Your Daily Phil: Previewing the JFNA GA + How to teach about Israel

Good Friday morning!

In today’s Your Daily Phil, we preview the major themes of the upcoming Jewish Federations’ General Assembly, and feature a column by Erica Brown about the weekly Torah portion. We also highlight op-eds by the Jewish Agency’s Dan Elbaum and Makom’s Rabbi Joe Schwartz about Israel education, and by SparkIL’s Na’ama Ore about micro-lending. Also in this newsletter: Ron Klain, Audrey Lewis, Frances Jeens and Rabbi Walter Homolka. We’ll start with the U.S. premiere of a film about the drama and emotion surrounding Holocaust reparations.

A secret meeting in a hotel room. A clash between German and Israeli diplomats. The storming of the Knesset by an angry mob.

The story of German reparations to Holocaust survivors and the Israeli government, full of financial agreements and bureaucracy, is depicted as a tale of emotion and moral conflict in “Reckonings,” a new documentary about the 1952 Luxembourg Agreements, signed between West Germany, Israel and the newly formed Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (the Claims Conference).

The film had its U.S. premiere last night at the Paley Center for Media in New York City, with Holocaust survivors and director Roberta Grossman in attendance. Also at the screening were Abe Foxman, the former national director of the Anti-Defamation League (himself a survivor); longtime Jewish professional Ted Comet; and Gideon Taylor, the CEO of the New York Jewish Community Relations Council and the board president of the Claims Conference.

The film opens with footage of concentration camps at liberation and tells the story of how the payments came to be — via testimony from survivors, historical reenactment and interviews with Israeli and German officials, academics and Ben Ferencz, age 102, the last remaining survivor of the original Jewish negotiating team.

The film takes viewers through the intense political conflict in Israel between supporters and opponents of accepting German money. At its climax, opponents of reparations stormed the Knesset before the agreement was passed by a single vote. In order to assess whether Germany was serious, Nahum Goldmann, the co-founder and later president of the World Jewish Congress, snuck into a hotel to meet with West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, a move that, less than a decade after World War II and the Holocaust, was unthinkable for many Jews. Finally, when negotiating teams from Israel and World Jewry met with German representatives, they refused to speak German, and refrained from bringing in their cigarette lighters so as not to inadvertently light the Germans’ cigarettes — which would connote familiarity.

In the end, what resulted was a monetary agreement that has seen Germany pay $90 billion to hundreds of thousands of survivors — as well as provide $750 million to Israel in goods and services in its early days, when it was on the brink of bankruptcy. In addition to documenting one of the largest collective payments to Jews in history, the film also symbolizes hope, Grossman told the audience in a Q&A.

If German officials, Israeli officials and Claims Conference representatives “could all gather around this rift in humanity, this rift in civilization that the Holocaust represents, and find was to speak to each other, there could be hope for other intractable problems in the world,” she said. “So I think it is ultimately very hopeful.”


JFNA General Assembly, in the shadow of elections, to focus on polarization, antisemitism and Ukraine


When 1,200 Jews convene in person for the Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly on Sunday in Chicago, they’ll do so in the shadow of a number of major dates and pivotal global events, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Ben Sales.

Election season: The latest round of Israeli elections falls on Tuesday, the conference’s final day, with the Jewish state as politically divided as ever. The U.S. midterm elections fall one week later. Meanwhile, there’s the war in Ukraine, a nervous economy, challenges to democracy worldwide and antisemitism online and in real life. And while COVID-19 barely appears on the conference’s agenda, its legacy is present in a growing mental health crisis and changes to synagogue life.

A widening gap: Faced with that environment, the federations hope to do what they’ve always done — bring the Jewish community together across differences — though JFNA CEO Eric Fingerhut suggested that mission is particularly challenging now. “The poles of the community are growing, the center is probably shrinking and that requires us to make sure we’re working hard to keep everyone working closely together,” Fingerhut told eJP. “We have to make sure we’re united across our values and our communal projects.”

On the margins: While Fingerhut stressed the importance of consolidating the Jewish political mainstream, he was reluctant to discuss what would lie outside of it, acknowledging only that supporters of the movement to boycott Israel — a group found predominantly on the left — as well as racists and antisemites, wouldn’t be welcome. “The point isn’t to set where the red lines are,” he said. “The point is to show people that there is so much we can work together on.”

