Your Daily Phil: New fellowship for Reform rabbis + JCC Maccabi Games in Israel

Good Friday morning!

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on a new fellowship for early-career Reform rabbis to deepen their ties to Israel, and feature op-eds from Hannah Sharron and Erica Brown. Also in this newsletter: Rabbi Larry Sernovitz, Joseph Maybloom and Gov. Chris Sununu. We’ll start with the upcoming JCC Maccabi Games, which are taking place for the first time in Israel since 2011.

More than 700 teenagers from across North America are traveling to Israel for the JCC Maccabi Games, which kick off on Sunday and are being held in Israel for the first time in over a decade. They will be joined by some 300 Israeli teens and dozens more from Eastern Europe and Morocco, the event’s lead organizer told eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross.

Samantha Cohen, vice president for program and talent at JCC Association of North America and head of JCC Maccabi, said this year’s games in Israel – the first since 2011 – are meant to serve as a pilot program with the hope of holding the event in Israel every four years.

“We saw this huge opportunity to use the games, this platform that we have — I call it one of the crown jewels of the Jewish world – as an opportunity to do even more with Israel engagement,” she said.

According to Cohen, the main motivation behind this decision was the realization that the participants are largely Jewish teens who are not otherwise engaged in communal Jewish life. A survey conducted by the JCC Association found that almost half – 45% – are not engaged in any organized Jewish communal activity and more than two-thirds are not a part of a Jewish youth movement.

“These are the kids who otherwise would not be coming to Israel and would not be engaged in organized Jewish life with other Jewish teens. We recognized this was an opportunity to bring them in through the games,” she said.

Though the participants have been making their way to Israel over the past few days, the games officially kick off on Sunday night in the northern port city of Haifa, which is hosting the event. The trip is split into two main sections: the first nine days are dedicated to the games themselves, followed by 12 days of touring around Israel.

Read the full story here.

Zionist project

Screen capture/Stephen Wise

Amid concerns of a growing split between American Jewry and Israel, the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue earlier this year announced the launch of the Amplify Israel Fellowship, a yearlong program for 10 early-career Reform rabbis, at the Re-CHARGING Reform Judaism conference. The fellowship includes a seven-day symposium in Israel, two in-person seminars, five online study sessions and mentorship, with the goal of deepening the connection between future Reform leaders and Israel, reports Jay Deitcher for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Too fraught: The rift has gotten to the point where many Reform leaders avoid speaking on Israel completely because it’s “too fraught of a topic,” said Rabbi Tracy Kaplowitz of the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue. This means, she said, that those who want to connect to the Jewish community and learn about Israel are turning to outsiders who may not have the sensitivity or understanding about Israel’s complexity. “That’s a very risky prospect,” she said.

Broader trend: The fellowship, which is similar to a new initiative for Conservative rabbinical students, is being funded by the Lisa and Michael Leffell Foundation, Maimonides Fund, and The Paul E. Singer Foundation. The first cohort will be announced at the end of this month. “We simply can’t afford [to allow] the rift between American Jewry and Israel to intensify,” Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch, the senior rabbi of the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue, told eJP.

Read the full story here.

The power of culture

Reciting Kabbalat Shabbat in rural Guatemala

Oliver Gonzalez/IsraAid

“Growing up Jewish in a majority non-Jewish country came with plenty of small, daily challenges. Mostly, as a child, I was upset at being unable to swap the sweets in my packed lunch at summer camp. But the bigger picture is that I never expected to have my needs – kosher food, for instance – met by ‘mainstream providers’… For me, it was rarely more serious than the welcome surprise of colleagues ordering my birthday cake from a kosher bakery instead of the usual place around the corner. But in my current job, working with IsraAid and vulnerable communities all over the world, operating with an awareness of cultural and religious context is much more serious than cake,” writes Hannah Sharon, a development officer at IsraAid, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Adaptation is key: “Cultural competence is the foundation of every successful humanitarian program, especially those that serve minority and/or marginalized groups. In Alta Verapaz, this starts with language. At several of the rural primary schools that IsraAid partners with, few children and parents are fluent in Spanish. The consequences for their education can be devastating. Children cannot access the full range of academic and emotional support they need, leaving them at a much higher risk of dropping out. This heightens other vulnerabilities – exposing them to greater exposure to abuse and neglect, lack of access to nutrition monitoring and programs, and limited future livelihood. That’s why IsraAid’s team always includes native Q’eqchi’ speakers.”

