Your Daily Phil: Sending Israeli kids from war-torn towns to camp

Good Tuesday morning.

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on the death and legacy of Lord Jacob Rothschild and interview Hillel International CEO Adam Lehman. We feature an opinion piece by Rabbi Ari Koretzky on meaningful steps to make “Jewish unity” more than a pretty platitude in the Jewish nonprofit world. Also in this issue: Ruth GottesmanDavid Draiman and Doug Emhoff. We’ll start with a new Jewish Agency initiative to send Israeli children displaced by the fighting on Israel’s northern and southern borders to summer camps around the world.

Some 1,500 Israeli teenagers who have been directly affected by the Israel-Hamas war and the fighting along Israel’s northern border will travel to Jewish camps this summer as part of a new $10 million initiative spearheaded by the Jewish Agency for Israel, the organization exclusively told eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross.

This program, known as Campers2Gether, is meant to both give the Israeli teens both a respite from the turmoil at home and a chance to connect to Jewish communities around the world, but primarily in the United States.

“We know that being in an environment that’s less stressful and being in an environment that’s loving, being around people who are laughing and happy, can help people form a better imagination of their future. They can dream of a better future,” Shelly Kedar, director of the Jewish Agency’s Connecting the Jewish People Unit, told eJP.

“And we want to remind them that we are one people,” she said. “This is a solidarity moment that we need to turn into peoplehood.” And yet, the program’s organizers are well aware of potential points of tension, given the complexities of the reactions to the war in the United States.

The program is being led by the Jewish Agency, which is also providing $2 million of its funding, as well as the Foundation for Jewish Camp. It is also being funded by the Israeli Diaspora Affairs Ministry through Mosaic United, as well as the Jewish Federations of North America, the United Kingdom’s United Jewish Israel Appeal, the Bnei Akiva youth movement, the JCC Association of North America, the Hallelujah Project and others.

“For so many of us in the Jewish community, some of our fondest memories come from summer camp — a thoughtful, safe environment where we were able to practice independence, make new friendships, and learn about ourselves,” Mark Wilf, the Jewish Agency’s chairman of the board of governors, said in a statement. “Campers2Gether now takes the transformative power of the Jewish summer camp setting to the next level at a time of unprecedented need for the Jewish people. The program will generate positive experiences for affected Israeli teens, utilizing the camp community to convey a healing sense of unity, while simultaneously providing a platform for global Jewish youth to understand Israel on a personal level.”

The mental health of the participants is a top priority for the program, according to Keidar. The 1,500 teenagers, aged 14-16, who will take part in the program will travel to summer camps, mostly in the United States but some in Europe and elsewhere around the world, in groups of 20. They will be accompanied by two counselors from their communities and a mental health professional. Before they go, they will meet to prepare for the trip, and after they return, they will meet again to discuss it.

“Supplementing the experience are therapeutic activities and counseling sessions facilitated by professionals,” the Jewish Agency said.

In addition to expecting the program to help the Israeli participants, Kedar said she believes that it will also have a positive impact on the other campers.

“Meeting people who have gone through hell and being able to just play and laugh and be together, that can give strength and pride to the American teens, and that’s something we need,” Kedar said, adding: “Resilience generates resilience.”

Read the full report here.


Lord Jacob Rothschild.
Lord Jacob Rothschild.

Lord Jacob Rothschild, the scion of the famed banking family and a major donor to Jewish causes around the world, died yesterday at 87, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross.

A generous hand: Until his death, he served as president of the Israel-based Yad Hanadiv and as chairman of the British-based Rothschild Foundation. Yad Hanadiv CEO Yigal Mersel hailed Rothschild as “a visionary whose generosity of spirit and forward thinking led to the establishment of numerous major institutions and initiatives in Israel… These have strengthened innovation, culture and research, helping to advance Israel as a vibrant democracy for all its citizens. Lord Rothschild’s legacy lives on in Yad Hanadiv’s work, which will continue for generations to come.”

