Your Daily Phil: The stuffed dog helping kids through trauma

Good Friday morning.

For less-distracted reading over the weekend, browse this week’s edition of The Weekly Print, a curated print-friendly PDF featuring a selection of recent eJewishPhilanthropy, Jewish Insider and The Circuit stories, including: Seed the Dream president: As we remember the 6 million killed in the Holocaust, let’s not forget the 245,000 living survivors; Aiming to succeed Elissa Slotkin, Curtis Hertel mirrors her pragmatic sensibilities; Inside the army unit that handles the humanitarian needs of Gaza civilians; Jewish Washingtonians gather at Qatari Embassy to push for hostage releasePrint the latest edition here.

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on a new educational tool kit to raise awareness about the Israeli hostages in Gaza and an International Holocaust Remembrance Day gathering with speakers from Arab civil society. We feature an opinion piece from Deborah Barer about the how to address unmet needs of the Jewish families with young children. Also in this newsletter: Rabbi Ari BermanRabbi Jonah Steinberg and Carol Ann Schwartz. We’ll start with an Israeli-developed trauma therapy that is being used to help children around the world. Shabbat shalom!

Valentina Liechtenstein was first introduced to the plush dog called Hibuki as a preschool teacher working in the southern Israeli town of Sderot. She didn’t think much of the stuffed toy with elongated arms and sad eyes — until it made its way back into her life a few years later in 2014, when her then-5-year-old daughter, Maayan, suffered post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of that summer’s Gaza war, Operation Protective Edge, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen.

“My daughter was stuttering, throwing up, her whole body was responding [during the war in 2014],” Liechtenstein, 46, told eJP, recalling that she was connected to Dr. Flora Mor, a psychologist with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee’s (JDC) who helped develop the therapy dog Hibuki — a riff of the Hebrew word for “hug,” hibuk — specifically for children in the Gaza-border region. Mor continues to run the program during various crises in Israel, along with other programs at JDC related to children’s well-being and development around the world.

“Hibuki became a member of the family,” Liechtenstein said. “I saw within two weeks how she stopped shaking, stopped bedwetting.”

The effects of Hibuki were so beneficial to Maayan in 2014 that when Hamas infiltrated Israel on Oct. 7, Liechtenstein immediately pulled the little brown-and-white dog with the floppy ears out of storage. “Now, in the current war, Maayan [who is now 14] told us that she always thought she was taking care of Hibuki, but she realized Hibuki was helping her take care of herself,” she said. 

Since the start of the war against Hamas, therapists have used Hibuki dolls to treat more than 1,200 children in Israel. 

Halfway around the world, Hibuki has provided similar comfort to Ukrainian refugee children who have endured an entirely different war. Valerie Khaytina, chief external officer at Hebrew Public — a charter school network in New York —has led the initiative to incorporate Hibuki into the curriculum for children who fled their homes when Russia invaded nearly two years ago and have since enrolled in Hebrew Public, with help from a grant from the UJA-Federation of New York. 

The first child who used Hibuki at Hebrew Public — a then-4-year-old Ukrainian refugee named Svyatik — wouldn’t let go of his mom’s hand during drop-off, Khaytina recalled. “He wouldn’t nap. He was constantly in trauma. A child in trauma can’t stay in the present or look to the future, all they can think about is the past and the war,” Khaytina continued. “Physically he was in the U.S. but he was only talking about war and his house in Ukraine. He was drawing pictures of explosions.”

“After Inna worked with him for three sessions, he was already napping with Hibuki. After five sessions, he was letting go, making friends and being present. [Hibuki] did wonders,” Khaytina said of the pilot program. “I am not a mental health person, but as an observer I have learned what this therapy can do for kids.” 

Read the full report here.


Rabbi Dina Brawer, executive director of the U.K.-based World Jewish Relief’s American branch, speaks at the Clinton Global Initiative in September 2023.
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Photo by Phil Kalina

Arab civil society leaders who gathered virtually on Thursday for a Holocaust memorial event emphasized the importance of remembering the Holocaust and its lessons at a time of rising global hate, reports Gabby Deutch for eJewishPhilanthropy’s sister publication Jewish Insider.