Read the full story here.


Parshat Noah: The what and why of the ark

“My grandchildren love to play with my collection of wooden Noah’s ark figures. Some have moveable animals and a small Noah holding a staff. When I clean up after the children, I make sure to keep the animals in pairs. The children adore the Noah story. The image of the ark appears on kids’ wallpaper and in their books; it’s the stuff of toys… The only problem is that the Noah story is not for children,” writes Erica Brown, vice provost for values and leadership at Yeshiva University, in this week’s column for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Instructions: “God told Noah exactly what to do. But God also told Noah why. Noah focused on the what and bypassed the why. The directions he was given form a unique and unusual passage because the Bible rarely offers concrete recommendations… Why is it that Noah, of all people, was given such clear guidelines?”

The big picture: “There is a powerful framing to God’s technical instructions. Every few lines, God explicitly told Noah about the moral state of the world. Noah responded by taking out his tools and concentrating on the skylights. Noah missed the larger driving factor behind the situation.”

The ark’s purpose: “According to the Talmud, the ark’s significance was not in its use during the Flood but its very presence long before the water hit. Noah’s neighbors would be curious about this building project – how could they not be? – and badger him with questions. Noah could use this conversational opportunity to discuss the larger forces in society that prompted this task and perhaps convince others to repent. They could have all built arks, every last one. The ancient seas could have, without much imagination, been filled with many other arks captained by all of Noah’s friends and neighbors. But if any such conversations existed, they are not recorded in our parsha.”

Read the full piece here.


The way we teach our kids about Israel is broken. Here’s how to fix it.


“For a growing number of young people in North America, Israel has become virtually untouchable: The fear of being ‘canceled’ for failing to take the ‘right’ line on Israel is so great that many prefer to remain silent,” write Dan Elbaum, head of North America at The Jewish Agency for Israel, and Rabbi Joe Schwartz, director of Makom: The Israeli Education Lab, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Uphill struggle: “In today’s environment, maintaining broad support for Israel can often feel like an uphill battle. This past August’s Operation Breaking Dawn [fighting between Israel and Hamas in Gaza] represented the latest reminder of the biased sources, from traditional media to social media, that comprise much of the foundation of what the younger generation knows about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Our strategy has failed: “In the face of this historic challenge, it would be understandable if those of us in the pro-Israel camp simply doubled- and tripled-down on what we have been doing: Repeating a simple narrowly self-interested narrative that either avoids the conflict altogether or highlights the Palestinians’ aggression and intransigence… Yet, at this crucial juncture, we need to be honest with ourselves: This strategy has failed. Indeed, it may even be contributing to the problem.”

A new approach is called for: “We need to teach the conflict with candor and in a way that does justice to its complexity. Those charged with educating our young need tools for exploring and considering the conflict knowledgeably, with understanding and with empathy. And we need to cultivate in the next generation the capacity to do the same.”

Read the full piece here.


Maximizing the impact of giving


“As the mother of four children, it’s important for me to teach them the power of giving — to create a better world where people instinctively extend their hand to others and provide them with opportunities to elevate their lives and, most importantly, to give with humility and compassion,” writes Na’ama Ore, CEO of SparkIL, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

From generation to generation: “As such, ever since they were young, I had my children accompany me to the volunteer events I helped coordinate, including with the Jewish Women’s Circle, the Israeli-American Council and Leket Israel. My kids would witness the awe-inspiring impact that a simple act of kindness can have on others. They also saw that you don’t have to write a big check to positively influence someone’s life… Today, I’m proud when my children take the initiative to give back. Guided by the values they learned at home, each of them is independently involved in youth initiatives where they volunteer their time; they’re aware of when others need help and provide that help selflessly.”

