Your Daily Phil: JFNA readies for GA in Tel Aviv + Easing climate anxiety with Judaism

Good Friday morning!

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on efforts by Jewish environmental groups to build resilience against climate anxiety. We also feature an op-ed from Erica Brown. We will start with an interview with Jewish Federations of North America President and CEO Eric Fingerhut ahead of the organization’s General Assembly.

The Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly kicks off in Tel Aviv on Sunday evening for an event that’s relatively short on content but long on personal, visceral experiences as the organization looks to deepen the connections between the delegates and the State of Israel, JFNA President and CEO Eric Fingerhut told eJewishPhilanthropy‘s Judah Ari Gross.

Unlike most General Assemblies, this year’s gathering is being held not in the fall but in the spring to overlap with Israel’s Memorial Day, Yom Hazikaron, and its 75th Independence Day, Yom Ha’atzmaut. The assembly also comes during a tumultuous period in Israel, with large numbers of Israelis taking to the streets on a weekly basis to protest the government’s proposed judicial overhaul. Protest groups are organizing demonstrations outside the JFNA gathering for Sunday night when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is due to address the event.

The interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

Judah Ari Gross: Welcome to Israel! How are the final preparations going?

Eric Fingerhut: They’re going well. First of all, we’ve been planning this for a year because of the 75th anniversary and just to recognize the deep history and connection that Jewish federations have to the creation and development of the State of Israel. We’ve been part of this historic story every step of the way, helping create the infrastructure of the Jewish state, caring for the vulnerable, supporting aliyah, bringing people to the Jewish state, and advocating for the inclusive society that it is. So we wanted to be a part of this celebration.

JAG: Is there a concern that, at least to a certain extent, the event will be overshadowed and swept up in this current political moment in Israel?

EF: I know that that will be part of the conversation. It’s not a concern. It’s important for me to remind people what the reasons are for being here and what the goals are for this conference. And to also respect that one of our roles is to be the bridge between the State of Israel and the Diaspora, especially the Jews of North America, which are the largest Diaspora community. And so that’s part of our role is to be a platform for that dialogue to take place. right now, that’s what that dialogue is focused on. So we understand that.

JAG: What are your goals for this General Assembly? What are you hoping that people get out of it, beyond just celebrating the 75th Independence Day?

EF: Really there are two things.

One is that I really do think it’s important that we appreciate and highlight the role of the Jewish federation system in the creation and the establishment of the State of Israel. There’s not a block of this country that hasn’t been touched in some way by the Jewish federation system, which so loves and cares for this Jewish state. And of all people, we Jews know that we must teach our history and build our memory. We know that not everybody who’s coming knows all that history. So that’s one.

And secondly, this is the 75th anniversary and, be’ezrat Hashem (with the help of God), we will be here at 100. So it’s time to start to look forward and to hear from thinkers about what we envision an Israel at 100 looks like.

Read the full interview here.

Weathering the storm

A burning strip of dry grass sets fire to trees. (Gettyimages)

For Rabbi Zelig Golden, climate change is a very real and present crisis. It’s also personal. Golden, the executive director of Wilderness Torah, lives in Northern California, which recently experienced historic flooding. And the future home for Wilderness Torah, the Center for Earth-Based Judaism, will be at Camp Newman in Santa Rosa, Calif., which was devastated by wildfires in the 2017 Tubbs Fire. “In the moment when you’re evacuated, or the moment when you’re threatened, or in the moment you hear that your friend’s land has been burned down or your neighbor’s summer camp has burned down, it is scary. It is traumatizing. It is real,” Golden told Ruben Abrahams Brosbe for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Rising tides, rising heart rates: As climate change exacerbates natural disasters like blizzards, floods, hurricanes and wildfires, climate anxiety is on the rise. Climate anxiety, also called eco-anxiety, is a growing phenomenon of people experiencing excessive fear, grief or worry about the global environmental crisis caused by climate change. Though it is not yet a specifically defined medical diagnosis, there is a growing body of research into this condition. As this mental health crisis grows alongside the climate crisis, there is a growing number of climate anxiety systems of support for individuals and groups. Within the Jewish community, funders such as the San Francisco Jewish Community Federation, the Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah, and others are supporting organizations such as Dayenu, Hazon and Wilderness Torah. Collectively these organizations and others offer Jews ways to cope with climate anxiety — directly and indirectly — through community, Jewish tradition and action.

