Your Daily Phil: U.S. doctors, nurses answering the call in Israel

Good Tuesday morning.

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on increased security measures at Hillels and other Jewish campus institutions, as well as the Jewish Priorities Conference at the Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History. We feature an opinion piece from Mark Goldfeder. Also in this newsletter: Michal Cotler-Wunsh, Seth Klarman and John Hess.We’ll start with American doctors volunteering in Israeli hospitals.

Within a day of hearing about the massacres in southern Israel on Oct. 7, Dr. Allan Tissenbaum was ready to come to Israel to volunteer in a hospital or with a military medical unit. Unlike thousands of other American doctors who have registered to volunteer, Tissenbaum, an orthopedic surgeon from Pittsburgh, along with roughly three dozen other doctors, nurses and paramedics came to Israel last week, training and waiting and hoping that they won’t be needed as part of the Emergency Volunteer Program, an initiative that in the past has mostly focused on bringing American firefighters to Israel, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross.

In light of the scale of the devastation in Israel after the Oct. 7 attacks and the potential for further stresses on the Israeli medical system, EVP began working to bring over American volunteers, something it had never done before, save for a handful of paramedics who came to Israel during the 2014 war.

“On Saturday, as soon as we heard about the massacre, we came to EVP and got a notification that this is going to happen and it was just a question of when and where we would be going,” Tissenbaum told eJP.

Even as Israeli doctors and other medical professionals have been called up to the reserves, the country’s healthcare system has not yet faced a significant staffing shortage as hospitals have postponed elective surgeries and worked to release non-urgent patients. As a result, the volunteers have not had much work to do, which Tissenbaum said they consider to be a good thing.

“No one has lost their enthusiasm. We came to do a job but we’re hoping not to have to do a job,” he told eJP. “We want to do something, but we also don’t want to do something because us doing something implies injured Israelis, injured soldiers, injured civilians.”

Read the full report here.


Ethan Sobel, left, managing director of Boston University Hillel, reads kaddish at a memorial ceremony in October 2023.
Ethan Sobel, right, managing director of Boston University Hillel, reads kaddish at a memorial ceremony in October 2023. (David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

One Hillel at a Big Ten university used to employ armed guards only for “big” Shabbat dinners — the ones with hundreds of students. Since Oct. 7, the day of Hamas’ deadly rampage in southern Israel, which has resulted in rising antisemitism globally, armed security personnel now patrol the on-campus Hillel building for around five hours every day. Similarly, University of Miami Hillel always hired armed security for Shabbat dinners and holidays with more than 100 students. But last Shabbat, which drew about 60 people, was the first time the Hillel requested that university police guard a smaller event, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen for Jewish Insider.

New reality: In the two weeks since Hamas’ massacre, Jewish students at American universities have expressed frustration and sadness at official university statements viewed as weak — in addition to being fearful of pro-Palestine student groups and faculty, some of whom have outright celebrated Hamas’ attacks. Now, as the war between Israel and Hamas appears poised to enter a new phase with Israel’s likely ground incursion in Gaza, armed guards are becoming a new normal at some Jewish centers on college campuses around the country.

Parental concern: Lucy Levin, a senior at University of Miami who works at Hillel as a receptionist, said that having a security presence is comforting – especially for her parents. “My parents were asking me a lot of questions which made me worried that they were worried,” Levin, who is now responsible for checking identification of anyone who enters the building, something that was not done prior to Oct. 7, said. “Many parents have been calling the front desk asking questions about security.”

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


Oct. 7 attacks become top Jewish priority at Weitzman museum conference

Panelists speak at the ‘Jewish Priorities Conference,’ which was held at the Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia on Oct. 22, 2023. (Courtesy/Christopher Brown)

The Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia had been organizing its Jewish Priorities Conference for months, bringing together prominent Jewish voices to discuss the leading issues and challenges facing the American and global Jewish community today. But the massacres in southern Israel on Oct. 7 forced the organizers to rapidly pivot; surely responding to the deadliest event since the Holocaust is a Jewish priority, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen.

