Your Daily Phil: U.S. Jews feel less secure now than right after 10/7 — survey

Good Thursday morning.

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on an event honoring Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, who died three years ago, and the hiring of Maharat Rori Picker Neiss by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. We feature an opinion piece by Rabbi Jordan Soffer and Jane Taubenfeld Cohen, and one by April Powers and Zachary Schaffer. Also in this newsletter: Shoam Ben Harush, Jenn Goldstone and Ady Barkan.We’ll start with a new survey of American Jews by the Jewish People Policy Institute.

American Jews of all types said they feel less secure now than they did two weeks ago, immediately following the Oct. 7 massacres in southern Israel, according to a new survey by the Jewish People Policy Institute, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross.

For the survey, JPPI, a think tank funded by the Jewish Agency for Israel, polled 696 American Jews online. The study found that while the extent of the change differed between different denominations, all of the groups responded feeling less secure now than they did in the first week of the war, amid a significant rise in antisemitic incidents across the United States. The largest jump in feelings of insecurity was seen among Jews who do not identify with a specific stream of Judaism, from 26% saying they felt less secure immediately following the Oct. 7 attacks to 45% saying so last week. Among Reform respondents, the number increased from 47% to 53%, Conservative (42% to 53%), Orthodox (38% to 51%) and Haredi (35% to 51%).

Respondents were split on how to address that feeling of insecurity based on the degree to which they said they felt connected to Israel. Those with a deeper sense of connection to Israel were more likely to call for increased security, more policing and better efforts to explain Israel’s actions and motives. Those who said they somewhat or totally did not have a connection to Israel called for ending the war and dialogue with groups that oppose Israel’s actions.

The survey found that respondents who said in the first week of the war that their connection to Israel “depends on developments” have since changed their answers to saying that they now feel “more distant” from the country. “In other words, the way in which the war is progressing seems to alienate those whose stance was more ‘wait and see,’” the authors wrote.

A large majority of respondents, between 80% and 93%, across all denominations, said they were discussing the war in Israel with their family and Jewish friends. A smaller majority, between 58% and 77% depending on denomination, said they were talking about it with their non-Jewish friends, while only 22% to 33% said they were discussing the conflict with their coworkers.


Rabbi Meir Soloveichik, Imam Abdullah Antepli, Cardinal Timothy Dolan in an interfaith dialogue hosted by Peter Salovey Yale University President Peter Salovey at Carnegie Hall in New York City on Oct. 31, 2023. (Courtesy/Zush Photography)

More than 400 people from across Judaism’s denominational spectrum gathered on Tuesday evening to remember Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks — yearning for a piece of the rabbi’s insight during a dark time. The event — held at Carnegie Hall in Manhattan, a tribute to the rabbi’s love of music — opened with a musical performance of “Oseh Shalom,” dedicated to the Israel Defense Forces, by Shimon Craimer, a former chazzan at the Riverdale Jewish Center who now lives in Israel, eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen reports from the event.

Daughter’s view: “Though he understood the problems of the world more acutely and in greater depth than any of us, that didn’t get in the way of his hope. Ultimately, he believed that any problem could be solved. It might be difficult but ultimately people create circumstances and can make them better — he really believed that,” his daughter, Gila Sacks, told eJP.

Interfaith insight: The discussion featured an interfaith panel dialogue among Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York; Rabbi Meir Soloveichik, who leads Shearith Israel, an Orthodox congregation in Manhattan; and Imam Abdullah Antepli, an interfaith leader who teaches at the Duke Divinity School. “No scripture of Islam could justify this,” Antepli said. “I cannot even find words to express how shaken I am. What religions do best in these times of calamity and disaster is to slow us down… make sure we are not revealing the worst of ourselves. For those of us who are not holding arms and wearing uniforms, our job is to make sure we are better than our enemies.”

Read the full report here.


Jewish Council for Public Affairs hires Maharat Rori Picker Neiss as its senior vice president for community relations

Courtes/Bill Motchan & Phillip Deitch

Maharat Rori Picker Neiss,the former executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis, will serve as the Jewish Council for Public Affairs’ new senior vice president for community relations, the group exclusively told eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen ahead of its Thursday announcement.

Tense times: Picker Neiss steps into the position amid a 388% rise in antisemitic incidents in the U.S. in the wake of Hamas’ terror attacks and the ongoing war in Israel. “I’ve seen directly the ways in which having direct connections to partner communities impacts the ways communities understand the Jewish community, dispels stereotypes and opens the door to have conversation, including about what’s happening in Israel and how our Jewish community relates to Israel,” she told eJP. “Issues that are really important to me in the work I’ve done in St. Louis [include] trans rights, abortion rights and voting rights,” said Picker Neiss, who has a transgender son. “But I want to be clear that those are things we’ve done in St. Louis because those are issues we are facing. I don’t want to speak for other areas until I really know what is happening locally.”