Look to the past: As various Jewish organizations work to educate, organize and mobilize Jews, they look to Jewish tradition as a vital resource. “Judaism is one of the most powerful cultural vehicles in the world,” Golden said. “We have this massive gift. And I think that, by and large, Jewish tradition as it is practiced today misses some of those opportunities.” Using Jewish tradition for climate action includes teachings on Jewish studies, text studies, celebrating Jewish holidays, and in some cases integrating Jewish holidays into protests.

Wells of wisdom: Dayenu received a two-year grant from the Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah to support their spiritual adaptation work. Daniel Spiro, a program manager at Lippman Kanfer, told eJP, “Our main thrust as a funder is to look for organizations that are in some way applying Jewish wisdom to some question of contemporary human significance. What really stuck out to us and what’s really exciting about Dayenu’s work [is] that they really are pulling from Jewish wisdom.”

Thriving in adversity: Ultimately, if climate anxiety stems from the fear of disaster, then Jewish climate justice organizations argue that Jews are uniquely adapted to face it. The Jewish people have a long history of surviving disasters. “Judaism has this deep history of facing climate catastrophe, of facing drought and of having deep traditions on how to walk into that and through that as a community. And there’s faith when we practice those traditions; there’s a deep faith that comes [with it],” Wilderness Torah’s Golden said. “This, I think, is where climate anxiety can be most deeply addressed by deeply rooted in our deepest and most ancient traditions and practicing them in a relevant and powerful way today.”

Read the full article here.

The Torah of leadership

Taking the lead: Thoughts on Parshat Tazria/Metzora


“This double Torah reading of Tazria and Metzora is among the most challenging in the Torah. It is about a spiritual skin affliction that we erroneously call leprosy, its many variations and the places it can reach: one’s body, one’s clothing and even one’s house,” writes Erica Brown, vice provost for values and leadership at Yeshiva University, in her weekly column for eJewishPhilanthropy, “The Torah of Leadership.

Proper notification: “Instead of going to the ancient equivalent of a dermatologist, the person infected notifies the Kohen Gadol, the High Priest. If the illness is spiritual with a physical manifestation, then the doctor, too, must be a spiritual one. Who better than the High Priest to diagnose the rash?”

Leaders lead: “When it comes to this diagnosis, we might expect three people to weigh in on the problem because in most cases of Jewish law, a person presents his or her case before a beit din, a Jewish court of three… The priest, by modeling these difficult activities, also helped others reintegrate the sufferer. After all, if the holiest person in the community declares a person afflicted safe to return to normal life, then that declaration must be good enough for everyone. The leader sets the standard of care and concern for others.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Who’s Pitching In?: Volunteering in America declined precipitously in recent years, but some groups are finding new strategies to attract volunteers, reports Glenn Gamboa for the Associated Press. “For decades, volunteerism in America has been declining. But according to a recent U.S. Census Bureau and AmeriCorps survey, it dropped another 7 percentage points between 2019 and 2021. The survey found about 23% of Americans volunteered with a formal nonprofit – including churches, schools, and food banks – at least once in the previous year… Americans are on the move more than ever before, and that ripples out into volunteering as well. If people don’t live in one place for very long, they tend not to volunteer as much — especially if they are surrounded by other newcomers, says Mark Snyder, director of the Center for the Study of the Individual and Society at the University of Minnesota… American nonprofits will face big consequences if they don’t take immediate steps to attract younger volunteers, says Carl Nassib, an NFL linebacker and volunteerism advocate.” [AssociatedPress]

What’s an Ivy League Education Worth?: The proportion of Jews studying on Ivy League campuses has declined in recent years as the universities focus more on increasing diversity rather than previous benchmarks for matriculation, laments Armin Rosen in Tablet Magazine. “For Jews, an Ivy League degree was both a status symbol and a crucial element in a functioning and merit-based system of social mobility… Today, it has become a perceivable reality that Jews are no longer being admitted to Ivy League schools in their former numbers… The notion of Jews as one of many ethnic constituencies competing for the attention of the people who run the country’s prestige dispensaries is hardly an encouraging one. But a principled rejection of the post-meritocratic system may not be practical, and it is not too late for Jews to carve out a space within the new and bewildering vacuum that is consuming the American elite, the Ivy League included.” [Tablet]

