Your Daily Phil: War threatens Ethiopia’s Jewish community + Philly JCC helps Ukrainian refugees

Good Tuesday morning!

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on the efforts of the KleinLife JCC in Philadelphia on behalf of Ukrainian refugees, and feature an opinion piece from Rabbi Danny Burkeman. Also in this newsletter: Sylvan Adams, James McBride and Rabbi Elisheva Salamo. We’ll start with efforts to rescue Israelis and people eligible for Israeli citizenship from the fighting in Ethiopia.

The Israeli government is closely monitoring the fighting in the Amhara region of Ethiopia and working to extract the more than 100 Israeli citizens in the area, as well as the dozens of people waiting to immigrate, as clashes continued between government forces and the Fano militia group, an Israeli official familiar with the matter told eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross.

As battles between Fano and the Ethiopian military escalated in recent days, the Ethiopian government declared a state of emergency, halting almost all travel into and out of Amhara, including from the city of Gondar, home to one of Ethiopia’s largest Jewish communities, which has seen some of the fiercest battles.

In response, Immigration and Absorption Minister Ofir Sofer organized an “emergency forum,” made up of representatives from his office, the Foreign Ministry, the National Security Council, the Mossad and the Jewish Agency, according to the Israeli official, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the topic.

“We are trying to find solutions. Obviously, every solution needs to be coordinated with the Ethiopian government,” the official said.

There are an estimated 50 Israelis in Amhara, many of them in Gondar but some spread out throughout the region, which makes it more complicated to maintain contact with them and rescue them, the official said. Some of these Israelis are in Ethiopia visiting family, while others are there volunteering with the local population. In addition, there are approximately 60 Ethiopians eligible for Israeli citizenship who are waiting to make aliyah (immigrate).

“We hope there will be a rescue operation quickly,” a spokesperson for the immigration and absorption minister told eJP.

Read the full story here.

Brotherly love

Ukrainian refugee children sing together at the KleinLife JCC in Philadelphia, in an undated photograph. (Courtesy)

Impressed by the organization’s ongoing art therapy and support for the mental health of refugee children, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees selected Philadelphia’s KleinLife Jewish Community Center’s Ukrainian Refugee Resettlement Program to feature as part of a series of programs around the U.S. helping Ukrainians who were forced to flee their homes following Russia’s invasion last February, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen.

Post-trauma: “They started coming to us and we decided to do something for them,” Andre Krug, the president and CEO of KleinLife, told eJP. KleinLife quickly welcomed about 60 refugee children into their camp program at no cost. By fall, KleinLife was enrolling hundreds of children into schools and programs to learn English. “Along the way I brought in a psychologist who started to work with children on issues of [post-traumatic stress disorder]. Most of the families were coming from eastern Ukraine where all the bombings took place and they were in pretty rough shape when they got here,” he said. Krug recalled witnessing kids hitting the ground every time a plane flew over the community center’s building in Philadelphia. “It wasn’t pretty,” he said.

Helping hands: The UNHCR campaign is set to include around a dozen other U.S.-based Ukraine refugee support programs, according to Kevin Keen, a UNHCR spokesperson, who said that KleinLife’s program was the only Jewish-affiliated group selected for this project. “We featured KleinLife because it serves as a crucial support system for over 3,000 Ukrainians who have found refuge in northeast Philadelphia,” Keen told eJP.

Read the full story here.

With the people

Getting off the bimah and into the community

Getty Images

“‘I’ve never played roofball with a rabbi.’ These were the words that a 9-year-old camper said to me as we threw a ball onto the roof of one of the bunks at the Union for Reform Judaism’s Crane Lake Camp… The camper made his comment with a mix of surprise and fascination that a rabbi would join in playing this game with them. It was a similar reaction to the one I received from several campers when I went flying down one of the inflatables on the lake, landing a little more quickly in the water than I had expected,” writes Rabbi Danny Burkeman of Temple Shir Tikva in Wayland, Mass., in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Off the pulpit: “Over the last decade, I have served on faculty several times at three different camps. I’ve always enjoyed the experience (after all I keep coming back for more), but this year has provided a different model for my involvement and it’s one that I hope others will emulate… this year, Lauren Chizner, the director of Jewish life at camp, has put in place a schedule that allows us to step into a wide array of roles we don’t usually get to inhabit – in sports, at the lake and even just hanging out with a bunk of kids on a rainy day.”

