Your Daily Phil: Tikkun Olam Makers looks to capture post-Oct. 7 innovation

Ed. note: The next edition of Your Daily Phil will arrive on Tuesday, Feb. 20, in observance of Presidents Day. Enjoy the long weekend and Shabbat shalom!

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 eJewishPhilanthropyJewish Insider and The Circuit stories, including: Nonprofits brace for more trauma among most vulnerable displaced Israelis; At Conservative and Reform rabbinical schools, a debate over red lines on anti-Zionism; In Israel, discord in coalition over Haredi conscription; ‘If it’s Jewish, we have it’: Inside D.C.’s new Jewish history museum. Print the latest edition here.

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on the launch of Tikkun Olam Makers’ Global and Israeli Innovation Challenges, and feature an opinion piece by Doron Kenter about the value of engaging with diverse — even conflicting — viewpoints in Jewish learning and life. Also in this issue: George Washington, Sir Leonard Blavatnik and Sharon Alony Cunio. We’ll start with a preview of next week’s Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations mission to Israel.

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations will kick off its annual mission to Israel in Jerusalem on Sunday with a visit to Hadassah’s newly built Gandel Rehabilitation Center to meet wounded soldiers and survivors of the Oct. 7 attacks, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross.

Afterward, the participants will hear from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and war cabinet member Benny Gantz, as well as U.S. Ambassador to Israel Jack Lew, along with other Israeli politicians, nonprofit leaders and analysts.

This represents the conference’s second visit to Israel since the deadly attacks, the first coming some two weeks after the war began. It will be the organization’s 49th mission to Israel in 50 years. (The conference couldn’t come in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.)

Unlike in previous missions, in which the attendees spent most of their time hearing from prominent Israeli voices, this year, the focus will be more on people in the field.

“[The mission will be] less about the politicians and the analysts… and more about the people of Israel and engaging with them,” Conference of President CEO William Daroff told JNS this week, to explain why the conference was beginning with a visit to the Gandel Rehabilitation Center.

On Monday, the group will travel to the Gaza border area, visiting Kibbutz Nir Oz — one of the hardest-hit communities in the Oct. 7 attacks — and Kibbutz Reim, the site of both the Nova Music Festival massacre and a a major attack on the adjacent military base.

“We end that day with a barbecue with soldiers, where we’re cooking for soldiers and and we’ll dance with soldiers and sing with soldiers to really show them the appreciation that we in America have for them putting their lives on the line for Israel and for the Jewish people,” Daroff said.

The conference is scheduled to meet with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Adm. Daniel Hagari, the IDF’s chief spokesperson, as well as a number of other top military officers to discuss the war effort. The participants will also speak with Opposition Leader Yair Lapid and President Isaac Herzog, among others.


Amichai Shindler, a resident of Kibbutz Kerem Shalom who lost an arm and most of his hand in the Oct. 7 attacks, spreads humus on a piece of bread using a new 3D-printed prosthetic from Tikkun Olam Makers.
Amichai Shindler, a resident of Kibbutz Kerem Shalom who lost an arm and most of his hand in the Oct. 7 attacks, spreads humus on a piece of bread using a new 3D-printed prosthetic from Tikkun Olam Makers.

The massacres of Oct. 7 and ensuing war sparked a rush of innovation to tackle the growing needs of people with new disabilities resulting from the attacks and those with existing disabilities who were affected by the fighting. In order to “capture” some of those ideas — new products, methods and designs to help people with disabilities — the nonprofit Tikkun Olam Makers launched an Israeli Innovation Challenge this week alongside its fifth annual Global Innovation Challenge. “The goal of the Israel Innovation Challenge is to capture all of the innovations that were created or [existing] ones that were used since Oct. 7. Because once people start getting back to their lives, it will all be forgotten, and we think there was a massive wave of innovation and we want to catch it,” Tikkun Olam Makers’ founder and president, Gidi Grinstein, told eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross during a recent tour of its headquarters in Tel Aviv.

A ‘full-on factory’: Ordinarily, TOM, which was founded in 2014 as an offshoot of the Reut Group think tank, serves as a web platform, offering detailed instructions for making products for people with disabilities. But after Oct. 7, Tikkun Olam Makers pivoted from developing these designs to producing them as a “full-on factory,” Grinstein said. For evacuees with disabilities, who are now living in hotels that are not necessarily accessible, the organization has manufactured dozens of specialty toilet seats for both adults and children. The team also devised a simple way to add casters to a cheap Ikea armchair that can be used to quickly move a person with limited mobility into a bomb shelter. In collaboration with the mental health nonprofit Natal, TOM has also begun producing weighted blankets for people experiencing anxiety because of the war at a fraction of the cost of a commercially produced one.

