Your Daily Phil: Observing Tisha B’Av in America + Dairy Queen as a reengagement tool
Good Friday morning!
In March 2020, aspiring Israeli diplomat Elad Shoshan was laid up at a hospital in the central Israeli city of Petach Tikvah where, for 34 days, doctors poked and prodded and shrugged at the ever-changing symptoms of what was then a relatively new condition: COVID-19. He was Israel’s 190th case. This past March, two years after his hospitalization — Shoshan started work as Israel’s consul to the Southwest United States.
“My desire was to get to work in North America because that’s one of the main goals, to support and strengthen 75 years of… U.S.-Israel relations, and to use media and public diplomacy to emphasize the strong and valuable connection” between the two countries, Shoshan told eJewishPhilanthropy.
Based in Houston, Shoshan, 36, has a portfolio that covers Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas and New Mexico. He brings with him diverse experiences, from his work as CEO of Momentum, an NGO that helps discharged IDF solders acclimate to civilian life, to Zikaron BaSalon, an organization that arranges small-group meetings with Holocaust survivors.
The native of Petach Tikva traces his diplomatic impulse to a childhood encounter with Jews from Houston, who were visiting Israel and held a “kefiada,” or fun festival, for local children nearby. He was 8 years old at the time, he told eJP, and the interactions with these visitors made him realize he wanted to “educate other people about what’s taking place in Israel, the facts and not the opinions.”
Shoshan’s work as consul will be far-reaching, with the overall goal of strengthening and promoting diplomatic, economic and cultural relations between the U.S. and Israel in his five-state region. This will include elevating economic ties, managing cultural affairs, creating academic partnerships with universities and importing Israeli art to the United States.
Many of these efforts are already underway; for instance, a community in Houston is hosting acclaimed Israeli dance troupe Vertigo for an open event, free of charge. For Hispanic Heritage Month, the consulate is connecting local Latino entrepreneurs with Israeli knowledge and mentorship, with an eye toward strengthening trade and economic ties while benefiting local projects.
Read the full story here.
Leading up to Tisha B’Av, rabbis see echoes of the past in America’s current polarization
In Highland Park, Ill., the site of the July Fourth shooting that killed seven people, a Chabad synagogue is holding a “Mitzvah Market” on Sunday as a way to help heal from the tragedy. A Reform congregation in upstate New York will be focusing on “turning grief and injustice into action.” In the days leading up to the mournful period known as the Three Weeks, which begins with the Fast of Tammuz on Sunday and ends with the fast day of Tisha B’Av, Jewish leaders are seeking to address the social tension that has impacted Americans, reports Jay Deitcher for eJewishPhilanthropy.
Saddest day: Rabbis and Jewish leaders see the country’s current political polarization echoed in the themes of Tisha B’Av, which commemorates the destruction of the two Jewish Holy Temples of ancient times and a string of later tragedies. According to rabbinic tradition, the Second Temple was destroyed in 70 C.E. due to societal ills that may feel familiar today: sinat chinam, or baseless hatred, and internecine fighting among Jews.
Senseless hate: “Based on Jewish teaching, we understand that the Temple in Jerusalem, the Holy Temple, was destroyed because of senseless hate,” Chabad spokesman Rabbi Motti Seligson, who 20 years ago ran children’s educational programming at Highland Park’s Central Avenue Synagogue, a Chabad congregation, told eJewishPhilanthropy. “And it’s through love for one another that it will be restored and rebuilt.”
Fixing the brokenness: “It’s a reminder to acknowledge our own suffering and the suffering in the larger world, and then find a way to help fix some of the brokenness,” Rabbi Danielle Weisbrot of Albany’s B’nai Sholom, a Reform congregation, told eJP. She said Reform Judaism emphasizes “turning grief and injustice into action,” so her synagogue regularly organizes food and clothing drives, blood drives and projects related to immigration, climate change, LGBTQ+ rights and racial equality.
The power of Dairy Queen
“For the first two years of my job as director of youth engagement, I had an ‘if you build it, they will come’ mentality. Having inherited a struggling youth program – which I was hired with the explicit expectation of resuscitating – I immediately poured my efforts into revamping all areas of teen synagogue offerings. Social action, youth group, you name it — I invented or reinvented it. I designed logos. I bought T-shirts. I created playlists. I made our programming seem as fresh, new and sexy as I could. But I still struggled with seeing the engagement and continuity I was working so hard to foster. Over the past three years, though, things have changed – and I think I know why… The key to success is Dairy Queen,” writes Jenna Friedman, director of youth engagement at Temple Shir Tikva in Wayland, Mass., in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.
Dairy Queen: “To clarify, I mean Dairy Queen both metaphorically and literally. As of one year ago, I had never actually been to a Dairy Queen. (Symptom of growing up a New York suburbanite — shout out to Carvel.) It was COVID that eventually drew me there, in an attempt to reconnect with kids who I hadn’t seen since before the pandemic. They had dropped off from our programming over our year and a half online, and, having known them in the past, I invited them to come to Dairy Queen for one-on-one meetings to catch up. And one by one, they came.”
