Your Daily Phil: New Israel Fund’s progressive initiatives attract new donors

Good Thursday morning.

Ed. note: This will be the last edition of Your Daily Phil for 2023. We will see you again in 2024. Shabbat shalom and happy new year!

In today’s edition of Your Daily Philwe report on the new donors supporting the New Israel Fund in response to the Israel-Hamas war, and on Israeli-American businessman Sam Zussman‘s Project Tkoomah, which works to meet the immediate needs of Israel’s internally displaced and other vulnerable populations. We feature an opinion piece by Sherri Mandell about Oct. 7 footage screenings on U.S. college campuses, and another by Elana Wien about building a safer and more respectful world for #UsToo. Also in this issue: Dan Elbaum, Brett Gelman and Steve Mnuchin. We’ll start with a look back on 2023.

The past year has been one of the most difficult years for the Jewish people in recent memory. Even before the vicious Oct. 7 massacres, which claimed the lives of more Jews than any attack since the Holocaust, and the ensuing, ongoing, punishing war in Gaza, there was turmoil and strife on the streets of Israel over the government’s planned judicial overhaul and record-high antisemitism around the world, writes eJewishPhilanthropy News Editor Judah Ari Gross.

While the internal Israeli divisions have largely faded to the background in the wake of the Simchat Torah attacks and the war with Hamas, antisemitism has soared globally and Israel has faced a humanitarian crisis within its own borders the likes of which it has never seen before, with hundreds of thousands of people displaced. Over 130 people remain in Hamas captivity, and the survivors of the attacks, their families and the families of the victims are expected to need significant physical and mental health care, beyond what the country is currently capable of providing. College campuses have emerged as a major source of antisemitic rhetoric and attacks, with Jewish students regularly harassed and alienated by anti-Israel protesters.

Philanthropy has played a critical role in addressing all of these tragedies and challenges. 

In the early days of the war, when the Israeli government was still scrambling to respond, Jewish federations, foundations, funds, nonprofits and ad hoc groups of industrious individuals stepped in to provide housing, food, psychological care and education to those affected by the fighting or provide soldiers and first responders with cold-weather gear and tactical equipment. Within Israel, one Hebrew University study found that roughly half of all Israeli adults had volunteered in some capacity following Oct. 7. The same study found that, bucking global trends, the majority of donations from Israelis came not from a small number of large funders but from large numbers of people giving smaller sums. A recent report by the Ruderman Family Foundation (currently only available in Hebrew) estimated that over $1 billion was raised by American Jews for Israel in the first month of the war, most of it Jewish federations.

In North America, community security organizations have worked to keep synagogues and other Jewish institutions safe amid rising numbers of antisemitic incidents across the continent and around the world, and advocates have lobbied for increased federal and state nonprofit security grants. University donors have used their influence to force schools to take a harsher stance against antisemitism.

But all of this work is only just beginning. The war between Israel and Hamas is still raging and skirmishes along Israel’s northern border with Lebanon threaten to escalate into a wider conflict. The physical and economic reconstruction of southern Israel will be a years-long endeavor, as will the work of caring for the victims of the war, physically, mentally and spiritually. New initiatives and policies will be needed to address and prevent antisemitism in the U.S., whether it’s born from ignorance, malice or some combination of the two. Philanthropists and Jewish communal organizations will have to tackle all of this while also remaining dedicated to their regular priorities as we enter 2024, and eJP will be tracking it all along the way.


Jewish and Arab Israeli women hold a peace demonstration at Tel Aviv’s HaBima Square on Dec. 15, 2023. Yahel Gazit/Middle East Images/AFP via Getty Images

Donations to the New Israel Fund have poured in since the Hamas attacks on Oct. 7, Jay Dietcher reports for eJewishPhilanthropy. Not including the $6 million raised by the progressive organization’s emergency campaign for Israel, their annual campaign raised north of $12 million in 2023 — up 34% from last year, and from 60% more donors.  

Different values: The NIF has often been maligned by right-wing politicians and activists, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, NIF Vice President of Public Engagement Libby Lenkinski noted. Yet when tragedy struck on Oct. 7, the fund provided Israelis with hotel rooms, food and medical care, at a time when many Israelis felt the government had left them behind. The rise in support for the NIF makes sense especially among American Jews, CEO Daniel Sokatch told eJP. “Many American Jews have no interest in supporting the policies, vision and agenda of this Israeli government, which they see, quite correctly, as antithetical to their own values and vision, but who are desperately connected to and deeply concerned with the well-being of Israel and Israelis,’ Sokatch said. ‘For those people, many of the more traditional kinds of venues for philanthropy to Israel during crisis are less appealing now because [other nonprofits are] so connected to official Israel at a point, [but these donors] don’t trust official Israel to be doing the right thing, like a majority of Israelis feel about this current government.”

Read the full report here.


