Your Daily Phil: New fund in memory of Habonim Dror chairman slain by terrorists

Good Monday morning.

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on American Friends of Magen David Adom honoring boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr., and feature an opinion piece by Naava Shafner and Sharon Weiss-Greenberg about victim support and abuse prevention post-Oct. 7 and another by Shelley Rood Wernick about an initiative supporting Holocaust survivors. Also in this newsletter: Ruth MessingerMeira Lerner and Charles “Corky” Goodman. We’ll start with the launch of a new fund in honor of Ofir Libstein, an Israeli mayor and Habonim Dror leader who was killed in the Hamas attacks.

The Habonim Dror youth movement launched the “Ofir’s Light Fund” last week in honor of its chairman and the mayor of the Sha’ar Hanegev region, Ofir Libstein, who was killed in a gun battle with Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7 in his hometown of Kfar Aza, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross.

The fund is meant to preserve two initiatives that Libstein founded as chairman of the movement and to create a leadership program, in partnership with the Israeli leadership training nonprofit Maoz, the chairman of the fund, Asif Izek, told eJP.

“The fund that we created will allow us to continue to follow the light of Ofir, who was a leader in every fiber of his being, who loved the Jewish people and the land of Israel,” Habonim Dror CEO Shiri Madar, who proposed the fund, said at the launch event on Wednesday at Kibbutz Ein HaCarmel on Israel’s northern coast.

The Ofir’s Light Fund is meant to continue those two programs — a teen leadership program called Hallelujah and an initiative to strengthen small Jewish communities called Netaim (saplings) — and also create a new adult leadership training initiative that will also be named for Libstein. “Our plan is to create a leadership course for the Jewish people and have it be as prestigious as possible, to create a network of Jewish leaders to strengthen their communities and one another,” Izek said.

Izek, who is also the mayor of the Hof HaCarmel region, said the fund has already raised several hundred thousand shekels and planned to raise a total of NIS 2 million in the coming year. “We are in talks with philanthropic donors and with government offices,” he said.

Though the fund is affiliated with the Labor Zionist Habonim Dror movement, it will be overseen by a committee from across Israel’s political and religious spectrum, including former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira of the Gur Hasidic movement and actor Sasha Baron Cohen (who was a member of Habonim Dror as a teenager), among others.

Izek said the proposed leadership program would also not “have the Habonim Dror brand” and would be open to anyone, not only people affiliated with the movement.

“It’s a leadership program, with Maoz, for the leaders of the Jewish people,” Izek said. “We want a network of people who know how to speak to each other in normal times and times of emergency, who know each other’s needs, so we can ultimately strengthen the Jewish people.”

Read the full report here.


Boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. appears on-stage at an American Friends of Magen David Adom gala in Miami Beach on Dec. 13, 2023.

American Friends of Magen David Adom awarded its “Champion of Israel” prize to boxing legend Floyd Mayweather Jr. last week for his donations to the Israeli medical service, including the creation of “Floyd’s Fleet” of emergency response vehicles, at a gala event in Miami Beach, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross.

Appreciate allies: In addition to the award, Mayweather, who sent his private jet to Israel with equipment multiple times, was given a fluorescent yellow-green Magen David Adom vest with his name spelled out in English and Hebrew in red rhinestones. “During these challenging times for the Jewish community, it is absolutely crucial that we stand up and recognize leaders like Floyd, who are not members of the Jewish community, but stand with us and against terror, bias, and hate,” Jessica Nessim, director of major gifts for AFMDA’s southwest region, said at the event.

Read the full report here.


What is essential?

