Your Daily Phil: Poll: Half of U.S. Jews altering behavior due to antisemitism

Good Tuesday morning.

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on a new American Jewish Committee survey on U.S. Jews’ antisemitism concerns and how Reform and Conservative rabbinical schools are handling non- and anti-Zionism in their students. We feature an opinion piece by Ariel Dloomy with insights into the mindset and needs of communities in southern Israel working to rebuild after Oct. 7; and another by Judith Rosenbaum about the significance of Israeli women’s involvement in leadership both now and beyond the present crisis. We’ll start with the opening of a new accessible playground in London.

Whenever Annika O’Malley takes her daughter, Winifred, for walking practice in parks around London, she says she “tries to avoid going near the playground.” That’s because the 5-year-old, who has cerebral palsy and moves with walking aids, longs to use the swings and playground equipment — but they are not accessible. “It’s heartbreaking,” her mother told Jenni Frazer for eJewishPhilanthropy, “she stands in front of a slide or a play structure, and I have to say, ‘You can’t, it’s impossible.’”

All that is about to change for Winifred and countless other children, as a fully accessible, inclusive playground — which its creators say is the first of its kind in Britain or anywhere else in Europe — opened in London’s Barnet borough on Tuesday, enabling disabled and able-bodied children to play together.

The Fair Play playground, designed in coordination with disabled residents, parents, carers and accessibility experts, is the brainchild of two Jewish women in London: Deborah Gundle and Nathalie Esfandi, with the assistance of a third Jewish woman, Angela Harding, who has been honored by King Charles III for her work with deaf children.

According to the British Office for National Statistics and the disability charity Scope, there are an estimated 1 million disabled children in the United Kingdom. Nearly half of all parents with disabled children report problems and accessibility issues in their local playground. More than 1 in 10 families, which may have one or more able-bodied children as well as a disabled child, say they can’t take the whole family to the park because the children aren’t able to play together.

“As a mother with a disabled son, I know how difficult it is for families like ours to be able to play together,” said Gundle, whose son, Zach, has severe learning disabilities. “A lot of hard work has gone into this project, and seeing the equipment being used by disabled and non-disabled children side by side is incredibly rewarding. I’d love for every playground to allow people of all ages and abilities to play in this way, and we hope Fair Play will act as the blueprint for new playgrounds up and down the country.”

Gundle told eJP that the London playground was “designed to be a model for other councils [city districts] and public landscape developers. We are trying to do what Beit Issie Shapiro successfully did in Israel: They built an inclusive playground which then led to the creation of many more inclusive playgrounds across other municipalities —13 when I last looked.”

The £500,000 ($632,000) playground has been built through independent funding and donations, including £100,000 ($126,000) given by Barnet Council, the local area where the playground is sited.

Most impressive for O’Malley, whose older, able-bodied daughter has never been able to play in parks with her little sister before, is that the new playground is next to a regular one without accessible equipment, but on the day she visited, all the other families with able-bodied children brought them to the Fair Play swings and rides.

“That is what got me really excited, that it isn’t the in-the-corner, shut-away area with one token piece of disabled equipment,” O’Malley said. “It’s not segregated, it’s truly for everyone. Winnie goes to a mainstream nursery and when they all meet in a park, we can’t go, because all the children would do everything and she would just stand there. But with this, for example, we could have birthday parties — and everyone could join in.”

Read the full report here.

SURVEY SAYS

Poll: Roughly half of U.S. Jews changing behavior because of antisemitism

Security guards stand watch in front of a synagogue in Los Angeles on Oct. 9, 2023.

Roughly half of American Jewish adults say they have changed their behavior, including where they go or what they wear, out of their fear of antisemitism. A quarter of U.S. Jews have personally experienced targeted antisemitism. And nearly two-thirds (63%) say that American Jews are less secure now than they were a year ago. Those were some of the findings of a survey released Tuesday morning by the American Jewish Committee, which measured attitudes on antisemitism both within and outside of the Jewish community, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen.

Unsurprising but ‘shocking’: The findings were expected but still “shocking,” AJC CEO Ted Deutch told eJP. “The fact that over 60% of Jewish adults feel less secure living in America than they did before, says this is a problem for all of America, not just the Jewish community,” Deutch said. “Big picture is that what had been an enormous challenge for our community already has become a five-alarm fire, and it requires everyone to do something about it.”