Presidential parting: Israel President Isaac Herzog said in a statement that Rothschild was “a close friend of my family” and described him as a “a great man who carried the historic legacy of his family with pride and humility, working always for the wellbeing of Britain, Israel, and Jewish communities all over the world… While we are especially sad to lose him during such difficult days, his generosity and wise counsel will be remembered with love and gratitude.”

The history of Jewish civilization: Under Rothschild’s leadership, Yad Hanadiv became one of the primary funders of the construction of the new National Library of Israel building in Jerusalem, which opened in October. Though he did not live to visit the completed building, Rothschild did attend the groundbreaking ceremony in 2016, in which he explained his support for the institution. “For 2,000 years our treasured books were scattered, with no geographic center of gravity. Now at long last, these volumes as well as those yet to be written, together with a wide range of other collected materials, are to have a permanent home and one where it should be—in the heart of Jerusalem,” he said at the event. “The library will have the responsibility of nothing less than preserving and illuminating the history of Jewish civilization.”

Read the full report here.


‘This is that time’: Hillel Int’l CEO calls for Jewish students to lean in on Israel

American politician Dianne Feinstein, her arms outstretched in celebration, in her office after she was elected mayor of San Francisco, at San Francisco City Hall in San Francisco, California, circa 1978.
Hillel International CEO Adam Lehman. Courtesy

Among the more than 800 North American college students who gathered in Atlanta this week for an Israel-focused conference organized by Hillel International, the mood was lighthearted and joyful, even as the students shared story after story of the antisemitism and demonization they have faced on their campuses since Oct. 7. That students are able to come together to share their pride in being Jewish and caring for Israel at a time when hostility toward Israel has become ingrained at many schools is a point of pride for Hillel International CEO Adam Lehman, who told Gabby Deutch in an interview for eJewishPhilanthropy’s sister publication Jewish Insider at the conference that the organization’s “core commitment” to Zionism has never been more important.

Making lemonade: “There’s an enormous pressure on all Jewish organizations, including Hillel, to downgrade commitments to Israel and to step back from core values as it relates to Zionism. Jewish students, like Jewish organizations in the diaspora, are swimming in an ocean of extreme demonization of Israel,” said Lehman. “We have taken that demonization, that external pressure, and actually used it to strengthen our commitments.”

Get it together: “I do think that as a Jewish community, and as Jewish organizations supporting campuses, we’ve woken up post-October 7 to the unfortunate reality that the level of organization, resourcing and synchronicity of groups dedicated to the destruction of the Jewish and democratic state of Israel has surpassed what we as a community have organized to respond and address,” Lehman said. There is a need, he continued, to “better align across many organizations that are addressing pieces of the puzzle but not in a comprehensive enough way.”

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


Ruth Gottesman gives $1 billion gift to make Einstein medical school tuition-free

Professor Emerita of Pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine Ruth L. Gottesman, Ed.D. speaks on stage during the Spirit of Achievement Luncheon held at The Rainbow Room in New York City on May 17, 2016.
Professor Emerita of Pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine Ruth L. Gottesman, Ed.D. speaks on stage during the Spirit of Achievement Luncheon held at The Rainbow Room in New York City on May 17, 2016.

Medical school students attending the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx will have their tuition covered starting in August, following a $1 billion gift from Dr. Ruth Gottesman announced yesterday. The donation is the largest made to any U.S. medical school, according to the announcement, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen.

Deep ties: Gottesman, 93, is the widow of billionaire David “Sandy” Gottesman, an early investor in Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, who died in 2022. She chairs the Einstein board of trustees and has been affiliated with the school since 1968, first in its Children’s Evaluation and Rehabilitation Center helping develop screening tools to diagnose learning disabilities.

