Your Daily Phil: Q&A with Hadassah hospital’s Dr. Yoram Weiss

Good Wednesday morning.

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on a new survey by Hillel International on Jewish parents’ priorities for their children’s higher education and profile Tel Aviv’s deaf- and blind-focused Na Laga’at Cultural Center. We feature an opinion piece by Manashe Khaimov about how the heritage of Sephardic and Mizrahi students informs their response to antisemitism and anti-Zionism on campus. Also in this newsletter: Joan Marie JohnsonJosé Andrés and Nick Rubins. We’ll start with an interview with Dr. Yoram Weiss, director-general of the Hadassah Medical Organization.

In the aftermath of the Oct. 7 terror attacks, Dr. Yoram Weiss, the director-general of the Hadassah Medical Organization, had two priorities: Construct an underground hospital at its Mount Scopus campus in case the Hezbollah terror group joined the fighting with its massive arsenal of long-range missiles; and open the Gandel Rehabilitation Center, which was still under construction, in order to provide treatment as quickly as possible to the thousands of people wounded in the initial Oct. 7 attacks and the war.

In January, Weiss led eJewishPhilanthropy‘s Judah Ari Gross on a tour of both the fortified subterranean hospital, which — thankfully — has not yet been needed, and the completed parts of the Gandel Rehabilitation Center, which had just started receiving patients.

Last month, eJP again met up with Weiss in his office at Hadassah’s Ein Kerem campus for a wide-ranging conversation about the challenges facing the hospital system, his organization’s plans for the future and the role that philanthropy should and shouldn’t play in addressing both of them.

The interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

Judah Ari Gross: The last time we met, we ran out of time as we started speaking about the role that philanthropy should play in Israel’s health-care system.

Dr. Yoram Weiss: In my view, philanthropy is only to foster excellence. Philanthropy should not come instead of the government. That’s my opinion. The government has its responsibility for its citizens and needs to take care of them.

JAG: What are some of the other areas where you see philanthropy playing a significant role in Hadassah in the foreseeable future? I believe last time we spoke, you mentioned a new project in Netivot.

YW: Yes. About a year before the war started, we identified Netivot [as a potential location for a new branch]… because we realized at that time that this entire area of Netivot, Sderot, and the kibbutzim and villages around it are basically 35 to 40 minutes from Soroka [hospital in Beersheva] or Barzilai [medical center in Ashkelon].

What we’re also trying to do now is to involve the faculty of medicine [at Hebrew University], which Hadassah owns 50% of, together with the Hebrew University. We are looking at opening an extension of the School of Medicine in this area, together with Sapir College [in Sderot]. Some of the education could be provided in Netivot. We’re thinking of a pre-med program or maybe a nursing school.

JAG: And what are some of the challenges facing Hadassah today?

YW: You need to have the infrastructure, technology and the people. The people are the most important, and the real challenge is how to keep good people here.

JAG: From what I understand, salaries are also a major struggle in keeping people at Hadassah.

YW: Salaries are a problem because what’s happening today in Israel is that the health management organizations, the kuppot holim, have very significantly increased the amount of money that they pay physicians who work in their clinics. And this is a major, major stumbling block for the hospitals.

JAG: And that’s not something that you want to turn to philanthropy to help you with?

YW: No way! This is the responsibility of the government. I’m fighting with the government about it. Philanthropists should not cover these issues. This is not for philanthropy. This is the responsibility of the government, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Finance.

Read the full interview here.


Security ranks ahead of academic reputation in Hillel poll of Jewish parents

CUNY students of Palestinian descent and their allies hold a rally demanding that the university system divest from Israel on May 28, 2021, at John Jay College in New York City.
CUNY students of Palestinian descent and their allies hold a rally demanding that the university system divest from Israel on May 28, 2021, at John Jay College in New York City.

As Jewish parents and their high school seniors finish making decisions together about what college the soon-to-be-graduates will attend in the fall, more parents have identified safety and security as a “critical factor” in choosing a university than academic reputation, according to a new national survey conducted by Hillel International. It is the first study to ask parents of Jewish teens how their attitudes toward U.S. colleges and universities have changed in the wake of the dramatic rise in antisemitism that followed the Oct. 7 terror attacks in Israel, reports Gabby Deutch for eJewishPhilanthropy’s sister publication Jewish Insider.

Safety first: Most of the of the Jewish parents surveyed — 57% — identified safety and security as a critical concern, compared to 44% who said the same for academic reputation. The vast majority of Jewish parents — 80% — said they are now considering safety and security more strongly than they had been prior to October. The results paint an alarming picture of the ways in which skyrocketing antisemitism on U.S. campuses could impact the educational choices of Jewish teens. 72% of the parents surveyed said they are “extremely concerned” about the rise in antisemitism on campuses after Oct. 7.

