Your Daily Phil: Ramah offers free 3-day camp for families of kids with cancer

Good Thursday morning.

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on a new American Jewish Committee survey that found that most American Jews feel less safe after Oct. 7, and interview Sharon Nazarian about her new course at the UCLA on global antisemitism. We feature an opinion piece by Rabbi Seth Mandell about what steps should be taken to help Israelis mourn their losses. Also in this newsletter: Michael A. LevenAgnieszka Markiewicz and David V. WachsWe’ll start with a new, free camp program by Ramah for the families of children who have cancer.

When about 20 families gather around a scenic lake in the small town of Palmer, Mass., for arts and crafts, sports and Shabbat services this spring, the weekend will closely resemble a shortened version of the typical overnight summer camp experience at Camp Ramah in New England. But in other ways, it will look different — some kids will be missing a limb or have a bald head. Therapeutic sessions designed specifically for parents, siblings and children living with cancer will make up a large chunk of programming, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen.

On April 12-14, Camp Ramah, a network of Jewish summer camps affiliated with the Conservative movement, will launch Camp Ramah Sasson — the Hebrew word for joy. The initiative is the movement’s first experience offered specifically to families with children battling cancer and is available free of charge, even to families who have never been involved with Ramah or the Conservative movement, such as Jeni Rhodes, a resident of Newton, Mass., and her 9-year-old daughter, Anya.

“I’m looking forward to a chance to form a distinctly Jewish community of families that have also gone through this and faced childhood cancer,” Jeni Rhodes told eJP.

“We’ve done camps that are not Jewish, and some of our friends who are Jewish and keep Shabbat haven’t been able to participate in those with us,” she said, noting that Anya also participated in an Orthodox camp that didn’t include parents or siblings.

Riki Wiederhorn, Ramah’s director of year-round programming, told eJP that kids battling cancer or other illnesses “are sometimes an invisible part of the Jewish community. So we want to shed light.” She said that if the pediatric cancer program goes well, the goal is to run similar initiatives through Camp Sasson catered to children and families dealing with various other serious illnesses, and to also include them in the general summer camp.

Camp Ramah Sasson receives financial backing from the national Ramah organization. “But in order to expand the program, we need bigger and more communal partners,” Wiederhorn said, declining to specify the precise costs of the program.

Read the full report here.


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.
Selcuk Acar/Anadolu via Getty Images

A significant share of American Jews feel less safe today than they did before Oct. 7, according to recent polling commissioned by the American Jewish Committee, which was shared exclusively with eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen.

More to come: The survey, conducted by the pollster SSRS between Oct. 5- Nov. 21, found that more than 2 in 5 American Jews (43%) said the Oct. 7 terror attacks in Israel made them feel either a “great deal” or a “fair amount” less safe in the United States. An additional 34% said the Hamas massacre made them feel “a little” less safe. The polling is part of AJC’s State of Antisemitism in America 2023 Report, a survey of American Jews and a comparison study of U.S. adults. The full poll will be coming out later this month.

Not surprising: “In the days, weeks, and months since the terror attack, the world has seen a staggering increase in antisemitic speech, anti-Jewish violence, and demonstrations glorifying Hamas terrorists,” Ted Deutch, AJC’s CEO, said in a statement. “How are Jews supposed to feel secure when so many side with the murderers in the wake of the deadliest attack against the Jewish people since the Holocaust?”


UCLA professor’s ‘wake-up call’ to anti-Israel hostility on campus

American politician Dianne Feinstein, her arms outstretched in celebration, in her office after she was elected mayor of San Francisco, at San Francisco City Hall in San Francisco, California, circa 1978.
The Anti-Defamation League’s SVP of International Affairs Sharon S. Nazarian speaks onstage during Variety Hollywood & Antisemitism Summit Presented by The Margaret & Daniel Loeb Foundation and Shine A Light Foundation at 1 Hotel West Hollywood on October 18, 2023, in West Hollywood, Calif. Photo by Araya Doheny/Variety via Getty Images

When Sharon Nazarian started teaching a new class on Oct. 4 at the University of California Los Angeles, designed to look at antisemitism from a global lens, she couldn’t have known just how timely the topic was about to become. Three days after the class began, Hamas terrorists infiltrated Israel and launched a massive terror attack that killed more than 1,200 Israelis. In the wake of the war that followed, rates of antisemitism skyrocketed on college campuses around the U.S. “I have to admit that when I designed the class, ‘The Globalization of Antisemitism: A Survey of Transnational Trends,’ largely based on my Anti-Defamation League experience, I had no idea what Oct. 7 would bring,” Nazarian, the former senior vice president of international affairs and current board member of the ADL, told eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen for Jewish Insider.