Backlit silhouette of a woman from the shoulders up, standing in a field.
Photo by StockSnap from Pixabay

“Oct. 7 changed the face of Israel, and it also changed the Jewish philanthropic landscape. We have seen a groundswell of incredibly heartening generosity. And yet, as the director of strategic development and a board member of Magen for Jewish Communities — an organization that helps victims of sexual abuse advocate, speak up and pursue justice while supporting their healing journey — we’ve also taken note of some concerning trends in the post-Oct. 7 philanthropic world,” write Naava Shafner and Sharon Weiss-Greenberg in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Need you don’t see: “Major foundations and individual funders have cumulatively donated over $700 million towards ‘essential needs’: causes supporting those directly affected by the war with immediate physical needs to address. It is true that people were forced to flee their homes with only the clothes on their backs; but the emotional baggage of the experiences of survivors and evacuees is a heavy burden that is not being adequately addressed to meet the massive post-Oct. 7 demand.”

Fresh traumas, new dangers: “Our crisis hotline is responding to calls from new survivors needing support and with calls from triggered survivors needing support… Additionally, abusers never miss an opportunity to take advantage of the vulnerable. Hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people have been evacuated, and many vulnerable children are isolated at home. Women and children are being hosted in strangers’ homes and hotels… Mental health support, supporting survivors, and protecting our children from abuse is an essential need, even and especially in times like this.”

Read the full piece here.


10 years on, the impact of Biden’s Holocaust survivor initiative is still growing

Shelley Rood Wernick thanks then-Vice President Biden following his announcement of the White House Holocaust Survivor Initiative. Photo by William Daroff

“On Dec. 10, 2013, I braved the cold that had shut down Washington, D.C., to hear then-Vice President Joe Biden address the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee’s centennial anniversary luncheon,” writes Shelley Rood Wernick, managing director of the Jewish Federations of North America’s Center on Holocaust Survivor Care and Institute on Aging and Trauma, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Culmination and new beginning: “As an advocate for Jewish federations and family service agencies, I had spent 2013 in near daily contact with the White House, Congress, local service providers and philanthropists, making the case for Holocaust survivors in the U.S. — a population whose unique needs required innovative solutions from government and civil society. I knew that today Biden would launch the result of all of our ideas and efforts.”

The big picture: “The ensuing program has touched the lives of more than 40,000 Holocaust survivors, and it has spurred a national movement to help all older adults as they age… The Jewish community has developed and shared the person-centered, trauma-informed (PCTI) approach to care — an innovative framework that has proven successful at helping survivors and other older adults by recognizing the impact of trauma — and created a national resource center, authorized by Congress, with the aim of spreading PCTI care throughout aging services… For so many years, Holocaust survivors have been our teachers and our heroes. In the years to come, their legacy will continue to teach us about how to make the world better for all people.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

It’s the Endowments, Stupid: In the Forward, Israeli Harvard University graduate student Barak Sella explains why university presidents appeared callous at this month’s House Committee on Education and the Workforce hearing and what it bodes for the American Jewish community. “President Claudine Gay took immediate and personal action on a complaint I submitted against an administration worker suspected of antisemitism. She also established a committee for combating antisemitism and was one of the few university presidents to condemn the chant ‘from the river to the sea.’ So how does it happen that she, along with the women leading MIT and UPenn, couldn’t unequivocally answer such a simple question? It’s pretty simple. A university president’s primary role is to preserve the institution’s economic value and power. They are not the guardians of American democracy…. A president will be deemed successful if the endowment and donations have increased at the end of their tenure, not by their moral stances. That’s why we expect leadership but get reactive behavior that only tries to put out fires… This will be just another chapter of the unending culture wars. Once it was abortions or gender education, now it’s college antisemitism. The problem is that when Jews are in the middle, it never ends well for any of us.” [Forward]

Considering the Implications: In The Chronicle of Philanthropy, academic Benjamin Soskis joins nonprofit leaders and funders in weighing in on donor influence and free-speech politics following the resignation of Elizabeth Magill from the University of Pennsylvania. “‘Assertions of donor prerogatives certainly aren’t novel, especially on college campuses… What does feel new, however, is the public and performative nature of those assertions, a sort of Elon Musk-ification of higher-ed philanthropy. In the past, such demands and threats were typically made behind closed doors and brought to light only after the fact… This mix of major-donor dynamics and online social activism is a combustible one… We should ask ourselves these questions: What would campaigns targeting universities around charges of antisemitism look like if major donors took a more backseat role? And what would future campaigns targeting other nonprofits look like if major donors emerge as more aggressive, public figures within them?’” [ChronicleofPhilanthropy]

