Your Daily Phil: USC Shoah Foundation to collect testimonies of Oct. 7 victims

Good Monday morning.

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on Harvard University donors pushing for the institution to take a stronger stance in solidarity with Israel, and a rally in support of Israel in Los Angeles. We feature an opinion piece from Zachary Goldberger on how American Jewish teens are navigating the war. We’ll start with the University of Southern California Shoah Foundation collecting testimonies of victims of the Oct. 7 massacres.

The organization created to record and gather the testimonies of Holocaust survivors is now working to do the same for the victims of last Saturday’s massacres in southern Israel, the executive director of the organization told eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross.

This effort, which will be a major undertaking for the organization for the coming months and years, is part of a new push by the University of Southern California Shoah Foundation to focus not only on preserving the history of the Holocaust but on combating contemporary antisemitism.

“The Hamas-led attacks near the border are a clear case of antisemitic terror,” USC Shoah Foundation CEO Robert Williams told eJP. “And we want to try to obtain testimonies now because there’s a strong need to allow the victims to voice their anger and frustration.”

Collecting the testimonies from survivors of the massacres in Israeli towns near the Gaza border and the Tribe of Nova music festival will not just preserve their experiences for later study but also keep the memories of the victims alive for the near future.

“I think the American public is going to forget this terror quickly,” he said.

Williams lamented that his organization, which was created to collect the experiences of Holocaust survivors, was now having to collect the experience of more Jews murdered in antisemitic attacks. “It’s very unsettling. It’s horrifying, it’s absolutely horrifying,” he said.

Read the full report here.


Entrance gate of Wigglesworth Hall Widener Library at Harvard Yard in Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass.
Entrance gate of Wigglesworth Hall Widener Library at Harvard Yard in Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. (Sergi Reboredo/VW Pics/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

A growing number of prominent Harvard University alumni are condemning the school’s response to Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre of Israelis, seeing it as insufficient and condoning terrorism. Some are threatening to pull funding if Harvard doesn’t change course — while others have already made the move, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen.

Call to action: In two letters sent on Saturday, one to the university’s president and the other to the dean of Harvard Business School, Yossi Sagol, chairman of Sagol Holdings Corporation and 2008 HBS alum, said he will withhold his recent donation to the business school and instead give it to the families of victims of the terrorist attacks if the school does not more clearly express its support for Israel and its condemnation of the Hamas terror group. Israeli billionaire Idan Ofer and his wife, Batia, announced on Friday they are quitting Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government executive board in protest over how university leaders have responded to the massacre.

Not just Harvard: Influential longtime donors have announced they will pull funding from other American universities too, citing similar lack of support for Israel. On Sunday, the University of Pennsylvania’s student newspaper, The Daily Pennsylvanian, reported that 1987 graduate Jon Huntsman Jr., the former governor of Utah, told Penn President Elizabeth Magill that his family will stop donating to the university.

Read the full report here.


In L.A., a Sunday of speakers, signs and solidarity for Israel

Thousands of people take part in a march in solidarity with Israel through Los Angeles on Oct. 15, 2023.
Thousands of people take part in a march in solidarity with Israel through Los Angeles on Oct. 15, 2023.

Thousands of Jews and allies marched in solidarity with Israel through the Pico-Robertson/Beverlywood area of Los Angeles on Sunday as speakers called for peace, condemnation of the Hamas terror group and the release of nearly 200 people being held hostage in the Gaza Strip, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Esther D. Kustanowitz from the event.

Across the spectrum: Most of the assembled lined the street with signs proclaiming “We stand with Israel,” calling to “End Hamas” and featuring the appeal that Hamas should “stop using Moslems [sic] as human shields.” American and Israeli flags of every size were present, poking out of baseball caps and hairstyles, being held aloft by attendees or attached to small sticks that children waved as they walked. “Over the past week there have been a number of events held by individual organizations, or group events that largely fell along denominational lines,” said one local mother, who attended with her 12-year-old son and asked not to have her name published. “But today seemed to bring together Jews of varying backgrounds from across the community, and it felt like there was a power in that.”

No two sides: Closing out the event, Rabbi Noah Farkas, president and CEO of the federation, said that “today Israel needs us more than ever,” and announced that the federation had raised millions of dollars that are going directly to Israel, and urged the assembled to reject the “both sides” narrative that is present in the media. “There are forces that are celebrating the murder of women and children, that are celebrating massacres across the United States,” Farkas said. “I know that Hamas is not Palestine. Palestine is not Hamas. [But] there is no moral equivocation in this moment.”

Read the full report here.


Teens need a new space to meet this moment, and we can help

woman with blond hair (face out of view) holds a red Apple-brand cell phone over a blue-gray quilt
Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

“My phone buzzes. Email. A teenager: ‘It’s just weird to think that these people hate me and want me dead, but don’t even know me,’” writes Zachary Goldberger, program director of the Diller Teen Fellows at JCC Greater Boston, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

On the digital front lines: “Every day our teens are viewing more and posting more. Social media activism sends their message out to the world. It affirms which side of history they stand on, and it serves as a response to the countless videos and comments flooding their timeline. They will not keep quiet, but be heard throughout their community and around the world.”

