Your Daily Phil: JIMENA to study New York day schools + Fighting Israel’s opioid epidemic

Good Thursday morning!

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on the Birthright Foundation’s hiring of its new CEO and profile the efforts underway to combat Israel’s opioid epidemic. Also in this newsletter: Rabbi Yissachar Dov Rokeach, Chana Tova Chaya Nachenberg and the Sackler family. We’ll start with a special gathering of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and a new UJA-Federation of New York-funded study of Jewish day schools by JIMENA.

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations will hold a convening on antisemitism today in New York for some 100 Jewish communal leaders from national organizations. The daylong gathering will open with a briefing from Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt on the White House’s recently released national strategy to combat antisemitism, marking the Biden administration’s first briefing with Jewish community leaders on the plan since its release last week, reports Melissa Weiss for eJewishPhilanthropy’s sister publication Jewish Insider.

Additional sessions at the convening, which is being held in conjunction with the Shine A Light antisemitism-awareness initiative, will focus on a range of issues, including: ethnic studies and combating antisemitism in education; incorporating antisemitism awareness in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) training programs; and planning for the upcoming Shine A Light campaign taking place later this year.

Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa, more commonly known by its acronym JIMENA, is launching a new effort to assess Jewish day schools in the New York City area as a first step toward making them more inclusive toward “Sephardic and Mizrahi students, history, and culture,” the organization said. The project is being supported by UJA-Federation of New York with a $25,000 grant, JIMENA’s executive director, Sarah Levin, told eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross.

For JIMENA, the goals of this project are both immediate – to better understand Jewish day schools in order to develop and implement new curricula, policies and programs – and part of a long-term strategy by the San Francisco-based organization to expand its reach and impact, moving away from single events and toward broader culture shifts, according to Levin.

“It is very much reflective of the shifts that JIMENA has made these last few years – we have really pivoted away from like front-facing events and lectures and events that are one-off, where people come and they experience Sephardic and Mizrahi life and then they leave,” Levin said. “Our interest right now is in creating cultural shifts in the Jewish community. And this is a perfect way for us to start doing that work in New York.”

According to Levin, this initiative was driven by a real dearth of firm data about Mizrahi and Sephardic students in Jewish day schools and in the Jewish community in general.

“Our instinct is to just jump right into the work,” Levin said. “What we did with UJA was have a number of conversations, and they asked us to take a step back. They support us doing different types of interventions and leading trainings in Jewish day schools. But first, they wanted to conduct an assessment of 20 Jewish day schools in New York to find out what their needs, challenges and opportunities are around building schools that are more inclusive of Sephardic and Mizrahi students and families and what their content needs are.”

Read the full story here.

Coming full circle

Elias Saratovsky (Courtesy/Birthright Foundation)

Elias Saratovsky, a top AIPAC official, has been named the next CEO of the Birthright Foundation, succeeding Israel “Izzy” Tapoohi, who has served in the role for the past six years, the organization announced today, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross.

Tricky times: Saratovsky will enter the position in a complicated time for the organization, as one of its major funders – the Adelson Family Foundation – recently announced that it was scaling back its donations significantly and as the Israeli government has also yet to extend its contract with Birthright Israel. Earlier this month, Birthright Israel announced a 40% reduction in the number of North American participants on its trips due to budget cuts. One of Saratovsky’s main focuses will be building up its bench of donors to make up for the loss of Adelson funding. “We believe Birthright Israel is an endeavor that the whole Jewish community benefits from and everyone needs to contribute to its success,” Tapoohi told eJP late last year. “We were always aware that there was a plan to decrease what the Adelsons could give us.”

Personal history: Saratovsky, who has worked for AIPAC for 21 years, is an alumnus of Birthright Israel’s first round of trips in the winter of 1999-2000. In a statement, Saratosky credited this trip with launching his career as a Jewish professional. “That trip shaped my identity and helped me realize that Israel is a central part of our history and our collective Jewish consciousness. I now have the honor to ensure that future generations develop their own Jewish identity and build a lifelong, personal connection with the State of Israel,” Saratosky said in a statement.