Campus worries: The 2023 survey repeated and added to a section from last year’s survey examining the continued increase of antisemitism on college campuses, which was climbing even before Oct. 7. Nearly twice as many respondents with recent or current college experience said they have felt or been excluded from a group or an event on campus because they are Jewish as last year — 20% compared to 12%.

Read the full report here.

BIG-TENT APPROACH

At Conservative and Reform rabbinical schools, a debate over red lines on anti-Zionism

American politician Dianne Feinstein, her arms outstretched in celebration, in her office after she was elected mayor of San Francisco, at San Francisco City Hall in San Francisco, California, circa 1978.
Wang Ying/Xinhua via Getty Images

Officially, Zionism is a key pillar of all three major Jewish denominations in the U.S. But in the more progressive Reform and Conservative movements, some prominent rabbis are raising the alarm about a small but significant number of rabbinical students and early career rabbis who identify as non-Zionist or anti-Zionist, and who lack the connection to Israel that has for decades been a key part of what it means to be Jewish in the Diaspora, reports Gabby Deutch for eJewishPhilanthropy’s sister publication Jewish Insider.

Balancing act: Administrators at the seminaries are caught between competing priorities: If they set clear boundaries about the centrality of Israel to their religious movements, they risk alienating some of the already small number of young Jews seeking to enter the rabbinate. “It’s perceived as a buyer’s market. There’s not enough students, so schools are reluctant to draw clearer ideological boundaries that require their students to adhere to,” said Yehuda Kurtzer, president of the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America.

Zionist expectations: “There’s no loyalty oath that we expect, but we do expect deep, serious engagement in the history, in the culture, in the ongoing reality of Israel, and people can choose to express that in their own ways, from their own point of view,” said Rabbi Lisa Grant, the director of the rabbinical program at Hebrew Union College’s New York campus. Conservative rabbinical students who identify as anti-Zionist are making an affirmative choice to study at institutions that are strongly supportive of Israel, according to Rabbi Jacob Blumenthal, CEO of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and its rabbinic arm, the Rabbinical Assembly. ”They know that our movement is firmly Zionist and supportive of the State of Israel,” said Blumenthal.

If I am not for me: There’s a core tension at the heart of many of these conversations — as Jews, how much do we emphasize the universal versus the particular? “I think that we understand that there’s a horrible human tragedy unfolding on the other side of the border. There’s no question about that,” said Rabbi Daniel Gordis, who lives in Israel and has for years argued that liberal seminaries, including his alma mater JTS, are not doing a good enough job of educating about Israel. “But we were attacked. And my instinct is, I care about the Jewish people first — not at the expense of, but first.”

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

CLOSE TO HOME

Giving better after Oct. 7: Personal and professional insights

April 2019 photo of a sign saying “Welcome to Nahal Oz” and pointing the way to various sites and resources around the kibbutz.

“The deadly attacks on Israeli communities in the Gaza Envelope on the morning of Oct. 7 have presented me with a mix of professional and personal challenges,” writes Ariel Dloomy, CEO of the Beracha Foundation, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

‘Beyond imagination’: “I was born and raised in Kibbutz Nahal Oz, located less than one mile from the Gaza border. For me and my friends, the kibbutz and the Gaza Envelope region were a paradise where we could ride bicycles in the fields along the dilapidated fence with Gaza, drive to the sea through Gaza City and even shop there… Although I left Nahal Oz many years ago, [on Oct. 7] I was suddenly transported back to being a young boy again. The names of childhood friends who were murdered, along with their children or parents, are incomprehensible. The physical and mental destruction of these communities is beyond imagination.”

Local mindset and capacity: “These are people of the land, people of labor, who never asked for handouts but now find themselves in a helpless situation. Their pride has always been their independence, not relying on philanthropy. Deep loss of trust in the government and the army following the events of Oct. 7 has led them to the conclusion that they must fend for themselves. They also understand that if they don’t rebuild their communities even stronger than before in terms of employment, education, culture, welfare and more, it will be difficult to convince people to return… Most of the affected communities have never been involved in fundraising; however, they are very well-organized communities with strong management capacities. Philanthropy can help them build their own capacity for resource development in the short and long term.”

Read the full piece here.

THE TIME IS NOW

The necessity of Israeli women’s leadership

Team members of the Center for Women’s Justice, a legal advocacy NGO advancing the civil and religious liberties of Israeli women.

