Your Daily Phil: JFNA leaders make first trip to war-torn Ukraine

Good Tuesday morning. 

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on a recent survey of Russian-speaking American Jews and on remarks at the Aspen Ideas Festival by the president of Dartmouth College, the only Ivy League school not facing a federal civil rights investigation over antisemitism. We feature an opinion piece by Michelle Shapiro Abraham and Sarah Fredrick about Gather, Inc.’s “Heartbeat Model” of engagement. Also in this newsletter: Paul Singer, Hersh Goldberg-Polin and Caitlin ShermanWe’ll start with a recent visit by Jewish Federations of North America leaders to Ukraine.

On the second day of his visit to Kyiv last week, it occurred to Keith Shapiro that he wasn’t aware of other Jewish groups that have paid solidarity visits to the Ukrainian capital — among the cities most frequently bombarded by Russia since it invaded on Feb. 24, 2022, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen.

“I asked the chief rabbi of Ukraine, ‘Who else from the [American] Jewish community has been here before us?’ And he pointed his finger at us and said, ‘You’re it,’” Shapiro, a lay leader of Chicago’s federation, the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago, told eJP fresh off a solidarity trip to Ukraine, which included two days in Kyiv, through Jewish Federations of North America.

The mission, held June 16-19, came 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 — but as a grinding war continues to rage on in Ukraine, where more than half a million people have been killed or seriously injured in two years.

Shapiro was among seven JFNA leaders from across the United States, including the group’s CEO, Eric Fingerhut, who were selected to meet with Ukrainian leaders and assess fundraising goals on the ground. A highlight, Shapiro said, was a discussion with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, which Shapiro described as “incredibly warm.”

“He addressed us both as the leader of his country, but also as a fellow Jew,” Shapiro said. “There was a warmth and passion there for the Jewish people of Ukraine that was very perceptible. He is manifesting affection for the Jewish people of Ukraine in many ways that we saw, including the fact that during an existential war for his country, he is actively supporting the addition and improvement of the [Holocaust] memorial at Babyn Yar… in addition, both the city of Kyiv and federal government have actively supported the creation of Golda Meir Square,” Shapiro said, a tribute to Israel’s former prime minister, who was born in Kyiv.

Since the start of the war, JFNA has raised more than $100 million towards emergency operational costs, temporary housing and transportation for evacuations, security, humanitarian support, trauma and medical relief and immigration and absorption in Israel. Shapiro said that the visit reinforced the need to continue grants in all of these areas; and particularly for “an acute shortage of counselors, teachers and venues to host Jewish gatherings throughout the country.”

“The demand is huge now because people in those areas have left the country for Eastern Europe and Israel,” he said. “On the other side of the equation, the demand for involvement in Jewish life in Ukraine has increased drastically, people want to be a part of their culture at this time and learn more and be with other Jewish people for support. The demand is huge and there’s a pressing need to fill those gaps.”

While in Ukraine, the group visited several Jewish sites, including Babyn Yar, the Chabad Simcha School, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee’s Chesed center, a Jewish community center and the future location of Golda Meir Square. Participants met with leadership of the federation of Jewish communities in Ukraine, as well as with Olena Zelenska, the first lady of Ukraine, and Vitali Klitschko, the mayor of Kyiv.

“Our national leadership is more informed about what’s happening there and care about it more than the typical American,” Bobby Gibbs, a JFNA national young leadership co-chair, told eJP. Still, even among JFNA’s young leadership, Gibbs said that “it’s easy to lose the top-of-mind nature of what’s happening in Ukraine… Efforts to reacknowledge the situation are really important.”

Read the full report here.


Survey of Russian-speaking Jews finds untapped passion about Zionism, fighting antisemitism

People march on Fifth avenue as they participate in the annual Israel Day Parade on June 2, 2024 in New York City.
People march on Fifth avenue as they participate in the annual Israel Day Parade on June 2, 2024 in New York City. John Lamparski/AFP via Getty Images

Growing up in the Soviet Union, Izabella Tabarovsky knew deeply that she was a Jew, but to her, “it was a nationality, it was never a religion,” she told Jay Deitcher for eJewishPhilanthropy. “When we came to the West, we came to the U.S., we had a very strong Jewish identity, but we didn’t really know what it meant.” So to her, it makes sense that a recent survey of the Russian-speaking Jewish community revealed a people who are deeply connected to Israel, passionate about fighting antisemitism and value Jewish culture and history, yet placed religious practices as a lower priority, she said.

