Your Daily Phil: SRE Network convenes in New York, welcomes new director

Good Friday morning. 

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on the Auschwitz Jewish Center Foundation gala and on a bill addressing the way universities handle discrimination complaints in light of rising antisemitism on college campuses. We also feature an opinion piece by Fern Oppenheim, David Bernstein and Eran Shayshon about how the American Jewish community needs to change its strategies in the face of rising antisemitism, and another by Ilana Kaufman urging Jewish leaders not to give up on diversity, equity and inclusion programs. Also in this newsletter:Debby Mazon, David Levinson and Scooter Braun. We’ll start with last week’s SRE Network conference in New York City. Shabbat shalom!

How should Jewish leaders handle misconduct complaints in the workplace? What should mid-level professionals do to advocate for their employees from the middle of the power structure? And how can we all support each other during tumultuous times? These questions were central to the SRE (Safety Respect Equity) Network’s annual convening, held at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in lower Manhattan last week, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Esther D. Kustanowitz.

More than 200 grantees, funders, Jewish community leaders and other organizational representatives — many of them members or affiliates of the network’s more than 175 organizations — gathered to reaffirm and deepen their commitment to creating workplaces and communal spaces that are safe, respectful and equitable for all.

The convening also marked the official introduction of incoming executive director Rachel Gildiner, who previously worked with the young adult Jewish community in the greater Washington, D.C., area through her organization, GatherDC.

Gildiner, who takes the helm of the organization next month, told eJP that this year’s convening “felt more important than ever,” amid rising antisemitism and tension within the Jewish community.

“The work of safety, respect, and equity is never easy and particularly in a moment where so many other issues of the world and of the Jewish community feel at stake,” Gildiner said. “And yet, those of us who gathered understand we cannot complete the work the world needs us to if we aren’t uplifting and honoring the humanity in all of us as we do it. I felt the strength, resilience, and energy in the room, knowing that the work of safety, respect, and equity will continue to be centered as foundational and core values of any work worth doing.”

Ariele Mortkowitz, who founded the D.C.-area-based women’s circle Svivah and helped plan and attended the convening, said that SRE “put tremendous thought and care into how they were gathering us.”

“The work of SRE is all the more so important in this moment when the Jewish community feels like such a lifeline to so many of us,” Mortkowitz told eJP. “I felt that the team was conscious of the hard work that was before us,” she added, noting that instead of empty platitudes, the convening showed “a real recognition of what we are grappling with as communal leaders and trying to address,” she said. “It felt good to be in a room full of people who were all rolling up our sleeves.”

The convening’s sessions provided a “choose-your-own adventure” experience for attendees, said Shaina Wasserman, SRE’s senior director of strategic operations, who has also been serving as interim executive director. The convening was also a space where attendees could “just be together, to breathe, to feel like you’re not alone in the work,” she told eJP.

SRE was launched 2018 as a collaboration of nearly a dozen core funders — chiefly the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies, Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation and Jim Joseph Foundation — in the wake of the “Me Too” movement and amid a growing awareness of gender-based harassment, discrimination and abuse in Jewish workplaces.

SRE has an annual budget of approximately $3 million, has distributed $6 million in grants since 2018, and will be announcing another $600,000-worth of grants in a few weeks, Wasserman told eJP.

According to SRE’s three-year strategic plan, the organization aims to grow its budget by approximately $500,000 a year.

Read the full report here.


Auschwitz Jewish Center Foundation honors Joe Scarborough for Holocaust-related coverage, post-Oct. 7 support for Jews

Holocaust survivors pose with attendees at the Auschwitz Jewish Center Foundation gala in New York City in June 2024.
Holocaust survivors pose with attendees at the Auschwitz Jewish Center Foundation gala in New York City in June 2024. (Andrea Altamura/HeyDreDay Photography)

An eclectic group that included Holocaust survivors, Nova music festival survivors and United States military cadets packed Pier 60 in Manhattan last Tuesday evening for the Auschwitz Jewish Center Foundation (AJCF) annual gala, where $700,000 was raised in support of the group’s anti-hate educational center based in Oswiecim, Poland. The gala honorees were Joe Scarborough, co-host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”; celebrity lawyer Alex Spiro; and Sean Coffey, general counsel for the U.S. Navy, eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen reports from the event.

Then and now: Aviva Miller, AJCF’s U.S. director, told eJP that Scarborough was initially selected for the award because of his coverage of the 78th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz in January 2023. Scarborough and Kepnes traveled to Poland — alongside Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff — and visited the concentration camp where the Nazis murdered more than 1 million Jews. But she added that Scarborough’s response to the Oct. 7 terror attacks made the organization even more sure of the decision. “[We selected him for the award] for that and for the fact that after Oct. 7 happened, initially there was nobody in television that was more pro-Israel and aghast at what had happened than Joe Scarborough, so we thought he should be honored for his truth in reporting,” Miller said.