Around the Web

The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation in Atlanta announced that since its inception in 1995, it has committed $1 billion in giving…

Brown University announced a $25 million pledge from the Perelman Family Foundation to establish an arts district on the Providence, R.I., campus to highlight the prominence of arts teaching, scholarship and performance at the university. The gift will create the Ronald O. Perelman Arts District at Brown University…

According to the latest report from the Fundraising Effectiveness Project, giving dipped during the final quarter of 2022, with both the number of donors and total revenue falling below 2021 levels…

Global cross-border philanthropy totaled $70 billion in 2020, according to a first-of-its-kind research project from the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI. The research showed that overall cross-border giving only declined by 0.5% between 2018 and 2020 in the 47 countries studied, which represent 61% of the global population and 85% of global GDP…

Rabbi Gary Zola announced he will retire as executive director of the Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, a position he has held since 1998, effective July 1. After completing a planned sabbatical, Zola will take on the role of Edward M. Ackerman Family distinguished professor emeritus of the American Jewish experience and Reform Jewish history at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, on Jan. 1, 2025…

Yitz Landes will join the faculty of the Jewish Theological Seminary as assistant professor of rabbinic literatures and cultures on July 1…

Tamara E. Cohen has joined OneTable as vice president of growth…

In October 2021, The Center for Jewish Ethics at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College received a nearly $200,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to fund cross-disciplinary research into race, racism and the American Jewish experience. The project has been completed and can be found at

Rare manuscripts handwritten by Maimonides, some never before exhibited in public, will be on display at the Yeshiva University Museum in the Center for Jewish History building in New York City, from May 9 to Dec. 31…

The World Jewish Congress opened a Nordic office in Stockholm, Sweden, this week to boost its operations in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden and “safeguard Jewish life” in those countries…

Pic of the Day


Plans were unveiled Wednesday in Ellenville, N.Y., for The Borscht Belt Museum, scheduled for a summer opening in the Catskill Mountains. The museum will celebrate the birthplace of modern stand-up comedy and showcase artifacts, photographs and memorabilia of the era and its legendary resorts.


Robin Marchant/Getty Images

Former U.S. Poet Laureate and winner of a Pulitzer Prize, she was the 2020 Nobel Prize laureate in literature and 2015 recipient of the National Humanities Medal, Louise Elisabeth Glück


Comedian, screenwriter, film director and actress, Elaine May… Board member of The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore, Howard Rosenbloom… British chemist and emeritus professor at the University of Cambridge, Sir Alan Roy Fersht… Award-winning folklorist, author, poet and editor, Howard Schwartz… Former chairwoman of the Connecticut Democratic Party following her term as the Lieutenant Governor of Connecticut, Nancy S. Wyman… Walnut Creek, California based interior designer, Marilyn Weiss… Emergency physician in Panorama City, California, Joseph Edward Beezy… UCSB mathematician Michael Hartley Freedman… Rabbi, psychologist, writer and editor, Susan Schnur… Professor emeritus at George Mason University Law School, Michael Ian Krauss… Australian barrister who is a member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly following 31 years as Mayor of Botany Bay, Ron Hoenig… Rabbi at Temple Ner Simcha in Westlake Village, California, Michael Barclay… Co-founder of the Genesis Prize and the Genesis Philanthropy Group, Mikhail Fridman… Chicago-based lobbyist and attorney, Scott D. Yonover… Art collector and dealer, Alberto “Tico” Mugrabi… Washington correspondent for The New York Times’ DealBook, Ephrat Livni… Founder of I Was Supposed to Have a Baby (IWSTHAB), an online community geared toward Jewish women experiencing infertility, Aimee Friedman Baron… Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter for The New York Times and best-selling author, Jodi Kantor… Head of business development and innovation at Birthright North America and CEO of Unistream, Ifat Bechor… Co-founder and chief innovation officer at Zivvy Media, Eric Weisbrod… Actress and voice actress, whose career included the voice of Regina “Reggie” Rocket on Nickelodeon’s Rocket Power, Shayna Bracha Fox … Investor relations officer at Linse Capital, he is a past president of the Berkeley Hillel, Robert J. Kaufman… Once the top-ranked collegiate female tennis player in the U.S. and currently the head women’s tennis coach at the University of Oklahoma, Audra Marie Cohen… Director of marketing at This Little Goat, Joshua Gibbs… Outfielder for MLB’s San Francisco Giants, he is a two-time World Series champion and a two-time All Star, he played for Team Israel in the 2013 and 2023 World Baseball Classics, Joc Pederson… Writer, magazine editor and actress, Tavi Gevinson


