Your Daily Phil: Rabbi David Wolpe resigns from Harvard antisemitism committee

Good Friday morning.

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on hedge fund manager Ross Stevens pulling a $100 million donation to the University of Pennsylvania over the handling of antisemitism on campus by its president, Liz Magill, and Israeli street artists using graffiti to call for the return of the hostages. We feature opinion pieces by Andrés Spokoiny and Robert Bank. Also in this newsletter: Michael KoplowRabbi David Ellenson and Jasmin Moghbeli. We’ll start with Rabbi David Wolpe stepping down from Harvard University’s antisemitism advisory committeeHappy Hanukkah and Shabbat shalom!

For less-distracted reading over the weekend, browse this week’s edition of The Weekly Print, a curated print-friendly PDF featuring a selection of recent Jewish InsidereJewishPhilanthropy and The Circuit stories, including: Maccabee Task Force looks to screen Oct. 7 footage at several campuses in coming weeks, more later; Calling for moral clarity on antisemitism, Pa. governor slams UPenn’s president; Long Island special election could feature two candidates with deep Jewish community ties; ‘Mission impossible’: Gaza humanitarian envoy David Satterfield’s high-stakes diplomacyPrint the latest edition here.

Rabbi David Wolpe, the Anti-Defamation League’s rabbinic fellow and a senior advisor to Maimonides Fund, announced yesterday that he will step down from the antisemitism advisory committee at Harvard University, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen in Jewish Insider.

The resignation came amid an investigation into allegations of antisemitism at Harvard and other Ivy League schools and mounting frustration with the university president’s appearance in Congress this week in which she said “context” would be needed to determine if calls for genocide violated the school’s code of conduct.

“As of today I have resigned from the antisemitism advisory committee at Harvard,” Wolpe wrote on X.

“Without rehashing all of the obvious reasons that have been endlessly adumbrated online, and with great respect for the members of the committee, the short explanation is that both events on campus and the painfully inadequate testimony reinforced the idea that I cannot make the sort of difference I had hoped,” he wrote.

Wolpe was one of eight members on Harvard’s antisemitism advisory committee, which was formed at the end of October as the school faced fierce criticism over its response to the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel.

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

DONOR DONE

Wall Street CEO pulls $100 million gift from UPenn amid growing push for its president to resign

Rabbi Dina Brawer, executive director of the U.K.-based World Jewish Relief’s American branch, speaks at the Clinton Global Initiative in September 2023.
Univeristy of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Ross Stevens, the founder and CEO of Stone Ridge Asset Management, pulled a $100 million donation to the University of Pennsylvania yesterday, citing the school’s “permissive approach to hate speech” and discrimination against Jewish students, particularly in light of university President Liz Magill’s appearance before Congress. In a letter through his attorneys, Stevens indicated that the gift could be returned “if, and when, there is a new university president in place,” reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross.

DEI and Israel too: This is not the first time that Stevens has used contributions to influence the university’s policies and conduct. Earlier this year, he donated $100 million to the University of Chicago — instead of Penn — because of what he saw as the latter’s prioritizing of diversity, equity and inclusion over its academic excellence. Stevens is also one of 367 asset managers who signed a pledge in solidarity with Jewish people and Israel following the Oct. 7 attacks and vowing not to hire “supporters of hate.”

Growing calls: Stevens’ revocation of his donation came as the university’s board of trustees held an emergency meeting last night, discussing if Magill should be asked to resign. The Board of Advisors to the university’s prominent Wharton Business School also sent a letter to Magill and Penn’s board of trustees, calling on her to resign. There have been conflicting reports about whether Scott Bok, chair of Penn’s Board of Trustees, would call for Magill to step down later today.

Not just this: While the other two university presidents who appeared before the House Education and Workforce Committee — Harvard’s Claudine Gay and Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sally Kornbluth — have also faced criticism for their equivocations regarding calls for genocide of Jews, Magill appears to be facing greater backlash in light of antisemitism-related events on campus that preceded the post-Oct. 7 rise. Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro and the leaders of Penn Hillel, among others, have criticized Magill’s conduct during the House committee.

