Your Daily Phil: Review finds sexism, homophobia at AJU, but clears school of systemic failures

Good Tuesday morning. 

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on the Anti-Defamation League’s revised “report card” for universities’ responses to campus antisemitism and on a new initiative to bring health care to remote villages in Ghana. We feature an opinion piece by Michelle Shapiro Abraham and Sarah Fredrick offering three models for approaching “The Surge” of newly engaged individuals looking to get more involved with the Jewish community. Also in this newsletter: Jonathan Dekel-ChenScooter Braun and Shanie Reichman. We’ll start with the findings of an external review of allegations of harassment and discrimination at American Jewish University.

In a 1,000-word email to stakeholders yesterday, the American Jewish University summarized an independent review of the complaints of discrimination and harassment made last year against the university, particularly its Ziegler School of Rabbinical Studies, which found that students did experience “sexism or homophobia” but that there was not a systemic issue at the institution, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Esther D. Kustanowitz.

“We are deeply saddened and upset to learn of the hurt expressed by these individuals. Our message to them: ‘We hear you deeply and pledge to do better,’” the university wrote.

Several former students disputed the findings and rejected the university’s decision to release only a summary of the findings instead of the report in its entirety and called for full transparency on the issue. 

“I certainly don’t speak for all 40 of the former students that we know of who have come forward with stories of being harmed by Ziegler,” Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg, who signed the initial complaint and has led the campaign to get the full report released, told eJP. “But I can say that many of us are angry, if unsurprised, that this statement by AJU so blatantly obfuscates what we know that former students have reported.”

In its missive, the university listed the recommendations made by the law firm Cozen O’Connor, which conducted the review,  that it plans to implement immediately to improve the school’s policies. These included hiring a dedicated Title IX coordinator, improving the rabbinical school’s support for students outside of its existing formal administrative hierarchy and devising and updating written policies related to discrimination and harassment.

“We are, in this context, guided by the Jewish tradition’s teaching that when we cause harm, we must acknowledge the harm, apologize for it, and take effective steps to make sure that it does not happen again,” the university wrote in the email. “We acknowledge these experiences and sincerely apologize to those individuals who have been harmed, particularly in a rabbinical school that prioritizes care and pastoral support.”

AJU declined to comment about the demands for the release of the full report.

In April 2023, a group of 13 former Ziegler rabbinical students and members of the AJU community contacted the ethics committee of the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly, known as Va’ad HaKavod (Honorable Council), with allegations that the school “enforced a double-standard against women, tolerated or contributed to homophobia and transphobia in the program and dismissed student concerns that the environment had become toxic.”

In response to the letter, AJU brought on Cozen O’Connor to investigate the allegations. Over the course of several months, the law firm contacted some 400 people, including current and former students, administrators, faculty members, and other AJU employees. The firm also interviewed 12 of the 13 original complainants.

Rabbi Andy Shugerman, who attended Ziegler for three years before moving to New York’s Jewish Theological Seminary to complete his studies, rejected the university’s summary and said he believes the problems are indeed systemic.

“The AJU statement today whitewashes what we hope and expect the investigation by the Rabbinical Assembly’s Va’ad HaKavod will reveal to be: misconduct that demands far more action than administrative tinkering alone,” Shugerman told eJP.

Read the full report here.


ADL revises its campus antisemitism report card, mostly with improvements but a few failing grades

An image from the protest encampment at Columbia University in New York City on April 22, 2024. Charly Triballeau/AFP via Getty Images

The Anti-Defamation League this morning released a revision of its controversial Campus Antisemitism Report Card, which was initially published in April and evaluated how 85 universities have handled a nationwide increase of antisemitism since the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks in Israel, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen, who obtained an early copy of the updated report card. The revised grades, which improved on average, took into account recent developments, changes to university policies and previously unknown information.

Overall improvement: After the reassessment, there are still only two schools — Brandeis and Elon University — that received an “A.” Eighteen schools have now received a “B” (up from 17 in April);  32 schools received a “C” (up from 29); 24 schools received a “D” (no change); and nine schools received an “F” grade (down from 13). While there was a net improvement, three schools — Northwestern University, UCLA and the University of Michigan — were downgraded from a “D” to an “F” because of “lack of adequate administrative response” to campus antisemitism.

