Your Daily Phil: United Hatzalah’s Ukrainian rescue op + Pushing Ethiopian aliyah

Good Tuesday morning!

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on a Ukrainian rescue operation by United Hatzalah. Also in this newsletter: Hannah Pick-Goslar, Shira Sherez Zik and Andrew Viterbi. We’ll start with UJA-Federation of New York’s efforts to raise the issue of Ethiopian aliyah.

UJA-Federation of New York is investing in a number of Israeli organizations focused on the issue of Ethiopian aliyah, or immigration to Israel, as efforts to bring the thousands of Ethiopians eligible for Israeli citizenship waiting in transit camps in the country have largely stalled. In addition to funding programs through the Jewish Agency and the Immigration Ministry to ease aliyah for those who have been able to come to Israel, the federation has given grants to activists working to raise the issue in the public sphere, through media campaigns and protests, eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross reports.

This appears to reflect activists’ concerns that the issue of Ethiopian aliyah will be less of a priority for the current government, which has stated its intentions to focus on encouraging aliyah from the U.S. and France. Though the budget for the coming year has yet to be approved by the Knesset, it does not appear as though funds have been specifically allocated toward bringing over the thousands of remaining Ethiopians who are eligible for Israeli citizenship.

To advance this issue, UJA-Federation of NY is working directly with the Israeli government and the Immigration Ministry, speaking to them about the issue and working to raise awareness about it, the head of the organization’s Israel office, former Knesset member Itzik Shmuli, told eJP. “But we are also supporting organizations like the Struggle for Ethiopian Aliyah to help bring this issue to the public agenda,” Shmuli said.

The Struggle for Ethiopian Aliyah is a grassroots group largely made up of Ethiopian-Israeli volunteers who have family members still in Ethiopia. A member of the organization said the grant was not for an astronomical sum – a few thousand dollars  but enough for a part-time salaried worker and the funds to become a certified nonprofit in order to allow it to more easily receive charitable donations going forward.

The group organized a protest last Sunday with hundreds of participants, who were overwhelmingly Ethiopian Israelis with family still in Ethiopia. Holding photographs of their loved ones, the protesters demonstrated against the lack of a budget for bringing their families to Israel. Last Thursday, Israel also marked the national day of commemoration for the thousands of Ethiopian Jews who died while making the journey to Israel through Sudan.

For Surafel Alamo, the director of the Struggle, the issue of Ethiopian aliyah is an intensely personal one. “I was only just reunited with my brothers who had been waiting for 16 years in a camp in Gondar. It’s unbelievable for me as a citizen who fought for the country, who took part in [2014’s Gaza war]. It’s something that doesn’t match the Zionist vision,” Alamo told eJP. “I lost three relatives – two brothers and a mother – who died while waiting [to make aliyah].”

Read the full story here.

Inside story

United Hatzalah medics transport a Ukrainian woman to Israel via Romania. (Courtesy/United Hatzalah)

The United Hatzalah rescue service transported an elderly Jewish woman with severe medical problems from Ukraine to Israel last week, traveling over land, sea and air, in a particularly complex and, at times, dangerous operation – narrowly missing a cruise missile attack in Odesa – the commander of the mission told eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross.

A ticking clock: The 77-year-old woman, Yelena, had undergone heart surgery a few weeks before and the medical facility where she was living was not able to properly care for her. “Her condition was deteriorating so rapidly that we really didn’t know if we would get there in time,” said David Krispil, the deputy vice president of operations for United Hatzalah, who led the rescue effort.

Only the latest: Since Russia invaded Ukraine last February, United Hatzalah and other Jewish and Israeli aid groups have organized a number of rescue operations to bring people with serious medical conditions or physical disabilities to Israel, sometimes renting entire flights and converting the planes to makeshift flying ambulances to provide them with medical care en route.

Steadily improving: Landing in Israel on Thursday afternoon, the Ukrainian team handed Yelena over to Israeli medics who transported her to the Shmuel HaRofe Geriatric Medical Center in the central Israeli town of Be’er Ya’akov, where Yelena had received permission to stay. According to United Hatzlah, Yelena’s condition is now “steadily improving.”

Read the full story here.

Worthy Reads

Not So Charitable Organizations: In The Chronicle of Philanthropy, University of Massachusetts-Amherst professor Elizabeth Schmidt, whose research focuses on nonprofits, considers how extremist groups obtain 501(c)(3) status and what can and should be done about it. “When someone mentions nonprofits, chances are you picture homeless shelters, free medical clinics, museums and other groups that you believe are doing good one way or another. Most of these organizations are legitimate. But not all nonprofits are principled or embrace missions everyone considers worthy of the tax-exempt status that the government grants some 2 million organizations. You might presume that the government would automatically refuse to grant tax-exempt status to white nationalist and anti-government groups. Yet as a scholar who has researched nonprofit accountability, I’ve seen the authorities struggle to draw the line between which organizations deserve to operate as nonprofits and those that don’t.” [ChronicleofPhilanthropy]

Buckeye Jews: In Ohio’s The Repository, Charita M. Goshay profiles a new effort to document the state’s little-known Jewish history. “A Jewish convert and researcher has taken on the mission of documenting the history of Jewish congregations in 16 Ohio communities, including those in Stark and Tuscarawas counties. ‘The largest is Steubenville and the oldest is Chillicothe, which I’ve traced back to 1813,’ Austin David Reid said. ‘Steubenville had 1,000 Jewish residents, but today there’s no organized presence. There’s no more than 150 (Jews) in Alliance and Massillon’… According to his research, brothers Abraham and Elias Wolf and their wives were the first Jews to arrive in Tuscarawas County. The European immigrants moved to Uhrichsville during the 1840s to start a business… ‘Oftentimes, the contraction of Jewish communities mirrors the larger population,’ [Reid] said. ‘In general, in the 1960s younger people moved away for work and don’t return… One thing that surprised me is the community around Canton is refugees from Germany who were able to create new lives. For example in New Philadelphia, the rabbi and his wife survived the Holocaust. I think a lot of times people think immigrants travel to large cities.’” [Repository]