GOOD GRAFFITI

Street artists memorialize Oct. 7 victims, urge return of hostages

A quarter-mile-long Bring Them Home Now mural in the Haifa rail yard in northern Israel, in an undated photograph. Courtesy/Artists4Israel

The Hapoel Tel Aviv football club always had its artist-fans, who had shown their love by creating soccer-themed graffiti across Israel. But after Oct. 7, they shifted their focus, painting a mural in memory of Omer Hermesh, a Hapoel Tel Aviv fan who had been killed in the Hamas attacks. During a webinar this week, Artists 4 Israel founder Craig Dershowitz interviewed Yuval Daniel and Michael Inbar, graffiti artists and founders of the Bring Them Home Now Graffiti Collective, about the artists’ journeys from illegal street artists and soccer fans to leading a movement that is raising public awareness about kidnapped Israelis through public art, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Esther D. Kustanowitz.

Talk of the town: Dershowitz first learned of the collective through its quarter-mile-long Bring Them Home Now mural in the Haifa rail yard, he said. “That piece was the talk of the graffiti world for a couple of weeks, and I was determined to find and thank the creators. One phone call and we met these amazing men and women working to return our kidnapped families,” he said.

Use what you know: Inbar said that they are using street art because “that’s how we can impact the situation. Some people have money and donate — we know [this] way, so we’ll just use what we know and just go out and do it.” Artists 4 Israel has been a source of support for the graffiti artists, elevating their voices and offering to help collect funds for painting supplies through its nonprofit.

Read the full report here.

THANKS BUT NO THANKS

The bargain the Maccabees didn’t take (and we shouldn’t either)

“Paul Ehrenfest was one of the great minds — albeit one of the lesser-known ones — in the ‘golden age’ of theoretical physics… Like many German and Austrian scientists of the time, Ehrenfest was Jewish; and like many Jews of the time, he also struggled to be accepted by the society in which he lived. He couldn’t understand how entire societies could descend into hatred, and he felt that something needed to be done to wake Germany out of its trance of intolerance,” writes Andrés Spokoiny, president and CEO of the Jewish Funders Network, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

A macabre proposal: “In 1933, two months after Hitler’s accession to power, [Ehrenfest] had a morbid idea. He wrote to his friend Samuel Goudsmit: What if a group of eminent, elderly Jewish academics and artists collectively commit suicide, without any demonstration of hatred or issuance of demands, in order to prick the German conscience? Goudsmit wrote back in a fury that the idea was incredibly stupid: A group of dead Jews can do nothing, and their deaths would merely delight their Teutonic haters. Goudsmit was obviously right, and Ehrenfest’s idea might have more to do with his depressive tendencies than the effectiveness of his proposed tactic… And yet, variations of Ehrenfest’s suicide-for-pity bargain are still alive among Jews today.”

Read the full piece here.

ANNIVERSARY THOUGHTS

In turbulent times, we must keep fighting for human rights

Eleanor Roosevelt holding a poster of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (in English), Lake Success, NY, Nov. 1949. Wikimedia Commons

“In 1948, the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights… Coming on the heels of two World Wars and the Holocaust, it became a symbol of the world coming together to say that every person deserves dignity, equality and human rights – a newly minted term of art,”? writes Robert Bank, president and CEO of American Jewish World Service, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Keep the faith: “The declaration’s 75th anniversary this Sunday comes at an all-but-impossible moment for American Jews focused on global human rights. Although the declaration has influenced more than 80 international treaties, declarations and national constitutions, we know that its call for human dignity and fundamental freedom has neither been universally understood nor adopted. But after 75 years, these 30 articles remain a roadmap for everyone in the trenches of human rights work, and especially those of us guided by the Jewish values of b’tzelem Elohim and tikkun olam. And even if we fear our world is moving farther away from the declaration’s ideals, we can still find signs of progress if we know where to look.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Jewish Kabul in Queens: In New Lines Magazine, American-Afghan journalist Freshta Jalalzai recounts getting to know the congregants of an Afghan synagogue in New York, which is home to 2,000 Afghan Jews, the largest community outside of Israel. “I was welcomed warmly by Jack Abraham, born in 1943 in Kabul, an animated gem dealer given to wearing cowboy hats. Jews back in the homeland were known for trading precious stones and silver… Almost everyone I met in New York had a story to tell about the difficult exit, some with the assistance of human traffickers, as well as the trauma of traveling across deserts and plateaus on the backs of beasts of burden… For many elders, holding onto their ancient heritage involves traditional dishes and antique objects that they spirited out of Afghanistan. These artifacts, family jewels and photos are the only tangible links that remain of their lost homeland. Whenever members of the community invited me to their homes, they lovingly unwrapped these prized possessions and regaled me with the stories of how much the objects meant to their family histories.” [NewLines]