Crucial moment: Picker Neiss’ role of “developing and strengthening community relations has never been more urgent,” Amy Spitalnick, the group’s CEO, said in a statement, adding, “Rori has unparalleled experience building bridges across communities in pursuit of the inclusive democracy we know is critical to the safety of our community and so many others. I’m thrilled for her to join our team and support the incredible community relations field at such a crucial moment.” 


Raising tired arms: How boards can support their leaders in moments of crisis

Malte Mueller/Getty Images

“In a defining moment of his leadership journey, Moshe stood away from the action. Yehoshua took the lead on the battlefront against Amalek while Moshe stood atop the mountain. When Moshe’s arms were raised, his people prevailed; when his arms were lowered, they faltered. Supporting him in this critical moment were Aharon, his brother, and Hur, his brother-in-law, helping him keep his arms aloft,” write Rabbi Jordan Soffer and Jane Taubenfeld Cohen, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Help prevent burnout: “[A]s mentors for the Day School Leadership Training Institute, we have the unique vantage point of seeing the exhaustion in the arms of our school leaders. Like Moshe, we look for the Aharons and the Hurs who will help keep our arms raised, supporting those on the front lines, particularly in our moments of discomfort. We believe that it is a board’s job to fill that role. As such, we want to propose several ways for you to be the Aharon to your Moshe, whether it is at a day school, a synagogue, a foundation or another Jewish communal institution.”

Read the full piece here.


Wellness in a time of trauma

Luis Alvarez/Getty Images

“Project Shema is a training and support organization built by progressives to help our Jewish community and allies understand and address contemporary antisemitism emerging from the far left. As you can imagine, these have been some of the most difficult weeks of our lives,” write Project Shema DEI director April Powers and co-founder and vice president Zachary Schaffer, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Balancing act: “How do we balance our values of briyut (wellness) with hinenu (here we are), our obligation to be here for our community in a time of crisis? How do we honor our flexible work hours at a time when our team is working longer days than ever before? How do we allow our team the time and space to grieve when our organizational mission requires long hours of clarity and focus? … Nurturing a culture of self-care is difficult and daunting during a time of calamity, when Jews worldwide have experienced a near-universal collapse of psychological safety. But it’s more important now than ever. Here are some tips on how you can support your team right now.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

If I Can Do It: The Wall Street Journal reviews the newly published book Big Bets: How Large-Scale Change Really Happens, written by Dr. Rajiv Shah, president of the Rockefeller Foundation. The author uses his own life story and lessons from his career. “‘The good news,’ he writes, ‘is you don’t have to be a saint, a billionaire, or even a president to make big changes in the world.’ … Mr. Shah has certainly not lacked for ‘large-scale’ challenges. At the Gates Foundation, he sought to make good Bill Gates’s pledge to vaccinate the world’s children against preventable diseases. In government, he led efforts to respond to a Haitian earthquake, a famine in Africa, and an Ebola epidemic, along with trying to build a hydropower dam in central Africa. At the Rockefeller Foundation, he took on the task of mobilizing an organization with a storied history in public health — one of its first triumphs was leading the campaign to eliminate hookworm in the American South — to respond to the Covid pandemic. … Though the thesis of ‘Big Bets’ aims to encourage grand aspirations, there is enough practical wisdom in Mr. Shah’s account to suggest that making small bets may also be a productive way to go about the task of promoting ‘the well-being of humanity.’” [WSJ]

Can’t We All Get Along: In The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Eboo Patel argues that instead of pulling their funding over antisemitism on campus, donors should double-down and invest in “pluralism centers” at universities. “I understand some of the frustration from donors. I absorbed large quantities of ideological rigidity during my undergraduate years and, in my worst moments, made stupid self-righteous pronouncements that make me want to hang my head in shame today… I have a message for the philanthropists who find themselves frustrated with their alma maters for what various student groups said, and/or for what the president did not say: Believe in universities… If I were a donor frustrated with how students are behaving and administrations are responding, I’d endow centers for cooperation or pluralism on campuses across the country.” [ChronicleofPhilanthropy]

Around the Web

The University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University have each announced plans to create task forces focused on combating antisemitism in response to criticism of their handling of students’ and faculties’ responses to the Oct. 7 attacks in southern Israel…

Jenn Goldstone, who previously served as the Jewish life venture fellow at the William Davidson Foundation, was hired as the next deputy CEO of UpStart

