Your Daily Phil: Knesset caucus highlights critical, complicated Israel-U.S. ties

Good Tuesday morning.  

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on the death of top Jewish fundraiser Paul Kane, how one Ramah summer camp reacted to a staff member’s anti-Zionism and on Michael Bloomberg’s $1 billion gift to Johns Hopkins University. We feature an opinion piece by Rabbi Zalman Duchman addressing age-old questions about leadership. Also in this newsletter: Zach Benjamin, Rabbi Gordon Fuller and Jillian Segal. We’ll start with a Knesset session on the Israel-U.S. relationship.

The Knesset’s politically diverse Israel-U.S. Relations Caucus convened yesterday for the first time since the Oct. 7 terror attacks and Israel’s resulting war against the Hamas terror group in Gaza, which has at times strained the already tense ties between Jerusalem and Washington, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross.

Featuring parliamentarians from a range of political parties — it is chaired by Yesh Atid MK Idan Roll, Likud MK Boaz Bismuth and Religious Zionism MK Ohad Tal — as well as remarks from civil servants, academics and representatives from American and international Jewish organizations, the caucus meeting centered on the importance of the relationship between the two countries in general and between Israel and American Jewry in particular. Shira and Jay Ruderman, whose eponymous family foundation is behind the caucus, also spoke at the event, highlighting the need for the ties between the countries, as well as the growing challenges facing it.

Though there was unanimity about the importance of Israel-U.S. ties, speakers differed on the nature of those ties, with some stressing Israel’s need for American support and others insisting on the Jewish state’s independence.

“American support is the central axis of the State of Israel’s national security. The price that we pay for losing it is in our national security,” Lior Hayat, the head of the North American division of Israel’s Foreign Ministry, said at the session. “There aren’t many other international superpowers lining up to support Israel.”

Hayat, a career diplomat, stressed that American Jewry, including the growing Israeli American community, plays a key role in maintaining those ties. “And we need to keep in mind that this long-term support of the American Jewish community is not something we can take for granted. We need to do whatever it takes to continue it and strengthen it and preserve it for future generations,” he said.

Chuck Freilich, a senior researcher at Tel Aviv’s Institute for National Security Studies and 20-year veteran of Israel’s security services, acknowledged that Israel’s level of dependence on the United States is “disappointing after 76 years [of independence]… but that is the reality. To deal with Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, the Palestinians [and] international isolation we need the United States.” 

Freilich warned that the tensions between the U.S. and Israel are nearing a crisis point. “The war has let loose all kinds of forces in the United States who oppose the relationship with us,” he said. “All of the fury that had been building up for years — particularly around Israeli policies regarding the Palestinians — has burst out.”

Bismuth bristled at the descriptions of Israel as dependent upon the United States. “On the United States’ flag, there are 50 stars. I haven’t heard about the 51st yet,” he said.

In her remarks, Shira Ruderman stressed Israel’s need to appreciate the role of American Jewry in its national security and called on Israel leaders to consider the country’s role as the national home of the Jewish people.

“We need to decide for ourselves what that means. How is that carried out? How do we manage our relationship and not just during times of crisis? How do we manage a relationship with the [Jewish] people located outside the borders of the country? Do they have a right or not to get involved, to encourage and to be part of what is happening [here]?” Ruderman said. “This is an existential strategic decision for how we are as a state and as a people.”

William Daroff, CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, noted that he was in Israel on Oct. 7 and that this was his fourth trip since then. He highlighted the United States’ bipartisan support for Israel, even as “the most extreme voices seem to grow louder and more numerous in contesting American military aid to our ally in its time of need.”

Daroff also highlighted the growing interest in Judaism and Zionism by American Jews in the face of rising antisemitism after the Oct. 7 attacks, as well as American Jews’ backlash against “anti-Israel politicians.”

“From my vantage point with American Jewry, I know the surge of communal participation and activism since Oct. 7. The attacks, as well as the renewed threat of antisemitism, have swelled synagogue attendance and boosted engagement in American Jewish institutions as well. American Jews are discovering and rediscovering their Jewish identity,” he said. 

“On Oct. 7, the heartbeats of Jews around the world became synchronized. We in the American Jewish community continue to stand by you, to support you and want to impress upon you that the people of Israel are not alone. Jews everywhere share in your pain and your resolve,” Daroff said.


