Your Daily Phil: New Jerusalem exhibit tells the story of Oct. 7

Good Monday morning. Today is Israel’s Memorial Day, Yom HaZikaron.

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on a new initiative to honor the growing number of fallen female members of Israel’s security services, and on a new Hillel International study showing how campus anti-Israel protests are affecting Jewish students. We feature an opinion piece by Rabbi Doron Perez about the loss of his son, Daniel, on Oct. 7 and what his family has gained, and another by Rabbi David M. Kessel about the balancing of life and death, joy and sadness, as we move from Israels Memorial Day to Israel’s Independence Day. Also in this newsletter: Carol Ann SchwartzPhil Rosenberg and James “Jim” Simons. We’ll start with a new exhibition about the Oct. 7 attacks that is opening now at the Museum of Tolerance Jerusalem.

Almost two months ago, when Shelly Shem Tov agreed to record her story as part of an exhibit featuring the personal testimonies of 25 women about their experiences on Oct. 7, she fully expected to be at the opening at the Museum of Tolerance Jerusalem with her son Omer, 21 — who was kidnapped from the Nova music festival and taken captive into Gaza by Hamas — by her side.

Instead, she was standing alone at the Jerusalem exhibit curated by her partner, Malki Shem Tov, watching her life-size image on a video screen relate how their son was captured at the festival after her Oct. 6 birthday celebration in which she silently thanked God for all the good in her life. The next day her unending nightmare began, and she has become one of the well-known figures in the hostage families’ struggle to bring home the hostages, who have now been in captivity for over 219 days, reports Judith Sudilovsky for eJewishPhilanthropy.

The museum exhibit, “06:29 From Darkness to Light,” premiered last Thursday afternoon in an opening for diplomats and journalists in the presence of Israeli President Isaac Herzog and Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion. The exhibit will open to the public on May 20.

“The magnitude of the disaster and the intensity of the cruelty we experienced in October which we see in the video shown at the beginning of the exhibition has left such a powerful darkness that sometimes it seems that it is too much for the eye and heart to absorb,” said Herzog at the opening. “Precisely in this difficult reality the exhibition here at the Museum of Tolerance brings such an important voice.”

The fitting naming of the exhibit from darkness to light reminds people that though they should not look away from the darkness they should at the same time always “turn to the light,” he said.

The exhibition is meant to cause attendees to grapple with the atrocities of Oct. 7, Shelly Shem Tov told eJP.

“There are no words in the Hebrew language to describe the things that happened here on Oct. 7,” she said, after she had walked through the exhibit at the opening. “To actually come here and confront [the day] quietly, only as a place of listening is important. So it is important for the government to listen and connect to the personal story and pain of everyone. To come and feel, and not put things aside. This place tells the story of so many women. I want to tell the government to take an example from the Israeli people who have been so united, and to go to the mat — both the coalition and the opposition — to bring the hostages home.”

The exhibit begins with a stark wall flashing the large digital numbers “06:29,” the time Hamas launched its attack on Israel. Then the visitor is faced with photos from the devastated southern communities taken by photojournalist Ziv Koren shortly after the Hamas attack. Next, the exhibit moves to a short film narrated by 15-year-old Ella Shani, from Kibbutz Be’eri whose father was murdered, grandparents injured and cousin kidnapped. Two mobile shelters were created for the exhibition where recordings of sirens and communication devices will be heard, taking visitors through the moments of fear civilians felt while hiding from terrorists and rockets. Visitors will then continue through the shelters to view the 25 personal testimonies shown, in the dark, on 25 life-size interactive screens, featuring women who were injured, fought terrorists, saved lives of wounded civilians and soldiers, taken hostage, lost loved ones or had a family member taken captive by Hamas.

In the last part of the exhibition, a series of clips shot by producer Kobi Sitt present the solidarity of the Israeli public, which came together on Oct. 7 and the months that followed, as a way to ignite a “light of hope in the darkness,” according to the museum, and as a reminder that “even in the most difficult times, these is good in the world.”

The recorded testimonies are also meant to serve as evidence of what happened on Oct. 7 and provide another layer in which people can hear the story and create more awareness, Malki Shem Tov told eJP.

“This is what I normally do, curating exhibits, in shows and museums. This time it’s become really a personal story for me,” he said. “My son is still in Gaza and he is there already [219] days and we are waiting for him. Our lives were overtaken by an overwhelming darkness that touched every aspect [of our lives]. We need people all over the world to hear about the story, to know more about the story.”