Diary of a Young Girl: Smithsonian Magazine presents a number of vignettes from the life of Anne Frank taken from a forthcoming memoir written by the famed diary author’s childhood friend, Hannah Pick-Goslar, and journalist Dina Kraft. “Generations have learned about the Holocaust from Anne Frank, a teenage girl whose extraordinary diary, first published in 1947, documented her two-year experience hiding from the Nazis. Countless readers, deeply moved by Anne’s courage, have wondered about the life of this brilliant German Jewish girl before her seclusion. Now My Friend Anne Frank, by Hannah Pick-Goslar, sheds new light on those poignant early years… Pick-Goslar’s memoir includes the story of when she and Anne encountered each other for the last time three years later — in 1945, on opposite sides of a fence at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in northern Germany, shortly before Anne’s death. Pick-Goslar survived, settled in Israel, became a nurse, married and had three children. She died in Jerusalem in October 2022. Her memoir, which she and her co-author, Dina Kraft, had begun earlier that year, was finished by Kraft and will be released in June.” [Smithsonian]

Around the Web

The Conservative movement’s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Rabbinical Assembly ruled that its followers may eat at vegetarian or vegan restaurants even if they don’t have kosher supervision…

Wallis Annenberg donated $10 million to her eponymous Center for the Performing Arts in Los Angeles to kick off a larger $55 million fundraising campaign to bolster the institution and its activities…

Yeshiva University will present its presidential medallion to Daniel Gold, the head of Israel’s Defense Research and Development Directorate and the main architect behind the Iron Dome missile-defense system, at its commencement ceremony tonight. The university will also present an honorary degree to Holocaust survivor and philanthropist Emil Fish

CNN’s ??Christiane Amanpour apologized to Rabbi Leo Dee on-air and in a letter last night after saying that Dee’s wife and two of his daughters, whose car was fired upon by Palestinian terrorists, were killed in a “shootout.” Dee rejected the apology, saying it was “not worth the paper it’s printed on”…

Shira Sherez Zik is stepping down as director of the Gesher Leadership Institute after a decade in the role. She will stay on as chairman of the organization. The institute, which organizes trips to Diaspora Jewish communities for Israeli leaders, is now looking for a new director…

Pic of the Day

Michael Erenburg

Andrew Viterbi, a Jewish Italian-American electrical engineer, businessman and philanthropist who co-founded Qualcomm Inc., spoke yesterday at the Jerusalem College of Technology – Lev Academic Center, an institute that specifically caters to Israel’s religious community, as part of a lecture series in honor of Viterbi’s friend and mentor, the late Solomon Golomb.


Adela Loconte/WireImage

Best-selling author and journalist, whose works include Tuesdays with Morrie, he has sold over 40 million books, Mitch Albom

Emeritus professor of physics and the history of science at Harvard, Gerald James Holton… Businessman, attorney and philanthropist, he acquired and rebuilt the iconic restaurant in Miami Beach, The Forge, Alvin Malnik… Billionaire businessman, optometrist, inventor and philanthropist, Dr. Herbert A. Wertheim… Former dean of the Yale School of Architecture and founder of an eponymous architecture firm, Robert A. M. Stern… Founder and chairman of law firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, leading D.C. super-lobbyist but based in Denver, long-time proponent of the U.S.-Israel relationship and national board member of AIPAC, Norman Brownstein… British fashion retailer and promoter of tennis in Israel, he is the founder, chairman and CEO of three international clothing lines including the French Connection, Great Plains and Toast brands, Stephen Markst… Special counsel in the NYC office of Stroock & Stroock & Lavan focused on election law, he was in the inaugural class of Yeshiva University’s Benjamin Cardozo School of Law, Jerry H. Goldfeder… Award-winning television writer and playwright, Stephanie Liss… Israeli diplomat, he served as Israel’s ambassador to Nigeria and as consul general of Israel to Philadelphia, Uriel Palti… Editor of a book on end-of-life stories, Catherine Zacks Gildenhorn… Israeli businessman Ofer Nimrodi… President of Newton, Mass.-based Liberty Companies, Andrew M. Cable… Resident scholar at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Reuel Marc Gerecht… Chairman of the board of the Irvine, California-based Ayn Rand Institute, Yaron Brook… Actor, comedian, writer, producer and musician, H. Jon Benjamin… Former ski instructor, now rabbi of the Community Synagogue of Rye (N.Y.), Daniel B. Gropper… Film and television director, Nanette Burstein.. Australian cosmetics entrepreneur, now living in NYC, she is known as the “Lipstick Queen,” Poppy Cybele King… Prominent NYC matrimonial law attorney, Casey Greenfield… Member of the Knesset for the National Unity Party, she served as Israel’s minister of education in the prior government, Yifat Shasha-Biton… Retired attorney, now a YouTuber with 564,000 followers and 151 million views, David Freiheit… President of the Newton and Rochelle Becker Charitable Trust, Dylan Tatz… Tech, cyber and disinformation reporter for Haaretz, Omer Benjakob… Professional golfer on the LPGA Tour, Morgan Pressel… Senior manager of brand and product strategy at GLG, Andrea M. Hiller