For its own sake: “Expressing empathy and respect for the Holocaust victims is not only a tribute to the past, but also a way of diminishing racism, bigotry, prejudice and intolerance in the present and future,” said Mohammed Dajani, a Palestinian professor who gained attention — and faced strong criticism — when he took a group of Palestinian students to visit Auschwitz in 2014 with Jewish Holocaust survivors. “As such, the Holocaust should not be politicized, linked to or compared with other genocides, nor should its commemoration be avoided due to violent political events or current wars.” 

Abraham Accord allies: Dajani was joined at the event by Ali Rashid Al-Nuaimi, an Emirati official and an expert on extremism, and El Mehdi Boudra, founder and president of Association Mimouna, a Moroccan organization dedicated to promoting Jewish culture and history in the country. Each of them stressed the need to commemorate the Holocaust even amid heightened tensions in the region and around the world.

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


M² and Jewish arts nonprofit Kol HaOt launch new education project for hostages

The families of hostages lead hundreds of people in the ‘Run for Their Lives’ rally in New York City's Central Park on the 100th day since the October 7 attack by Hamas on Jan. 14, 2024
The families of hostages lead hundreds of people in the ‘Run for Their Lives’ rally in New York City’s Central Park on the 100th day since the October 7 attack by Hamas on Jan. 14, 2024. Photo by Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

M²: The Institute for Experiential Jewish Education and the Israel-based Jewish arts nonprofit Kol HaOt launched a new tool kit, dubbed “Everyone Counts,” for educators looking for ways to teach their students about the more than 130 Israeli hostages being held in Gaza, with source sheets, lesson plans and recommended activities, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross.

Six concepts: The project was developed in coordination with the Bring Hersh Home nonprofit, which was started by the family of Hersh Goldberg-Polin, who was taken hostage on Oct. 7, and with The Jewish Education Project. BBYO, Hillel International and the Pardes Institute also worked with M² and Kol HaOt on the project. Its resources are focused on six broad concepts: freedom and justice; peoplehood and community; responsibility and leadership; human dignity and compassion; and Jewish moments.

More than ever: Pidyon Shvuyim, the mitzvah of freeing hostages has never been more urgent, and we are here to support the Jewish people in this most meaningful, critical way,” M² founder and CEO Shuki Taylor said in a statement. “We must keep this cause top of mind at all times. This is not only about our community. It is about humanity.”


What we need to build Jewish roots for our youngest families

Illustration by Overearth/Getty Images

“My husband and I knew we wanted to raise our future children with a deep commitment to Jewish community and tradition. I am a professor of Jewish studies, and my husband is a rabbi. Our bookshelves are lined with seforim (Jewish books). We are both highly educated, deeply committed and involved Jewish professionals. Like all naïve parents-to-be, we thought we had it all figured out. After all, how hard could it be? Hard, it turns out,” writes Deborah Barer, a Pardes North America faculty fellow, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Always seeking: “Despite living in an area with a large and thriving Jewish community, and despite our many connections and years of education, we struggled to find the right support to help root our children meaningfully in our texts, traditions and communities. As our kids transformed from infants happily snuggling on our chests in shul to rambunctious toddlers trying to run across the bimah, attending the Shabbat services we had loved for years became challenging… As our oldest entered preschool, the programs that did exist felt unsatisfying. These were lovely gatherings, fun and well-intentioned, but we wanted to help her build a deeper connection to Judaism than songs about dinosaurs visiting for Shabbat or kiddush cookies could provide.”

A replicable success: “After years of looking outward, I decided it was time to build a different kind of Shabbat practice inside our home… The experience of creating these resources and sharing them with other families taught me two things. First, my experience is not unique. Many families are struggling to find ways to offer a meaningful Jewish upbringing for their youngest children. Second, our young children and families need structures that they can step into together or build inside their own homes.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Bridging the Gap: In The Times of Israel, Yeshiva University President Rabbi Ari Berman recounts his recent visit to Israel and the Gaza Strip, where he met soldiers on the front lines, which gave him a deeper understanding of what the country has been going through since Oct. 7. “I have never experienced Israel in such a state. As someone deeply rooted in both Israel and America, I have never felt such a gap in our contemporary Jewish experiences. While the current crisis is felt by all Jews across the globe, and the threat of antisemitism is real throughout the world, the sacrifices demanded from the families in Israel are extraordinary and ongoing. Returning back to America, one burning question continued to return to my mind: are we worthy of their sacrifices? Do our life choices honor their commitment? With Israel engaged in a war lasting over 100 days with no clear end in sight, we need to stand vigilant in our support in all ways. While it is natural for the sense of urgency that gripped the American Jewish community in the first phase of the war to have passed, as long as our brothers and sisters in Israel have not returned to their normal lives, we cannot return to ours. When Klal Yisrael is in pain, we are all in pain. When Israel is at war, we are all called to service.” [TOI]