Define yourself: Earlier this year, the American Russian-Speaking Jews Alliance conducted a survey of Jews from the former Soviet Union to understand how they self-identified in light of Russia’s war against Ukraine. Over 80% of the 507 respondents identified as Russian-speaking Jews, with 87% saying that their parents and grandparents helped shape their identity and 83% saying the language did. Still, others defined themselves as a “Soviet Jew from Ukraine” and “Ukrainian-American Russian-speaking Jew.”

Food for thought: The survey should not be viewed as a representative survey, as the respondents were culled from Russian-speaking Jewish social media groups and ARSJA’s email list, Shaul Kelner, associate professor of Jewish studies and sociology at Vanderbilt University, and author of A Cold War Exodus: How American Activists Mobilized to Free Soviet Jews, told eJP, so it is difficult to come to firm conclusions from it. Still, the organization hopes that the survey will prompt questions. “Do we try to get [Russian-speaking Jews] more engaged in things that they are currently not engaged in, or do we just focus on the things that they’re interested in?”

Different perspective: The Russian-speaking American Jewish community is a group that other Jewish communities could learn a lot from, according to Tabarovsky. “It’s a community that understands firsthand oppression and persecution from the political left, not from the political right,” Kelner said. “They experienced Soviet anti-Zionism. They didn’t experience Nazi antisemitism, so what they’re seeing in America now looks very familiar to them.”

Read the full report here.


Dartmouth president says campus encampments go against ‘academic mission’

Dartmouth President Sian Beilock. Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

Speaking on a panel at the Aspen Ideas Festival yesterday, Dartmouth President Sian Beilock was introduced with a rare accolade: Dartmouth is the only Ivy League college that has not faced a federal civil rights investigation over its handling of allegations of antisemitism and Islamophobia on campus, reports Gabby Deutch for eJewishPhilanthropy’s sister publication Jewish Insider from the Colorado gathering.

Not for the taking: The school saw more than 25 protests on the war, Beilock continued, but she made clear why no encampment was able to last at Dartmouth beyond a few hours. “One thing that we were clear about from the beginning is that protests can be an important form of free speech. But there’s a difference between protest and then taking over a shared space for one ideology and excluding another. That is taking over someone else’s free speech. That is not at the heart of our academic mission,” Beilock said. (Her quick removal of the encampment earned condemnation from the university’s faculty, who voted to censure her for calling in the police.)

More diversity: Beilock, who joined Dartmouth a year ago after six years as the president of Barnard College, blamed the campus turmoil at least in part on a lack of ideological diversity at elite institutions. “We haven’t been good enough about making sure we have voices across the political spectrum on campus in enough of a way that allows them to constantly be practicing having these difficult conversations across difference,” Beilock said. “I’m recommitting to that.”

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


Don’t leave relationship-building to chance: Using the ‘Heartbeat Model’ of engagement

Bohdan/Adobe Stock

“In our first article last week, we introduced Gather, Inc.’s three models of community building, a framework for strategizing how to both connect with people and how to connect those people with each other as they enter our Jewish spaces. This type of interpersonal connection, which is central to Gather’s methodology of relationship-based engagement, is also key to responding to ‘The Surge’ — the previously unengaged Jews who have been entering into Jewish spaces seeking connection, friendship and meaning-making,” write Michelle Shapiro Abraham and Sarah Fredrick, Gather Inc.’s CEO and director of trainings, in the second opinion piece in their series for eJewishPhilanthropy on models for engaging “The Surge.”

Make a plan: “The Surge reminds us that this type of relationship-building is too important to leave to chance. By focusing on the quality of our programs and paying attention to the relationships our community members are forging, we can radically shift how people experience the Jewish community — from a place where they simply attend programs, to a place where they find their people and their home.”

Programs and chit-chat: “What is the Heartbeat Model of engagement? [A combination of] immersive experiences and planned gatherings we may often refer to as ‘programs’ — that are critical opportunities for people to deepen their relationships and explore their Jewish identity in a group… [and] relational work that happens in between programmatic offerings.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Thanks But No Thanks: In The Wall Street Journal, Rabbi Avi Shafran reacts to a new Louisiana law requiring a poster featuring the Ten Commandments to be displayed in every public school classroom in the state. “As an Orthodox rabbi, I am heartened by the respect that [Louisiana Gov. Jeff] Landry affords the Torah. As an American, though, I am discomfited by the new Louisiana law… Louisiana will defend its law, perhaps successfully, with the argument that endorsing the Ten Commandments is an embrace of a cultural idea, not a religious one. The [U.S. Supreme Court] justices need only turn around and look at the wall behind them to realize that the frieze showing Moses, et al., wasn’t intended to telegraph the court’s embrace of religion, even of monotheism, but rather to honor the general concept of law. That’s what disturbs me. If the only way to ‘honor’ the Ten Commandments — which I wish everyone would do — is to ‘desanctify’ them, to turn them from divine directives to cultural ideals, count me out.” [WSJ]