Same questions, different era: “The ancient scourge of antisemitism is as immediate and threatening anytime since the Holocaust,” Scarborough said in virtual remarks. (Jeff Kepnes, managing editor of “Morning Joe,” accepted the AJCF Excellence in Media award on behalf of Scarborough.) “Last year, I attended the anniversary of Auschwitz liberation,” Scarborough said. “And like all who walk through that death camp’s gates, I was overwhelmed by grief. Hearing again of the unspeakable crimes committed against men, women, children, grandparents and toddlers, asking how such hatred could have consumed the darkened souls of Nazis, who targeted Jews a lifetime ago.” Scarborough went on to recall that on the morning of the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks, he found himself “asking that same unanswerable question again.”

Read the full report here.


House committee approves bill changing campus antisemitism investigation protocols

Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer (R-OR) arrives at a House Republican Conference meeting at the U.S. Capitol on November 2, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

The House Education and Workforce Committee voted 25-15 on Thursday to advance the Civil Rights Protection Act, a bill that places new requirements on universities and the Department of Education relating to investigating complaints of discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion or shared ancestry under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, reports Marc Rod for eJewishPhilanthropy’s sister publication Jewish Insider.

Partisan dispute: Lawmakers supporting the bill said it was aimed at addressing rising antisemitism on college campuses. Democrats, arguing that the bill, which was introduced last Friday, had been moved too hastily and adds onerous new requirements on the Department of Education, voted nearly unanimously against the legislation. Rep. Kathy Manning (D-NC) was the only Democrat who supported it.

New conditions: The bill, led by Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer (R-OR), would require schools receiving federal funding to make public and distribute to students and their families their procedures for investigating complaints of discrimination and information on how to file complaints with both the school and Department of Education. Schools would also have to designate an employee to coordinate efforts to comply with Title VI and implement procedures for timely communication with and notifications for complainants. Any school that does not comply with these provisions for two consecutive years would become ineligible to receive aid for at least the next two years.

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


A paradigm shift in countering antisemitism: Make American values relevant again

Pro- and anti-Israel protestors face off as they latter demonstrates against Baruch College Hillel in New York City on 5, 2024.
Pro- and anti-Israel protestors face off as they latter demonstrates against Baruch College Hillel in New York City on June 5, 2024. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

“While the Jewish world was reeling from the inhumanity of the Oct. 7 massacre, an immediate aftershock came in the form of the anti-Israel rallies on college campuses and on the streets of major cities. Since that time, the protests have only intensified. Opposing Israel has become fashionable in some circles. Campus activists feel imbued with a sense of historic mission, perceiving themselves as the modern embodiment of the protest movements of the 1960s. Many Jewish professionals and lay leaders remain overwhelmed and unclear as to how to proceed. Years of investment in countering various forms of antisemitism have been proven inadequate. It should be clear by now that we need a new strategic approach and a comprehensive plan to enact it,” write Fern Oppenheim, co-founder of the Brand Israel Group; David Bernstein, founder of the Jewish Institute for Liberal Values; and Eran Shayshon, founder of Atchalta, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

The idea spreads: “If the same anti-Israel narrative has been around for decades, what explains the dramatic increase in its acceptance now? Simply put, anti-Israel forces have found a way to make their cause relevant to a growing swath of Americans by linking it to the significant cultural and ideological shifts over the past ten years… In the heated aftermath of the murder of George Floyd in 2020, this binary, oppressor-oppressed ideology found new audiences outside campuses. Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts, which frequently enshrined the oppressor-oppressed ideology, gained broad-scale penetration into numerous mainstream institutions including business, government, media, science, medicine, culture, K-12 schools, etc. So while the State of Israel and, now, Jews are seen by many as white, privileged oppressors in a broad swath of institutions, Hamas is increasingly seen as a legitimate resistance movement representing the marginalized.”

New allies, new strategies: “Yet there is good news amid the bad. In this highly charged environment, Israel and its allies have lost support among college students, but not among most Americans… The Jewish community needs to work with those who are already fighting back on various fronts and to catalyze the energies of those who may be concerned but are not yet taking action. The focus of such coalitional efforts must be on strengthening the American narrative and values, not on antisemitism or Israel. And these efforts need to be led by diverse American voices rather than Jewish groups, as they will be seen as more believable and less likely to have an agenda. In short, the Jewish community needs to lead from behind.”

