Your Daily Phil: JFNA’s Fingerhut on repairing diaspora ties + Big Duck swims back

Good Friday morning!

Ed. note: In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the next Your Daily Phil will arrive on Tuesday.

Big Duck, the New York-based PR firm that came under fire this week for its refusal to work with the Shalom Hartman Institute over what Hartman said was its stance on Israel, reversed course in a statement Thursday night posted on the company’s website addressing the controversy.

“We did not issue a response right away, because we wanted to take time to reflect and discuss with our team and clients,” the company’s co-directors, Farra Trompeter and Elizabeth Ricca, wrote. “While we felt the article mischaracterized our position, we also acknowledge that the comments we provided, written in haste, didn’t accurately represent our policies and practices and caused concern.”

“Big Duck’s decision to decline to work with the Hartman Institute was due to multiple reasons, one of which was our perception at the time that they would not be open to working with a company whose employees and clients hold a range of views on the Israeli government’s policies and practices,” they added. “We have since learned that our perception of the Hartman Institute’s position was mistaken, and we regret that the way we raised the topic caused harm.”


Now is the time to fix Israel-Diaspora ties, says JFNA’s Fingerhut


As Israel’s border reopens following the latest COVID-19-related closures, the president and CEO of The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), Eric Fingerhut, told eJewishPhilanthropy‘s Ruth Marks Eglash on Thursday that it is critical for Israel and Jewish communities in North America to now begin fixing what has been lost due to the travel disruptions and “to develop a set of protocols and approaches that can be utilized in the future.”

New protocols: “We would be crazy to think this could not happen again,” said Fingerhut, who was in Israel this week to attend the funeral and shiva of Israeli President Isaac Herzog’s mother, Aura Herzog, who died on Monday. “This may not have been in our imagination two years ago, but now is the time for us to put arrangements and protocols in place.”

Jewish identity: “I cannot overestimate that Israel travel is a cornerstone of our Jewish and Zionist education and identity,” he continued. “It is the most effective educational tool we have, and we have to invest in it.” Fingerhut, who leads the umbrella organization of some 146 federations across the U.S., said that despite the pandemic disruptions to Israel travel, including the cancellation of short-term group programs, community missions and independent personal trips, the pandemic had actually brought American supporters of Israel closer together. 

Working together: “There is a sense of collaboration between Jewish organizations that did not exist before,” he said, explaining that while in the past the various programs competed and operated separately, “they now understand that we have to work together.” “We are looking at how to help the industry and the sector as a whole to quickly rebound and get back to full strength,” said Fingerhut. “This is not like a light switch; you can’t just turn it off and turn it back on. We can’t just go back to the way it was.”

Read more here.

Constitutional principles

The Undoing: Church-state separation in America


“We are experiencing a rapid and radical shift in governmental policy and practice in connection with American religious life and the undoing of the First Amendment’s prohibitions concerning the state’s engagement with religion,” writes Steven Windmueller, professor emeritus at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Changing equation: “No doubt, a significant impetus for these changes can be directly linked to the rise of both global and domestic terrorism, with Jews often being identified as targets, the 2008 economic crisis and its impact on all sectors of society and the economic fallout of the 2020 pandemic… also contributed to this changing equation of church-state relationships. Responding to each of these situations, the federal government has accelerated its financial connections with the religious sector.”

Security concerns: “In response to both international and domestic threats to Jews and Jewish institutions, the federal government, in cooperation with national Jewish organizations, developed a Department of Homeland Security program to assist religious institutions with security measures. In 2009 the DHS initiative provided security enhancement grants. Sixty-three% of nonprofit grant recipients were ‘affiliated with Jewish organizations.’ In 2010, 94% of the department’s nonprofit security funding went to Jewish groups that are, in the words of the Department of Homeland Security, ‘at high risk of terrorist attack.’ The following year, more than 80% of the program’s $20 million were earmarked for Jewish nonprofits across the country. In response to the creation of this federal program, the Orthodox Union formed a security office, as have numerous federations and other agencies.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

