Your Daily Phil: Reform rabbis visit a ‘nation at war’

Good Friday morning.

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on the psychological toll that the war has taken on Israelis, and feature an opinion piece by Ketti Kanfer Zigdon about a program to help children with language-learning challenges gain Hebrew skills. Also in this newsletter: Noa ArgamaniMark Cuban and Rabbi Moshe Hauer. We’ll start with a recent visit to Israel by Reform rabbis as part of the Amplify Israel FellowshipShabbat 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: Israeli-American philanthropist wants U.S. Jewry to go to war with, not ‘handle,’ antisemitism; After Hamas, what might come next for Gaza?; Dani Dayan’s new paradigm for Yad Vashem: Fighting today’s antisemitism; The BBC faces complaints, criticism over Israel-Hamas war coverage. Print the latest edition here.

Unlike the dozens of missions and trips that have come to Israel since Oct. 7, the group of nine Reform rabbis who visited Israel from the United States last month weren’t there to show solidarity or to volunteer (though they did do both) but to learn, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross, who met up with them in Tel Aviv.

They were part of the Amplify Israel Fellowship, a newly launched initiative that is meant to prepare the next generation of Reform rabbis to lead the movement, particularly on Zionist and Israel-related issues. 

The trip was planned well before the Oct. 7 attacks as a key part of the yearlong fellowship, which also includes mentorship, seminars and study sessions. After the attacks, the program, which is led by the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue’s senior rabbi, Ammiel Hirsch, and the New York City synagogue’s Israel fellow, Rabbi Tracy Kaplowitz, decided to press on with the weeklong trip, which ran from Nov. 14-20, albeit with an updated itinerary and without some of the participants.

“The Jewish world and even Western history will look back on the events of Oct. 7 and delineate a pre-Oct. 7 and post-Oct. 7 world. I’m sure of that for Jewish history and for the history of the State of Israel. So to be here during these times… is something that needs to be lived and experienced,” Hirsch told eJP shortly after the trip.

Before Oct. 7, the organizers planned to focus more on what was then the cause du jour in Israel: the government’s contentious judicial overhaul. “No one’s thinking about [the overhaul] as the primary conversation now,” Kaplowitz said. “A lot of the conversation transformed. It became about a nation at war. We thought we’d join judicial reform rallies, instead we joined the hostage rallies. So there are many ways that this trip shifted. We’re traveling with nine members, not all the 13 fellows.”

“The vulnerability of Israelis is something that is very hard to observe in a regular visit,” Kaplowitz said. These experiences will “empower these rabbis to speak in a way that gives color to what is so often understood in black and white and gray.”

Read the full report here.

MENTAL HEALTH CARE

Return of hostages by Hamas has played out like a dark psychological thriller

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.
Amir Levy/Getty Images

It’s been a week since Hamas began releasing Israeli hostages as part of a U.S.-Qatari-Egyptian-mediated cease-fire. The nightly trickle of freed people, including elderly women, mothers and children, has played out like scenes from a soap opera or dark psychological thriller, reports Ruth Marks Eglash for eJewishPhilanthropy’s sister publication Jewish Insider.

Emotional roller-coaster: The slow return this week of nearly 100 hostages, including 3-year-old twins, children, teenagers, mothers and elderly women, has not only sent the country on a roller-coaster of emotions but also made clear that this time around, the trauma runs deeper than ever. “I see it from my patients, even those not directly affected in any way by the recent events, they are very traumatized by everything that is happening,” professor Ofrit Shapira-Berman, a psychoanalyst and lecturer from the School of Social Work and Social Welfare at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, told JI this week.

Getting worse: “I see how the mental and emotional health of those directly affected is beginning to get worse, not better,” she said, pointing out that those who lost loved ones in the attacks are only now beginning to realize their loss. “They are getting weaker and sadder and the stories in the media about the return of the hostages, even though physically they appear to be in relatively good shape, means the trauma is just staying with us,” she said.

