Your Daily Phil: Q&A with philanthropist, ‘donor revolt’ leader David Magerman

Good Thursday morning. 

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on the status of two antisemitism-related bills backed by many Jewish organizations that are stalled in Congress, and feature an opinion piece by Zack Bodner and Shana Penn about the role of JCCs in combating the “loneliness epidemic” in the United States. Also in this newsletter: Brian Herstig, Lesley Plachta and Marc and Lynne Benioff. We’ll start with an interview with venture capitalist and philanthropist David Magerman.

David Magerman, a computer scientist-turned-venture capitalist, was among the first to join the so-called “donor revolt” against elite American universities in the wake of the Oct. 7 terror attacks and the accompanying rise in anti-Israel protests and antisemitic incidents on college campuses in the United States, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross.

This week, Magerman told eJP that he was taking the multimillion-dollar donation that he’d planned to give to Penn and giving it to Israeli colleges and universities instead, starting with a $1 million grant to the Jerusalem College of Technology to fund a preparatory program for English speakers to teach them Hebrew and integrate them into the private religious college’s full curriculum.

In his interview with eJP, which has been lightly edited for clarity, Magerman explained his rationale behind the move, particularly his view that U.S. Jews should make aliyah or at least turn away from American universities, particularly the Ivy League, and instead focus on sending their children to Israeli universities and turning those schools into top-tier institutions.

Judah Ari Gross: You were among the first donors post-Oct. 7 who publicly cut ties with Ivy League schools over their responses to the attacks and the protests on campus. Obviously the situation at the University of Pennsylvania preceded Oct. 7. What was the process that led you to move away from supporting Penn and then decide to shift away from American universities entirely and look instead to Israel and specifically, the Jerusalem College of Technology?

David Magerman: [I] had made a decision and announced my decision to stop giving to Penn after the Palestine Writes Festival happened in September — before Oct. 7 — but I did it somewhat quietly. It wasn’t a movement at that point, it was just my personal decision not to support the school because [of] their reduction in acceptance of Orthodox Jews and the negative quality of life that my kids had experienced on campus as observant Jews. And then, obviously, going into the [university’s] response to Oct. 7, and the protests and the lack of defending the Jewish community was decisive for me and that’s when I made a public pronouncement about abandoning Penn and moving away from from any pledges I’d made and deciding not to give any more…

I was actually in Israel for Oct. 7, at my apartment in [the Jerusalem neighborhood of] Baka, celebrating Shemini Atzeret, when the attack happened. And when I came back to America and saw how bad things were, I booked a trip back to Israel, without a plan but looking to figure out how I could support the Jewish community — how to support Israel, but also support Americans and bring as many of them as I could to just to make a decision to make aliyah

I’m not looking to support Israel as an exit strategy for America. I don’t think we should be trying to run away from or escape terrorists or violence [in America]. We should defend our right to be wherever we are. At the same time I think that our place is in Israel. Post-exile [from Israel], this is the first time that we have a viable option to go back to our Israel, and the State of Israel is an obvious solution, an obvious place for us to go where antisemitism is absent…

So I met with the leadership of JCT a couple of times, and we agreed that Tzemach David would support and fund the development of a program that would create a mechina [preparatory] program to integrate English speakers. So it wouldn’t just be one major that you could study in English, but it would be the full spectrum of majors that they offer.

JAG: To push back on that a little on two fronts: One, from what I’ve seen there does not appear to be a major rise in American Jews opting to study at Israeli universities in the coming year despite the issue of campus antisemitism being so prominent. So there’s a question of the efficacy of trying to encourage something that people just don’t seem to be that interested in.

And two, given that not a lot of people are necessarily going to come over to Israel, if all of the Jewish donors and all of that influence comes away from Ivy League schools, that leaves those Jewish students who want to study there without somebody behind the scenes who can really fight for them.

DM: So a number of those points are really valid.