Deeper meaning: “There are many practices in the humanitarian and philanthropic world that we do because we know they are effective, but often, through our own identities, traditions and personal experiences, we can find the deeper meaning of such practices and thus improve upon them. This is what forms the basis of cultural competence. This is what allows us to be trusted, accepted and impactful. This is how we use our unique beliefs, our diversity, to foster connection.”

Read the full piece here.

The Torah of Leadership

The zealous leader: Thoughts on Parshat Pinchas


“We admire zeal — a sense of fervor, ardor and eagerness pursued with intensity — and are also afraid of it. Ken Byler, in his 2019 article ‘Zealous Leadership,’ writes about zeal appeal. We need people to be zealous champions for causes, but we don’t want them to be fanatical, inflexible or intolerant,” writes Erica Brown, vice provost for values and leadership at Yeshiva University and director of its Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks-Herenstein Center, in her weekly column for eJewishPhilanthropy, “The Torah of Leadership.”

Zealotry for good: “The demands of leadership can take us temporarily out of our lane, but an enduring commitment to our values puts us back in it. What are you zealous about? When has that passion fueled your drive and when has it been a source of trouble? How can you channel it in constructive ways?”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Where Second Temple Jews Walked: In eJewishPhilanthropy’s sister publication Jewish Insider, Gabby Deutch reports on the City of David’s new excavation of a subterranean road in Jerusalem’s Old City. “On a recent Thursday afternoon, cars sped past the walls of the Old City while tourists gathered in small corners of shade… More than 15 feet underground, there’s another road, a quiet one, which is — for now, at least — off-limits to the people above. It’s less than a half-mile long, but its history dates back some 2,000 years. Known as the ‘stepped street,’ or the ‘Pilgrimage Road,’ the wide stone slabs that make up this pedestrian street were believed to be built by the Romans. The road was rediscovered by the Israel Antiquities Authority in 2004, after a sewage pipe burst… ‘I’ve been asked by many congressmen and many senators, “What is the likelihood that Jesus walked on this road?” And I tell them, “A conservative estimate is almost certainly 100%,”’ said Ze’ev Orenstein, director of international affairs at the City of David Foundation.” [JewishInsider]

Around the Web

Julie Childers was named the next CEO of Mayyim Hayyim Living Waters Community Mikveh and Paula Brody & Family Education Center of Newton, Mass.…

Rabbi Larry Sernovitz was named the new CEO of Hillels of Georgia, which presides over 10 campuses in the state…

The Jewish Theological Seminary appointed Joseph Maybloom as its next chief enrollment officer…

YIVO received a $350,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to create four digital collections about Jewish immigrant involvement in the labor movement in the United States…

Pardes Institute announced the establishment of the Shapira Family Chair in Rabbinic Literature. The chair is in honor of David and Cindy Shapira, Deborah Shapira and the David S. and Karen A. Shapira Family Foundation for their support of the institution over many years, particularly toward the construction of its future home in Jerusalem, Beit Karen, which is named in memory of Karen Shapira…

Jewish Federations of North America President and CEO Eric Fingerhut announced that the organization was “committed to the partnership with Chabad,” as it relates to ongoing relief efforts for Ukrainian Jewry during a meeting in Israel between the groups this week…

Congregation B’nai Israel in Sacramento, Calif., has been hosting three dozen Central and South American migrants who were flown to the state in private chartered planes by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis

The city of Hong Kong put up its first eruv, allowing observant Jews who abide by the concept to carry things freely on Shabbat…

Pic of the Day

Courtesy/the Israeli-American Coalition for Action

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu signs an executive order yesterday prohibiting the Granite State from investing in or contracting with companies that boycott Israel, as Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan (second from right), watches behind him.


Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images for ReedPOP

Academy Award-winning screenwriter, director, and producer, Akiva Goldsman

FRIDAY: A founder and former interim president of Hampshire College, Kenneth Rosenthal…Early collaborator on object-oriented computer programming in the 1970s, Adele Goldberg… Cardiologist and former president of CRIF in France, Richard Prasquier.. Israeli business mogul with vast holdings in energy (Delek Group) and real estate (El-Ad Group), Yitzhak Tshuva… Former president of Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a past member of the Knesset, Menachem Ben-Sasson… Pioneer of Israeli punk rock, nicknamed “HaMeshuga,” Rami Fortis… Former USAID official who consults internationally on Rule of Law issues, Richard Gold… President of the United Synagogue of the UK, he is also a trustee of the UK’s Chief Rabbinate Trust, Michael Howard Goldstein… President and CEO of HIAS since 2013, he first joined HIAS in 1989 as a caseworker in Rome, Mark Hetfield… Comic book creator and a cappella singer, he published the Passover Haggadah Graphic Novel, Jordan B. Gorfinkel… Television and film actress, Robin Weigert… Communications director for the Democratic Majority for Israel, Rachel Rosen… Consultant and project manager for non-profits, Amy Handman… Ethiopian-born Israeli actress, Netsanet Mekonnen… Olympic sports sailor, she competed for Israel in both the 2012 and 2016 Summer Olympics, Gil Cohen… Originally a figure skater and now a pairs skater, Megan Wessenberg … Shalom Klein…Israel Policy Forum Board member, Lawrence Gottlieb

SATURDAY: Emmy Award-winning singer and actor, part of the duo “Steve and Eydie,” Steve Lawrence (born Sidney Liebowitz)… Retired in 2016 after 26 years as executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council, Arthur “Art” Abramson… Democratic candidate for president in 2024, Marianne Deborah Williamson… Mayor of Farmington Hills, Mich., she is a former member of the Michigan State House of Representatives, Vicki Barnett… Attorney and Democratic politician from Texas, Barbara Ann Radnofsky… Attorney and a former U.S. ambassador to Belgium in the Obama administration, Howard Gutman… Partner of the global law firm Dentons, when he was elected attorney general of Georgia in 2010 (and re-elected in 2014) he became the first Jewish person in Georgia to win statewide office, Samuel Scott Olens… Former member of Knesset who had served as Israel’s foreign minister, justice minister, agriculture minister and housing minister, Tziporah Malka “Tzipi” Livni… Retired rabbi at Temple Emanuel in Beaumont, Texas, Rabbi Joshua S. Taub… Co-president of Rochester, N.Y.-based Hahn Automotive Warehouse, he is on the board of governors of the Jewish Federation of Greater Rochester, Eli N. Futerman… SVP and COO of the Jewish Communal Fund, Marina W. Lewin… Washington D.C. bureau chief of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Ron Kampeas… Consultant strategist, policy advisor and writer, he served as corporate counsel to Allstate Insurance for 28 years, Steven Richard Sheffey… Managing principal at Albright Stonebridge Group, Dan K. Rosenthal… Former ice hockey player, her three sons were 7th, 1st and 4th picks overall, respectively, in the 2018, 2019 and 2021 NHL Draft, Ellen Weinberg-Hughes… Higher education reporter for The Wall Street Journal, Douglas Belkin… Managing director at Harbor Group International, Meir Raskas… CEO and president of the Truman National Security Project, Jenna Ben-Yehuda… Atlanta-based educator, activist and writer, Robbie Medwed… Senior associate at Horizons Law and Consulting, Alon Sachar… Assistant to the president and White House staff secretary, Stefanie Feldman… Diplomatic correspondent at the Israeli public broadcasting corporation, Amichai Stein

SUNDAY: 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 M. Rubin… Arizona resident, Howard Cohen… Tikvah (Tiki) Lyons… Rabbi of Congregation Beth Jacob of Atlanta, Rabbi Ilan D. Feldman… U.S. 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 Chelst… Activist short seller, author and editor of the online investment newsletter Citron Research, Andrew Left… Actor, tour guide, poet, speaker, philosopher and author, Timothy “Speed” LevitchBloomberg Opinion columnist covering national security and foreign policy, Eli Lake… Anchor and reporter for Fox Business Network covering the NYSE, Lori Rothman… Peter Webb … Israeli documentary filmmaker, Guy Davidi… Tony Award-winning actor, Brandon Uranowitz… Renewable energy and climate specialist, Samantha Hea… Pitcher in the Los Angeles Angels organization, he played for Team Israel at the 2017 and 2023 World Baseball Classics, Jake Kalish… Pitcher in the Los Angeles Angels organization, currently on AAA Salt Lake Bees, Kenny Rosenberg