Your Daily Phil: Q&A with outgoing JCC Association CEO Doron Krakow

Good Monday morning.

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we interview outgoing JCC Association President and CEO Doron Krakow and report on rising anti-Israel activity at once-quiet universities. Lisa Eisen and Rachel Garbow Monroe write about building Israel back better after Oct. 7 in the latest installment of eJP’s opinion column “The 501(c) Suite.” Also in this newsletter: Kenneth MarcusMelissa Zimmerman and Yakiv Sinyakov. We’ll start with a do-it-yourself initiative for Israeli communities by Jewish National Fund-United Kingdom.

Less than two weeks after returning to their village of Shlomit, the youth of the religious community near the Egyptian and Gazan borders were busy upgrading public areas and had already completed building a seating area replete with four tables and 12 benches as part of a Jewish National Fund-United Kingdom’s DIY (do it yourself) Program for a future outdoor cafe that they envision as a gathering place for unifying and strengthening the area’s youth following the Hamas atrocities of Oct. 7, reports Judith Sudilovsky for eJewishPhilanthropy.

The DIY initiative is meant to give those young people a feeling of ownership and control as they rebuild their community, which was attacked on Oct. 7 and which they were forced to evacuate for nearly five months.

Shlomit, located 6.5 kilometers (four miles) from the Gaza border, was among the more than 20 southern border communities that were evacuated by the Israeli government following the Hamas terrorist attack. On Feb. 28 the 500 residents of the community returned in one long convoy together, just as they had left together four months earlier, and were determined to rebuild and strengthen their town.

But the whole region has become a place of mourning, said Shlomit’s youth director, Avital Koupetz, herself just 19. “The return to our village was very emotional, and joyful, but also very difficult mentally,” said Koupetz. “There is loss in every corner, and also in our town. One of the people who died — Bechor Hai Sawid — was the gardener of the town and in every blade of grass that is growing, every garden that is blossoming, you see his [gardening] projects.”

The DIY program focuses on engaging local volunteers in Israel’s geographic periphery to develop and carry out various small- to medium-impact improvement projects within their communities while providing them with professional guidance and tools. The projects also provide them with a sense of achievement and the awareness that they can — literally — create change within their own communities. 

Before Oct. 7, the DIY Program was more focused on refurbishing buildings and simple garden projects, now several southern Gaza Strip border communities have begun to request help for larger projects. “The DIY program is going into a new direction with this project, but we didn’t want to say no when they came to us. There was no option to say no to Avital,” JNF-UK Israel’s executive director, Yonatan Galon, told eJP.

The participants from Shlomit have so far built the seating area for the outdoor cafe, which was relatively low cost, with material for each set of table and benches costing about NIS 8,000 ($2,200), Galon said. Next up will be building the actual coffee cart, which is intended to be operated and maintained by the youth of Shlomit for the young people of the area to gather and strengthen one another. That will most likely cost tens of thousands of shekels, according to Galon. They are still in the planning stages, formulating a budget and deciding whether to build a cart from scratch, refurbish an old one and whether to make it potentially mobile.

“It would be easier to buy one that is already usable, but the purpose is not to just have a trailer to sell coffee, but for it to be something meaningful for the youth. We want to fulfill the essence of the project, for them to feel they have done something,” Galon said. “These are not essential projects in that they need them, but like in Shlomit where we are working with the youth and it is not just a physical need but it is also a social-action project to improve their state of mind and give them a sense of success.”

Read the full story here.


Doron Krakow reflects on seven chaotic years steering the JCC Association

Doron Krakow, outgoing JCC Association CEO and president.

For the past seven years, Doron Krakow has led the Jewish Community Center Association of North America — through a rash of bomb threats, a pandemic and the post-Oct. 7 rise of both antisemitism and Jewish interest in Israel and Judaism — as he sought to change the organization from what he describes as a “trade association” into a coherent movement built on common principles and goals.

Last Monday, Krakow announced that he was stepping down as president and CEO of the organization. He sat down with eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross on the sidelines of the Jewish Funders Network conference in Tel Aviv for a wide-ranging discussion about his seven-year, crises-filled tenure at the JCC Association, the role that JCCs can play in strengthening the Jewish community, early childhood education and how to build a movement with all carrots and not sticks.

Judah Ari Gross: How do you see the position of the movement after the bomb threats, the COVID-19 crisis and where we are today?

