Your Daily Phil: Momentum brings ‘Mother to Mother Unity Trip’ to Israel

Good Friday morning.

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on concerns from Jewish leaders about the White House’s approach rising antisemitism and Islamophobia, and on the arrest of a suspect in the killing of Paul Kessler. We feature opinion pieces from Sandy Cardin and Mark Goldfeder. Also in this newsletter: Emily Hand, Jake Tapper and Rabbi Avidan Freedman. We’ll start with Jewish mothers from around the world demonstrating in Modiin with the families of the hostages.

For less-distracted reading over the weekend, browse this week’s edition of The Weekly Print, a curated print-friendly PDF featuring a selection of recent Jewish InsidereJewishPhilanthropy and The Circuit stories, including: Record crowd on National Mall demands release of hostages, condemns antisemitism; Jews, Bedouins unite in face of Hamas terror attacks on Israel; Labour pains for Keir Starmer over Gaza war. Print the latest edition here.

Roughly 80 Jewish mothers from around the world marched through the streets of Modiin, holding signs reading “Bring them home” and “We stand with Israel,” alongside hundreds of other demonstrators and the families of hostages being held by Hamas in Gaza as they marched from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on Thursday, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross from the scene.

The relatives of one hostage, Merav Tal, stopped to speak with the group of women, participants on a “Mother to Mother Unity Trip” organized by Momentum. Tal’s cousin, Hagit, described the family’s horror at discovering she’d been kidnapped by Hamas from her home in Kibbutz Nir Oz on Oct. 7, along with her partner and his two children, finding out by seeing footage of the attack that was shared on Telegram. 

After Hagit finished speaking, Linda Norton, from Sarasota, Fla., stood up to tell her that the group was there for her and her family. 

“We’re here to tell you that we love you and we want to do whatever we can to support you and to bring your loved ones home. You’re our family and we’re here for you,” Norton said.

The roughly 80 participants came from the United States, Canada, Mexico, Australia, South Africa, Thailand and Israel. Some had been on Momentum trips before, some were donors to the organization, which is supported from both donations and the Israeli Diaspora Affairs Ministry. Twenty of them were mothers of “lone soldiers.”

The trip, which began on Tuesday and ends Sunday, has been split between volunteering work — making 4,000 sandwiches for soldiers; picking sweet potatoes with the food insecurity nonprofit Leket — and meetings with survivors and first responders.

Lori Palatnik, the founding director of Momentum, told eJP that the idea for the solidarity mission arose almost immediately after the Oct. 7 attacks. “We put the word out and said, ‘You have 48 hours to sign up,’” she said. The trip filled up almost immediately. Later this month, Momentum plans to bring another trip for mothers and another for fathers. 

“This has been the most critical and powerful and most inspiring trip for us,” Palatnik said.

Read the full report here.


Rabbi Dina Brawer, executive director of the U.K.-based World Jewish Relief’s American branch, speaks at the Clinton Global Initiative in September 2023.
U.S. President Joe Biden. Photo by Jonathan Ernst – Pool via Getty Images

The Biden administration’s descriptions of antisemitism and Islamophobia rising equally — despite data showing that the former has grown far more dramatically — has worried some Jewish community advocates who question whether the lack of specificity in diagnosing the problem of increasing antisemitism dilutes the White House’s efforts to address it. “I think that tying antisemitism and Islamophobia together is a way of avoiding actually addressing the way that either form of hate is manifesting, because they’re not the same,” Amanda Berman, executive director of Zioness, a progressive pro-Israel organization, told Gabby Deutch for eJewishPhilanthropy’s sister publication Jewish Insider.

Four-to-one: Both Jews and Muslims have experienced an increase in hateful rhetoric, particularly online. But the majority of threats reported to the FBI since Oct. 7 have been antisemitic in nature, FBI Director Chris Wray said Wednesday at a congressional hearing. A source familiar with the data told JI that the number of antisemitic incidents reported to the FBI has surpassed reported Islamophobic incidents by a four-to-one margin, even including the deadly October stabbing of a Palestinian-American boy and his mother in Illinois.