Who Cares If It’s Antisemitic?: Writing on the Israel Policy Forum website, the organization’s chief policy officer, Michael Koplow, rejects the “Is anti-Zionism antisemitism?” question and instead calls for people to primarily consider if the anti-Zionist act in question is horrible regardless. “I can absolutely point to anti-Zionism that I would not dub antisemitic, and I also know that given what is taking place in the streets of cities and on college campuses, this does not seem to be the time to take stands based on theoretical frameworks. The common sense response to these things is to point out how awful they are and demand that they stop, and not be consumed by arguments over the semantics of antisemitism versus anti-Zionism. If you think it is ok to tear down posters of Israeli hostages, claim that October 7 was an Israeli false flag operation, insist that Israeli women and children abducted by Hamas who waved goodbye when released by their captors demonstrates Hamas’ humanity and decency rather than the forced stage directions of terrorists who still hold those women and children’s relatives and friends hostage, or refuse to condemn rape of Israeli women on its own terms, then whether your abhorrent behavior is antisemitic or just anti-Zionist is of little practical relevance.” [IsraelPolicyForum]

Human Rights Revolution: In UnHerd, Yehudah Mirsky argues that the world’s muted responses to the atrocities of the Oct. 7 attacks show that the current understanding of human rights is fundamentally flawed and must be reformed. “Any number of religions have passed through this cycle of birth, growth, decay, reformation and renewal. The latest is a religion born 75 years ago this week — the religion of human rights. Sadly, it is hard to escape the conclusion that the manifest failures of the human rights framework as we know it today, and its grotesque contributions to the evil it is meant to fight, are not a bug of the system, but a feature… Today, the religion of human rights is as badly in need of reformation as was the priestly religion of ancient Israel, the Catholic Church in the time of Martin Luther, and, yes, Islamic thought after the frenzies of Jihadism will finally, hopefully, have exhausted themselves. A reformation need not spell the end of human rights, but their re-birth… The core idea of human rights — of ensuring respect for every single person’s fundamental dignity in processes of government and law, without exception — is not to be discarded. But we have to be brave enough to admit that the iterations of human rights as we know them have failed — and that if they are not drastically revised, conceptually and institutionally, they will do more harm than good.” [UnHerd]

Around the Web

David Rubenstein, the co-founder of Carlyle Group investment firm, is reportedly in talks to purchase the Baltimore Orioles

The Biden administration distanced itself from the Council on American-Islamic Relations after the leader of the group gave a speech celebrating the Oct. 7 Hamas terror attacks, which White House deputy press secretary Andrew Bates called “shocking” and “antisemitic.” In addition to the condemnation, the White House also removed CAIR from a fact sheet in its National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism

New York police arrested a man suspected of firing shots at Temple Israel in Albany, N.Y., a synagogue that is home to a preschool, which had children inside at the time of the attack. The suspect reportedly shouted “Free Palestine” during the shooting…

Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts opened a new Judaica gallery — one of the few in American art museums — last night to coincide with the first night of Hanukkah. The gallery is possible primarily because of the 2013 donation of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Collection, which contains more than 100 objects…

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky held a Hanukkah candlelighting in Kyiv with the Federation of Jewish Communities of Ukraine last night, afterward writing on X that “the sacred Hanukkah lights, lit these days, remind us once again that light always prevails over evil”…

In the Jewish Review of BooksYitz Landes explores the mystery of the “some people say it, some people don’t” final verse of the Hanukkah song Maoz Tzur

A coffeehouse in Oakland, Calif., issued an apology after employees blocked the entrance to the bathroom for a Jewish customer who complained about anti-Zionist and anti-Israel graffiti inside the bathroom…

