Your Daily Phil: Saving Auschwitz victims’ shoes + The O.U.’s new president

Good Monday morning!

In today’s Your Daily Phil, we report on a campaign to restore the shoes of children killed at Auschwitz, and feature an op-ed by Faith Brigham Leener on the growth of Base. Also in this newsletter: Roman Abramovich, Brooklyn D.A. Eric Gonzalez, Naomi Reinharz, Liron Fisch and the Miami Boys Choir. We’ll start with the Orthodox Union’s newly tapped president.

As the new chief lay leader of the Orthodox Union, a sprawling umbrella organization responsible for everything from the country’s most prominent kosher certification to an international youth movement to a broad network of synagogues, Mitchel Aeder hopes to stay the course.

“I think the O.U. is in a very good place, thank God,” Aeder told eJewishPhilanthropy days after becoming the organization’s president. “I don’t anticipate any radical changes… The goal, I think, is to do much more of the same.”

Within the $150 million organization, however, Aeder said there are challenges he wants to address and strengths he hopes to buttress as both the Orthodox world and broader society move into the future. He mentioned ensuring that there’s a healthy stream of qualified Jewish professionals to fill the O.U.’s ranks in the United States, in light of “a well-reported and discussed shortage of people going into communal work professionally.” He also discussed a continued emphasis on “collaboration and synergies among the different groups” that comprise the O.U.

Aeder, 62, who retired in 2021 from serving as a corporate tax partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, grew up in New Jersey and lives in the heavily Orthodox Queens, New York, neighborhood of Kew Gardens Hills. Prior to being unanimously elected as the group’s president at a convention on Jan. 1, Aeder served in a variety of volunteer leadership positions within the O.U. — from chair of Yachad, which serves people with disabilities, to chair of the division that oversees NCSY, the O.U.’s 30,000-person youth group. He succeeds Mark Bane, also known as Moishe, who served as president for six years.

In light of the O.U.’s size, one of Aeder’s concerns is the organization’s staffing pipeline. A significant share of Orthodox Jews who are committed to serving the Jewish community opt to move to Israel. And while Aeder stressed that he “enthusiastically” supports aliyah, he also worries that there may be a dearth of talented professionals to fill the O.U.’s ranks in the United States. The O.U. has approximately 3,000 employees total, some 300 of whom are in Israel.

“A lot of idealistic young people of the type who dedicate their lives to the community professionally make aliyah, and so creating an environment where we can attract and retain talent that will enable us to continue to grow, that’s a major priority,” he said. He added that while some remote work from Israel is possible, “For a lot of what we do — certainly our hands-on programming — that has to happen here. Our NCSY programs with teens, you can’t do that remotely.”

Read the full story here.

saving history

A pile of victims’ shoes at Auschwitz.

It’s one of the most haunting images of the Holocaust: thousands of beaten-up shoes, heaped in a mountainous pile — nearly every pair having belonged to a person who didn’t make it out alive. More than 200,000 children were killed at Auschwitz, and the Auschwitz Museum says the shoes — which are one of the only remnants of their short lives — are at risk of deterioration. Now, a crowdfunding campaign seeks to finance the shoes’ conservation, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Ben Sales.

Shoe by shoe: The campaign began in September and, so far, has raised roughly $250,000. Along with the March of the Living, it’s being co-organized by the Auschwitz Museum, located at the site of the former camp, and the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation. Heideman expects it to last two years. Initially, the goal is to conserve 8,000 shoes that are especially at risk, at a cost of approximately $50 to $100 per shoe, with the average trending toward the higher end of that range. The work will be done by specialists at the museum.

Engaging young people: For the March of the Living, an annual educational trip to Auschwitz-Birkenau that has brought more than 300,000 people — many of them teens — to the concentration camp, the fundraising campaign is also a way to engage young people in Holocaust remembrance. Heideman said that the campaign’s organizers intentionally did not seek the backing of a foundation or corporation, so that ordinary people could feel a sense of investment in the initiative.

Getting involved: “This is a real way for people to become actively involved in saving history,” Phyllis Greenberg Heideman, president of the International March of the Living, told eJP. “We want the people, the general population. We can always go to major corporations and, I’m sure, raise the money we want. I would much rather engage the general population, engage those with a desire to keep memory alive, even if it’s one by one, five by five.”

Read the full story here.

basic takeaways

Making Base home: 11 lessons on innovation

“In 2014, my three best friends and I co-founded Base – a new type of Jewish community for ourselves and our millennial peers. Despite four very different backgrounds and upbringings, we shared a dream: a way to engage in Jewish community that differed from previous traditional models, to break free from the constraints of divisive denominations, brick-and-mortar institutions and costly membership models in favor of an experiential Judaism that made us feel more alive, more in touch with ourselves and more connected to those around us. This Judaism would bring the old stories off the page and help us grapple with life’s big questions: Why are we here? What is/could be/might be ‘God?’ How are we connected to the Jewish past, and the global Jewish present?” writes Faith Brigham Leener, a founder and the executive director of the Base movement, in an opinion piece in eJewishPhilanthropy.

Making a model: “Over coffees and Google docs, we imagined a movement of families from all walks of life building hyper-local, nondenominational Jewish communities based out of our homes. Going back to the basics, we built a model rooted in the rabbinic home – one imbued with radical hospitality, a love of Jewish learning and a commitment to being a good neighbor through acts of service. Today there are Base communities thriving across New York City, Boston, Chicago, Miami, Denver, the Bay Area and soon Los Angeles. Thanks to the generosity and vision of many philanthropists and foundations, federations and our home institution – Moishe House – more are growing every year.”