Finding opportunity: Grinstein’s grand hope for TOM is that it will serve as the basis for a “Jewish development bank,” which will rely on technology and “frugal innovation” instead of capital. Without the need for massive financial resources and a global footprint, this “Jewish development bank” would also be readily scalable, Grinstein said. “Israel can emerge from this crisis as the global leader in frugal innovation and emergency response to the needs of wounded people, and that’s not in 10 years, that’s now — 2024,” Grinstein said.

Read the full report here.


‘Where are you, son of Lakish?’: The power of including diverse, even conflicting viewpoints in our teaching

Learning in the Hadar Institute’s beit midrash.

“I am troubled when I see a set of sources presented (often out of context) to justify a particular preordained argument or conclusion — in other words, the facile and sometimes disingenuous application of Jewish text or source sheets in support of a particular predetermined viewpoint,” writes Doron Kenter, director of North American grantmaking for Maimonides Fund, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy. 

Introducing the ‘Lakish Test’: “Indeed, our conclusions are better informed when they emerge from a serious engagement with diverse perspectives — to say nothing of the reality that Jews of various backgrounds, communities and places of origin often have very different approaches to the same issues… How can we, as a Jewish community, internalize the importance of this dialogue and dialectic, even as each of us can and should ultimately stand for something?”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Bless This Mess: In the Jewish Review of Books, Rabbi Stuart Halpern examines the first Jewish prayer written for George Washington ahead of Presidents Day. “Shortly after the end of the Revolutionary War, Hendla Jochanan van Oettingen of New York’s Congregation Shearith Israel prayed for George Washington, the future president… ‘As you gave of your honor to David son of Jesse and to Solomon his son [whom] you gave wisdom greater than that of all men, so may you grant intelligence, wisdom, and knowledge to our lords, the rulers of these thirteen states.’ It is a remarkable collection of allusions. Eight decades before President Abraham Lincoln would refer to Americans as God’s ‘almost-chosen people,’ Van Oettingen tied ancient Israel to the future of the United States, and invoked its two greatest kings, David and Solomon, as models of leadership for ‘our lords, the rulers of these thirteen states,’ whom, the community prays, God will similarly support… While the prayer celebrated newfound liberty in exile, it also wished for the restoration of the people of Israel to their homeland. ‘As you have granted to these thirteen states of America everlasting freedom, so may you bring us forth once again from bondage into freedom . . . and the dispersed . . . shall come and bow down to the Lord on the holy mount in Jerusalem.’ It was, perhaps, a testament to the already manifest values of religious freedom that such a hope could be expressed so publicly.” [JewishReviewofBooks]

An Opposition Mindset: If the standard explanation for antisemitism is that hatred stems from ignorance, writes author and Harvard alumna Dana Horn in The Atlantic, then why are America’s best universities full of “this very specific” hatred? “In 2013, David Nirenberg published an astonishing book titled Anti-Judaism. Nirenberg’s argument, rigorously laid out in nearly 500 pages of dense scholarship and more than 100 pages of footnotes, is that Western cultures — including ancient civilizations, Christianity, Islam (which Nirenberg considers Western in its relationship with Judaism), and post-religious societies — have often defined themselves through their opposition to what they consider ‘Judaism.’ This has little to do with actual Judaism, and a lot to do with whatever evil these non-Jewish cultures aspire to overcome. Nirenberg is a diligent historian who resists generalizations and avoids connecting the past to contemporary events. But when one reads through his carefully assembled record of 23 centuries’ worth of intellectual leaders articulating their societies’ ideals by loudly rejecting whatever they consider ‘Jewish,’ this deep neural groove in Western thought becomes difficult to dismiss, its patterns unmistakable… This dynamic forces Jews into the defensive mode of constantly proving they are not evil, and even simply that they have a right to exist.” [TheAtlantic]

Trip of a Lifetime: In The Times of Israel, Cat Korren recounts her experiences leading the first Birthright trip to Israel after the Oct. 7 terror attacks. “I had the privilege of beginning the new year as the madricha, or guide, with a historic Birthright Israel trip, the first Birthright (Taglit) trip organized by Tailor Made to return to Israel after more than 100 days of war. I found myself leading participants from around the United States to discover the land of Israel, stepping aboard an El Al flight that just two months before had taken me away from a war that left my country, my home, and my heart aching with the pain, destruction and ‘what ifs’ that came in the aftermath of the October 7th attacks… We talked about the nature of light and darkness that exists in Israel, the land of dichotomies, how it is here that one experiences, in the most extreme of ways, that good exists not in spite of, but because of evil; blessings arise from curses, unity from division, resilience from destruction, hope from war. It is a place that gives you the courage to break free from your comfort zone, that gives you a taste of the real meaning of life, that proves the meaning of unconditional love, and that, thanks to Birthright (Taglit) Israel, allows thousands of young individuals from around the world to, in the words of one of my participants, ‘rediscover something that they thought was lost forever.’” [TOI]

