Your Daily Phil: Marlee Matlin on disability inclusion + Jerusalem College of Technology’s expansion plans

Good Friday morning!

Jerusalem College of Technology (JCT), which serves a largely religious student body, will begin construction on an expanded campus for women later this year.

The $100 million expansion project comes amid ongoing efforts across Israeli society to bring more Haredi Israelis into higher education and the workforce — particularly in the tech sector. Israel’s 1.2 million Haredi citizens make up 13% of the country’s population but comprise just 4.5% of its national university student body, according to a recent study by the Israel Democracy Institute. The number of Haredi students increased 14% last year and is two-thirds female, as a large proportion of  Haredi men study in yeshivas and kollels — Jewish institutes of advanced study.

That’s also the gender ratio of the approximately 2,000 Haredi students at JCT. The new campus, called the Tal Campus for Women, is slated for completion in 2025 and has space for some 3,000 students — an increase of more than 500 from its current capacity. JCT has so far raised more than $50 million for the construction project, plus another $11 million in government funding.

The students come primarily from the Haredi, religious Zionist and Ethiopian communities. Ninety percent of Haredi women who graduate from the college find employment, according to Stuart Hershkowitz, JCT’s vice president. He hopes the expansion “will help many Haredi families leave the cycle of poverty.”

“We are an Orthodox institution whose students come to JCT because of the religious and gender-separate environment,” Hershkowitz told eJewishPhilanthropy. “Because of the religious-friendly environment and the high level of education, we are able to attract more Haredi women students.”


Jewish disability advocates reflect on two years of changes during the pandemic

Marlee Matlin speaks at an event in Los Angeles, Calif. in November.

Rich Polk/Getty Images for Deadline

Ahead of Jewish Disabilities Awareness, Acceptance, and Inclusion Month in February, Jewish disability inclusion advocates, including actress Marlee Matlin, say the pandemic has brought both hardships and benefits to people with disabilities, eJewishPhilanthropy’s Ben Sales reports

Access and difficulties: “Things like Zoom and virtual meetings have provided opportunities for those of us who may not necessarily be able to, because of mobility issues, get out or be able to travel,” she told eJP through an interpreter, explaining that captions have also made online programming accessible. But there are difficulties as well. “It’s hard for me to go to a grocery store and read someone’s lips with a mask on,” she said. “I just ask them to lower it for a second so I know what they’re saying. Other times, some people don’t have patience, but it’s all a process.”

A fifth of the community: Experts estimate that about 20% of the Jewish community has a disability. While data on inclusion in Jewish spaces is often difficult to find, opportunities for Jews with disabilities appear to have gradually increased in recent years. Most day and overnight camps have programs for campers with disabilities, according to the Foundation for Jewish Camp, and the percentage of day campers with disabilities increased from 5% in 2016 to 6.7% in 2020. 

Surveying the field: A recent survey on disability in the Jewish community, conducted by RespectAbility, an organization that promotes inclusion in the Jewish community and more broadly, shows pluses and minuses. In a survey of more than 2,300 Jewish respondents (contacted largely through paid email blasts, through which recipients could opt in), just 31% said the Jewish community is doing “extremely well” or “very well” in including people with disabilities. The number was lower among self-identified respondents with disabilities. But the survey also found that majorities of both groups said the community is doing better on the issue than it was five years ago. 

How things have changed: “Many synagogues, day schools, JCCs, camps, etc., have a disability inclusion initiative and they have identified an individual or group of individuals who are responsible for moving that forward,” said Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, who founded RespectAbility more than eight years ago. “What is still to me, frankly shocking, is that some of the inclusion that’s free and instant to do is still not being done,” such as captioning Zoom programs. 

Read the full article here.


Could podcasting help us rediscover Judaism?

Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels

“In my six years as a Hillel professional, I had learned that Judaism had to be accessible, resonant and relevant. And so I created “BROgramming”— an opportunity for underserved male students to connect to each other Jewishly and socially through activities like Baseballs and BBQs (where they made their own mezuzot) and a Chanukah-themed Jews v. Greeks laser tag event,” writes Amanda K. Weiss, co-host and founder of the weekly podcast “Drinking and Drashing: Torah with a Twist,” in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

‘Drinking and Drashing’: “Six years later, I brought this idea of making Judaism relatable to my first year of rabbinical school in Jerusalem. I created ‘Drinking and Drashing,’ evenings of creating cocktails and connections to the Torah in an informal setting. So when Rabbi Andrew Goodman, Hebrew Union College’s director of student support, said ‘You should make that a podcast!’ I did what any person who wanted to raise Judaism’s level of excellence would do. I said, ‘No.’ After all, who had the time?”

Not Jewish enough: “As the pandemic’s imposed isolation increased, so did my need for entertainment. Listening to podcasts like ‘Judaism Unbound,’ the ‘Study’ and the ‘Scrubs’ rewatch podcast, I heard Rabbi Goodman in my head again, and called up two friends. ‘We should make it a podcast.’ We were tuned in and wanted to help those who were seeking connection, community and continuity… We heard that podcast popularity had doubled during the pandemic, with 120 million podcast listeners in the country in 2021, according to… We listened to the Pew Report, sharing that Jews were feeling disconnected to Jewish organizations and memberships. We heard the oft-repeated claim that people don’t feel ‘Jewish enough’ to participate in Jewish organizational life.”

Na’aseh v’nishmah (to do and to listen): “And then we realized something extraordinary: podcasts challenge that conception, ensuring that Judaism can indeed be made accessible to and resonant for anyone who wants to tune in… Podcasts enable Jews to ‘na’aseh v’nishmah’ — to do and to listen — all at the same time. Good podcasts raise all voices (‘Judaism Unbound,’ ‘Can We Talk?’), grapple with the difficult ‘(‘Jews Talk Racial Justice,’’ Unorthodox’), and inspire exploration (‘On the Other Hand,’ ‘Jews Oughta Know’).”

Read the full piece here.


High-quality professional development is the springboard to excellence


“??Mention the term ‘professional development’ to most Jewish educators and the image that likely pops into their minds is a large room of teachers sitting together at round tables or in neat rows listening to an expert expound on a topic of some relevance to their daily instructional work. In light of recent research from CASJE [Collaborative for Applied Studies in Jewish Education], this perception among teachers within Jewish schools and settings of what professional development looks like should hardly be surprising,” writes David Farbman, project manager of the DEEP Consortium, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

The challenge: “Consider why this very narrow form of professional development matters. As the CASJE report authors suggest, it is far from ideal for a simple reason: Workshops alone do not actually help teachers improve their practice. No matter how informative, or even inspirational, the effect of these one-time training sessions on strengthening pedagogy — teachers’ capacity to bring educational excellence to students — is minimal, at best.”

So what does work? “On this question, a large body of research is unambiguous. Unlike standalone workshops, the most effective professional development experiences are ongoing, job-embedded and content-rich. They focus on student outcomes and promote collaborative learning. If teachers do participate consistently in these kinds of more intensive professional development opportunities, then they are much more likely to adjust their instructional practice in ways that elevate student learning.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Down to Daf: The Jerusalem Post‘s Aaron Reich profiles Miriam Anzovin, a Boston-based content creator and visual artist who posts regular updates on Daf Yomi on her TikTok page, which has gained a large following in recent weeks. “Anzovin grew up in an Orthodox Jewish home and studied at a Lubavitch middle school. Though she is no longer Orthodox, she has a degree in Jewish studies and is very serious about Talmud study, having consistently studied Daf Yomi every day since the current seven-and-a-third-year-long cycle began two years ago. Coincidentally, that was also around the same time she first went on TikTok. At first, she only went on to watch videos as a way to kill time and remain feeling connected to people during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns, but eventually she decided to start creating content there herself. ‘In the beginning of December, I thought that since I’m doing Daf Yomi already, I could make a video for other people doing Daf Yomi with humorous takes as an in-joke, maybe with a millennial or Gen Z bent,’ Anzovin explained.” [JPost]