“In a time of trauma, grief and existential fear, the clarity and strength of Israeli women’s leadership shines through the fog of despair,” writes Judith Rosenbaum, CEO of the Jewish Women’s Archive, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Women’s work: “This leadership is by no means accidental. It results from capacities that often emerge from women’s experience — what Ayesha Ziadna of the Jewish-Arab Cultural Center in Rahat referred to as “women’s specialty for working together,” and Racheli Geffen of Have You Seen the Horizon Lately more bluntly identified as ‘a little less ego, a little more, “Let’s get sh-t done.”’ Their unique partnership testifies too to the strengths women often bring to collaborations across difference, leaning into partnership to affirm shared humanity in the face of inhumanity. Women’s leadership in this moment isn’t incidental, either. Rather, it results from a keen awareness that war exacerbates existing inequities and sparks a regression in women’s rights.”

Why you should care: “It is not news that women’s participation in government and negotiations of all kinds strengthens policy and social outcomes. Despite this well-documented fact, gender equity and women’s needs are often moved to the back burner in times of crisis, deprioritized as if they are a frivolity to be addressed at some future date when there are fewer pressing needs… In the midst of their grief and fear, these leaders are emboldened by what they have accomplished together, proud to meet this crisis with fierce determination and skills, and optimistic about the invitation this moment offers to provide new vision and new models of leadership. The time to recognize and support that leadership is now. There can be no solution to the horrors and threats of this moment without women’s presence and voices at the table.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Reimagining the Rabbi: Not only has there been a drop in the number of American Jews choosing to pursue rabbinic ordination, but many of those who do become rabbis are choosing paths other than the one to a pulpit, reports Shira Telushkin in The Atlantic. “This has threatened the vitality of hundreds of synagogues as well as the future of the schools that have ordained rabbis for more than a century. Without a rabbi, synagogue membership tends to dwindle to the very dedicated. Enrollment in the Hebrew school goes down. Fundraising becomes harder. Nobody gets a hospital visit from the rabbi or a call of comfort during a difficult time… Whether this represents a crisis or an opportunity for renewal is the subject of much debate among Jewish leaders… The centralized Judaism of the 20th century is giving way to a series of independent organizations, reflecting a broader trend across faith communities toward religious individualism. This new Judaism raises questions about what a rabbi should be in the 21st century, whom they should serve, and what to do now that so many congregations can’t find one.” [TheAtlantic]

Good Intentions, Dangerous Outcomes: The gap between the quantity of medical devices being donated to NGOs in the Global South and capacity of medical providers to use them can be a dangerous problem, reports Andrew Green in Devex. “Dr. Mirwais Rahimzai, the technical director for [nonprofit] FHI 360’s COVID-19 response, has been visiting health facilities during his trips to various countries and taking stock of the panoply of medical equipment they received during the pandemic. ‘There are countries where they have been given more than 80 types of the same equipment,’ he told Devex… That creates a situation where it is impossible to develop the needed expertise for biomedical engineers — if they are available — to fix the devices or for health workers to operate them. That’s not the only issue. ‘There are no spare parts or there is no one to contact to repair it,’ he said. ‘As soon as it’s damaged, you have to throw it away.’ There are guidelines that should have covered those donations, including preemptively addressing issues around training and maintenance by setting up protocols to regularly monitor the performance of devices and account for any risks that may stem from their use. In fact, as Dr. Nadia Hoekstra, a pediatrician based at the University of North Carolina, discovered, there are many guidelines — at least 33 that govern biomedical equipment donations. But they are not routinely followed. Even a comprehensive set of guidelines developed by the World Health Organization suffers from poor implementation, she found… She warned that the dangers are particularly acute for pediatric facilities, which often see devices passed off from adult health centers. That can lead to situations where they receive equipment that might prove harmful if used on children without modifications.” [Devex]

Own Your Message: In the Pensacola News Journal, consultant Quint Studer shares some insights from his latest book, Sundays with Quint, a compilation of his weekly columns featuring practical advice for people in leadership roles. “Do not accept a message that’s shared with you on behalf of someone else. This type of behavior happens in middle school; it should not happen in an organization… My advice is to tell the person that unless it is about an illegal, unethical, and/or safety issue, the one who told them needs to carry their own message. In addition, ask the messenger what you can do to ensure that the person feels comfortable coming to you directly in the future. … Likewise, a leader might mention that administration really wants an area cleaned up better than it has been. It is best for a leader to own their own message. Yes, there are exceptions, but they are just that: exceptions. The person in leadership needs to develop the communication skills to explain the why behind what they are asking someone to do, and to deliver an uncomfortable message without using someone else’s name.” [PensacolaNewsJournal]