Worthy cause: “Each year, well over 100 students enter Albert Einstein College of Medicine in their quest for degrees in medicine and science,” Gottesman said in a statement. “They leave as superbly trained scientists and compassionate and knowledgeable physicians, with the expertise to find new ways to prevent diseases and provide the finest health care to communities here in the Bronx and all over the world. I am very thankful to my late husband, Sandy, for leaving these funds in my care, and l feel blessed to be given the great privilege of making this gift to such a worthy cause.”

Read the full report here.


You shall sojourn together: A lived experiment in interorganizational Jewish collaboration

Jewish professionals participating in a recent trip to Israel organized by Birthright.

“[W]hen an executive at Birthright invited me to join a weeklong mission to Israel to help the organization reimagine its postwar educational vision, I opted in without much hesitation… There was, however, an unexpected subplot to the trip, one which unfolded organically and proved to me nearly as significant as what we witnessed traveling the country,” writes Rabbi Ari Koretzky, executive director of MEOR at University of Maryland, College Park, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

A mixed group: “The Birthright forum I joined was unique not only in its stated objectives but in its composition as well. Our group of 20, mostly campus-based professionals included a multiplicity of Hillel directors and rabbi/educators, Chabad shlichim (emissaries), kiruv (outreach) operatives like myself, federation executives and an advocacy specialist from Stand With Us. Religious orientations ranged from Hasidic and ‘ultra-Orthodox’ (generalized and imprecise descriptors, but indicative of something nonetheless) to Modern Orthodox, Conservative and Reform, and likely some other identities I didn’t capture. We were also joined by five veteran Israeli tour guides — ‘tour educators’ in Birthright parlance — themselves representing a broad spectrum of religious and political persuasions.”

Promising paradigm: “Sadly, university campuses, where a small constellation of organizations may ‘compete’ for the affections of a finite number of Jewish students in a discrete geographical area, often become fertile ground for interorganizational strife… Though it may exist, I am not aware of a similar experiment in the Jewish organizational world in which putative competitors in a particular demographic have united for a week of shared learning, bearing witness and processing our nation’s latest cataclysm. The experience prompted me to consider how the values it represented might be amplified. It also helped me formulate how, as Jewish professionals, we might convert ‘Jewish unity’ from a platitude, or even a punch line, to an operative principle.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

‘Aligning’ Research Efforts: It was only in the 1990s that researchers realized there is a genetic component to Parkinson’s Disease, and in the years since the genetic causes of the disease still aren’t fully understood, writes Paul Karon in Inside Philanthropy. “Since it started up in 2019, ASAP [Aligning Science Across Parkinson’s] has been invigorating Parkinson’s research through new grants powered by Sergey Brin’s wealth. As one of the richest people in the world, Brin has virtually unlimited philanthropic horsepower at his disposal, and he’s been ramping up his giving lately. In 2022, the Sergey Brin Family Foundation’s giving more than doubled to $512 million, a grant outlay comparable to that of the Walton Family Foundation. Parkinson’s giving remains Brin’s signature cause, and as is often the case with medical research mega-donors, there’s a personal element in play here: Brin’s mother and his great-aunt were both diagnosed with the disease. Along with his mother, Brin himself shares a mutation in the LRRK2 gene that ‘accounts, in some ethnic groups, for a substantial proportion of familial Parkinson’s,’ he wrote in 2008… But as interesting as the sheer dollars it’s deploying is ASAP’s goal to coordinate Parkinson’s research globally — all in an effort to speed the development of treatments. That’s the ‘aligning’ part of ‘Aligning Science Across Parkinson’s,’ an integral part of what the organization initially set out to achieve.” [InsidePhilanthropy]

Around the Web

The American Jewish Committee launched the Women’s Global Leadership Network, also known as “The Network,” which it says is “meant to build and sustain a deeper pipeline of exceptional women leaders who will continue to strengthen AJC’s advocacy work around the globe”…

Sefaria added Russian translations of biblical texts to its online library, including all five books of Torah, several books of Prophets and the scrolls of Ruth and Esther…