Parsing the Polls: In an interview in CASJE Research Digest, strategic consultant Dahlia Scheindlin talks about best practices in poll design and how to gauge the significance of poll results touted in news stories. “What I really think is that people need to look at polling critically. In other words, if you see one piece of data that is striking, interesting, shocking, I would never take it at face value. Ideally, you should have it confirmed by other data, even if it’s roughly along the same lines. There’s a tweet going around about how the majority of young Americans agree with this sentence, that Jews are an oppressor class and too powerful in the world. And just this one piece of data, this one data point went all around the internet, and nobody bothered to read the entire study, which was easily available, touch of a button. Nobody bothered to look at in the context of other data, other polls. One finding could always be wrong. And so I would very much recommend that people never base their overall impression on one data point. Just like you wouldn’t want to base a real impression on a single quote of how a politician thinks. And ideally, only really trust a public opinion observation if you can access the full data yourself, because so often, media stories are written with somebody else’s analysis in mind.” [CASJEResearchDigest]

The ‘Andrew Carnegie Effect’: Reflecting on one’s personal legacy can influence an individual to extend their generosity beyond their immediate family circle, according to research published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science. “As society grapples with sustainability and intergenerational responsibility, our findings provide a suggestion for potential policy nudges or public campaigns,” says lead author, Ph.D. candidate Jessica Paek of Duke University, in a press release. “By harnessing legacy motivation, organizations and governments can potentially encourage individuals to support efforts that address broader, global issues… If a large number of people make small contributions driven by this legacy reflection, the collective impact can effect significant positive societal change… The ‘Andrew Carnegie Effect’ as highlighted in our studies does not suggest that individuals should exclusively prioritize societal contributions over familial or close relational beneficiaries. Instead, it reveals the potential of broadening our sense of responsibility and beneficence when made to think about the long-term impact of our actions.” [Newswise]

Around the Web

In a 15-2 decision — the Israeli and Ugandan judges voted against — the International Court of Justice ordered Israel to “take all measures” to avoid carrying out a genocide in the Gaza Strip but refrained from ordering it to halt the war against Hamas…

Two Jewish-owned businesses in Scarsdale, N.Y.were vandalized overnight on Wednesday by an at-large perpetrator who spray painted “genocide supporter” on their front windows…

President Joe Biden denounced those who deny both the Holocaust and Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacres in a statement ahead of tomorrow’s International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Rabbi Jonah Steinberg, the former director of Harvard Hillel who has yet to be replaced, is stepping down as the New England regional director of the Anti-Defamation League after less than a year in the role…

American University released a new set of policies meant to counter antisemitism and promote civil discourse a week after a group of Jewish students alleged that antisemitism was widespread on the Washington, D.C., campus…

Craig Newmark donated $10 million through his foundation to the Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York to help the school go tuition-free…

The Times of Israel interviewed Carol Ann Schwartz, who was recently installed as president of Hadassah, shortly after she led a solidarity mission to Israel earlier this month…

Tel Aviv University’s Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry, one of the leading academic institutions tracking antisemitism globally, called for Israel’s Diaspora Affairs and Combating Antisemitism Ministry to be shuttered in its annual report, arguing that it “lacks vision and substance” and “promoted few initiatives,” particularly as it relates to countering antisemitism…

The Zekelman Holocaust Center near Detroit redesigned several of its exhibits because attendees frequently posed for selfies with Nazi uniforms and swastikas. The goal is to put the focus more on the victims of the Holocaust than on the perpetrators…