Oversimplified: The initial report card faced criticism from some campus organizations, notably Hillel, for providing what it described as an oversimplified depiction of campus life for Jewish students.  The Hillel and Chabad of Michigan State University, for example, released a joint statement in April condemning the school’s failing grade, saying it “misses the holistic picture of Jewish life on our campus.” MSU’s grade increased from an “F” to a “D” following “the receipt of new information on new policies and procedures.”

‘Out of hand’: “The past few weeks have been marked by an alarming surge in anti-Jewish hate connected to the encampments and other on-campus protests, putting students’ safety at risk and even prompting some schools to cancel graduation,” Jonathan Greenblatt, ADL’s CEO, said in a statement. “The end of the school year should be a joyous time for students and their families, and it is unacceptable that some university leaders have let the situation get this out of hand.”


JDC, Ruderman family team up to bring better health care to remote Ghanaian villages

Medical professionals involved in ImpactWell provide health care to Ghanaians, in an undated photograph. Courtesy/JDC
Medical professionals involved in ImpactWell provide health care to Ghanaians, in an undated photograph. Courtesy/JDC

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and the Ruderman Family Foundation recently launched a new $2.4 million health-care initiative, ImpactWell, that will bring Israeli medical technologies to developing countries, beginning in Ghana, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross. The initiative began as a pilot program in Ghana, which has been running for the past year. The focus is on addressing so-called “last mile” issues, getting medical care not just to the country but to the patients, particularly those who live in communities without proper infrastructure and health-care systems.

Getting there: The Ruderman Family Foundation has provided $2 million of the initiative’s $2.4 million budget, a JDC spokesperson told eJP. In order to work around “last mile” obstacles, the ImpactWell initiative has focused on creating mobile and telemedicine options in order to reach patients in rural areas. “ImpactWell’s mobile clinics and providers visit Ghanaian villages each week, bringing specialists and new medical technology tools that offer quicker testing and treatment, lowering barriers to effective care,” JDC said in a statement.

Israeli tech: “Basic healthcare for all people is a fundamental human right. The Ruderman Foundation and JDC designed ImpactWell to advance this goal in developing countries by creating new ways of delivering lifesaving healthcare to people who have not had access, giving them both treatment and hope,” Jay Ruderman, president of the Ruderman Family Foundation, said in a statement. “It’s especially gratifying to see how many lives we can improve by leveraging Israel’s medical tech innovations and the power of Jewish philanthropy, all for global good.”

Read the full report here.


Meeting ‘The Surge’ through building relationships

Source: Gather Inc.

“Last month, the Jewish Federation of North America shared a survey quantifying the changes in Jewish community engagement since Oct. 7. One core finding was that many previously unengaged or loosely engaged individuals have spent the last eight months actively seeking meaningful connection to Jewish life, a phenomenon the umbrella group referred to as ‘the Surge,’” write Michelle Shapiro Abraham, CEO of Gather, Inc., and Sarah Fredrick, its director of trainings, in the first of a series of three opinion pieces for eJewishPhilanthropy.

From data to action: “Even before Oct. 7, multiple studies revealed the same pattern of people looking for deep relationships to hold them in Jewish life. This is not to say that sophisticated educational experiences and meaningful worship are not important and should not receive our care and attention, but rather that the research reinforces what we at Gather see again and again: No matter how carefully planned and well-executed our programs are, only deep relationships that add meaning, purpose and connection to our lives have the power to keep people engaged long-term in Jewish life. The question for our community is how do we move from the abstract to the concrete — how do we actually create these deep relationships? What skills, tools and practices of relationship-based engagement can help us sustain relationships over time?”

