Your Daily Phil: Marking Yom HaShoah after Oct. 7, amid rising antisemitism

Good Monday morning. Today is Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day.

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on the descendants of Nazis marching to remember and atone for the Holocaust, profile a Holocaust survivor who also survived Oct. 7 and interview Daniel Lubetzky about combating extremist rhetoric. We feature an opinion piece by Todd Stavrakos about the need for the Jewish community to engage with mainline Christians. Also in this newsletter: Tami SussmanYossi Klein Halevi and Barry SternlichtWe’ll start with how Yom HaShoah is being marked in Israel in the shadow of Oct. 7.

Two weeks after Jews asked why this night is different from all other nights at the Passover Seder, Israelis and Jews around the world are asking themselves why this Yom HaShoah, coming seven months after the worst attack on Jews since the Holocaust, is different — if at all — from the Holocaust Remembrance Days that came before it, report eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross and Judith Sudilovsky.

“This Yom HaShoah will be different,” Yad Vashem Chair Dani Dayan told eJP in his office last week. “Although the formal parts will be the same — we introduced no changes to the official ceremony… but Israeli society will mark this Yom HaShoah differently because it is a traumatized society.”

Indeed, Israel’s official ceremonies at Yad Vashem and at the Knesset were all the same as in years past — torches and candles were lit, prayers said, wreaths lain — and the siren that sounds every year at 10 a.m calling Israelis to a halt sounded as normal. (Although this year, perhaps more than in the past, parents had to explain to their children that when they heard the siren, they did not have to run to the nearest bomb shelter.)

The only discernible change to the Sunday night ceremony at Yad Vashem marking the start of Yom HaZikaron laShoah ve-laG’vurah, literally Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day, was a bright yellow seat left empty in the front row, labeled “Reserved for the hostages.” And yet the events of Oct. 7 loomed over the events, particularly the nearly unavoidable, visceral feeling that the State of Israel did not fully deliver on its promise of “never again,” as heard in the formal speeches by Israeli leaders and felt in the hearts and minds of the Holocaust survivors who participated in the ceremonies and Jews around the world.

Allegra Gutta, one of the six Holocaust survivors chosen to light the torches at Yad Vashem on Sunday night, told eJP before the ceremony that the Oct. 7 attacks had shattered her sense of security. “When I came here I saw this as the safest place in the world. But after what happened Oct. 7, I am afraid,” said Gutta, originally from Libya, who survived the country’s Giado concentration camp. “We are in a catastrophe now. It is painful… There is no sense of security.”

Dayan said he understood the instinct to compare the events of Oct. 7 to those of the Holocaust, but stressed that when comparing two historical events, you can look at the similarities only if you also consider the differences.

“Every Israeli, every Jew, when he or she heard that a mother is muffling the mouth of their toddler in the mamad, in the security room, in order to silence him, to not to be discovered by the assailants, I think every Israeli thought the same thing: They thought about Anne Frank in the attic or a mother and a toddler in Warsaw,” Dayan said.

“I asked myself, are the IDF soldiers and the community emergency security response volunteers the same as Mordechai Anielewicz and Pawe? Frenkiel [the leaders of the two Jewish militias that fought the Nazis] in the Warsaw ghetto?” Dayan said. “No. The heroism is the same heroism, but Anielewicz and Frenkiel fought in order to die with dignity. The emergency security response teams and the soldiers that arrived on Oct. 7 fought in order to kill the enemy, to repel him and to save lives.”

In his speech at the Sunday night ceremony, Israeli President Isaac Herzog also acknowledged the inclination to compare Oct. 7 to the Holocaust but stressed this distinction as well.

“Especially on this day,” Herzog said, “I ask that we pay close attention to the words of Naftali Furst, who, after the massacre, said to his granddaughter Micah, and I quote: ‘This is similar, it’s terrifying, there are no words to describe this cruelty, but it’s not the same thing. It’s not a Holocaust. There won’t be a second Holocaust.’”