The Jewish National Fund of Canada and Keren Kayemet LeYisrael-Jewish National Fund awarded the $1 million Climate Solutions Breakthrough Research Prize to three Israeli projects: a greenhouse gas capture technology by professors Shanny Barath and Yechezkel Kashin from the Technion; a clean fuel source by Professor Brian Rosen from Tel Aviv University; and a high-efficiency zinc battery by Professor Menny Shalom from Ben-Gurion University. Next month, Startup Nation Central will award similar prizes to Israeli tech startups…

The Financial Times examines the unease in South Africa’s Jewish community in the wake of the country’s genocide case against Israel in the International Court of Justice and its under-19 national cricket team’s removal of its Jewish captain, David Teeger, because of his support for Israel…

The Jewish community in Spain is fighting its government’s decision to hold onto a painting that was looted from a Jewish family by the Nazis after a U.S. court ruled that it didn’t legally have to return it…

Israeli actor and singer-songwriter Idan Amedi was discharged from the hospital yesterday after he was seriously injured in an explosion in Gaza on Jan. 8 while he was serving in the Combat Engineering Corps reserves…

The pre-trial detention of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who has been detained in Russia since last spring, was extended until the end of March… 

The Combat Antisemitism Movement and Israeli Community Europe are holding a three-day conference for Israeli expatriates from across Europe in Berlin beginning today to help them develop plans to counter antisemitism on the continent. The best four proposals will each receive €2,500 ($2,718) micro-grants from the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee

The Chronicle of Philanthropy looks at how TikTok, a social media platform largely overlooked by nonprofits, can be used for fundraising…

New research shows that male members of Gen Z are becoming increasingly conservative, while the women are becoming more liberal…

Pic of the Day

Dursun Ayedmir/Anadolu via Getty Images

Holocaust survivor Irene Shashar, 86 (center), holds up her 2023 children’s book, I Won Against Hitler, as she addresses members of the European Parliament during a ceremony in observance of International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Thursday. 

In her speech, Shashar recounted her experience as a young child in the Warsaw Ghetto, including the death of her father at the hands of the Nazis and her flight through the sewers with her mother. Now a mother and grandmother, “I did the very thing Hitler tried so hard to prevent,” she said.

Shashar, who lives in Israel, made a passionate plea on behalf of the Israeli hostages in Gaza, and she shared her dream that “my children, all children, live in a peaceful Middle East, one that is free of hate, especially towards us, the Jews. In my dream, Jews find safety and security anywhere they choose to call home, and antisemitism is finally a thing of the past.”


Annie Liebovitz smiles
Screenshot/Milken Institute

Co-founder of the Laura and Gary Lauder Family Venture Philanthropy Fund, Laura Heller Lauder… 

FRIDAY: Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist, Jules Feiffer… Actor, film director and playwright, Henry David Jaglom… Pioneering computer scientist, Barbara Bluestein Simons, Ph.D.… Singer-songwriter, socialite and political fundraiser, Denise Eisenberg Rich… Economic and social theorist, author of 23 books, Jeremy Rifkin… New Haven, Conn.-based personal injury attorney, Herbert Ira Mendelsohn… Publishing professional, Agnes F. Holland… Professor emeritus of modern Judaic studies at the University of Virginia, Peter W. Ochs… Two-time Emmy Award-winning film and television director, Mimi Leder… President of The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, Rabbi Marc Schneier… Argentina’s largest real-estate developer, president of Chabad Argentina, president of Hillel Argentina and president of Taglit Birthright Argentina, Eduardo Elsztain… President of HSK Consulting focused on strategic planning and fundraising services, Hilary Smith Kapner… Former CNN anchor and correspondent for 12 years, author of two books, Daryn Kagan… Co-founder of Boardroom One, Brent Cohen… Actress, comedian and television screenwriter, Claudia Lonow… Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives until about four months ago, Kevin McCarthy… Major general (res.) in the IDF, now serving as director general of the Ministry of Defense, Eyal Zamir… Senior strategist and consultant at Hillel of Broward and Palm Beach, Jill Weinstock Deutch… Oakland County (Mich.) Clerk and Register of Deeds, Lisa Brown… Community scholar at The Jewish Center in Manhattan, Raizi Gruenebaum Chechik… Former middleweight boxing champion, now a credit union loan officer, Dana Rosenblatt… Retired professional tennis player, Justin Gimelstob… Actress, she hosted The CW reality series “Shedding for the Wedding,” Sara Rue… Of counsel at Morrison Cohen LLP, he was previously an Obama White House Jewish liaison, Jarrod Neal Bernstein… Senior advisor at the Harold Grinspoon Foundation and president of the Palm Collective, Tamar Remz… Former Olympic figure skater, now a business lead at Grandstand, Emily Hughes… Blues and jazz musician, Jerron “Blind Boy” Paxton… Co-founder and CEO of Stealth, Fay Goldstein

