Your Daily Phil: Security prep for High Holy Days + ADL looks to Hollywood to fight hate
Good Wednesday morning!
In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report from Los Angeles on the opening of the Anti-Defamation League’s new Media and Entertainment Institute and interview an Israeli trauma expert who recently spoke at a mental health-focused summit in Ukraine. We feature an opinion piece from Dr. Elhanan Bar-On on the significance of Israeli relief works. Also in this newsletter: Vice President Kamala Harris, Bobby Lapin and Mary Ann Stein. We’ll start with a briefing to Congress on Jewish communities’ security preparations ahead of Rosh Hashanah.
A group of 10 major Jewish organizations brought together a bipartisan group of senators and House members for a briefing on Tuesday afternoon on the security situation in the Jewish community ahead of the High Holy Days. The discussions focused primarily on the federal Nonprofit Security Grant Program, whose funding the lawmakers said they were working to increase after a significant budget cut was proposed for next year, report eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen and Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod.
The briefing was organized by Jewish Federations of North America, Secure Community Network (SCN), the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the Orthodox Union (OU), with the support of six other major Jewish organizations.
JFNA President and CEO Eric Fingerhut, a former congressman, opened the briefing with a call for “full funding of the [NSGP] program at the $360 million level.” Fingerhut pointed to unprecedented spikes in antisemitism and said additional public resources are required.
“It is truly indispensable to the physical security of churches, synagogues, mosques and all other faith-based places of gathering across the country,” Fingerhut said. “There’s not a security camera or security door that isn’t in some way costly and needing the help and support of these resources.”
In July, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a proposal to cut more than $18 million from the program in 2024, despite worsening funding shortfalls in 2023. (The program, currently funded at $305 million, fulfilled just 42% of applications in 2023.)
In rare public comments on the NSGP, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Homeland Security, said he is committed to working toward a “big, meaningful increase” for 2024, attributing the reduction to overall funding shortages in the Senate’s homeland security budget for next year.
Michael Masters, SCN national director and CEO, said the Jewish community remains the No. 1 target of religiously motivated hate crimes in the U.S. as they prepare to gather for the High Holy Days this month, noting that his organization has trained more than 7,700 people on security measures ahead of Rosh Hashanah. “We have made much progress, but there is much more work to do,” he said.
Meredith Weisel, who heads the ADL’s Washington office, said funding for the NSGP is critical because “pundits, politicians and platforms have embraced the type of hate and conspiracies that were previously reserved for the fringes of society and are now being amplified in more mainstream spaces.”
“In the face of rising threats towards religious and other nonprofit institutions, funding has enabled congregations to improve their security measures and allowed millions praying in houses of worship, especially during the holiest time of year, to have the peace of mind that their institutions are equipped to deter and protect against these attacks,” Weisel said.
Brandy Flack, executive director of Margolin Hebrew Academy in Memphis, Tenn., shared her experience when a shooter opened fire outside the school last month. Flack credited security protocols with saving her life.
“A man came to our school poised on committing a mass shooting and thankfully he failed. He failed because he was unable to enter our buildings. Only a few weeks earlier, our doors had been replaced and hardened with deliberate access control. The federal Nonprofit Security Grant Program funded this life-saving security upgrade.”
Read the full story here.
on the scene
ADL opens Media and Entertainment Institute to ‘harness the power of culture’ for good
In a city of striking writers and actors, the Anti-Defamation League gathered industry professionals, local community leaders and representatives of partner organizations at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles. The occasion was the formal announcement of the ADL’s new Media and Entertainment Institute, created to engage directly with industry leaders and partner organizations toward improving societal perceptions of Jewish people and understanding of antisemitism, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Esther D. Kustanowitz from the event.
No more caricatures: At the event, ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said he was there to commemorate Jewish storytelling and “to talk about ADL’s harnessing the power of culture and media to address the very real crisis in this moment.” The ADL said its new institute would work directly with industry leaders and partner organizations to advocate for content that illustrates the full diversity of Jewish life and the nuanced characters that Jews embody, to offer a well-rounded portrayal of Jewish culture, religion and history.
Then and now: “As we witnessed an alarming rise in antisemitic sentiment and crime across the US, it’s clear to us that this is an essential time to tell Hollywood’s origin story, more than ever,” Academy Museum CEO Bill Kramer said in his speech. “It is so important to focus on the Jewish trailblazers who founded Hollywood to discover how they seized an incredible opportunity in a rapidly growing film industry to make a name for themselves as well as to entertain and to innovate… at a time when many doors in America remain close to Jewish individuals due to widespread antisemitism.”
Read the full report here.
Mental health care
At first lady’s invitation, Israeli trauma expert presents at Kyiv summit
A leading Israeli psychotrauma expert addressed the third Summit of First Ladies and Gentlemen in Kyiv, Ukraine, last Wednesday, having been invited to the annual event by its organizer, Ukrainian First Lady Olena Zelenska. This year’s event had the theme “Mental Health: Fragility and Resilience of the Future,” and was hosted by Ukrainian TV news anchor Hanna Homonai and TV personality and journalist Stephen Fry. Also in attendance were actor and film director Sean Penn, who attended in person, and Richard Gere, who appeared virtually, reports Jay Deitcher for eJewishPhilanthropy.
