Your Daily Phil: Ramah launches 1st Israeli overnight camp + Whitmer addresses JFNA young leaders

Good Tuesday morning!

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on Mich. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s address to the Jewish Federation of North America’s Young Leadership Cabinet, and feature an opinion piece from Avi Olitzky. Also in this newsletter: Dorothy Tapper Goldman, Dr. Noa Ofek Shlomai and Sheila Katz. We’ll start with the launch of Ramah’s first overnight camp in Israel.

Ramah is opening its first overnight camp in Israel next week, with dozens of Israeli children registered for the 10-day program, its director told eJewishPhilanthropy‘s Judah Ari Gross.

For decades, Ramah has run a summer day camp out of its Jerusalem campus in the Israel Goldstein Youth Village. Ramah Israel CEO Meir Hoyzman said the overnight offering is meant to “move it to the next level.”

Approximately 50 children are signed up for this year’s camp, which begins on Aug. 8. The participants this year are all Israeli, though Hoyzman said he anticipates that in the future between 10-20% will be from North America, as is currently the case at the Jerusalem day camp. He said Ramah Israel is treating this year as a pilot program to determine how the camp will look in future years.

The 10-day program costs roughly $1,500, though with scholarships, families will pay approximately $980 “more or less,” Hoyzman said. These tuition fees cover just under half of the costs of running the camp. The rest of the budget comes from fundraising and from grants and scholarships from the Summer Camps Forum in Israel. A spokesperson for the forum said the organization is providing approximately $96,000 for the camp this year.

Hoyzman, who worked for years at Jewish summer camps in the United States, told eJP that he “always wanted to bring them to Israel,” which does not have a culture of multi-week, overnight summer camps. “Something special and magical happens at camp,” he said.

Shawna Goodman Sone, the founder of the Summer Camps Forum, cited a study that her organization recently conducted, surveying 600 teenagers, showing the positive effects of North American-style summer camps on young people.

“The study found that the summer camps, which are, among other things, ‘disconnected from mobile [phones]’ significantly increased the sense of self-esteem, abilities and independence of children and teenagers,” Goodman Sone said in a statement.

Read the full story here.

Whitmer’s words

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer delivers remarks at the SelectUSA Investment Summit on May 4, 2023 in National Harbor, Md. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

Following an address to a Jewish leadership gathering in Detroit on Monday, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer touted her connection to the state’s Jewish community and the ties she has built with Israel. “I’m proud to have had a wonderful relationship with so many folks in the Jewish community here in Michigan,” Whitmer, a Democrat, told Gabby Deutch for eJewishPhilanthropy’s sister publication Jewish Insider in an interview after her speech to the Jewish Federations of North America’s Young Leadership Cabinet, which was holding a retreat in Detroit.

Security grants: The state’s budget, which Whitmer recently signed, includes a $15 million grant given to the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit for security. “I’m so grateful to build up a wonderful group of people that give me counsel and advocate for the community,” Whitmer said. “That’s why we got things done in this budget, like supporting the Jewish social services, as well as heightened security for members of the Jewish community.”

Israel connections: She also promoted the state’s “unique and very important relationship” with Israel, noting that her first trip as governor, in 2019, was to Israel, with a group led by the Detroit federation. “I’m so grateful that I had the chance to sign a memorandum of understanding when I was in Israel,” Whitmer said of an agreement she signed alongside the CEO of Start-Up Nation Central, an Israeli NGO that promotes Israel’s tech ecosystem. “There’s so much collaboration happening, and innovation.”

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

Future is now

Synagogues must embrace data-driven strategies to help their congregants

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“In the constantly evolving landscape of the 21st century, maintaining relevance and resonance within institutions requires innovation. This especially applies to synagogues, which must strike a delicate balance between tradition and evolution to address the changing needs and preferences of their congregants. A fundamental shift is necessary, not merely to ensure survival but to foster flourishing communities. Central to this shift is the inclusion of a new role within the synagogue team: a chief data officer or manager of data analytics,” writes Avi Olitzky, a congregational rabbi-turned-consultant, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Think of the possibilities: “Armed with a clear understanding of the power of data, synagogues can embark on innovative, targeted initiatives… Predictive analytics could anticipate changes in attendance during religious holidays or seasonal shifts, helping adjust schedules or resource allocation proactively. Machine learning algorithms could analyze engagement data to create personalized digital communications, increasing each member’s sense of connection and relevance. With a deep dive into donation data, synagogues might identify trends and patterns that inspire more effective fundraising strategies.”