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

A LEGACY LIVES ON

Unlocking Hebrew

Pamela Lewis Kanfer, z”l. Courtesy

“Studies show that 1 in 5 children in the United States is diagnosed with dyslexia, and up to 50% of non-diagnosed students considered ‘poor readers’ may also face similar difficulties with literacy. These students struggle to learn to read and write English as a first language, let alone read and write Hebrew as a second,” writes Lippman Kanfer Family Foundation chair and board member Ketti Kanfer Zigdon of the in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Why it matters: “These children need specialized attention, but the formal Hebrew education system — Jewish day schools and yeshivas, synagogue Hebrew schools and more — lack the curricula, tools and adequate teacher training to help them. Based on the latest Jewish day school student census, this means over 60,000 students are underserved. Their difficulty reading Hebrew can cause them to shy away from participating in Jewish rituals or disengage from Jewish education, potentially limiting their connections with their heritage.”

A personal mission: “For my late mother, Pam Kanfer, a lifelong educator who passed away from cancer earlier this year, helping students with dyslexia became a passion when my brother was diagnosed with this learning disability as a child… My mother was also passionate about Judaism and Jewish education… She saw that children with dyslexia labored to learn Hebrew as a second language and that many of their teachers did not know how to help them. Determined to change this, she began earning her Ph.D. with the goal of creating a program to train Hebrew-language educators — one that would be as robust as English-language curricula and grounded in the science of reading — but cancer ultimately deterred her efforts. My family has taken up my mom’s dream to develop this program and expand its reach to as many children as possible.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Don’t Fear the L Word: Hollywood has given lobbyists a bad reputation — as have lobbyists themselves — but that should not dissuade nonprofits and foundations from lobbying for good causes, writes Alberto Alemanno in an opinion piece for the Stanford Social Innovation Review. “A right that democracies guarantee, lobbying is about providing ideas and sharing concerns with policy makers to make them — and the whole policy process — more responsive. It enables society to tackle the root causes of the major challenges facing us, not their symptoms. In fact, lobbying is one of the most effective ways to enact political, economic, and social change. To be sure, lobbying today is dominated by major corporations and special interests… [but by] failing to speak up for the most disadvantaged, underrepresented people and interests they serve, nonprofits are forfeiting their constitutionally protected right to lobby. This default magnifies the impact of special interests that already dominate the policy process. It also reinforces political inequalities by further delegitimizing lobbying in the eyes of the public, and ultimately undermines trust in the political process. It does not have to be this way.” [StanfordSocialInnovationReview]

So Much for Sisterhood: Daphne Lazar Price, executive director of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance, shares her thoughts on the response of women’s organizations and advocates to the events of Oct. 7 in an opinion piece for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “Before joining Jofa in 2019, I spent 20 years working with faith groups, women’s advocates and other social justice organizations… When the groups I’ve worked with over the years fail to speak out against these atrocities committed against women, I take it personally… I can’t continue to work with those who don’t see me in the same light, as someone deserving of love and respect, no matter how they feel about my Judaism or Israel. My attempts to engage former colleagues have been hurtful and fruitless because of their unwillingness derived from ideological differences or a defensiveness of long-held views… We are people who are worthy of care. Full stop. At this moment I am reevaluating my relationship with the people and organizations I engage with. I can say with certainty that we can and will recreate a community of coalitions that will not deny our humanity and our Jewish and Zionist identities. Either way, their silence will neither erase me nor deter me from fighting the good fight.” [JTA]

Around the Web

The Brain Tumor Foundation launched an online petition demanding that Hamas release Noa Argamani, 26, whose mother, Liora, is suffering from Stage 4 brain cancer and recently released a video asking to see her daughter one last time before she dies…

The first trailer was released this week for a documentary about the massacre on Oct. 7 at the Nova music festival

Thomas Hand, whose 9-year-old daughter, Emily, was recently released from Hamas captivity, told Israeli television that his “plan is to fix my broken child, fix my broken baby.” This includes taking her to a Beyoncé concert as soon as she’s recovered enough. “I don’t care where it is in the world, she’s going. She adores her”… 

The combination bar-beit midrash Lehrhaus outside Boston made it to Esquire magazine’s list of the 50 best new restaurants in the United States…

The Jewish Public Affairs Committee of California is hiring a full-time staff member to focus on the state’s ethnic studies curriculum in public schools to combat the “anti-Jewish and anti-Israel bias” that some districts have put into their program…

Businessman Mark Cuban responded to questions from students in an entrepreneurship class at Yeshiva Darchei Torah in Queens…

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) spoke with Punchbowl News about his recent opinion piece and his speech on the floor of the Senate about antisemitism in the United States..