While this year’s Yom HaShoah was marked by differences in the content of the speeches, and not the structure of the ceremonies, Dayan said that he and Yad Vashem are starting to think about the time after the last of the Holocaust survivors have died, when that will need to be revisited.

“I ask myself, who will light the torches when there are no more survivors?” Dayan said. “One of the answers that I get most frequently is, ‘The second generation, the third generation.’ And I ask myself, does it mean that, for instance, that an Ethiopian Jew or a Yemenite Jew will never light the torch in Yad Vashem in honor of the Holocaust victims? And that’s a question that as a society we will have to decide. But I hope it still takes many years until we have to make a clear decision in that regard.”

Read the full report here.


With March of Remembrance, Nazi descendants memorialize, atone for the Holocaust

People take part in a March of Remembrance for Yom HaShoah in Houston, Texas, on May 5, 2024.
People take part in a March of Remembrance for Yom HaShoah in Houston, Texas, on May 5, 2024. Courtesy

As Jews around the world mark Holocaust Remembrance Day this year with ceremonies and memorial events, Claudia Kiesinger, a German-born Christian, is leading a march in Houston — undeterred by the torrential downpours and flooding that gripped the city this weekend — to show solidarity and atone for her own family’s roles in the Holocaust, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen.

Family’s dark past: When Kiesinger was in her 40s, curiosity led her to look through the German government’s archives. She grew up being told that she was a descendant of former German Chancellor Kurt Georg Kiesinger, a source of great pride for her family, who at the time were unaware that the chancellor had been a high-ranking member of the Nazi Party. Kiesinger later found out she was not in fact related to the chancellor — but was even more “shocked” to learn that both of her grandfathers were Nazi perpetrators, ardent followers of Adolf Hitler. Eager to repent for her family’s dark past, in 2007 Kiesinger took part in the inaugural March of Life, a German memorial march that takes place around Yom HaShoah. She has participated every year since, first in Germany and then in the U.S. This year, Kiesinger, who moved to New York in 2010, was the national coordinator and a speaker at the march in Houston.

Sound of silence: “What [motivates] us is the silence of our forefathers in the Holocaust,” Kiesinger told eJP while on her way to the march. “Growing up there was silence about the war… Many of us realized that we really didn’t know what our families were involved in. It happened years ago, we weren’t alive but through this journey we found out what our grandfathers did… silence is approval.”

Stand with Jews: In Germany, most of the participants are Nazi descendants. “But here in America, it’s just people who want to stand with the Jewish people… we want to encourage non-Jews to stand up, especially right now.” She added: “Non-Jews should be doing more… Everybody should be on the streets, and especially given the history of Christian antisemitism.” In her own family’s experience, “you were in church on Sunday and then on Monday you were a concentration camp guard.”

Read the full report here.


We ‘held our heads high,’ says Israeli survivor of the Holocaust and Oct. 7

Penina Ben Yosef. Courtesy

Penina Ben Yosef is one of the 2,500 Holocaust survivors who both escaped the Nazis and lived through Hamas’ attack on southern Israel. She spoke with Lahav Harkov of eJewishPhilanthropy’s sister publication Jewish Insider ahead of Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Seeing the signs: Ben Yosef was born on Aug. 1, 1940 in Kovel, Poland – which is today in Ukraine – after the German invasion of Poland. Her father, a locomotive engineer, was forced to bring supplies to the war front and bring wounded soldiers back to Poland. “My father knew what was happening to the Jews,” Ben Yosef said, “and one time, when he was able to stop in our city, he called the whole family together, his parents and brothers, and told them to run away. They didn’t believe anything would happen… they said ‘take your wife and daughter and go,’ so he did. They stayed, and they were all killed,” she said.