Read the full report here.


Paying homage to Israel’s fallen female soldiers

Teens from across the country celebrate Opening Session of USY International Convention in Orlando, Fla. with teens from the Metropolitan New York area.
Courtesy/Project Dvorah

On the surface, a new website titled Women Warriors is a heartbreaking tribute to the 52 young Israeli women — soldiers, police officers and paramedics — killed while serving their country over the last seven months of war. But the creators of the first-of-its-kind site, which was launched ahead of the country’s annual Memorial Day on Monday and features a history of Israeli women’s contribution to the security establishment, are hopeful that it will also stand as testament to the changing roles of women and their abilities in a field — and an institution — largely dominated by men, reports Ruth Marks Eglash for eJewishPhilanthropy’s sister publication Jewish Insider.

Tell their stories: “Our goal was to create a website that provides all the information about women who have fallen [in service to the country],” Col. (res.) Maya Heller, chairperson of Forum Dvorah, a nonprofit that promotes the equal representation of women in key decision-making positions in the fields of national security and foreign policy — and the mastermind behind the project — told JI. “Not all the female soldiers killed on Oct. 7 were in combat roles, but even so, we heard many brave stories of these soldiers, who fought without guns or any kind of combat training,” Heller said of the website, which will soon be translated into English, adding: “They simply understood the need to defend the country… and they paid the ultimate price.”

A growing phenomenon: Miri Eisen, a retired IDF colonel and a co-founder of Forum Dvorah, told JI that as the number of women in combat roles has increased — ranging from infantry units to tanks commands to vital communication positions, including in the reserves — so has the number of  fallen female soldiers. “This is the first war where we are seeing women at all different levels and their heroism needs to be celebrated,” she said, adding that it was especially important given dissenting voices in Israeli society that still believe women should remain excluded from certain military roles or left out of the army entirely.

Studies in courage: One of the stories highlighted on the Women Warriors website belongs to Sgt. Eden Alon Levy, 19, who was killed in hand-to-hand combat with Hamas terrorists on her army base of Zikim, on Oct. 7. According to accounts by other soldiers who were present, Eden, a commander for new recruits in the army’s search and rescue unit, instructed the younger soldiers to seek shelter while she faced dozens of invading terrorists. “The minute you choose this path, to be a fighter, then you understand that it’s your duty to do whatever you can to protect your soldiers,” her mother, Inbar Alon Levy, a retired police officer, told JI. “Eden wasn’t just a soldier; she was a commander, and she knew her duty. I feel real pride that she stood there and fought back.”

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


Most Jewish college students say anti-Israel protests disrupted their classes; a quarter say they faced physical or verbal assault

Anti-Israel protesters march outside Columbia University in New York City on April 18, 2024.
Anti-Israel protesters march outside Columbia University in New York City on April 18, 2024. Ken Betancur/AFP via Getty Images

“A new Jewish Federations of North America survey of Jewish Americans and the general public, funded by and developed in partnership with The Diane and Guilford Glazer Foundation, helps us quantify and appreciate the changes happening around Jewish identity, engagement and community at this pivotal time,” write Mimi Kravetz, Sarah Eisenman and David Manchester — the chief impact and growth officer, chief community and Jewish life officer, and senior director of community data and research development for JFNA — in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Craving community: “One of the key findings of the survey is what we call ‘The Surge’: Of the 83% of Jews who were ‘only somewhat,’ ‘not very’ or ‘not at all engaged’ prior to Oct. 7, a whopping 40% are now showing up in larger numbers in Jewish life. This group — equal to 30% of all Jewish adults and nearly double the proportion of Jews who identify as ‘deeply-engaged’ — represents the greatest opportunity for broadening and deepening Jewish life… While these members of The Surge report craving substantive engagement, such as discussions about antisemitism and more education about Israel, they crave community even more during this moment… They feel most welcome and comfortable at Jewish events when they know other people there (77%), when someone personally invites them (51%) and when they see themselves reflected in the people who attend (42%).”  

Looking to learn and lead: “The 17% of people in the Jewish community who were already engaged at a high level — what we call ‘The Core’ — are also saying they want more from Jewish communal organizations now. The Core is avidly seeking deeper educational and leadership development opportunities. They want to talk substantively about what’s happening in Israel and about antisemitism, and to gain advocacy tools to support Israel as well.”