Making shul better: “The call for synagogues to incorporate data-driven strategies isn’t about commercializing spirituality; it’s about embracing an evolving world. It’s about ensuring that synagogues, like the ancient traditions they uphold, endure and continue to enrich the lives of their congregants. Now is the time to take the first step — to crawl, then walk, then run — towards a more data-informed, community-centered future.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

It’s Not Me, It’s You: In The Atlantic, Jake Meador reviews a new book, The Great Dechurching, about the growing number of Americans who are leaving their churches — with insights that may apply to synagogues as well. “Participation in a religious community generally correlates with better health outcomes and longer life, higher financial generosity, and more stable families — all of which are desperately needed in a nation with rising rates of loneliness, mental illness, and alcohol and drug dependency. A new book, written by Jim Davis, a pastor at an evangelical church in Orlando, and Michael Graham, a writer with the Gospel Coalition, draws on surveys of more than 7,000 Americans by the political scientists Ryan Burge and Paul Djupe, attempting to explain why people have left churches — or ‘dechurched,’ in the book’s lingo — and what, if anything, can be done to get some people to come back. The book raises an intriguing possibility: What if the problem isn’t that churches are asking too much of their members, but that they aren’t asking nearly enough?” [TheAtlantic]

Around the Web

Matt Berger, the executive director of the Foundation to Combat Antisemitism, is taking a step back from the organization and will now serve as a senior adviser and consultant as he moves back to the Washington, D.C., area full time…

Police in Memphis, Tenn., shot and critically wounded a man armed with a gun who had attempted to enter and fired shots at the Margolin Hebrew Academy in the city. The man was identified as Joel Bowman, a member of the Jewish community with a history of mental health issues…

The presidential campaign of Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) is holding a fundraiser in the Hamptons next week, which is being co-hosted by UJA-Federation of New York board chair Marc Rowan, along with a number of GOP donors and activists…

Repair the World added four new members to its board of directors: Keith Forman, Connie Meltzer, Riki Robinson and Amy Taxman

The $32 million estate of Dr. Frederick M. Weissman, a Jewish neurologist from New York who died in 2005, was just awarded to the Texas Heart Institute in Houston. The sum represents the largest donation ever to the institute…

Americans for Ben-Gurion University is expanding its operations, hiring three new development professionals who will work in New York, Florida and the Midwest…

Jewish billionaire investor Leon Cooperman and his wife, Toby, made a $13.25 million matching gift to JESPY House, a New Jersey-based nonprofit that works with adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities…

Jewish philanthropist Seema Boesky donated $20 million to Wayne State University’s Ben L. Silberstein Institute for Brain Health

Twitter is suing the Center for Countering Digital Hate, a nonprofit that researches hate speech on social media, accusing the group of making “baseless claims” against the company in order to hurt its bottom line…

Alan Sherman, the co-founder of the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and a longtime leader of the Maccabi movement, died this weekend at 87…

Dorothy Tapper Goldman, a trustee of the Jewish Theological Seminary who in 2021 sold her original printed copy of the U.S. Constitution for $43.2 million, died last week at 78. David Kraemer, a JTS librarian and professor, delivered a eulogy at her funeral…

Actor and comedian Paul Reubens, best known for his character Pee-wee Herman, who was also the son of one of the Israeli Air Force’s first fighter pilots, died this weekend at 70…

Pic of the Day


Dr. Noa Ofek Shlomai, head of neonatology at Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem, holds a baby who successfully underwent what the hospital called a first-of-its-kind operation to correct bilateral ovarian torsion detected in-utero, which was performed immediately after she was born. Dr. Dan Arbel (center), director of the pediatric oncology surgery department, who performed the surgery, and Dr. Shay Porat, director of the obstetrics and gynecology ultrasound service, stand next to them.


Paul Morigi/Getty Images for MoveOn

CEO of National Council of Jewish Women, Sheila Katz

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