Your Daily Phil: Turning Israeli cities’ eyesores into cultural hotspots

Good Wednesday morning.  

Ed. note: In celebration of July Fourth, the next edition of Your Daily Phil will arrive on Monday, July 8. Shabbat shalom!

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on an impact loan-funded initiative that is converting vacant buildings into social spaces in Israeli cities, and feature an opinion piece by Rabbi Daniel S. Brenner about the necessity of providing substantive training to the incoming generation of camp counselors. Also in this newsletter: Rabbi David WolpeHannah Lebovits and Kim MarksWe’ll start with United Hatzalah’s inauguration of 76 new emergency vehicles in Jerusalem.

United Hatzalah inaugurated a new fleet of 76 emergency vehicles, mostly motorcycles known as ambucycles, as well as a handful of ambulances and cars on Tuesday, the result of a joint initiative between the organization and Israeli-born philanthropist and conservative mega-donor Dr. Miriam Adelson and her sons, Adam and Matan Adelson, reports Judith Sudilovsky for eJewishPhilanthropy from the event.

The estimated $3.5 million fleet was revealed at a ceremony on Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl, which was attended by Israeli Health Minister Uriel Buso and World Zionist Organization Chair Yaakov Hagoel.

The 76 rescue vehicles — marking 76 years since the establishment of the State of Israel — were lined up along the edges of the open square of Mount Herzl, normally reserved for state ceremonies, with festive balloons in an arch in front of the tomb of Theodore Herzl, and ceremony participants snapped pictures of themselves next to the gleaming bright orange ambucycles, which had been artfully arranged (for the benefit of a drone photographer) in the shape of the No. 76. 

The new emergency vehicles will be dispersed across Israel, including throughout the Gaza border area and the war-torn north, as well as to West Bank settlements. An upgraded ambulance and an emergency vehicle were dedicated by Adelson to the Hebron area in memory of Maor Lavi, who served as a United Hatzalah volunteer medic and was killed in Gaza six months ago. A bulletproof ambulance and an emergency vehicle were also dedicated to the memory of Elad Tomer, another United Hatzalah volunteer who was killed in the line of duty.

“Every one of these vehicles, these ambucycles, that we add on the road reduces the time that we respond to an emergency. Every single one of them makes our vision of 90 seconds even closer,” Eli Beer, president and founder of United Hatzalah, told eJP.

On Oct. 7 United Hatzalah volunteers were among the first responders to treat and rescue the thousands of people wounded in the unprecedented Hamas attack on Israeli southern communities that killed 1,200 people dead, most of them civilians, and injured thousands more, with 250 people taken hostage into Gaza. Eighteen United Hatzalah volunteers have been killed since Oct. 7. One United Hatzalah volunteer paramedic, Bar Kupershtein, 21, who was a staff member at the Nova Music Festival, is among those still captive in Gaza.  

“This terrible war took the lives of members of the United Hatzalah family,” Linor Attias, United Hatzalah deputy director of international emergency operations who was among the first responders on Oct. 7, told the guests at the opening of the ceremony. “All of us here in the State of Israel, along with all Diaspora Jews, are facing one of the most difficult and complex times we have ever known. All of our lives changed on Oct. 7 in the murderous and heinous attack of the terrorist organization Hamas.”

At the Mount Herzl ceremony, Adelson said that when she and her husband began donating to United Hatzalah, they did so anonymously.

“We were very happy. As Sheldon always said, ‘it feels good to do good.’ We were told that if we give our name, others would join us,” she said. “That is what brought us to establish the Adelson Family Emergency Unit of United Hatzalah emergency vehicles. The memory of the volunteers will live on forever, and their ambulances will save many lives,” she said.  

Read the full report here.


Using impact loans, Social Space transforms eyesores into trendy spots for arts, culture

The President Hotel in Jerusalem, which has become a Social Space. Courtesy/Social Space

After the Jerusalem rabbinate withdrew the city’s swanky President Hotel’s kashrut license in 1957 over a squabble about the swimming pool, the hotel slowly began to fall into disarray. It cycled through new owners several times, until it was nothing but a shell of its former self, vandalized and intermittently inhabited by vagrants, becoming more of an eyesore for the neighborhood than a reminder of its glory days. It is now part of Social Space, a burgeoning social initiative started four years ago by army friends Yakir Segev and Lico Friedler, in partnership with Amir Biram’s JTLV real estate investments fund. Together, they are transforming vacant and abandoned buildings into social hubs for good, reports Judith Sudilovsky for eJewishPhilanthropy.