Ideological ruts: The class ran in the global studies department – which Nazarian, a former adjunct professor at UCLA from 2005-2017, said provided a more diverse group of students than doing so through the Jewish or Israel studies departments would have. “Students are unwilling to hear theses that challenge their own worldview,” Nazarian said. “I asked students which figure personified pure evil to their generation as Osama bin Laden did to ours; they mentioned President Donald Trump and Ronald Reagan,” she said. “I listed Hitler, Stalin, Mao. You get the point.”

Lean in: While Nazarian does not know if she personally would offer the course again, she said she would like to see similar ones — looking at the threats of global antisemitism and how that leads to an array of global challenges — at universities worldwide. “This information should encourage universities and administrators to do more,” she said. “We need more of what I’ve done,” continued Nazarian, who serves as president of her family’s foundation. “I tell donors not to push away from universities, just repurpose your dollars and invest in antisemitism education.”

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


A journey of healing is possible even after unthinkable loss, but the right help along the way is critical

Amir Levy/Getty Images

“The question of how Israeli society, with the assistance of Jewish philanthropy globally, can facilitate the healing of those directly affected by the Oct. 7 massacre and its aftermath is historic, complex and should be defined by the needs of those affected. Drawing on 22 years of organizing emotional-support programming for Israelis bereaved through terror or tragedy, and my own personal experience, I am going to focus here on the needs of bereaved family members,” writes Rabbi Seth Mandell, co-founder and co-president of the Koby Mandell Foundation, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Support the families: “Government agencies and NGOs need to create safe spaces where people can, under the guidance of trained therapists and bereavement counselors, connect to a community of survivors who understand them and can support them as peers. The Koby Mandell Foundation, the organization we founded in 2002, as well the IDF and other organizations, can facilitate this endeavor by bringing people together for programs like overnight retreats for widows and bereaved parents, overnight camps for children, family days and ongoing women’s and men’s groups.”

Don’t let it fade: “My concern is that, as time goes by and G-d willing the war ends, the plight of the survivors will recede from the top of the Jewish community’s funding agenda — and financial support will be more and more difficult to obtain, even as the needs of the bereaved continue for years ahead.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Interfaith Interactions Interrupted: In Haaretz, Judy Maltz looks into how the Israel-Hamas war is affecting Jewish-Muslim dialogue groups across the United States. “‘Israel-Palestine was always the elephant in the room and the hardest issue for groups like ours,’ says [Tahija Vikalo, the the executive director of the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom, one of the largest Jewish-Muslim dialogue groups in the United States,] who is only the second person to head the 12-year-old organization – and the first Muslim. As part of a new strategy she has overseen, the Sisterhood, which has 7,000 women on its mailing list, trained 30 members over the past 18 months to facilitate difficult conversations on the subject. They were about to get to work when Hamas terrorists breached Israel’s border, carrying out the worst massacre of Jews since the Holocaust. And so, without experienced facilitators around to intervene when difficult conversations inevitably began, communications on many of the Sisterhood chapter WhatsApp groups – which have become a key platform for dialogue among these women since the COVID pandemic – often broke down… Walter Ruby, executive director of the Washington-based group JAMAAT (Jews and Muslims and Allies Acting Together), describes recent months as a ‘devastating period’ for Muslim-Jewish relations in the United States. ‘It’s the worst crisis I’ve seen since we began this movement 15 years ago – and we still haven’t reached rock bottom,’ says Ruby, who is Jewish. ‘I don’t believe the recovery can begin until there’s an end to the fighting in Gaza.’” [Haaretz]

What We Leave Behind: In Inside Philanthropy, Ade Adeniji explores the Jewish Future Pledge, which has been signed by tens of thousands of people who agree to donate at least half of what they set aside for charity after they die to causes that support the Jewish people or the State of Israel. “[Jewish Future Pledge creator Michael A.] Leven said the seed of the idea came from a lecture by David Horovitz, the founding editor of The Times of Israel. Horovitz began by expressing his concern about the future regarding the impending wealth transfer. ‘If all of a sudden that $6 billion went away, or was diminished a great deal, what would be the support for the Jewish organization?’ Leven said, referring to the fate of Jewish schools, summer camps, synagogues and more that rely on philanthropy… In February, JFP will be celebrating its third year. Notably, after the October 7 Hamas attack,  JFP had signed an additional 10,000 pledges by mid-November. Leven said organizers had a goal of 50,000 by the end of 2024, but anticipate hitting that mark much sooner… Like the Giving Pledge, each signatory writes a note about why they’ve signed. And for the youth pledge, signatories have to write a letter to their future selves for inclusion in a time capsule. JFP also sends out monthly newsletters. Leven believes that many families in the community don’t talk enough with their kids about philanthropy. But he’s noticed that as JFP has expanded in the community, it’s been a ‘eureka moment,’ and a conversation that can be had during Passover Seder or in other contexts.” [InsidePhilanthropy]