Around the Web

SparkIL and HaShomer HaChadash (The New Guard) are offering five-year, no-interest emergency loans to Israeli farmers of up to 100,000 shekels ($27,460)…

Construction vehicles began clearing the rubble from Kibbutz Be’eri, one of the hardest-hit communities in the Oct. 7 terror attacks, as Israeli authorities began a two-year reconstruction program for the kibbutz yesterday…

In The Jerusalem PostJulie Platt, chair of the Jewish Federations of North Americaargues in support of the Senate’s just-passed Israel aid package…

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu selected Science Minister Ofir Akunis from his Likud party to serve as the next consul general in New York. The office has been empty since March 2023, when Asaf Zamir quit the post in protest of the government’s judicial overhaul plans…

Nechama-Jewish Response to Disaster hired Stephan Kline as its next CEO. Kline served for more than 15 years as deputy director of the Jewish Federations of North America’s policy, planning and human services delivery office…

Rabbi Asher Sofman was hired as Reconstructing Judaism’s inaugural Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion program coordinator…

The Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia held a conference marking 25 years since the organization was founded…

Peter and Paula Lunder, through their family foundation, donated $50 million to Maine’s Colby College to support its financial aid programs, which the school is calling a “transformational gift”…

Justin Pines is joining the Jewish Broadcasting Service as its next CEO. Pines has served as the director of lay leadership at the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America

New York’s Museum of Modern Art acknowledged this month that three years ago it returned a Marc Chagall painting to the family of a German Jewish art dealer whose property was looted by the Nazis, after decades of maintaining that it was the rightful owner…

Robert Chazan, a towering figure in the field of Jewish studies in the United States and a leading scholar in the field of Jewish history in the Middle Ages, died yesterday at 87…

Pic of the Day

Courtesy/The Hampton Synagogue

Rabbi Marc Schneier (second from right) meets with artist Dale Chihuly (right) and members of his design team at Chihuly’s studio in Seattle on Thursday to finalize the design for The Hampton Synagogue Holocaust Memorial. The 18-foot-tall glass sculpture will be placed in the entry to Jack’s House and the Levin Family Children’s Campus, which is part of the synagogue complex.

Dedicated to the 1.5 million Jewish children murdered in the Holocaust, this is the only Holocaust memorial Chihuly has ever made and will be the first Holocaust memorial in the Hamptons. 

Birthdays

Annie Liebovitz smiles
Courtesy/National Constitution Center

President and CEO of the congressionally chartered National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Jeffrey Rosen

Rabbi, Talmudic scholar, and emeritus professor of economics at New York University, Yisroel Mayer Kirzner… Israeli film and theater actress, Dalia Friedland… Former chair of the Mackenzie Institute, he was a North York and Toronto City councillor, Norman “Norm” Gardner… Professor at American Jewish University in Los Angeles and scholar of biblical literature and Semitic languages, Ziony Zevit… Newsletter editor specializing in U.S. intelligence, military and foreign policy issues, Jeff Stein… U.S. senator (D-CT), Richard Blumenthal… Professor of anthropology at the University of Toronto, author of I Did Not Know You Were Jewish and Other Things Not to SayIvan Kalmar… Former CEO of the Cleveland Browns and president of the Philadelphia Eagles, Joe Banner… Radio broadcaster for the New York Mets, Howard “Howie” Rose… Former president of the United Jewish Community of Ukraine, Ihor Kolomoyskyi… Casting director, Amy Sobo… Member of the Knesset for United Torah Judaism, Moshe Shimon Roth… Internet entrepreneur and co-founder of Zynga, Mark Pincus… Immediate past chair of national women’s philanthropy of The Jewish Federations of North America, Rochelle “Shelly” Kupfer… Former senior speechwriter for Treasury Secretaries Geithner and Lew during the Obama administration, Mark Cohen… Retired Israeli soccer player, winner of nine league championships, Alon Harazi… Founding partner of Drowos Wealth Management Group at Center Street Capital Advisors, Bryan M. Drowos… Publisher of Southern California’s Jewish Link MagazineDov Blauner… Corporate crisis correspondent at ReutersMike Spector… Director of media relations for Columbia University, Samantha Slater… Principal at Health Supply America, Jonathan Neuman… Director of philanthropy at LPPE LLC, Daniel Sperling… Founder and owner at Miami’s Cadena Collective, Alejandra Aguirre