The Great Escape: In The Wall Street Journal, Alan Futerman and Walter Block illustrate how the historical demand for the Jewish people to “outsource their protection to the goodwill of others” predates the modern State of Israel — and has never paid off. “Jews were prisoners of an inescapable sinister circle: Enter a society, live and thrive there for some time, and soon enough be robbed, attacked, murdered or expelled. And then, each time, nothing happens… With their national homeland, Jews gained the power to defend themselves. The circle was finally broken. But it continues to haunt them, as Oct. 7 showed. For a few hours, we saw with utmost clarity what it means to be Jewish without Israel, and especially without the Israel Defense Forces. What we have witnessed these past few months hasn’t been the exception throughout Jewish history. Rather, it has been the norm… This was Jewish history for 2,000 years. It now seems like the exception because there is a factor that didn’t exist 75 years ago… Jews are human beings with self-respect. They won’t accept gratuitous and unwarranted attacks or vicious rapes. They won’t accept mass murder — never again. Jews will defend themselves. They may be condemned to dwell alone, but if so, they will do it as a people. In their own homeland. Finally.” [WSJ]

Around the Web

Hundreds of synagogues, Jewish federations, JCCs and other institutions across the U.S. were evacuated after receiving false bomb threats over the weekend. In Washington, D.C., a man was arrested after he sprayed a “foul-smelling substance” on visitors to the city’s Kesher Israel Congregation and he shouted “Gas the Jews”…

The Times of Israel spotlights one Atlanta-area synagogue, Congregation Beth Shalom, which has been increasing its safety precautions with help from the Secure Communities Network in light of these growing threats…

Jewish Story Partners, which was created by Kate Capshaw and Steven Spielberg’s Righteous Persons Foundation and Maimonides Fundissued $450,000 in new grants toward 18 documentary films about the Holocaust or antisemitism…

Mayim Bialik will no longer host “Jeopardy!” after filling in, off and on, for the past two years after the death of Alex Trebek. This leaves former champion Ken Jennings as the show’s sole host…

The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation issued more than $6.5 million in grants to nonprofits in Montana…

The Washington Post examines how the Reform movement, which is officially and explicitly Zionist,  has been responding to the Israel-Hamas war when many of its members have far more critical views of Israel…

A new report by Candid and the Center for Disaster Philanthropy found that disaster-related funding has decreased significantly since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, but is nearly eight times higher than 2019…

Ruth Messinger, the long-time president of the American Jewish World Servicecelebrated her second bat mitzvah earlier this month at age 83…

The Chronicle of Philanthropy lists the “philanthropy buzzwords” that are expected to be prevalent in the coming year…

Israeli rehabilitation hospitals are struggling to cope with the thousands of people who have been injured in the Israel-Hamas war

Freed Israeli hostage Yarden Roman-Gat appeared on “60 Minutes” this weekend, discussing her time in Hamas captivity and her split-second decision while fleeing her captors on Oct. 7 to hand her daughter to her husband, Alon Gat, who was able to get them both to safety…

The New Yorker profiles Students for Justice in Palestine and how it “appeal[s] to people who know nothing” and indoctrinates them about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Marxism…

The 1994 Charles B. Degenstein Foundation donated $10 million to Pennsylvania’s Susquehanna University to fund renovations and additions to the Charles B. Degenstein Campus Center

Heather Barbour of the Islamic Community Center of Anchorage, Alaska, and Rabbi Abram Goodstein of the city’s Congregation Beth Sholom wrote a joint opinion piece stressing the need for Jewish-Muslim cooperation