Not threatening, but minimizing: “I’m not threatened at all by acknowledging the seriousness of Islamophobia, which has been, I think, institutionalized in this country, definitely since 9/11, if not before that. I don’t feel threatened that the administration, for example, put out a plan about combating Islamophobia, which I believe to be on the rise,” said one liberal Jewish activist who is close to the White House. “It’s not threatening to Jews to talk about Islamophobia,” the activist continued. “But it is minimizing the specific threat of antisemitism by watering down every criticism of antisemitism by saying, ‘And by the way, I also condemn Islamophobia.’”

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


Calif. Jewish leaders recall Feinstein, first female Jewish senator, as inspiration to women in politics

American politician Dianne Feinstein, her arms outstretched in celebration, in her office after she was elected mayor of San Francisco, at San Francisco City Hall in San Francisco, California, circa 1978.
Ventura County Chief Medical Examinber Chris Young speaks during a press conference in Thousand Oaks, Calif., on November 7, 2023, about the death of Paul Kessler. Photo by David Swanson/AFP via Getty Images

A pro-Palestinian college professor was arrested and charged with involuntary manslaughter on Thursday in connection with the death of a 69-year-old Jewish man at dueling pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian rallies in Los Angeles last week, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen in Jewish Insider.

Blunt force trauma: Officials named Loay Abdelfattah Alnaji, 50, as the suspect involved in Paul Kessler’s death. The two men reportedly got into an altercation at the Nov. 5 protests. Photos show Kessler waving an Israeli flag moments before the violence began. Medical examiners determined that Kessler was struck with a megaphone and fell backwards, hitting his head on the pavement and suffering a head wound. He died the next day. The examiners ruled Kessler’s death a homicide, with blunt force head injury as the cause.

No violence tolerated: “[The] arrest shows that violence towards our Jewish community will not be tolerated,” The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles said in a statement yesterday. “We are grateful for the swift work of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department in response to the tragic death of Mr. Paul Kessler… We will continue to monitor the case to help ensure justice is served. Our heartfelt condolences continue to be with the family of Paul Kessler and may his memory forever be a blessing.”

Read the full report here.


Followers as leaders and leaders as followers

Illustration by eobrazy/Getty Images

“Building a successful movement is more about the followers than the leaders,” writes Sandy Cardin, founder of the grassroots organization Global Jewry, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

A memorable lesson: “‘There is no movement without the first follower,’ says [Derek] Silvers. ‘We’re told we all need to be leaders, but that would be really ineffective. The best way to make a movement, if you really care, is to courageously follow and show others how to follow.’ For Jews, this take brings to mind the story of Nachshon in the Book of Exodus.”

Leading by following: “Brilliantly orchestrated by our friends at the Jewish Federations of North America and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the [March for Israel] brought much-needed attention to the plight of the hostages brutally abducted by Hamas on Oct. 7 and the alarming levels of antisemitism we are witnessing all over the world… The March also highlighted the fact the Jewish world is full of amazing followers, not just remarkable leaders. Some of the most active and visible leaders in Jewish communal life were in the audience, not on stage. They were there to show their support of the cause and solidarity with the Jewish people. They were there because this is a time when we need all hands on deck and have no time to arrange the deck chairs; each of us must be ready and willing to do whatever we can to strengthen our people, bolster our resolve, meet immediate needs in Israel and fight antisemitism wherever it rears its ugly head. They were there as followers, and as leaders.” 

Read the full piece here.