Ringing endorsement: Saratovsky currently serves as AIPAC’s national director of regional affairs and previously served as the organization’s Southwest regional director, among other roles. He will formally take his new position at the Birthright Foundation in September. Tapoohi will retire at the end of the year, the organization said. “It’s incredible to have as our new president/CEO an alumnus from the very first year of Birthright trips,” said Charles Bronfman, a co-founder of Birthright Israel. “Elias brings both the skills necessary for this role and a real understanding of the magic of this program. I have total confidence that under his leadership Birthright Israel Foundation will achieve new heights.”

Read the full story here.

Just say no

Activists, researchers sound alarm as Israel’s opioid use reaches critical level, surpassing U.S.

Getty Images

For Eviatar Samoolsky, founder and director of the Israeli nonprofit Lealtar: The Narcotic Patient Support and Assistance Foundation, combating opioid addiction, which recently reached epidemic proportions in Israel, is a personal issue. Since he recovered from his 13-year dependency on opioids following a 1997 work accident that left him in a wheelchair, Samoolsky has been on a crusade not only for better treatment for patients who have become dependent on the drugs, but to have better and tighter protocols for prescribing them to prevent the addiction in the first place, reports Judith Sudilovsky for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Worse than the U.S.: Though it is not a regular feature on the nightly news in Israel, opioid addiction has rapidly become a major issue in the country. In April, a study by the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel determined that the country had earned the ignoble superlative of having the highest level of per capita opioid consumption in the world in 2020 (the last year for which global data are available), surpassing the United States. The study’s authors – Nadav Davidovitch, director of the Ben-Gurion University School of Public Health, Dr. Yannai Kranzler and Oren Miron – urged Israel to take immediate action to reduce unnecessary opioid prescriptions and excessive consumption of narcotics for pain management.

Some successes: On Jan. 12, six months after a Supreme Court hearing of a petition submitted by Physicians for Human Rights Israel and Lealtar, the Israeli Ministry of Health agreed to change labels on opioid packaging to warn that their use always leads to physical dependence, replacing the current label which states opioids “can” lead to dependency. The new labels have yet to be put on the packaging as the decision works its way through the system.

Slow wheels of progress: In 2019, the director general of the Health Ministry established an expert committee to advise on policies to reduce prescription opioid use and misuse. However, with the onset of COVID-19 pandemic soon after the committee was created, and with the political instability that the country has seen in recent years – resulting in Israel having had five health ministers in the past four years – the committee has had little opportunity to convene.

Read the full story here.

Worthy Reads

Made for TV: In The Washington Post, Leo Sands reports on the real-world conniving and backstabbing by heirs to family fortunes that mirrors HBO’s hit television show. “‘Succession,’ the HBO show charting the relentless infighting, deceit and unhappiness across generations of the powerful Roy family, may be over. These challenges, however, remain very real for the ultrarich and their heirs, mental health professionals say… ‘I always felt like I was at work, watching the show,’ said Clay Cockrell, a psychotherapist who specializes in treating wealthy individuals and their families. ‘Some of these children can have a lack of ambition,’ he said, referring to real-life inheritors. ‘Why go to college? Why start a business? Why work hard? When all your financial needs are met, that leads to a deep-seated low self-esteem, low self-confidence, because it’s never really been a struggle.’” [WashPost]

A Little Friendly Competition: In The Times of Israel, Melanie Lidman visits the British-Israeli Veterans Games, speaking to participants from both countries who bonded as they competed against one another in this annual event. “More than 180 British athletes and family members are in Israel this week for the third annual Veterans Games, a friendly competition between Israeli and UK veterans that includes events in swimming, shooting, and CrossFit…  The event was organized by Beit Halochem UK, the British fundraising arm of Beit Halochem, the IDF Disabled Veterans Fund. ’We are brothers in arms, and we’re brothers in the same fights and achievements we’ve dealt with in our lives,’ said Phillip Eaglesham, a former Royal Marine commander who competed in the swimming events. ‘This is all about inspiring other people so that we can inspire children with disabilities to get out and try.’” [TOI]

Around the Web

New York City’s Stephen Wise Free Synagogue announced the launch of the yearlong Amplify Israel Rabbinic Fellowship for early-career Reform rabbis. The fellowship, which begins this fall, will provide tools and resources to incorporate Israel and Jewish peoplehood more fully into their rabbinate. The fellowship is supported by the Lisa and Michael Leffell Foundation, Maimonides Fund and The Paul E. Singer Foundation