‘A great miracle’: Ben Yosef, who immigrated to Israel with her parents illegally a month before the state was declared, was one of the early residents of Kfar Maimon, one of several agricultural communities near the Gaza border established by alumni of the religious Zionist youth movement Bnei Akiva. She had a broken leg in a cast and was unable to go to synagogue for Simchat Torah on Oct. 7. She had heard the rocket sirens at 6:30 a.m. — “We’re used to that,” she said. What Ben Yosef didn’t know was that a battle was taking place by the entrance to Kfar Maimon. Hamas terrorists shot at a Sikorsky CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopter, which made an emergency landing at the moshav. Dozens of soldiers emerged from the helicopter and fought off and killed about 60 terrorists in the village’s environs, preventing them from entering Kfar Maimon. “It was a great miracle,” Ben Yosef said of the battle.

Just too much: Ruth Haran, 89, had seven relatives kidnapped and three murdered on Oct. 7. Her grandson-in-law Tal is still being held hostage in Gaza and her daughter Sharon, daughter-in-law Shoshan, grandchildren Noam and Adi, and great-grandchildren Neve and Yahel were kidnapped by Hamas and released in November. Haran, who was born in Romania and spent years fleeing the Nazis, survived the Oct. 7 attack on Kibbutz Be’eri and said that “people who survived the massacre talked about death, murder, women raped and the destruction of our community. The whole trauma of being a Holocaust survivor came back to me… As a Holocaust survivor, I know how to deal with pain, but this time I don’t know how to cope.”

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


Amid rampant antisemitism, KIND founder Daniel Lubetzky says ‘we’re talking past each other’

Daniel Lubetzky speaks onstage at “Our Role in Overcoming America’s Division” during the 2023 SXSW Conference and Festivals at Hilton Austin on March 12, 2023 in Austin, Texas. Amanda Stronza/Getty Images for SXSW

Before KIND bars were ubiquitous at drugstores and Starbucks checkout counters, kindness was a lesson that entrepreneur and KIND Snacks founder Daniel Lubetzky learned from his father, Roman, who survived Dachau. After a stint as an AIPAC pro-Israel activist while a law student at Stanford in the early 1990s, Lubetzky turned toward peacebuilding between Israelis and Palestinians before starting KIND, the company known for its granola bars that was acquired by Mars Inc. in 2017 in a deal worth $5 billion. Now, Lubetzky is applying the same attitude that has animated his career in the business world toward calling out antisemitism and addressing the extremist rhetoric that has become a mainstay on U.S. college campuses during ongoing protests against Israel, reports Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch from the Milken Institute Global Conference taking place this week in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Time to work: A solution to the polarization and deep division of this moment, Lubetzky argued, is to lower the temperature and figure out how to encourage people to speak to each other again. Universities and even businesses have failed at this, he said, leading to a leadership gap and a major problem for young people entering the workforce. “The one silver lining of everything you’ve seen over the last several months is that we now woke up and realized that we cannot wish it away, we cannot just ignore it as just some stupid extremism. These rigid ideologies are very, very serious,” said Lubetzky. “We need to replace them with positive ideologies.”

What’s the point?: Lubetzky declined to say whether he philanthropically supports any universities and if the anti-Israel campus protests have caused him to reconsider his giving. Still, he has no qualms about expressing his dissatisfaction: “If my kids were applying today, I would not want them applying to Columbia, for sure, UCLA and Harvard,” he said. The general atmosphere at many elite universities has led Lubetzky to question their utility, and whether those are the graduates he should hire. “A student that has taken extremist positions and demonstrated lack of compassion, curiosity, civility,” Lubetzky continued — “they’re not likely to thrive in our environment.”

Read the full interview here.


