Your Daily Phil: Remembering Oct. 7 victims through their handwriting

Good Friday morning.

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 eJewishPhilanthropyJewish Insider and The Circuit stories, including: Marc Rowan on publicly fighting UPenn over its handling of campus antisemitism: ‘Telling the truth feels great’; John Avlon pivots from punditry to politics; After four months of war, how much of Gaza’s terror tunnel network remains?; Jordan’s queen downplays role of Oct. 7 as cause of the war in GazaPrint the latest edition here.

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on the efforts of the myriad university task forces that have sprung up to combat campus antisemitism since Oct. 7, and feature an opinion piece by Dr. Amir Blumenfeld about the demand for mental health support in Israel. Also in this issue: David Grossman, Dr. Andrew M. Hutter and Lynn Wittels. We’ll start with an initiative to turn the handwriting of Israelis killed by Hamas into usable fonts. Shabbat shalom!

The regular swirl of a dalet replaced by zigzag. A dramatically extended tail of a tav. The already tiny yod made yet smaller, down to just an ever-so slightly pointed dot. Everyone’s handwriting features its own distinctive features and style, the thing that sets it apart from all of the others.

“I believe that within those letters, something from their soul comes out of that,” Leah Marmorstein-Yarhi, who is spearheading a new grassroots initiative to preserve the handwriting of the people killed on Oct. 7 and in the subsequent war against Hamas, told eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross.

The initiative is called Ot.Hayim, a Hebrew play on words, which translates to both “sign of life” and “letter of life.” For the project, font designers use handwriting samples of victims to create fonts that can be downloaded for free from its website.

The idea first came about when a friend of Marmorstein-Yarhi, Yael Masika Maimon, contacted her because one of her daughter’s friends, Niv Raviv, was murdered in the attack on Kibbutz Kfar Aza. “They wanted to create a font from Niv’s handwriting,” Marmorstein-Yarhi said.

That initial request prompted her to develop the infrastructure for the project, finding font designers who were willing to volunteer through design WhatsApp groups and creating the website. “Our hearts were open. We wanted to give, to help, to do something to ease the suffering of the families,” Marmorstein-Yarhi said.

Shana Koppel was brought on to create the font of Raviv’s handwriting as a pilot project for Ot.Hayim. “It’s a very technical process, especially if someone else has made the letters for you,” Koppel told eJP.

Though she’s never studied graphology, Koppel said that going through the handwriting of Raviv and the other victims gave her insight into their personalities. “Every letter that she wrote was telling me something about Niv,” Koppel said. “Or there would be some masculine guy who was killed fighting, but then you see that his handwriting is so neat and round, and you go, ‘Oh, that’s who you are.’”

The project has so far created nine fonts based on the handwriting of victims, with many more in the works, Marmorstein-Yarhi said.

Marmorstein-Yarhi said it was important for Ot.Hayim to “include all of the colors of the rainbow of Israeli society [in the project]: a girl who was killed in Kfar Aza, and a girl who was killed at the party , an officer from a Druze village and a religious Ethiopian soldier.”

The designers themselves also represent a diverse array of backgrounds, “from the most international, Tel Avivi people to Haredi designers,” she said. “We are trying to send a message of unity.”

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.
Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images

In the aftermath of a surge in antisemitism that erupted following the Oct. 7 Hamas terror attacks, top universities including Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Columbia, the University of Pennsylvania and Northwestern announced the creation of new bodies tasked with studying antisemitism on campus and identifying how to address it. But nearly five months after the environment for Jewish students on these campuses began to rapidly deteriorate, questions remain over the efficacy and mandate of such groups. They will also face the thorny issue of campus free speech as they delve into questions about what, exactly, constitutes antisemitism on campus, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch and eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen report.

Window dressing warning: At universities that already had antisemitism task forces prior to Oct. 7, those that achieved the most success generally have a budget to pursue actual work, a clear timeline for their work and strong buy-in from administrators, who must be willing to actually implement the groups’ recommendations, according to Miriam Elman, executive director of the Academic Engagement Network, which works to fight anti-Israel sentiment and antisemitism at U.S. universities. “I think if the mandate is not clear, if there’s not enough resources, if the council doesn’t have committees and jobs, it’s just going to be window dressing,” said Elman. “It’s not going to be able to do the work that needs to be done.”

Critics on board: After Northwestern University announced in November that it would create an antisemitism task force, three of the 163 faculty and staff members at the university who wrote a letter denouncing its formation were subsequently named to the committee, which will also focus on addressing Islamophobia. “If you really want to fix the problem, why conflate it with other issues that are going to prolong trying to find a solution to it?” Mike Teplitsky, a Northwestern alum and the president of the Coalition Against Antisemitism at Northwestern, said of the joint Islamophobia focus. “I would call it a bureaucratic distraction from trying to fix the problem.” 

