Your Daily Phil: What post-Oct. 7 Jewry can learn from ‘Independence Day’

Good Monday morning.  

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on Craig Newmark’s motivation and vision for journalism-related philanthropy. In the latest installment of eJewishPhilanthropy’s exclusive opinion column “The 501(c) Suite,” Mark Charendoff finds new Jewish inspiration in a classic July Fourth blockbuster. We also feature an opinion piece by Rabbi Rebecca W. Sirbu calling for greater financial support for women-led Israeli nonprofits, and one by Rabbi Mary Zamore highlighting the benefits — for both employees and employers — of clearly defined paid medical and family leave policies. Also in this newsletter: Dov MaimonRichard Allen Greene and Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum. We’ll start with critiques of the Anti-Defamation League’s Campus Antisemitism Report Card.

After witnessing Jewish student life at Cornell University up close as an adjunct professor of law, Menachem Rosensaft, who knows a thing or two about antisemitism, said if he were to rate the Ivy League campus for how it handled the surge of antisemitic activity that rocked universities nationwide in the wake of the Oct. 7 attacks, he would give the school a “B,” reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen

The Anti-Defamation League gave Cornell a near-failing “D,” in the Campus Antisemitism Report Card that was first released in April and revised last week, which assigned grades from A through F to 85 U.S. universities’ institutional response to campus antisemitism. 

Rosensaft, who has taught a course at Cornell Law School on the law of genocide and war crimes trials since 2008 and who last year created a new course titled “Antisemitism in the Courts and in Jurisprudence,” called the “D” grade “unwarranted and decidedly does not correspond to what I have seen and have experienced on campus.” 

“This was done from a distance,” Rosensaft, general counsel emeritus of the World Jewish Congress, told eJP, adding that the analysis was “shallow” and “did not give any justification for the grade or recommendations of what should be done in order for the university to improve its grade.” 

The schools selected for the report card were among the country’s top liberal arts colleges, in addition to schools with the highest enrollment of Jewish students, according to the antisemitism watchdog group. The report card — both the original and revised versions — have received sharp rebuke from Jewish leaders and organizations, including from Hillel, the most prominent group serving Jewish students, which typically has a good relationship with the ADL.

“We do not believe it is constructive or accurate to try to assign grades to schools,” Adam Lehman, Hillel’s CEO, said in April. “Efforts to do so, however well-intended, produce misleading impressions regarding the actual Jewish student experience at those schools.” (A spokesperson for Hillel said the group did not have a further statement about the revised report card.) 

Rosensaft said that because the purpose of the report card is not to catalog antisemitism incidents, but to “evaluate how the respective universities and colleges have addressed and handled antisemitism since Oct. 7,” Cornell should have received a higher grade. “What I find really troubling is that they didn’t do onsite interviews with Hillel directors, Chabad rabbis and Jewish studies professors,” Rosensaft said. “The Jewish student groups on campus are the ones who know what’s been happening.” (According to the ADL, surveys were sent to all Hillels and Chabads; many did not respond). 

The idea to create a report card ranking universities’ handling of antisemitism came about prior to Oct. 7, Shira Goodman, senior director of advocacy for the ADL, told JI. “All fall, even before the war, we were talking about rising antisemitism over the past years, what their obligations were under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act and the National Strategy to Counter Antisemitsm.”

The Oct. 7 attacks sped up the process, Goodman said, noting that “when there are problems in the Middle East, it tends to increase antisemitism at home.” 

By winter break, “we wrote to universities that they had to get it together, what we saw happening over the past few months can’t keep happening. That’s when we decided we needed to hold universities accountable and on Jan 11 announced that we were going to do a report card,” Goodman said. “We had been giving universities tools and resources all along [and now was the time] to hold them accountable.”

She acknowledged that site visits and input from students were lacking from the report. “We heard the criticism, and it’s something we’re thinking about in the future,” she said. 

The ADL said it will continue to update the report card on an annual basis each April.

Read the full report here.


Craig Newmark credits civics teacher with instilling his dedication to a free press, but he’s not sure how to keep the industry going

Teens from across the country celebrate Opening Session of USY International Convention in Orlando, Fla. with teens from the Metropolitan New York area.
Moment magazine special contributor Robert Siegel (left) interviews Craig Newmark onstage at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

Craig Newmark, the early internet entrepreneur and philanthropist, credited his public high school history and civics teacher, Anton Shulsky, with inspiring his dedication to funding journalism-related initiatives, in a recent onstage interview with Moment magazine at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross. Newmark stressed his support for a robust free press, particularly local journalism, but acknowledged that he does “not have solutions” for the challenges facing it.