The way out of the campus conundrum

Students participate in a pro-Palestinian and “pro-free speech” protest at Columbia University campus on Nov. 14, 2023 in New York City. Last week, the university suspended two student organizations, Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace, for violating university policies. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

“While some schools have dug their heels in, refusing any accountability, others seem to be reflecting on what they might actually be able to do to signify that they are serious about combating antisemitism while still protecting the First Amendment. The answer is clear, and it is exactly what donors and advocates should call for schools to do: Enforce the First Amendment, wholeheartedly — but first, understand its outer limits,” writes Mark Goldfeder, CEO and director of the National Jewish Advocacy Center, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

‘Our Hands Are Tied’: “There is no First Amendment protection for speech that involves incitement, which the Court in Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969) explained includes speech that ‘is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.’ Brandenburg is famously a very high standard, and that is precisely where the universities are hiding. Despite the dozens of anecdotal incidents, and despite all of the well-known studies confirming that the kind of inflammatory discriminatory antisemitic rhetoric that these groups have been spreading leads directly to antisemitic violence, officials are telling students and parents that their hands are tied because in most cases (excluding, for example, Rutgers and Cornell) there has not been sufficiently direct incitement.”

Know the law: “The truth is that even the Brandenburg standard has clear and applicable limits; schools can still impose reasonable time, place and manner restrictions, for instance. Even under the Brandenburg paradigm, any student rally that disrupts the educational enterprise and functioning of a school may be restricted by that school without offending the First Amendment. But this argument is also unnecessary — because Brandenburg is the wrong standard for schools to be using, and university presidents and general counsels need to correct that misunderstanding immediately.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Talking With Tapper: In the Washington Jewish Week, editor Aaron Troodler interviews CNN anchor and “proud Jew” Jake Tapper about the challenges of covering the aftermath of Oct. 7, his thoughts on antisemitism in America today and more. “While reporting from Tel Aviv, Tapper spoke with Doctor Chen Kugel from Israel’s National Center of Forensic Medicine about the difficulty of identifying some of the victims’ remains because of what Hamas did to them. Even though many of the remains were unidentifiable, Tapper and CNN blurred the images before showing them on-air. ‘It was still horribly grotesque’… Tapper acknowledged that he’s been wrestling with the issue of what to show in the media and how much to describe. In this particular instance, Tapper said one of the reasons he reported on the attacks the way he did was because there are people out there who deny that the atrocities of Oct. 7 took place. ‘There’s a 10-year-old girl whose head is not part of her body anymore. And forensic scientists are very precise with what they’re saying. They don’t know when and how the head was separated from the body, they’re being very honest and clear. But however you parse it, this is a 10-year-old girl, and her head is not attached to her body anymore. I can’t believe we’re having these discussions even.’” [WJW]

Pros of Transparency: In an opinion piece in The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Craig Kennedy encourages nonprofits to embrace Congressional interest in more transparency in philanthropy rather than fight it. “The donor-privacy debate is an old and not-always-nuanced discussion over whether and when the public should be able to identify financial supporters of organizations involved in research, policy, and election-adjacent activities. One side firmly believes donor privacy should never be breached. The other side is almost as adamant in demanding full transparency… Greater disclosure of foreign donors should be an easy place to start remedying the situation. No one is proposing a ban on such giving — just that it be disclosed. When the head of a think tank testifies before Congress on a foreign-policy issue, shouldn’t we know if a non-American entity, government or otherwise, is funding that institution? And if a foreign donor is supporting a nonprofit involved in voter mobilization, doesn’t the public have the right to know?… [O]ne would hope that the Council on Foundations, the Philanthropy Roundtable, and other leading associations would see congressional interest as an opportunity to discuss practical and ethical means for reassuring the public that tax-deductible contributions are used appropriately.” [ChronicleofPhilanthropy]

Around the Web

Emily Hand, an Irish-Israeli dual citizen who was initially believed to have been murdered but later found to have been kidnapped from her home in Kibbutz Beeri on Oct. 7, turned nine years old today in Hamas captivity…

New York University will open a new Center for the Study of Antisemitism next fall thanks to a multi-million dollar gift from a donor who asked to remain anonymous. The announcement comes a day after three NYU students filed a lawsuit against the school, alleging that it had ignored antisemitism on campus…