SATURDAY: Auschwitz survivor, retired professor of child psychiatry at Harvard and the University of Cincinnati, Anna Ornstein… Senior counsel focused on mergers and acquisitions in the NYC office of Fried, Frank, Arthur Fleischer… Businessman and real estate investor, Paul Sislin… Winner of the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics, he is a professor emeritus at California Institute of Technology, Barry Clark Barish… Builder and operator of luxury casinos and hotels, Steve Wynn (born Stephen Alan Weinberg)… Corporate venture capitalist and scientist, Avram Miller… Topanga, Calif., resident, Joseph Helfer… Columbia, S.C., resident, Charles Geffen… VP at Elnat Equity Liquidity Providers, Eliezer Edelman… Professor of Medieval Judaism and Islam at the Los Angeles campus of HUC-JIR, Reuven Firestone… Cookbook author and attorney, she is a co-founder of Foundation for Jewish Camp, Elisa Spungen Bildner… Chief justice of the United States, John Roberts… Former member of the Missouri State Senate, Jill Schupp… Television writer and producer best known as the creator of “Everybody Loves Raymond,” more recently he stars in the Netflix series “Somebody Feed Phil,” Philip Rosenthal… Founder and chairman of Willoughby Capital, Daniel Och… Communications director at C-SPAN and author in 2020 of When Rabbis Bless CongressHoward Mortman… Founder and managing member of Liberty Peak Capital and co-founder and lead investor of Multiplier Capital, Ezra M. Friedberg… CEO of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Rochester, Josh Weinstein… Editor-in-chief of The Foreign DeskLisa Daftari… Jerusalem-born rapper and YouTuber with 388 million views, Rucka Rucka Ali… English fashion model, Daisy Rebecca Lowe… Former college and professional basketball point guard, including playing on the Israeli women’s national basketball team, she is now a coordinator at Herzl Camp in Wisconsin, Jacqui Kalin… Community engagement coordinator at the Raleigh-Cary (N.C.) JCC, Grace Kaplan… Co-founder and advisor of Quai.MD, Lia Michal Weiner Tsur… Manager at Deloitte, Joshua Henderson

SUNDAY: Long-time Baltimore area dentist now living in Jupiter, Fla., Joel I. Goldberg, DDS… Former chair of the political science department of the Hebrew University, Avraham Diskin… 26th national president of Hadassah, now chair of Hadassah’s magazine, Ellen Hershkin… U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)… Attorney and lobbyist, Kenneth Levine… Rabbi emeritus of Kehillat Israel Reconstructionist Congregation in Pacific Palisades, Steven Carr Reuben… Chairman and founder of London-based ICM Stellar Sports, Jonathan Ian Barnett… Model, actress and singer, Barbi Benton… Elayne Z. Wolf… Senior U.S. district judge for the Central District of California, he was appointed by President Clinton in 1996, Judge Dean Douglas Pregerson… Freelance writer, Rabbi Reba Carmel… NYC-based advisor and investor focusing on fintech, blockchain and emerging technologies, Donna Redel… Assistant dean and executive director at the UCLA Center for Community Engagement, Shalom David Staub… Angel investor and mentor, Mark N. Schwartz… Retired member of the New Jersey General Assembly, Amy H. Handlin… Executive director of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Robert Satloff… Chairman of Genesis Philanthropy Group, Gennady Gazin… Founder and CEO of Boca Raton-based Lyons Capital LLC, Jason Lyons… Associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, Amy Coney Barrett… SVP at Weber Shandwick, Ariel Bashi… Israeli theatre and movie actress, Adi Bielski… Principal at PJT Partners, Max Heller… Associate at Goldman Sachs, Perry Bloch… Actress and singer, Julia Lester