Invest in Democracy’s Infrastructure: Public Wise, a funder focused on civic engagement, is encouraging the wider philanthropic community not to wait until close to an election, or even an election year, to lend their support, reports Connie Mathiessen in Inside Philanthropy. “On the left and the right, donors are leveraging a mix of political donations, 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) funds to shape American elections, for better or worse… [Public Wise executive director Christina] Baal-Owens would like to see donors move away from the typical boom-and-bust cycle of election funding, which leaves many organizations scraping by after the polls close. ‘It’s important for funders to understand, especially in the democracy space, the importance of civic engagement work in non-election years,’ she said. ‘In election years, especially presidential election years, people fund really heavily; less so for the midterms. But in those years in between, you still have to pay your staff, you still have to talk to the people that you’re trying to motivate. We’ve done research that showed that voters were less likely to want to vote if they were only talked to in election years, because it feels very transactional. So organizations that are doing really great work need to be funded year-round and they need to be funded in off years.” [InsidePhilanthropy]

Around the Web

The liberal Zionist groups Ameinu and Americans for Peace Now are merging into one organization. This reduces the number of members of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations from 50 to 49…

American Jewish University and the iCenter for Israel Education created a new college-level course for high school students about Israel “to address antisemitism and misinformation in the wake of the Oct. 7 attacks”…

The New York Jewish Week interviewed Mark Treyger as he steps into the role of CEO of the city’s Jewish Community Relations Council

The entire nine-member board of Democrats Abroad Israel resigned, citing the international organization’s hostility toward “Jews in general and… American Jews living in Israel in particular”… 

The U.K.’s Jewish Chronicle notes which Jew is up and who’s down on The Sunday Times annual Rich List of the wealthiest Brits, with Sir Leonard Blavatnik taking the top spot among Jews and fourth spot overall…

New research from Oxford University found that workplace wellness programs are not succeeding in improving mental health outcomes…

American Jewish singer Matisyahu had two concerts canceled — one in Santa Fe, N.M., and the other in Tucson, Ariz. — after the venues were targeted by anti-Israel protesters

The New York Times investigates the controversies around California’s ethnic studies programs and how many of them have taken on a distinct anti-Israel bent…

The Associated Press interviewed released hostage Sharon Alony Cunio, whose husband remains in captivity months after she and their twin toddlers were freed…

Presidents of the European Jewish Congress and the Council of Swedish Jewish Communities sent a letter to Israel’s Foreign Ministry criticizing a recent meeting that Israeli Diaspora Affairs Minister Amichai Chikli and Culture and Sports Minister Miki Zohar held with a far-right Swedish party with neo-Nazi roots…

Computer scientist Stuart Feldman will take the helm of a newly created nonprofit, Schmidt Sciences, which was created by Google co-founder Eric Schmidt and his wife, Wendy

In Haaretz, British-born journalist Anshel Pfeffer examines the unprecedented rise in antisemitic incidents in the United Kingdom last year…

Adina Wagman, an amateur baker from the Upper West Side, has raised over $6,400 for UJA-Federation of New York’s Israel Emergency Fund by selling challot

Inside Higher Ed spotlights Rabbi Mark Schiftan who was hired to serve as the self-described “Christ-centered” Belmont University’s first Jewish student faith adviser…

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/Hatnua Hahadasha

Two shinshinim, participants of the Israeli Hatnua Hahadasha youth movement’s gap-year of service between high school and military enlistment, visit the site in the southern Israeli town of Tekuma where the Israeli military moved all of the vehicles destroyed in the Nova Music Festival massacre last week. The gap year participants spent time in the area on an “ideological seminar,” working on local farms and doing reconstruction projects.

“Our time in the Gaza Envelope was challenging, but not only because of the hard physical labor; the movement’s participants were exposed to the difficult stories experienced by the residents and farmers of the area,” Yonatan Ben Moshe, the coordinator of the program, said in a statement. “Nevertheless, the shinshinim focused on the rehabilitation of the Gaza envelope, building back what was broken, and looking ahead.”