Still under attack: The event, held on Sunday, was refocused and given a new theme: “Together in Strength and Sorrow.” The organizers also invited Natalie Sanandaji, a survivor of the attack at the Nova music festival in southern Israel, in which at least 260 people were killed, to speak about her experience and her continued feelings of unease even after returning to the United States. “It’s hard to grasp. I ran from rockets and from being shot at and then I come back home and still feel attacked, in a different way,” Sanandaji told eJP in an interview following her appearance at the conference. 

Read the full report here.


UPenn donors were right

University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. (iStock/Getty Images)

“After last week’s mass exodus of influential donors and board members from the University of Pennsylvania amidst allegations of a systemic failure to combat antisemitism on campus, you might have thought that the leadership of the school would take some time for serious introspection. Instead, on Oct. 19, the tri-chairs of UPenn’s Faculty Senate released a statement that not only essentially proved the donors’ points, but further made the case for others to pull funding,” writes Mark Goldfeder, director of the National Jewish Advocacy Center, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Welcome to accountability: “When it comes to the First Amendment, the freedom of speech — even offensive speech — must be cherished and protected. But others are allowed to speak as well, including with their money. It is absurd to think that it is ‘intimidation’ for a donor to hold a school accountable for the things that it does and does not say or do.”

Did you know?: “For the record, academic freedom does not mean what the tri-chairs think it does, either. As the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit succinctly explained in Bonnell v. Lorenzo (2001), ‘While a professor’s rights to academic freedom and freedom of expression are paramount in the academic setting, they are not absolute to the point of compromising a student’s right to learn in a hostile-free environment.’”

Federal gov could get involved: “Donors are not the only ones the tri-chairs should be worried about: [the] federal government gives millions of dollars annually in aid and grants to the school, all of which is contingent upon UPenn fulfilling its affirmative obligation under Title VI to ensure that everyone, including Jewish students, has a harassment-free educational environment to learn in.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

A Personal Mission: Bloomberg‘s Ari Altstedter profiles Lululemon founder Chip Wilson’s dogged search for a cure to the condition he’s been quietly living with for decades: muscular dystrophy. “The form of the disease Wilson has is FSHD, or facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy. It affects about 1 in 8,333 people, and he has the even rarer Type 2 version, which afflicts only 5% of those who have FSHD. The pharmaceutical industry has been reluctant to invest in finding a cure, as there aren’t enough patients to justify the cost. So last year, Wilson announced he would invest $100 million of his own money to do it. He’s taken stakes in biotech startups, organized conferences and tried experimental treatments such as [Dr. Matt] Cook’s. It’s the highest-profile example to date of an emerging funding model designed to tailor medical research to the most acute needs of the ultrawealthy. For the estimated 870,000 patients worldwide who share Wilson’s diagnosis, the initiative has brought new hope. But it also raises ethical questions about who gets to decide which diseases find a cure.” [Bloomberg]

Preserving Democracy From AI Shenanigans: There is more to the threat of generative AI than fake videos of Donald Trump hugging Anthony Fauci, writes Gordon Whitman in an opinion piece for The Chronicle of Philanthropy. “Earlier this year, researchers at the Brookings Institution sent tens of thousands of emails to legislators. Some were generated by ChatGPT while others were from actual people. Policymakers couldn’t tell the difference. … It’s not hard to imagine a future where astroturfing campaigns use ChatGPT to flood elected officials with fabricated public comments, influencing policy decisions, legislation, and more. It’s clear that artificial intelligence will fundamentally change how business, governments, and nonprofits function. But this example points to a particularly alarming scenario: humans competing with bots to affect government decisions, thereby watering down what it means to be a citizen. … Social-justice grant makers and organizers can help by involving more people in the tug of war with big tech over A.I. regulation. They can support city and state efforts to regulate machine learning, including restricting local government purchases of A.I. systems to automate bail, policing, or other decisions that are best left to people. Funding local campaigns will allow more people to gain experience in effective strategies for reigning in A.I. and develop models for national legislation.” [ChronicleofPhilanthropy]

