Your Daily Phil: War inspires unprecedented volunteering, charitable giving in Israel — study

Good Wednesday morning.

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on how high school students and their parents are reconsidering university choices based on rising antisemitism on campus. We feature opinion pieces by Marc Belzberg and Sarah Mali. Also in this newsletter: Marina Umaschi Bers, Neville Goldschneider and New York Gov. Kathy Hochul. We’ll start with a new Hebrew University study tracking unprecedented volunteer efforts and charitable donations in Israel.

A new study by Hebrew University’s Center for the Study of Civil Society and Philanthropy has found that roughly half of all Israeli adults have taken part in volunteering efforts following the Oct. 7 attacks. This comes alongside an unprecedented amount of charitable giving, primarily from large numbers of small donors, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross.

“This is a mega event for civil society in Israel,” Michal Almog-Bar, the head of the Hebrew University center, told eJP this week. “This is even in comparison to other crisis situations. This is very different. For example, we had our first survey of volunteering. We came up with the number that 50% of the Israeli (adult) population is volunteering.”

That figure is made more impressive by the fact that it does not include the more than 360,000 people who have been called up for reserve duty and when considering that hundreds of thousands of people in Israel currently require that help and are thus not necessarily able to volunteer.

In recent years, the large donations by a small number of high-net-worth individuals have almost always eclipsed the smaller donations from larger numbers of less wealthy people. This has been the case with the unprecedented amount of money that has been raised in the U.S. for Israel since the outbreak of the war, with major donors making up the majority of the money raised. (See: Michael Bloomberg pledging $44 million to Magen David Adom, matching the same amount raised by nearly 34,000 smaller donors.)

“In a normal period, that’s what we see here [in Israel] as well. But since the war, we see that most of the money… is coming from lots of different sources,” Almog-Bar said. “There were some big donations, but a lot of the money was for a few hundred shekels.”

The volunteers and donations have also come from all parts of Israeli society, she said, something else that has never been seen before. “The philanthropy and volunteering was seen in every sector of Israeli society: Haredi, religious, secular, Arab, Bedouin, Druze, Christian,” she said. “That is different from every other crisis. Even if the sectors did not volunteer equally, they all did it.”

Read the full report here.

Safety schools

Rabbi Dina Brawer, executive director of the U.K.-based World Jewish Relief’s American branch, speaks at the Clinton Global Initiative in September 2023.
Michael Nigro/Pacific Press/Lightrocket via Getty Images

Rachel Tulman, a senior at Scheck Hillel Community School in Miami, has had Nov. 1 marked on her calendar for months. She worked hard for the last three years so that she could apply early to an Ivy League university. Now, that won’t be happening. “I was going to ED [early decision] to Cornell or UPenn. But then I went to visit the UPenn campus, and I saw people ripping down the missing hostages posters. I just couldn’t bind myself [to the University of Pennsylvania],” Tulman told Gabby Deutch for eJewishPhilanthropy’s sister publication Jewish Insider.

New considerations: An unprecedented wave of antisemitism has swelled over the past three weeks, beginning after Hamas’ Oct. 7 terrorist attacks in Israel. Campuses have seen professors praising the Hamas attack, physical assaults on Jewish students and equivocation by university administrators. Tulman is one of many Jewish American high school seniors who are now confronted with a startling rise in antisemitism on college campuses at exactly the time that they must decide which university to attend for the next four years. Jewish parents and their high school-aged children are grappling with a new set of considerations as they make what is already a weighty decision: Will this school be safe for my child?

Do your research: Naomi Steinberg, a college counselor in Boca Raton, Fla., who primarily works with Jewish teens, cautioned parents “to be very careful of knee-jerk reactions, like, ‘I’m not going to apply to Cornell.’ I think that that’s not necessarily a deeply thoughtful way to guide your child,” said Steinberg. “I understand why they’re frightened,” added Steinberg. “Really understanding how universities are responding is going to tell you a much, much more compelling story than reacting the next day after a horrific incident on campus,” she explained.

