Your Daily Phil: Jewish People Challenges Conference looks to the future

Good Thursday morning.

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on an expanded partnership between BBYO and the World Jewish Congress to train Jewish high school leaders, the 2024 Genesis Prize going to groups assisting hostages held in Gaza and a new survey by the Anti-Defamation League about the prevalence of antisemitic beliefs in the United States. We feature an opinion piece by Fernando Goldsztein about his journey from businessman to founder of a research consortium in pursuit of new and better treatment for his son’s pediatric cancer; and one by Rachel Berlin Handloff highlighting the role of summer camp jobs in the Jewish leadership pipeline. Also in this issue: Dr. David Fajgenbaum, Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt and Edward Baer Roberts. We’ll start with this week’s Jewish People Challenges Conference in Jerusalem.

The Oct. 7 terror attacks and ensuing rise in antisemitism around the world has made the ties between Diaspora Jewry and Israel stronger, highlighting for each community the need for the other, World Zionist Organization President Tova Dorfman told Judith Sudilovsky for eJewishPhilanthropy at the start of the WZO’s inaugural Jewish People Challenges Conference on Tuesday in Jerusalem.

“As a result of a crazy outburst of antisemitism and antisemitic acts all over the world which began in a very violent way on Oct. 8, and with all the ‘monsters’ coming out of the woodwork, [Diaspora Jewry] realized that with a weakened Israel their place in the Diaspora is also weakened,” said Dorfman, who was elected in 2023, the first woman president of the WZO since its inception in 1897.

“In Israel today, where we saw a growing distance between Diaspora [Jewry] and Israel over the years, what’s happened has strengthened certain elements. That is not to say that it’s completely across the board, but I think that there is a realization that we need each other more than ever,” she said.

Put together in less than a month, the conference was scheduled to coincide with the February meetings of the Jewish Agency for Israel’s Board of Governors and the Zionist General Council of the World Zionist Organization, along with the earlier meeting of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. The conference, which was held in the capital’s Binyanei Ha’uma convention center, brought together 500 Jewish leaders from more than 38 different countries in a joint meeting in Israel for the first time since Oct. 7.

Dorfman told eJP that funding for WZO programs is focused on connecting Israel and Diaspora Jewry, connecting Israelis who live abroad with Israel, aliyah programs and Zionist activities all over the world, including supporting aliyah by secular Jews and rejuvenating waning secular Zionist youth movements.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog, who addressed the attendees at the conclusion of the conference, noted a “silver lining” in the rise in antisemitism around the world. “And that is the unity of the Jewish people,” he said. “Now is the time for Jews to unite all over the world together, to fight back, not to be fearful, to fight in the legal arena, to fight in the public arena, and all over. The Jewish world is facing one of its greatest challenges, definitely since the Second World War. Now is the time to work together and fight back.”

WZO Chairman Yaakov Hagoel told the assembly that in the face of growing antisemitism, there is a need for a change in direction and to find a solution to create a united front. “There is no right or left, not religious or secular,” he said. “We must all be united.”

Yet Rabbi Elliot J. Cosgrove of the Park Avenue Synagogue of New York disagreed with this view of unity. “I do think that there is a right and a left, religious and non-religious Jews,” he said, “but all these people are my family and you don’t quit on your family. Only by [allowing] ourselves that we have a plethora of voices will we be able to find a path forward.”

Read the full report here.


Two members of the Jewish Youth Assembly, a BBYO and World Jewish Congress leadership program, address the BBYO International Convention in Orlando, Fla., in February 2024.

The BBYO teen movement and the World Jewish Congress have launched a new partnership to prepare Jewish high schoolers from across the globe for university life and give them “a seat at the table” in the wider world, the organizations announced earlier this month. At BBYO’s Centennial International Convention in Orlando, Fla., earlier this month, the organizations held an inaugural in-person Jewish Youth Assembly, with 63 students from 40 countries taking part, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen.

New year resolution: Held on the sidelines of the International Convention, the JYA program culminated with the deliberations and drafting of the 2024 resolution titled “Ensuring a Vibrant Jewish Future,” which is made up of five subsections: tackling new forms of antisemitism; opposing denial and distortion of Jewish trauma; fostering Jewish life in the Diaspora; combating global terror; and strengthening Jewish unity. Delegates also presented the 2024 JYA resolution to 3,700 of their peers from around the world.

A ‘no-brainer’: Michal Cohen, WJC’s digital advocacy and NextGen communications coordinator, told eJP that “having our first in-person JYA [and] WJC working with teenagers was really exciting and different for us.” Cohen noted that high school students “need the training and resources” before entering college. “So the partnership with BBYO was a no-brainer because they’re representing high school students [globally], while we are representing communities around the world,” she said.