Around the Web

Michal Cotler-Wunsh, Israel’s special envoy for combating antisemitism, landed in the United States this week to meet with American officials about rising antisemitism and to push the U.S. government to fully adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism…

Two Israeli hostages, Nurit Cooper, 79, and Yocheved Lifshitz, 85, were released from Gaza by Hamas last night…

A group of Harvard Business School alumni, including hedge fund manager and philanthropist Seth Klarman and Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), accused their alma mater of ignoring the safety of Jewish students…

Israeli officials have begun collecting the testimonies of volunteers from ZAKA, the organization that led the effort to gather the remains of victims of the Oct. 7 attacks. Their testimonies will be used as evidence of war crimes by Hamas in future legal proceedings…

Israelis donated more than NIS 8.5 million ($2.1 million) to the Lev Echad civilian response network through a fundraising special broadcast by the public Kan network…

Former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan is withdrawing from two fellowships at Harvard University over the institution’s response to the war between Israel and Hamas…

A survey by the Center for American Political Studies at Harvard and the Harris Poll found that a “strong majority” of Americans support Israel in its war against Hamas. However, that drops to a near even split among young adults ages 18-24…

Israeli universities will not open until at least Dec. 3 in light of the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas…

John Hess, CEO of the eponymous oil producer, agreed to sell his company to Chevron, which will net the family $5 billion…

Sheldon Goldseker, a Baltimore real estate mogul and philanthropist, died on Friday at 82…

Pic of the Day

Courtesy/Repair the World

Volunteers from Repair the World clean up a garden in New York City on Sunday as part of the Jewish Service Alliance’s National Day of Jewish Service.

More than 5,500 people across the country took part in the event, which focused on food security.


Prince Williams/Wireimage

Rapper, singer, songwriter, record producer and actor, born to a Jewish mother in Toronto, Aubrey Drake Graham, now known as Drake

Genealogist who specializes in the research of Jewish roots in Poland and the former Soviet Union, Miriam Weiner… Writer and adjunct instructor at Queensborough Community College, Ira Greenfest… Stock market analyst who has published books and appears regularly on CNBC and Bloomberg TV, Charles Biderman… Retired Pentagon official, Judy Gleklen Kopff… Financial planner and president of Laredo, Texas-based International Asset Management, Joseph Rothstein… Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Southern California since 1997, Brad Sherman… Retired executive editor of The Washington Post, Martin “Marty” Baron… Chattanooga-based CEO of Mohawk Industries, the world’s largest flooring company, Jeffrey S. Lorberbaum… U.S. senator (R-SD), Mike Rounds… U.S. senator (D-OR), Jeff Merkley… Program director at the Lucius N. Littauer Foundation, Alan Divack… Co-founder and former CEO of Sirius Satellite Radio, David Margolese… Producer of CBS’s “60 Minutes,” Henry Schuster… Russian-Ukrainian businessman and a co-founder of the Genesis Prize, German Khan… Professor and chair of politics at the University of Hull in the U.K., Raphael Cohen-Almagor… Political correspondent for The New York Times and author of (((Semitism))): Being Jewish in America in the Age of Trump, Jonathan Weisman… Russian oligarch and former owner of the Premier League’s Chelsea Football Club, Roman Abramovich… Co-founder of the Ira Sohn Conference Foundation, focused on pediatric cancer research and care, Evan Sohn… Political communications consultant, Tovah Ravitz Meehan… Israeli author and editor of science fiction and fantasy, Vered Tochterman… Businesswoman, actress and television personality, Caprice Bourret… Fashion designer, Zac Posen… Founding partner of Be Clear Communications, Matt Lehrich… Executive director at Flatbush Community Fund, Yitzy Weinberg… Director of community engagement at Friends of the IDF, Yehuda Joel Friedman