Setting compasses: “In around 1970, I had a really good high school history and civics teacher, Anton Shulsky. He taught us that a trustworthy press is the immune system of democracy. We need a trustworthy, vigorous press asking tough questions for us to survive as a country. And that lesson stuck with me,” said Newmark, who has in the past credited his Hebrew school teachers, Mr. and Mrs. Levin, with inspiring his dedication to philanthropy. “They set my moral compass with things like ‘You want to treat people like you want to be treated.’ And ‘Know when enough is enough.’ And ‘Now and then, you need to be your brother’s keeper or your sister’s keeper’… So they set my moral compass. You could say that Anton Shulsky set my patriotic compass.”

Be less boring: Speaking with Moment magazine last month, as the outlet presented him with its 2024 Inspirational Leadership Award, Newmark said journalism is struggling to hold the public’s attention. “Newspapers should tell the truth loudly and frequently. Often they do something really good one day, publish an article which says something important. Articles like that have a half life of 24 hours and then they’re forgotten. They do need to report things and not let people forget. So far no one knows how to do that without boring people,” Newmark said. “[The journalism nonprofit] ProPublica made a stab at that maybe five years ago or something. But there’s been a lot of investigative reporting about major figures in politics, important stuff, but the public forgets about it.”

Just muddling through: “I try to put my money where my mouth is in supporting local papers and so on and working sometimes like with organizations like the American Journalism Project, Report for America and other groups whose acronyms I can never remember,” Newmark said. “But I don’t have solutions and right now, frankly, I just want to see us get through this year.”


‘Independence Day’ revisited: A Jewish reflection on modern challenges

Actor Bill Pullman delivers a rousing speech as President Thomas J. Whitmore in “Independence Day.” IMDB

“I will admit it: I loved the movie ‘Independence Day.’ The 1996 blockbuster directed and co-written by Roland Emmerich was the ultimate popcorn movie that summer,” writes Mark Charendoff, president of Maimonides Fund, in the latest installment of eJewishPhilanthropy’s exclusive opinion column “The 501(C) Suite.” 

A quick refresher: “It had a great cast (despite the cringeworthy and very Jewy father played by Judd Hirsch) and focused on an oddball collection of people responding to an alien attack on our planet. The movie culminates on July Fourth, when the people of Earth strike back. Before the big counterattack, U.S. President Thomas Whitmore (played by Bill Pullman) tries to rally the troops. It’s not easy. Every strategy they tried thus far failed in the face of overwhelming force and superior technology. They have no reason to believe this effort will produce a different result; they only know it will be their last shot.”

A question that resonates: “It’s an emotional moment for an action movie, and I was moved by the speech when I first saw the film. Truth be told, I still am. Whitmore issues a challenge: How will future generations look back at us, at how we responded to this moment? Did we lay down, exhausted by the superior forces of those who oppose us, or did we take the fight to them and secure a better future? I hadn’t thought about the film until recently as July Fourth approached this summer. For the first time, the film seems very Jewish to me.”

Read the full piece here.


Don’t just praise Israeli women — invest in them

A Forum 31 gathering in Israel in Dec. 2023. Forum 31/Facebook

“It’s time to shore up Israeli women. Listen to them, believe them, invest in them,” writes Rabbi Rebecca W. Sirbu, executive vice president of the Jewish Funders Network, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy following her recent visit to Israel on a trip organized by the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation and the Charles and Lynne Schusterman Family Philanthropies.

A troubling pattern: “Women serving on the Gaza border warned the Israeli military that Hamas was practicing for an attack before Oct 7. They were ignored. After the attack, Cochav Elkayam Levy, founder and head of the Dvora Institute for Gender and Sustainability Studies, started documenting the sexual violence perpetrated against Israeli women during the attack. She was shocked at how Hamas used rape as a premeditated weapon of war on such a mass scale. She shared her findings with the world. She was ignored, too.”