Tkooma tackles immediate needs of Israel’s internally displaced

Volunteers and evacuees from southern Israel visit an acting school in Jerusalem, which has been converted into a volunteer center.

As a former IDF officer, Sam Zussman has long been familiar with the devastating impact that war can have on civilians. But after Hamas’ Oct. 7 terrorist attacks, the CEO of BSE Global, parent company of the Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center, initially felt powerless to help, he told eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen.

Shock to the system: “I was sitting for days glued to Israeli TV. What I saw was that overnight there was a shift in Israel where thousands of families all of a sudden had dead, wounded, missing members. People fled their homes. This brought about needs that never before existed on this scale,” Zussman, 54, who was born and raised in Israel and moved to the U.S. at age 27, told eJP. “The military needed to be drafted, the government was busy with defense and so you’re just witnessing a gapping new hole of civilian population in distress.” 

An opportunity to contribute: Zussman immediately noticed a lack of systems to help the 130,000 Israelis who instantly became displaced, in addition to the thousands who were grieving the loss of a loved one or the captivity of a family member being held in Gaza. About five days after the war started, “it dawned on me that that’s where I can help,” he said. “I realized that I needed to go to Israel and apply my rigorous analytical background and truly identify what the needs are and identify the ways by which we could help.” He teamed up with several other executives, community leaders and philanthropists, including Bank Leumi USA CEO Avner Mendelson, and founded Project Tkooma. Two and a half months later, the organization has raised more than $4 million.” 

Read the full report here.


Images of horror

Image by thisguyhere from Pixabay

“In May 2001, my 13-year-old son, Koby Mandell, and his friend Yosef Ish Ran were murdered by terrorists near our home in Israel… A few days later, the prime minister’s office called us: apparently photographs had been taken of the two boys’ battered bodies, and the prime minister’s assistant wanted to know if these photos could be released to the media,” writes Sherri Mandell, co-founder of the Koby Mandell Foundation, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

A heartbreaking fear: “My husband and I discussed it, and we decided that it would be too damaging and traumatic for our family and our other small children. For years I told nobody about this. Even though I am a writer, I did not write about it. I was terrified that those photos would be released, and that I would have to live with graphic evidence of cruelty and barbarism. I did not want to see photos of the mutilation of my precious son.” 

A different approach: “Now the films documenting the massacre of Black Friday, Oct. 7 have been released. I feel devastated for the families of those who are shown brutalized. It is excruciating as a parent or spouse to know that others are seeing the violence that was inflicted on their loved ones. At the same time, I am also rethinking my own response 22 years ago.”

Read the full piece here.


Safety, respect and equity is for #UsToo

Protestors gather at the offices of the United Nations Women on Nov. 27, 2023 in New York City. Photo by Michael M. Santigo/Getty Images

“At SRE Network — a network of over 170 Jewish workplaces and communal spaces across North America dedicated to implementing communal standards to prevent discrimination and harassment and to ensure safety, respect, and equity for all — we see, believe and stand with the victims and survivors of Oct. 7,” writes executive director Elana Wien in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

First steps: “This is why criminologist, educator, victim advocate and SRE Network senior advisor Dr. Guila Benchimol penned this powerful open letter to the survivors of the Hamas terrorist attack on Oct. 7. It’s why Guila and I, representing SRE Network, attended a United Nations Special Session focused on sexual and gender-based violence in the Oct. 7 Hamas terror attack on Dec. 4 in New York City. And it’s why SRE Network has reached out behind the scenes to gender justice and women’s movement leaders in secular spaces, calling on our partners and letting them know why silence and denial are not an option.”

What you can do: “How do we move forward after the unthinkable? How do we continue to partner in community after the crushing silence from our allies? … We get informed, lift up our voices, invest in healing and resiliency and continue to advocate for a better, safer and more respectful world.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

In This Together: In the The Jerusalem Post, Dan Elbaum of the Jewish Agency for Israel encourages Israeli and American Jews to forge or strengthen connections with non-Jewish members of Israeli society. “Something remarkable is happening among Israel’s Arab citizens that we must take a moment to absorb. Despite racist and xenophobic rhetoric from some Israeli leaders, a November poll from the Israel Democracy Institute found that the percentage of Arab citizens of Israel who feel kinship with the state has risen to 70% since October 7 compared to 48% when the survey was taken in June. This number is the highest it has been in decades. A December poll from the Konrad Adenauer Program for Jewish-Arab Cooperation showed that more than 80% of Israel’s Arabs support efforts by Arab citizens to help Jewish residents in the south and a majority favored Arab Israeli support for Israel’s public relations during the war. The same poll revealed that for the first time in the poll’s history, the percentage of Israeli Arabs who identified as Israeli (33%) was higher (albeit within the margin of error) than the number who identified as Palestinian (32%)… October 7 was the darkest day in Israel’s history, but it was a clarifying one. There is an opportunity here for both Israelis and American Jews to show deeper camaraderie and kinship with Israel’s non-Jewish citizens. This opportunity will not exist forever, and it would behoove all of us to take steps to meet it.” [JPost]