Rabbi Moshe Hauer, executive vice president of the Orthodox Unioncriticized the silence of many Muslim and Arab organizations in the United States regarding rising antisemitism as Jewish groups, including his, have denounced attacks on Muslims…

The Department of Education launched an investigation into the University of Tampa over allegations of antisemitism on campus from September…

Harvard Hillel demanded that the university take action after students disrupted classes on Wednesday with bullhorns, calling to “globalize the intifada,” which it said was both antisemitic and not protected by campus free speech rules …

A member of the Massachusetts Task Force on Hate Crimes is facing criticism for comparing Israeli soldiers to Nazis and employing antisemitic tropes in social media posts…

The Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah of America released a rare statement in light of the war in Israel and rising global antisemitism, saying that God is “sending us a message” and Jews should focus on learning Torah, prayer and modesty…

Dr. Abraham Bergman, who sought to understand and prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndromedied on Nov. 10 at 91…

Shlomo Avineri, an esteemed professor of political science at Hebrew University, died today at 90…

Pic of the Day

Courtesy/AMIT

Idina Menzel (second from right) performs at AMIT’s Evening of Solidarity with the Children of Israel last week in New York City’s Sony Hall. Attended by some 250 AMIT donors and leaders, the event recognized the contributions of funders toward the organization’s network of religious schools in Israel, particularly in light of the Israel-Hamas war.

Birthdays

Oracle CEO Safra Catz delivers a keynote address during the 2019 Oracle OpenWorld on September 17, 2019 in San Francisco, California. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

CEO of Oracle Corporation, Safra A. Catz

FRIDAY: Chairman until earlier this year of Disney’s Marvel Entertainment, Isaac “Ike” Perlmutter… Former EVP of Stuart Weitzman, Jane Weitzman… NYC-based real estate developer, he owned the New York Post, served as chair of NYC’s MTA and is a noted car collector, Peter Kalikow… Executive producer of over 200 television shows, David E. Salzman… Singer, actress, comedian and author, Bette Midler… Comedian, actor and voice actor best known for his starring role in the animated sitcom “Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist,” Jonathan Katz… Former director of Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies, he is now the director of Yashrut, Rabbi Daniel Landes… Former president of the American Jewish Committee and a board member at Israel Policy Forum, John M. Shapiro… British playwright, director and scriptwriter, Stephen Poliakoff… U.S. senator (R-FL), Rick Scott… Chair of the Jewish Federation of Howard County (Maryland), Rabbi Gordon Fuller… Immediate past chair of the board of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, Isaac “Ike” Fisher… U.S. District Court judge in Oregon, Judge Michael H. Simon… U.S. senator (D-MI), Gary Peters… Professor in the Department of Mathematics and Physics at the University of Cambridge, Raymond E. Goldstein… Pittsburgh-based entrepreneur, David Seldin… CEO at My Pest Pros in Fairfax County (VA), Brett Lieberman… Emmy Award-winning stand-up comedian, actress, producer and writer, Sarah Silverman… Rabbi of Shaarei Tefillah Congregation in Toronto, Rafi Lipner… Principal in the media and communications practice at The Raben Group, he is the author of a book on military suicides, Yochi J. Dreazen… Emmy and Peabody Award-winning director, comedian, producer, writer and actor, Akiva Schaffer… Marketing and communications executive, Natalie Ravitz… Editor-in-chief at Jewish InsiderJosh Kraushaar… Writer and television producer, Evan Daniel Susser… English teacher at Jerusalem’s Keshet Talpaz, Shira Sacks… Principal at Magen Strategies, David Milstein… Mexican musician influenced by Sephardic brass and klezmer styles, known by his mononym “Sotelúm,” Jorge Sotelo… Becky Weissman…