Outsized impact: “This mindset governs much of my professional life as well. As CEO of SparkIL, the first peer-to-peer lending platform to support small businesses in Israel, I’m privileged to witness how each contribution makes an outsized impact. With loans as low as $25, lenders from around the world can change the entire trajectory of an Israeli business’s lifespan.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Bipartisan Climate: Philanthropy should invest in cross-party coalitions in order to make progress in the battle for climate change, write Carlos Curbelo and Neil Chatterjee in The Chronicle of Philanthropy. “[I]f funding liberal climate nonprofits were enough, the United States would be much further along in leading the world toward solutions…We propose that the highest-leverage opportunity for philanthropists committed to achieving emissions reductions is investing in what’s known as the ‘eco-right’ — the field of climate-forward, conservative nonprofits that is uniquely positioned to push, pull, and guide Republicans to climate leadership and bipartisan policy wins…Progress on emissions reductions is worthy of praise. Yet, cobbling together partisan climate bills is not a sustainable plan for decarbonizing the economy. Creative, bipartisan pathways are our only shot at sufficient — and sufficiently fast — decarbonization. From now until 2050, there will be at least four different presidents and 15 congresses. Climate hawks can’t simply wait for the stars to align and for one party to control everything. It’s essential to reach far higher than whatever the Senate parliamentarian will allow during the reconciliation process, which permits a simple majority to pass budget legislation. Bipartisanship, in other words, is unavoidable.” [ChronicleofPhilanthropy]

Recession and Retention: 
As the word “recession” is coming up more frequently, people and institutions may give less and nonprofits may struggle, Dan Reed writes in NonProfitPRO, providing several strategies for persevering through such a time, including focusing on retention. “Emergency donors — those acquired during rapid response moments — don’t always have the best reputation for staying engaged and making ongoing contributions once a crisis has dissipated. This is where other nonprofits who aren’t facing the same level of urgency can benefit from shifting focus from acquisition to retention of existing donors. The first advantage of this approach is that the nonprofit will likely be pursuing an entirely different audience than emergency donors, meaning that any extra noise in the larger fundraising landscape will be less of a competing factor. Second, when a nonprofit focuses on retention, it positions itself to capture that all-important second gift, which is vital to long-term fundraising stability, as repeat givers have an almost 1,000 times higher average value over five years than a donor who only gives once. In this sense, a recession gives nonprofits a unique opportunity to really hone in and pinpoint those donors that aren’t just impulse givers, but truly care about their cause.” [NonProfitPRO]

Community Comms

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Word on the Street

Ron Klain, the White House chief of staff, will give the keynote address at the annual dinner of Michigan Jewish day school Yeshiva Beth Yehudah on Sunday.

Navina, a company developing AI-powered software for physicians, announced that it raised $22 million in Series B funding led by the Israeli health tech fund Alive with participation from Grove Ventures, Vertex Ventures Israel and Schusterman Family Investments

Audrey Lewis was named director of philanthropy for the Center for Jewish Philanthropy of Greater Phoenix. Most recently, she was the associate director of fundraising for the Jewish National Fund…

Frances Jeens is stepping down as director of the Jewish Museum London to become head of education and engagement for the U.K. Parliament…

Rabbi Walter Homolka, an influential rabbi in Germany, may return to teaching at the University of Potsdam and the seminary he founded, nearly six months after he stepped back amid a scandal involving allegations of sexual harassment and abuse of power…

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business announced a $44 million commitment from alumni David M. LaCross and his wife, Kathleen O. LaCross

Pic of the Day

Hadar Bashari

The Schusterman Fellowship hosted 110 senior fellows at a multiday convening in Haifa this week. This was the first gathering of senior fellows since 2019. The fellows hail from approximately 14 countries around the world, are alumni of the Schusterman Fellowship and lead a range of initiatives worldwide.