Take it seriously: The focus on trauma at this year’s summit was important, Danny Brom, the founding director of Metiv: The Israel Psychotrauma Center, a nonprofit based out of Jerusalem’s Herzog Hospital, told eJP. “It’s critical that there is a recognition that this is a long-term issue. Once the war is over, people can start to recover. And then we’ll see what the damage is about. It’s very critical that the heads of state realize that this is not something that’s going away easily… You will always find between 5 and 10% of children who will really get stuck in their development.”
Don’t pathologize, don’t ignore: In his presentation, Brom warned against pathologizing normal reactions to stressful situations, which he referred to as going “into survival mode.” At the same time, he stressed the severity of the psychological damage caused by war, taking issue with a comment made by U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken earlier in the evening, who said that some Ukrianians are suffering “in ways we cannot fully see.” Brom disagreed with referring to the psychological effects of war as “invisible wounds,” saying they are “totally visible and it’s our individual responsibility to see [that].”
Read the full report here.
Rosh Hashanah Reception
VP Harris: ‘Blast of the shofar’ presents a ‘wake-up call’
New Year’s celebrations unofficially kicked off on Tuesday evening at the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington, where Vice President Kamala Harris hosted a poolside Rosh Hashanah reception in conjunction with the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies. Roughly 150 attendees including rabbis, senators, activists, Jewish communal professionals and actors — notably “Will and Grace” star Debra Messing and comedian Alex Edelman — mingled over a menu of kosher hors d’oeuvres designed by cookbook author Adeena Sussman, whose new Shabbat-themed cookbook was published last week. Sussman’s lamb kebabs and tahini blondies were a hit among attendees, reports Gabby Deutch for eJewishPhilanthropy’s sister publication Jewish Insider from the event.
Wake-up call: Standing in front of an American flag and an Israeli flag with her husband, Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, Harris touted the Biden administration’s efforts to combat hate and its national action plan to counter antisemitism to great applause. “This is one of those times in the history of our country and the world, where we are being presented with a wake-up call — the blast of the shofar — to challenge ourselves, to ask, ‘What are we doing? What can we do?’ And know that we can do so much,” said Harris.
Judaism’s fun: Emhoff, who has made fighting antisemitism a key focus of his tenure, described his travels this year to Poland and Germany, and to his old Jewish summer camp in Pennsylvania. “Rosh Hashanah is a time to reflect, not only on the past year, but on what we hope to do in the next one. So this coming year, I’m committed to doing even more, pushing back even more, building more coalitions and bringing more people together in this fight with us, this fight that affects all of us,” said Emhoff. “I also want to remind you all: It’s great to be Jewish. Live with joy. Live with happiness. Live with passion. And enjoy that food.”
Read the full report here and sign up for Jewish Insider’s Daily Kickoff here.
Here to help
Thoughts en route to Morocco
“At this moment, I am on a flight to Morocco with a nurse and two logistics experts; we are the vanguard Rapid Assessment Team who will work with local authorities and medical staff to assess the on-the-ground situation in Marrakech and its surroundings,” writes Dr. Elhanan Bar-On, director of the Sheba Humanitarian & Disaster Response Center (HDRC), in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.
Perception vs. reality: “I can say wholeheartedly that lending a hand to people in need extends beyond politics. Politics do play a role, it’s true: Our field hospital in Ukraine, for example, was established in concert with the Israeli government as a way of supporting Ukraine. Perhaps 99% of our missions, however, have no political thrust whatsoever. They originate when partner organizations and individual contacts reach out to let us know about a need, the product of a simple phone call from a friend or colleague.”
Measuring impacts: “I was recently asked whether I have seen the work we do affect the perception of Israel and Israelis among the people we serve. This is a difficult question. … One thing I can impart very clearly is that when I meet people who have been subjected to a disaster of this magnitude, I see starkly how their world has collapsed. Worse, they think the world has forgotten them. We get there. We treat them for free. … From past experience I can tell you that the gratitude I have felt personally in these types of situations is unequal to any other experience I have had in my life. At the end of the day, a helping hand is a helping hand, and I am grateful for the privilege to be in my role.”
Read the full piece here.