Selection bias: That said, the results come from a population predisposed to care about these issues; the pollster who conducted the survey identified respondents by using a Hillel database of high school parents and a previous nationally representative Jewish Federations of North America study that had asked parents to opt in to future communications. They also don’t offer a full understanding of the choices actually made by Jewish high school students, whose preferences may diverge from those of their parents. Nearly half (49%) of those surveyed said there are schools their child chose not to apply to because of antisemitism, and 15% said there are schools their child got into but chose not to attend because of antisemitism. Just over a third — 36% — said antisemitism will not have an impact on where their child goes to college.


Israel’s blind-, deaf-focused Na Laga’at reopens post-Oct. 7, hopes to bring back crowds for theater, dining, events

Performers from the Na LaGa'at Cultural Center's acting troupe, some of them blind and deaf, appear on stage during a performance at the Tel Aviv center's theater, in an undated photograph.
Performers from the Na LaGa’at Cultural Center’s acting troupe, some of them blind and deaf, appear on stage during a performance at the Tel Aviv center’s theater, in an undated photograph.

The executive director of the Na Laga’at Cultural Center, Oren Itzhaki, flips through the big white sheets of paper behind his desk that he uses as his calendar and where he hand-scribbles with colored magic markers his upcoming appointments, meetings and travel. He points out that even in these past difficult six months since Oct. 7, he has had plenty of trips abroad as nonprofits in countries ranging from Bosnia, Slovenia and Croatia to Austria, Belgium and Germany continue to reach out to Na Laga’at (“Please touch,” in Hebrew) to learn about its holistic model of cultural integration for blind, deaf and deafblind people. “Our goal is not to look inside to do good for blind and deaf people, but to work with blind and deaf people so they can make changes for everybody, for society” Itzhaki told Judith Sudilovsky for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Tripod model: Representatives of NGOs from abroad have come to Israel to learn about Na Laga’at’s model and how they can implement it in their country. International organizations are also interested in learning about Na Laga’at’s business model where 60% of its normal annual NIS 10 million ($2.68 million) budget is self-supported through sales of tickets for its different events, while the rest comes equally from state support and philanthropy, according to Itzhaki. Just as it was beginning to recover from the economic difficulties produced by the COVID-19 pandemic, Na Laga’at lost almost 30% of its self-produced income for 2023 because of the war as people largely refrained from cultural activities. Their doors opened to the public at the end of March, and the organization is hopeful that people will begin returning to their activities.

A multifaceted approach: Since its establishment in 2007 in Tel Aviv’s Jaffa Port, the cultural center, with its multifaceted model of inclusion for people with disabilities, has been home to the Na Laga’at Theater, the only theater in the world with professional deaf, blind and deafblind actors. The center also includes the Blackout restaurant, which is one of 12 “dark” restaurants in the world offering full gourmet meals served in complete darkness by wait staff who are either fully blind or visually impaired; it hosts Kapish Events, where guests communicate in sign language with waiters who are either deaf or hearing impaired; and offers a range of workshops in the workshop center either in darkness or full light led by deaf, blind, or deafblind instructors.

Read the full report here.


More than a history lesson: Reflections from a campus tour

Photo from the author’s recent campus tour. Courtesy SAMi: Sephardic American Mizrahi Initiative

“My family immigrated to America from Samarkand, Uzbekistan, when I was 14. Samarkand was my ancestral city since 586 BCE, when Jews were exiled after the destruction of the first Holy Temple in Jerusalem. We came to America to freely practice our religion and live publicly as Jews without having to hide our identity in consideration of career, reputation and security,” writes Manashe Khaimov, executive director of SAMi: Sephardic American Mizrahi Initiative, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Go back to where?: “Growing up in Samarkand, I did not have to turn on the news to know when Israel was under attack: When a terrorist bombing occurred, students and teachers in my school responded to the news with antisemitic comments. These memories come to mind when I witness the experience of Jewish college students since Hamas’ attack on Israel… Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews whose families immigrated to America came here with expectations of freedom and truth. To hear on campus that Israel is a European settler-colonial entity denies historical facts relating to their communities in that land and their massive contributions to Israeli culture and leadership.”