Danielle Haas, a departing senior editor at Human Rights Watchcriticized the organization’s muted response to the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on southern Israel, saying it had “surrendered its duty to stand for the human rights of all”…

Israeli Rabbi Avidan Freedman has launched a hunger strike, demanding that the Red Cross be allowed to visit the hostages in Gaza… 

John Fisher, the owner of the Oakland A’s, received permission from Major League Baseball to move his team to Las Vegas…

The New York Times profiled an emerging generation of Israeli and Palestinian peace activists

The newspaper also reviewed Tim Schwab’s new book, The Bill Gates Problem, which paints an unflattering picture of the eponymous billionaire and his philanthropic foundation…

Pope Francis is expected to meet with relatives of hostages held by Hamas in Gaza next week…

More than 150 foreign doctors have come to Israel to volunteer through a government-backed, nonprofit-led effort. Thousands more have registered to do the same…

The College Park, Md., city council approved the plans for the construction of a new Hillel building at the University of Maryland (Go Terps!)…

Pic of the Day

Courtesy/Israel Philharmonic

Uzi Shalev, assistant principal bassoonist of the Israel Philharmonic, harvests tomatoes in Sde Nitzan in southern Israel last week. He is one of several philharmonic members who volunteered to help harvest produce on farms, which have been struggling due to staffing shortages as foreign workers have left the country and farmers have been called up to the reserves.


Annie Liebovitz smiles

Co-president of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, Lisa Eisen… 

FRIDAY: U.S. senator (R-OK) until this past January, Jim Inhofe… Rabbi of Agudath Israel of Baltimore, he is also the rabbinic administrator of the Star K Kosher Supervision service, Rabbi Moshe Heinemann… Original creator and producer of “Saturday Night Live,” Lorne Michaels (born Lorne Lipowitz)… Philanthropist and director of the William Davidson Foundation, Karen Davidson… Global editorial director of the Huffington Post Media Group, Howard Fineman… Editor-at-large for Washingtonian Magazine and author of a biography of Bernie Sanders, Harry Jaffe… Film and television director, writer and producer, Jon Avnet… Founder and principal of ourCovenant, Diana Aviv… Operations manager at NPC Global, Daniel Gastaldi… Author and journalist, he lectures in the graduate journalism program at Stanford University, Gary M. Pomerantz… Attorney and business executive who once played on the South African national teams in both cricket and field hockey, Mandy Yachad… U.S. senator (R-PA) until this past January, Pat Toomey… Director of the Domestic Policy Council in the Biden administration until May of this year, Ambassador Susan Rice… “The Travelling Rabbi” of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies who serves 11 sub-Saharan countries, Moshe Silberhaft… U.S. ambassador to Switzerland during the Obama administration, Suzan Gail Davidson (Suzi) LeVine… Executive editor and Washington bureau chief of Talking Points MemoDavid Kurtz… Segment producer at HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher,” Michele Tasoff… Partner in Seven Letter, a D.C.-based public affairs firm, Ralph Posner… Director of human resilience at Apeiron ZOH, Michael Ostrolenk… President of NBC News until earlier this year, Noah Oppenheim… CEO of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, Halie Soifer… Partner at Thematic Campaigns f/k/a AKPD Message and Media, Isaac Baker… MLB player for 14 seasons, NL Rookie of the Year, five-time NL All-Star and NL MVP in 2011, Ryan Braun… NFL fullback for six seasons with the Bucs and Saints, he has since earned an MBA from Wharton, Erik Lorig… U.S. foreign affairs and defense correspondent for the Financial TimesFelicia Schwartz… Mortgage lender at River Holdings, Zecharya “Zack” Teichman… Student at Harvard University in the Class of 2024, Aidan Golub