Read the full piece here.


Gifts from our fallen son, Daniel Perez, z”l

The last picture of IDF Cpt. Daniel Perez, taken Friday, October 6, 2023 at 6 p.m., close to his base in southern Israel. (Courtesy)

“On Oct. 7, our son Daniel, an officer and commander of his tank crew, was based in the Nachal Oz army base in southern Israel. They fought courageously and valiantly for two and a quarter hours until their tank was eventually overrun by Hamas terrorists,” writes Rabbi Doron Perez, executive chairman of World Mizrachi, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

A revelatory find: “Daniel left us with a diary that he had been writing before his death — something we knew nothing about… The first page of the diary, which he began writing in preparation for his first position as a commanding officer, opens with a heading: ‘Things I think about before going to sleep.’ The first thing he mentions is the impact of his high school Poland trip, particularly after visiting the extermination camps — the price we paid as Jews not having a state and ability to defend ourselves. Now we have the privilege of a Jewish state and the opportunity to defend our national home and our families. He then concludes this first point with a charge for himself: ‘Im lo ani, az mi?’ ‘If not me, then who?’”

A duty and a privilege: “In Daniel’s deepest thoughts about his purpose at this point in his life, he felt the privilege of being a soldier and the need to stand up and be counted (‘If not me, then who?’) — not to shirk responsibility but to assume it to do whatever he could for his people and family… Yom HaZikaron commemorates the incredible price we have paid for Israel and the enormous pain that we feel. Yom HaAtzmaut celebrates the miraculous privilege we have of an independent state of Israel in our day — a privilege we ought never take for granted.”

Read the full piece here.


Creating space for hope at a time of antisemitism and war

Taken by photojournalist Erez Kaganovitz, this is one of the images featured in the “Humans of October 7” exhibit at multiple JCCs across North America during Yom HaZikaron and Yom HaAtzmaut. Erez Kaganovitz/Courtesy/JCC Association

“On the final day of Passover this year, Yizkor, the memorial prayers, took on special significance,” writes Rabbi David M. Kessel, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy“The Yizkor service preceding this Passover took place at the end of Sukkot — on Oct. 7 itself… Nearly seven months later, the Passover Yizkor became another communal moment for us to grieve, remember those we lost on our darkest day since the Holocaust and acknowledge the rawness of our anger, disbelief and sadness.”

A hard juxtaposition: “Yizkor was the emotional rock bottom of the service for me. Just moments earlier, we were singing Hallel: a beautiful arrangement of Psalms for festive times, an expression of thanks for our blessings and a meditation of celebration and rejoicing. But I was reminded that we don’t skip Hallel — not during intensely painful times, and not even during these last seven months. Instead, we create space for a moment of joy and hopefulness to strengthen our resilience and remind us that dark times eventually give way to light. Balancing Yizkor and Hallel — death and life, and the waves of emotions associated with each — reflects the emotional whiplash that so many have been feeling since Oct. 7.”

The founders’ intent: “Yom HaZikaron and Yom HaAtzmaut evoke emotional whiplash as well. In fact, Israel’s founders intentionally established them as contiguous holidays for that very purpose… Yom HaZikaron includes a special Yizkor memorial prayer, a reminder that terrorism and war have direct and devastating impacts on every Israeli. And then on Yom HaAtzmaut, we turn to Hallel and its call for hope and gratitude… JCC leaders and their organizations are navigating this moment of disruption and pain, even as the ground continues to shift under our feet. JCCs are centers of Jewish joy and celebration; and while this year joy and celebration feel out-of-step with the emotional realities of the moment, we still let in the light. Even as our hearts hold the heavy burden reflected in Yizkor, it’s Hallel that makes our hearts sing and inspires the resolve to move forward.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