But one thing that guides me is that like 80% of the Jews stayed in Egypt [after the exodus], and [Moses] didn’t leave behind an infrastructure system to support the Jews who stayed in Egypt. At some point we have to recognize that the Golden Age of Jews in America is over. And we need to shift our focus to those Jews who want to leave Egypt, cross the sea and come into Israel. We need to support that much more so than in the past.

But in terms of the statistics you’re citing, that’s exactly why I’m doing what I’m doing. When a Jewish child is born, their parents immediately start figuring out ‘How are we going to get them into Harvard?’ We have this vision of the Ivy Leagues as being the ultimate standard and success for the education process, and I think that’s incredibly misguided. I was one of those parents: Two of my kids went to Penn. I’ve seen the error of my ways.

Read the full interview here.


Antisemitism bills appear stalled in Congress with summer, election fast approaching

Teens from across the country celebrate Opening Session of USY International Convention in Orlando, Fla. with teens from the Metropolitan New York area.
U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY). Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

As Congress approaches its summer recess, and with just a few weeks in session left before the 2024 election, some in the Jewish community are growing concerned that two major antisemitism bills, the Antisemitism Awareness Act and the Countering Antisemitism Act, appear stuck in Congress without a clear path forward, reports Marc Rod for eJewishPhilanthropy’s sister publication Jewish Insider.

Alphabet soup explained: AAA, codifying the Department of Education’s use of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism, passed the House with a bipartisan 320-91 vote earlier this year, but stalled in the Senate after an initial bid to fast-track its passage. CAA, introduced in early April, would create a permanent White House post dedicated to combating antisemitism, along with a range of other steps aiming to codify and expand the administration’s national strategy to combat antisemitism. Yet, despite strong support inside and outside of Congress, including from most of the mainstream Jewish organizations, each bill faces significant hurdles in Congress that are leaving the passage of either or both bills uncertain, and congressional leaders hesitant to act.

Horseshoe theory: In addition to progressives who warn the AAA would restrict criticism of Israel, the bill has also seen strident opposition from conservative Republicans over free speech concerns, as well as objections to language in the IHRA definition’s related examples describing accusations that Jews killed Jesus as antisemitic. A source familiar with the bill said that conservative supporters of AAA were caught off guard by strong backlash to the legislation from the right, and some Republicans are now afraid of alienating that portion of their base, while lawmakers on the left fear the ire of progressives.

A before C: The CAA, which has become a key plank of House Democrats’ proposal for combating antisemitism, has continued to collect sponsors in each chamber, in a bipartisan fashion, but has seen no movement either in the Senate or the House. An individual familiar with the situation told JI the legislation will likely need to move in the Senate first, and that House leadership is less inclined to take action on it — viewing AAA as a significant step to address antisemitism — particularly until the Senate passes AAA.

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


The Jewish community has an effective antidote to combat the loneliness epidemic

Two friends embrace at the 2024 Yom Ha’Atzmaut celebration at the Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto, Calif. Scott Wall/Oshman Family JCC

“When Hillel instructed ‘Do not separate yourself from the community’ in a famous mishna in Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers), the ancient sage was offering not just religious guidance but a formula for good, healthful living,” write Zack Bodner,  president and CEO of the Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto, Calif., and Shana Penn, executive director of Taube Philanthropies, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Real health consequences: “These days, many Americans find themselves suffering from what U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy has called an ‘epidemic of loneliness and isolation.’ Personal isolation and poor social connections, Murthy has warned, can lead to anxiety, depression, dementia and even elevated risks for cancer and other diseases. As reported recently in The New York Times, studies show adults are loneliest in early adulthood and older adulthood. Elevated levels of social isolation and depression in young adults have been linked to everything from social media to the shuttering of schools during the COVID-19 pandemic, while older adults are more likely to be isolated due to retirement from work, the loss of a spouse or loved one or their own health issues. Since Oct. 7, another group has found themselves lonelier than usual: Jews facing antisemitism, as well as Israelis, Zionists and others who care about Israel’s well-being.”