More than a dozen leaders in Israel education released a statement “from Jewish educators, for Jewish educators,” offering encouragement, advice and resources for their colleagues in North America, including access to an extended webinar they led in on Oct. 22…

Two dozen leading law firms wrote a letter to law school deans warning them that they would not hire graduates who exhibit “anti-Semitism [sic], Islamophobia, racism or any other form of violence, hatred or bigotry”…

A Detroit-area county announced it will use $2 million in federal aid to erase the medical debts of thousands of residents. RIP Medical Debt, a national nonprofit group that uses donations to purchase medical debts belonging to people who can’t afford them, will assist the county by working with local hospitals to determine who among their debtors fit the financial criteria…

In a survey of 1,000 development professionals commissioned by The Chronicle of Philanthropy, 7 in 10 fundraisers said some donors are giving less and 6 in 10 said some donors have stopped giving altogether. Inflation and concerns about the economy are playing a significant role…

The family of an Israel Defense Forces soldier, Shoam Ben Harush, who was killed in the Oct. 7 attacks, donated his organs, saving the lives of at least five people…

The Ford Foundation will no longer support the Alliance for Global Justice, an organization that has been accused of maintaining ties with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terror group…

Elisha Wiesel, the son of Holocaust survivor and activist Elie Wiesel, wrote an opinion piece in USA Today, calling on people to learn about the victims of the Oct. 7 massacres and rejecting claims of moral equivalency between Hamas and Israel…

The Associated Press explores how a nonprofit, the Summer Science Program, which had an annual budget of roughly $2 million, responded to a sudden windfall, receiving an unexpected $200 million donation from a wealthy alum in 2022…

Ady Barkan, a disability-rights activist, died yesterday at 39 from complications of ALS…

David Lehrer, a civil rights attorney and former head of the Anti-Defamation League’s West Coast office, died last week at 75…

Mel Sembler, a real estate developer, Republican donor and former U.S. ambassador to Australia and Italy, who donated to Jewish and Israeli causes, died on Tuesday at 93…

Pic of the Day

David Gray/AFP via Getty Images

A surfer carries his board today as he walks on Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia, behind “missing” posters and towels attached to a fence that are part of a protest organized by the local Jewish community. The posters are meant to bring awareness to the more than 240 people, including 32 babies and children, who were taken hostage by Hamas last month.


Thos Robinson/Getty Images for The New York Times

Chairman and CEO of BlackRock, Larry Fink

Former NASA astronaut who made five flights in the space shuttle and is currently a professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT, he was one of NASA’s first two Jewish astronauts, Jeffrey A. Hoffman… County executive of Montgomery County, Md., Marc Elrich… Former chair of the Maryland Democratic Party and vice chair of the DNC, Susan Wolf Turnbull… Professor emerita of Jewish studies at the University of Virginia, Vanessa L. Ochs… Research fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, Alan D. Abbey… CNN special correspondent, Jamie Sue Gangel… Former head of school at Weizmann Day School in Los Angeles for 28 years, Lisa Feldman… Professor of Jewish history at UCLA and immediate past president of the board of the New Israel Fund, David N. Myers… Deputy commissioner of Maine’s Department of Professional and Financial Regulation, Joan F. Cohen… Financial planner at Grant Arthur & Associates Wealth Services, he is the author of a book on the complicity of Lithuania in the Holocaust, Grant Arthur Gochin… President of global content at Viva Creative, Thomas Joseph (Joe) Talbott… Marc Solomon… Former government affairs officer for 25 years in various departments of Microsoft, he served until earlier this year, John Sampson… Actor, director and producer, best known for playing Ross Geller in the sitcom “Friends,” David Schwimmer… Former assistant attorney general for Antitrust at USDOJ during the Trump administration, now a partner at Latham & Watkins, Makan Delrahim… Professor of economics at MIT, she won a MacArthur “Genius” fellowship in 2018, Amy Nadya Finkelstein… Founder and CEO of Spring Hills Senior Communities, Alexander C. Markowits… Journalist and bestselling author, he is the publisher of The Daily Poster and a columnist at The Guardian, David Sirota… Eastern director at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Michael Cohen… Member of the Knesset for the Yisrael Beiteinu party, Alexander Kushnir… Education editor for the Washington Post, Adam B. Kushner… Marc B. Rosen… Director of government relations at the Israel Policy Forum, Aaron Weinberg… Senior test engineer at Ginkgo Bioworks, Noah Taylor… Two-time Emmy award-winning video producer, now working as a staff editor for the home page of The New York Times, Celeste B. Lavin… CEO of Education Through Music and founder and sponsor of the Monna and Otto Weinman Annual Lecture Series at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Janice Shorenstein