Your Daily Phil: Jewish world mobilizes to support Ukrainian Jews + JFNA’s new disability rights agenda

Good Friday morning!

Following the invasion of Russian troops into Ukraine in the early morning hours yesterday, Jewish groups around the globe — from the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee to the Orthodox Union — are mobilizing to assist Jews in the embattled Eastern European country.

For the Federation of Jewish Communities of Ukraine, the infrastructure was already in place to provide vital assistance to the hundreds of thousands of Jews living in the country, eJewishPhilanthropy’s Melissa Weiss reports.

When COVID-19 first hit Ukraine, Rabbi Mayer Stambler oversaw the creation of support networks to provide ritual items and kosher food to families and individuals celebrating Jewish holidays in isolation. Two years later, Stambler, who heads the Chabad-affiliated Federation of Jewish Communities of Ukraine, has been forced to mobilize those same volunteer networks following yesterday’s invasion.

“Everyone’s talking about preparing for a war, but… it just came suddenly,” Stambler told eJP in a Zoom call from his home in Dnipropetrovsk in the central part of the country. “You know, you don’t really think it’s going to happen, you hope that diplomacy is gonna win. And 5:30 in the morning, to hear people bombing you… It’s unbelievable.”

Among those in need of help are the tens of thousands of elderly Jews who have been largely homebound over the last two years. Stambler’s team is working to get them — and others who are running low on essentials such as non-perishable food and water — the support they need to last through the invasion — be that days, weeks or much longer.

“We didn’t just stay here with our families just to stay here. We feel responsible… We’re going to make sure to feed people,” Stambler said. “If we have to risk our lives to do it, we will do it. There’s no question about it.”


Federations’ umbrella group marks Jewish Disability Advocacy Day, urges revisions to Build Back Better bill


Ali Stroker, the first actress to use a wheelchair on Broadway, and paralympian high jumper Ezra Frech were on hand to celebrate The Jewish Federations of North America’s 12th annual Jewish Disability Advocacy Day (JDAD), a virtual program engaging diverse communities across North America to break down barriers to opportunity and inclusion for those with disabilities, eJewishPhilanthropy’s Esther Kustanowitz reports. Members of Congress, disability advocacy champions and experts also spoke during the event to provide deeper understanding of inclusion efforts and the obstacles they may encounter. 

Focus on legislation: This year’s JDAD advocacy focused on two core issues: securing an additional $150 billion in a revised Build Back Better legislative package to expand Medicaid-funded home- and community-based services for low-income individuals with disabilities and reduce long waiting lists for care; and passing the ABLE Age Adjustment Act, which would increase the age threshold for tax-favored ABLE (Achieving a Better Life Experience) accounts — designed to allow individuals with disabilities to save for and pay for disability-related expenses — from 26 to 46. 

Channeling energy to fight for those who need it: “We are a convener, connector and a catalyst for change,” Aaron Kaufman, JFNA’s senior manager of legislative affairs, told eJP. “I have cerebral palsy and so I’ve devoted my life to improving the lives of people with disabilities, because having cerebral palsy can be frustrating and disappointing. My parents taught me to channel that frustration and depression and anxiety and all the unfortunate feelings that I was having and all that energy, [into] fighting for people who had more significant disabilities than I do.” Kaufman leads JFNA’s disability public policy work on Capitol Hill, and noted that an estimated 61 million American adults live with a disability.

Advocacy awards: Other honorees included Lifetime Achievement Award Recipients Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) and Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI); Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) received the Legislator of the Year Award; and disability rights activist Emily Ladau received the Advocate of the Year Award. 

Read the full story here.


Jewish organizations need more focus on the ‘low-hanging fruit’

Tim Mossholder / Pexels

“Every semester I tell my law students that their final exam questions will contain both low-hanging fruit as well as fruit you need to climb farther up the tree to reach. I explain that the low-hanging fruit is the material that is easier to spot and address, as opposed to the fruit that requires more effort to master and apply,” writes Roberta Rosenthal Kwall, law professor and author of the book Remix Judaism: Preserving Tradition in a Diverse World, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Jewish world relevance: “This distinction also has relevance for the Jewish organizational world, particularly those organizations, institutions and venues whose constituents are largely self-identifying religiously liberal Jews. In recent years, we have seen increasing programs, initiatives and media attention directed toward bringing alienated and disinterested Jews into the fold. Although I applaud attempts to reach fruit farther up the tree, the low-hanging fruit is the most critical group to reach and keep engaged for Jewish tradition to thrive outside of Orthodoxy.”

