Your Daily Phil: Recustom brings DIY spirit to rituals + In N.Y., Herzog hails transcendent U.S.-Israel bond

Good Friday morning!

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on Haggadot[dot]com’s transformation into Recustom, and feature opinion pieces from Erica Brown and Heather Wolfson, Seth Linden, Gamal J. Palmer and Jenna Hanauer. We’ll start with Israeli President Isaac Herzog’s onstage interview at an event in New York last night.

The U.S.-Israel bond “transcends governments,” Israeli President Isaac Herzog said Thursday during an address to the New York Jewish community at an Upper East Side event space hosted by UJA-Federation of New York and co-sponsored by the Orthodox Union, report eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen and Gabby Deutch in Jewish Insider.

The discussion, moderated by CNN reporter Bianna Golodryga, concluded the third day of Herzog’s diplomatic visit to the U.S., which earlier on Thursday included a jaunt through New York City, where he met state, local and world leaders.

Herzog said the U.S. government was closely monitoring the developments in the government’s judicial overhaul efforts and was unsure what additional judicial bills the coalition planned to push through beyond its current legislative effort to scale back judges’ ability to apply a “reasonableness” test to government decisions. “Many people in Israel do not have a clear picture as to how the process will end. That’s something I also heard in Washington. Meaning, what is the end result?” the president said.

In his onstage interview, Herzog said that protestors of the planned judicial overhaul are a “tribute to Israel’s democracy.” He added, “Our enemies should know: If necessary, our people unite immediately.”

Golodryga also pressed Herzog on why Israel has delivered less military aid than its allies to Ukraine since Russia invaded in February 2022. Herzog assured the crowd that Israel had “ironclad” support for Ukraine. “It’s an oversimplified discussion,” he said, stating that Israel has a policy of being cautious with lethal weapons and “there are a million Jews in Russia.” Herzog said that an Israeli air defense alert system – similar to the ones Israel uses to warn of rocket and drone attacks – that Jerusalem provided to Ukraine is slated to be up and running in Kyiv next month.

Earlier in the day, Herzog visited the United Nations and met with Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Accompanying him was Leah Goldin, whose son, Hadar Goldin, was killed by the Hamas terror group. His body is still being held captive by Hamas.

Read the full story here.

Jew it yourself

Getty Images

In the beginning, there was the Maxwell House Haggadah, a cultural touchstone for generations of Jewish families throughout much of the last century. And then came Haggadot[dot]com, allowing for infinite customization and personalization. “The Minimalist Haggadah” and the “Schitt’s Creek Haggadah” and, of course, “The Chat GPT Haggadah Supplement” were born. Now, the outfit that brought us those alternative iterations of the retelling of the Passover story is merging with its sister websites to become Recustom, reports Jay Deitcher for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Authenticity needs: The new brand, in a bid to expand the notion of ritual, is looking to bring do-it-yourself content to the modern plagues of climate change and political polarization, as well as rituals tied to gender, identity and even retirement. “We’re in a time of deep uncertainty, we need rituals to connect us, but we’re not just going to do rituals that don’t feel authentic,” Eileen Levinson, founder and executive director of Recustom, told eJP. “We all need to connect, and we believe that Judaism has a toolkit for connection and meaning making. People just need help using it.”

Making it fit: Although Levinson hopes the site is welcoming to all, she said. “Our brand is about reimagining, rethinking [and] that obviously means that there’s more work into the how do we reimagine, rather than how do we keep things the same. Our intention is definitely not to throw out anything in Judaism but it definitely is about making it fit for you.”

Read the full story here.

Think groups

Using cohorts to help mid-career professionals thrive in the workplace


“As the Jim Joseph Foundation works toward developing dynamic, pioneering leaders and educators, the foundation wants to learn about the most effective professional development experiences. To this end, about a year and a half ago, the foundation launched an initiative to test new models of connection, learning and leadership development in cohort settings for mid-career professionals within the Jewish community,” write Heather Wolfson of Maven Leadership Consulting; Seth Linden of Gather Consulting; Gamal J. Palmer of Conscious Builders and Jenna Hanauer, a program officer at the Jim Joseph Foundation, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Key takeaways: “After supporting 12 cohorts for different audiences, we want to share key lessons from our experience and from an independent evaluation conducted by Tobin Belzer, an applied sociologist at the Taube Center for Jewish Studies at Stanford University… Here’s what we learned: People crave low-pressure connections and micro-communities… People want to feel seen, heard and valued. These micro-investments do that… People seek a range of modalities to access learning… The number of cohort members matters… Cohort-based programs should have clear goals and outcomes.”

Read the full piece here.

The Torah of Leadership

Leadership stars: Thoughts on Parshat Devarim


“Many years ago, I was invited to teach a leadership class in a large tech firm on the topic of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. At some point, one department head commented, ‘I don’t have to praise people who work for me. I pay them.’ The others in the room looked uncomfortable. It wasn’t hard to understand why his department was shrinking,” writes Erica Brown, vice provost for values and leadership at Yeshiva University and director of its Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks-Herenstein Center, in her weekly column for eJewishPhilanthropy, “The Torah of Leadership.”