Read the full piece here.


Leaders: Stay the course on DEI through this storm

Getty Images

“Last August, I was listening to an episode of the Freakonomics Radio podcast… [featuring] University of Connecticut Department of Economics professor Michele Baggio discussing a working paper titled ‘Racial Diversity and Team Performance: Evidence from the American Offshore Whaling Industry.’ In the paper, Baggio shares data from the Whaling History Project website, which covers almost 15,000 voyages — nearly every major American whaling voyage between 1807 and 1912… Beyond the numbers, Baggio’s data help us, as leaders, get at questions that many modern firms, non-profit organizations, leadership pipelines, and college campuses are wrestling with right now. In the case of whaling, Baggio asked: ‘What are the economic effects of having a more diverse workforce?’ Jewish leaders and organizations might adapt this to ask: ‘What is the value-add of a racially diverse Jewish community?’” writes Ilana Kaufman, CEO of the Jews of Color Initiative, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Well-practiced diversity: “Early in voyages, as the crew became more diverse and in particular when the ratio of sailors of color to white sailors was very low, journals document numerous conflicts–of values, beliefs, cultures and ways of being. Baggio attributes this conflict to what economists call ‘taste-based discrimination’… But when there were more than just a few non-white crew members, and sailors settled into the rhythms of the voyage, productivity started rising. And the data tell us that a whaling ship with a significantly diverse crew, one that was well-practiced working together as a diverse team, was fundamentally more productive than a ship with an all-white crew.”

Hold steady: “Baggio’s data and the bright spots of thriving multiracial communities reinforce the reality that the only way to build successful multiracial teams and communities is by holding very, very steady during even the stormiest of seas. In fact, collaboration and cooperation forged in the most tumultuous moments teaches interdependence and allows for the emergence of ingenuity, creativity and innovation. A shared sense of responsibility, a commitment to true integration and relationship building, an understanding that sustainable progress is made over time and understanding that success in fact means higher productivity and more resources for all are mindsets that create the greatest conditions for the success of multiracial teams.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

The Power of a Trip: In The Times of Israel, Debby Mazon describes how a 1996 mission to Israel with Hadassah changed the course of her life.“The Mission’s goal was to build Zionists. We were 26 women, with two Mission leaders and a camera crew, who would record the mission and create a video. Most of the participants, with various levels of Hadassah involvement, were total strangers, but our leaders had a clear plan for us… As our flight took off, we were excited and full of anticipation. When we landed at Ben Gurion Airport and took our very first steps in Israel, it was an absolutely magical moment. Israel felt like no other place I had ever been. It took some time for me to understand why… If you are wondering what the Return on Investment (ROI) was for Hadassah from this Mission, it resulted in 11 Hadassah Region presidents and four more leaders who served on the Hadassah National Board. Others stayed active in their local Hadassah regions or chapters. One staff Mission leader is now the Southern New Jersey region president. As chair of American Affairs advocacy, I have the pleasure of working with five Mission friends I met in 1996, who share a special bond and deep passion. No doubt, missions build Zionists.” [TOI]

Helping and Being Helped: In The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Drew Lindsay spotlights Big Sunday, an organization that started as a synagogue Mitzvah Day and grew into a massive year-round volunteering operation. “A community-service organization, Big Sunday defies the decade-long decline in volunteerism. Each year, it deploys an army of some 50,000 to more than 2,000 service projects — for food pantries, schools, animal shelters, conservation groups, hospitals, and more… Coincidentally or not, Big Sunday has a dual mission — community service that builds community… ‘There are a lot of people screaming at us on TV that have a vested interest in dividing people,’ says Big Sunday founder and executive director David Levinson… Levinson is an accidental charity leader. In 1999, he was still working as a screenwriter when his rabbi at Temple Israel of Hollywood asked him to run the synagogue’s first Mitzvah service day. He rounded up some 300 ‘good-hearted Jewish people’ for the Sunday event but concluded that it was ‘weird’ to do community work without involving more of the community. The next year, Levinson recruited partners… Big Sunday now runs events 365 days a year, and Levinson has become a go-to resource for many nonprofits and schools.” [ChronicleofPhilanthropy]

Around the Web

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who has been falsely imprisoned in Russia for more than a year, was formally charged with espionage…

The New York Police Department is investigating the vandalism of the homes of the director, president and two trustees of the Brooklyn Museum; a banner hung outside the home of the museum’s director, who is Jewish, labeled her a “white-supremacist Zionist”…