Get them ready: According to Ian Kandel, BBYO’s vice president of global movement strategy, this partnership includes tapping into WJC’s “tremendous experience in select elements of BBYO leadership training curriculum such as diplomacy, public speaking, working with elected leaders and engaging with global entities like the United Nations and European Union. He added: “This will really enhance and enrich what we can offer to our teen leaders as BBYO globalizes. The relationship really makes what we’re doing feel real and have a broader impact and gives teens a seat at the table.”

Read the full report here.


Genesis Prize goes to Israeli groups helping, advocating for hostages

The families of hostages lead hundreds of people in the ‘Run for Their Lives’ rally in New York City's Central Park on the 100th day since the October 7 attack by Hamas on Jan. 14, 2024
The families of hostages lead hundreds of people in the ‘Run for Their Lives’ rally in New York City’s Central Park on the 100th day since the October 7 attack by Hamas on Jan. 14, 2024

This year’s Genesis Prize — and the $1 million that goes with it — is being awarded to five Israeli organizations providing treatment, counseling and support to the released and rescued hostages and their families, the foundation that runs the prize announced yesterday. The five organizations are: the Hostages and Missing Families Forum, the Jewish Agency’s Fund for Victims of Terror, Lev Echad, NATAL – The Israel Trauma and Resiliency Center and OneFamily – Overcoming Terror Together, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross.

No one left behind: David Hatchwell Altaras, the leader of the Madrid Jewish community and a member of the Genesis Prize Selection Committee, said the organizations were chosen as their work represents “the ultimate testimony of the solidarity of the Jewish People. Nobody ever gets left behind.” Co-founder of the Genesis Prize Foundation Stan Polovets noted that the award is not meant to sway Israel on how it should respond to the hostage issue. “This award is not a political statement, and it is not our intent to influence government policy. The Genesis Prize is a humanitarian award, and this year, it seeks to achieve three things – ensure the world does not forget the plight of the captives; provide additional aid to organizations focused on assisting the hostages and their families; and, last but not least, honor the selfless work of organizations that spontaneously emerged after Oct. 7,” he said.

Nothing’s more urgent: Shelly Shemtov, whose son Omer was taken captive on Oct. 7 and a founding member of the Hostages and Missing Families Forum, said she hopes that this award “will help keep the hostages in the news and bring everyone home.” Rachel Goldberg, the mother of captive Hersh Goldberg-Polin, said that the prize “unequivocally publicizes to the entire world that there is no more ethically urgent and morally critical cause pressing on the Jewish people today. We fervently pray this gift will be instrumental in continuing the family organizations’ valiant and tireless efforts to bring the remaining 134 beloved hostages home now.”


New ADL poll: Antisemitism closely tied to receptivity to conspiracy theories

ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt, pictured in 2019.
ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt, pictured in 2019.

The two leading predictors of antisemitic belief are conspiratorial thinking and the notion that some groups in society should be more dominant than others, according to a poll by the Anti-Defamation League released today that looked at how antisemitism has changed in scope, nature and implications in the wake of unprecedented levels rising in the U.S. since Oct. 7, eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen reports for Jewish Insider. The poll also found that maintaining a belief system that divides the world into “oppressors” and “oppressed” strongly correlates with antisemitism.

Kids these days: The survey, which polled 4,143 U.S. adults from Jan. 5-18, found that younger generations endorse more anti-Jewish views. Asked the extent to which Americans agreed with 11 different statements about antisemitic tropes used to measure anti-Jewish attitudes since 1964, as well as statements about Israel, millennial respondents agreed with the greatest number of anti-Jewish tropes on average, at 5.37. Gen Z followed closely behind at 5.01, while Gen X averaged 4.19 and Baby Boomers 3.06.

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


To save a life: Lessons for launching a medical R&D initiative

Fernando Goldsztein with his son Frederico in Washington, DC.

“On Nov. 7, 2015, my family received the devastating news that our 9-year-old son Frederico was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, a pediatric brain tumor. At that shattering moment, I made two commitments: one to Frederico, a promise to dedicate my life to saving his; and the other to God, with a pledge to donate and raise money for research to find a cure. It was at this lowest point of my life that the seed of The Medulloblastoma Initiative (MBI) was planted — though I didn’t know it then,” writes MBI founder Fernando Goldsztein in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

The edge of the unknown: “[I]n 2022, the cancer returned yet again. We learned the hard way that science had not advanced beyond what we had already explored. I vowed to do something to change that. Frederico deserved better, as do all children and their families enduring this terrible disease. At the time, I was just a Brazilian businessman with no professional expertise in the healthcare field. But I was also the father of a child with cancer, and I could not accept that modern medicine had nothing to offer our family. The Talmudic teaching, ‘Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire’ took on a heightened meaning in our household.”