SATURDAY: Professor of rabbinic literature at Yeshiva University’s Gruss Institute in Jerusalem, Aaron Rakeffet-Rothkoff… Real estate executive and founder of the Sunshine Group, Louise Mintz Sunshine… Sociologist and human rights activist, Jack Nusan Porter… Partner at Personal Healthcare LLC, Pincus Zagelbaum… Former drummer for a rock band in France followed by a career in contemporary Jewish spiritual music in Brooklyn, Isaac “Jacky” Bitton… Executive vice president at Rubenstein Communications, Nancy Haberman… Author of more than 15 volumes of poetry, he is a professor emeritus of English at the University of Pennsylvania, Bob Perelman… French historian, professor at Sorbonne Paris North University and author of 30 books on the history of North Africa, Benjamin Stora… Retired associate justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, Barbara A. Lenk… Professor at Montana State University, she was a member of the Montana House of Representatives and a board member of Bozeman’s Congregation Beth Shalom, Dr. Franke Wilmer… Partner in the Madison, Wisconsin law firm of Miner, Barnhill & Galland, she is a class action and labor law attorney, Sarah Siskind… Rabbi of Baltimore’s Congregation Ohel Moshe, Rabbi Zvi Teichman… Canadian fashion designer and entrepreneur, he is best known for launching the Club Monaco and Joe Fresh brands, Joe Mimran… Celebrity physician and author of diet books, he is the president of the Nutritional Research Foundation, Joel Fuhrman… Account manager at the Los Angeles Business Journal, Lanna Solnit… Cleveland resident, Joseph Schlaiser… Emmy Award-winning actress, her father was a rabbi, Rena Sofer… Identical twin sisters, known as The AstroTwins, they are magazine columnists and authors of four books on astrology, Tali Edut and Ophira Edut turn 51… Professor of political science, Eleanor L. Schiff… Former member of the Knesset, now serving as Israel’s ambassador to the U.K., Tzipi Hotovely… Actress best known for playing Special Agent Kensi Blye in 277 episodes of CBS’s “NCIS Los Angeles,” Daniela Ruah… Director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ Center on Cyber and Technology Innovation, Annie Fixler… Senior director with Alvarez & Marsal in Atlanta, she was a sabre fencer at the 2004 Summer Olympics, Emily Jacobson Edwards… Actor, best known for playing Trevor in the coming-of-age film “Eighth Grade,” Fred Hechinger

SUNDAY: A close associate of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Chaim Yehuda (“Yudel”) Krinsky… Malibu resident, she is the founder of a successful wedding gown business and a lifestyle coach, Sandy Stackler… 1987 Pulitzer Prize-winner for his book on Arabs and Jews in Israel, he was a long-serving foreign correspondent and Washington bureau chief for The New York TimesDavid K. Shipler… Member of the New York State Assembly since 1994, Jeffrey Dinowitz… Painter and art teacher, Heidi Praff… Miami-based criminal defense attorney whose clients have included O.J. Simpson and Charlie Sheen, Yale Lance Galanter… Former editorial page editor at USA TodayWilliam (Bill) Sternberg… Member of the House of Representatives (D-NC) since 2021, she was the founding chair of Prizmah and former chair of JFNA, Kathy Manning… British publicist, music manager and former tabloid journalist, Rob Goldstone… President of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Sally A. Kornbluth… Recent member of the Knesset for the Yisrael Beytenu party, Eli Avidar… Member of the California State Assembly from the 43rd district since 2016, she is running for Adam Schiff’s House seat, Laura Friedman… Malinda Wozniak Marcus… SVP of strategic initiatives at NBC News, Alison “Ali” Weisberg Zelenko… Associate professor of Jewish history at Yeshiva University, Joshua M. Karlip, Ph.D.… French journalist, author, television and radio personality, Marie Drucker… Emmy and Grammy Award-winning comedian and actress, she discovered her Eritrean Jewish roots as an adult, Tiffany Haddish… CEO of Solar One, he was a member of the New York City Council through 2021, Stephen T. Levin… Founding partner and head of strategy at Triadic, Elizabeth (Lizzie) Edelman… Professional tennis player with a WTA doubles ranking that reached as high as 21, Sharon Fichman