Tools to help: “The Gather, Inc. team has been wrestling with these and similar questions for over a decade. Drawing from our on-the-ground Gather Cities in Washington, D.C. and the East Bay, as well as our consulting work supporting Jewish federations, JCCs, synagogues and organizations across the country, we’ve developed a unique methodology, language and tool box that offers strategies to help Jewish communities and institutions sustain themselves through meaningful, personal relationships. We will be offering a deep dive into our methodology and tools at our upcoming Community of Practice launching this summer. We are excited to share a peek at some of these tools with eJewishPhilanthropy readers and explore how they can be particularly helpful in this moment.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Victims No More: In a New York Times opinion piece, Jonathan Dekel-Chen, whose son is being held hostage by Hamas in Gaza, rejects comparisons between Oct. 7 and the Holocaust, saying they relieve Israeli leaders of their responsibility for preventing the attacks. “As the son of a father who survived the Holocaust and a mother who fled Nazi Germany, I find our government’s use of such references to the Nazi genocide to be deeply offensive. As the father of a hostage, I find the use of such language excruciating. And as a professor of history, I am appalled at the inaccuracy of such statements and frightened by their implications for Israeli society. There is one truth to our leaders’ invoking of the Holocaust: Oct. 7 was indeed the deadliest single day for world Jewry since the Holocaust. The comparison ends there… The true legacy of the Holocaust for Israelis should be a story of redemption and reawakening, one in which our people were not stamped out. The legacy should not be one of eternal victimhood at the hands of evil-minded forces, as our leaders constantly suggest. There is nothing of greater value in the Zionist project than the continuity of the Jewish people, in a Jewish land, aware of, but not enslaved by, collective memories of our past.” [NYTimes]

From Condoms to Community Gardens: Known as Thailand’s “Condom King” for his work in family planning advocacy in the ’70s and ’80s, octogenarian Mechai Viravaidya has shifted gears to focus on advocacy for community-led solutions for elder care, reports Rebecca L. Root for Devex. “According to the World Health Organization, by 2050 the number of people over 60 will double to 2.1 billion, 80% of which will be living in low- and middle-income countries. Rather than seeing this as a burden, Viravaidya believes there is ‘great potential that exists in people who are aged 60 and over.’ He said: ‘We wish to bring them into the productive society [to] contribute rather than be viewed as simple recipients at the end of their lives.’ Aside from having societal and economic benefits, Viravaidya believes that finding ways of engaging older people can also contribute to their well-being, reducing the burden on health systems. The former UNAIDS ambassador, who has no plans himself to retire any time soon, believes it’s up to communities to do this rather than relying on governments or the United Nations to find a way to better support older adults.” [Devex]

Power of Sports+Giving: The biggest impact of athlete philanthropists might not be in the amount of money they give away personally but in how they are able to galvanize others to rally around a cause, writes Ade Adeniji in Inside Philanthropy. “In 2000, the late, great Nelson Mandela delivered a famous speech declaring that ‘sport has the power to change the world.’… One of the people in that room back in 2000 when Mandela gave his famous speech was Olympic gold medalist Edwin Moses, now 68 years old… Moses admits that he was new to the world of foundations back then, but in the early 1990s, he was asked to run what was then known as the International Amateur Athletic Association, the sponsor and founder of the prestigious Jesse Owens International Trophy Award. ‘That was my first move into philanthropy,’ Moses said. Years later, in May 2000, Moses thought he was going to just another dinner banquet in Monte Carlo. But he ended up hearing Mandela’s words, being inspired and quickly getting involved with Laureus[, a global nonprofit focused on bettering the world through sports]… He enlisted as a member of the Laureus World Sports Academy, a collective of current and retired athletes dedicated to advancing Laureus’ mission. Moses was invited to serve as inaugural chair of the academy and currently serves as chair of Laureus USA… [Laureus National Director Maurya] Couvares highlighted Laureus’ coalition-based approach and ability to bring together seemingly disparate organizations and people. ‘The fact that we can get the police and the parks department and local nonprofits and brands all talking about how to create a solution, when normally they would be in their own silos talking, is really powerful,’ she said.” [InsidePhilanthropy]

Around the Web

Vice President Kamala Harris, speaking at a White House screening of the Oct. 7 documentary “Screams Before Silence” yesterday, emphasized the need for continued attention to the plight of victims of sexual violence by Hamas on and since Oct. 7, including those still being held hostage. “We cannot look away and we will not be silent,” she said…

Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff and Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro are slated to speak at the Tree of Life memorial groundbreaking in Pittsburgh on Sunday; CNN’s Wolf Blitzer will emcee the event…

A study by The Chronicle of Philanthropy showed that big donations (worth $1 million or more) rose 6% this year with wealthy donors giving nearly $300 million more to nonprofits in the first five months of 2024 than they did over the same period last year. However, the analysis attributed the rise to Ruth Gottesman’s $1 billion donation to the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and when that donation was excluded, giving is actually down by 14%…

