Your Daily Phil: U.K. group launches homegrown pluralistic summer yeshiva

Good Thursday morning!

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on a new push for antisemitism legislation in Georgia following last week’s ne0-Nazi rallies outside synagogues in the state, and feature an op-ed from Beverley Shimansky and Jay Solomon. Also in this newsletter: Jennifer Groen, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Rabbanit Myriam Ackermann-Sommer. We’ll start with Azara’s new pluralistic yeshiva program in the United Kingdom.

For the next few weeks, Edinburgh, Scotland, will be home to a first-of-its-kind (in Great Britain) nondenominational yeshiva, bringing together dozens of Jews, mostly from the United Kingdom, as part of a new initiative by the organization Azara, one of its co-founders told eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross.

Taking inspiration from Hadar and Pardes, along with a number of other learning institutions in the U.S. and Israel, Rabbi Leah Jordan, Jessica Spencer and Rabba Dr Lindsey Taylor-Guthartz created Azara in 2021, taking its name from the Hebrew word for courtyard, a reference to the space outside the Temple where “all the Jews could gather, regardless of gender or priestly status,” according to the organization’s website.

Until now, the group has focused primarily on one-off and limited events: evening learning sessions, weekend retreats and running the hevruta (study partner) program at Limmud UK. “But really what we’ve been trying to do, what we’ve been building towards is something like this, a sustained chance to do learning without having to go abroad for it,” Spencer told eJP.

The monthlong yeshiva program began last week, on June 21, and runs through July 23. It is being held at the University of Edinburgh’s School of Divinity at New College, through a partnership with the institution.

“The aim of the program is to increase access to Torah learning in the UK and to deepen connections with the rich and nuanced Jewish tradition. For a month, participants will study Talmud as well as Halachah (Jewish law), modern Jewish thought, and other Jewish texts. Students of all levels, including complete beginners, study texts in the original Hebrew and Aramaic,” the organization said in a statement.

Read the full story here.

Peach State Priorities

Nathan Posner/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

After a week that saw neo-Nazis threaten two Georgia synagogues, draft legislation seeking to help law enforcement combat antisemitism has again come to the forefront in the Peach State, reports Gabby Deutch for eJewishPhilanthropy’s sister publication Jewish Insider.

Get it on the books: A measure that would formally adopt the widely used International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism in the state’s hate crimes statute stalled in the state Senate this spring after passing the House. Advocates say that having such a definition would provide useful context for law enforcement officers responding to incidents like the ones that took place over the weekend, and that it would serve as a guidepost for local officials working to identify antisemitic intent in housing or employment discrimination.

Think twice: Referring to last weekend’s neo-Nazi rallies outside of Georgia synagogues, state Rep. Esther Panitch, a Sandy Springs Democrat and the Statehouse’s only Jewish lawmaker, said: “If they knew there was a consequence that any crime they commit would be enhanced under the hate crime statute, maybe they’ll think twice.”

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

Work-life balance

One year later, Hillel Ontario reflects on its investment in the well-being of its staff

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“Twelve months ago, in this very publication, we announced a series of pilot projects Hillel Ontario was undertaking in an effort to safeguard our investment in the talent that drives our work forward.  In doing so, we prioritized our staff members’ well-being and wagered that providing space over the summer to recharge would yield positive results for the coming academic year, our first in the ‘new normal’ on campus,” write Beverley Shimansky, Hillel Ontario’s chief campus & culture officer, and Jay Solomon, the organization’s chief advancement officer, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Not all sunshine: “To be sure, there were some who questioned the wisdom and the efficacy of the strategy – including some of our staff. There was concern that productivity would suffer, outcomes would be reduced and overall hussle would diminish. Full transparency — it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, and there were definitely some adjustments along the way… Overall, though, our experiment paid off.”