The time to engage mainline Christians is now

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori addresses deputies, bishops and others in advance of the start of the 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church in 2015 in Salt Lake City, Utah. The Episcopal Diocese of New York/Facebook

“From June 23-28, Episcopalians will be gathering in Louisville, Kent., for their 81st General Convention. Then, on June 25-July, the Presbyterian Church USA will convene its 226th General Assembly in Salt Lake City. If historical trends hold, both events will entertain overtures and resolutions of great concern to the State of Israel and the American Jewish community,” writes Todd Stavrakos, director of Pathways and pastor at Gladwyne Presbyterian Church in Gladwyne, Pa., in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Another battlefront: “It has become commonplace at these national gatherings to find statements seeking to delegitimize the State of Israel. Activists, some within the denominations but many from outside interest groups, have promoted anti-Jewish and anti-Israel rhetoric that has reignited long latent antisemitism within these communities… This year, the debate will move beyond previous ‘traditional’ critiques of Israel as an apartheid state and as a target for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS). Now we will see claims of genocide, ethnic cleansing and war crimes, as well as attacks against the very legitimacy of a Jewish state — an echo of what we are seeing on many campuses.”

How to respond: “We have heard from Jewish friends and colleagues across the country, clergy and lay people, who have been ‘ghosted’ by their non-Jewish counterparts. As Jews feel increasingly threatened by antisemitism, there is silence from too many within the mainline Protestant world… While the challenge of countering these trends in progressive and mainline Christian spaces, denominations and churches can be daunting, we believe there is an approach that could work.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Laughing in the Dark: In The Jewish Independent, Tami Sussman muses on the power of comedy to help Jews both cope with heavy subjects like the Holocaust and antisemitism and also broach these topics with the rest of the world. “It’s the morning of Yom Hashoah and I’m doing something extremely millennial. I’m searching for the best image of my late grandmother to post to Instagram… Of course I understand that there is a time and place to make jokes. I appreciate there’s a difference between jokes made in private conversations with friends and jokes made publicly by people with enormous platforms… [A]s we remember all of the lives lost on Yom Hashoah this year, I also remember the grief that the living carry with them. The despair that hangs like a thick, dark cloud above them. It’s the intergenerational trauma cloud and it encompasses all the anxiety and neuroses that is so often the butt of the Jewish joke because sometimes the cloud is just too heavy, too angry and it’s threatening to deprive us of any joy. It needs a bit of humour to crack it open, to let a little light in.” [TheJewishdependent]

Failures of Holocaust Education: In The Times of Israel, Yossi Klein Halevi argues that attempts to universalize the Holocaust have contributed to the current rise in antisemitism and anti-Israel rhetoric. “This moment didn’t happen in a vacuum. The anti-Zionist forces in academia have been preparing the ground for decades, systematically dismantling the moral basis of each stage of Zionist and Israeli history… The ease with which anti-Zionists have managed to portray the Jewish state as genocidal, a successor to Nazi Germany, marks a historic failure of Holocaust education in the West. This moment requires a fundamental rethinking of the goals and methodology of Holocaust education. By over-emphasizing the necessary universal lessons of the Holocaust, many educators too easily equated antisemitism with generic racism. The intention was noble: to render the Holocaust relevant to a new generation. But in the process, the essential lesson of the Holocaust – the uniqueness not only of the event itself but of the hatred that made it possible – was often lost… We are losing a generation, but we haven’t yet lost.” [TOI]

Bet Big Better: In an opinion piece for the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Cecilia Conrad responds to an earlier article by Kevin Starr about his disappointments of so-called “big bet philanthropy,” in which she argues that the practice should be encouraged and strengthened, not dismissed.“The size of philanthropic gifts should be guided not by the size of the organization’s current budget, but rather, the size of the challenge it is positioned to address. And it should reflect the unique needs and vision of the organization’s leaders — with the goal of achieving durable impact… We are presented with a historic opportunity to support of some of the most sophisticated and effective tools ever developed to address many of the biggest and most stubborn challenges in the world, from new high-yielding, high-nutrition seeds that can eliminate micronutrient deficiencies to low-cost or no-cost tools to control high blood pressure to technology that converts waste into renewable energy and fertilizer, and harnessing satellite technology to connect farmers with the water they need to feed their families and their communities. The funds on the sidelines that could push transformative change through big bets should not be framed, as Starr does, as ‘a new way to fail.’ The most dangerous failure facing the world isn’t big bet philanthropy. It is a failure of ambition.” [SSIR]

