Your Daily Phil: Workers Circle exits Conf. of Presidents + Jewish groups hail Tree of Life sentencing

Good Thursday morning!

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on the Jewish community’s response to the sentencing of the Tree of Life synagogue gunman yesterday, and feature an opinion piece from Guila Benchimol. Also in this newsletter: Barry and Honey Sherman, Danielle Sassman and Doron Almog. We’ll start with the Workers Circle’s resignation from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

The Workers Circle announced it was resigning from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations on Wednesday, citing differences over Israeli, American and Jewish communal politics, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross. This brings the number of member organizations in the conference to an even 50, with three more adjunct members.

“We have disagreed with the COP’s reluctance to critique Israel, its equation of such critique as antisemitism, its adoption and promotion of the IHRA definition of antisemitism, and its failure to condemn the Israeli parliament’s recent steps to erode democracy in Israel,” wrote Workers Circle President Zeev Dagan and CEO Ann Toback in a letter addressed to Conference of Presidents CEO William Daroff and Chair Harriet Schleifer.

“We are further dismayed at the silence of COP in the face of the many attacks on democracy here in the United States,” Dagan and Toback wrote. “We cannot be part of an organization that stands idly by in the face of these existential crises.”

The Workers Circle’s resignation did not appear to be the start of a wider exodus of progressive groups from the conference.

Daroff told eJP that the Workers Circle had not voiced any of its concerns with the Conference of Presidents prior to the resignation and have generally not been involved in the organization for several years. “It’s peculiar,” he said.

“They felt out of sync with the Conference of Presidents because they are out of sync with the mainstream community,” he said. “And, if they don’t feel comfortable on Main Street, I absolutely respect their desire to be elsewhere.”

Read the full story here.

case closure

Mourners visit the memorial outside the Tree of Life Synagogue on October 31, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Penn., after 11 people were shot dead there days before. (Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

Jewish groups hailed the sentencing of Robert Bowers, the gunman behind the deadly 2018 Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, sending condolences to the families of the 11 people who were murdered in the attack and appreciation to the prosecution for pursuing the case, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross.

Getting justice: “Our sympathy and prayers go to the families of the victims, survivors and first responders directly affected; to these congregations who lost loved members; and to all of the people traumatized by this crime,” the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh wrote in a statement. “This trial shows that our justice system can work by giving a voice to the voiceless and by ensuring that we, as a society, can bring the perpetrator of this horrendous attack to account,” the federation said.

Capital offense: Local and national Jewish groups largely refrained from discussing the contentious issue of the death penalty in their responses to the sentence, sometimes consciously avoiding the topic. “Ultimately what is of most significance is not how the shooter will spend the end of his life, but the fact that the U.S. government pursued this case with vigor and demonstrated that such crimes will not be countenanced, excused, or minimized,” the American Jewish Committee wrote in a statement about the sentence. The Jewish federation thanked the jury members for “their time and dedication in reaching this sentence.”

Not giving up: HIAS, whose efforts on behalf of refugees were specifically cited by Bowers as a reason for his attack, said the organization would continue with its mission. “Today’s sentencing marks the end of the judicial process, but this tragedy will forever be part of our story as an organization,” the group said. “HIAS will continue to work with resolve and conviction for a more just society; we remain in solidarity with all communities targeted by hateful and xenophobic acts.” HIAS noted that one of the congregations from Tree of Life, Dor Hadash, was still involved in advocacy and support for refugees.

Read the full story here.

Celebrating works in progress

Five years of pursuing safety, respect and equity in the Jewish community

A panel discussion, moderated by Guila Benchimol, at the SRE (Safety Respect Equity) Network conference in June 2023. (Courtesy/Shulamit Photo + Video)

“I have a friend who insists on celebrating half-birthdays. Another marks down tasks they’ve already completed on their to-do lists, for the satisfying feeling of crossing them off. They bask in the celebration of small wins or works in progress. I am more likely to get overwhelmed by how much I have to do. I find it difficult to celebrate progress when I know that the finish line, which is often unclear, lies so far ahead. This year’s SRE (Safety Respect Equity) Network annual convening taught me that we can do both simultaneously,” writes Guila Benchimol, a senior adviser at the SRE Network (Safety, Respect, Equity), in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Just keep swimming: “What keeps us going when the work is difficult, some believe it isn’t needed, and there is so much to do? We can learn from the ‘progress principle.’ After analyzing 12,000 diary entries written by 238 employees from seven companies, Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer discovered that ‘making progress in meaningful work,’ no matter the size of that progress, is the most important factor to increasing motivation, productivity and joy at work.”