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

Life support

Amid horror and grief, we support the unthinkable — the ability to rebuild after traumatic loss

Stock photo. Danie Franco on Unsplash

“The challenges OneFamily is facing right now and those it will have to deal with for the unforeseeable future are of a magnitude much greater than anything we have encountered in the organization’s history. The situation is comparable to a major earthquake, where the damage keeps worsening as the aftershocks reverberate through the ground,” writes Marc Belzberg, chairman of OneFamily, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

OneFamily’s role: “OneFamily is a household name in Israel: its combination of a cadre of highly trained and experienced professionals along with thousands of volunteers has been helping terror victims rekindle love of life and find the way to restore hope for 22 years. They conduct home visits and help fill each victim’s specific and even unexpressed needs. What makes OneFamily unique is that its approach is holistic, incorporating psychological, medical, social, financial, vocational and even legal help if needed. … Before now, OneFamily was in ongoing contact with over 4,000 bereaved families; but we will have to double our client capacity, perhaps even triple it, to deal with the unprecedented trauma caused by the horrors of the Oct. 7 massacre in addition to grief over the loss of loved ones since then.”

Each individual a whole world: “As the work proceeds, we are hearing so many heartbreaking, impossible-to-process stories. Two brothers each experienced the loss of their wives, both women murdered by Hamas on a kibbutz in southern Israel on Oct. 7. … When the missiles began raining down on Sderot, Yael —  who was staying with 85-year-old father for the Simchat Torah holiday since his caregiver had the day off — could not bear being in the mamad, the reinforced room where she had spent so many traumatic years before marrying and moving away. She put her father in the car and drove madly to her home in Yavne. Somehow she avoided gunfire and missiles, but could not escape seeing the dead bodies of young people from the music festival in the desert strewn where they fell at the sides of the road. … We have been working with the family of Mendel, an immigrant from Russia, since they lost a son while he was serving in Gaza in 2012. Two days ago, a second son fell in Gaza.”

Read the full piece here.

Our battle

For sale: Newlywed sofa, never used

Christian Kaindl on Unsplash

“I’m a believing person but haven’t felt so close to the idea of faith as I do today. It is faith in the people of Israel and the Jewish people,” writes Sarah Mali, director general of the Jewish Federations of Canada, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Reality shift: “Here in Israel, all of the usual things — regular life, a new sofa — all of this was cruelly and unequivocally appropriated by Oct. 7. There is language we now use that we thought we’d never use, like pogroms and massacre; and the things we were used to saying, we now can’t. I mean, how can you ever say again, ‘We are going to need to pick up the pieces,’ after what happened in the Gaza envelope? Our dreams have been invaded. Regular meetings that had a sense of order about them turn on their head. A lawyer in a ‘regular’ work meeting tells you, in response to your question about his green wristband, that he is currently serving in the reserves, where his job is to identify bodies. That he has too much work to do there — still, three weeks later — but came out for a couple of hours to attend this meeting.”

‘Our 1948’: “We’ve been at the edge of the precipice. And we are taking a giant step back. Collectively. I cannot understate how much force and effort and courage is going into this step. It is gargantuan. What I am trying to describe is an internal and external battle by all of us now in Israel to be able to smile again, breathe again, sleep again. And we have begun.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Space to Speak Freely: In The Guardian, Remona Aly describes her experience as a Muslim woman at a gathering of Jewish and Muslim women at Westminster Abbey last week. “In London, antisemitic attacks went up by 1,350% and Islamophobic offences by 140% in the first half of October. But with years of relationship-building in jeopardy, I am one of a group of women trying to salvage relations between the communities that we are part of. Last week, I was invited to a safe space: a private gathering co-hosted by a Jewish woman and a Muslim woman. … ‘It takes courage and vulnerability to come into a space like this,’ said Julie Siddiqi, the Muslim co-organiser and a faith-relations consultant. Julie, alongside Dr Lindsay Simmonds, a Jewish academic who researches women of faith and peacebuilding, felt the need to create a third space outside religious institutions and political organisations. These forums were avoided because they tend to raise more barriers to communication and lead to ‘more danger’ according to Julie, particularly as many people fear that officially speaking out or showing sympathy for the other side will draw backlash from their own communities. … In this inflamed political climate, with violence tearing across the world, surely we must make all efforts to embody and fight for the opposite: safety and understanding. If we burn every bridge, the ugliness will never end; but if we build bridges in the hope of a better future, humanity might just stand a chance.” [Guardian]