Time to step up: “Our group met with several impressive female leaders who are working to raise women’s voices both in Israel and internationally… Time and again on this trip I marveled at the strength of the women we met… The Jewish philanthropic community has vocally supported the telling of these women’s stories to the world, but we have been woefully slow to do the same financially. The Jewish Funders Network has a list of women’s organizations you can support, and we have a Gender Lens Giving Peer Group, open to all genders, that meets monthly to learn how to support women’s initiatives in Israel and North America. In the fall, we will also be releasing a new Gender Lens Giving Guidebook, which has been created in Israel with a focus on giving in Israel.”  

Read the full piece here.


How synagogues can truly welcome new rabbis and staff this month

Illustrative. maxbelchenko/Adobe Stock

“Synagogues devote significant time and energy to making sure their new clergy and staffs are welcomed and set up for professional success,” writes Rabbi Mary Zamore, executive director of the Women’s Rabbinic Network, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy. “I want to suggest one additional thing congregations can do to allow their new rabbis to be the type of leaders they need: Adopt a clear family and medical leave policy.”

Win-win: “Research consistently shows the benefits for parents, children and employers when institutions provide clearly written, high-quality paid family and medical leave policies and practices to all employees, including during the recruiting and hiring process… Paid leave policies have also been shown to have a significant positive impact on organizations… [R]esearch shows they can reduce costs, reinforce company values and maintain institutional knowledge, improve worker morale and productivity, attract new talent, increase worker retention and reduce gender pay disparities.”

Lead the way: “We need to move beyond a time when Jewish professionals (and, in fact, all employees) who are growing their families or facing a medical challenge must summon the courage to inform their employers and initiate a discussion — or worse, a negotiation — to secure defined paid leave. In the absence of a clearly defined leave policy, ad hoc implementation does not allow employees or institutions to plan effectively, equitably or appropriately… Congregations may be exempt from some federal laws, but we are not exempt from our responsibilities for the long-term sustainability of our organizations, nor from our moral imperatives.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Bar Mitzvah Barricades: In The Philadelphia Inquirer, Andrew Goretsky writes about his family’s decision to hire security for his son’s recent bar mitzvah service and reception at a local synagogue. “A few years ago, this thought wouldn’t have crossed my mind. However, with the rise in antisemitism, this decision became starkly clear… In Pennsylvania alone, nearly 400 antisemitic incidents were reported in 2023, ranging from assault to yelling slurs at Jewish people, to vandalizing property, often with a swastika — an increase of 246% from the previous year. Leading up to my son’s big day, I raised my concerns with community members, who told me that hiring security was a very necessary precaution. A friend reminded me that Jewish communities in Latin America and Europe have relied on such measures for decades… I don’t want this to become our new normal. We owe it to our children to create a world where they can celebrate their milestones without fear, where the joy of their accomplishments isn’t overshadowed by the threat of violence.” [Inquirer]

Fresh Fears in France: In The Jerusalem Post, Dov Maimon reflects on the significance of the recent French elections on the country’s Jewish community. “The recent French general elections have sent shockwaves through the political landscape, with potentially far-reaching consequences for the French Jewish community. As the country grapples with a fragmented political scene, the rise of both far-right and far-left forces raises pressing questions about the future of Jewish life in France and the country’s stance toward the Middle East… Traditionally, Jewish institutions were associated with the Socialist Party and the presidential party. The recent Socialist Party’s entry into an alliance with far-left elements, some of which have been criticized for anti-Zionist and even antisemitic sentiments, is deeply troubling for many in the Jewish community and has been perceived as abandonment… These political developments come at a time of heightened vulnerability for French Jews. The memory of the June 2023 riots, where Jewish businesses were targeted, remains fresh. With the New Popular Front threatening massive protests in the event of a National Rally victory, there are legitimate concerns about the potential for further unrest and its impact on the Jewish community… As France enters a period of potential political instability, the stakes for its Jewish citizens and its relationship with Israel are high.” [JPost]

Around the Web

Warren Buffett donated $5.3 billion of Berkshire Hathaway stock — his largest charitable donation yet — to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and four family charities, bringing his total giving to $57 billion…

A Russian missile struck a Hillel house in Dnipro, Ukraine, on Friday evening, severely damaging the offices; no one was injured in the Hillel as the attack occurred before Shabbat services, but at least one person was killed and 12 injured in the strike…

The Tribe of Nova held its first music festival since the Oct. 7 terror attacks, with some 40,000 people attending the event in Tel Aviv, which organizers dubbed a “healing concert”…

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin appointed Kenneth Marcus, the founder of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, as a member of the board of visitors of George Mason University

