publication Jewish Insider.

Bad timing: “The cut in NSGP funding presents a significant challenge to the safety of our communities at a time when threats to religious and nonprofit organizations are at a record high,” the Secure Community Network, Anti-Defamation League, American Jewish Committee, Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Jewish Federations of North America and Orthodox Union said in the statement.

Make it a priority: They urged Congress to “prioritize additional funding to make the NSGP program whole,” urging that any national security supplemental bill “must include funding for the NSGP and there must be increased funding for NSGP in the FY2025 appropriations bill.” They also urged organizations, including potential NSGP applicants, to prioritize “preparedness, high-quality application submissions, and the continued advocacy for the protection of all communities against hate and violence.”

Read the full report here and sign up for Jewish Insider’s Daily Kickoff here.


Combating campus antisemitism: A call for decisive action in America’s universities

Getty Images

“As a concerned Jewish leader, I am alarmed to see Jewish students facing escalating harassment, vile rhetoric and overt discrimination. This bigotry has gone on too long and must be forcefully confronted before it becomes further normalized,” writes Mike Leven, founder of The Jewish Future Promise, in an opinion piece for eJewish Philanthropy.

Administrations must step up: “Antisemitism continues spreading under the cover of political debate as most university administrators turn a blind eye. This passivity must end. University administrations must reform curriculums and initiatives that encourage anti-Israel biases. Academic freedom and rigorous standards, not ideological indoctrination, should shape campus climates.”

Our involvement matters: “Most critically, Jewish students, faculty and alums must spearhead this fight. Hoping bigotry disappears on its own is simply not an option. We must boldly assert our identity and construct broad coalitions demanding change. Anti-Israel groups have become adept at manipulating campus politics against Jewish students. We must counter them through bold activism and a coordinated mobilization of our collective voice. Jewish groups must put aside differences and unify behind this cause. Through petitions, protests, civil rights complaints and lobbying efforts, we can leverage strength in numbers to pressure administrations.”

Read the full piece here.


Receiving stories and wrestling with pedagogic tensions after Oct. 7

Participants in the ARJE/HUC School of Education Reform Jewish Educators Mission to Israel gather with HUC-JIR Year in Israel Students on the HUC-JIR Taube Family Campus in Jerusalem. Courtesy/Zvi Levran and Rachel Barnehama

“Brené Brown teaches in her book Atlas of the Heart that stories are sacred… As Jews, it is in our DNA to tenderly and mindfully carry stories forward, to retell them with dignity and awe and to impart the lessons found in them,” writes Rabbi Laura Novak Winer, director of HUC-JIR’s Master of Educational Leadership Program, in an opinion piece for eJewish Philanthropy.

Tough questions: “North American Jewish educators and Israeli educators are currently facing many of the same pedagogic dilemmas. How and when do we talk about the war with our learners? How and when do we talk about rising global antisemitism with our learners?… How do we create spaces for our learners to wrestle with their beliefs and with Jewish values that are in tension with each other? How do we, as educators, teach about these challenging issues while also wrestling with our own beliefs about them? What will it take to bridge divides across our various communities and foster meaningful relationships for these conversations? It is imperative that we address these and other questions. As we stand at this watershed moment in Jewish time, it feels like the future of our global Jewish community depends upon it and will become even more resilient because of it.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Postcards From the Edge: In Commentary, Carol Moskot gets to know the grandfather she never met in life via postcards he sent to his wife from a Nazi labor camp in Serbia. “At the conclusion of the seder, my mother presses the envelope into my hands. It contains the last letters Elizabeth received from László — five fragile, brown postcards, filled with faded black ink, their edges frayed with time. The sight of them gives me shivers of dread. I am conscious of the responsibility that is being transferred to me. I see it as my duty to preserve the memory of our family members who were murdered. What I don’t realize at this moment, though, is that this gift will introduce me to the grandfather I’ve never known and reveal the warmth and love within a marriage cut short… Just as Jews are required to tell the story of Passover, I feel the need to tell the story of my grandfather — of modern slavery and its brutality. I’m sharing it for this generation and the next, for those who think the Holocaust is something Jews should move on from and, most important, for those who deny it happened or that it could ever happen again. I owe it to László, who was 26 when he was murdered. It was because of him that I received the most precious gift: my life.” [Commentary]

A Family Affair: In Inside Philanthropy, Ade Adeniji spotlights the philanthropy of the Blank family, led by billionaire Home Depot co-founder Arthur Blank. “The enormous wealth created by Home Depot, the country’s largest home improvement retailer, looms large in the chain’s home base of Georgia and beyond… There’s the Kendeda Fund in Georgia, a foundation launched by Arthur Blank’s former wife Diana Blank, which shuttered in December after three decades of grantmaking… focused on areas like climate change and land conservation, the rights of women and girls, gun violence prevention, and racial and economic justice in Atlanta. Meanwhile, Arthur Blank himself has been an active philanthropist serving regional and national causes. The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, started in 1995, has given to charitable causes across a similar suite of topics: Atlanta’s Westside, democracy, the environment, mental health and wellbeing, and youth development. It took the donor and the team some time to arrive at these giving priorities. And Arthur Blank, now 81 and worth $8.5 billion, is increasingly looking to the next generations of his family to help shape their philanthropy going forward.” [InsidePhilanthropy]

Around the Web

A new Gallup poll of Americans  found that Israel is losing support for its war against Hamas, with 36% of respondents saying they approved of the country’s military actions while 50% said they disapproved in March 2024, compared to 50% and 45%, respectively, in November.