A team effort: “We were blessed to join forces with an internationally acclaimed expert in this field, Dr. Roger J. Packer, director of the Brain Tumor Institute and the Gilbert Family Neurofibromatosis Institute of Children’s National Hospital. With an initial donation from my family and the support of many Brazilian donors, particularly from our Jewish community, we were able to establish a research consortium that currently brings together 13 top laboratories from the U.S., Canada, and Germany to achieve something extraordinary… We have also learned valuable lessons on how to establish a viable scientific research and development initiative.”

Read the full piece here.


Today’s young adults need the Jewish camp experience more than ever

Counselors spending time together at 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy in Byfield, MA.

“At the Union for Reform Judaism, we hear from students across North America who look to us to help them find safe spaces where they can both celebrate their Jewish identity and find a supportive environment where they can truly belong. As these same students now look to lock down their summer plans, we know that many are seeking a job in an inclusive and welcoming environment where they can cultivate their skills for their future careers. A summer job at a Jewish camp can provide both,” writes Rachel Berlin Handloff, executive director of 6 Points Specialty Camps, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Skill-building opportunity: “Summer camp provides many opportunities to build valuable competencies. Whether as a guidance counselor, school principal or in my current position, I can trace many of the skills I regularly use back to what I learned from camp. Leadership, communication, teamwork — working at camp helped me build and nurture these skills. Working in camper care, facilitating cabin activities, organizing evening programs and staffing overnight outdoor adventures all elevated my sense of self and my resume.”

Finding kehillah“When I worked at camp during my college years, one of the things I most appreciated was the sense of kehillah (community) that was emphasized throughout my time there. Camp gave me a space where I could nurture my Jewish pride, and it helped me develop confidence in my identity as a Jewish woman. I found such comfort and guidance working there that I knew I wanted to help other people find that same assurance and give them the same sense of community… Today, working at a Jewish summer camp transcends a typical summer job. It is a deliberate choice to counteract the rise in antisemitism by supporting havens of warmth and acceptance surrounding Jewish identity.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

The Best Medicine: In The Wall Street Journal, Amy Dockser Marcus profiles Dr. David Fajgenbaum and his newly funded nonprofit Every Cure, which looks to more quickly and easily treat rare diseases with existing approved medications. “Kaila Mabus, an athletic teenager in the Chicago area, went to the emergency room in 2019 in renal failure. It took another month before she was diagnosed with Castleman disease, a rare disorder that causes the immune system to attack vital organs… Her doctors sought help from Dr. David Fajgenbaum, an immunologist at the University of Pennsylvania and fellow Castleman patient who studies the disease. He has matched rare-disease patients with drugs that are already in pharmacies for other conditions for over 10 years, starting with himself… Now instead of helping people like Kaila one at a time, he plans to match patients with existing drugs on a much larger scale. Every Cure, a nonprofit Fajgenbaum helped found in 2022, received funding on Wednesday that could surpass $48 million from the federal Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health. Fajgenbaum and his team will spend the money to build a drug-repurposing database and algorithms that patients, doctors and researchers can use to find drugs for untreated diseases.” [WSJ]

Neo-Nazi Hunter: In The Free Press, David Volodzko profiles Kristofer Goldsmith, founder of Task Force Butler: an elite team of U.S. military veterans who use their expertise to foil the efforts of neo-Nazi terrorists on American soil. “Goldsmith’s typical day involves sitting in front of an extra-wide gaming screen, laptop, and phone, and infiltrating Nazi groups online. He monitors their private group chats, collects information from social media posts and public records, and studies videos to pick out members based on small details… The goal is to provide a legal breadcrumb trail for prosecutors… For Goldsmith, the business of hunting Nazis is a family tradition. His grandmother’s brother died in France fighting the Nazis, and she used to keep a framed letter from President Roosevelt, acknowledging his service, hanging in her guest bedroom. Goldsmith’s paternal grandfather was also a World War II vet. Though not Jewish himself, Goldsmith spent his childhood on Long Island, where half his friends were Jewish and — he figured — so was half the country. ‘It wasn’t till I landed in basic training where I was like, holy sh-t, there’s sixty different people here calling themselves Christians.’” [TheFreePress]