The New York Times interviewed Yad Vashem’s online exhibitions coordinator about the museum’s new exhibition on wartime weddings…

First Lt. Nathan B. Baskind, who was killed in World War II and buried in a mass German grave, was re-interred last week under a Star of David at Normandy American Cemetery in France…

Chabad rabbis from remote Jewish communities in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa gathered in Poland for a conference about the unique challenges they face, the first such gathering since the Oct. 7 attacks…

CNN’s bureau chief in Jerusalem, Richard Allen Greeneis stepping down and starting rabbinical school at Leo Baeck College in London…

The Jewish community of Marseille, France, donated a Torah scroll to the Israel Defense Forces’ base in Yad Mordechai, near the Gaza Strip…

The Associated Press spotlights the Dagestani Jewish community in the wake of the terror attacks that struck the southern Russia region last week…

Toronto synagogue was pelted with rocks, smashing windows, over the weekend…

Despite the war in Gaza and fighting along Israel’s northern border, Israeli tech firms garnered $2.9 billion in investments in the second quarter of 2024, a nearly 50% increase from the $1.96 billion raised during the same period last year…

Asaf Bar-Tura was hired as the next chief executive officer of the Literacy Partners nonprofit…

The Chronicle of Philanthropy looks at what books nonprofit leaders are reading this summer, including Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg’s On Repentance and Repair: Making Amends in an Unapologetic World

Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum is stepping down as the spiritual leader of New York City’s LGBTQ-oriented Congregation Beit Simchat Torah after more than three decades…

Israel’s left-wing Meretz and Labor parties agreed to merge into a new party, known as The Democrats; Labor leader and one-time Meretz member Yair Golan will lead the newly formed group…

Rabbi Andrew Sacks, the Philadelphia-born director of the Masorti movement in Israel’s Rabbinical Assembly and its religious affairs bureau, died on Saturday at 66…

Rabbi Shraga Feivish Hager, known as the Kosover Rebbe, died at 66…

Former New York Times senior editor Soma Golden Behr, the paper’s first female national editor, died at 84…

Pic of the Day

Craig T. Fruchtman/Getty Images

Jewish participants in the New York City Pride March on Sunday in New York City reflected the diversity of denominational backgrounds and political stances among the Jewish LGBTQ community and its allies. 


Jonathan S. Lavine, co-managing partner and chief investment officer of Bain Capital Credit
Karen Warren/Houston Chronicle via Getty Images

NASA astronaut, on her 2019 trip to the International Space Station she took socks with Stars of David and menorahs, Jessica Meir

Applied mathematician, statistician and physicist, professor emeritus at Harvard, Herman Chernoff… Former U.S. assistant secretary of education, Diane Silvers Ravitch… Nobel laureate in economics for 1997 and co-creator of the Black-Scholes model for valuing options and other derivatives, Myron Scholes… Noted British art dealer and founder of an eponymous London art gallery, Victoria Marion Miro… Television, film and theater actor, including early career roles in Yiddish theater, Michael Burstein… Born in a DP Camp to her Holocaust survivor parents, she was the first Jewish woman to serve on the Canadian Supreme Court, Rosalie Silberman Abella… Former U.S. ambassador to Israel and assistant secretary of state for Near East affairs, now at the Council on Foreign Relations, Martin Indyk… Partner in the Century City-based law firm of Greenberg Glusker, Douglas E. Mirell… Hall of Fame player and coach in the Women’s National Basketball Association and now an NBA broadcaster, Nancy Lieberman… Attorney and longtime Democratic activist in Pittsburgh, he ran for Congress in 2022, Steven Irwin… Contributing editor at The Forward and CEO of the A-Mark Foundation, Rob Eshman… President emeritus of the Orthodox Union and a retired partner at Ropes & Gray, Mark (Moishe) Bane… Under secretary of state for political affairs until this past March, Victoria Jane Nuland (family name was Nudelman)… Journalist, filmmaker and educator, Shraga Simmons… Professor of Jewish thought at Hebrew University, Benjamin Brown… Member of the Virginia House of Delegates since 2014, Marcus Bertram Simon… Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA)… Screenwriter, producer and film director, Marc Silverstein… Los Angeles resident, Adam B. Siegel… Co-founder of Edgeline Films, Elyse Steinberg… Hasidic musician mixing elements of dancehall, reggae, hip-hop and R&B, known by his stage name DeScribe, Shneur Hasofer