The complete me: “I don’t want to be a rabbi that people relate to solely as a person who stands removed from them on the bimah. I don’t even want to be related to simply as a prayer leader or educator. I want people to be able to relate to me as a person who can share in community with them and join them on their life’s journey. For clergy and educators to do this I think it is so important to allow people an opportunity to meet us in 3D – to see all sides of us. I think that this allows us to build much closer relationships and, by extension, it allows for a closer Jewish connection.”

Read the full piece here. 

Worthy Reads

Can’t We All Just Get Along?: In eJewishPhilanthropy’s sister publication Jewish Insider, Gabby Deutch interviews author James McBride about his new novel, which is focused on Black-Jewish relations. “Chicken Hill is not a place you want to live. At least, not judging by the first chapter in a new novel by National Book Award-winner James McBride…. But the world that McBride creates in The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store is a far cry from the exceedingly negative adjectives ascribed to Chicken Hill at the start of the book. His Chicken Hill is a vibrant if slightly rundown neighborhood on the margins of Pottstown, a place where the town’s immigrant Jewish community and its Black residents intersect in ways small and large. ‘I just wrote the book because I want people to get along,’ McBride, who is Black, told Jewish Insider in a recent interview ahead of the book’s release on Tuesday. ‘I want people to be happy. I want people to see how we struggle in America as immigrants and how Jewish and Black people manage to get along in this small town.’” [JewishInsider]

Around the Web

Rabbi Elisheva Salamo will be the first rabbi based in the British city of York in more than 800 years, since a pogrom wiped out the local Jewish population in 1190. Salamo will serve the York Liberal Jewish Community

Israeli-Canadian businessman, philanthropist and cycling enthusiast Sylvan Adams took first place in the 65-69 age group at the 2023 UCI Cycling World Championships in Scotland last week…

Four teenagers were arrested in Pensacola, Fla., on Friday for allegedly carrying out a number of acts of antisemitic vandalism, including throwing a brick through the local Chabad center’s window…

Rhoda Karpatkin, who led Consumer Reports and advocated for consumer protection, died last week at 97…

Harvey Morton “Bud” Meyerhoff, a Baltimore real estate mogul, philanthropist and chair of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, died on Sunday at 96…

Florence Berger, a Cornell University professor whose matchmaking skills won her acclaim, died last month at 83…

Pic of the Day

Courtesy/Consulate General of Israel in New York

Israel’s Acting Consul General in New York Israel Nitzan addresses representatives from several local and national Jewish groups in Manhattan during a farewell event as he finishes his tenure in the role, which he’s held since April.

“We are a family. Despite all the challenges, we’re in this together. There is no closer relationship than ours,” Nitzan told the audience.


Christopher Polk/Getty Images

Film director whose works include nine Disney films, Jon Turteltaub

Actor and director, he won the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1980 for “Kramer vs. Kramer” and in 1989 for “Rain Man,” Dustin Hoffman… Arlington Heights, Ill., resident, Elizabeth Gordon… Dutch diplomat and politician, he served as the speaker of the Dutch House of Representatives, Frans Weisglas… Greenwood Village, Colo., resident, Robert M. Schwartz… Tampa, Fla., resident, Roy D. Pulliam… Vancouver, Wash., resident, Juliana E. Miles Bagherpour… U.S. ambassador to Israel during the Trump administration, David Melech Friedman… Former CEO of BusinessGhost, Michael Graubart Levin… Managing general partner of MLB’s Tampa Bay Rays, Stuart L. Sternberg… Chess grandmaster, once ranked 8th in the world, he is the director of the Brooklyn Chess Academy, Leonid Yudasin… White House chief of staff for the first two years of the Biden administration, Ron Klain… Digital strategist, Jonah Seiger… Orthodox Jewish blogger (Torahmusings) who serves as the book editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine, Rabbi Gil Ofer Student… Film and television actress, Lindsay Sloane… MLB pitcher for 13 seasons and now assistant general manager for the Chicago Cubs, Craig Breslow… Author, freelance writer and editor, Sophie Flack… Director at Fundamental Advisors, Bara Lane… Canadian film and television actor, Jacob Benjamin “Jake” Goldsbie… Communications director at the North Carolina Association of Educators until last week, Sarah Garfinkel… Founder and managing partner at Avid Ventures, Addie Lerner… Director of marketing and communications at Alpha Epsilon Pi, Zachary Pellish… Head of marketing at Provenance, Morgan Furlong… Internet celebrity and fitness model, Jennifer Leigh “Jen” Selter… Jack Baum… Rob Schwartz…