Haaretz examines the Wexner Foundation’s decision to cut ties with Harvard University for its Israel Fellowship program over the university’s response to the Oct. 7 terror attacks…

The Jewish Federation of Detroit will absorb the local Jewish Community Relations Council into its community affairs department…

The House of Representatives passed a bill that will grant a congressional gold medal to 60 American and international diplomats who helped save Jews during the Holocaust

Scooter Braun, the music producer who helped organize an exhibition in New York City commemorating the victims of the Nova music festival massacre on Oct. 7, said the memorial would be extended by another week after it was disrupted by anti-Israel protesters…

Col. (res.) Rabbi Laurence Bazer was appointed vice president of JCC Association of North America and the next director of the organization’s JWB Jewish Chaplains Council

While most of the recipients of Melinda French Gates’ recently announced donations are groups that support women and girls, the newly independent philanthropist is also supporting struggling men and boys

A new report by the GivingPulse report found that donations in the first quarter of 2024 were similar to those in the last quarter of 2023…

The estate of Concetta “Chet” Greenberg donated $10.8 million to the Fox Chase Cancer Center outside of Philadelphia; in total, Greenberg and her husband, Marvin, gave nearly $20 million for pancreatic cancer research at the center…

The Chronicle of Philanthropy looks into the trends of donations to LGBTQ causes over the past 12 years…

Zac Jones was named the next executive director of the Jewish addiction treatment center Beit T’Shuvah

The Washington Free Beacon reports on text messages exchanged between Columbia University administrators that appeared to dismiss Jewish student and alumni concerns about antisemitism on campus…

UCLA appointed Julio Frenk, the outgoing president of the University of Miami, as its next chancellor, beginning in January 2025; Frenk’s father was a German Jew who fled the Nazi regime for Mexico in the 1930s…

Philanthropist and socialite Rebecca Grossman was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison for the 2020 hit-and-run murder of two boys, Mark Iskander, 11, and his 8-year-old brother, Jacob

Howard Fineman, a longtime journalist and political correspondent, died on Tuesday at 75…

Morrie Markoff, believed to be the oldest man in the United States, died last week at 110…

Pic of the Day

Courtesy/Liron Moldovan

Eleven mothers — all of them new immigrants from Ethiopia — stand with their 11 babies born over the past year ahead of this week’s Shavuot holiday at the Jewish Agency for Israel’s absorption center in Kibbutz Ibim, east of the Gaza Strip. The absorption center was temporarily evacuated after the Oct. 7 terror attacks.

“We came together to bless their births and to remind ourselves that life is stronger than everything,” the Jewish Agency said in a statement. 


Don Arnold/WireImage

Australian fashion model, author, philanthropist and businesswoman, Kathryn Eisman

FRIDAY: Retired Soviet nuclear scientist, now writing from Skokie on Jewish intellectual spirituality, Vladimir Minkov, Ph.D…. Retired U.S. district judge for the District of Maryland, Marvin Joseph Garbis… Former vice chair of the board of the Jewish Federation-Council of Greater Los Angeles, Dr. Beryl A. Geber… Joanna Lerner… Senior fellow at Project HOPE, she directed the Medicare and Medicaid programs in the Bush 41 administration, Gail R. Wilensky, Ph.D…. 45th president of the United States, Donald J. Trump… Former French diplomat and advisor to former French Presidents Chirac and Sarkozy, Jean-David Levitte… Television sportscaster and journalist, Len Berman… Writer, critic, philosopher and magazine editor, Leon Wieseltier… Chairman and chief investment officer of Duquesne Family Office, Stanley Druckenmiller… One of the wealthiest individuals in the U.K., he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2017 for services to philanthropy, Sir Leonard “Len” Blavatnik… Co-founder of Virunga Mountain Spirits, a distillery in Rwanda, William Benjamin (“Bill”) Wasserman… President of Blue Diamond HR LLC, Michelle “Shel” Grossman… President of Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., Maud S. Mandel… Senior advisor to TollBit, Campbell Brown… Singer-songwriter with nine studio albums, Joshua Radin… Co-founder of Kelp (now a part of Signal AI), Daniel M. Gaynor… New York City-based businessman, Pavel Khodorkovsky… Former deputy assistant secretary at HUD and then senior advisor at OMB, Paige Esterkin Bronitsky… Director of public affairs at San Francisco’s District Attorney’s office, Lilly Rapson… Actor Daryl Sabara… and his fraternal twin brother, also an actor, Evan Sabara,… Senior copywriter at OnMessage, Julia Cohen… Associate attorney at Phillips Whisnant Gazin Gorczyca & Curtin, Jacob Ellenhorn… Vienna-based European editor for Moment Magazine and the author of The Vienna Briefing, Liam Hoare