Doron Krakow: So let me offer a few things. First of all, at the time that I arrived at the association, of the 172 JCCs [in North America], only 111 were affiliated, and the number was dropping. Today, 160 are affiliated and the ones beyond the 160 are in most cases such small communities that it’s a matter of lacking time and energy, not that they’re not open to the idea…

Secondly, the JCC Association that I inherited had a reputation of not working and playing nicely with philanthropists outside of the circle of those who were on the board… So we said, well, let’s begin again. And what I presented to them was the opportunity: 172 JCCs that welcome a million and a half in-person visitors a week, a million of them Jews of every age background. There is no bigger opportunity, and therefore the chance to partner with us and to bring your strategic agenda to bear on our platform offers a great opportunity.

Read the full interview here.


Traditionally quiet campuses now face widespread anti-Israel activity

Daxia Rojas/AFP via Getty Images

University of Virginia’s politically low-key climate was, in part, what drew Adin Yager to the campus. The fourth-year student had never voted in a student election. But that changed after the Oct. 7 attacks in Israel — students on the Charlottesville campus, seemingly overnight, became activists urging the university to divest from companies with ties to the Jewish state, a pattern seen in several universities that have traditionally been politically sleepy regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but since the Hamas attacks and the start of the war in Gaza are suddenly seeing their first-ever “boycott, divestment and sanctions” campaigns and anti-Israel activity, eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen reports for Jewish Insider.

Non-binding but toxic: On university campuses, the BDS movement is largely represented by an effort to pass non-binding resolutions or referendums that call on the school to divest from companies that operate in Israel. No university has ever moved forward with the recommendation to adopt the policies of the BDS movement. BDS efforts nearly disappeared on college campuses in recent years before Oct. 7, with just three resolutions being brought forward in 2022, compared to 44 at their peak in the 2014-2015 school year. But in the months since Oct. 7 there has been a resurgence in efforts to bring BDS back to the forefront.

The Jews are tired: This week at Vanderbilt, SJP is holding “Israeli Apartheid Week” — which includes a display of a large wall on campus, meant to signify the border fences between Israel and the Palestinian territories. Weeks earlier, the group held a “die-in” protest on campus, where participants laid on the ground posing as dead Gazans. “These are things that we view as escalations,” Ryan Bauman, a fourth-year student who is the president and founder of Vanderbilt’s Students Supporting Israel chapter, said. “Only because we’ve never had to deal with stuff like it on campus before… it’s intimidating and scares a lot of the younger classmen… Jewish students are tired of waking up every day and having to defend our right to exist.”

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


Funders supported Israel in crisis. Now we need to help build a better future.

A Bedouin woman and Jewish woman work together in a donation-collection facility in the southern Bedouin city of Rahat after the Oct. 7, 2023, terror attacks.

“Nearly six months since Israel’s deadliest day and with the ensuing war ongoing, we must continue to invest in interim and longer-term recovery with the same urgency and shared purpose we did in the days and weeks after Oct. 7. As we start to shift from emergency response to support for rebuilding, we want to highlight three essential ways funders in the United States and beyond can strengthen Israel’s security and support Israeli society, even with an unpredictable road ahead,” write Lisa Eisen, co-president of Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies, and Rachel Garbow Monroe, president and CEO of The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, in the latest installment of eJewishPhilanthropy’s opinion column “The 501(c) Suite.”

Invest in women’s leadership: “At an event we hosted last week during the Jewish Funders Network’s international conference in Tel Aviv, leaders representing the business, nonprofit, military and public sectors came with a shared message: Investing in women’s leadership is essential for building an inclusive, democratic society and a secure future for Israel. Decades of research back this call to action… Yet even as women have stepped up as soldiers, on the home front and in civil society, research shows their influence over decision making in Israel is at an all-time low.”