MacKenzie Scott announced $2.15 billion in charitable donations to 360 nonprofits…

New York’s Museum of Jewish Heritage raised more than $1 million at a star-studded event on Tuesday that honored the legacy of the Jews saved by Oskar Schindler

Rep. Kathy Manning (D-NC), a former board chair of the Jewish Federations of North Americawill not seek reelection after her district was redrawn in a way that favors the Republican Party…

J Street is still endorsing Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), who accuses Israel of committing genocide in Gaza, in his upcoming reelection campaign, despite the organization supporting Israel’s military campaign against Hamas. The president of J Street, Jeremy Ben-Ami, said the group would not change its endorsements mid-race but may do so ahead of the 2026 election cycle… 

Sam Altman, the newly reinstated CEO of OpenAIsaid he had been “totally wrong” about concerns of antisemitism on the American left but that he “still [doesn’t] understand it, really, or know what to do about it”…

The Jewish Journal spotlights the Los Angeles-based nonprofit Maman (Persian for mother), which has been organizing aid for Israelis in L.A. and in Israel since Oct. 7…

Los Angeles-based actor Adam Kulbersh launched an initiative, Project Menorah, that encourages non-Jews to put hanukkiahs in their window in a show of solidarity with the Jewish community…

The Chronicle of Philanthropy investigated the SDG Impact Fund, which supports the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, after the fund was found to have grown from having $238 million in assets in 2020 to $10 billion in 2021. The eyebrow-raising growth apparently came from murky donations of cryptocurrency and NFT assets, which were made more difficult to track by coming in through donor-advised funds

Julián Castro, the former secretary of housing and urban development, was appointed CEO of the Latino Community Foundation

Professor John Strauss was reinstated at the University of Southern California after he was suspended for calling for Hamas terrorists to be killed (an edited version of his remarks made it appear as though he was calling for all Palestinians to be killed). He is still under investigation by the university and may face sanctions…

Rabbi David Ellenson, a beloved former president of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religiondied yesterday at 76…

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.
Sceenshot/Jasmin Moghbeli/Twitter

American Jewish astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli “lights” a hanukkiah yesterday on board the International Space Station and spins a dreidel in zero gravity to mark the first night of Hanukkah.

“Happy Hanukkah from the @Space_Station!! Real candles not allowed!” Moghbeli writes on X, referring to her use of a felt hanukkiah and candles.

Birthdays

Annie Liebovitz smiles
Courtesy/Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles

President and CEO of the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles, Rabbi Aaron Lerner

FRIDAY: Founder and CEO of Top Rank boxing promotion company based in Las Vegas, Bob Arum … Film, stage and television actor, composer of film and theatre music, and son of concert pianist Arthur Rubinstein, John Rubinstein… Israeli folk singer, lyricist, composer and musical arranger, she has released more than 60 albums sold worldwide, winner of the Kinor David (David’s Harp) Prize, Chava Alberstein… Astrophysicist and senior scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, Margaret Geller… Film director, producer and screenwriter, Nancy Meyers… Canadian anthropologist and author of four books promoting Mussar, a Jewish ethical movement, Alan Morinis… Professor of human development at Cornell University, Robert J. Sternberg… Writer, photographer and designer, founder of the Honey Sharp Gallery and Ganesh Café in the Berkshires, Honey Sharp… Bedford, Texas, resident, Doug Bohannon… Senior executive producer of special events at ABC News, Marc Burstein… Emmy Award-winning sports commentator and journalist, Roy Firestone… Chairman of a nationwide insurance brokerage, Bruce P. Gendelman… Author of Toward a Meaningful Life, and chairman of the Yiddish English weekly The Algemeiner JournalRabbi Simon Jacobson… Retired administrative law judge at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Nadine Lewis… Rabbi, speaker and musician known as Rav Shmuel, Shmuel Skaist… Co-founder of three successful companies, including Office Tiger in 1999, CloudBlue in 2001, and Xometry in 2013, where he is CEO, Randy Altschuler… Attorney by training but in real life a social media blogger and author, she is the co-founder of TheLi.st, Rachel Sklar… Recent general manager of The Wall Street Journal, now an advisor at Shoreline Drive Advisors, Aaron Kissel… Founder of newsletter “Popular Information,” Judd Legum… Actor and musician, Dov Yosef Tiefenbach… Actress, comedian and television writer, Joanna “Jo” Firestone… Artist, Sophia Narrett… Venture capitalist in Israel, Alex Oppenheimer… Partner at Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer, Ali Krimmer