Succession woes: “In this week’s sedra, Devarim, Moses praised his people, even as he criticized them. He began his farewell speech to the nation about to enter the land of Israel. He had to prepare them to live without him… Moses was their faithful guide, who freed them from slavery, brought their laws down from Sinai and escorted them through the desert. All of these formative national experiences were associated with one person. In his remarks, Moses sandwiched praise of the Israelites with criticism of them.”

The big picture: “Moses did what leaders must always do. He told the people they had actualized and fulfilled a long-term dream of their ancestors… But with growth came other challenges that would need to be addressed by future leaders, like the unwieldy quarrels and demands of the masses. Moses tried to remind them of the larger, grander picture, but they could only see the mess right in front of them. Sometimes leaders, when they reach an impasse, need to name the special moments, revel in the milestones and remind people how far they’ve come and what new challenges they must tackle.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Turning Grief Into Art: In eJewishPhilanthropy’s sister publication Jewish Insider, Tori Bergel interviews father-and-son writing team, Jonathan and Isaac “Izzy” Salant, about Izzy’s new play, “Rite of Passage,” a somewhat fictionalized account of Izzy’s bar mitzvah in the wake of his mother’s death. “The semi-autobiographical play follows 12-year-old Harold as he prepares for his bar mitzvah amid the sudden loss of his mother, Maura, to suicide. Now a single parent, Harold’s father, David, struggles with telling the truth of what happened to his mildly autistic son, while also dealing with his own grief. Maura’s sister, Loraine, the family’s rabbi, and David’s eventual love interest, Sue, all help the pair to move on. ‘The show itself is based on the true story. We all felt these things; we all had to deal after Joan’s death,’ Izzy told JI. ‘We all had to live our lives with this completely newly acquired trauma, but the way it fully went about is dramaticized, I would say, with a lot of semblances of truth.’” [JewishInsider]

Around the Web

Open Society Foundations announced it is limiting grantmaking until February as the organizations move under the control of George Soros’ son Alex

Vice President Kamala Harris and Israeli President Isaac Herzog announced a joint $70 million climate initiative for the Middle East and Africa, during the latter’s U.S. visit…

NFL owners approved the sale of the Washington Commanders from Daniel Snyder to Josh Harris for $6.05 billion. Moments later, the NFL fined Snyder $60 million for withholding revenue and sexually harassing a former team employee…

An Israeli nonprofit, CyberWell, is working to develop methods of training artificial intelligence tools to remove antisemitic content from their underlying data sets…

Jewish American businessman Paul Kaufmann donated bone fragments, which are believed to belong to Ludwig van Beethoven, to the Medical University of Vienna for study…

The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Center issued a statement this week apologizing for the children’s author’s racism and antisemitism…

Pic of the Day

Courtesy/Pardes Institute

Students pose for a class portrait at the completion of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies’ three-week summer program, which also marks the conclusion of the institution’s yearlong celebration of its 50th anniversary.

Nearly 100 students — ranging in age from 20-80 and coming from the U.S., Canada, Portugal, England, China and Israel — took part in the program.


Henning Kaiser/picture alliance via Getty Images

Former Chief Rabbi of Moscow, his opposition to the Ukraine war forced him to leave Russia, Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt celebrates his Gregorian birthday on Friday…

FRIDAY: President at Admar Group, Henry Dean Ostberg… Escondido, Calif., resident, Leonard Simon Zoll… Retired CEO of Sony/ATV, Martin Bandier… Professor emeritus in the department of physics at Bar-Ilan University, he won the Israel Prize in 2018, Shlomo Havlin… Director of the Center for the Political Future at USC, Robert Shrum… Criminal defense attorney, Benjamin Brafman… Former member of the U.K. Parliament, now in the House of Lords, Baroness Susan Veronica Kramer… U.S. senator (R-WY), John Barrasso… Chairman and CEO at Quantitative Financial Strategies, Sanford “Sandy” Jay Grossman… Endocrinologist and professor at Columbia University’s medical school, she is the president of NYC’s Central Synagogue, Shonni Silverberg, MD… Professor at Columbia Law School and daughter of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Jane Carol Ginsburg… Irene Ostrovsky… Comedian and actor, best known for his five seasons on “Saturday Night Live” ending in 1990, Jon Lovitz… Literary agent and the co-head of William Morris Endeavor book department, Eric Matthew Simonoff… Actress and producer, Alysia Reiner… Professor of astronomy at MIT and winner of a 2013 MacArthur genius award, Sara Seager… Brazilian fashion designer best known for avant-garde designs and eclectic prints, Alexandre Herchcovitch… CEO of Fanatics, Michael G. Rubin… Executive director of Jewish Labor Committee, Arieh Lebowitz… Founder, president and CEO of Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE) and the Electrification Coalition, Raphael “Robbie” Diamond… Rabbi of Congregation Bais Naftali and teacher at Mesivta Birkas Yitzchok, both in Los Angeles, he is a popular motivational speaker, Rabbi Yoel Gold… Online media personality and director of product management at Unity in Vancouver, Veronica Belmont… Clinical social worker, Aniko Gomory-Pink… Entrepreneur and political activist, Chloé Simone Valdary… Calif.-based reporter for Bloomberg, Eliyahu Kamisher… Policy analyst at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, Zachary A. Marshall… Sales and leasing agent at Goodrich – Compass, Rachel Elizabeth Nieves… Attorney in Madrid and secretary general of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain until 2021, Elias Cohen