‘Who By Fire? Who By Water?’: In the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Alex Weisler highlights the parallels between the Unetaneh Tokef prayer and the realities facing Ukrainian Jews. “A catalog of calamities is central to the liturgy of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the Jewish High Holidays that begin later this week. We Jews are asked to imagine ourselves perched on the precipice of life and death. Nothing frames it as starkly as Unetaneh Tokef, the roll call of ruin enumerating various disasters that might befall us in the coming year. With its repetition of “Who by …” fill-in-the-blank awfulness — strangling, stoning, famine and plague — the medieval poem is the stuff of myth and legend, an opportunity to ponder fate and frailty. But for the Jews of Ukraine, the majority of whom remain in the country despite the ongoing conflict, the text is heart-wrenchingly real… Grim as it is, Unetaneh Tokef isn’t about blindly submitting to fate. Instead, it gives us the keys to our own salvation — ‘repentance, prayer, and charity,’ it exhorts, ‘can lessen the severity of the decree.’ Our own hands can rescue us, and post-Soviet Jews, who’ve doggedly rekindled identity and community after the Holocaust and communism, could teach a master class.” [JTA]
Dip the Apple in the (Alfalfa) Honey: Just in time for Rosh Hashanah, Eliza McGraw reviews different types of honey and their applications in The Washington Post, including which goes best with apple slices. “Orange blossom, alfalfa, buckwheat. Tulip poplar, meadowfoam, star thistle. Basswood, knapweed, kudzu. It sounds like a rundown of random flora, but these are all names of honey varietals I’ve run across lately. Ever since I started noticing a proliferation beyond the standard squeeze bears, I started looking for new types at farm stands, meaderies and in markets, stopping to browse racks and crowding my pantry with jars filled with honeys of all shades. I stirred wildflower honey into tea and baked clover honey into bread, but I wanted more. Come to find out, I’m not alone… According to the National Honey Board, more than 300 varietals are in North America alone. “There’s definitely an awakening around different honey varietals,” says Sarah Red-Laird, the executive program director of the Bee Girl Organization, a nonprofit group focusing on bee habitat conservation.” [WashPost]
Around the Web
The Anti-Defamation League released its annual report on anti-Israel activities on college campuses. The report found that there were more than 660 anti-Israel incidents across the U.S. from June 2022 through May 2023, almost double the amount from the previous year. Reported incidents included nine acts of vandalism, 24 acts of verbal or written harassment, 303 anti-Israel events, 326 protests and three BDS resolutions or referenda…
The Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty received $3 million in federal funding to provide emergency food, free diapers and menstrual products to people in need…
A new survey by Candid found that female nonprofit CEOs earn 73% of what male CEOs make but that the wage gap is shrinking, with women gaining 6 cents to the dollar since 2011…
The American Jewish Committee selected 35 lay leaders to participate in a task force dedicated to supporting the implementation of the Biden administration’s national strategy to combat antisemitism. The effort will be led by AJC Board of Governors Chair Bobby Lapin…
Michael Markman was elected the next board chair of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. He will replace Gail Norry and David Adelman, who have served as co-chairs since 2020…
Blue Meridian Partners, a philanthropic organization whose funders include the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies, donated $124 million to Historically Black Colleges and Universities…
Martin Kaye, a Jewish British man whose wife died of bowel cancer last year, raised £15,000 ($18,700) for Chai Cancer Care and Bowel Cancer UK in her memory by having a sponsored haircut. Kaye, who started growing out his locks during the COVID-19 pandemic, is donating the hair to another charity that will turn it into a wig for a cancer patient…
The Jewish News of Greater Phoenix profiled local resident Debbi Kaner Goldich, who recently stepped down as president of the Women’s League for Conservative Judaism to become board chair of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies…
Philanthropist Mary Ann Stein, the founding president of The Moriah Fund, died last Wednesday at 80…
Pic of the Day
Members of the Israeli Scouts, Hatzofim, sing and dance onstage last night at an event celebrating 50 years of the organization sending its “Caravan” to perform abroad at the Wohl Amphitheater in Tel Aviv.
Founder of United Hatzalah of Israel and president of Friends of United Hatzalah, Eli Beer…
Retired motion picture editor, Avrum Fine… Columnist, author and etiquette authority known as Miss Manners, Judith Perlman Martin… Chairman of global brokerage at CBRE, Stephen Siegel… Folk artist, photographer and writer focused on European Jewish history, Jill Culiner… Retired reporter for the Washington Examiner, Richard Pollock… CEO of the Democratic Majority for Israel, Mark S. Mellman… Ice dancer, who, with her partner Michael Seibert, won five straight U.S. Figure Skating Championships (1981 to 1985), Judy Blumberg… Executive director of Aspen Digital, Vivian Schiller… Senior lecturer at Ner Israel Rabbinical College, Rabbi Chaim Kosman… Comedian known as “Roastmaster General” for his Comedy Central celebrity roasts, Jeffrey Ross Lifschultz… Attorney general of North Carolina, running for governor in 2024, Joshua Stein… Member of the Los Angeles City Council, Robert J. Blumenfield… Member of the Knesset for the Shas party, Uriel Menachem Buso… Regional director at the Anti-Defamation League, Meredith Mirman Weisel… Former nine-year member of the Colorado House of Representatives, Jonathan Singer… Advocacy strategist with experience in opinion research, Gary Ritterstein… Editor at Cook Political Report focused on the U.S. House of Representatives and redistricting, David Nathan Wasserman… Founder and president of Reshet Capital, Betty Grinstein… Director at Finsbury Glover Hering, Walter Suskind… Director of programs and partnerships at Israel Policy Forum, Sierra DeCrosta… Senior software engineer at Capital Connect by J.P. Morgan Chase, David Behmoaras… Managing director at Page Four Media, Noa Silverstein…