Your Daily Phil: March on Washington at 60 + Writing a digital Torah

Good Monday morning!

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on Sefaria’s 10-year anniversary and its new digital Torah-writing initiative and feature opinion pieces from Jonathan Greenblatt, Dawne Bear Novicoff, Jon Hornstein and Rebecca Shafron. Also in this newsletter: Monica Gebell, Harriet Schleifer and Suzy Bookbinder. We’ll start with Saturday’s event marking the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington.

Ahead of Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., 60 years ago, Joachim Prinz, a rabbi who fled Germany in 1937, spoke out against Nazis in the same spot as president of the American Jewish Congress, reports Melissa Weiss for eJewishPhilanthropy’s sister publication Jewish Insider.

“I speak to you as an American Jew,” Prinz said on Aug. 28, 1963. “As Americans we share the profound concern of millions of people about the shame and disgrace of inequality and injustice which make a mockery of the great American idea.”

On Saturday, a new generation of leaders stood before tens of thousands of people gathered in the same spot to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington.

Prinz’s words “still resonate,” Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt, whose organization participated in the original march, said in his address. “They tell us: stand up in the face of hate, speak out and don’t stand idly by.” The fates of the Jewish and Black communities, Greenblatt added, are “intertwined” and “indivisible.” (Read Greenblatt’s opinion piece about the march below.)

Sheila Katz, CEO of the National Council of Jewish Women, noted that her organization participated in the original march. Pointing to the upcoming Jewish holidays, Katz suggested that “as the high holidays compel us to repair, we also act together. As our kehila kedosha, our holy community, we draw strength from one another. We remind ourselves that we stand in a long line of people of every race and creed willing to stand firm for the values we believe in. We remember Dr. King’s refusal to be satisfied ‘until justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.’”

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who was 22 at the time of the first march, told the crowd: “I watched the speech live on television. The clarity, power and cadence of Dr. King’s words and his delivery was like nothing I had ever heard before. His speech truly moved me and it moved the nation.”

Kraft added, “We were so proud to know that Jewish people were among the most active of non-Black groups participating in the civil rights movement.”

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

Book people

Screenshot from Sefaria’s new digital Torah-writing project. (Courtesy)

Jews are often referred to as Am HaSefer, “People of the Book,” because of their close relationship with the Torah. A new project aims to give all Jewish people worldwide a small part in “writing” a Torah — all 304,805 letters. The initiative was launched Aug. 20 by Sefaria, a digital library of Jewish texts with 650,000 monthly users, in honor of the nonprofit’s 10th anniversary. Called the “Global Community Torah,” the project is the first digital Torah scroll that provides the opportunity for Jews of all ages and backgrounds to participate in its writing, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen.

Trying Torah: Daniel Septimus, Sefaria’s CEO, said that in addition to celebrating community, the project is a pathway for people who want to “dip their toe into Torah learning.” “First learn about your letter, then a verse, and then a portion, all while engaging and wrestling with the text. When people study Torah, each person brings their own perspective and experience. And our users cover the full spectrum from secular to observant, daily users to occasional perusers. This digital Torah is a world-spanning collaboration that reflects our collective heritage,” Septimus said in a statement.

Learning for all: In the decade since its founding, Sefaria has “opened up the doors to an accessible way of entering the universe of Jewish text,” Peter Eckstein, vice president of Jewish education at Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County, told eJP. “By virtue of having the plethora of Jewish texts and sources so available, the study of Jewish tradition based on different texts became easy. I’m reminded of Ben Bag-Bag’s teaching (Pirkei Avot 5:22) of how ‘turning Torah’ leads to more study and learning and insight. Sefaria is the tool that makes that happen.”

Read the full story here.

60 years later

Looking ahead while looking back: Why we marched on Washington

Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt addresses an event marking the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington in Washington, D.C., on August 26, 2023. (Courtesy/ADL)

“Saturday marked the 60th anniversary of the historic March on Washington, the moment when hundreds of thousands of Americans came together on a hot day in 1963 to hear an array of speakers including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who delivered his iconic ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. The Jewish community, and ADL specifically, were a key part of the 1963 march – so I’m incredibly proud that we honored and extended that legacy when we stood on the Lincoln Memorial six decades later both as a co-sponsor and active participant in this celebratory and historic event,” writes Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Fraying but holding: “Some in both the Black and Jewish communities, including those who hold both identities, may wonder why we would be there. They look at an intercommunal relationship that, at times, has frayed over the years. Such cynics only see tensions and differences. In fairness, it would be Pollyannaish to ignore these differences. It also would be equally wrong to not confront them and explain how and why the American Black and Jewish communities have worked together to push the cause of civil rights and equitable treatment for all. The rationale in 1963 is still as powerful today.”

Still true today: “As we mark the 60th anniversary, I believe that the fates of the Black and Jewish communities are intertwined. You cannot fight antisemitism without countering anti-black racism and hate against other groups. Communities will never be safe if all of us are not equally safe. Our country cannot live up to its promise if one group is made to live in fear. This was true in 1963. It remains true in 2023. And that’s why we marched this weekend and will continue to do so.”

Read the full piece here.