Banner year: “Our staff members are our program, and this year they delivered. Our annual student engagement rose – increasing 6% over the past year – to the highest level since well before the pandemic. In fact, on a per-staff basis, we engaged more students than in any other time in our organization’s history… A similar trend was evident in our work fighting antisemitism… From a financial standpoint, this has also been our most successful year in recent memory… At the same time, staff satisfaction reached an all-time high.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

The Synagogue as a Support System: In the final installment of her series on the growing number of Americans of “no religion,” Jessica Grose writes in The New York Times about the value of places of worship. “After months of reading about this massive change, and having had quite a few deep and very moving conversations with some of the over 7,000 readers who responded to my initial call-out about becoming less religious over time, the one aspect of religion in America that I unquestionably see as an overall positive for society is the ready-made supportive community that churchgoers can access. When I say ‘churchgoers,’ of course, I mean those who attend a church, temple, mosque, gurdwara, friends meeting or any of the many traditional houses of worship in America. The idea of community connects them all… I asked every sociologist I interviewed whether communities created around secular activities outside of houses of worship could give the same level of wraparound support that churches, temples and mosques are able to offer. Nearly across the board, the answer was no.” [NYT]

Around the Web

Israeli President Isaac Herzogwill address a joint session of& Congress on July 19, 2023…

Jennifer Groenwas hired as executive director of the Philadelphia-area Kohelet Yeshiva Community, which operates a K-12 Jewish day school…

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahutoldThe Wall Street Journal that he was removing part of his government’s proposed judicial overhaul and explained Israel’s reasons for limiting its military assistance to Ukraine…

The Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundationawarded a $5 million grant to the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) to help the organization as it “enters the final stages of the drug development process for MDMA-assisted therapy for the treatment of [post-traumatic stress disorder]”…

The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles is running a trip to Israel for educators for the next week and a half. For the first time, this type of trip is being made available to educators from throughout the state…

Cecilia Rouse has been named the next president of the Brookings Institution beginning in January 2024, having been approved by its board of trustees. Rouse will succeed Amy Liu, who has served as interim president for the past year…

HIASannounced the appointment of three new board members – Jennifer Indig, Maharat Rori Picker Neiss and Rolf Stern – along with a reshuffle of the positions for remaining board members…

Jennifer Ritvo Hughes was named CEO of American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra

Rabbanit Myriam Ackermann-Sommerappears to be France’s first female Orthodox rabbi after graduating from Yeshivat Maharat in New York…

Joseph Pedott, who popularized the Chia Pet and donated heavily to California-based Hillels, died last week at 91…

Pic of the Day

Shlomi Amsalem/Israeli Government Press Office

Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen (sixth from the left) meets today with 14 representatives of the Zionist Rabbinic Coalition at his office in Jerusalem.


Jeff Spicer/Getty Images

Theater, film and television screenwriter, his credits include the 2017 film “Wonder Woman,” Allan Heinberg

Baltimore-area gastroenterologist, he is an assistant professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Marshall Bedine, M.D…. Stand-up comedian and actor who has appeared in 40 episodes of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” Richard Philip Lewis… Chairman of Carnival Corporation and owner of the NBA’s Miami Heat, Micky Arison… Rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Brisk in Jerusalem, Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Soloveitchik… Resident of both D.C. and Arizona, Helene Carol Resnick Kahan… Former assistant surgeon general of the U.S. and deputy assistant secretary of HHS for women’s health, Dr. Susan Jane Blumenthal… Former SVP and counsel at L Brands for almost 30 years, Bruce A. Soll… CEO of four firms including MajorGiftsNow, Joshua Karlin… Israeli actress, screenwriter, playwright and film director, Hanna Azoulay-Hasfari… Former Attorney General of Israel, Avichai Mandelblit… Founder and president of Medallion Financial Corp., Andrew Murstein… Screenwriter, director and producer, he has won nine Emmy Awards for his work on AMC’s “Mad Men” and HBO’s “The Sopranos,” Matthew Hoffman Weiner… Senior rabbi of Toronto’s Beth Tzedec Congregation, Rabbi Steven C. Wernick… Israeli political consultant and former chief of staff to Prime Minister Netanyahu, Ari Harow… Consultant, facilitator, trainer and coach, Nanette Rochelle Fridman… Rabbi of The Young Israel of Bal Harbour, Gidon Moskovitz… Film director and writer, Gillian Robespierre… Former member of the U.K. Parliament for the Labour party, she is now a member of the House of Lords, Baroness Ruth Smeeth… Israeli actor and model, Yehuda Levi… President and dean of Phoenix-based Valley Beit Midrash, Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz… Partner at FGS Global, Andrew Duberstein… Pitcher in the New York Mets organization, he pitched for Team Israel in the 2023 World Baseball Classic, Charles Irvin “Bubby” Rossman… Campaign finance consultant, David Wolf… Steven Kohn… Sara Sansone… Fred Gruber…