Your Daily Phil: The Jewish community responds to Surfside + Reframing Jewish community relations

Good Monday morning!

Several officials in the new Israeli government are alumni of Ruderman Family Foundation programs, whose missions are to enhance Israeli understanding of the American Jewish community, the president of the foundation, Jay Ruderman, told eJewishPhilanthropy.

The new speaker of the Knesset, Mickey Levy, attended one of the foundation’s Knesset missions, in which Israeli leaders deepen their knowledge of the community by meeting with American Jewish leaders, academics and activists in New York and Boston. Omer Bar-Lev, minister of public security; Nachman Shai, minister of Diaspora affairs and Yifat Shasha-Biton, education minister, also participated in missions.

Shirley Pinto, a new member of the Knesset who is also deaf and a disability activist, is a student at the Ruderman Program for American Jewish Studies at the University of Haifa. She is a former employee of the foundation, which until recently provided significant funding to the program area of disability inclusion.

“We are seeing people who we have worked with who are now in positions of authority,” Ruderman said. “The foundation is in close contact with officials and we sense a willingness to make diaspora issues a significant priority going forward.”


‘Trauma on its way’: Jewish community braces for a rising death toll

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The grief-stricken Jewish community in Miami has scrambled to respond to the collapse of a condo tower in the town of Surfside, which has a sizable Jewish population. For days the community held out hope that search-and-rescue efforts would find survivors, but is beginning to acknowledge the probability that most or all of the more than 150 people still buried in the rubble of the Champlain Towers did not survive, Rabbi Sholom Lipskar told eJewishPhilanthropy’s Helen Chernikoff.

Official death toll: “They’re starting to extract more people. Unfortunately, not alive,” said Lipskar, whose congregation, The Shul, is located in Bal Harbour, about a mile north of Surfside’s Champlain Towers South, which fell early Thursday morning. “There’s a lot of trauma on its way.” As of Monday morning, the official death toll was still nine, with five bodies identified.

Beach towns: Surfside is one of four towns that make up the north end of Miami Beach, which is more than a third Jewish, according to the JTA. The North Beach community, which has about 5,000 Jews, is about 30% Hispanic and 13% Sephardic. Lipskar estimated that about a quarter of the missing victims are likely Jewish, and Paul Frishman, CEO of the Miami Beach JCC, said 15 JCC families have at least one missing member. The Greater Miami Jewish Federation has opened an emergency assistance fund for survivors who escaped the collapse, the families of victims and those who lived in the tower but were not at home when it fell. 

Significant needs: The Jewish Community Services of South Florida (JCS), the local Jewish human service agency, is cooperating with elected officials and law enforcement to assess the needs as they evolve, Jacob Solomon, the federation’s CEO, said in a statement: “We anticipate significant demand for financial assistance, trauma counseling, spiritual care, housing assistance and support for funerals and burials.” JCS is providing crisis counseling and housing assistance, and a federation program is helping to organize chaplain services near the site, at the Surfside Community Center.

Read the full story here.


Holding on to hope in South Florida

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue

“Land subsistence? Faulty workmanship? Salt and erosion? A bomb? Everyone in my immediate network is feeling increasingly unsettled about the tragic condo collapse in South Florida and the suffering is everywhere. The waiting, not knowing, hoping, and praying. ‘It’s like Sept. 11 all over again,’ said a friend,” writes Miami resident and communal professional Rebecca Dinar in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Grief: “The grief is profound and it’s everywhere. Yet, amongst the pain of not knowing and the pleas for help are generous offers of goods and services… One friend told me that a member of her synagogue mobilized hundreds of volunteers and another shared that her daughter and her friends were making runs to Target nearly every hour… Today, my 17-year-old son’s school asked for help bringing water, food and ice to the 400 first responders working around the clock to search for survivors in the debris.”

Hope: “If you ask me the only thing we need now is hope. Hope that the missing residents will be found alive and hope that we will understand the cause of this tragedy, so it never happens again. The hurt caused by not knowing is unbearable. Please pray for the families of the residents of Champlain Towers.”

Read the full piece here.


Why Jewish community relations is distinctive and essential: Framing the current debate


“Where does community relations policy-making belong within the Jewish communal orbit?,” asks Dr. Steven Windmueller in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

The question: “Should such national instruments as the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) be incorporated into the federation system or should it be permitted to remain an independent entity? At a time of such deep polarization around politics and policies, is there room for a communal public policy agency to articulate its independent message, when at times its viewpoints are seen as not reflective of the community’s power base?”

Short or long-term priorities: “In the short term, constructing efficiencies of services and reconfiguring the management of the communal agenda may make sense. But here, we need to be careful about what we may wish for. At the moment, we may want to acknowledge that the JCPA/CRC agenda may not be in alignment with the federation’s priorities and interests. The drive to close down this national community relations enterprise may result in a short-term gain, with serious and challenging long-term implications.”