RBG’s Reads: Many volumes from the library of the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg were auctioned yesterday, including several lots containing books of Jewish content, writes Shira Hanau in the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, including one lot with 15 titles related to Jewish history and the Jewish experience. Among them are Rabin: Our Life, His Legacy, a book written and inscribed by Leah Rabin about her husband, Yitzchak Rabin, the Israeli prime minister who was assassinated in 1995. Others in the lot include It Takes a Dream: The Story of Hadassah, by Marlin Levin, and Jewish Legal Writings by Women, by Micah Halpern and Chana Safrai. [JTA] 

Dancing to Remember: Inspired by her Jewish education, dancer Rachel Linsky has drawn inspiration from her Jewish education to create a unique series of Holocaust-based dance performances, writes Judy Bolton-Fasman in In a Q&A, Linsky, a native of Newton, Mass., spoke about her project, ZACHOR. “Dance’s communicative powers have the power to evoke emotion and sympathy. You can take a story or a testimony and tell it through the universal language of movement. Anyone watching can apply their own personal history. It was an exciting opportunity to share dance and get non-dancers from the Jewish community interested in dance…I think these pieces have the potential to spark a unique way to study the Holocaust and other parts of history. Taking an individual testimony, story or memory and then focusing on embodying it is so resonant.” []

Community Comms

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Word on the Street

“After the Final No,” a documentary directed and produced by Phyllis Lee about the Jewish Displaced Persons experience, was awarded the 2021 JDC Archives documentary film grant. The film is expected to be released in 2022…

The Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks-Herenstein Center for Values and Leadership announced the creation of Yeshiva University’s Sacks Book Prize, funded by the Rohr family. The $50,000 prize will be awarded to an author of a recently published or forthcoming work of Jewish ideas deeply sourced in Jewish texts, with broad appeal within and beyond the Jewish community. Additional funds will be used to help the author promote the book through events, marketing and book distribution…

Three pendants bearing the Hebrew prayer Shema Yisrael (“Hear O Israel”) have been excavated at the Sobibor extermination camp in Poland, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced on Thursday…

Sing Unto God, a new organization, was launched by Cantor Rosalie Will, and will spotlight and curate best practices in communal singing and worship, train and support song leaders and offer networking opportunities…

Sinai and Synapses received a three-year, $910,000 grant from the John Templeton Foundation for an expansion of one of its signature projects, Scientists in Synagogues…

Gratz College in Philadelphia received a $300,000 gift from the Barbara and Fred Kort Foundation to establish the Holocaust Geniza Project, an archive digitization, research-based initiative of the Gratz Center for Holocaust Studies and Human Rights. The Barbara and Fred Kort Holocaust Geniza Project will preserve Gratz’s Holocaust testimonial archive and other unique collections, and make them accessible to the general public…

The Clara Lionel Foundation announced it is partnering with #StartSmall,?the philanthropic initiative of Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, to commit $15 million in support of 18 grassroots organizations fighting climate change across the United States and the Caribbean… 

Vanguard Charitable awarded $1.78 billion to 54,000 charities during fiscal year 2021, a 6% year-over-year increase…

Pic of the Day

Haim Zach/GPO

Israeli President Isaac Herzog and First Lady Michal Herzog built a snowman following Wednesday’s snowfall in Jerusalem.


Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

Israeli actor known for starring in “Shtisel, Out in the Dark” and as the host of “The Olympics,” Michael Aloni (right) celebrates his birthday on Sunday…

FRIDAY: Baltimore-area dentist now living in Jupiter, Fla., Dr.  Joel I. Goldberg, … Former chair of the political science department of the Hebrew University, Avraham Diskin… 26th national president of Hadassah, Ellen Hershkin… U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)… Attorney and lobbyist, Kenneth Levine… Rabbi emeritus of Kehillat Israel Reconstructionist Congregation in Pacific Palisades, Calif., Steven Carr Reuben… Chairman and founder of London-based Stellar Group Limited, Jonathan Ian Barnett… Model, actress and singer, Barbi Benton… Elayne Z. Wolf… Senior U.S. district court judge for the Central District of California, Judge Dean Douglas Pregerson… Freelance writer Rabbi Reba Carmel… NYC-based investor, Donna Redel… Director at UCLA Center for Community Engagement, Shalom David Staub… Angel investor and mentor, Mark N. Schwartz… Member of the New Jersey General Assembly from 2006 until last year, Amy H. Handlin… Executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Robert B. Satloff… Chairman of Genesis Philanthropy Group, Gennady Gazin… Founder and CEO of Boca Raton-based Lyons Capital LLC, Jason Lyons… Associate justice of the United States Supreme Court, Amy Coney Barrett… VP of content and strategy at Zeno Group, Ariel Bashi… Israeli theater and movie actress, Adi Bielski… Principal at Aermont Capital, he is also chair of TAMID Israel Investment Group, Max Heller… Financial analyst for Goldman Sachs, Perry Bloch… Actress and singer, Julia Lester