Introverts Lead, Too: Leadership demands a variety of qualities, and while one might expect the most social or outspoken person in the room to be the natural choice for a leader, introverts also have characteristics well-suited for leadership roles, writes Artis Rozentals in Forbes. “Research suggests that introverts tend to take more time to process information than extroverts. Consequently, I believe introverted leaders prioritize depth over breadth. They are inclined to thoroughly explore issues and ideas, valuing a deeper understanding over superficial or hasty solutions. They have a knack for asking thought-provoking questions and actively listening to the responses… Despite the belief that extroverts excel at forming personal ties, introverted leaders may cherish these relationships more as forming new connections takes more effort for them, leading to a focus on enhancing existing ones. Therefore, many introverted leaders are known for having sharp insight into their employees’ abilities, interests and strengths. This allows them to offer more effective support and guidance to each team member, leading to improved performance in their roles and increased job satisfaction.” [Forbes]

Around the Web

Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, U.S. special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, called on Jews to find “joy” in their Judaism, not just feel connected because of growing antisemitism…

More than 1,000 Israelis registered to be organ donors on Tuesday at registration booths set up outside polling places…

The Anti-Defamation League launched a new partnership with the nonprofit 18Doors to “empower interfaith couples and families to have discussions about antisemitism”…

In the Boston Globe, a Jewish student at Harvard reflects on how the Oct. 7 terror attacks affected her relationship with her Muslim boyfriend…

In his budget address to the Pennsylvania legislature, Gov. Josh Shapiro called for the budget of the commonwealth’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program to be doubled to $10 million…

The Wall Street Journal editorial board denounced an anti-Israel “mob” that targeted and vandalized a U.C. Berkeley campus auditorium where an Israeli reservist was due to speak, saying it showed that it’s “dishonest” to claim that anti-Zionism isn’t antisemitism…

U.C. Santa Barbara temporarily suspended the school’s MultiCultural Center and its Instagram account after student activists posted signs targeting a Jewish student leader, Tessa Veksler

In The AtlanticGraeme Wood decries the praise for a U.S. airman who set himself on fire, warning that this self-immolation was both bizarre and counterproductive… 

Richard Lewis, stand-up comedian and star of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” died on Tuesday at 76…

Edward Baer Roberts, a businessman and beloved professor at MIT’s Sloan of Management, who was an active member of the Boston Jewish communitydied on Tuesday at 88…

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/Eran Lam

The Peres Center for Peace and Innovation awards medals of distinction yesterday to 17 women and groups of women who acted as “heroines” during the Oct. 7 attacks or in their aftermath at the organization’s headquarters in Tel Aviv ahead of next week’s International Women’s Day. The recipients include female tank operators who helped fight off terrorists, the resident of a kibbutz that was destroyed who is helping lead the community’s reconstruction efforts, social media activists and leaders of volunteering initiatives.

The Peres Center also gave a “lifetime achievement” award to singer Yardena Arzi, journalist Ilana Dayan and philanthropist Batya Ofer.

“The events of Oct. 7 rocked our world and burned our hearts. Today’s event highlights the hope and love in the greater world, and how much power women have and can influence, change and help,” Efrat Duvdevani, CEO of the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation, said at the event. “At this time, we remember those who are no longer with us, and pray for the safe and fast return of the hostages, and soldiers.”


Annie Liebovitz smiles
Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Yahoo

Professor of business at Columbia Business School, she is a former board chair at Jewish Theological Seminary, Abby Joseph Cohen

Executive director of AIPAC from 1980 through 1993, Thomas A. Dine… French fashion photographer featured on the reality television series “America’s Next Top Model,” Gilles Bensimon… Polish-born economist and professor at New York University, Roman Frydman… Former member of the Minnesota House of Representatives, Paul D. Rosenthal… Co-founder of Biebelberg & Martin in Millburn, N.J., he is the immediate past chair of the Golda Och Academy in West Orange, Keith N. Biebelberg… Professor of Bible at Bar-Ilan University, Joshua Berman… Denver-based attorney at Recht Kornfeld, Richard K. Kornfeld… Born in Kyiv, former U.S. Supreme Court law clerk and now a UCLA law professor known for his eponymous prominent legal blog “The Volokh Conspiracy,” Eugene Volokh… Israeli mountain climber, search and rescue professional, photographer and speaker, best known for his heroic rescue of an unconscious Turk he found near the summit of Mount Everest in 2012, Nadav Ben Yehuda… Political operations project manager at AIPAC, Samantha Friedman Fallon