Roberto Serra – Iguana Press/Getty Images

Israeli violinist and conductor, Shlomo Mintz celebrates his birthday on Sunday…

FRIDAY: Redondo Beach, Calif., resident, Larry Berlin… Rabbi at the Moscow Choral Synagogue, Adolf Shayevich… Spiritual leader of the Village of New Square (Rockland County, N.Y.) and Hasidic rebbe of Skverer Hasidism worldwide, Rabbi Dovid Twersky… Former member of the Knesset for the Yisrael Beiteinu party, she also served as minister of aliyah and integration, Sofa Landver… Anthropology professor at NYU, she won a 1994 MacArthur genius fellowship, Faye Ginsburg… Rabbi at Temple Beth Sholom in Hamden, Conn., Benjamin Edidin Scolnic… Philanthropist and co-founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates… Four-star admiral in the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps and assistant secretary of health for Health and Human Services, Rachel Leland Levine… Former member of the Knesset for Likud, he currently serves as mayor of Beit She’an, Jackie Levy… Manager of MLB’s San Diego Padres, after a 10-year career as an MLB catcher, Bob Melvin… Executive director of the Jewish Federation of the Bluegrass in Lexington, Ky., Mindy Haas… Actress and investor, an owner of the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks, Jami Gertz… Owner of a Chick-fil-A franchise in the Houston area, he was a collegiate and NFL football coach, Tony Levine… Film and television director, producer, screenwriter and actor, Jacob “Jake” Kasdan… Israeli singer Yaakov (Kobi) Peretz… Member of the California State Assembly, Rebecca Bauer-Kahan… Former member of the Knesset for Likud, Oren Hazan… Scottsdale, Ariz., attorney, he was a Republican member of the Arizona House of Representatives, Adam Kwasman… President at Aurora Health Network, Elliot Schwab… Head of business development and partnerships at Lynx, Avital “Tali” Warburg Goldstein

SATURDAY: Haifa-born director and screenwriter of animated and live-action films including “The Lord of the Rings,” Ralph Bakshi… Dean emeritus of the Yale School of Management, Jeffrey E. Garten… Academy Award-winning actor, he played Yoni Netanyahu in the 1976 film “Victory at Entebbe,” Richard Dreyfuss… CEO of the Center for the National Interest and publisher of its namesake foreign policy magazine, The National InterestDimitri Simes… Director of the social justice organizing program at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Mordechai E. Liebling… Pulitzer Prize-winning author and editor of The New YorkerDavid Remnick… Bernard Greenberg… Rabbi of Temple Beth Shalom in Phoenix, Dana Evan Kaplan… Author, satirist and public speaker, Evan Sayet… Classical pianist, Susan Merdinger… Sports agent who has negotiated over $7 billion of player contracts, Drew Rosenhaus… Actor who appeared in 612 episodes of daytime soap opera “As the World Turns,” Grayson McCouch… Screenwriter and film director based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Andrea Dorfman… Mathematician, cryptologist and computer scientist, Daniel J. Bernstein… Emmy Award-winning television producer, writer and actor, Michael Schur… VP for strategic communications and business development at Anchorage-based Northern Compass Group, Rachel Barinbaum… President and founder of Leigh Aubrey Communications, Leigh Shirvan Helfenbein… Senior marketing manager at Audible, an Amazon company, Samantha Zeldin… Regional communications director at the White House, Seth Schuster… Ph.D. candidate in Russian and East European history at Harvard, Leora Eisenberg… Booking producer at NBC Universal, David Siegel

SUNDAY: Winner of two Pulitzer Prizes for his biographies of Robert Moses and President Lyndon B. Johnson, Robert Caro… Former president of the University of Minnesota, chancellor of the University of Texas System and president of the University of California, Mark Yudof… Actor, best known for his portrayal of “The Fonz” in the “Happy Days” sitcom, Henry Winkler… NBC’s anchor, reporter and commentator, Andrea Mitchell… Meatpacking executive, sentenced to 27 years in prison in 2009 for fraud, his sentence was commuted by President Trump in 2017 after serving eight years, Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin… Former CEO and later executive chairman of Qualcomm, he is a co-owner of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings, Paul E. Jacobs… Partner in the D.C. office of Cadwalader, he previously served as the attorney general of Maryland, Douglas F. “Doug” Gansler… Partner and co-founder of the Irvine, California law firm of Wolfe & Wyman, Stuart B. Wolfe… Global head of public policy at Apollo Global Management, David Krone… White House correspondent for The New York Times and a political analyst for CNN, Maggie Haberman… Managing consultant at Korn Ferry, Jeremy Seth Gold… Assistant secretary for investment security at the U.S. Treasury, Paul M. Rosen… Public information officer of the City and County of Denver, Joshua Eric Rosenblum… Ivanka Trump… Founding director at Tech Tribe and director of social media for Chabad, Mordechai Lightstone… Politico reporter covering races in the U.S. House of Representatives, Ally Mutnick… Director at D.C.-based Targeted Victory, Rebecca Schieber

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