A Precedent to Follow: In Haaretz, Israel Harel counters calls for canceling or muting Yom HaAtzmaut festivities in the face of the continuing hostage crisis and ongoing losses. “Independence Day 1949. The State of Israel marks its first year. The Jewish state was still fighting for its life… The small Jewish community, numbering about 650,000, grieved the deaths of around 6,000 people in the course of the war and feared for the lives of over 15,000 wounded being treated in the country’s too-few and too-small hospitals, which were overwhelmed. When the day came (Memorial Day was not yet observed), everyone gathered in the city squares: There was spontaneous hora dancing and improvised bandstands and torchlight parades. And all this, as noted, took place in the midst of an existential war… Bereaved mothers and fathers gave inspiring speeches. Although the war was not over, the Israel Defense Forces, under the orders of Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, held parades in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv… There is no arguing with emotions. But the demands, accompanied by demonstrations, to cancel the Independence Day celebrations are (very unsurprisingly) similar to the demand to accept the dictates of Hamas… And to the optimistic majority, which believes in the state and in its inhabitants’ ability to reverse the bitter reality, I quote Rabbi Tamir Granot, whose son died in this war: ‘In order to hurt, you do not need to forgo joy. Lift up your head, stand tall!’” [Haaretz]

This Year, Go South: In a posthumously published piece in The Times of Israel, Zechariah Pesach Haber — who was killed in action in Gaza in January 2024 — calls for celebrating Yom HaAtzmaut with communities who could use the gesture of support. “The idea is simple: you wanted to barbecue on the beach in Tel Aviv? Barbecue on the beach of Ashkelon. You want to hike around Beit Shemesh, Nahal Alexander, or the Dead Sea? Hike around Eshkol Park, Nitzana or Chevel Lachish? You planned on going out in Modiin? Do the same instead in Be’er Sheva. You want to see the planes flying over in Jerusalem? See the same planes flying over Kiryat Gat… I’m not saying that whoever doesn’t do so is abandoning the south and I have no grievance with anyone, but just some food for thought… It’s true that we believe that the fallen of Yom HaZikaron [don’t] want us to, [so to speak], ‘forget’ them when we carry on to Yom HaAtzmaut, but I’m not sure the south wants us to do the same with them [either], as they are alive and still suffering from the ongoing war. It’s time to give our independence to the south.” [TOI]

Mother’s Memorial: On the organization’s website, Hadassah National President Carol Ann Schwartz reflects on the convergence of Mother’s Day and the start of Israel’s Memorial Day. “As a mother of three children, including a son who now lives in Israel and is in the reserves, my thoughts this Mother’s Day are with all the mothers and families mourning those lost on October 7 and to this war, and those awaiting the release of hostages held by Hamas. This Mother’s Day, I’m thinking about Yom Hazikaron, which begins this evening in Israel with a siren heard across the country to mark a minute of silence, followed tomorrow morning by two more minutes of siren and silence… This Yom Hazikaron, across the diaspora, we mourn with Israel… In the United States, we’ll remember and we’ll persevere, asking our friends to join us in our ongoing calls to action — to free the hostages, to End The Silence on sexual violence, to fight antisemitism everywhere, including on college campuses, and to give generously… On Monday, when the sun sets and Yom Hazikaron ends, marking the beginning of Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israeli Independence Day, I’ll be thinking not just about resilience and bravery, but this hope and love, so necessary for our future — and Israel’s.” [Hadassah]

Around the Web

Masa Israel Journey hosted an English-language Yom HaZikaron ceremony at Yad La-Shiryon, the armored corps memorial in Latrun between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv…

A majority of Israelis — 56% — believes that the country’s cities should celebrate tomorrow’s Yom HaAtzmaut, Israeli Independence Day, but in a more subdued way in light of the Oct. 7 attacks and ongoing war, according to a new Israel Democracy Institute survey, compared to 31% who say there should be no celebrations this year and 10% who say they should go on as normal; the rest said they didn’t know…

The Wall Street Journal interviewed Rachel Polin-Goldberg days after the release of a hostage video of her son, Hersh, one of five American citizens still being held by Hamas…

Phil Rosenberg, 38, was elected the next president of the British Board of Deputies. Rosenberg — the youngest ever president to head the communal organization — will succeed Marie van der Zyl, who has led the organization since 2018…

At a closed-door session at last week’s Milken conference in Los Angeles, activist investor Bill Ackman came under criticism for his campaign against diversity, equity and inclusion programs…

Air Canada extended its pause on flights to and from Israel through early August…

Sixteen Senate Republicans, led by Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA), demanded the IRS investigate whether backers of National Students for Justice in Palestine, including AJP Educational Foundation, the Tides Foundation and the Westchester Peace Action Committee Foundation, have invalidated their tax-exempt status, citing claims NSJP is supporting Hamas…