Calgary-based CEO of Balmon Investments, Alvin Gerald Libin… Actor and later one of Hollywood’s most prolific producers, Mark Damon… Co-founder of Human Rights Watch, Aryeh Neier… English journalist and former anchor of BBC Television’s Newsnight, Adam Eliot Geoffrey Raphael… Conductor and professor of music at Boston University, Joshua Rifkin… Recent mayor of Madison, Wisconsin, he has served as mayor twice before as far back as 1973, Paul R. Soglin… Managing director emeritus of Kalorama Partners, D. Jeffrey (“Jeff”) Hirschberg… Former chief economist at the World Bank, Sir Nicholas Herbert Stern… Real estate developer and principal owner of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings, Zygmunt “Zygi” Wilf… Chief Financial Officer of Alphabet Inc. and its subsidiary Google, Ruth Porat… Three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter for The Washington Post, Sari Horwitz… NYC area accountant at Eisneramper LLP, Edward Lifshitz… New Zealand native now serving as the CEO of Australian-based job-board SEEK, Ian Mark Narev… Israeli columnist at Kan News, Shmuel Rosner… NYC-based attorney, member of Kriss & Feuerstein LLP, Jerold C. Feuerstein… Author of My Jesus Year: A Rabbi’s Son Wanders the Bible Belt in Search of His Own Faith, Benyamin Cohen… Member of the Knesset for the National Unity party, Yehiel Moshe “Hili” Tropper… Tel Aviv-based deputy bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal, Shayndi Raice… Managing director of external communications for the Jewish Federations of North America, Niv Elis… Former president of Y Combinator and now the CEO of OpenAI, Samuel H. “Sam” Altman… Associate at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, Zachary Krooks… Competitive ice dancer, Elliana Pogrebinsky


Stage, television and film actor, Alan Oppenheimer… Los Angeles resident, Marim Weissman… Owner of Council Bluffs, Iowa-based Ganeeden Metals, a multi-generational scrap metal recycling firm, Harold Edelman… Oberlin, Ohio resident, Patricia Ann Haumann… Retired real estate brokerage executive, Terry Pullan… Retail industry analyst and portfolio manager at Berman Capital, Steve Kernkraut… Chair emeritus of Israel Policy Forum, he serves as chairman of Trenton Biogas, an organics recycling-to-energy business in Trenton, Peter A. Joseph… Health services researcher focused on smoking cessation programs for women, maternal health and child health, Judith Katzburg, PhD, MPH, RN… Deputy director of NCSEJ, the National Coalition Supporting Eurasian Jewry, Lesley L. Weiss… Principal of Philadelphia-based Ceisler Media & Issue Advocacy, Larry Ceisler… Chairman of edutech firm Weird Science Lab based at the University of Oxford, Gary Pickholz… Retail sales specialist at BB one in Palm Desert, California, Janni Jaffe… Co-founder of Gryphon Software, he is the author of a book on the history of antisemitism, Gabriel Wilensky… CEO of Hermitage Capital Management, he is the primary proponent world-wide of the Magnitsky Act, Bill Browder… DC-based executive director of the Orthodox Union’s Advocacy Center, Nathan J. Diament… Style and image director for the Estée Lauder Companies, Aerin Lauder Zinterhofer … CEO of Aish HaTorah, Rabbi Steven Burg… President and CEO at Americans For Peace Now, Hadar Susskind… Jewelry designer, Jennifer “Jen” Meyer… Director of viewpoint diversity initiatives at Maimonides Fund, Ariella Saperstein… Founder and CEO at 90 West, a Boston-based strategic communications firm, Alexander Goldstein… Co-founder of Edgeline Films, he co-directed and co-produced “Weiner,” a documentary about Anthony Weiner’s campaign for Mayor of NYC in 2013, Joshua Kriegman… Senior account director at Hotwire, Neil Boylan Strauss… Branded content editor at Axios, Alexis Kleinman… Former University of Michigan quarterback, now a fund manager in NYC, Alex Swieca… CEO at Khan Theatre, Jerusalem’s repertoire-theater located near the Railway Station, Elisheva Mazya… Deputy CEO of The Jerusalem Post, Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman