Your Daily Phil: Ukraine at your Seder table + N.C. rabbis link up

Good Friday morning!

Ed. note: In celebration of Passover, the next issue of Your Daily Philwill arrive on Monday, April 25. Chag kasher v’sameach!

Are Ukrainian refugees eating today’s “bread of affliction?” Are they, like the Israelites of old, fleeing for their lives from an oppressive ruler? Is Russia’s invasion of Ukraine a modern-day plague? All of the above?

Those are the questions posed by a gamut of initiatives to give the victims of the war in Ukraine a special (figurative) place at tonight’s Seder tables worldwide. Haggadah supplements — short booklets that provide a modern spin on the traditional text — are nothing new, and this year a few of them seek to link Ancient Egypt and modern Ukraine. The same is true of suggested additions to the Seder plate. Other proposals urge Seder hosts to recall the crisis in their guest lists, their menus or their prayers.

A few such supplements come from the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and HIAS, two Jewish aid groups that are providing material assistance in the region. One JDC supplementinstructs Seder-goers to call matzah “the bread we took with us when we rushed out of Egypt… to pursue life” like Ukrainian refugees are doing now. A HIAS supplement calls the Ukraine refugee crisis and others “??very real modern-day experiences of Exodus.” A prayer composed by Yeshiva University’s Sacks-Herenstein Center asks God to deliver Ukrainian refugees like God delivered the Israelites. Below, in this newsletter, Rabbi Julie Schonfeld suggests adding a fifth child, the refugee, to the Haggadah.

Several Seder plate additions have been suggested to recall Ukraine: The organization JewBelong proposed putting olives on the plate to symbolize peace, akin to an olive branch. And in the pages of eJewishPhilanthropy this week, Michael Witman of B’nai Jeshurun congregation in New York City suggested adding borscht, the Ukrainian beet soup, alongside the bitter herbs, haroset and parsley. In similar fashion, the World Union for Progressive Judaism says to add a beetroot. An essay at Haggadot[dot]com suggests adding sunflower seeds, to symbolize Ukraine’s national flower.

Later in the meal, some Seder participants may eat fair trade, kosher-for-Passover chocolate they ordered from Temple Sinai in Rhode Island, whose proceeds benefit Ukraine relief efforts (the ordering deadline has passed). Chabad offered shmura matzah to Jews — as a tribute to matzah factories in Ukraine — and also asks Jews to invite an extra guest to their Seders to represent a Ukrainian Jew who can’t attend one this year.

In New York, a UJA-Federation social media campaign, the #MatzahChallenge, asks users to post a photo of a matzah-based dish with that hashtag — with a donor giving $18 to Ukraine aid for every post. No word on whether UJA actually requires users to eat the matzah.

Dispatch From Raleigh

N.C. rabbis and cantors join together to present united Jewish voice

Rabbi Eric Solomon, co-chair of the association.

Rabbi Eric Solomon, co-chair of the association.

For the first time in more than 50 years, Jewish clergy from across North Carolina are officially organizing into the North Carolina Jewish Clergy Association (NCJCA), an advocacy group that its members hope will offer a united front against threats of antisemitism in the Tar Heel State, Jonah Kaplan reports for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Speaking out: The rabbis hope to model their association on boards of rabbis like those in New York, Los Angeles and Atlanta, and provide a unified, public and nonpartisan voice on issues such as support for Israel and speaking out against antisemitism. They also hope to promote Jewish ritual, learning and community cohesion — including by distributing a new Haggadah supplement for the upcoming Passover Seders.

Who’s who: North Carolina’s Jewish population numbers some 45,000 amid a total population of 11 million. The state’s largest Jewish community is in the Charlotte area. “This is a very powerful force that has come together,” Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, said at the dedication. According to NCJCA, there are more than 80 rabbis and cantors in North Carolina, all of whom can apply for membership. Officially, the association now consists of members of its steering committee, all of whom are Conservative or Reform. At this point, there are no Orthodox clergy on the steering committee.

Concerned about Cawthorn: The association’s creation was inspired in part by the controversy surrounding comments made by freshman Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) during his first congressional race. In 2020, Cawthorn spoke to Jewish Insider about his attempts to convert Jews to Christianity. “There’s a great fear, especially among Jews in the South, and the huge amount of Jews moving here from the Northeast, that North Carolina may not be so welcoming when there’s a prominent congressman talking about converting us,” Rabbi Eric Solomon, the association’s co-chair, told eJewishPhilanthropy.

Read the full piece here.

Passover reflections

Robots at the Seder table? Training ourselves to be in community again

“Tell me honestly: Are you anticipating your Passover Seder with excitement or dread? Do you really want to meet all your long-lost relatives, or would you rather have Seder with only the three people you like best?… If you find yourself less inclined to deploy the patience needed to deal with other people, you are not alone. In fact, you are part of society-wide decline in the ability, opportunity – and desire – to connect with others,” writes Andrés Spokoiny, president and CEO of Jewish Funders Network, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

‘Vicious cycle’: “We are, in fact, in a vicious cycle of loneliness and isolation, heightened by the impact of shutdowns and ‘virtual meetings.’ We are lonelier than ever, and that atrophies the ‘muscles’ that we use to relate to others: politeness, kindness, tolerance, empathy and patience. Indeed, loneliness breeds more loneliness. Unsurprisingly, social anxiety diagnoses were increasing steadily before the pandemic, growing 5%  every year. People simply don’t know how to be among others. Loneliness is not only creating mental health problems, but physical health problems. It’s said today that loneliness is the new smoking.”

A festival of community: “Pesach is the festival of freedom, but it’s also – maybe even more so – the festival of community, in which togetherness plays a critical role. It’s not a coincidence because freedom is not, as the libertarian dystopians would have us believe, a solo experience. It’s rooted in relationships. Lonely freedom is like, in the words sung by Janis Joplin, ‘another word for nothing left to lose.’”

Read the full piece here.

Adding On

‘The Refugee Child,’ a new optional reading about the fifth child for the Passover Seder

Ukrainian refugees arriving in Brazil.

“Each year at Seder, we remember the four children: the Wise Child, the Rebellious Child, the Simple Child and the child who does not know how to ask. This year, we also invite into our Seder the voice of the Refugee Child,” writes Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, CEO emerita of the Rabbinical Assembly, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Selected reading: “The following can be read at the end of the ‘Four Children’ section of the Seder: ‘The Fifth Child: The Refugee Child. The Refugee Child, one of the world’s most vulnerable people, has no home to shelter them, no society to protect them and in some cases, no family to love them. In 2020, over 33 million children around the world (in addition to others including up to 4.5 million Ukrainian children in just the past several weeks) were forcibly displaced by conflict, famine and disaster.’”

Acting with courage: “??Not merely in every generation, but every year, new tyrants arise against people around the world, and more innocent children become refugees. This Passover, we must not stop at seeing ourselves as the children of Israel who were slaves in Egypt. This year, we must act with the courage of Yocheved and Miriam and the caring of Pharaoh’s daughter to raise our voices, devote our resources and advocate passionately for concrete steps to bring the world’s refugee children to safety.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

On the Menu: Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch interviews award-winning American-Israeli chef Mike Solomonov ahead of the opening of his new Brooklyn restaurant, Laser Wolf. “Solomonov calls it a shipudia, the Hebrew word for a grill that specializes in skewers and offers unlimited salads with the cost of the meat. Laser Wolf’s Philadelphia menu features lamb merguez, barbecue short rib and chicken, as well as fish options like tuna and Spanish mackerel, and several vegetable skewers. The name is a play on Lazar Wolf, the butcher in ‘Fiddler on the Roof.’… ‘Things like schug and harif and shakshuka and babka and even hummus — those are things that, really, I’m incredibly proud to be a part of and this is … we’re marketing a part of the world or people that I think are really sometimes misrepresented,’ explained Solomonov.” [JI]

Empathy for the Vulnerable: While COVID’s threat has lessened, there are still many who are vulnerable or live with someone who is, Sarah Wildman writes in The New York Times, suggesting that teaching empathy for and inclusion of these people may have benefits: “In other words: What if we could see this time as an opportunity for a correction? Covid broadened the scope and definition of vulnerability, allowing everyone, however briefly, to viscerally understand the need to protect one another. We worried over our aging parents, our asthmatic selves. We were ‘all in it together,’ clapping each night for the brave frontline workers. What if we applied that understanding going forward? What if we no longer thought of the world as so blithely divisible? Instead of a return to how life was, unconscious of those who are unable to accompany us, why not situation-specific considerations for different populations?” [NYTimes]

Understanding the Thaw: 
A project financed by private donors, among them billionaire philanthropist MacKenzie Scott and the Audacious Project, a collaborative funding group that is an offshoot of TED, aims “to better understand the contribution of thawing permafrost to global warming and to help Arctic communities cope with its effects,” Henry Fountain reports in The New York Times: “Permafrost, the frozen ground that underlies much of the Arctic and can be hundreds of feet deep, contains the remains of plants and animals accumulated over centuries. As rapid warming in the region has caused more of the topmost frozen layer to thaw, organic matter has been decomposing and emitting carbon dioxide and methane. Permafrost thaw does not only have global effects. Locally throughout the Arctic it has caused roads, bridges, homes and other structures built in frozen ground to become unstable and unusable. Melting permafrost has also resulted in greater erosion, leading to land collapse and flooding.” [NYTimes]

Word on the Street

For the first time in its 34-year history, the International March of the Living will include an official delegation of the United Arab Emirates, led by H.E. Ahmed Obaid Al Mansoori, together with entrepreneur and philanthropist Eitan Neishlos, the newly appointed founder and ambassador of International March of the Living in the Gulf states…

Rabbi Darren Kleinberg, who received ordination from the liberal Orthodox Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, will be the next dean of the Aleph Ordination Program, which trains rabbis affiliated with the Jewish Renewal movement. Kleinberg, formerly head of school at Kehillah Jewish High School in Palo Alto, Calif., succeeds the program’s founding dean, Rabbi Marcia Prager…

In his next documentary, filmmaker Ken Burns will examine the United States’ relationship to the Holocaust…

Actor Henry Winkler will be honored with the 2022 IFF Career Achievement Award, and real estate/philanthropist David Wienerwith the 2022 IFF Humanitarian Award on April 29 at the upcoming Israeli Film Festival in Los Angeles …

By passing HB 2673, Tennessee now joins Florida, Iowa and South Carolina in codifying the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism and ensuring that the definition is taken into account when state authorities investigate incidents of crime or unlawful discrimination…

“Standing Up to Antisemitism,” an installment of the series “Recipe for Change,” from YouTube and LeBron James’ The SpringHill Company, aired this week on YouTube. The episode featured various Jewish celebrities and thought leaders, and celebrated the breadth of Jewish experience, including food and culture. At the gatherings in the episodes, guests discuss recent and historic acts of hate and violence against the Jewish community, featuring conversations about how to raise awareness and build allyship around antisemitism…

Valley Beth Shalom in Encino, Calif., announced that Cantor Jacqueline Rafii will be joining its clergy. Rafii most recently served as cantor of Shomrei Torah Synagogue in West Hills, Calif….

Pic of the Day

Odesa, Ukraine, resident Gallina Rashba, 89, received matzah last Friday from the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) as part of its aid to Jews in the war-torn country and Jewish refugees in surrounding countries. JDC, funded by UJA-Federation of New York and others, provided more than 18 tons of matzah to Jews in the region.


Professor of law and public policy at Duke University since 1971, Joel L. Fleishman turns 88…

FRIDAY: Psychiatrist, entrepreneur and philanthropist, Dr. Henry George Jarecki… Former U.S. solicitor general, now a professor at Harvard Law School, Charles Fried… Senior advisor at Covington & Burling, he was a 15-term member of Congress from California from 1983 to 2013, Howard Lawrence Berman… Duke University professor, physician, biochemist and Nobel Prize laureate, Robert Lefkowitz… Retired U.S. Army chaplain who attained the rank of lieutenant colonel, Rabbi Alan Sherman… Professor of German and comparative literature at New York University, Avital Ronell… Former city controller of Philadelphia following a lengthy term as a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, Alan Butkovitz… CEO of DMB Strategic, David Brand… Founder and director of the graduate school in the decorative arts at Bard College in Dutchess County, N.Y., Susan Weber… Slingerlands, N.Y., attorney, Deborah R. Liebman… Former executive director at American Press Institute, he is the author of 10 books, Tom Rosenstiel… The Rebbe of the Boyan Hasidic dynasty, Rabbi Nachum Dov Brayer… Former deputy secretary of the Treasury and member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, Sarah Bloom Raskin… Managing partner, CEO and chief investment officer of Hudson Bay Capital Management, Sander R. Gerber… CEO of the New Israel Fund, Daniel Sokatch… Cheryl Myra Cohn… Senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and founder of the Truman National Security Project, Rachel Kleinfeld, Ph.D…. Head basketball coach of the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos, Joe Pasternack… SVP of government affairs at Cross River Bank, Y. Phillip Goldfeder… Actor, comedian, writer, producer and director, Seth Rogen… Co-founder and co-CEO of theSkimm, Carly Zakin… Senior research analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, David May… Director of grants and operations at the Foundation for Middle East Peace, Kristin McCarthy… Founder and CEO of Stoop, Zach Ehrlich… Social entrepreneur, environmental activist and human rights activist, Erin Schrode… Moshe Lehrer…

SATURDAY: Hasidic singer Mordechai Werdyger, known by his stage name Mordechai Ben David… Olympic track-and-field athlete, and survivor of the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre, Esther Roth-Shachamorov… Actress and movie producer, Ellen Barkin… Chairman and CEO of private equity fund manager Jordan/Zalaznick Advisers, David Wayne Zalaznick… Physician and venture capitalist focused on biotechnology and life-sciences industries, Lindsay Rosenwald… Professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton University, Aaron Louis Friedberg…. Filmmaker, he directed the 2011 documentary “Paul Williams Still Alive” and the 1997 slapstick comedy “Vegas Vacation” starring Chevy Chase, Stephen Kessler… Dean of Harvard’s Kennedy School, Douglas Elmendorf… Secretary of state of the United States, Antony John “Tony” Blinken… Television producer and writer, David Sanford Kohan… Long Island native, he is a Los Angeles pharmacist, Jeffrey D. Marcus… Former mayor of Hoboken, N. J., Dawn Zimmer.. Israel’s former ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer… Member of the House of Commons of Canada, she represents the riding of Toronto-Danforth, Julie Dabrusin… Celebrity plastic surgeon, he is active on social media as “Dr. Miami,” Dr. Michael Salzhauer…. Board member of Jewish Community High School of the Bay in San Francisco, Ellen K. Finestone… SVP of GMMB, Alex Glass… Deputy opinion editor at NewsweekBatya Ungar-Sargon… Founder of Jewish Fashion Council and journalist at Fabologie, Adi Heyman… Attorney who has served as a law clerk to three Maryland judges, now an MBA student at Temple University, Geoff Middleberg… Product manager at Duolingo, Uriel Kejsefman… Singer, pianist and composer, Mendy Portnoy… Principal at Helena Special Investments, Matthew Saunders… Senior customer account executive at Quorum, Adam Gotbaum… Josh Goldstein… Sarah Wolfson…

SUNDAYCynthia J. Kugler… Retired Los Angeles cardiologist and active Yiddish enthusiast, Dr. Martin Bobrowsky… Marketing manager at Allied Interpreting Service in Los Angeles, Barry Schreiber… American legal scholar, Richard Allen Epstein… The official historian for Major League Baseball since 2011, John Thorn… Talk radio host best known for his work on NYC’s sports radio station WFAN, his nickname is “The Schmoozer,” Steve Somers… CEO of B’nai B’rith International, Daniel S. Mariaschin… Rosh Yeshiva of Beth Medrash Govoha in Lakewood, N.J., one of the largest yeshivas in the world with over 6,800 students, Rabbi Aryeh Malkiel Kotler… French billionaire based in Geneva, Gérard Wertheimer… Elizabeth H. Scheuer… Rabbi of Beth Hillel Temple in Kenosha, Wis., her brother is former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, Dena Feingold… Actress, screenwriter and film director, Daphna Kastner… Winner of two Super Bowl rings during his career with the San Francisco 49ers, he is now a physician and an inductee in the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, Dr. John E. Frank… Director of Rutgers University Press, Micah Kleit… Professor of politics and Russian studies at New York University and co-author of The Monkey CageJoshua A. Tucker… Congressional editor for The New York Times,Julie Hirschfeld Davis… Member of the Alaska Legislature, Jesse Kiehl… Executive director at Morgan Stanley, Nadya Belenkiy… New York bureau chief for BloombergShelly Banjo… Southern California-based regional director at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Ora Miriam “Miri” Katz Belsky… Press secretary for Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Angelo Roefaro… Senior communications manager at the Center for Responsible Lending, Matt Kravitz… Managing director at Bully Pulpit Interactive, Alex Kellner… Director for strategic communications and assistant press secretary at the White House National Security Council, Dean Lieberman… Member of the Baltimore City Council, Isaac “Yitzy” Schleifer… Assistant attorney general in Missouri, Brian T. Earll

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