‘Wonder’ful Bar Mitzvah: Religion, race and inclusion were the focus of a bar mitzvah-themed episode of the rebooted TV show “The Wonder Years,” writes JTA’s Philissa Cramer. The revamped series showcases the experience of a different tween as he comes of age in 1968 Montgomery, Ala. The original series featured a bar mitzvah-themed episode in 1989: “The main character of the reboot, Dean Williams, is Black, and much of the show focuses on his experience as one of just a few Black students at his junior high school at a time of great turmoil over integration in the United States. That gives him insight into the psyche of his best friend, a Jewish boy named Brad. ‘Even though he looked white, people saw him differently, too,’ Williams says early in the episode that aired Wednesday night, as a classmate throws a penny at Brad in an antisemitic gesture. ‘At 12 I didn’t understand the complexity and hate behind the joke,’ Williams continues. ‘I just knew they were targeting Brad because he was Jewish.’” [JTA]

As Seen on TVDeadline’s Diana Lodderhose spotlights Arik Kneller, founder of Israeli talent agency The Kneller Agency. Kneller’s company was the first agency in Israel to focus solely on representation of writers and creative professionals, and its client list include those behind series such as “Fauda,” “In Treatment” and “Shtisel”: “He notes that what makes Israeli writers and directors special is their history and the limitations that the country’s entertainment sector has historically faced due to a lack of funding and limited financing options. ‘I think sometimes limitations in art make you very creative,’ he says. ‘Budgets here are small so people have historically had to be very, very creative and invent things themselves. Also, there is no Writers’ Room here – it’s usually just a single writer and a director on a show and there is a lot of freedom to the creators here in the television market.’” [Deadline]

Community Comms

Apply! Want to join the team at Jewish Insider/eJewish Philanthropy? We’re looking for a top-notch philanthropy editor. Learn more here.

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

Word on the Street

The U.K.’s Charity Commission opened a regulatory case into JNF UK in response to concerns raised over comments made by the organization’s chair, Samuel Hayek, last month…

Yeshiva University has pledged to “restructure” an office that deals with sexual harassment and assault, after the school came under fire over an alleged rape case last year… 

The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures announced a partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies, noting that funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies has supported the development of the museum’s digital engagement platforms — including its website, online archives and a new mobile app…

The Music School of Delaware in Wilmington received a $10 million gift from a trust established by Mary Ellen Northrop in support of scholarships… 

GoFundMe reached an agreement to acquire the San Diego-based nonprofit fundraising software company Classy

Pic of the Day

Jurij Kodrun – International Skating Union/International Skating Union via Getty Images

Israeli figure skater Taylor Morris performs during the ISU European Figure Skating Championships in Tallinn, Estonia, yesterday.


TIM SLOAN/AFP via Getty Images

Senior counsel at Covington & Burling, last month he was named as Secretary of State Tony Blinken’s special adviser on Holocaust issues, Ambassador Stuart E. Eizenstat celebrates his birthday Saturday… 

FRIDAY: Chairman emeritus of Empire State Realty Trust, Peter L. Malkin… Retired travel counselor, Barbara Singer-Meis… Washington Nationals baseball fan known as “Rubber Chicken Man,” Hugh Kaufman… Award-winning legal affairs correspondent for NPR since 1975, primarily focused on the U.S. Supreme Court, Nina Totenberg.. Screenwriter, director and producer, best known for “The Empire Strikes Back,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “Return of the Jedi,” Lawrence Kasdan… Orthopedic surgeon, inventor and philanthropist, Dr. Gary K. Michelson… Painter, writer and book artist, Susan Bee… Co-founder and chairman of the Pritzker Traubert Foundation, Bryan Traubert... Shaul Saulisbury… President of the Sprint Foundation and Sprint’s 1Million Project Foundation, Doug Michelman… Former member of the Knesset for the Likud party, she holds a Ph.D. in criminology, Anat Berko… Founding member of LA-based law firm, Klee, Tuchin, Bogdanoff & Stern LLP, Michael L. Tuchin… Actress, later a film producer, Kerri Lee Green… Staff writer at The New YorkerSusan B. Glasser… Venture capitalist and Goldman Sachs partner, Adam R. Dell… Producer and co-founder of Electric City Entertainment, Jamie Patricof… Sales associate in the Montclair, N.J., office of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, David Frey... Associate attorney in the Toronto law firm of Zarek Taylor Grossman Hanrahan, Aryeh Samuel

