Your Daily Phil: The limits of ‘psychological first aid’ + Running for peace in the West Bank

Good Thursday morning!

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we investigate claims about the efficacy of the psychological first aid offered by many nonprofits, and feature an opinion piece by Holly Cohen about the need for spirituality in Jewish education. Also in this newsletter: Jeremy Jones, Samuel Konig and Israeli President Isaac Herzog. We’ll start with a joint Israeli-Palestinian “Run for Reconciliation” this weekend.

Dozens of Israelis and Palestinians will come together on Sunday in the Gush Etzion area of the central West Bank to go for a jog as part of the seventh-annual “Run for Reconciliation,” an event organized by the Roots/Judur/Shorashim nonprofit, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross.

The organization was founded some nine years ago by Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger, who lives in the Alon Shvut settlement in the Etzion bloc, and Ali Abu Awwad, who once served time in Israeli prison for throwing rocks and firebombs before turning to nonviolence. The organization works with Israelis — particularly those living in West Bank settlements — as well as Palestinians and foreigners to promote dialogue and understanding through lectures, discussion groups, summer camps, photography clubs and other initiatives.

Schlesinger, who has been a runner since high school, told eJP that he came up with the idea for the “Run for Reconciliation,” which this year will feature a 5K and 10K race, as well as a 3K family walk. In addition to the enjoyment and sport, the event is also a demonstration of Roots’ mission of a shared society.

“A run like this is something that represents normal life. It’s people walking and running together, wearing the same clothes, going on the same path. Afterward, eating and drinking together. It symbolizes a shared society,” Khaled Abu Awwad, the Palestinian co-director of the organization, told eJP.

The run will take place at Roots’ Dignity Center near the Gush Etzion Intersection — an area that has often seen terror attacks — but people abroad can also participate in a virtual run, he said.

“It brings together Israelis and Palestinians, most of them from Bethlehem, Hebron and the Jordan Valley,” Schlesinger said.

Khaled Abu Awwad said the participants are generally “people who are curious to learn about the other side.”

Sunday’s run also serves as the organization’s main fundraising campaign of the year, according to Abu Awwad. Schlesinger said this year’s crowdfunding effort was expected to raise over $100,000 for the organization through a donation-matching program, which triples the amount of money donated. (As of this writing, the organization’s fundraising website reported that $43,702 had been raised.) 

A large portion of the fund-matching comes from a $25,000 cash prize — the Paul Carus Award for Interfaith Engagement — that Roots received last month at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago. Another $20,000 was donated by a local Israeli donor, who asked not to be named, and $8,000 was donated by the Nelson Family Foundation, Schlesinger said.

Read the full story here.

Emergency response

Getty Images

Israeli nonprofits, and others around the world, promote their use of “psychological first aid” methods widely in their marketing and fundraising campaigns, highlighting the importance of mental health in the face of traumatic incidents. However, there is scant research on these practices effectiveness, especially related to preventing long-term post-traumatic stress disorder, reports Jay Deitcher for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Where’s the evidence?: “People love [psychological first aid] and want to implement it. And yet the evidence for whether or not it works just doesn’t seem to be there,” Sabrina Hermosilla, a social epidemiologist and assistant professor at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health who has researched the effectiveness of the practice, told eJP.

Promise cautiously: Making false claims is dangerous for organizations, Anthony D’Angelo, the interim department chair in public relations at Syracuse University, told eJP. It’s a maneuver that can cost you the support and faith of your donors. An organization’s relationship to donors “is ultimately built on trust,” he said. “That’s it. That’s the end game… And so trust, once it’s built up over time, and it can be very hard-won, it can be lost, fractured or destroyed, even with a single act.” Instead, it’s better to just be honest and not make false claims, he said. “Prevention is much easier than if you break trust.”

Read the full story here.

School with soul

Kids need more than ‘stories.’ They need transcendence.

A child performs netilat yadayim at Tamim Academy of Queens in New York.

“Why was it so crucial to me that my children cultivate a relationship with God? The answer lay in my own journey, in my yearning to restore what I had lost and to offer my children a sense of purpose, individuality and significance that only spirituality can bestow,” writes Tamim Academy CEO Holly Cohen in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Not incidental, but essential: “While many day schools have embraced curricula centered on social and emotional intelligence, the teaching of spirituality often remains informal, extemporaneous or disproportionately linked to tefillah. … It is true that science has established a correlation between spirituality and well-being, lending empirical support to the endeavor; but this journey should also be undertaken simply because, as Jews, a ‘personal transcendent relationship’ is our birthright – an integral part of our cultural and spiritual heritage.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Bringing in the Big Guns: In The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Maria Di Mento investigates the efforts to get philanthropists to contribute to the fight against antisemitism. “Wealthy donors have stepped up with big gifts to organizations that seek to fight antisemitism, racism, and other types of hatred. Prominent among them is Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots football team, who started the Foundation to Combat Antisemitism in 2019… Kraft isn’t alone. Other boldface names have made big gifts to fight antisemitism in recent years. A week after Charlottesville, James Murdoch, a son of Fox News and Wall Street Journal owner Rupert Murdoch, and James’s wife, Kathryn, announced a $1 million donation to the Anti-Defamation League. In 2019, former Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg gave the league $2.5 million for anti-hate and anti-bias education programs. That same year, Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress and an heir to the Estée Lauder Company cosmetics fortune, gave $25 million to launch the Anti-Semitism Accountability Project to fight anti-Jewish bias in U.S. politics. But nonprofit leaders who fight hate say it isn’t enough — and that philanthropy has yet to recognize the threat antisemitism poses to American democracy and society as a whole.” [ChronicleofPhilanthropy]