David Draiman, the Jewish frontman of heavy metal band Disturbedhas raised $29,000 to provide additional security for Matisyahu after two venues cancel on him because of pro-Palestinian protests…

Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff met with New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft and civil rights leader Clarence Jones at the offices of Kraft’s Foundation to Combat Antisemitism in Massachusetts…

A co-chair of Harvard’s newly formed antisemitism task force resigned over concerns that the university would not implement the group’s recommendations…

Harvard University is considering the sale of as much as $1.65 billion of bonds in a potential sign that the school is struggling financially as several major funders have halted donations to the institution over its handling of antisemitism on campus

Pew Research Center poll found that 65% of Israelis believe that social media has been good for the country’s democracy, whereas 64% of Americans said it has been bad for democracy…

Shelly Weiss, an LGBTQ political activist from Brooklyn, died last Thursday at 77…

Pic of the Day

Over 50,000 people attend the traditional Birkat Kohanim (Priestly Blessing) at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City today, during Chol Hamoed (the intermediary days) of Sukkot.
Courtesy/Maria McCarthy Photography

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) hands a framed American flag to a group of Israeli high school students from Gaza border towns who visited de Toledo High School, a private Jewish day school outside Los Angeles, last week.

“Given the unspeakable trauma they endured, today’s ceremony served as an important opportunity to highlight the nearly 300,000 Israelis who are still displaced since the Oct. 7 massacre, and to de Toledo High School’s tremendous work supporting these students and demonstrating that they are not alone in the wake of such an unimaginable tragedy,” Sherman said at the event.


Annie Liebovitz smiles
Moses Robinson/Getty Images for GCAP Impact Party

Founder of Spanx and a part owner of the Atlanta Hawks, Sara Blakely

Israel’s former chief of police followed by 10 years as mayor of Beersheva, Yaakov Turner… Performance artist and filmmaker, she is a professor emerita at UCSD, Eleanor Antin… Writer and illustrator of children’s books, Uri Shulevitz… William Drykos… Investor and trader, he is the chair of Juilliard, vice chair of Lincoln Center and on the board of the Metropolitan Opera, Bruce Kovner… Haverford, Pa.-based attorney, mediator and arbitrator, Judith Meyer… NYC-based real estate developer, Michael Gervis… Professor of physics at MIT, Alan Harvey Guth… Member of the British House of Lords, she is a retired rabbi and the chair of University College London Hospitals, Baroness Julia Neuberger… Historian, syndicated columnist, investigative journalist and talk show host, Edwin Black… U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH)… Head of the International Relations Unit at the Jewish Agency for Israel and former spokesperson for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, Yigal Palmor… Stand-up comedian, Wendy Liebman… Suzanne “Suzy” Appelbaum… Writer and producer for television and film, David Krinsky… President and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford, David S. Waren… Film and television actor, Noah Emmerich… Founder and executive director of Toldot Yisrael, Aryeh Halivni… Director of Georgetown University’s journalism program, Rebecca Sinderbrand… Singer-songwriter, composer and prayer leader, Sam Benjamin “Shir Yaakov” Feinstein-Feit… Finance minister of Israel, he is the leader of the Religious Zionist party, Bezalel Smotrich… Marketing director of the Via Sabra tourism firm and former director of Israel-Diaspora relations at the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism, Ziva Haller Rubenstein… Historian of Israel and the Jews, currently a visiting professor and senior research fellow at Haifa University, Sara Yael Hirschhorn… Senior baseball official for the Tampa Bay Rays and then the Boston Red Sox, now an advisor to the St. Louis Cardinals, Chaim Bloom… Massachusetts state senator until 2023, one of the originators of the White House Seder, Eric P. Lesser… Reporter for Fox News Digital Originals, Kassy Dillon… Medical student at Queen Mary University of London, Ayelet Besso-Cowan… Alana Berkowitz…