Top-down efforts

How funders can advance safety, respect and equity in Jewish spaces

Getty Images

“In January 2018, in the midst of a global movement against sexual violence, harassment and discrimination, Jewish foundations, organizations and expert practitioners came together to form what is known today as SRE (Safety Respect Equity) Network. The goal was ambitious: to create a community-led movement to address gender-based harassment and discrimination, and to support Jewish workplaces that are safe, respectful and equitable for all. Earlier this summer, nearly 200 community leaders celebrated five years of this work at SRE Network’s convening in New York. As a community, we came together to acknowledge what we have accomplished and how far we’ve come,” write Dawne Bear Novicoff, COO at the Jim Joseph Foundation; Jon Hornstein, program director at The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation; and Rebecca Shafron, program officer at the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Funders’ role: “Now, as we look toward the next five years, it is clear that funders have a critical role to play in prioritizing and advancing efforts to build safe, respectful and equitable Jewish workplaces, JCCs, camps, synagogues and other communal spaces… As funders, we have an opportunity to set benchmarks of excellence in a range of areas such as paid leave, diversity in leadership, equal pay and recruiting and retaining top talent.”

Bullet points: “To lay the groundwork for the success we want to achieve, here are three ways funders can help drive this critical work today and for the long term: Lead by example… Put the needs and experiences of those harmed by abuse in Jewish settings front and center… Commit to continuous learning to support long-term change.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

British Labor Zionism: In Haaretz, Jonathan Shamir reports on the first and only “kibbutz” established in the United Kingdom for Jewish refugees during World War II. “Not much distinguishes the bucolic village of Tingrith from the rest of the Bedfordshire countryside… But for around 18 months from the end of 1939, this small community was also home to well over 100 young Jewish refugees who had fled Europe. They tilled the land, tended to the livestock and lit Shabbat candles, in what can best be described as the nearest Britain ever came to a kibbutz… The short-lived experiment was set up by Leo Anker… [who] was inspired by the ‘hachshara model,’ which provided Jews with agricultural training ahead of migrating to what was then British Mandatory Palestine, and motivated by a desire to save Jews from Nazi rule. So he banded together with a trader who had emigrated from Russia, Simon Beloff, to buy Tingrith’s Manor Farm in 1939 – the first agricultural training establishment for refugees in Britain.” [Haaretz]

A Foundation Sunsets, but Not Forever: In The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Maria Di Mento spotlights a suddenly wealthy family that started a foundation and then shut it down, with plans to continue their grant-making into the future. “In 2001, Carmen and Alcario Castellano won a multimillion-dollar fortune in the California Lottery and quickly set about creating the Castellano Family Foundation. Since then, the San Jose, Calif., grant maker has given out $10 million to support Latinx arts and culture, education nonprofits in Silicon Valley, and efforts to promote Latinx leadership and diversity on nonprofit boards… The Castellano Family Foundation shut down operations in June. To ensure its founders’ legacy will continue far into the future, the family has given $500,000 to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation to launch the Alcario and Carmen Castellano Silicon Valley Community Foundation Fund to support Latinx charities and nonprofit leaders… The family will have no control over the new fund and will act as advisers only, [Carmela Castellano-Garcia, who now runs the fund] says.” [ChronicleofPhilanthropy]

The Bar Mitzvah as a Hollywood Trope: In The New York Times, Esther Zuckerman reviews the new Netflix film, “You’re So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah,” considering the ceremony’s role in contemporary cinema. “In the Jewish faith you become an adult at the most awkward possible moment: when you turn 13. Sure, in the eyes of God and your Hebrew school, you are mature enough to read from the Torah and embrace the responsibilities of grown-up life. But in reality you’re probably a scared kid for whom true maturity is far off, despite all those uncomfortable hormones… At the same time, Hollywood can get too caught up in the lavish spectacle of these affairs, with depictions that sap them of their cultural or emotional significance in favor of gags about the superficiality of the post-service party… I have warmly nostalgic memories of my own bat mitzvah that are mixed up with more complicated feelings. I think about a connection to faith that I let lapse and relatives who are no longer alive. I think about the friends with whom I have lost touch. I remember the world in front of me and it being exciting but also so scary. That’s the thematic potential in a b’nai mitzvah, and it’s nice to see that occasionally filmmakers get it right.” [NYT]

Around the Web

The Rabbinical Assembly upheld the Conservative movement’s ban on rabbis facilitating interfaith marriages, as well as the punishment of expulsion for those who defy the ruling…

Harriet Schleifer, the recently named chair of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, wrote an opinion piece in The Jerusalem Post, calling for unity in the face of a fraught political, social and religious landscape…

Monica Gebel lwas named executive director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Rochester’s Levine Center to End Hate. Her predecessor, Karen Elam, recently left to become senior vice president at the Jewish Council of Public Affairs

Outgoing Israeli acting consul general in New York, Israel Nitzan, penned a farewell opinion piece, summing up his five years in the Big Apple, in the New York Jewish Week

British authorities launched investigations into two Jewish charities for “potential misconduct or mismanagement” in their conduct…

Malka Leifer, a former principal of an Australian Jewish school, was sentenced to 15 years in prison for sexually abusing two of her students, after being sent back to Australia from Israel in 2021, following a contentious and protracted extradition process…

A new survey by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago found that journalism has received a significant rise in philanthropic donations in recent years…

The British government awarded a contract to the U.K.-based World Jewish Relief, among other charities, to provide English-language instruction and employment support to Ukrainians in the U.K. who fled the war in Ukraine…

Michael Staenberg was selected to serve as the next president of the St. Louis Jewish Light news publication…

Suzy Bookbinder was named vice president for advancement and chief development officer at the American Jewish University

Pic of the Day

Andy Astfalck/BSR Agency/Getty Images

Israel’s Marhu Teferi holds up an Israeli flag after winning the silver medal in the men’s marathon yesterday at the World Athletics Championships in Budapest, Hungary.


Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

Former COO of Meta / Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg

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