Your Daily Phil: World Jewish leaders call for unity, dialogue amid Israeli discord

Good Monday morning!

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on the launch of JIMENA’s new quarterly journal, Distinctions, and feature an opinion piece from Micol Zimmerman Burkeman. Also in this newsletter: Andrew Keene, Glenda Sacks and Stephanie Hallett. We’ll start with a letter from the heads of international Jewish groups to Israeli leaders calling for consensus and unity in light of growing turmoil in Israel.

The heads of Jewish Federations of North America, Jewish Agency for Israel, World Zionist Organization and Keren Hayesod sent a joint letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Opposition Leader Yair Lapid today, calling on them to come to an agreement and end the turmoil that has rocked Israel in recent days, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross.

The letter came hours before the Knesset began voting on a bill that would limit judges’ abilities to use “reasonableness” to strike down decisions made by the government, which members of the coalition have said is a first step in implementing the government’s proposed judicial overhaul. The letter was signed by JFNA President and CEO Eric Fingerhut, JFNA Board Chair Julie Platt, JAFI Chair of the Executive Doron Almog, JAFI Board of Governors Chair Mark Wilf, WZO Chair Yaakov Hagoel, Keren Hayesod Board of Trustees Chair Steven Lowy, and Keren Hayesod World Chair Sam Grundwerg.

“We must make every effort for unity and Shalom Bayit – peace in our home,” they wrote. “We, representatives of the National Institutions and World Jewry, partners in outlining the future of the Jewish people, wish to express the concern of the entire Jewish people and aspire to strengthen the foundations of our national home.”

The letter does not argue in favor or against a specific piece of legislation or course of action but instead focuses on the need to mend the divisions in Israeli society over the issue. The leaders write that this is particularly important ahead of Tisha B’Av, which marks the destructions of the First and Second Temples — the latter of which is traditionally said to have been destroyed due to “baseless hatred” within the Jewish people.

“This week, on the eve of Tish’a B’Av, when we remember the painful memory of the destruction of the first and second temple, we are at a point of great polarization and discord in Israeli society which we must find a way to overcome,” they wrote.

Read the full story here.

Make a distinction

Artwork featured in the inaugural issue of Distinctions. (Courtesy/JIMENA)

Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa launched a new quarterly journal, Distinctions, dedicated to the history and culture of Sephardi and Mizrahi people and communities, releasing its inaugural issue last week, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross.

Spotlight on antisemitism: The issue focused on the topic of antisemitism, with articles looking at both contemporary issues and historical cases of Jews from the Middle East and North Africa facing violence and hatred. The contributors to this first edition were primarily, and deliberately, women. “Sephardi and Mizrahi women hold many influential leadership positions within the Jewish communal professional workforce, so we decided to devote this inaugural issue of Distinctions to them by elevating the voices of several outstanding women who are fighting antisemitism,” Sarah Levin, executive director of JIMENA, wrote in her publisher’s note.

Getting voices heard:Distinctions is designed to push our community forward, to uncover people and perspectives on issues that for too long have been ignored,” Ty Alhadeff, JIMENA’s director of education, who also appears on the Distinctions’ masthead, said in a statement. “JIMENA believes that to genuinely change internal Jewish narratives and attitudes — and to become more inclusive and respectful of Sephardi and Mizrahi people and communities — we need this new platform.”

Read the full story here.

What’s your price?

How we are failing our congregational educators and the future of North American Jewry

Getty Images

“In the many recent conversations lamenting the decline of synagogues, alarmist articles and panels issue dire warnings about the end of the synagogue era and North American Jewry as we know it. While I acknowledge the concern and validity of the less-than-ideal statistics, there are many successful synagogues experiencing a different story. They are thriving, robust, and yes, growing communities that are contending not with empty classrooms or pews, but instead with a lack of space to accommodate the families that walk through their doors. So rather than join the chorus of questions about what’s going wrong, I’d like to ask “what’s going right” in these communities? Why are certain congregations growing?” writes Micol Zimmerman Burkeman, director of the teaching impact fellowship at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Engine of engagement: “While multiple variables account for a synagogue’s success, the one most responsible for a growing synagogue is the health and effectiveness of its congregational school. The majority of new members to congregations are families seeking a Jewish education for their children. Contrary to the enduring myth that congregational schools are a drain on the synagogue’s budget, they are in fact the very fountain of life that sustains it.”