The Chicago-area Jewish social service nonprofit The Ark celebrated a grand reopening following a two-year, $21.5 million renovation of its flagship location…

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency interviews Jewish Council for Public Affairs CEO Amy Spitalnick about campus anti-Israel protests…

In the San Diego Jewish WorldNew Israel Fund CEO Daniel Sokatch calls for anti-Israel protesters on college campuses to eschew eliminationist rhetoric and focus on building a shared future for Israelis and Palestinians…

Jewish Family Service of Metrowest, N.J., hired Adam Smith as its next senior director of innovation and community engagement…

The Los Angeles Times profiles the Jewish students who organized their own graduation ceremony after the University of Southern California canceled the official one…

Jessica Feldan was named the next CEO of American Friends of Bar-Ilan University

The Tikvah Fund announced a grand relocation plan for American Jews, dubbed “The Exodus Project,” which calls for them to move geographically to “new and more welcoming parts of the country” and have Jewish students attend new colleges and universities…

Edwin Shuker, an Iraqi-British Jewish philanthropist, warns that the Sassoon Synagogue in Mosul, Iraq, once the hub of a vibrant Jewish community, is being used as a dump and a barn and is at risk of total destruction…

King Charles has become the royal patron of the oldest British Jewish nonprofit, Norwood, which supports people with disabilities and their families…

The Canadian city of Ottawa has reversed course on its decision to forego an Israeli Independence Day gathering over security concerns and plans to host an event at city hall…

Daryl and Steven Roth donated $25 million toward a major renovation of the Dartmouth University’s Hopkins Center for the Arts, the school’s largest-ever gift dedicated to the arts…

Ivan Wolkind, the former CEO and COO of the Jewish Federation Los Angeles, who was just named the next CEO of the Houston Holocaust Museumdied last week…

James “Jim” Simons, an award-winning mathematician, trailblazing investor and one of the nation’s biggest philanthropists, died on Friday at 86…

Pic of the Day

Jack Guez/AFP via Getty Images

People observe two minutes of silence today on Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day, at the site of the Nova music festival outside of Kibbutz Reim.


Jonathan S. Lavine, co-managing partner and chief investment officer of Bain Capital Credit

Immediate past chair of JFNA’s National Women’s Philanthropy Board and chair of the Hartford (Conn.) Federation, Carolyn Gitlin

South African-born attorney, now based in London, Sir Sydney Lipworth QC… Professor emerita of Yiddish literature at Harvard University, Ruth Wisse… Film, television and stage actress, Zohra Lampert… Academy Award-winning actor and producer, Harvey Keitel… Ophthalmologist in South Florida, he is also the father of Facebook’s former COO Sheryl Sandberg, Dr. Joel Sandberg… Former dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at American Jewish University, Samuel Edelman… Chief scientific officer for COVID-19 response in the Biden administration, David A. Kessler… Founder and former CEO of LRN, a legal research, ethics and compliance management firm, Dov Seidman… Retired NFL defensive lineman, he has played for the Raiders and Panthers, Josh Heinrich Taves, a/k/a Josh Heinrich,… Ice hockey player, she won a gold medal at the 1998 Winter Olympics and a silver medal at the 2002 Winter Olympics, Sara Ann DeCosta… U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR)… Chief community and Jewish life officer at the Jewish Federations of North America, Sarah Eisenman… Former Israel director for J Street, then the chief of staff for Israel’s Ministry for Regional Cooperation, Yael Patir… Senior counsel of London-based iNHouse Communications, she was a member of Parliament, Luciana Berger… Software entrepreneur, Google project manager, then Facebook engineering lead, and co-founder in 2008 of Asana, Justin Rosenstein… Israeli rapper known by his stage name Tuna, Itay Zvulun… Retired NFL offensive lineman for seven NFL teams, now a regional manager at Rocksolid, Brian de la Puente… Actress, writer, producer and director, best known as the creator, writer and star of the HBO series “Girls,” Lena Dunham… Hannah Sirdofsky… Co-founder of Manna Tree Partners, Gabrielle “Ellie” Rubenstein… Former product marketing manager at Dive, Bela Galit Krifcher… Completing his second year at Columbia Law School, Dore Lev Feith… Director of external affairs at the Manhattan Institute, Jesse Martin Arm… Gold medalist for Israel in rhythmic gymnastics at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Linoy Ashram… Head of operations at Jigsaw, a unit within Google, Raquel Saxe