SATURDAY: Israeli actress, prominent in both theater, television and film, Gila Almagor … British Conservative Party member of Parliament for 36 years, Anthony Steen CBE … Historian, author and professor (now emerita) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Judith Walzer Leavitt… British biochemist and professor at the University of Dundee in Scotland, Sir Philip Cohen… Actor, director and comedian, Albert Brooks (born Albert Lawrence Einstein)… Past president of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Detroit, owner of Nodel Parks, Richard Martin Nodel… Winner of eight Academy Awards, 11 Grammy awards, pianist and composer of many Disney movie musical scores, Alan Menken… Owner of Baltimore’s Seven Mile Market, Hershel Boehm… Managing director of a public affairs firm and activist to ensure that the Holocaust and its many victims are not forgotten, Terry Swartzberg… Publisher of The 5 Towns Jewish Times, Larry Gordon… Judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia since 2011 (senior status since May 2023), Judge Amy Berman Jackson… Member of AJC’s Jewish Religious Equality Coalition, Cindy Masters… Former secretary of Veterans Affairs in the Trump administration, David Jonathon Shulkin… Founding partner of the DC-based intellectual property law firm, Greenberg & Lieberman, Stevan Lieberman… Television journalist and news anchor, David Shuster… CEO of Leviathan Productions (focused on Jewish history, folklore and literature), Jack Benjamin (Ben) Cosgrove… Pentagon speechwriter, Warren Bass… Owner of West Bloomfield-based Saltsman Industries and Saltsman Financial Group, Daniel A. Saltsman… Former Pentagon official, now a contractor for CISA, Jonathan Freeman… Contemporary artist living in Brooklyn, he is best known for sculptural paintings that use multiple layers of glass to create three-dimensional collages, Dustin Yellin… Manager of global issues for ExxonMobil, Elise Rachel Shutzer… Associate justice on the New Jersey Supreme Court, Rachel Wainer Apter… Former White House assistant press secretary, now the managing editor of podcasts at NBC News, Reid Cherlin… White House correspondent, Andrew Grant Feinberg… Freshman member of the House of Representatives (D-RI-2), Seth Michael Magaziner… Executive director of the American Sephardi Federation, Jason Guberman-Pfeffer… Actor best known for his role in the Freeform series “Pretty Little Liars,” Keegan Phillip Allen… Chief of staff at Valera Health, Maor CohenTalia Thurm Abramson… Serial entrepreneur, software consultant and product strategist in Silicon Valley, Yoela Palkin… Actor and voice actor, his career started when he was 10-years old, he starred as Eric in Netflix’s “Santa Clarita Diet,” Skyler Gisondo… Michael Suissa…

SUNDAY: Banker who distributed $60 million to his 400 employees when he sold City National Bank of Florida in 2008, Leonard L. Abess… Former U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands, she was the chair of the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation until last month, Fay Hartog-Levin… Retired judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Judge Alex Kozinski… Businessman and real estate investor who made his fortune in the trade and manufacture of fertilizer in the former Soviet Union, Alexander Rovt… President of the Marcus Foundation, Jay Kaiman… Academy Award-winning film producer (“Titanic”), Jon Landau… Proprietor of Oy Vey Jewish Bakery and Delicatessen in Terre Haute, Indiana, Chavah Stair… Freelance journalist, she is the widow of Daniel Pearl and wrote a book about his kidnapping and murder in Pakistan in 2002, Mariane Pearl… Executive director and chief creative officer at the Milken Center for Advancing the American Dream, Rachel Eva Goslins… U.S. senator (D-GA), Raphael Warnock… Dov M. Katz… Freelance television writer and author of two books, Joel Stein… Psychologist in private practice in both Manhattan and Great Neck, Long Island, Lynn Glasman, Ph.D…. Former White House intern, now an activist, television personality and fashion designer, Monica Lewinsky… Music producer and songwriter, Jonathan Reuven “J.R.” Rotem… Professor at Georgetown University Law Center, Itai Grinberg… Mayor of Minneapolis since 2018, Jacob Lawrence Frey… Sports studio host and play-by-play announcer for Westwood One, Sirius XM and ESPN, Jason M. Horowitz… Reporter for The Washington Post, she covers the Justice Department and FBI, Perry Stein… Starting right fielder for Team Israel at the 2017 World Baseball Classic, Zach Borenstein… Joseph Stern…