Lessons learned: “After eight years of building, Base is now firmly rooted and thriving, and the day-to-day leadership is ready for a new builder. As I step back, I’d like to share some lessons on the process of ‘innovation’ in the hopes that they might help others.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Reshaping Philanthropy: Melinda French Gates is among a rising cohort of female billionaires — including MacKenzie Scott and Laurene Powell Jobs — who are reshaping philanthropy by giving more quickly with fewer strings attached, Betsy McKay and Emily Glazer write in The Wall Street Journal. “They’re parting with their wealth faster than some philanthropists traditionally have, often with fewer strings attached, and funding causes and groups that don’t normally attract the attention of major philanthropists. While philanthropists sometimes set up foundations to run in perpetuity, ‘the philosophy that more people are starting to embrace is, there will be other wealthy people to solve the problems for tomorrow; let us solve the problems today,’ said Helene Gayle, president of Spelman College and a trustee at the Gates Foundation. These female philanthropists are leading change — and can do more to lead change, said Jamie Drummond, founder of Sharing Strategies, a network of advocates and organizations addressing global crises like Covid-19 and climate change that has received funding from the Gates Foundation. ‘The system is sometimes too slow to get resources out, too slow to support front-line groups, the real local actors who are doing heroic work,’ and too timid to help persuade governments to think big, he said. [WSJ]

Tending to the Teens: 
The Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey has been working to address the mental health crisis among young people, Michael Schmidt and Kevin McManemin write in the New Jersey Jewish News, adding that the responsibility is “a communal effort.” “It requires organizational leadership, funders and philanthropists, teachers, counselors, parents, siblings, and students. Each must learn to recognize the importance of cultivating resilience and safeguarding not just their own mental wellness, but that of those around us. Another lesson is that any organization that serves young people should be equipped to deal with these important and growing mental health concerns. Looking after the mental health of young people is not the domain of only parents and schools. After-school programs, summer camps, houses of worship, and sports leagues all present vital touchpoints with young people that can be an opportunity to change a life for the better.” [NJJN]

Around the Web

Roman Abramovich, the billionaire former owner of Chelsea FC who has been sanctioned for his ties to Vladimir Putin, transferred ownership of at least $4 billion of assets to his children shortly before he was hit with sanctions, The Guardian reported

Brooklyn D.A. Eric Gonzalez and the NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force are looking into a Friday evening incident in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights in which a car rammed into a visibly Jewish man…

Naomi Reinharz was named the new CEO of the American Society of the University of Haifa. She was previously chief development officer of the America-Israel Friendship League…

Liron Fisch was named communications and advancement manager at Valley Beth Shalom Harold M. Schulweis Day School in Los Angeles. She previously served as program assistant for NuRoots, a young adult engagement program at the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles…

JUF Chicago, the city’s Jewish federation, won a Shorty Impact Award for an interactive public art memorial inspiring conversation about gun violence in Chicago…

MyHeritagepublished a free, searchable collection of 1.7 million records covering immigration to Israel, including all surviving records of those who immigrated to the Jewish state beginning in 1919.…

Paul Berger, a founder of the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School, attorney, community leader and past president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, died at 90…

Jewish Theological Seminary librarian and professor Menahem Schmelzerdied at 88…

Pic of the Day

The Miami Boys Choir performed its surprise viral hit, “Yerushalayim,” at “A Time For Music 36,” an annual concert put on last night by Camp HASC in New Jersey. Images of people dancing to the song on TikTok were projected on screens around the group as it performed.


(Photo by Istvan Derencsenyi/Getty Images)

Hungarian-Israeli retired gymnast, she won 10 Olympic medals, Ágnes Keleti… 

Advertising executive and author, Jerry Irving Reitman… Law professor at Georgetown University, Peter Edelman… Former member of the Swiss Federal Council and President of the Swiss Confederation in 1999, Ruth Dreifuss… Rabbi emeritus of Kehilath Israel Synagogue in Overland Park, Kansas, Herbert Jay Mandl… Vice chairman of the private equity firm Gilbert Global Equity Partners, Steven Kotler… Pulitzer Prize-winning Supreme Court reporter for The New York Times for 40 years, now a research scholar at Yale Law School, Linda Greenhouse… Retired MLB umpire, he worked in 3,392 major league games in his 26 year career, Al Clark… Presidential historian, spokesman for the 9/11 Commission, Alvin S. Felzenberg… Composer, singer and radio show host, Yossi Toiv… Actress, singer and songwriter, Roslyn Kind… Australian author of more than 40 books of children’s and young adult fiction, Morris Gleitzman… Former governor of the Bank of Israel, Karnit Flug… Investment banker, Joel Darren Plasco… Justice of the High Court of Australia, James Joshua Edelman… NFL insider and reporter for the NFL Network, Ian Rapoport… Film producer and the founder and CEO of Skydance Media, David Ellison… Israeli actress and model, known for her role as Nurit in “Fauda,” Rona-Lee Shimon… Director of development and community relations at Manhattan Day School, Allison Liebman Rubin… Pulitzer Prize-winning staff writer at The New Yorker, Ben Taub… Strategic growth manager at Compass, Madeline Peterson… Television and film actress, Nicola Anne Peltz Beckham