New York State of Mind: In Bloomberg, Simone Foxman, Emily Birnbaum and Jeff Green do a deep dive into the increasingly influential Manhattan Institute think tank under the chairmanship of Paul Singer. “Over the past decade, business figures led by hedge-fund billionaire Paul Singer have poured nearly $200 million into a New York think tank that’s now projecting its own vision for Trump’s America. Powered by wealthy donors, the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research has become an intellectual staging ground for the American right… For Singer, this is only the beginning. Founder of the $66 billion Elliott Investment Management and one of the most feared activist investors in the world, Singer speaks of building a Wall Street equivalent of the Federalist Society, the legal juggernaut that’s spent decades ruthlessly pushing America’s judiciary to the right… Conservatives associated with the group aren’t necessarily Trump fans. Like many on Wall Street, Singer threw his weight behind Nikki Haley for the 2024 Republican nomination. But over the past decade, Singer has nudged the institute further to the right and amplified its agenda, people close to the organization say… Ben Domenech, a former fellow and editor-at-large at The Spectator, voice of small ‘c’ British conservatism since 1828, says many donors disdain Donald Trump, the man. But they like his low-tax, light-regulation promise. And they think the Manhattan Institute might be a tool to get what they want. If Trump wins in November, Domenech says: ‘Manhattan is the outside dark horse to be a real influence on this next administration.’” [Bloomberg]

The Perpetuity Question: In Inside Philanthropy, Mike Scutari reports on how donors and the stewards of their funds deal with the question of whether a foundation should operate in perpetuity or eventually spend down. “In 2019, the National Center for Family Philanthropy (NCFP) published ‘Trends 2020,’ its second national benchmark survey of family foundations, which revealed that 9% of surveyed foundations were time-limited, 28% opted for perpetuity, 18% ‘revisit this question periodically’ and 45% ‘have not made a decision at this time.’… How families respond to this question will have profound consequences. Family foundation grantmakers are at the front lines of the largest intergenerational wealth transfer in history, and if even a fraction of them decide to spend down or ramp up funding, nonprofits could access billions of dollars in new support over the next decade.” [InsidePhilanthropy]

Around the Web

A newly released video from Oct. 7 shows hostages Hersh Goldberg-Polin, an American-Israeli citizen, Or Levy and Eliya Cohen on a truck being driven into Gaza by Hamas terrorists…

The Israeli High Court of Justice ruled unanimously today that Haredi Israelis are no longer eligible for blanket exemptions from army service and that the state cannot fund Haredi yeshivot whose students do not enlist…

delegation of prominent Israeli Haredi rabbis has been visiting the U.S. in recent weeks to raise emergency funds for yeshivot whose budgets were frozen by the Israeli High Court of Justice over the draft issue…

More than 100 victims of the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks and their families filed a lawsuit claiming $1 billion in damages against UNRWA, the U.N. aid agency for Palestinians, in New York City on Monday, accusing the organization of aiding and abetting the terror group’s assault…

President Joe Biden condemned violent anti-Israel protests on Sunday outside a Los Angeles synagogue…

The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, D.C., distributed $600,000 in grants for combating antisemitism to a number of local organizations and institutions…

The New York Times investigates how the Israel-Hamas war is affecting doctors at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center, with Jewish staff accusing coworkers of antisemitism and unprofessional conduct and hospital administrators of indifference…

The Times of Israel examines how the return of foreign airline carriers to Israel will likely have little effect on the summer ticket prices…

Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, the former chief rabbi of Moscow, accused Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government of focusing on suppressing dissent rather than on national security after gunmen killed 19 people on Sunday in the mainly Muslim region of Dagestan in southern Russia in attacks on churches, synagogues and police officers…

A basketball camp organized by Israeli professional basketball player Jared Armstrong at the Kaiserman JCC in Philadelphia aims to bridge racial, ethnic and religious divides with antisemitism and racism education alongside shooting hoops…

The London Jewish community’s largest LGBTQ charity, KeshetUK, and the West London Synagogue have pulled out of the London Pride march over safety concerns for their members and will hold a Pride Picnic instead…