Why they came: “I had the answer spelled out for me at a recent youth event. Over an end-of-year pizza-making gathering with our sixth graders, a student named Harry, who hadn’t been at the synagogue since third grade, questioned why I called him by his first and last name. ‘Is there another Harry, or something?’ he asked. Quickly, the other students chimed in. ‘No,’ said the girl to my right, ‘she just does that. She calls me by my first and last name all the time.’ The other students offered eager agreement. ‘It’s just a personality thing,’ the girl concluded, before returning to her pizza. Harry nodded, satisfied.”
Knowing them makes the difference: “And she’s right – without planning it, this has become a part of my persona in my role. In the sense of being a charismatic, memorable presence, it’s a ‘personality thing.’ It also meets a much deeper, more important goal: Our kids know that I know who they are. And that makes all the difference.”
Stranger (TV) Things: Jews and Mormons are all the rage these days, featuring in reality shows, dramas and documentaries, often to mixed responses: some believe the shows give an accurate window into their cultures, and represent groups outside the American mainstream, while others bristle at the portrayals, writes Mira Fox in The Forward: “The scripted shows — ‘Unorthodox,’ ‘Shtisel’ and ‘Under the Banner of Heaven’ — spent exceptional amounts of time and research on accurately recreating the worlds they were portraying, reproducing shtreimels, the fur hats Haredi men wear on special occasions, and the holy garments worn only inside Mormon temples. Yet despite this eye toward authenticity, some members of the communities depicted have bristled at the portrayal of their lives and practices, accusing Netflix and Hulu of casting already-unfamiliar religions in a dark light to satisfy the American public’s morbid curiosity… [W]hen each new show about religion concentrates on a tradition’s strangeness and dangers, or the repression and violence inside it — and especially when they each highlight people fleeing their tradition to join mainstream American society — it’s hard not to draw the conclusion that whatever the default mainstream life is must be better, more reasonable and safer than these unfamiliar traditions.” [Forward]
Word on the Street
President Joe Biden became the first U.S. president to attend the Maccabiah Games, called the “Jewish Olympics,” which takes place every four years. The president spoke directly with the U.S. delegation on Thursday during the opening ceremony at Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem…
Antisemitic incidents at U.K. secondary schools have almost tripled over the past five years, according to researchers at the Henry Jackson Society think tank. The report also found that almost no schools have policies to combat the tide of hate…
The Shira Pransky Project, an organization that has assisted tens of thousands of mostly English-speaking immigrants navigate the Israeli healthcare system, is becoming part of Yad L’Olim, the organization founded and operated by former Israeli Knesset member Dov Lipman that assists immigrants to Israel…
The top three concerns among nonprofit organizations today are growing and scaling; insufficient funding for the sector as a whole; and donors’ reluctance to fund the full costs of operations, according to a report from accounting firm UHY…
Bloomberg Philanthropies announced a new commitment of $115 million for Resolve to Save Lives, a global public health nonprofit organization focused on preventing deaths from heart disease…
David B. Edelson was installed as chair of the board of governors of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, the Reform Jewish seminary and educational institution. A member of the board since June 2016 and chair-elect since June 2021, he succeeds Sue Neuman Hochberg as chair…
Pic of the Day
More than 3,000 attendees gathered Wednesday in Tel Aviv for the Birthright Israel Mega Event, the first since 2019, that caps each summer’s gathering of the organization’s trips to Israel. The event included Birthright participants from 13 countries, and more than 700 participants in Onward Israel, a program that brings young Jews on longer stints in Israel.