‘Part of something good’: Using a business model based largely on the use of impact loans to fund the basic renovation of rundown spaces after consultation with engineers and construction experts, they then cover the ongoing expenses and loan repayments by renting the spaces they have acquired to other NGOs for about a third of the market rate. Working with donations would be easier, Friedler told eJP, but they prefer the impact loan business model. “Instead of people leaving their money in the bank, they can lend it to us; maybe they will get less percentage on it upon return, but they will be a part of something good,” said Friedler. “There is lots and lots of good. There are good people.”

From strip clubs to social change: Their first Social Space was created in 2019 when JTLV purchased a former strip club in Tel Aviv’s Atarim Square and donated the building to the new initiative while waiting for the future development of the entire complex. Today, Social Space is working with 20 properties, mainly in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem but also in Petach Tikvah and Ramat Gan, constituting 500,000 square feet of what previously had been unused real estate dedicated to art and social change used by 104 NGOs. They are aiming to reach 50 such social spaces throughout Israel in the next five years, including the creation of three homes for lone soldiers.

Talented tenants: In Jerusalem, at the President Hotel, a social café and vintage clothing shop are situated at the entrance, and in the back, young female students in black leotards are rehearsing a modern dance piece at the Studio 6 dance studio. On the second floor, two older Russian artists who speak no Hebrew work in a shared art studio space, and below on the ground floor groups of students from Mabua: Israeli Beit Midrash studying quietly in separate constellations, some with computers and others with partners. In the side garden, a multidisciplinary plant nursery organization has created a yurt tent and space for its diverse activities, and various outside storage rooms are used to keep the food supplies of the nonprofit Sahi, a social startup that employs at-risk youth to discreetly distribute food to the needy.

Read the full report here.


Why invest in CIT programs?

Illustrative. PeopleImages/Getty Images

“I was speaking with my friend’s daughter the other day about her experience as a counselor-in-training (CIT) at a local Jewish day camp when she gave me this frank assessment of what happened last summer,” writes Rabbi Daniel S. Brenner, vice president of education at Moving Traditions, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Missing the T in CIT: “‘They called us CITs, but they didn’t really teach us anything about being counselors. They kind of ignored us.’ Unfortunately, no one at her camp followed through with the ‘training’ part of being a counselor-in-training, an aspect she had hoped to experience. As a result, she and her friends are currently not inspired to go back and serve as counselors this summer. This is a shame, especially because the thousands of teens who serve as CITs at Jewish camps each year are the teens we most want to serve as camp counselors and camp leaders, eventually going on to become leaders in the wider Jewish community.”

Fostering personal growth: “Last year, my Moving Traditions colleagues Pam Barkley and Eve Beger adapted one of Moving Traditions educational programs to serve the needs of the CIT program at Camp Zeke, a vibrant Jewish overnight camp in Pennsylvania. The program centered on personal growth, relating to others and taking on communal and social responsibilities; it also gave participants both psychological and Jewish lenses to apply to personal and ethical questions… [T]he camp professionals who worked with these CITs told us that the program gave these teens a structured way to unpack what they were learning about themselves and others, and a forum where they had a voice that informed camp culture. CITs were interested in identifying which jobs and roles they could handle themselves, what they should say when boundaries are broken and when to ask for help. In short, they saw themselves as capable and craved responsibility… This summer we are ramping up, starting with 22 Jewish summer camps that are using this new program with their CITs.”