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences extended CEO Bill Kramer’s tenure through July 2028…

Bloomberg examines how TikTok billionaire Jeff Yass became a top influence in the 2024 U.S. presidential election…

Rabbi Michael Perice was appointed senior rabbi of Beit T’Shuvah, an addiction recovery community, treatment center, synagogue and educational institute in Los Angeles…

The New York Times spotlights the effort by “deceptionist” Richard Hatch to bring to light a 1933 book from Germany about Jewish magicians

memorial made of yellow ribbons for the victims of the Oct. 7 Hamas attack was vandalized with anti-Israeli stickers in the East Sussex seaside resort of Hove, England, days after a visit by Chief Rabbi Sir Ephraim Mirvis and his wife, Lady Valerie Mirvis

CNN analyzes concern in Democratic circles over support for President Joe Biden from Jewish voters who say they are feeling “politically homeless” because Biden hasn’t done enough for Israel and to combat antisemitism, and because they worry he can’t control his own left following Oct. 7…

Caitlin Sherman has been hired as the new vice president of individual giving and special campaigns for the nonprofit JewishColumbus, the largest funder of Jewish programs in the Ohio city…

Dan and Tanya Snyder, former owners of the Washington Commanders football team who moved to England a year ago, have put up their 16.5-acre estate in southeastern Fairfax County, Va., near Mount Vernon for sale with an asking price of $60 million…

Sylvan “Sy” Holzer, a top executive at PNC Bank and a mainstay of the Pittsburgh Jewish communitydied earlier this month at 75…

Prominent Chicago philanthropist Ann Lurie died yesterday at 79…

Rabbi Moshe Wolfson, the mashgiach, or spiritual adviser, of Yeshiva Torah Va’Daas in Brooklyn, died on Saturday at 99; New York Mayor Eric Adams eulogized Wolfson for his “ability to connect with people from all walks of life”…

Pic of the Day

R.J. Johnston/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Tenth-grader Cole Fisher gives a firsthand account of the antisemitism he and other Jewish students encounter daily at their Toronto public school during a rally outside the Toronto District School Board’s main office last week.

Hundreds of members of the local Jewish community attended the rally, organized by the Jewish Educators and Family Association, to protest the lack of response to antisemitism in local schools and a report recommending incorporation of “anti-Palestinian racism” into the school board’s anti-discrimination policies. Anti-Palestinian racism was not clearly defined in the report, raising concerns that the policy update could be used to deny Jewish indigeneity to the land of Israel and any form of support for Zionism.


Jonathan S. Lavine, co-managing partner and chief investment officer of Bain Capital Credit
Gratz College/Facebook

President of Gratz College in Melrose Park, Pa., Zev Eleff

Music publicist in the 1970s and 1980s for Prince, Billy Joel and Styx, later an author on human behavior, Howard Bloom turns 81… Founder and CEO of Bel Air Partners, a financial advisory firm for automotive retailers, Sheldon J. Sandler turns 80… Real estate developer and founder of The Continuum Company, Ian Bruce Eichner turns 79… Florida resident, Joseph C. Goldberg… Southern California-based mentor, coach and consultant for business executives through Vistage International, Gary Brennglass… Associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, Justice Sonia Sotomayor turns 70… Former member of the Knesset for the Meretz party, Michal Rozin turns 55… Founder and CEO of The Agency real estate brokerage, Mauricio Umansky turns 54… Managing director of A-Street (investment fund focused on seeding and scaling innovative K-12 student learning), Mora Segal… Senior media and PR specialist at Hadassah, she is a former news editor of eJewishPhilanthropyHelen Chernikoff… Israeli philosopher, writer and publicist, he teaches at Yeshivat Har Etzion and Midreshet Lindenbaum, Rabbi Chaim Navon turns 51… Founder and director of The Biblical Museum of Natural History in Beit Shemesh, popularly known as the “Zoo Rabbi,” Natan Slifkin turns 49… Former fashion model and television presenter, Michele Merkin turns 49… Congressional liaison at the U.S. Agency for Global Media, Zachary Silberman… Manager of strategic content at Leidos, Isaac Snyder… VP of strategy at Saint Paul Commodities and co-founder of Veriflux, Daniel “Dani” Charles… Medical resident at Temple University School of Medicine, Avital Mintz-Morgenthau, MD… Senior producer covering the White House for CNN, Betsy Klein… Center fielder in the San Francisco Giants organization, he was the 10th overall pick in the 2019 MLB draft, Hunter David Bishop