SATURDAY: Retired diplomat who served as Israel’s ambassador to Russia, China and the U.K., Zvi Heifetz… Los Angeles investor and entrepreneur, she is the founder of CaregiversDirect and Beverly Hills Egg Donation, Lisa Greer… Former senior White House aide and deputy secretary of the U.S. Treasury in the Clinton and Obama administrations, now CEO of the Brunswick Group, Neal S. Wolin… EVP of Sterling Equities and former COO of the New York Mets, Jeffrey Scott Wilpon… General counsel to the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Daniel “Dan” Greenberg… Minister without portfolio in the Netanyahu cabinet, Gideon Sa’ar (born Gideon Zarechansky)… U.S. senator (D-NY), Kirsten Gillibrand… Singer-songwriter, music producer and founder of StaeFit workout apparel, Stacey Liane Levy Jackson 55… Senior advisor to the U.S. State Department’s sanctions policy coordinator, Tamara Cofman Wittes… Singer-songwriter and son of Bob Dylan, he rose to fame as the lead singer and primary songwriter for the rock band the Wallflowers, Jakob Dylan… Senior rabbi of the Boca Raton Synagogue, Rabbi Efrem Goldberg… Managing director at Finsbury / FGS Global, Eric Wachter… Actor, comedian and musician, best known for his role as Howard Wolowitz in the sitcom “The Big Bang Theory,” Simon Helberg… Staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society’s juvenile rights practice, Daniella Esther Rohr Adelsberg… Digital director and policy fellow for the R Street Institute, Shoshana Weissmann… Israeli fashion model, Dorit Revelis

SUNDAY: Baltimore-based dairy cattle dealer, Abraham Gutman… Former chairman and CEO of Verizon until retiring in 2011, Ivan Seidenberg… Owner of Judaica House and Cool Kippahs, both in Teaneck, N.J., Reuben Nayowitz… Progressive political activist, she headed the AmeriCorps VISTA program during the Carter administration, Margery Tabankin… Founding rabbi of Congregation B’nai Tzedek in Potomac, Md., Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt… Founder and CEO at Seppy’s Kosher Baked Goods in Pueblo, Colo., Elishevah Sepulveda… Real estate entrepreneur based in Palm Beach, Fla., Jeff Greene… U.S. senator (R-AR), John Boozman… One of NYC’s leading real estate investors and developers, Joseph Chetrit… Israeli filmmaker and political activist, Udi Aloni… Senior fellow with the Independent Women’s Forum, she was the deputy special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism at the U.S. Department of State, Ellie Cohanim… Former rabbi of Temple Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, he was held hostage in the synagogue in January 2022 and then rescued, Charlie Cytron-Walker… Head of Bloomberg Beta, Roy Bahat… Actress known for her roles in HBO’s “Entourage” and CBS’s “The Mentalist,” Emmanuelle Chriqui… Managing director for private-equity firm TPG, Marc Mezvinsky… General partner at Andreessen Horowitz, David A. Ulevitch… Screenwriter, best known for co-writing “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Captain Marvel” and “Pokémon Detective Pikachu,” Nicole Perlman… Former managing editor for CNN Business, Alex Koppelman… Co-founder of single-origin spice company, Burlap & Barrel (a public benefit corporation), Ethan Frisch… Disability rights activist who co-founded the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, he is a Ph.D. candidate in health policy at Harvard, Ari Daniel Ne’eman… R&B, jazz and soul singer and songwriter, she performs as “Mishéll,” Irina Rosenfeld… Senior manager of communications at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, Mitchell Rubenstein… Rabbi at Congregation Beth Israel in Metairie, Louisiana, Philip Kaplan… Co-founder at Dojo, Daniel Goldstern… Actress, musician, fashion model and radio talk show host, Rachel Trachtenburg