Inclusive support’s power: “Especially in times of crisis, we have a great responsibility to listen to the people we seek to serve, whether in person or through local partners, grantees, colleagues and experts. These experiences have underscored the importance and value of engaging affected communities across the country, including the over 2 million Arabs, Bedouins and Druze who call Israel home, as well as those often marginalized. The well-being of all populations matters, and strengthening every segment of society, and the bonds among them, strengthens the whole nation.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Source of Support: Twenty eight Israeli women were pregnant when they became widows after their husbands were killed on Oct. 7 or during the war in Gaza, Hillel Kuttler writes in Tablet; and two more pregnant women have given birth while their husbands remain unaccounted for as hostages in Gaza. “Creating a group within the IDF Widows and Orphans Organization called B’tzideich (By Your Side), geared to pregnant widows, is an idea that came to Shlomi Nahumson, the organization’s CEO, when his wife gave birth to their fourth child in early November. ‘All I could think of was the [pregnant] widows who are not going to have their husbands by their sides,’ he said. A WhatsApp group connects the expectant mothers to each another. The organization’s psychologists host weekly therapy sessions with them in small groups. Larger gatherings also are held. Those in similar circumstances ‘can understand me in a way that maybe others can’t,’ said Mahol Shosh, who learned, along with her husband, Noy, that their fourth child would be a girl just a week before he was killed defending their home at Be’eri on Oct. 7… ‘I have kibbutz friends who are widows but aren’t delivering. It’s a different experience. The fact I can share stories with women in a similar situation … is very meaningful,’ Shosh, 36, said. ‘It helps very much.’” [Tablet]

Vanishing Act: In The Atlantic, Tommy Trenchard highlights the plight of island communities facing rising sea levels with the case of Nyangai Island. “Before the sea started taking house-size bites out of Nyangai, this small tropical island off the coast of Sierra Leone hummed with activity. I first visited in 2013 while documenting the construction of a school on a neighboring island. It was a cloudless day in April. A group of teenagers was busy setting up a sound system for a party. Old men chatted and smoked in the shade of palm trees. Children chased one another through the maze of sandy lanes while a constant traffic of roughly hewn wooden boats plied the surrounding waters… In December of the following year, I caught another glimpse of the island, this time while flying over it in a United Nations helicopter delivering emergency supplies to a nearby island at the height of the West African Ebola outbreak. From the air, it looked fragile, its curved, slender form barely 160 feet wide in places. I didn’t know it then, but the island I was looking at was a mere stub of what it had once been. Nyangai (also spelled Nyankai and Yankai on some maps) is shrinking at an alarming rate, its sandy soil eroded by an ever-more-destructive sea. In the span of a human lifetime, the majority of its land has disappeared, and most of its population has fled. Those who remain, many of whose families have called Nyangai home for generations, are squeezed into an ever-decreasing patch of sand. Within a few years, many fear, the island may disappear altogether.” [TheAtlantic]

Around the Web

The New York Times profiles Kenneth Marcus and his efforts to combat antisemitism on college campuses…

UC Berkeley professor Ron Hassner ended the sit-in protest he started on March 7 to protest antisemitism on campus after he determined that the university was willing to address his concerns…

The Academic Engagement Network launched a new program to educate Historically Black Colleges and Universities about antisemitism…

Melissa Zimmerman was hired as the next executive director of Jewish Family Service of Utah. She will succeed Ellen Silver, who led the nonprofit for some 15 years until her retirement last fall…

Elan Carr, who began as CEO of the Israeli-American Council in October, was interviewed by The Jerusalem Post about his plans for the organization…

New York City’s Museum of Jewish Heritage is looking to focus on college students, particularly those at the City University of New York, in an effort to combat antisemitism on campus…

The board of the nonprofit New Alternatives for Children, which helps children with special needs and their families, selected David Goldstein, the current COO, to serve as its next executive director…

Haaretz examines the turmoil and internal disagreements at the dovish B’Tselem nonprofit following the Oct. 7 terror attacks and war in Gaza…

The Jewish Community Center of Greater Buffalo removed a staff member over violent anti-Palestinian social media posts…

Rosalyn Rosenthal, a prominent member of and donor to the Fort Worth, Texas, Jewish communitydied last Wednesday at 99…

Pic of the Day

Over 50,000 people attend the traditional Birkat Kohanim (Priestly Blessing) at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City today, during Chol Hamoed (the intermediary days) of Sukkot.
Courtesy/Federation of Jewish Communities of Ukraine

Yakiv Sinyakov (right), a Ukrainian military chaplain, delivers mishlohei manot to Jewish Ukrainian soldiers ahead of yesterday’s Purim holiday.


Annie Liebovitz smiles
Screenshot via The Associated/YouTube

Chair of Eastern Savings Bank in Hunt Valley, Md., and immediate past chair of The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore, Beth H. Goldsmith

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