More than ‘just’ camp: “Today’s teens and young adults have unprecedentedly high levels of anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation. According to a growing number of psychological researchers, this generation is in desperate need of offline experiences where they can gain independence, fail, receive feedback and grow… Even though this generation of teens may need extra psychological support to feel safe and protected at camp, they also need real-life experiences where they can care for others and gain independence by being given responsibilities and held accountable for meeting them.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Imperfect Solution: In The Jerusalem Post, Anthony Pamm highlights some problems with Israel’s present use of large desalination plants, an oft-touted means of securing the country’s freshwater supply. “Israel has gone from water scarcity to water surplus after seawater desalination plants located on its Mediterranean coastline came into operation. This is well known, but less known is that the seawater desalination plants, built and intended, have a number of limitations and downsides inherent in them. They will not, on their own, adequately address the problems that climate change will pose for Israel… For example, desalinated water could continue to be used to top up the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) and in the future be used to top up the drying-out Dead Sea. But are the supposed advantages of using desalinated water for these and other large-scale purposes worth the pollution costs arising from fossil fuel electricity production to power the plants and the dumping of brine byproduct into the sea? Of what real use are solutions to some problems which themselves create other large problems, unless they provide a very large incremental gain after subtracting the losses? And are the losses bearable?… [T]hese plants should be an integrated component and not a driving force of a macro-level strategy. At the moment, no such larger strategy has been promulgated and accepted in the public domain in Israel.” [JPost]

We’ll Write This Headline Later…: In her Atlantic review of Rosalind Brown’s debut novel Practice, Hillary Kelly sees the author’s depiction of procrastination as a “sly” revolution against our present “productivity-obsessed era.” “In Practice, Annabel, a second-year Oxford student, wakes long before sunrise on a misty Sunday morning ‘at the worn-out end of January.’ The day holds only one task — to write a paper on Shakespeare’s sonnets… Very little writing actually takes place in Practice; Annabel’s vaunted self-discipline encounters barrier after barrier… She procrastinates like a champ. Brown’s novel elevates procrastination into an essential act, arguing that those pockets of time between stretches of productivity are where living and creating actually happen. Which makes procrastination one of the last bastions of the creative mind, a way to silently fight a hundred tiny rebellions a day… What Annabel senses, and Brown beautifully drives home, is that it’s the strange mental collisions between the thinking mind and the wandering mind that yield the most interesting results.” [TheAtlantic]

Around the Web

In response to internal questions regarding the movement’s commitment to Zionism, Reconstructing Judaism issued a statement affirming its support for “securing Israel’s place in the Middle East as a Jewish and democratic state” and for the two-state solution…

In an opinion piece in the Wall Street JournalRabbi David Wolpe suggests that despite rising antisemitism, the U.S. is still safe for Jews, and that the decision to stay in the U.S. rather than immigrate to Israel is “one vital for Jews and for America”…

The SRE Network hired Deitra Reiser as its senior adviser for culture and belonging…

Private text messages by Columbia University administrators that were released by Congress yesterday show that they mocked Jewish students’ concerns of antisemitism, using antisemitic tropes about Jews being wealthy…

The Women of Reform Judaism’s YES (Youth, Education, and Special Projects) Fund issued $300,500 worth of grants to 29 causes, with the largest allocations going toward scholarships to Hebrew Union College ($60,000) and to support a legislative assistant for women’s issues at the Religious Action Center ($36,000)…

The Hadassah Foundation announced $450,000 in grants “at a time of unprecedented challenges for women in Israel,” including $130,00o to the Israel Women’s Network and $80,000 each to Israel’s Association of Rape Crisis Centers, the Eden Association for the Advancement of Educational, Social and Cultural Projects in the Northern Negev, the Ruth and Emanuel Rackman Center of Bar-Ilan University and Women’s Spirit…

A new online exhibition hosted by the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in Manhattan showcases the diary of a Jewish teenager in Vilnius who lived in that city’s ghetto before his murder by the Nazis in 1943…

In the ForwardHannah Lebovits, an academic and activist on issues relating to homelessness, argues that the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Grants Pass v. Johnson that it is not unconstitutional to fine people for sleeping outdoors will make it harder for faith-based homelessness nonprofits in particular…

Gary Brandt was hired as the next director of the Tulane University Hillel after serving as the assistant director for the past two years…

The Bay Area’s Jewish Coalition for Literacy is shutting down after 25 years…

Kim Marks is joining the women’s Zionist group Na’amat USA as its next national executive director…