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


During these challenging times, scaling up mental health support in Israel is vital

“The hotlines operated by Sahar have experienced an overwhelming surge in activity since Oct. 7, with a staggering 300% increase in demand,” writes Sahar chairman Dr. Amir Blumenfeld, former chief of trauma at the IDF Medical Corps Headquarters, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy

Meeting the moment: “Sahar, an Israeli nonprofit organization, has been dedicated to providing first aid mental health support to individuals in need for more than 20 years, harnessing the power of compassionate volunteers and mental health professionals to create a robust support network. In the wake of the brutal Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas, the country has been thrust into unimaginable turmoil. The entire nation is grappling with the trauma and its psychological impact. With Sahar’s services more essential than ever before, the organization is one of many in the mental health arena in Israel that have had to expand operations, train new volunteers and embrace technological advancements to fulfill its mission of saving lives and making a difference.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Where Do We Go From Here?: In The New York Times, acclaimed Israeli novelist David Grossman considers the state of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict five months after the Oct. 7 terror attacks. “The renowned kabbalah scholar Gershom Scholem coined a saying: ‘All the blood flows to the wound.’ Nearly five months after the massacre, that is how Israel feels. The fear, the shock, the fury, the grief and humiliation and vengefulness, the mental energies of an entire nation — all of those have not stopped flowing to that wound, to the abyss into which we are still falling… The coming months will determine the fate of two peoples. We will find out if the conflict that extends back more than a century is ripe for a reasonable, moral, human resolution. How tragic that this will occur — if indeed it does — not from hope and enthusiasm but from exhaustion and despair. Then again, that is the state of mind that often leads enemies to reconcile, and today it is all we can hope for. And so we shall make do with it. It seems we had to go through hell itself in order to get to the place from which one can see, on an exceptionally bright day, the distant edge of heaven.” [NYTimes]

The Wrong Cry: In an opinion piece for CNN[dot]com, Ofri Bibas Levy, sister of Israeli hostage Yarden Bibas — who, along with his wife and two young sons, Ariel and Kfir, remain unaccounted for in Gaza — reacts to the global community’s response to the plight of her family. “We were naive. When countless people around the world watched the footage of armed terrorists abducting two little redheaded boys and their mother on October 7th, we were naive enough to believe it would be just a matter of days until the world’s outrage would be so great, the pressure so severe, that Hamas would surely release my nephews… Why are world leaders signaling to terrorists everywhere that it is okay to take children hostage? How do they not see that they are doing Hamas’s work by insisting that Israel agree to a ceasefire when 134 hostages remain in captivity? Releasing the hostages should have been the cry heard around the world since October 7th. Instead, the cry heard around the world is for a ceasefire, as if the lives of the hostages are an afterthought… Terror groups around the world are watching how you all respond or don’t respond. They hear your silence, and they are taking notes.” [CNN]

It’s Not Just The Debt, Stupid: In The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Steven Taylor argues for philanthropists to think bigger as it relates to combating the student debt crisis. “One-time debt cancellation might bring short-term relief to borrowers, but it won’t solve the underlying problems of high cost and potentially low return on investment that created the $1.78 trillion student debt bubble in the first place. Philanthropists gave $58 billion in 2023 to higher education, primarily to fund college scholarships and research. In doing so, they continue to shore up a broken system. Instead, grant makers must recognize that higher education is changing, and they should change with it. A growing number of today’s students don’t fit the traditional model — 18 to 24 years old and living on campus. Many are adults with jobs and family commitments who are enrolled part-time or online… To help these students, grant makers should focus on an array of innovative solutions that avoid saddling them with decades of debt.” [ChronicleofPhilanthropy]

If You Build It, Dollars Still Might Not Come: A report from the Wallace Foundation finds that targeted efforts to build audiences do not necessarily translate into higher revenue for performing arts organizations, reports Philanthropy News Digest. “Based on insights drawn from the foundation’s Building Audiences for Sustainability (BAS) initiative, through which the foundation awarded nearly $41 million to 25 performing arts organizations between 2015 and 2019 in support of audience-building projects, the report… found numerous assumptions — including the ‘myth of the long, slow escalator,’ a linear path from new audience member to highly engaged donor — hindered organizations’ ability to connect with new audiences they hoped to reach. Moreover, strategies such as ‘crossover’ programming and presenting at off-site venues were not often successful in converting target audiences to frequent attendees. However, many organizations found that these programs still held value in reaching new kinds of audiences and diversifying their programming, leading them to adjust their expectations for what special programming can, and should, achieve.” [PhilanthropyNewsDigest]

Around the Web

Dr. Andrew M. Hutter was elected chairman of the board of directors of Israel Bonds. He replaces Howard L. Goldstein, who has completed his term as chair…

Jewish university students appeared in the House Committee on Education & the Workforce yesterday to testify about their firsthand experiences with antisemitism…

Rabbi Asher Lopatin is leaving his position as executive director of Detroit’s Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC to become director of community relations for the Jewish Federation of Greater Ann Arbor, Mich….