SATURDAY: Roberta “Bobbie” Goldstein… Theoretical physicist, at age 27 he became a professor and then later president of the Weizmann Institute, he is the founder of the Davidson Institute of Science Education at Weizmann, Haim Harari… Potomac, Md., resident, Richard Gorman… National director of major gifts for the American Committee for the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, Paul Jeser… Lecturer at Boston University School of Law, he was formerly SVP and general counsel of Fidelity Management & Research Company, Eric D. Roiter… Atlanta resident, Lynda Wolfe… Israeli cantor and actor, known for his Broadway performance as Jean Valjean in “Les Misérables,” David “Dudu” Fisher… Professor of epidemiology at Columbia University, Walter Ian Lipkin… Former U.S. ambassador to South Africa, she is a luxury handbag designer, Lana J. Marks… Singer-songwriter, he is also the author of a popular Passover Haggadah, Barry Louis Polisar… Long-time former play-by-play sportscaster for the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers, Marc Zumoff… Former mayor of Dallas until 2007, Laura Miller… SVP and general counsel of HSP Group and ARF Financial, Robert Bruce Lapidus… Moroccan-born, member of the Knesset since 2003 for the Shas party, he currently serves as the minister of labor, social affairs and social services, Yaakov Margi… NYC-based writer, activist and performer, Shira Dicker… Washington correspondent for The New York Times covering health policy, Sheryl Gay Stolberg… Retired Baltimore attorney who devotes her time to philanthropic and pro-Israel activities, Laurie Luskin… Rabbi of Burbank Temple Emanu El and national coordinator of Rabbis Without Borders, Tsafreer “Tsafi” Lev… Member of the Knesset for the Yesh Atid party, Michal Shir Segman… Real estate agent at Coldwell Banker and a fashion stylist for the Jenny Yoo Collection, Talia Fadis… Israeli singer-songwriter and music producer, Elisha Banai

 SUNDAY: Retired New York State Supreme Court judge, whose tenure on the television program “The People’s Court” was shorter than that of his wife “Judge Judy,” Jerry Sheindlin… Attorney, investment banker and former U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom in the Obama administration, Louis B. Susman… Professor of chemistry at Stanford University, Richard Neil Zare… Fifteen-term member in the U.S. House of Representatives (D-NY) until 2013, he is now a partner in Gotham Government Relations, Gary Ackerman… Fashion designer, Calvin Klein… Founder and president of the Washington-based Arab American Institute, James J. Zogby… U.S. ambassador to Germany after 18 years as president of the University of Pennsylvania, Amy Gutmann… Los Angeles based real estate investor, Sydney Ilene Cetner… Owner of Patty’s Piano Studio in Santa Monica, Calif., Patricia Fiden… Cosmetic dentist and chairman of pharma company Akelos, Inc., Steven Fox, DDS… California state senator until 2022, Robert Myles “Bob” Hertzberg… Dean and professor of Jewish history, literature and law at Yeshiva University, Rabbi Dr. Ephraim Kanarfogel… Academy Award-winning screenwriter, producer, director and lyricist, best known as the writer of “Being John Malkovich,” Charlie Kaufman… President of Sunrise Financial Group, Nathan Low… Retired member of the Knesset for the Kulanu party, he served as Israel’s minister of finance for five years, Moshe Kahlon… Officer of NORPAC New York and a partner in a Brooklyn-based law firm, Trudy Stern…Founder of World Values Network, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach… Director of state and local government affairs for SAIC, Eric Finkbeiner… Chief impact officer at ForbesSeth Cohen… Member of the New York State Assembly since 2005, Andrew D. Hevesi… New York Times best-selling novelist, she is also a professor at Rutgers University-Camden, Lauren Grodstein… Editor-in-chief of Time magazine, Samuel P. Jacobs… Associate director at Northwestern University Hillel, Rachel Hillman… Former congressional staffer, Michael Dale-Stein… Managing director at Climate Power, John D. Axelrod… European deals reporter at the Financial Times based in London, Ivan Levingston