Expectation without compensation: “Over the years, I have received many educator job descriptions with a request to share them with my network. As I reviewed the stack in my inbox this year, two concerning patterns emerged. The first was the sheer volume of duties expected of a congregational educator… The second and even more alarming pattern was the inadequate salaries for congregational educators relative to other leadership roles in the organization. Following the pages of job expectations and responsibilities were shockingly low salary ranges, described as ‘competitive,’ that were in no way proportional to the jobs they are expected to do and the value they bring.”

If not now, when?: “It is time to align the value we ascribe to congregational educators to the value they bring to our communities. It is time to match their valuation with their value added. It is time to make these roles worth the effort and excellence they require. It is time to ask what price you are willing to pay for the future of the Jewish community.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Glimmers of Dialogue: In Haaretz, Judy Maltz describes the scene at and around the Western Wall yesterday, where people for and against the government’s proposed judicial overhaul came together to stress unity and compassion. “Hundreds of supporters and opponents of the government’s judicial overhaul held a joint ceremony Sunday morning at Jerusalem’s Western Wall, where they urged Israel’s leaders to reach a ‘broad consensus’ on changes to the legal system before the country dissolves into civil war… Speakers at the event warned of an impending ‘destruction of the Third Temple’ if a compromise on the controversial legislation was not reached in the coming hours – an allusion to the two ancient Jewish temples whose destruction is marked this week during the annual fast of Tisha B’Av… On the march from the Western Wall to the Knesset, arguments between supporters and opponents of the judicial overhaul could often be overheard. But despite the unusually tense atmosphere in the country these days, they did not dissolve into shouting matches and people often seemed to be making a special effort to remain civil. To the point, in fact, that many of these arguments ended with a big hug.” [Haaretz]

The Marrow of Life: In The Times of Israel, Andrew Keene, a senior vice chair of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, writes about his experiences making a stem cell donation through the Be the Match nonprofit. “‘Just got word that the patient received your cells and everything went well’ was the text message I had been anxiously awaiting for several days. Nine weeks earlier, while waiting for an Uber in Washington, D.C., I received a call from an unknown number. On the other end was a representative from Be the Match National Marrow Donor Program, who informed me that a newly diagnosed cancer patient was in need of a stem cell transplant, and I was his closest match. This phone call started what would become some of the most meaningful, reflective, emotional, and at times spiritual weeks of my adult life. It would also confirm what I already knew to be true — we are all connected in ways we don’t fully understand, and we all have an obligation to each other that we cannot fully define.” [TOI]

Around the Web

U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides ended his tenure over the weekend. The deputy chief of mission, Stephanie Hallett, has assumed charge of the U.S. Embassy

New York Times columnist Tom Friedman wrote an open letter to President Joe Biden calling on him to instruct key members of his administration to tell their Israeli counterparts that if the Israeli government goes ahead with its proposed judicial overhaul “it will not only undermine the shared values between our two countries but also do serious damage to [the U.S.’s] own strategic interests in the Middle East”…

Connecticut Humanities awarded a $30,000 grant to the Fairfield University Art Museum to create an exhibition of Polish-born Jewish artist Arthur Szyk’s work. Szyk is famous for his Haggadah, as well as his political illustrations throughout World War II…

Glenda Sacks retired as the Hillel director of the University of San Diego and California State University at San Marcos, ending a 36-year career as a Jewish communal professional, which included stints at San Diego’s Chabad Hebrew Academy, San Diego Jewish Academy, the Agency for Jewish Education and the Jewish Federation of San Diego County