The rebbe of the Belzer Hasidic community, Yissachar Dov Rokeach, announced the creation of a new initiative to assist former members of the group who have left the Hasidic lifestyle. Rokeach said he decided to launch the organization, Ahavat Kedumim, after a former member of the Belzer community killed himself after being cut off by friends and family…

Adidas has begun selling off its remaining pairs of Yeezy sneakers, which were discontinued after the designer – the rapper Ye, previously known as Kanye West – made a series of antisemitic comments. The sports brand said a “significant amount” of the proceeds will go to Jewish groups, including the Anti-Defamation League

The Israel Police were put on high alert in Jerusalem ahead of today’s Gay Pride Parade through the capital, in light of threats made against the event…

Organizers of Kosherfest, an annual trade fair dedicated to all things kosher, announced that the event will no longer be held due to changes in the food market and chains’ purchasing strategies…

A U.S. federal appeals court ruled that the Sackler family will pay up to $6 billion to help address the ongoing American opioid crisis in exchange for full immunity from all civil legal claims…

David Harris, the former longtime CEO of the American Jewish Committee, is joining the London-based Henry Jackson Society think tank as a senior strategic advisor…

Chana Tova Chaya Nachenberg, who has been in a vegetative state for the past 22 years since she was critically wounded in the deadly 2001 Sbarro’s pizzeria bombing attack in Jerusalem, died of her injuries yesterday at 53…

Thomas Buergenthal, an Auschwitz survivor who became a judge at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, died this week at 89…

Pic of the Day

Courtesy/Repair the World

The latest cohort of Repair the World service corps members, made up of Ukrainian refugees who work out of New York City’s Bensonhurst Jewish Community House, poses for a photo outside of this year’s Ukrainian Festival last month.


Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

Comedian, writer, actress, director and producer, Amy Schumer… 

Pulitzer Prize-winning composer, pianist and conductor, Yehudi Wyner… Holocaust survivor as a child, he served as the Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Israel for 10 years and twice as chief rabbi of Tel Aviv for 16 years, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau… NYC-based attorney, author of two books regarding the history and operations of El Al, owner of 40,000-plus pieces of memorabilia related to El Al, Marvin G. Goldman… Grammy Award-winning classical pianist, Richard Goode… Former member of the Knesset for the Yisrael Beiteinu party, Shimon Ohayon… Retired attorney in Berkeley, Calif., Thomas Andrew Seaton… Pediatrician in the San Francisco Bay area, Elliot Charles Lepler, MD… Former member of the Knesset for the Shinui and the Hilonit Tzionit parties, Eti Livni… Founding editor of The American Interest, Adam M. Garfinkle… Former editor-in-chief of Bloomberg News, Matthew Winkler… Founding rabbi of Congregation Aish Kodesh in Woodmere, N.Y., Rabbi Moshe Weinberger… Former IDF officer and now a London-based political scientist and journalist, Ahron “Ronnie” Bregman… Former member of the Knesset for the Shas party, Amnon Cohen… Owner of MLB’s Oakland Athletics and chair of the KIPP Foundation, John J. Fisher… Poet, performance artist and essayist, Adeena Karasick, Ph.D…. Founding editor and publisher of the Dayton Jewish Observer, Marshall J. Weiss… Television personality and matchmaker, Sigalit “Siggy” Flicker… Actress, voice actress and film director, Danielle Harris… Journalist and writer, Spencer J. Ackerman… Partner in Oliver Wyman consulting firm, Daniel Tannebaum… Musician, songwriter, author, actor and blogger, Ari Seth Herstand… CEO of The Good Food Institute, Ilya Sheyman… Political reporter for NBC News and MSNBC, Alex Seitz-Wald… Senior reporter at CNN Business, Nicole Goodkind… Privacy engineering lead at Palantir Technologies, Naomi S. Kadish… Associate advance director for VPOTUS, Isabel Keller… NYC-born Israeli pair skater, she competed for Israel at the 2022 Winter Olympics, Hailey Esther Kops