Design with them in mind: “This is a demographic coming off of years of lockdowns and living online. When the world shut down in March 2020, our teens were incredibly impacted by the lack of physical and social interactions. … In this time of war, we need to develop a third space, an environment outside of their go-to places to socialize online and IRL, established to allow teens to debrief with peers, have lengthy conversations, ask questions and find a place to feel surrounded by their community.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

We’re On Our Own: In eJewishPhilanthropy’s sister publication Jewish Insider, Ruth Marks Eglash, Tamara Zieve, Lahav Harkov and Judah Ari Gross look at the myriad ways in which Israeli individuals and nonprofits have had to step up following the Oct. 7 massacres. “As Israelis continue to count the dead from the mass terror attack carried out by Hamas, and brace for a likely prolonged war in Gaza, the country is fuming over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s failure to prevent the heinous assault — and the government’s delayed and disorganized response in helping the thousands of victims and addressing the families of those still missing. Even as the government’s failures in the face of the worst attack the Jewish people have experienced since the Holocaust continue to come to light, Israeli citizens have shown incredible resilience. Thousands of ordinary people have stepped in to assist where the government has fallen short, providing shelter and essential items – food, clothing and emotional support – to the estimated 50,000 Israelis who have fled from southern border communities and to the soldiers, including 360,000 reservists, as they gear up for what military leaders are warning could be a prolonged war.” [JewishInsider]

Call for a Legislative Fix: U.S. tax policy is putting a damper on charitable giving by individuals, write Aleen Sussman and Marc Ashed in an opinion piece for The Hill. They lay the blame more specifically on the need to itemize on federal tax returns in order to deduct charitable contributions. “In recent years, just 30 percent of taxpayers, most of them high-income, took advantage of itemized deductions. Fortunately, there is an effort underway to help rectify this situation, through a bipartisan bill called the Charitable Act, which would restore a universal charitable deduction for the majority of Americans who do not itemize their taxes. If passed, the bill would provide lower and middle-income donors the same kind of tax write-off that higher-income donors are already able to access. … Finally, the Charitable Act would make gifts to Donor-Advised Funds (DAFs) — an increasingly vital dimension of the philanthropic ecosystem — also eligible for the universal charitable deduction.” [TheHill]

Is Silence a Stance: In The Chronicle of Higher Education, former Harvard Medical School Dean and current Professor Jeffrey Flier argues that his employer’s decision to refrain from expressing solidarity with Israel in itself sends a non-neutral message. “Of course, the campus would be best served if disagreements led to respectful engagement with those holding different views, rather than angry and often ad hominem battles that produce no insights for either side or the public at large.?But since Harvard and its schools have repeatedly issued statements of institutional positions and values on diverse topics, the absence of an institutional response to the savage killing and hostage-taking of Israeli civilians (as well as Americans and others) combined with the initial failure to repudiate the student group statement, sent an unavoidable and objectionable — if unintended — message about Harvard’s moral priorities.” [ChronHigherEd]

Around the Web

Jewish day schools across much of the world will take part in a special prayer service for the well-being of Israeli soldiers today at 1 p.m. ET. The service, which is expected to have some 2,000 student participants, is being organized by Israel’s Diaspora Affairs Ministry, Herzog College, IsraAid and the Israeli Forum for Humanitarian Aid…

A 6-year-old Palestinian-American boy was stabbed to death and his mother was seriously wounded outside Chicago. Authorities believe the Muslim family may have been targeted because of the war between Israel and Hamas…

Restaurants in Tel Aviv have obtained kosher certification in order to provide meals to Israel Defense Forces soldiers, hospitals and internally displaced Israelis…

The names of over 2,500 people — IDF soldiers and those being held captive and wounded — have been sent to the Western Wall Heritage Foundation to be included in prayers for their well-being at the holy site…

The heads of all public Israeli universities penned an open letter calling for their fellow heads of higher-learning institutions to condemn Hamas’ attack on Oct. 7 as “an act of singular barbaric violence”…

Mothers from New York City have sent thousands of ounces of breastmilk to Israel for orphans and women who are struggling to breastfeed because of the war. The Israeli Health Ministry is warning people not to use the donated milk, however, saying it has not been checked for pathogens and could “endanger the lives of babies”…

The Better Business Bureau warned that scammers are likely to capitalize on the crisis in Israel to defraud well-meaning people of their money by creating fake donation websites…

Dozens of American citizens boarded an evacuation ship organized by the U.S. Embassy in Israel today that will travel from the northern Israeli port city of Haifa to Cyprus, from which they can travel to the United States…

The U.K. government awarded an additional £3 million ($3.65 million) grant to the British Community Security Trust, which protects Jewish schools, synagogues and other communal institutions. The extra funding comes after a number of antisemitic incidents in the U.K. following the Oct. 7 Hamas massacres…

U.S. Jewish groups are calling for universities to withdraw recognition and funding for Students for Justice in Palestine after the organization appeared to praise the Oct. 7 massacres…

Florine Mark, the former president and CEO of The Weight Watchers Group and a donor to Detroit Jewish causes, died last Friday at 90…

Sydelle Meyer, an art collector and donor to Jewish causes, died last month at 97…

Pic of the Day


Over 100 Jewish day camp professionals from throughout North America pose after attending last week’s annual Fall Jewish Day Camp Conference. The event was organized by the Jewish Day Camp Network and was sponsored by the Foundation for Jewish Camp, JCamp 180 and the JCC Association.


Tolga Adanali/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images

Israeli attorney, chairman of Maccabi Tel Aviv Basketball, Shimon Mizrahi

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