Russian officials set June 26 as the date for Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich’s first hearing, announcing that the proceedings will be held in secret…

El Al has reinstated its discount on shipping of donations to support the Israeli war effort after news of its cancellation prompted a public outcry both in Israel and among Jewish donors abroad…

Herbert C. Dobrinsky, Yeshiva University’s vice president for university affairs, is retiring after 60 years with the school…

Scooter Braun announced his retirement from entertainment management, two years after winding down his management of a roster of top singers that included Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande; Braun will maintain his role as CEO of HYBE America

Miami officials, including Mayor Francis Suarezpitched in to clean anti-Israel graffiti painted on the frontage of a local bagel shop whose owner is Jewish; Holy Bagels & Pizzeria has been vandalized four times in eight months…

A Portland, Ore., City Council candidate endorsed by the Portland Teachers Union asked the organization to remove anti-Israel lesson plans from its website and to stop using the term “From the river to the sea”…

A new exhibition at Amsterdam’s National Holocaust Museum spotlights the loss and looting that took place during World War II…

Ryan Warsofsky was named head coach of the National Hockey League’s San Jose Sharks on June 13 after previously serving as an assistant coach with the team, becoming the first Jewish NHL head coach in 32 years; at 36, he is also the youngest coach…

The Luskin Orthopaedic Institute for Children in Los Angeles was awarded a $50 million gift by the estate of Meyer and Renee Luskin at its annual gala on June 8…

Shanie Reichman was named director of strategic initiatives at the Israel Policy Forum. She will continue to serve as director of IPF Atid, its young professionals’ network…

The New York City Council has indefinitely delayed a vote on a resolution calling for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war…

Chicago businessman Arthur Gutterman created a new Hebrew University endowment, for an undisclosed amount, to fund graduate student fellowships at the university’s medical labs…

Kosher-keeping Phillies fans will be able to dine on hot pastrami on rye, hot dogs with different fixings and potato knishes at the new Kosher Grill at Citizens Bank Park

Jewish feminist translator, editor and writer Frieda Johles Forman, credited with rediscovering Yiddish women authors, died on June 9 at 87…

Pic of the Day

Bruno Sharvit/KKL-JNF

Approximately 1,700 members of Be’Netivey Udi (In Udi’s Paths), an Israeli youth group, participate in a unity hike on Sunday along Israel’s historic Burma Road leading to Jerusalem, which was organized by KKL-JNF.

Named for IDF Lt. Udi Elgrably, who was killed while serving in southern Lebanon in 1994, Be’Netivey Udi fosters connections among religious, secular and traditional Israelis in grades 10-12, promoting a cohesive society based on unity, volunteerism, tolerance and social responsibility. 


Jonathan S. Lavine, co-managing partner and chief investment officer of Bain Capital Credit
Alexi J. Rosenfeld/Getty Images

Talent manager and music business mogul, Scott Samuel “Scooter” Braun

Chicago-based attorney, he is the only ordained rabbi to serve as an alderman on the Chicago City Council, Solomon Gutstein… Former Washington Post editor, reporter and London bureau chief, Fred Barbash… IT management adviser at Next Stage, Steven Shlomo Nezer… Croatian entrepreneur, he was previously the minister of economy, labor and entrepreneurship in the Croatian government, Davor Stern… Rabbi at Or Hamidbar in Palm Springs, Calif., he previously led congregations in Israel and Stockholm, Rabbi David James Lazar… Rebecca Diamond… Best-selling author and journalist, she was editor-in-chief of USA TodayJoanne Lipman… Retired professor of English at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, Helene Meyers… Executive of the William Pears Group, Sir Trevor Steven Pears… Vice chairman and president of global client services at BDT & MSD Partners, Dina Powell McCormick… Former assistant to President Donald Trump, he is a principal at Cordish Companies, Reed Saunders Cordish… Film director and screenwriter, Jonathan A. Levine… Actor, comedian, satirist and writer, known professionally as Ben Gleib, Ben Nathan Gleiberman… Television producer and writer, Jeremy Bronson… Baseball pitcher for Team Israel at the 2020 Summer Olympics, he is now the assistant director of pitching for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Jeremy Bleich… Associate at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, Esther Lifshitz… Investor at Silver Point Capital, Jacob E. Best… Rachel Hazan…