Meanwhile, a Harvard/Harris poll found that a large majority of Americans — 79% — said they support Israel over Hamas in the war in Gaza (roughly the same level as last month) and that two-thirds of respondents said they believed that Israel was trying to avoid civilian casualties…

In The AtlanticAnshel Pfeffer, a critic and biographer of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahudescribes the premier as the worst in Israel’s history…

Israeli Opposition Leader Yair Lapid announced the birth of his first grandchild, Naomi…

New reports from the Sustained Collaboration Network found quantitative proof that nonprofits that work together are more successful…

Axios interviewed philanthropist and Carlyle Group co-founder David Rubenstein after Major League Baseball owners approved his purchase of the Baltimore Orioles, his hometown team…

The Foundation for Opioid Response Efforts is giving a $1.36 million grant to Equal Justice Works to support a national program to train and fund the work of early-career public interest lawyers addressing the legal consequences of the opioid crisis…

Eyal Taoz was named the next global CEO of Israel Tennis and Education Centers

The Anti-Defamation League sent a letter to Shou Zi Chew, the CEO of TikTok, calling for the social media platform to submit itself to an independent antisemitism audit…

Berkeley, Calif., City Council meeting about marking Holocaust Remembrance Day and associated educational programs devolved into a chaotic scene in which attendees hurled antisemitic insults and intimidated a Holocaust survivor…

The St. Louis Light profiles the Real Change Project, a nonprofit that gives $2,000 in cash to people who are employed but nevertheless struggling to make ends meet…

Agata Rakowiecka, the former director of the Warsaw Jewish Community Center, has been named director of Yesod Europe

Bloomberg L.P. co-founder Tom Secunda pledged $5 million to Binghamton University, from which he graduated in 1976, to help the school create “a pipeline for students to participate in the artificial intelligence economy of the future”…

Gordon Safran, a longtime lay leader of the Cleveland Jewish communitydied on Monday at 88…

Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman, whose blueprint for evaluating recruits for the Israel Defense Forces was used by the military for decades, died yesterday at 90…

Pic of the Day

National Council of Jewish Women/Facebook

A group organized by the National Council of Jewish Women, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Women of Reform Judaism and community advocates convened outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday to rally for reproductive rights.


Annie Liebovitz smiles
Screenshot/Hillel International

President and CEO of Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, Adam Lehman

Professor emeritus of physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, winner of the 1990 Nobel Prize in Physics, Jerome Isaac Friedman… Film and television producer, he is a winner of two Academy Awards for Best Picture, Albert Stotland Ruddy… Chairman and CEO of the Hartz Group and Hartz Mountain Corporation, a leading seller of pet supplies, Leonard Norman Stern… The founder and first general manager of Intel Israel and the inventor of the EPROM chip, Dov Frohman… Expert on the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries, and wife of the late U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman, Hadassah Lieberman… Glenview, Ill., resident, Genie Kutchins… CEO of Los Angeles-based toy company MGA Entertainment, maker of Little Tikes and Bratz and Lalaloopsy dolls, Isaac Larian… Former member of the Knesset for 13 years, she served as the leader of the Israeli Labor Party, Shelly Yachimovich… Special envoy and coordinator for the U.S. Department of State’s Global Engagement Center, James Phillip Rubin… One of four hostages held at gunpoint for 11 hours at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, Jeffrey R. Cohen… Former rhythmic gymnast, now teaching yoga in Connecticut, she represented the U.S. at the 1984 Summer Olympics, Valerie Le Zimring-Schneiderman… Senior editor for The EconomistJames Douglas Bennet… Presidential historian and author, Jewish liaison and then deputy HHS secretary in the Bush 43 administration, Tevi Troy… Journalist, crime writer and blogger who has spent most of his career in Japan, Jake Adelstein… Israeli journalist and radio presenter for Reshet Bet, Keren Neubach… Novelist, television producer and journalist, Jennifer Weiner… Author of eight best-selling novels including in 2003 The Devil Wears PradaLauren Weisberger… Member of the Knesset since 2015 for the Likud party, now serving as the minister of culture and sports, Makhlouf “Miki” Zohar… Los Angeles-based, Israeli-born fashion designer, Yotam Solomon… Retired MLB outfielder for the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs, now a real estate agent in Bali, Indonesia, Ryan Kalish… VP at Tradepoint Atlantic, Michael Hurwitz… Senior vice president of asset management at Hackman Capital Partners, Zachary David Sokoloff