Meira Lerner, the head of operations and administration at the Diaspora Department of the World Zionist Organizationcalled for the Israeli government to include funding for programs for Diaspora Jewry in its war-time budget…

The Associated Press looks at how the Israel-Hamas war and general support by many Black Americans for the Palestinian cause are affecting Black-Jewish cooperation

Charles “Corky” Goodman, who worked in the family business of his in-laws, the Crown family, and served in leadership roles in a number of local and international Jewish communal organizations, died on Saturday at 90…

Pic of the Day

Over 50,000 people attend the traditional Birkat Kohanim (Priestly Blessing) at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City today, during Chol Hamoed (the intermediary days) of Sukkot.
Courtesy/The Jewish Agency for Israel

The Jewish Agency for Israel and the Israeli Immigration and Absorption Ministry hosted an aliyah fair yesterday in Paris in light of a growing number of people who have expressed an interest in moving to Israel since Oct. 7.

According to the Jewish Agency and the ministry, there has been a sizeable increase in the number of people who have opened aliyah files in the past 2.5 months (the first step in immigrating to Israel).


Annie Liebovitz smiles
Emilio Madrid/Getty Images for Netflix

Co-founder of DreamWorks Studios, Academy Award-winning director of “Schindler’s List” and “Saving Private Ryan” plus many other box-office record-setters like “E.T.” and “Jaws,” Steven Spielberg

Founder of supply chain firm HAVI, active in over 100 countries, in 2019 he and his wife Harriette pledged $25 million to BBYO, Theodore F. Perlman… Winner of the 1989 Nobel Prize in Medicine, he served as director of NIH for seven years and then director of the National Cancer Institute for 15 years, Harold Eliot Varmus… Office manager in the D.C. office of Kator, Parks, Weiser & Wright, Ramona Cohen… Member of the House of Representatives since 2009 (R-FL), William Joseph (Bill) Posey… Former CFO of the Pentagon in the Bush 43 administration, he is presently a senior advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Dov S. Zakheim… Film critic, historian and author of 14 books on cinema, Leonard Maltin… Winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Economics, professor at both Stanford and Harvard, Alvin Eliot Roth… Network engineer sometimes called “the mother of the Internet” for her inventions of the spanning-tree protocol (STP) and the TRILL protocol, Radia Joy Perlman… Diplomat and ambassador, now President Biden’s special envoy for humanitarian issues in Gaza, David Michael Satterfield… Television writer, producer and director, best known as the co-creator and executive producer of the award-winning series “24,” Joel Surnow… Labor leader and president of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten… Founder and chief executive of Third Point LLC, Daniel S. Loeb… Retired editor of The Jewish ChronicleStephen Pollard… Member of the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency for Israel, Gael Grunewald… Director of development at American Friends of ALYN Hospital, Erica Skolnick… Partner at the communications firm 30 Point Strategies, formerly a speechwriter and Jewish liaison in the Bush 43 White House, Noam Neusner… Special envoy of Israel’s Foreign Ministry to combat antisemitism, former member of the Knesset, Michal Cotler-Wunsh… Motivational speaker and teacher, his book about his own coping with Tourette syndrome was made into a Hallmark movie, Brad Cohen… Member of the House of Representatives (D-FL) since earlier this year, Jared Moskowitz… Director of policy for New York’s Governor Kathy Hochul, Micah Lasher… Manager of public policy and government relations for Wing Australia at Google, he was a White House aide in the Bush 43 administration, Jesse Suskin… Senior producer at CNN’s “State of the Union,” Rachel Streitfeld… Multi-instrumentalist, composer and educator, known for his double bass performances, Adam Ben Ezra… Winner of four straight NCAA Women’s Water Polo Championships while at UCLA, now a VP of business development at Brainard Strategy, Jillian Amaris Kraus… AVP of external affairs at the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, Marc Ashed… Eliezer H. (Elie) Peltz… Consultant at Brussels-based Trinomics, Jessica Glicker… Senior associate at Dataminr, Emily Cooper