Who is the low-hanging fruit? “These individuals probably can be found in every major city and surrounding suburbs, but they live elsewhere too. Their age ranges from early 20s to mid-40s. By and large, they were raised in homes with strong religious norms, even if not with strict observance. Most are not currently observant but many have baby boomer parents who were or are more fully observant. Although some attended Jewish day schools, many more received part-time Jewish education through a synagogue program. Virtually all come from families who were, and often still are, affiliated and for whom it was important their kids celebrate b’nai mitzvot. Many attended Jewish preschool as well as summer camp (or other types of Jewish teen summer programs) and still maintain a close network of friends from these connections.”

Read the full piece here.

big tent approach

Birthright trips inclusive of everyone

Birthright Israel

“Birthright Israel’s ‘Big Tent’ approach allows participants from a range of Jewish backgrounds, including families with only one Jewish parent – and, though less-widely known, to people with disabilities and medical issues… The program included people with disabilities and other support needs almost from its inception, with its first accessible trip in 2001. To date, over 2,000 participants have participated in more than 75 trips through various trip provider organizations,” write Elizabeth Sokolsky, executive director of Taglit-Birthright Israel, and Howard Blas, director of the National Ramah Tikvah Network, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy

Guided by Jewish values: “In 2019 Birthright Israel reviewed its policies on disabilities, developing a mission statement that clarifies its stance that all are welcome on the trips, regardless of disability. ‘Guided by our Jewish values, we aim to be inclusive of all individuals with disabilities, special requirements, limitations or challenges.’ … Potential participants may be considered for participation on a typical Birthright Israel trip, or they may elect to participate in a specially designed trip with support for their needs. The itinerary often includes the usual ‘highlights’ including the Dead Sea, Masada, the Kotel and camel riding.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Social pain, moral injury: Workers who quit during the Great Resignation may be leaving because their consciences have been wounded and their innate sense of justice violated, Ron Carucci and Ludmila Praslova write in Harvard Business Review. “While moral injury is not the same as PTSD, both can be understood as psychological trauma with biological markers and consequences. PTSD is associated with a threat to our mortality and damages our sense of safety; moral injury wounds our morality and our sense of trust. There is growing evidence that social and emotional experiences have physiological consequences. Social pain is processed in the same brain regions as physical pain, according to MRI studies, and in most languages people use the same words to describe social pain as they do physical pain. Moral injury has been shown to lead to lasting psychological, physical, spiritual, behavioral, and social harm. Psychological reactions include feelings of grief, anger, anxiety, guilt, shame, or disgust. Some individuals may experience a spiritual or existential crisis or even become physically ill.” [HarvardBusinessReview]

Community Comms

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

Word on the Street

UJA-Federation of New York is providing up to $3 million in emergency funding to the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, The Jewish Agency and other grassroots partners, to support the Jewish community of Ukraine…

United Hatzalah of Israel is sending a team of 30 emergency medical volunteers and members of the psychotrauma and crisis response unit to Moldova in order to assist Ukrainian refugees…

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft delivered a pep talk to the crowd prior to Tuesday evening’s Yeshiva University’s basketball game against Purchase College. “Other than the love for my family, the pride I take in my Jewish identity is greater than any other emotion that I have… Rarely do I have the opportunity to feel that pride when it comes to the athletic accomplishments of our people,” Kraft quipped. “Following the accomplishments of the Maccabees over the last couple of years has brought me enormous Jewish pride.”…

The New York Sun, the long-defunct daily broadsheet, returned to New York City’s hypercompetitive local media market this week…

Rabbi Benjamin David has been selected to succeed Rabbi Lance Sussman, who will retire this summer, at Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel in Elkins Park, Pa…

Children’s Hospital Los Angeles received a $25 million gift in support of nursing professional development and research from a donor who wishes to remain anonymous… 

Sewickley Academy, a coed college-preparatory and independent day school in the Pittsburgh area, announced a $20 million gift from the Tull Family Foundation

The Cummings Foundation committed $12.5 million to the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology in support of workforce development programming…

Pic of the Day

DANIEL LEAL/AFP via Getty Images

Young women, clutching their mobile phones, take refuge in a metro station in downtown Kyiv, Ukraine, yesterday morning as air raid sirens sounded throughout the city.