The Associated Press looks back at the AMIA Jewish community center bombing in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which killed 85 people, that occurred 30 years ago yesterday…

In honor of her last day as president and CEO of The J – St. Louis, the city’s JCC, St. Louis County officially declared yesterday Lynn Wittels Day

National Public Radio spotlights the new musical “Émigré” about Jewish refugees in Shanghai during and after World War II, which premiered at the New York Philharmonic yesterday…

The Internal Revenue Service appears to have made an error when it published a large batch of 990 forms from 2022, making it appear as though the document was superimposed upon the previous year’s, a mix-up that has already caused trouble for a number of nonprofits…

The Center for Initiatives in Jewish Education held its annual hackathon for Jewish day school students in New York City this week. (Read eJewishPhilanthropy’s report from last year’s event here.)…

The Free Press published the annual State of World Jewry address, which was given by its founder, Bari Weiss, at the 92Y in New York…

The Marcus Foundation gave a $13.2 million grant to Yale University to support a clinical trial that could mark a first step toward a preventive treatment for Parkinson’s disease

The New York Times spotlights the IDF reservists who, upon returning from active duty, are reengaging in political activism as the country looks beyond the Israel-Hamas war…

Some 500 residents returned this week to Shlomit, a community located some four miles southeast of the Gaza Strip, after spending the past five months living in Jerusalem-area hotels…

Inside Philanthropy looks at how major funders in K-12 education are stepping back or overhauling their programs, leaving grantees in a state of uncertainty…

Eight Philadelphia-area artists painted portraits of more than 200 hostages who were taken from Israel into Gaza on Oct. 7 as part of a new installation at The Weitzman museum…

Nate Strauss was named the next director of Capital Camps in Waynesboro, Pa. Strauss previously served as director of Jewish student life and assistant director of the Michigan State Hillel

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak pledged an additional £54 million ($68.3 million) — on top of an initial contribution of £18 million ($22.8 million) — to the country’s Community Security Trust, which provides security for Jewish communities, amid a major rise in antisemitism…

Prince William met with Jewish community members at London’s Western Marble Arch Synagogue yesterday and decried the recent explosion of antisemitism in the United Kingdom, saying it “has no place in society”…

Rev. Malcolm Weisman, who led numerous small Jewish communities across the U.K. for decades, died yesterday at 89…

Pic of the Day

Jewish Federation of Greater Houston/Facebook

Employees from the Celebration Company, a supportive and transitional employment program of Joan and Stanford Alexander Jewish Family Services, present the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston with a check for $546 toward its Israel Emergency Fund on Wednesday. They gave the donation from part of the proceeds of their Chanukah candle sales.


Annie Liebovitz smiles
Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Founder of Bunk1 and co-owner of the Miami Marlins, Ari Jack Ackerman, celebrates his birthday on Sunday… 