Around the Web

More than 20 nonprofits will announce plans today to invest $500 million over the next five years in local media organizations as part of a new initiative, Press Forward, that is being led by the MacArthur Foundation, with support from organizations including the Knight Foundation, the Ford Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York

The Good People Fund announced that it is distributing $2.63 million in grants to American and Israeli organizations for initiatives addressing a wide range of topics, including transgender issues, surf therapy and food insecurity…

The Orthodox Union certified as kosher a strain of lab-grown meat, produced by the Israeli startup SuperMeat, for the first time. Despite being artificial, it is — alas — still considered to be meat and thus cannot be eaten with dairy… 

Samuel Konig was named director of strategic philanthropy of the American Friends of Magen David Adom’s Northeast region…

The New Israeli Shekel fell to 3.84 against the dollar, the currency’s lowest level in three years…

Jewish Federations of North America launched a new campaign to raise awareness and support for Evan Gershkovich, the Jewish Wall Street Journal reporter who has been in Russian custody on trumped-up espionage charges since March, ahead of the High Holidays…

The Catholic Church will beatify a Polish couple, Jozef and Wiktoria Ulma, and their seven children, who were murdered by the Nazis for sheltering a Jewish family during the Holocaust…

Maura Moynihan, daughter of the late New York Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, is boycotting the opening of a CUNY center named after her father in response to the university system’s response to an anti-Israel commencement address at its law school earlier this year…

Jeremy Jones, a major figure of the Australian Jewish community, who served as the director of international and community affairs at the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council and was the former president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, died yesterday from cancer…

Pic of the Day

Amos Ben Gershom/Israeli Government Press Office

President Isaac Herzog (front row, center) and his wife, Michal (in white), pose with the recipients of this year’s Presidential Medal of Honor at the his residence in Jerusalem last night: musician Chava Alberstein; social entrepreneur Adi Altschuler; professor Meir Buzaglo; Rabbi Menachem HaCohen; professor Mona Khoury; Maj. Gen. (res.) Dan Tolkowsky; journalist Carmela Menashe; soccer player Bibras Natcho; educator Dr. Assad Araidy; social entrepreneur Lena Shtern; Moroccan statesman André Azoulay; international law professor Irwin Cotler; and the Haredi employment nonprofit Kemach.

“Thank you, dear recipients, not only for your wonderful contribution, but also for the ray of light that you represent in these difficult days, when polarization and division are so prevalent,” Herzog said in a speech. “Thank you for reminding us all that there is another way, that it is possible not only to live together despite all the diversity, but because of all the diversity.”


Andrew Matthews – Pool/Getty Images

Chief rabbi of the U.K., he was knighted by King Charles III as part of the 2023 New Year Honours, Rabbi Sir Ephraim Yitzchak Mirvis… 

Palm Beach, Fla., resident and former national board member of AIPAC, the school at the Westchester (N.Y.) Jewish Center bears her name, Beverly Cannold… Considered one of the “Founding Mothers” of NPR, she is now a special correspondent on NPR’s “Morning Edition,” Susan Stamberg… Member of the U.K.’s House of Lords, he was a managing director of Marks and Spencer and is active in many Jewish charities, Baron Andrew Zelig Stone… Longtime political columnist for Time magazine and author of the novel Primary Colors, Joe Klein… Color commentator for New York Yankees radio broadcasts along with John Sterling, Suzyn Waldman… Former national political editor at the Washington Post, Maralee Schwartz… Owner and CEO of Gristedes Foods, John Catsimatidis .. Pulitzer Prize-winning former national correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, now director of literary journalism at UC-Irvine, Barry E. Siegel… Minneapolis-area school counselor and language arts teacher, Sandra Sevig… Russian-born professor emeritus in the mathematics department at UCSD, he was formerly a professor at both Yale and University of Chicago, Efim Zelmanov… Global co-chair of the Israel practice in the Washington, D.C. office of Latham & Watkins, Stuart Kurlander… Bahraini ambassador to the U.S. from 2008 until 2013, after the prior four years in the Bahraini Parliament, both firsts for a Jewish woman, Houda Ezra Ebrahim Nonoo… Personal finance journalist and CEO of the multimedia company HerMoney, Jean Sherman Chatzky… Vice provost at Yeshiva University, author and a community scholar for Congregation Etz Chaim in Livingston, N.J., Dr. Erica Brown… Award-winning special writer at The Wall Street Journal and author of six best-selling books, Gregory Zuckerman… Part-owner of the NHL’s New Jersey Devils, the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers, the NFL’s Washington Commanders and MLB’s Cleveland Guardians, David S. Blitzer… Tax partner with RSM US LLP, where he serves as the national family office enterprise markets leader, Benjamin Berger… Screenwriter, producer and director of many successful films and TV shows, Alex Kurtzman… Author of three New York Times bestsellers and an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, Gayle Tzemach Lemmon… Rabbi of Baltimore’s Congregation Shomrei Emunah, Rabbi Binyamin Y. Marwick… Legislative director for Rep. Jared Golden (D-ME), Eric B. Kanter