SATURDAY: Partner at BECO Management LLC, Michael David Epstein… University professor at Columbia University, he won the 2008 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Martin Chalfie… Santa Barbara’s Madelyn Silver Palley… Founder of Prospect Global, Toni G. Verstandig… President and managing partner of The Stagwell Group, Mark Penn… Football head coach and general manager, Marc Trestman… President and CEO of Discovery Inc., David M. Zaslav… Rabbi of Congregation B’nai Israel in Rumson, N. J., Douglas Sagal... Fellow and lecturer at Harvard’s Kennedy School, Bruce Schneier… CEO of Words Matter Media, Adam L. Levine… Filmmaker and educator, Tali Avrahami… Prime minister of Belgium since October, she is the first female head of government of Belgium, Sophie Wilmès… Basketball analyst for Fox Sports, Doug Gottlieb… Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, Judge Steven Menashi… Nationally syndicated columnist and talk show host, Ben Shapiro… Investigative reporter at The New York Times focused on health care, Sarah Kliff… Real estate investor, Hershy Tannenbaum… Actress, singer and writer, she starred as Hodel in Bartlett Sher’s acclaimed revival of “Fiddler on the Roof,” Samantha Massell… CNN’s White House correspondent, Jeremy Diamond

SUNDAY: Physicist Sir Peter Bernhard Hirsch… Founder of Jones Apparel Group and film producer, in 2001 he donated $150 million to Johns Hopkins University, Sidney J. Kimmel… Former editor of Commentary magazine, author of the 2009 book, Why Are Jews Liberals?Norman Podhoretz… Author of 12 novels for young adults and former Ombudsman and journalist for ESPN, Robert Lipsyte… Talk radio host and author, Dr. Laura Schlessinger… Staff writer for the Atlanta Jewish TimesSuzi Brozman… Chef and culinary editor for the Modern Library, host of PBS’s “Gourmet’s Adventures With Ruth,” recipient of four James Beard Awards, Ruth Reichl… Sephardi chief rabbi of Israel and dean of Yeshivat Hazon Ovadia, Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef… Uzbekistan-born Israeli industrialist, Michael Cherney… VP for government affairs and director of the Washington, D.C., office of Agudath Israel of America, Abba Cohen… CEO of Belfor Property Restoration with more than 450 offices spanning 55 countries, Sheldon Yellen… Founder, chairman and CEO of RealNetworks, Rob Glaser… First president of eBay, Jeffrey Skoll… Founder and CEO of Cognition Builders, Ilana Kukoff… Editorial producer at CNN, Debbie Berger Fox… Leader of the Los Angeles chapter of the Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism, Amy Graiwer… Acting assistant secretary of the State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, Yael Lempert… San Francisco-based technology reporter for The New York TimesSheera Frenkel… Assistant professor at Toronto’s Ryerson University, Rob Goodman… Attorney working in South Florida real estate development, David Ptalis… Left wing for the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins, he won the NHL’s 2019 award for leadership based upon his philanthropic efforts, Jason Zucker… Joseph Bornstein…

MONDAY: Majority owner of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, founder and chairman of Quicken Loans and investor in dozens of companies, Dan Gilbert… President of the Jerusalem-based Israel Democracy Institute, he was previously a member of the Knesset for the Kadima party, Yohanan Plesner… CEO of American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Danielle Ames Spivak… 

Email to have your birthday included.