The power of dissent: “Divisions and disagreements point to the robust nature of the political environment. Indeed, while some may desire a level of uniformity, it is about the passion and power of the discussions around Israel, Black Lives Matter, and other considerations through which we both educate and engage Jews. The power of dissent has its own value. At the moment, complexity defines the end-game!”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Funny Money: As nonfungible tokens (NFT), digital images with a unique signature and a single owner, have become an increasingly popular way to sell digital art, charities are learning how to use the technology to raise both money and awareness, reports Mela Seyoum in USA Today. Alex’s Lemonade Stand, a pediatric cancer organization, will auction off NFTs of artwork from childhood cancer patients, while other organizations such as Save the Children have accepted donations from the proceeds of such auctions, but haven’t yet created an NFT or accepted one as a gift. “You’ve gotta be part of it or you’re gonna be left behind,” said Jay Scott, co-executive director of Alex’s Lemonade Stand. “We’re always trying to be on the cutting edge of things. If you’re not in early, you’re late to the game.” [USAToday]

Planning Mode: Writing in The New York Times, Laura Zornosa spotlights MacKenzie Scott’s recent gifts to diverse, New York City-based performing arts organizations, including Dance Theater of Harlem, El Museo del Barrio, the Studio Museum in Harlem and Urban Bush Women. Another recipient, Ballet Hispanico, told Zornosa that its gift was the largest in its 50-year history, and that while the organization will put some of the funds into its endowment and scholarships, the group is also reveling in the realization that it will be able to grow. “You do brilliant work on two cents of prayer and spit,” said Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, founder of Urban Bush Women. “And there’s a certain creativity that comes out of that, of what you have to do, but there’s also a price that is paid.” [NYTimes]

Short Goodbye: In Inside Philanthropy, Michael Kavate reflectson what Warren Buffet’s resignation from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation means for philanthropy broadly, and for the foundation itself, whose chief executive officer, Mark Suzman, emailed all employees in the wake of Buffet’s announcement that he and Bill and Melinda Gates are actively discussing ways to strengthen the foundation’s governance. Suzman, whom Buffet has praised, has shown some signs of independence from Bill Gates, as when he made a statement prioritizing vaccines access over intellectual property rights. “Much of the public discussion about philanthropy revolves around what I’d call moral advice to a donor,” said Rob Reich, a political scientist at Stanford University. “But even more important, I would argue, are questions about the very governance of philanthropy.” [InsidePhilanthropy]

Community Comms

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Word on the Street

OneTable is reopening with indoor Shabbat dinners of up to 10… The National Museum of American Jewish History named Carole Zawatsky as its new chief advancement and strategy officer… The Levi Strauss Foundation announced the appointment of Fatima Angeles as its next executive director… Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. and U.N. Gilad Erdan will step down from his Washington posting as soon as a new envoy is appointed but will continue to represent Israel at the U.N.… Holocaust survivor Fritzie Fritzshall, president of the Illinois Holocaust Museum, died at age 91… A new report from Rutgers University New Brunswick found the majority of students learning remotely during the past year experienced disruptions in their education due to being “under-connected,” with Black, Latino and low-income children disproportionately impacted…

Pic of the Day

Camp Tel Noar

Camp Tel Noar in New Hampshire provided the COVID-19 vaccine to this counselor contingent from Mexico, which is displaying their certificates.


Michael Kovac/Getty Images for AFI

Award-winning actor, film director, composer and comedian, Mel Brooks (born Melvin James Kaminsky)… 

Laguna Woods, California resident and a retired hospital administrator, Saretta Platt Berlin… Former U.S. Senator from Michigan (79-15), Carl Levin… Owner of NYC’s United Equities Companies, Moses M. Marx… Former member of Congress for 16 years and now a distinguished fellow and president emerita of the Wilson Center, Jane Harman… Political consultant, community organizer and author, he is married to Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL-9), Robert Creamer… Novelist, journalist and senior fellow of the Claremont Institute, Mark Helprin… Author of crime fiction, Peter Abrahams… Documentary producer, James Ruxin.. Professor of mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley, Kenneth Alan Ribet… Managing shareholder of the Tampa office of Carlton Fields, Nathaniel Doliner… Rabbi and historian, he is the author of a 2017 book Jewish Justices of the Supreme Court: From Brandeis to Kagan, David G. Dalin… Former Member of the California State Senate and the State Assembly, Martin Jeffrey “Marty” Block.. Retired partner at Chicago-based accounting firm of Morrison & Morrison, Mark Zivin… Founding partner of NYC law firm Kasowitz Benson Torres, Marc Kasowitz… Israeli journalist for Haaretz, Amira Hass… Chairman and CEO of Comcast Corporation, Brian L. Roberts… Rabbi of the Har Bracha community, Rabbi Eliezer Melamed… Principal of GPS Investment Partners, chairman of Chiron Investment Management, former president of Apollo Global Management, Marc Spilker… Actress and singer, Jessica Hecht… Diplomatic correspondent for Al-Monitor based in DC, Laura Rozen… Novelist and short story writer, Aimee Bender… Israeli actress in Los Angeles, Ayelet Zurer… Centibillionaire CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, Elon Musk… Former member of Knesset, Michal Biran… Toltzy Kornbluh… and her twin sister, Chany Stark… UAE-based businessman, Naum Koen… Recent graduate of the Georgetown University Law Center, Molly Rosen… Mark Winkler…
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