Patrick McMullan/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Businessman, art collector and political activist, president of the World Jewish Congress since 2007, Ronald Laudercelebrates his birthday on Saturday… 

Friday: Former talk show host, Sally Jessy Raphael… Owner of the Chicago White Sox and the Chicago Bulls, Jerry M. Reinsdorf… Former president of the Associated in Baltimore, later EVP of the UJA-Federation of New York, then CEO of United Jewish Communities, Stephen Solender… Science and medicine reporter for The New York Times and author of six books, Gina Bari Kolata… Visiting scholar at NYU, formerly CEO of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Steve Gutow… Jerusalem-based attorney and chairman of Republicans Overseas Israel, Marc Zell… Former minister of foreign affairs for Israel and chief of the general staff of the IDF, Gabi Ashkenazi… Opinion columnist and podcast contributor for The New York TimesAndrew Rosenthal… VP of communications at CNN, Barbara Levin… Policy editor at The BulwarkMona Charen… CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Buffalo, Rob Goldberg… Co-president of Paterson, N.J.-based JNS-SmithChem, Michael F. Smith… U.S. ambassador to Israel, Tom Nides… Mayor of Burlington, Vt., since 2012, Miro Weinberger… Founder of “News Not Noise,” Jessica Sage Yellin… Director of strategic communications for Facebook, Anne Elise Kornblut… Travel planner, 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 of Los Angeles, 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, Max Aaron… Julie Goldman…

Saturday: Senior fellow at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute, Chaim Isaac Waxman… Las Vegas resident, Chantal Reuss… Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter, Michael Bolton… Julie Levitt Applebaum… Member of Knesset for the Likud party, Tzachi Hanegbi… Partner at Arnold & Porter, Paul J. Fishman… Professor of sociology and bioethics at Emory University, Paul Root Wolpe… CEO and Chairman at Gilgamesh Pharmaceuticals, Dr. Jonathan Sporn… U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA)… Partner at Unfiltered Media and digital strategist at turner4D, Alan Rosenblatt… COO of the Paramus-based Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, Lisa Harris Glass… Former president of MLB’s Miami Marlins, David P. Samson… Motivational speaker, focused on anti-bullying, Jon Pritikin… Concertmaster for the D.C.-based National Symphony Orchestra, Nurit Bar-Josef… Founder and editor-in-chief of Tablet MagazineAlana Newhouse… Brett Michael Kaufman

Sunday: Performance artist and filmmaker, Eleanor Antin… Writer and illustrator of children’s books, Uri Shulevitz… William Drykos… Investor, chair of Juilliard, vice chair of Lincoln Center and on the board of the Metropolitan Opera, Bruce Kovner… Haverford, Pa.-based attorney, mediator and arbitrator, Judith Meyer… Professor of physics at MIT, Alan Harvey Guth… Michael Gervis… Member of the British House of Lords, she is a retired rabbi and the chair of University College London Hospitals, Baroness Julia Neuberger… U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH)… Film and television actor, Noah Emmerich… Suzy Appelbaum… President and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford, David S. Waren… Founder of Spanx, she is also a part owner of the Atlanta Hawks, Sara Blakely… Senior Washington editor for NBC News, Rebecca Sinderbrand… Singer-songwriter, composer and prayer leader, Sam Benjamin “Shir Yaakov” Feinstein-Feit… Member of the Knesset for the Religious Zionist party, Bezalel Smotrich… Chief baseball officer for the Boston Red Sox, Chaim Bloom… Massachusetts state senator and candidate for lieutenant governor, Eric P. Lesser… Alana Berkowitz.. Director of Genesis, Brandeis’ precollege programs, Laura Hyman

Email to have your birthday included.