Annie Liebovitz smiles
Courtesy/ByronStone2011/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0

British serial entrepreneur and philanthropist, Maurice Samuel Ostro… 

FRIDAY: Financier and activist shareholder, Carl Icahn… Founding national director of American Friends of Lubavitch and the director of Chabad activities in Greater Philadelphia, Rabbi Abraham Shemtov… Educator, theorist, writer and professor emeritus of political science at the University of Hawaii, Michael Joseph Shapiro… Chair emeritus and founding chair of the Jewish Electorate Institute, Ralph Grunewald… Secretary-general of the World Council of Religious Leaders, Bawa Jain… Deputy America editor at the Washington PostSusan K. Levine… Co-founder, president and managing partner of Avenue Capital Group, Sonia Gardner… British serial entrepreneur and philanthropist, Maurice Samuel Ostro… Co-director of Women for Israel’s Tomorrow, Nadia Matar… Past president of Hebrew Free Loan in Detroit and founder of Brilliant Detroit helping children out of poverty, Carolyn Glaser Bellinson… President of the Sixteen Thirty Fund, Amy Kurtz… Reporter for The New York Times, she is the author of a novel and two cookbooks, Jennifer Steinhauer… Spokesman for Bloomberg LP, Ty Trippet… French actress, director and screenwriter, Géraldine Nakache… Regional director of the Westchester region of Birthright Israel Foundation, Marissa Schaevitz Levey… CEO of FinePoint and the author of Brag BetterMeredith Fineman… U.S. senator (D-GA), Jon Ossoff… Second of three sisters who are members of the rock band Haim, Danielle Sari Haim… Rachel Rubenstein… Actor, singer and dancer, he is one youngest-ever winners of a Tony Award at 15 years old, Kiril Jacob Kulish… Eric McDonald…

SATURDAY: Real estate developer and former co-owner of the New York Mets, Saul Katz… Former president of AIPAC in the early 1990s, Steven Grossman… Executive director of American Jewish Archives and professor of Reform Jewish History at HUC-JIR, Gary Phillip Zola… One of the most popular Israeli basketball players of all time, Miki Berkovich… Owner of Lynn’s Photography in Beachwood, Ohio, Lynn Katz Danzig… Professor of mathematics at Princeton University, Noga Alon… Chairman of Israel’s Shas party, Aryeh Deri… Partner in the D.C. office of Kirkland & Ellis specializing in international trade and national security, Ivan A. Schlager… Rabbi of Khal Ahavas Yisroel Tzemach Tzedek in Baltimore and kashrus administrator at the Star-K, Rabbi Dovid Heber… Filmmaker known for directing and producing big-budget action films, Michael Benjamin Bay… President and CEO of MLB’s Arizona Diamondbacks, Derrick Hall… Executive director of American University’s Women and Politics Institute, Betsy Fischer Martin… Professor of international relations at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Sharon Pardo… Brigadier general in the IDF, he served as the chief of the Combat Engineering Corps, Oshri Lugasi… Deputy chief of the civil division at the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Eastern District of New York and rebbitzen of NYC’s Congregation Shearith Israel, Layaliza Klein Soloveichik… Chief content officer at Gannett/USA TodayKristin Roberts… Executive director of the Kraft Center for Jewish Student Life (the Columbia/Barnard Hillel), Brian Cohen… Israeli actress, law school graduate, model and beauty queen who won the Miss World beauty pageant in 1998, Linor Abargil… Actor and filmmaker, Joseph Gordon-Levitt… Assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security until a few months ago, now a partner at Brunswick Group, Samantha Erin Vinograd… Assistant managing editor for CNN Politics until 2022, now a coordinator at the Allbritton Journalism Institute, Dianna Heitz… Professional ice hockey defenseman for the NHL’s New York Rangers, Adam Fox… Miriam Schulman…

SUNDAY: Rosh Yeshiva at Yeshiva University, Rabbi Hershel Reichman… Former U.S. Representative from New York for 32 years, Eliot Engel… Former national and Washington correspondent for The New York TimesMichael Janofsky… Russian pharmaceutical oligarch, Boris Spiegel… Principal at NYC-based Liebman Advisors, Scott Liebman… Israeli singer and actress, Ilana Avital… Portfolio manager at Capital Group, Hilda Lea Applbaum… Co-principal of the Institute for Wise Philanthropy, Mirele B. Goldsmith… Director of development for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Lori Tessel… Director of the digital diplomacy bureau at Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, David Saranga … Author and school safety activist who had a daughter, Meadow, who was killed in the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in 2018, Andrew Scot Pollack… Chair of the chemistry department at Stony Brook University, Nancy Sarah Goroff… CEO of an eponymous Baltimore-based branding, marketing, PR, advertising and design firm, David F. Warschawski… Actor, comedian, writer, director and producer, Isaac “Ike” Barinholtz… Co-founder of StockX, Josh Luber… Singer-songwriter and pianist, Regina Spektor… SVP of development for J Street, Adee Telem… Instagram celebrity known commonly as The Fat Jewish, Josh Ostrovsky… President of baseball operations and general manager of MLB’s Milwaukee Brewers, David Stearns… Editorial writer and opinion columnist for the Washington PostJames P. Hohmann… Senior program manager at NYC’s Housing Authority, Dylan Sandler… Political reporter at CBS Interactive, Rebecca R. Kaplan… French actress, Esther Garrel