SJP 101: In the Forward, Arno Rosenfeld recounts the history of Students for Justice in Palestine and how the group has evolved over the last three decades into a “sprawling network that is testing the boundaries of student activism,” with multiple chapters suspended since the Oct. 7 terror attack on Israel. “Despite the club’s emergence as both a point of pride for supporters of the Palestinian cause and a lightning rod for criticism from Israel’s defenders, not much is publicly known about its history and how it operates… Interviews with 14 current and former top leaders, and others close to Students for Justice in Palestine, tell the story of a network that was founded to press for Palestinian rights as a reasoned voice during the heady days of the Oslo peace process but has grown more strident as Israelis and Palestinians themselves have taken more extreme positions. While the current Israel-Gaza war has raised the network’s profile, and current leaders say it is ‘stronger than ever,’ some former organizers raised concerns about the movement’s direction.” [Forward]

Around the Web

William Daroff, CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, was elected the first chair of the J7, the Large Jewish Communities’ Task Force Against Antisemitism… 

JCRC Bay Area received a $1.2 million grant from the Koret Foundation to expand its education initiative in California public schools…

United Hatzalah raised $18 million at its 4th annual Miami gala, which featured performances by Israeli musicians Idan Raichel and Noa Kirel

All Bedouin areas within Israel, whether designated as recognized and unrecognized by Israel’s government, will now be protected by the Iron Dome

Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) announced he would be donating a portion of his salary to the Florida Holocaust Museum in St. Petersburg and the Jewish Federations of North America

The Biden administration released a proposed plan that would limit cutting down old-growth trees in an effort to protect trees that store carbon dioxide and help reduce climate change

OurCrowd, an Israeli investment platform, has raised $13 million in capital commitments for its $50 million Israel Resilience Fund, which was launched in the wake of Oct. 7 to support startups that have been impacted by the war or have pivoted to assist Israel’s needs…  

While in Israel, actors Debra Messing and Brett Gelman visited hospitalized survivors of the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks… 

More than 400 Jewish facilities around the U.S. received false bomb threats via email last weekend, the ADL reports, noting that the threats came from outside of the country… 

Jewish Family & Children’s Service, a Phoenix-based human services nonprofit, has tapped Analise Ortiz and Peter Moraga as its new board members… 

The Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., is temporarily closed while police investigate “Free Gaza” graffiti found on the west side of the Reflecting Pool… 

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/Combatting Antisemitism Movement and Artists 4 Israel

A “Bring Them Home Now” poster mural in Culver City, Calif., created by the Combat Antisemitism Movement and Artists 4 Israel. Spanning 120 feet in length and 22 feet in height, the installation, unveiled Wednesday, features mirrors at eye level that invite passersby to see themselves in the posters.


Annie Liebovitz smiles
Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

CEO of WndrCo and the former CEO of DreamWorks Animation and chairman of Walt Disney Studios, Jeffrey Katzenberg

Former minister and member of Knesset for more than 36 years, David Levy… Former chair of the NY Fed and a partner at Goldman Sachs, Stephen Friedman… Producer of over 90 plays on and off Broadway for which she has won seven Pulitzer Prizes and ten Tony Awards, Daryl Roth… Born in Auschwitz five weeks before liberation, she is one of only two babies born there known to have survived, Angela Orosz-Richt… Artistic director laureate of the New World Symphony, conductor, pianist and composer, Michael Tilson Thomas (family name was Thomashefsky) … Member of Knesset since 1999 for the Likud party, now serving as Minister of Tourism, Haim Katz… Director of the LA Initiative at the UCLA School of Public Affairs, he was a member of the LA County Board of Supervisors for 20 years following 20 years on the LA City Council, Zev Yaroslavsky… Film, television and voice actor, Barry Gordon… Former member of the Legislative Assembly of Victoria, where she became the first female Jewish minister in Australia, Marsha Rose Thomson… Atlanta-based criminal defense attorney and behind-the-scenes fixture in the world of rap musicians, Drew O. Findling… Retired four-star general who served as chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force, David L. Goldfein… Former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, Steven Mnuchin turns… Senior NFL insider for ESPN, Adam Schefter… Owner of Liberty Consultants in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area, Cherie Velez… Former member of the Knesset for the Kulanu party, Rachel Azaria… President of France since 2017, Emmanuel Macron… Principal of Kona Media and Message, he is also the founder of Scriber, Brian Goldsmith… Israeli actor and fashion model, Michael Mario Lewis… Chief creative officer of Five Seasons Media, Josh Scheinblum… EVP in the financial services practice at Weber Shandwick, Julia Bloch Mellon… Assistant metro editor for the Boston GlobeJoshua Miller