About the journey: “There is a lot more work to do to secure safety, respect and equity for all and, therefore, the convening closed with participants working on action plans to apply what they learned and identify their next steps. But we know that, over time, progress is being made… Success is not necessarily about reaching a final destination but about the small steps of progress we make along the way.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

In Cold Blood: In Bloomberg, Matthew Campbell and Ari Altstedter investigate the 2017 unsolved murders of Barry and Honey Sherman, two of Canada’s most generous philanthropists. “They were Barry and Honey Sherman, one of Canada’s wealthiest and best-known couples and the residents of the house. Barry, 75, was the founder and chairman of Apotex Inc., a large generic pharmaceutical producer. His net worth was estimated at $3.6 billion at the time of his death in 2017. He and Honey, 70, used that money to become major philanthropists, donating generously to charities, cultural institutions and Jewish causes…. They were among the wealthiest murder victims in history… As investigators dug into the Shermans’ past, they uncovered a family drama rife with vendettas and grudges, accusations and rumors, centered on a dominant patriarch and a next generation vying for his favor.” [Bloomberg]

App Maker, App Maker, Make Me a Match: In eJewishPhilanthropy’s sister publication Jewish Insider, Gabby Deutch profiles a new matchmaking app that is already making waves in the world of Modern Orthodox dating. “Launched in May, Loop is an online dating platform that bills itself as ‘the set up network.’ Unlike popular dating apps like Tinder or Hinge or Jswipe, where users are met with a seemingly endless series of matches given to them by an algorithm, singles on Loop can only see friends in their network, and friends of those friends. (People who are in relationships are also encouraged to join the app to help match up their single friends)… Early users of Loop say that if it catches on, it has the possibility of being a game-changer — Loop combines the options and convenience of online dating with the trust and comfort built-in to connections made by a friend or family member. ‘The algorithm is a human algorithm,’ said Joey Barr, a 27-year-old in Cambridge, Mass., who is using the app both to set up friends and to find someone for himself. ‘There’s no lines of code pushing anyone on me.’” [JewishInsider]

Around the Web

The Jewish Communal Fund approved the election of four new members of its board of directors: Zoe Bernstein, Will Bressman, Uri Kaufthal and Barry Moss

Breaking its silence on the debate in Israel over the government’s proposed judicial overhaul, Agudath Israel of America released a statement yesterday calling for American politicians and officials to “leave Israeli issues to Israelis”…

The Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, which was created by the eponymous Jewish artist, donated $2 million to the Smithsonian American Art Museum to create a fellowship in modern and contemporary art…

The Katz Amsterdam Charitable Trust, which is funded by Elana Amsterdam and her husband, Rob Katz, donated $2.45 million in grants to 10 organizations for reproductive justice initiatives…

Danielle Sassman has been promoted to dean of institutional effectiveness and university registrar at the American Jewish University

A new study by Independent Sector found that far fewer American nonprofits are politically lobbying today than in the past, with 31% saying that they are “engaging in advocacy or lobbying,” compared to 74% in 2000…

The Shubert Foundation donated a record $37.9 million in unrestricted grants to 635 nonprofit theaters, dance companies, training programs and related groups across the United States…

H. Irwin Levy, a real estate developer, philanthropist and mainstay of the West Palm Beach Jewish community, died this week at 97….

Pic of the Day

Olivier Fitoussi/Jewish Agency for Israel

Jewish Agency Chair Doron Almog visits the Israel Aquarium in Jerusalem yesterday with children from absorption centers run by his organization. They were taking part in a program celebrating their entrance into first grade on Sept. 1.


Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for The MAKERS Conference

Emmy Award-winning sportscaster, Suzy Shuster

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