A critical resource: “Across North America, some 170 JCCs and camps spread over 400 sites are uniquely positioned to meet the needs of isolated adults and young people with meaningful activities and opportunities for peer connection — from one-off cultural events to summer camps to year-round programming. JCCs offer a trained workforce, the physical space to host programs and a humanistic approach undergirded by Jewish values that resonate for Jews and non-Jews alike. JCCs welcome everyone, regardless of religious affiliation, ethnicity or socioeconomic status. Much JCC programming is low-cost or free, and scholarships are available for many other programs. The work that JCCs do across the continent manifests itself as 1.5 million weekly human, healing touches — interactions with 1 million Jews and a half-million non-Jewish people per week.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

From Anne to Noa: In the Jewish Journal, Matthew Schultz writes about how the details of the captivity and recent rescue of Israeli hostage Noa Argamani brought to mind his childhood obsession with the story of Anne Frank. “Like Anne, Noa was secreted away in an apartment while a war raged outside, unsure if she would ever again be allowed to walk free. Like Anne, Noa was living a completely ordinary life until war intruded upon her and changed it forever. Like Anne, Noa became a symbol — and a polarizing one at that. For some, she was a symbol of innocence lost and humanity caught in the jaws of hatred and brutality. Others tore down her poster, either justifying or denying what was done to her, and what was still being done… Anne was silenced by death and later transformed into a symbol — the meaning of which has been decided for her by others. For Noa, all of this is reversed. Her presence and her voice have been returned to us. As to what her story means, for Zionism or humanity or anything else, that is something she will have to tell us herself.” [JewishJournal]

Falling Short: In Inside Philanthropy, Mike Scutari offers insight into why some large foundations fall short of the required 5% payout of the fair market value of their assets per year while others soar past it. “John Seitz is the founder and president of FoundationMark, which tracks the investment performance of private foundations. He recently crunched Form 990 data from the 40 largest U.S. foundations by total assets and determined that 17 of the 36 for which information was available for the last five years failed to hit an average 5% payout during that timeframe. Seitz cited two reasons for these foundations’ underperformance. The first, ironically enough, is the surging stock market, which has dramatically increased foundations’ wealth… [W]ith the value of their noncharitable assets going through the roof, some foundations may have lacked the capacity to effectively give away an exponentially larger 5% of the pile… [The other consideration] is the fact that trustees don’t know precisely what their target 5% figure is in dollar terms until well after the end of the year — again, this is calculated by dividing its qualifying distributions by the net value of its non-charitable use assets… Replicate this calculus year over year, and it can explain why some foundations clock in at under 5%. In contrast, those helmed by living donors, cognizant that billions of dollars in incoming contributions are on the horizon, frequently blow past the figure.” [InsidePhilanthropy]

Around the Web

The St. Louis Jewish Light’s Editor-in-Chief Ellen Futterman interviews Jewish Federation of St. Louis President and CEO Brian Herstig as he steps down from the role after four years…

Wikipedia’s editors have voted to declare the Anti-Defamation League “generally unreliable” on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as well as on the topic of antisemitism, saying that it acts primarily as a pro-Israel organization and tends to label legitimate criticism of Israel as antisemitism…

Marc and Lynne Benioff donated an additional 158 acres on the island of Hawaii for affordable housing, bringing the couple’s total land donation to 440 acres…

The Portland, Ore., Association of Teachers has removed a teaching guide that it published, which called Zionists “bullies” and instructed students to write prayers for Palestinians…

Lesley Plachta was hired as the next director of development at the Jewish college-preparatory de Toledo High School in San Fernando Valley, Calif….