Sorry, Tax Man: In Forbes, four members of the Silent Generation share the (legal) techniques they use to ensure their tremendous wealth goes to favored causes and family members who will carry on their philanthropic legacies. “‘Only morons pay the estate tax,’ former Goldman Sachs president Gary Cohn famously quipped while serving as President Donald Trump’s chief economic advisor. … Our professors are [Nike founder Phil] Knight; Charles Koch, the free-market libertarian worth $54.5 billion; Harold Hamm, the truck driver turned fracking king worth $25.2 billion; and TV whiz cum internet entrepreneur Barry Diller, who is the poorest at $4.1 billion — and the only Democrat. Diller is candid and unrepentant about having used a tax-saving technique he considers bad policy. ‘You live within the tax code, and if it says you can do this or that, and it’s in the broad mainstream, why would any sentient person act another way?’” [Forbes]

Around the Web

Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares opened an investigation into the nonprofit American Muslims for Palestine, which has in the past been accused of sending money to Hamas…

A delegation of 28 rabbis and Jewish leaders from New York are in Israel this week as part of a delegation organized by UJA-Federation of New York. The group will visit “numerous communities to provide support and trauma assistance to evacuees and families of hostages and [engage] in chaplaincy work at major medical centers”…

Jim Berk, a veteran entertainment executive, was named the next CEO of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. He will succeed Rabbi Marvin Hier, who founded the group in 1977…

The Senate confirmed the nomination of former Treasury Secretary Jack Lew to become the next U.S. ambassador to Israel…

Friends of the Israel Defense Forces has raised nearly $60 million in an emergency campaign launched after the Oct. 7 massacres

Neville Goldschneider is retiring as CEO of the British Camp Simcha next year after 18 years in the role. He plans to immigrate to Israel…

JIMENA released a new Fall 2023 issue of its Distinctions journal, focused on “Unity in Israel.” The articles were written before the Oct. 7 attacks, but some have since been updated…

The Times of Israel profiled 13 young Israelis volunteering in Jewish communities around the world who discussed how it feels to be away from a home that is at war…

In response to rising antisemitism around the world, a growing number of Jews around the world are purchasing a “Camozuzah,” a mezuzah that is meant to look like the sensor of an alarm system, so they cannot be as easily targeted for antisemitic attacks…

The National Council of Jewish WomenIsrael Women’s Network and more than 140 other women’s rights groups penned an open letter criticizing UN Women for failing to condemn the rape, murder and kidnapping of women in Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks…

The Israeli Shaharit Institute and the U.S.-based Fund for New Leadership have created a new joint fund that will offer grants of less than $5,000 for small-scale initiatives. Recipients so far include birthday cakes for displaced children, sending volunteers to visit mourners and assisting Bedouin children with special needs…

Israel’s Kibbutz Movement, which represents communities across the country, has created a new emergency fund specifically for the kibbutzim that were attacked on Oct. 7…

An estimated $100 trillion wealth transfer from the silent and baby boomer generations is underway, resulting in a shift in philanthropic priorities and methods, according to a newly released report from CitiBank…

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul ordered an independent investigation into antisemitism in the City University of New York system…

In Inside Higher Ed, Marina Umaschi Bers argued that Jewish faculty, not just students, need more support on college campuses…

Patty Simonson, the associate executive director of the Buffalo, N.Y., Jewish Community Centerhas been hired as its next CEO. She will take over for Mike Rawl, who is leaving the position after three years to become CEO of the New Orleans JCC

Pic of the Day

Over 50,000 people attend the traditional Birkat Kohanim (Priestly Blessing) at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City today, during Chol Hamoed (the intermediary days) of Sukkot.

Staff at Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem in Jerusalem observe a moment of silence this week for the victims of the Oct. 7 attacks and ongoing war with Hamas in Gaza.

“Our hearts go out to the families of the victims in the entire State of Israel and to the families of Hadassah and the Hebrew University who lost loved ones,” Dr. Yoram Weiss, director-general of the hospital, said in a short speech. “This is a time to remember and thank those who sacrificed their lives for us and to thank those who continue to protect us with their body and spirit.”


Annie Liebovitz smiles
Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

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