Board chair of The Jewish Federations of North America, Julie Beren Platt…
Friday: President and chairman of the board of the Annenberg Foundation, Wallis Annenberg… Member of the British House of Lords, he is a professor, medical doctor, scientist, television anchor and Labour Party politician, Baron Robert Maurice Lipson Winston… Professional sports bettor and poker player, he is a four time winner of the World Series of Poker, Mickey Appleman… Physician and life fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, Dr. David H. Lippman… Rosh Yeshiva of Beth Medrash Govoha in Lakewood, N.J., Rabbi Dovid Schustal… Former Republican congresswoman from 1989 to 2019, she was chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen… EVP at the Aspen Institute, Elliot Gerson… California-based appellate attorney, Feris M. Greenberger… National grassroots director of the Orthodox Union’s Teach Coalition, Miriam Baron “Mimi” Jankovits… Professor at the UCLA School of Law, Richard Harold Steinberg… Political news director at Bloomberg, Jodi Schneider… Member of Congress since 2011, his mother is Sabra née Peskin, David Nicola Cicilline (D-RI-1)… Anchorage-based attorney, a member of the Alaska House of Representatives, Andy Josephson… Former UK Labour Party member of Parliament, including three years as secretary of state for foreign affairs, now CEO of NYC-based International Rescue Committee, David Miliband… Co-founder and chief investment officer of Toronto-based EdgeStone Capital Partners, Gilbert S. Palter… Israeli actress and singer, Dafna Rechter… Senior advisor at investment bank Greif & Co., he is also the CFO of Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles, David S. Felman… Sales development representative at Graduway, Sam Kalmowicz… Rabbi, blogger and attorney, Eliyahu Fink… Senior correspondent at New York magazine and a CNN contributor, Irin Carmon… Israeli actor, he played Boaz in Season 1 of “Fauda,” Tomer Kapon… Bloomberg reporter Liana Balinsky-Baker… SVP of the Milwaukee Bucks and a candidate for the U.S. Senate from Wisconsin, Alexander Lasry… Associate VP at Hillel International, Jonathan Steven “Jon” Falk… Senior editor at Southern California Public Radio, Ariel Zirulnick… USA Today NFL reporter covering the Dallas Cowboys, she is also the author a biography of a Holocaust survivor, Jori Epstein…
Saturday: Former State Department official under JFK and LBJ, later VP of Continental Airlines and then managing editor of The New York Times, James L. Greenfield… Billionaire businessman, former member of Knesset and winner of the Israel Prize, Ze’ev Stef Wertheimer… One of the three co-founders of Comcast Corporation, he served as its chief financial officer and vice chairman, Julian A. Brodsky… George J. Nahas… World-renowned violinist, violist and conductor, Pinchas Zukerman… Co-creator of the first-ever spreadsheet program (VisiCalc), he currently serves as the Chief Technology Officer of Alpha Software, Daniel Singer “Dan” Bricklin… Former high-ranking civilian official in the Pentagon during the Bush 43 administration, now a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, Douglas J. Feith… Senior rabbi since 1997 at Temple Beth Avodah in Newton Centre, Mass., Rabbi Keith Stern… Los Angeles-based attorney, she is the president emerita of the LA chapter of the Jewish National Fund, Alyse Golden Berkley... Past vice chair of the board of trustees of The Jewish Federations of North America, Cynthia D. Shapira… British solicitor advocate known for his outspoken opposition to antisemitism, he represented Princess Diana in her divorce, Anthony Julius… Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and screenwriter, Tony Kushner… Former U.S. ambassador to the EU and a witness at the Ukraine impeachment inquiry against Donald Trump, Gordon David Sondland… Former airline executive at Northwest and Delta, Andrea Fischer Newman… Former president of Viacom Music and Entertainment Group, Doug Herzog… Businessman and philanthropist, owner of interests in many Israeli firms including IKEA Israel, Matthew Bronfman… Canadian journalist Jonathan Mann… Former Israeli minister of science and technology, now a venture capitalist, Yizhar Nitzan Shai… Chief of staff of the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago, Jim Rosenberg… Philanthropist Victoria Rivka Zell… Former NFL offensive lineman in the 90s, he is now a division manager at Cherry Creek Mortgage in Boulder, Colo., Ariel Mace Solomon… Former Israeli professional tennis player, Anna Smashnova… Founder of Pinkitzel, a cupcake cafe, candy boutique and gift store located in four Oklahoma cities, Jonathan Jantz… National political reporter for The New York Times, Shane Goldmacher… Co-founder of Los Angeles-based Meteorite Social Impact Advisors, Steven Max Levine… White House staff assistant and liaison to the Jewish community in the Bush 43 administration, now managing partner at Arogeti Endeavors, Scott Raymond Arogeti… Features reporter for Jewish Insider, Matthew Kassel… Founder and managing partner at Vine Ventures, Eric M. Reiner… Lactation consultant Chantal Low Katz…
Sunday: Founder of the Frommer’s series of travel guides, Arthur Frommer… Israeli politician and historian, he served as a member of Knesset (1996-2002), minister of foreign affairs (2000-2001) and as ambassador to Spain (1987-1991), Shlomo Ben-Ami… Emmy Award-winning play-by-play announcer for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Charley Steiner… Retired assistant general counsel of The Hartford and former chairman of the board of the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford, now a lecturer at UConn law school, Robert K. Yass… Rabbi emeritus at Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel in Elkins Park, PA, Lance Jonathan Sussman… Managing general partner and co-founder of Pitango Venture Capital, he serves as chairman of The Peres Center for Peace & Innovation, Nechemia “Chemi” J. Peres… Chair of Samson Energy Company, co-founder of Granite Properties and co-chair of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, Stacy Helen Schusterman… Business development team lead at Quorum, Steven Lebowitz… Treasurer of Australia until a few months ago, Joshua Anthony “Josh” Frydenberg… Founder and CEO of Zeta Global, David A. Steinberg… Stand-up comedian, he was a finalist on the NBC reality-talent show “Last Comic Standing” in two seasons, Gary Gulman… Recently appointed executive director of Robert Kraft’s Foundation to Combat Antisemitism, Matthew E. Berger… Public television host, Shannan Butler Adler… Member of the Knesset for the Yesh Atid party, Boaz Toporovsky… Healthcare reporter for Barron, Josh Nathan-Kazis… Associate at Compensation Advisory Partners, Jared Sorhaindo… VP at JPMorgan Chase, Melanie Beatus Ettleson…
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