An underserved population: “Sephardic and Mizrahi students are often underserved by Jewish programming, which lacks sensitivity to their unique and diverse cultural backgrounds; yet when it comes to Israel, these students are at the forefront, unapologetically standing with the Jewish state. Their identity and family narratives inform their sense of commitment — they know when Jews are silent and do not take a stand, the place that they call home might not be there anymore. It is noteworthy that five out of the nine students who gave powerful congressional testimony about campus antisemitism to the Committee on Education and the Workforce in Washington, D.C., were Sephardic and Mizrahi… By investing in Sephardic and Mizrahi students and their narratives today, the Jewish community ensures an inclusive and diverse leadership pipeline for future generations.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Trailblazing Women: In HistPhil, Joan Marie Johnson argues that “aggressively activist” donors in higher ed are not, historically, a new nor exclusively male  phenomenon. “In my book, Funding Feminism: Monied Women, Philanthropy, and the Women’s Movement 1870-1967, I explore the ways in which donors [Mary Elizabeth] Garrett, Phoebe Apperson Hearst, Katharine Dexter McCormick and other women in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries U.S. wielded their giving to force universities to open their doors to women or to increase the number of women admitted by providing scholarships or erecting a women’s building or a dormitory… Coercive giving was an effective means of expanding opportunities for women at a time when their options for education, employment, and political power were limited. However, their determination to push their own agenda, and their willingness to tie their gifts to these demands, provides important context for considering the current desire of some alumni donors to influence their alma mater. Should universities cede power to alumni in exchange for financial contributions? Are these wealthy philanthropists advancing policies for populations with less power? How should institutions, and potentially policy makers and the public, determine whether their demands benefit the university or are for the public good? Coercive giving to universities has long left administrators grappling with how to keep donors at arm’s length, even if their goals are aligned.” [HistPhil]

An Administrator’s Perspective: In an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal, Vanderbilt University Chancellor Daniel Diermeier offers his take on the pro-Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) demonstration on campus last week that ended with suspensions for 25 participating students, assault charges for three of them and a vandalism charge for one. “I made clear at the start of the semester that, consistent with our commitment to institutional neutrality, Vanderbilt doesn’t boycott or divest from companies doing business in or with specific nations, unless required by law. Some students supporting BDS declared their opposition to Vanderbilt’s institutional neutrality, calling it a cop-out, or worse… Critics have claimed that Vanderbilt has abandoned its long-held commitment to free expression. They are wrong. Vanderbilt supports, teaches and defends free expression — but to do so, we must safeguard the environment for it. Students can advocate BDS. That is freedom of expression. But they can’t disrupt university operations during classes, in libraries or on construction sites. The university won’t adopt BDS principles. That’s institutional neutrality. As a community, we should always remember to treat each other with respect and rely on the force of the better argument. That’s civil discourse. Teaching students the importance of upholding rules for free expression doesn’t squelch their right to voice their opinion — it protects it.” [WSJ]

Around the Web

World Central Kitchen founder José Andrés wrote an opinion piece in Israel’s Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, calling for a top-down investigation of the Israeli strike that killed seven WCK workers…

Jewish groups that have worked with World Central Kitchen said they were “devastated” by their deaths in what the Israeli military called a “mistake that followed a misidentification — at night during a war in very complex conditions”…

The Elysabeth Kleinhans Theatrical Foundation donated an additional $10 million to support New York’s 59E59 Theaters, which it created, and its artistic programs…

A planned anti-Israel rally outside a presentation by the Zaka emergency response service in Teaneck, N.J., largely failed to materialize, while a large pro-Israel demonstration took place instead…

A new Pew survey found that most Americans — 57% — and 89% of American Jews say that discrimination against Jews has increased since Oct. 7…

The Jewish Healthcare Foundation approved $665,000 in grants, with nearly half of that — $300,000 — going toward programs to engage older adults at risk for or with early cognitive decline…

The Wall Street Journal examines the Biden administration’s potential political costs for being too critical of Israel or not critical enough…

Look out, Robin Hood: Nick Rubins was installed as the first-ever Jewish high sheriff of Nottinghamshire, England, this week. Rubins was signed into office at Nottingham Liberal Synagogue, where he is an active member…

In The New York TimesDylan Walsh makes the case for compensating those who donate kidneys…

Real estate developer Jordan Schnitzer donated $10 million to Portland State University to support its campus art activities…

Stop & Shop donated more than 2,000 pounds of kosher food to the Rina Shkolnik Kosher Food Pantry in Cedarhurst, N.Y., ahead of Passover…

The Israeli Supreme Court overturned a lower court’s decision and blocked the transfer of a $2.2 million donation from Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich to Zaka, on the grounds that it could put the bank involved at risk of international sanctions…

Bert Pogrebin, a labor lawyer and the partner of feminist activist Letty Cottin Pogrebindied last week at 89…

Pic of the Day

World Jewish Relief/Facebook

Students in the Streets Ahead Children’s Centre Association (SACCA) vocational training program receive recognition for their progress at a general assembly at the organization’s rehabilitation center in Kayonza, Rwanda, last week. Funded with partnership from World Jewish Relief, SACCA is a Rwandan NGO that works to protect and rehabilitate children living on the streets in poor rural communities and prevent them from reaching the streets in the first place. Its vocational training program has an almost 100% employment rate after graduation, according to World Jewish Relief.


Annie Liebovitz smiles
Rebecca Sapp/Getty Images for SBIFF

Israeli screen, stage and television actress, Dana Ivgy

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