The Free Press interviews singer Eden Golan about her experience representing Israel in the recent Eurovision Song Contest

A group of workers at Jewish Family Services in St. Louis announced plans to unionize…

The Wall Street Journal examines the struggles that families of hostages in Gaza face as they hope to receive new information about their loved ones but dread a phone call that may bring news of the worst…

Michael Hopkins will retire as CEO of the San Diego Jewish Family Service in June 2025…

A group of 50 Austrian citizens — the Guter Rat für Rückverteilung (“good council for redistribution”) — tasked with deciding what to do with the fortune of heiress Marlene Engelhorn, who is donating her inheritance to charity as a form of protest, selected 77 organizations that would receive the money…

Two 13-year-old boys were arrested on Monday for the rape of a 12-year-old Jewish girl near Paris, which appears to have also been motivated by antisemitism…

Police arrested Casey Goonan, 34, at his parents’ $1.1 million home for allegedly carrying out a string of arson attacks at UC Berkeley earlier this month as part of an anti-Israel protest…

More than 50 synagogues across Florida received bomb threats on Tuesday…

MacKenzie Scott awarded a $2 million grant on March 19 to the Bread & Roses Community Fund, a Philadelphia-based community fund that weeks later gave an award to the Philly Palestine Coalition, the group behind the anti-Israel encampment at the University of Pennsylvania

Three Australians suspected of planning to travel to Israel to serve in the Israel Defense Forces were stopped and questioned by the Australian Border Forces, as the Australian government warned citizens wanting to serve in the armed forces of a foreign country “to carefully consider their legal obligations and ensure their conduct does not constitute a criminal offense”…

Pic of the Day


Boys participating in the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee’s Fathers and Sons soccer training program in Israel. Since its launch around 15 years ago, more than 14,000 fathers and sons have engaged in the program.

The program has grown during the war, with 20 new groups being added, and now includes workshops for evacuated parents and children on building emotional resilience.

“Sometimes we see outbursts of anger and frustration in the field, clearly stemming from the events of Oct. 7,” says Liat Kochavi, part of the coaching team. “Then a dad comes to me and says, ‘My son never used to behave like this, and I don’t know what happened to him.’ The pressure affects their daily lives, and I’m glad to be a part of the solution to helping them. Seeing the change in the children is rewarding.”


Jonathan S. Lavine, co-managing partner and chief investment officer of Bain Capital Credit
David Livingston/Getty Images

Chef, baker and author of eight books, she popularized sourdough and artisan breads in the U.S., Nancy Silverton

Weston, Fla., resident, Harold Kurte… Former member of Knesset for the Ratz party, Ran Cohen… Owner of Schulman Small Business Services in Atlanta, Alan Schulman… Detroit-based pawnbroker, reality TV star, author and speaker, Leslie “Les” Gold… Host of Bully Pulpit from Booksmart Studios, Bob Garfield… Former assistant managing editor for politics at NBC News, now an adjunct professor at the University of Florida and FIU, Gregg Birnbaum… Federation leader, co-founder of Brilliant Detroit and of Riverstone Communities (it owns and operates over 70 manufactured housing communities in 12 states), James Bellinson… Executive vice president of the Orthodox Union, Rabbi Moshe Hauer… Professor of Talmud at Yeshiva University and rabbi of Congregation Ohr HaTorah in Bergenfield, N.J., Rabbi Zvi Sobolofsky… Israeli-American screenwriter, film director, writer and producer of 20 films, Boaz Yakin… Senior legal affairs reporter at PoliticoJosh Gerstein… Governor of Pennsylvania, Joshua David Shapiro… U.S. Sen. Eric Stephen Schmitt (R-MO)… Singer, songwriter and hazzan, he is a co-founder of the band Moshav, Yehuda Solomon… Senior program director of civic initiatives at The Teagle Foundation, Tamara Mann Tweel, Ph.D…. Israeli author of crime and thriller books that have sold more than a million copies in 14 languages, Mike Omer… Journalist, blogger and EMT in New York City, Maggie Shnayerson… EVP of Moxie Strategies, Pearl Gabel… French-Israeli singer and songwriter, Amir Haddad… Former White House deputy communications director, now at Standard Industries, Josh Raffel… Jennifer Bernstein… Photographer, producer and digital strategist, Sara Pearl Kenigsberg… Writer, director, and comedian, Allison Beth Raskin… Team captain of Maccabi Tel Aviv of the Israeli Basketball Premier League and the EuroLeague, John DiBartolomeo… Chief campus officer at Hillel Ontario, Beverley Shimansky… Director of corporate governance at UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, Jaime Reich