Involved From the Start: In Inside Philanthropy, Michael Kavate writes about the role of the philanthropic sector in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, which announced $27 billion in grant awards last month. “The journey began with an idea for a national green bank more than 15 years ago, has seen the creation of state green banks across the country, and has reached its apex — to date — in this new round of awards. A range of institutions, including green banks, national nonprofits and community development financial institutions (CDFIs), now have billions of federal dollars to invest in a clean energy transition… In this case, philanthropy played a classic and powerful role as an indirect enabler of federal action — leveraging millions of dollars in grants toward public spending that comes to billions of dollars, and hopefully triggers much more. That dynamic is particularly relevant now as a torrent of federal funding flows following the passage of the climate-focused Inflation Reduction Act, as well as the American Rescue Plan, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the CHIPS and Science Act.” [InsidePhilanthropy]

Around the Web

A new study by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics calculated the world’s Jewish population at 15.7 million, with 45% living in Israel and 40% in the United States; this is below the 16.6 million Jews who are estimated to have been alive before the Holocaust… 

Mainstream Jewish groups pulled out of a meeting with the Department of Education about campus antisemitism after they found out that far-left activists, including one organization affiliated with IfNotNow, were also attending…

Real estate mogul Barry Sternlicht paused donations to Brown University, his alma mater, in response to the school’s decision to consider cutting investments tied to Israel, calling the move “unconscionable”…

Bipartisan groups of House lawmakers requested a substantial increase in funding in 2025 for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program, the State Department’s Office of the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism and the Holocaust Survivor Assistance Program…

The New York Police Department is investigating a series of bomb threats that were made to synagogues and other Jewish institutions in New York City, as well as the Brooklyn Museum, over the weekend…

Israel doctoral student Iddo Gefen writes in The Atlantic about his experiences at Columbia University since Oct. 7 and his horror at demonstrators’ use of the phrase “by any means necessary”…

Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff is meeting with a group of Jewish students — all grandchildren of Holocaust survivors — at the White House to discuss antisemitism on campus…

Rough Draft Atlanta interviews Lee Shaffer, the new director of Emory University Hillel, who entered the position a few weeks before anti-Israel encampments started springing up on college campuses across the country…

Jewish groups decried a demand by anti-Israel student protesters at UC Santa Cruz that the school cut ties with Hillel, along with other Jewish and Israeli organizations, calling the request “antisemitic”…

The Times of Israel spotlights LeMa’anam (“for their sake” in Hebrew), a nonprofit that has been providing free medical care to Holocaust survivors since 2020…

The B’nai B’rith Youth Organization marked its centennial on May 3…

The Salt Lake Tribune looks at how synagogues in Utah are increasing their spending on security in the wake of Oct. 7…

The Workers Circle presented its Generation to Generation Jewish Culture and Activism Award to Henry Winkler and his daughter Zoe Winkler Reinis last week…

The Jerusalem Post profiles the Tribe of Nova Foundation, a nonprofit providing assistance to survivors of the Oct. 7 Nova Music Festival massacre

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History acquired a gold pocket watch that once belonged to Jewish businessman and philanthropist Julius Rosenwald, which will be on display on May 15 from 1:30-3:30 p.m. for an event marking Jewish American Heritage Month

Pic of the Day

Bellha Haim (left), grandmother of the murdered hostage Yotam Haim takes part in the 36th March of the Living at the former Nazi concentration death camp Auschwitz in Oswiecim, Poland, on May 6, 2024.
Getty Images

Bellha Haim (left), a Holocaust survivor and the grandmother of the murdered Israeli hostage Yotam Haim, takes part in today’s 36th March of the Living at the former Nazi concentration death camp Auschwitz in Oswiecim, Poland.


Annie Liebovitz smiles
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