The Anti-Defamation League is urging the attorney generals of New York and Arizona to investigate Westchester Peace Action Committee and the Alliance for Global Justice, accusing the anti-Israel nonprofits of potentially running afoul of federal law… 

Police in the Philadelphia suburb of Wynnewood charged a Drexel University professor with half a dozen offenses related to the theft of pro-Israel lawn signs; Mariana Chilton had previously advised Congress and the Department of Agriculture on issues related to food insecurity…

The Los Angeles Times corrected a photo caption that referred to local Jewish groups, including the Jewish Federation Los Angeles, as “Pro-Israel vigilante/security companies for Zionist Defense training” after criticism from Jewish officials in the city…

Salesforce shareholders voted down a proposed compensation plan for the company’s CEO, Marc Benioff

Screenwriter Robert Towne, whose “Chinatown” won the 1974 Oscar for best screenplay, died on Monday at 89…

Pic of the Day

Guy Assayag/KKL-JNF

KKL-JNF held a tree-planting ceremony in the Ahihud Forest in northern Israel on Tuesday in memory of Druze soldiers who gave their lives in the ongoing war against Hamas in Gaza and the fighting on Israel’s northern border against Hezbollah. KKL-JNF Chairwoman Ifat Ovadia-Luski (left) joined leaders of the Druze community and families of fallen Druze soldiers — including Imad Habka (right), father of IDF Lt. Col. Salman Habka — along with northern municipal leaders, representatives from the Yad LaBanim organization and representatives from Kerem-El Pre-military Academy.

“We sacrificed our most precious loved ones, who left behind grieving families,” Habka said. “They deserve to be commemorated and remembered at every opportunity.”

“The Druze community’s journey of mourning since the beginning of the war is a journey of mourning for the entire nation. Yet, thanks to this journey, we can maintain normalcy in the country,” said Shaykh Mowafaq Tarif (center), spiritual leader of the Druze community in Israel. “KKL-JNF’s initiative is a touching and significant gesture – planting trees in memory of the fallen here in the Galilee, where the roots of the Druze community have been planted for nearly a thousand years.”


Jonathan S. Lavine, co-managing partner and chief investment officer of Bain Capital Credit
Ared Siskin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Philanthropist and former Wall Street junk bond titan, now chairman of the Milken Institute, Michael Milken, celebrates his birthday tomorrow…

WEDNESDAY: Civil rights attorney known for many high-profile cases, born Gloria Rachel Bloom, Gloria Allred… Winner of the Israel Prize in 1998, professor of mathematics at both Hebrew U and Rutgers, Saharon Shelah… Founder of an eponymous charitable foundation and a political office, Barbara Fish Lee… Leader at March of the Living in Miami-Dade and in Boca Raton, Leon Weissberg… Psychologist and board member of many non-profit organizations, Dr. Gail (Giti) Bendheim… Israeli celebrity chef, author of 32 cookbooks and culinary columnist for Yedioth AhronothYisrael Aharoni… Musician, best known as a harmonicist, Annie Raines… Actor who has appeared in film and television in the U.S., U.K. and Israel, Yair “Jonah” Lotan… Chief development officer at Sixpoint, Suzanne Greene… Pini Herman… Head of the pediatric oncology solid tumor program and associate professor of pediatrics at the Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New York, Dr. Carolyn Fein Levy

THURSDAY: Trial and appellate lawyer at Kreindler & Kreindler LLP where he has represented plaintiffs in commercial aviation accidents and other mass torts, Marc S. Moller… Journalist, attorney, author, political commentator and former television host, Geraldo Rivera… Activist, writer and Huffington Post blogger, Paul Rogat Loeb… News editor for YNetNewsMarcy Oster… Heiress and businesswoman, Jane Lauder Warsh… U.S. circuit judge of the Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, David Ryan Stras… Partner at ICONYC labs, Eyal Bino… Pitching coach for MLB’s Chicago White Sox, Ethan Russell Katz… Cardiothoracic ICU nurse in NYC, he was profiled in the New York Times in 2020 for his religious work with dying coronavirus patients, Yaakov Shereshevsky