Paul Kane, prolific fundraiser who led campaigns that brought in billions for Jewish causes, dies at 77

Paul Kane. Courtesy UJA-Federation of New York

Paul Kane, a prominent Jewish fundraiser who steered communal giving through good times and bad, and who helped raise billions of dollars for Jewish needs over a career that spanned decades, was remembered on Monday for his fundraising prowess, his guidance in mentoring “a generation of fundraisers in the Jewish community” and his “deep commitment to Israel.” Kane died suddenly on Friday in Westport, Conn. He was 77, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen.

Raising billions: Kane, who was born in Boston and later resided in Chicago and the New York area, remained passionate about the Jewish community throughout his career, which included more than four decades in the Jewish federation movement, including head of fundraising at the UJA-Federation of New York and senior adviser to the president and CEO of the Jewish Federations of North America. UJA-Federation of New York eulogized Kane as “a revered professional leader” at the organization, who “helped lead the UJA team in raising over $3 billion during his two decades of leadership and played a key role in shepherding the organization through the 2008 financial crisis.”

Training the next generation: “Paul was a mentor, leader and guide to hundreds of Jewish professionals all over the country today who learned [from him] the art of relationship building and donor stewardship,” Mark Medin, who succeeded Kane as head of fundraising at UJA, told eJP. “Nobody was better than Paul in deepening relationships and understanding how to connect the donor to the work of the Jewish community. Billions of dollars have been raised by Jewish professionals around the country utilizing the sensitivity and skill-set people learned watching and being mentored by Paul.”

Read the full report here.


Why Camp Ramah in New England drew a red line against anti-Zionism among its staff

Getty Images

Even in the best of years, Jewish summer camp is a place laden with emotion — homesick kids alongside cliquey, hormonal teens, under the not-so-watchful eye of underpaid and overeager college-age counselors, all chanting Hebrew songs and seeking genuine connection in a period of four or eight weeks. Put all of this together in the wilderness, and a mythology of curiosity, exploration and Jewish joy will surely follow. This summer, in a year of deep pain for the global Jewish community, the normal, beloved intensity of camp has merged with all the subterranean sadness and anger and division that has bubbled up since the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks, reports Gabby Deutch for eJewishPhilanthropy’s sister publication Jewish Insider

A bridge too far: Soon after Oct. 7, a long-serving counselor shared a post to her Instagram page from Jewish Voice for Peace saying that Jews ought to oppose “genocide” in Gaza. Israelis who had worked with her in the past were upset by it, and they told her so (and told others). When the counselor met with Gelb for her job interview in late October, she said that he quickly got down to business, and asked if the sentiment she shared on Instagram accurately reflects her views. When the counselor — who grew up going to camp every summer and spent three years there as a counselor — said yes, she did believe Israel is committing genocide, Gelb responded that she would not be invited back to camp this year.

Dueling letters: The hiring decision prompted an open letter, which has not been previously reported, that was signed by 146 Ramah New England alumni and sent to the camp’s leadership in December. The signatories urged the camp “to hire candidates based on their aptitude and passion for the job at hand, not their personal beliefs about Israel or Zionism.” Camp leadership was not swayed by these points, but the open letter prompted Gelb and Elizabeth Waksman, the president of Ramah New England’s board, to respond to the alumni with a letter of their own. In it, they outlined why they think it is critical to uphold Zionism as a core principle. “The range of acceptable debate is very wide. At the same time, there are limits for all sides and our families trust us to adhere to our principles. They have a right to expect that all staff will promote our publicly stated mission,” they wrote.

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


Bloomberg Philanthropies gifts $1 billion to Johns Hopkins to cover tuition for medical students

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg attends John Hopkins Bloomberg School Of Public Health Centennial Celebration at Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City on Sept. 19, 2016.
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg attends John Hopkins Bloomberg School Of Public Health Centennial Celebration at Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City on Sept. 19, 2016. Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images

A majority of medical students attending the prestigious Johns Hopkins University will receive a free ride beginning this fall following a $1 billion donation from billionaire and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The gift was announced on Monday by Bloomberg Philanthropies, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen.

Free, with benefits, for most: According to the school, which is located in Baltimore, the gift will be used to offer free medical school tuition, which normally costs about $65,000 per year for four years, to any family that earns less than $300,000 per year. Students from families earning less than $175,000 annually will also have their fees and living expenses covered. Financial aid for students in nursing, public health and other non-medical graduate programs will also be increased using the donation.