Around the Web

The SRE Network (Safety, Respect, Equity) issued $365,000 in grants to eight Jewish nonprofits to “build their organizational capacity to prevent harassment and discrimination.” The recipients are: Avodah, the Conservative movement’s Cantors Assembly and Rabbinical Assembly, Habonim Dror North America, Los Angeles’ IKAR, Leading Edge,  Sixth & I in Washington, D.C., and the Youngstown Area Jewish Federation

Tens of thousands of people gathered at the Western Wall last night to pray for the 136 people still believed to be held hostage in Gaza and for the safety of Israel Defense Forces soldiers fighting Hamas…

The International Court of Justice in The Hague opened hearings into South Africa’s allegations that Israel is committing “genocide” of Palestinians during its ongoing war against Hamas in Gaza…

Adamah is launching a new hub in Atlanta, Adamah ATL, with the Georgia Interfaith Power and Light nonprofit and the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, to encourage “practical climate solutions and advocacy” in the state…

The National Science Foundation, along with five philanthropic partners — the Ford Foundation, the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation, Pivotal Ventures, Siegel Family Endowment and the Eric and Wendy Schmidt Fund for Strategic Innovation — launched a new $16 million program to fund teams considering the “ethical, legal, community and societal” ramifications of technology…

Germany and Hungary are granting citizenship to some of the hostages being held in Gaza who have family from those countries to add diplomatic pressure to get them released…

Agnieszka Markiewicz was named the next director of the American Jewish Committee’s Central Europe office…

Terri Travers was hired as the next CEO of the York (Penn.) Jewish Community Center…

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency interviewed Education Secretary Miguel Cardona about what his office is doing to combat what he calls “repulsive” antisemitism on college campuses…

A federal appeals court in California ruled that a Madrid art museum can keep a painting by the French impressionist Camille Pissarro that was stolen from a Jewish woman, Lilly Neubauer, as she fled Nazi Germany…

A new study by the British employability charity Work Avenue found that nearly 4 in 10 Jewish workers in the United Kingdom reported experiencing antisemitism at work…

The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation donated $3 million to Atlanta’s Morris Brown College to boost its hospitality certificate program. The gift represents the largest grant that the historically Black college has received in the last 20 years…

The New York Times examines how the war against Hamas is affecting the Israeli tech sector and the Israeli economy more generally…

David Pollock, a public opinion polling expert at The Washington Institute for Near East Policydied on Sunday at 73….

David V. Wachs, a co-founder of the Charming Shoppes clothing retailer and a major donor to Ramah and the Perelman Jewish Day School in suburban Philadelphia, died last month at 97…

Norma Barzman, a Jewish screenwriter who was blacklisted along with her husband, Ben Barzman, for their ties to the Communist Party in the 1940s, died last month at 103…

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/Repair the World

Pittsburgh Steelers long snapper Christian Kuntz (left), Repair the World Executive Director Jules Mallis and Steelers owner Art Rooney II hold a check from the team to Repair the World for $2,000 last week at the Steelers indoor training field.

Repair the World received the check as part of the team’s Social Justice Matching Fund initiative.


Annie Liebovitz smiles
Eugene Gologursky/Getty Images for Hersehey Felder

Film, television and theater director, Joel Zwick

Psychologist and the author of 26 books, he lectures at NYU, Michael Eigen… Retired judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit in Chicago, author of 40 books on jurisprudence and economics, Richard Posner… Violinist and music teacher, Shmuel Ashkenasi… Las Vegas resident, Stephen Norman Needleman… Economist and professor of banking at Columbia University, Frederic Stanley “Rick” Mishkin… Noted gardener and florist, Lynn Blitzer… Professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and chief of experimental medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Dr. Jerome E. Groopman… Former member of the Canadian House of Commons, Susan Kadis… Former director general of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Avi Gil… CEO of Sense Education, Seth Haberman… Attorney, author, speaker and activist, Brian Cuban… VP at Republic National Distributing Company and a former President of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans, Alan Franco… Rabbi at Beth Avraham Yoseph of Toronto (BAYT), Rabbi Daniel Korobkin… Former National Hockey League player for 12 seasons with the Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames and San Jose Sharks, Ronald “Ronnie” Stern… Actress, socialite and reality television personality, Kyle Richards Umansky… Defensive tackle in the Canadian Football League for twelve seasons, he is a co-owner at Vera’s Burger Shack based in Vancouver, BC, Noah Cantor… Film, stage and television actress, Amanda Peet… Hockey coach, he is a former goaltender with the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes, Josh Tordjman… Member of the Knesset for the Labor Party, Naama Lazimi… Executive chef and restaurateur, Yehuda Sichel… VP and head of strategic partnerships at Penzer Family Office, Michal (Mickey) Penzer… French-American actress, Flora Cross… Founder of Nannies by Noa, now a content strategist at EyeControl, Noa Mintz