Chabad and Israel’s Diaspora Affairs Ministry opened a new Jewish social club in Kyiv, Ukraine, for Jewish children, ages 5-13. Rabbi Mordechai Levenharz and his wife, Devorah Leah Levenharz, will run the center…

Jill and Ron Sedley made a donation of an undisclosed amount to the Indiana University’s Jewish Culture Center to both improve the experience of Jewish students and combat antisemitism on campus…

A new survey by Start-Up Nation Central found that more than two-thirds of Israeli startup companies – 68% – said they were taking some form of concrete action in response to the government’s proposed judicial overhaul, including withdrawing cash reserves, relocating headquarters outside of Israel, moving employees abroad or conducting layoffs…

Burton Farbman, who founded the real estate firm Farbman Group outside Detroit and regularly donated to local and Jewish causes, died earlier this month at 80…

Pic of the Day

Courtesy/Met Council

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), center, distributes food to people in need in Brooklyn yesterday alongside the CEO of the Met Council on Jewish Poverty, David Greenfield.

Jeffries also announced yesterday that the Met Council would be receiving $1 million in federal funding. “This sizeable contribution underscores the Congressman’s enduring commitment to the well-being of his constituents and his belief in the importance of Met Council’s work. “We are so thankful for this vital funding from Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, who has always been a champion for Met Council and for the Jewish community,” Greenfield said in a statement. “We know that Rep. Jeffries always has our backs in Washington and fights hard to make sure people have access to food, meals, and the services they need. We are grateful for his leadership and look forward to our continued partnership.”


Courtesy/American Friends of ANU

Former U.S. Ambassador to Romania, now senior counsel at Covington and Burling, Alfred H. Moses

Founder and chairman at Chicago-based housing developer The Habitat Company, Daniel Levin… Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter who worked for ABC News and CBS’s “60 Minutes,” Lowell Bergman… Israeli physician, author and playwright, he is the younger brother of PM Benjamin Netanyahu, Iddo Netanyahu… Political consultant known for his role in both of President Obama’s presidential campaigns, Joel Benenson… Los Angeles-based business and real estate attorney, Michael Jeffrey Bordy… Radio anchor and reporter on both CBS nationally and NYC’s WCBS, Michael Sugerman… Member of Congress (D-FL-13) until 2022, he previously served as the governor of Florida, Charlie Crist… One of the largest real estate investors in Russia and Chairman of the Board of Patrons of The Conference of European Rabbis, Boris Mints… Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, Judge Patty Shwartz… Director of donor development for AIPAC, he is a retired NFL player who played for the Packers and the Cowboys where he won in Super Bowl XXVII, Alan (Shlomo) Veingrad… Founder of the Migdal Oz seminary for women in Gush Etzion, she is a granddaughter of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Esti Rosenberg… Partner in the Kentucky-based law firm of Frost Brown Todd and author of The Liberal Case for Israel, he was the first-ever Jewish statewide elected official in Kentucky, Jonathan Miller… Author, he writes the My Ride column for The Wall Street Journal on exotic cars, A.J. Baime… Mayor of Asheville, N.C., she was elected in 2013, 2017 and 2022, Esther E. Manheimer… Actress, writer, podcaster and comedian, Jamie Denbo… President of Access Computer Technology in West Bloomfield, Mich., he is a rabbi, entrepreneur and social media expert, Jason Miller… President and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, Noah Zvi Farkas… EVP and CFO of Morgan Stanley, Sharon Yeshaya… Actress, screenwriter and director, she is married to Seth Rogen, Lauren Miller Rogen… Co-founder and partner at Orfin Ventures, Adam Finkel… Senior media relations specialist at Hill+Knowlton Strategies, Sarah Citrenbaum… Co-founder and COO of Weave, Shlomo Klapper