SATURDAY: Iranian-born British billionaire, he was knighted in 1989 and made a life peer in 2004, Baron David Alliance… Former president of the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Phoenix, Stuart C. Turgel… Former president of the National Rifle Association, Sandra S. (Sandy) Froman… Ethicist and professor at the University of Chicago Divinity School, Laurie Zoloth… Internationally recognized authority on Yiddish folk and theater music, Zalmen Mlotek… Vice President of the Eurasian Jewish Congress, he has rebuilt a synagogue and a community center in Estonia, Alexander Bronstein, Ph.D…. President and CEO of the PR firm Edelman, founded by his father Daniel Edelman in 1952, Richard Winston Edelman… Chief rabbi of Poland, Rabbi Michael Schudrich… Israeli Druze politician who served as a member of the Knesset for Likud, Fateen Mulla… Novelist, screenwriter, teacher and freelance journalist, Jill Eisenstadt… First woman certified by the NFLPA as a player agent, she is now general counsel for USA Lacrosse, Ellen Marsha Zavian… Director at Citrin Cooperman Advisors, Reuben Rutman… Los Angeles based attorney, Daniel Brett Lacesa… Regional director of the Anti-Defamation League based in Los Angeles, Jeffrey I. Abrams… Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, now deputy managing editor at The New York Times, Clifford J. Levy… Chief political correspondent for CNN, born Dana Ruth Schwartz, Dana Bash… Retired news anchor for Israel Public Broadcasting, Geula Even-Saar… Former head speechwriter for Michelle Obama and author of a 2019 book about her rediscovery of Judaism, Sarah Hurwitz… Ethiopian-born Israeli marathon runner, he represented Israel at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Zohar Zimro… Co-anchor of a CNN global news show, Bianna Golodryga… Co-founder of Evergreen Strategy Group, he is a former director of speechwriting for Hillary Clinton and was also the principal collaborator on HRC’s two memoirs, Daniel Baum Schwerin… Director of corporate communications and public affairs at Google, Rebecca Michelle Ginsberg Rutkoff… VP of institutional advancement at Birthright Israel Foundation, Jaclyn “Jackie” Saxe Soleimani… Diversity recruiter at The Carlyle Group, Victoria Edelman Klapper… Correspondent with the PBS NewsHour and PBS News Weekend, Ali S. Weinberg Rogin… Analyst at Blackstone, Elli Sweet… Jimmy Ritter…

SUNDAY: Brig. Gen. (ret.) in the IDF, then a member of Knesset, later chairman of Ha’aguda Lema’an Hachayal, a non-profit IDF veterans group, Avigdor Kahalani… Former dean of Yeshiva College, U.S. ambassador to Egypt for President Bill Clinton, and U.S. ambassador to Israel for President George W. Bush, Daniel C. Kurtzer… Professor at Nanjing University and China’s leading professor of Jewish studies, Xu Xin… Rickey Wolosky Palkovitz… Former chief investigative correspondent at Yahoo! News and author of a recent book on the 2020 presidential election, Michael Isikoff… UC Berkeley professor and WSJ columnist, Alison Gopnik… Professor of Jewish studies at the University of Freiburg (Germany), Gabrielle Oberhänsli-Widmer… Distinguished fellow in Jewish studies at Dartmouth College, Shaul Magid… Southern California resident, Roberta Trachten-Zeve… President of GEM Commercial Flooring Company in Overland Park, Kansas, Matthew Elyachar… Pulitzer Prize-winning business reporter and bestselling author, he is a past president of Washington Hebrew Congregation, David A. Vise… Former chair of the Broward County, Fla., JCRC, he is the co-founder of The Alliance of Blacks & Jews, Keith Wasserstrom… Actor, screenwriter, producer and director, Daniel Zelman… Senior correspondent for military and intelligence affairs for Yedioth Ahronoth and The New York Times, Ronen Bergman, Ph.D…. CEO and founder of New York City-based Marathon Strategies, Philip Keith (“Phil”) Singer… Geographer and writer, Joshua Jelly-Schapiro… Singer and songwriter, Benjamin Lev Kweller… Portfolio manager at One8 Foundation, Alyssa Bogdanow Arens… Pitcher for Team Israel in the 2023 World Baseball Classic, he is now on the roster of the Minnesota Twins, Zachary D. “Zack” Weiss… Head video producer at Ocean One Media, Perry Chencin… Catcher on Israel’s National Baseball Team at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, then playing at Lynn University, Tal Erel… Israeli artistic gymnast who won a gold medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Artem Dolgopyat