Health and education: Bloomberg, a 1964 graduate of Johns Hopkins’ department of electrical engineering, has supported the institution with a series of mega-gifts throughout recent years. In 2018, his foundation gifted $1.8 billion to assist undergraduate students in need of financial aid. Bloomberg said the latest gift will help the school “attract more of the nation’s brightest minds and help free more of them to pursue the fields that most inspire them, rather than ones that will best enable them to repay loans.” He added that the gift comes as a result of the lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic; “while other countries have seen their life expectancy return to (or close to) pre-COVID levels, the United States has lagged behind,” he said in the annual report. The medical school will not bear Bloomberg’s name as a result of the gift, a spokesperson for Bloomberg Philanthropies told eJP.

Read the full report here.


What is the ideal age for a leader?

Generated by Alexander Flyax using Midjourney

“At a recent conference for leaders of major Jewish organizations, I had the privilege of representing Colel Chabad, Israel’s oldest and largest food security organization. While speaking on a panel about the challenges and opportunities facing ‘legacy’ institutions, I noticed that I was by far the youngest person onstage,” writes Rabbi Zalman Duchman, Colel Chabad’s director of development, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Advantages to each: “This juxtaposition got me thinking about the respective benefits of older versus younger leadership. Older leaders offer wisdom and stability gleaned through their years of experience, which is essential for guiding organizations through challenges. They have a more informed perspective that helps them understand the long-term implications of their actions, ensuring stability and continuity within the organization. Young leaders, on the other hand, bring fresh ideas that can jump-start innovation and growth. Their familiarity with new technologies and trends allows them to adapt quickly and implement organizational goals in an ever-changing world. The dynamism and enthusiasm of youth can be a powerful catalyst for change, inspiring others and injecting a renewed sense of mission and excitement into the organization.”

A different approach: “It is clear that we need to combine and leverage both the wisdom of the experienced and the passion of the youth, but the common approach — placing older individuals in top leadership roles while young people merely assist — often results in young leaders feeling sidelined, their enthusiasm going to waste as they are not genuinely empowered to lead… This conventional model is fundamentally flawed, and the solution lies in a paradigm shift that transposes the traditional roles of youth and elders. This is where the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, whose 30th yahrzeit we mark today, offers a profound and revolutionary vision.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Empowering Communities: Beth Huang writes for Candid about the importance of funding community organizing because of how it gives often-disenfranchised individuals a sense of agency and mobilizes them to participate in the democratic process. “In a healthy democracy, community members have a say in the policy decisions that impact their daily lives both during and between elections. Yet, electoral campaigns are projected to spend up to $16 billion in 2024 on ads and to hire expensive field vendors who churn through canvassers who don’t stay after Election Day. That money ultimately does little to shift power to those who are affected by election outcomes and policy decisions. What is needed instead is investment in community members and leaders who are engaged in voter outreach. Community organizing shifts power and addresses the root causes of problems by building deep trust within communities and engaging the electorate on a broad scale. Community-based organizations doing this work enable regular people to build power.” [Candid]

Building a Healthier Africa: In an interview in the Ethiopian newspaper Capital, Misrak Makonnen, country director for Amref Health Africa in Ethiopia, discusses her vision for the future of health-care development in Africa. “I think about sustainability a lot. That’s why we have started parallel means of resource mobilization through our European and North  American Offices – fundraising for unrestricted resources and headquarter-led social enterprises that will offset our costs… Localization is critical to build ownership and drive locally-designed solutions by co-creating with our communities while building the capabilities of our CSOs [civil society organizations]. We are uncompromising in not just being a strong African regional partner, but also creating a network of strong local partners – that’s what is going to drive change… A healthy society means economic prosperity, agency in one’s life, freedom to innovate and be part of a thriving community. Therefore, we align our focus areas on the country’s priorities and measure our success using strongly backed data… In many ways, our battle is with time: a disenfranchised, ballooning young population is either a time bomb or unharnessed potential. If we are able to address that issue, we will be breaking a cycle of poverty that had previously seemed intractable.” [Capital]

Around the Web

Rachel Goldberg-Polin and Jon Polin launched a “Week of Goodness” campaign, with the hope that “bring[ing] more light into the world” will help bring about the release from Hamas captivity of their son, Hersh Goldberg-Polin, and the 115 other hostages still in Gaza…

Columbia University placed on indefinite leave three administrators who were found to have sent disparaging text messages about Jewish students, which used what some see as antisemitic tropes; Jewish student leaders lamented the “confusing” and “intentionally ambiguous” announcement, which made it seem as though the trio had been terminated when they are still employed by the university…

The New York Times spotlights Sullivan & Cromwell as the law firm takes a strong position against job applicants who have participated in anti-Israel activity on their campuses as students…

Zach Benjamin was hired as the next president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Harrisburg, Pa….

The commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Capitol building in Harrisburg was evacuated on Saturday evening after an anonymous email address sent bomb threats to every state lawmaker “in the name of Palestine,” but law enforcement did not find any explosives…

The Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle interviews Adam Hertzman as he steps down as vice president of marketing at the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh; Hertzman is starting his own consulting firm…

DoorDash delivered 100 million charity meals through a partnership with religious nonprofits

Rabbi Gordon Fuller, the outgoing board chair of the Jewish Federation of Howard County, Md., has been named the transitional CEO of the organization… 

The Australian government appointed Jillian Segal, a lawyer and business executive, to be “special envoy to combat antisemitism in Australia” for the next three years… 

Haaretz spotlights the rise in advertisements and television shows featuring people with amputated limbs in the wake of the Oct. 7 terror attacks and the war against Hamas in Gaza…

Hebrew literary scholar Arnold Band, who founded the UCLA Center for Jewish Studiesdied on Sunday at 94…

Canadian philanthropist and real estate magnate Tom Weisz died on Sunday at 78…

Philanthropist Dorothy Lichtenstein, whose husband was the late pop artist Roy Lichtensteindied last Thursday at 84…

Pic of the Day


Jewish community members from four cities in northeastern Ukraine came together for a three-day retreat last weekend in the city of Poltava, organized by local social welfare centers supported by the JDC. 

The retreat included Shabbat and Havdalah services and presentations on Jewish life, as well as art therapy classes (pictured), somatic therapy and individual sessions with trained psychologists. 


Jonathan S. Lavine, co-managing partner and chief investment officer of Bain Capital Credit
JOSHUABR/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0

American-Israeli rabbi and the co-founder and executive director of Nefesh B’Nefesh, Rabbi Yehoshua Fass.

Former Soviet refusenik, prisoner of conscience, human rights activist, author and translator, Iosif Begun… Constitutional law expert focused on the First Amendment and free speech, senior counsel at Cahill Gordon & Reindel where he has practiced since 1963, Floyd Abrams… Conductor and music director of symphony orchestras in Rotterdam, Rochester, Baltimore and Zurich, David Zinman… Licensed loan officer based in Huntington Woods, Mich., Robert Morris Rubin… Arizona resident, Howard Cohen… Play-by-play announcer for the MLB’s San Diego Padres from 1980 to 2020, Theodore (Ted) Leitner… Tikvah (Tiki) Lyons… Rabbi of Congregation Beth Jacob of Atlanta, Rabbi Ilan D. Feldman… Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)… Author, motivational speaker and former stockbroker, his autobiographical memoir, The Wolf of Wall Street, was adapted into a film and released in 2013, Jordan Ross Belfort… Mortgage professional and owner of D.C.’s Char Bar, Michael Alan Chelst… Public radio personality, former producer of “This American Life” and the host and executive producer of the podcast “Serial,” Sarah Koenig… Activist short seller, author and editor of the online investment newsletter “Citron Research,” Andrew Edward Left… Actor, tour guide, poet, speaker, philosopher and author, Timothy “Speed” Levitch… Journalist at The Free Press covering national security and foreign policy, Eli Jon Lake… Former anchor and reporter for Fox Business Network, Lori Rothman… Peter Webb … Co-founder and executive director of Nefesh B’Nefesh, Yehoshua Fass… Israeli documentary filmmaker, Guy Davidi… Poker player and graduate of Yale Law School, she is the only woman to ever reach the number one ranking on the Global Poker Index, Vanessa K. Selbst… Tony Award-winning theater, film and television actor, Brandon Uranowitz… Renewable energy and climate specialist, Samantha Hea Marks… Pitcher for Team Israel at the 2017 and 2023 World Baseball Classics, Jake Kalish… Pitcher in the Los Angeles Angels organization, currently at the AAA Salt Lake Bees, Kenny Rosenberg …