FRIDAY: President of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts in NYC since 2001, he served for 30 years on the Los Angeles City Council, Joel Wachs… Real estate developer, he was part owner of MLB’s Kansas City Royals and three sports franchises in Memphis, Tulane’s basketball arena is named in his honor, Avron B. Fogelman… Professor emeritus of Jewish studies at Los Angeles Valley College and the former editor of ShofarZev Garber… CEO of Mandalay Entertainment and a co-owner of both the LA Dodgers and Golden State Warriors, Peter Guber… Former chairman and CEO of IBM until 2002, Lou Gerstner… Former member of the Knesset for the New Hope party, Ze’ev Binyamin (“Benny”) Begin… Librarian at the Anti-Defamation League’s NYC HQ, Marianne Benjamin… Israeli historian, author and journalist, Tom Segev… Israeli journalist, author, and political commentator, Ehud Yaari… Industrialist, magazine publisher, film producer and art collector, Peter M. Brant… Cantor at the Jewish Community Center of Paramus / Congregation Beth Tikvah, Sam Weiss… U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE)… Former executive of Viacom, Philippe Dauman… President of Emory University, he is the son and grandson of Holocaust survivors, Gregory L. Fenves… Author and former U.S. military intelligence officer, she is now a human rights activist focused on Eastern Europe, Nina Willner… Chairman and president of Berexco, Adam E. Beren… Ukrainian businessman and philanthropist, Andrey Adamovskiy… Satirist, novelist, short story writer and journalist, he is also a three-time “Jeopardy!” champion, Neal Pollack… AVP of corporate and community relations at Baltimore’s Kennedy Krieger Institute, Dara Schapiro Schnee… Television writer, director and producer, Brad Falchuk… Television journalist at CBS News, Dave Malkoff… Founder and principal at narrative/change, Jonathan Lipman… Israeli journalist and the former chairman of the Union of Journalists in Israel, Yair Tarchitsky… Principal at Mosaic Realty Partners and a director of The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore, Isaac Pretter… CEO of eToro, Yoni Assia… Former member of the U.S. national soccer team, now head of scouting at Atlanta United FC, Jonathan Spector… Co-founder of Synonym Biotechnologies, Joshua Lachter… Senior political data reporter and the host of the “Margins of Error” podcast for CNN, Harry Enten… Litigation associate at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, Hannah Klain… Shortstop for Team Israel in the 2023 World Baseball Classic, now playing for the New York Boulders of the Frontier League, Assaf Lowengart… Kevin Golden…

SATURDAY: Restaurateur, lawyer, financier and former owner of Braniff International Airlines, Jeffrey Chodorow… Comedian, actress and writer, she was part of the original cast of NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” Laraine Newman… Former U.S. senator from Wisconsin for 18 years, Russ Feingold… Member of the Knesset for the National Unity Party, Alon Natan Schuster… Anesthesiologist in Skokie, Ill., who graduated from Tel Aviv University’s Sackler School of Medicine, Samuel M. Parnass, M.D.… Member of the New York State Assembly, Alec Brook-Krasny… Senior advisor at Brunswick Group, Mitch Bainwol… Author and reporter for The New York TimesKatherine “Katie” Rosman… Executive director of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance, she is a board member of the Washington JCRC, Daphne Lazar-Price… Editor and director of communications at Twin Cities, Minnesota’s TC JewfolkLonny Goldsmith… Israeli hip hop singer and rapper better known as Mooki, Daniel Neyburger… Former culture reporter for The New York Times, he is the author of a biography of Robin Williams, David L. Itzkoff… Former member of the Knesset for the Kadima party, Yuval Zellner… Director of marketing at Window Nation, Eric Goldscher… Chief of staff for Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-FL), Yuri Beckelman… Israeli physician, she is also a television and radio newscaster, Dr. Hila Chaya Korach… VP at This Machine Filmworks in Los Angeles, Sally Rosen Phillips… Founding member of CoS Mastermind Network, a vetted community of chiefs of staff, Kaylee Berger Porco… Project manager at Halo Development, Donni Lurman

SUNDAY: Australian residential property developer, colloquially known as “High-Rise Harry,” builder of more than 77,000 residential units, Harry Triguboff… Former justice of the Supreme Court of Israel, Dalia Dorner… Professor emeritus at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, author of 32 books and the editor emeritus of Dissent magazine, Michael Laban Walzer… Researcher in Yiddish language at Sweden’s Lund University’s Centre for Languages and Literature, Henrik Lewis-Guttermann… Best-selling and Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer of financiers and politicians, Ron Chernow… Former president of CBS News, currently president of See It Now Studios, Susan Zirinsky… Retired chief investment officer of Neuberger Berman, he served as president of AIPAC, Michael Kassen… Fashion designer and businessman, Steve Madden… NPR personality and the host of “This American Life,” Ira Jeffrey Glass… Former director of policy for New York State under Andrew Cuomo, David Yassky… MLB pitcher until 2001, then a pitching coach, his 557 appearances rank second in career games pitched by a Jewish pitcher, Scott David Radinsky… Co-founder and co-president of Clarity Capital, David Steinhardt… EVP and general counsel at Eli Lilly and Company, Anat Hakim… Assistant professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine focused on autism-related genetics, Brett S. Abrahams, Ph.D.… Screenwriter and columnist at GlobesEfrat Abramov… British rabbi who has run for mayor of London and mayor of Manchester, Shneur Zalman Odze… Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Danielle R. Sassoon… Vocalist for indie-pop band Lucius, Jess Wolfe… Communications manager for Uber, Freddi Goldstein… Member of AJR, an indie pop multi-instrumentalist trio, together with his two brothers, Ryan Metzger