SATURDAY: Author, mohel and public speaker, Rabbi Paysach Krohn… President of Libitzky Property Companies, Moses S. Libitzky… Singer and songwriter, he is a two-time gold medal winner in the Maccabiah Games in fast-pitch softball, Steve March-Tormé… Regional director in the Houston office of the American Jewish Committee, Randall Czarlinsky… Louisiana resident, Jerry Keller… Executive director of the Westchester Jewish Council, Elliot Forchheimer… Senior writer for JCCs of North America, a.k.a. Jane the Writer, Jane E. Herman… Actress known for her role as Amy MacDougall-Barone on the TV sitcom “Everybody Loves Raymond,” Monica Horan… Physician and an author of three New York Times best-selling books, Dr. David Agus… Former speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Paul Ryan… Founder of multiple tech firms, Sam Lawrence... VP of government relations and public policy operations at the American Hospital Association, Robyn Cooke Bash… Writer and occasional Bollywood film actor, author of the comic book series “Mendy and the Golem,” Matt Brandstein… Senior director and global head of the NYC-based Tembo Group, Denielle Sachs… Former president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston, Kari Dunn Saratovsky.. Israeli actress, model and television host, Yael Bar Zohar… Senior Director for China on the National Security Council, Laura Rosenberger… Associate at Booz Allen Hamilton, Yasha Moz… Congressman from Massachusetts (D-MA-4), Jake Auchincloss Swimmer for Israel at the 2016 and 2020 Summer Olympics, Andrea “Andi” Murez… MCIT candidate at the University of Pennsylvania, Martha Baumgarten

SUNDAY: Chairman of The Cordish Companies, David S. Cordish… Artist, she paints brightly colored Biblical narratives, Barbara “Willy” Mendes… Teacher and Ph.D. in modern Jewish history from NYU, Judith Friedman Rosen… Upton, Wyo., resident, Heather Graf… VP of corporate engagement at the Parker Jewish Institute for Health Care and Rehabilitation, Linda Scacco… CEO of the Jewish National Fund, Russell F. Robinson… Former member of the California State Senate, Jeffrey Earle Stone… Philadelphia-area psychologist, Dr. Rachel Ginzberg… Managing partner of lobbying and law firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, Richard B. Benenson… Director of public relations for the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, Zalman Shmotkin… Associate professor in the electrical engineering department at Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, Guy Gilboa… Founder of an eponymous NYC PR and management firm, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Grubman… Special projects editor at The Week JuniorBari Nan Cohen Rothchild… Elected in 2018 as council member at-large for Montgomery County, Maryland, Evan M. Glass… Dallas resident, Gisele Rogers… Executive director of Middle East Affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Joshua M. Kram… Congressman from New York (R-NY-1), he is a candidate for governor of New York, Lee Zeldin… White House correspondent for CBS Radio News, Steven Portnoy… CEO at Harvesting Media, Eli Langer… Media professional and communications strategist, Alyona Minkovski… Member of the Connecticut House of Representatives, Matthew S. Blumenthal… Consultant in the education field, Eric Scott Lavin… Project leader at Boston Consulting Group, Max Delahanty… Professional ice hockey defenseman, he played on Team USA at the 2018 Winter Olympics and is currently playing with EHC Red Bull München, Jonathon Blum… VP at Blue Wolf Capital Partners, Jared Isenstein… Professional ice hockey forward, Chelsey Goldberg… Marketing coordinator at Fontainebleau Miami Beach, Alexa Smith… CEO of the Samis Foundation, Connie Kanter

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