Your Daily Phil: Zionist teens take to the streets for Israel in L.A.

Good Thursday morning.

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews’ support for Israel since Oct. 7 and interview Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. We feature opinion pieces by Sarah Eisenman and Amian Frost Kelemer. Also in this newsletter: Anat VidorGur Alroey and Kfir Bibas. We’ll start with last weekend’s Club Z National Conference.

Their faces painted with blue and white Stars of David, a group of Jewish students gathered on the bridge over the 405 freeway in Los Angeles on Sunday, holding Israeli and American flags, posters of the hostages taken by Hamas on Oct. 7 and signs reading “Honk for Israel.” The teens were standing up for Israel as participants in the Club Z 2024 National Conference, embodying the conference’s theme: “Hinenu” — “Here we are,” reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Esther D. Kustanowitz.

Club Z, an organization that aims to strengthen Zionist identity in high schoolers, took over much of the ground floor of the Luxe Hotel on Sunset Boulevard over Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend, for their conference; meeting rooms and patios were designated as breakout workshop rooms, with many areas doubling as social spaces.

Jennifer Bukchin, a high school junior from Palo Alto, Calif., initially joined Club Z because her brother had joined and, she joked, her mother forced her to.

Bukchin spent much of the conference on-stage as one of two student emcees who had been chosen by Club Z leadership to model the teen-led approach that powers the organization.

Club Z was founded over a decade ago as an after-school program for unaffiliated Jewish teens in the San Francisco Bay Area. There are now seven Club Z chapters nationwide: Brooklyn and Westchester, N.Y.; Livingston, N.J.; California’s Bay Area and East Bay; and Charlotte and the Triangle Area, N.C., and the majority of students, like Bukchin, attend public schools.

“Jewish teens are embroiled in a war right here on U.S. soil,” said Club Z founder and CEO Masha Merkulova in a statement to eJP. “They are in the fight of their young lives, facing unprecedented hate and misinformation in school and online. The Club Z National Conference is the apex of our work throughout the year, educating and preparing teens to confront the lies and inspiring them to be unapologetic Zionists who display their Jewish pride for all to see.”

Read the full report here.

GOOD FELLOWS

IFCJ provides $19 million in aid, protective gear, food and ‘basic needs’ in first 3 months of war

Courtesy/Guy Yechieli

The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews has provided $19 million to Israelis affected by the ongoing war in Gaza and fighting along Israel’s northern border as of Dec. 31, including direct assistance to evacuees, the installation of portable bomb shelters and donation of protective gear and emergency equipment to first-response teams, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross.

Various needs: The $19 million has gone to, among other things, more than 5,000 protective flak jackets, almost 3,000 helmets and two fortified vehicles for local security teams in the southern Israeli cities of Ashkelon and Sderot; $7 million toward “various basic needs and assistance” to displaced Gaza-border communities; more than $500,000 to 400 families of wounded soldiers; and tens of thousands of meals for residents of Gaza-border towns who did not leave their homes.

Just getting started: “We were on the ground distributing aid on Oct. 7 as terrorists were still roaming our streets, and we have been doing so every day since,” IFCJ President and CEO Yael Eckstein said in a statement. “In many ways, our work is really just beginning, but we will continue doing everything we can to help people begin to rebuild their lives.” 

Q&A

At Davos, conversations about antisemitism take center stage

ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt, pictured in 2019.
ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt, pictured in 2019. Photo by Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/Lightrocket via Getty Images

Organizers of this week’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, have scaled up efforts to include conversations about antisemitism and Israel at the weeklong gathering, hosting a panel on the issue for the first time. Speakers include Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, Israeli First Lady Michal Herzog, Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt and Abrahamic Family House Special Interfaith Adviser David Rosen. Author and professor Timothy Snyder will moderate the session.

Melissa Weiss, executive editor of eJewishPhilanthropy’s sister publication Jewish Insiderspoke with Greenblatt about the atmosphere at Davos and his organization’s efforts since Oct. 7.

JI: Last week, we covered the ADL report that came out that found a significant uptick in antisemitic incidents. But in a change this year, you folks also started counting demonstrations for the first time and so I’m curious what drove that change.

JG: “We’ve looked at this issue for years and years and years. And sometimes a slogan or a phrase may appear in a certain context, in a certain setting, maybe used in a certain way which is benign, but chanting in front of a Hillel ‘From the river to the sea,’ which is a Hamas slogan, is intended for one purpose and one purpose only: to intimidate Jewish people, to terrorize people inside that Hillel… These are not benign. These are not expressions of some abstract idea… These are actions that are intended to terrorize Jews. And so that’s why we call them out as we did, and that’s why we will continue to call them out.”

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

FEEL THE LOVE

Our community is suffering. Let’s create more Jewish-positive experiences.

A billboard in Times Square in New York City publicizes the upcoming Shabbat of Love. Courtesy/Orthodox Union

“The barbarism and ferociousness of the terrorist attack of Oct. 7 has reminded every member of the Jewish community of the very fragile nature of life as a Jew. In the months since, extreme levels of antisemitism — marked by hate speech, synagogue vandalism and threats of physical violence — have been inescapable facts for North America’s Jews. Like other traumatic moments in our history, these events mark a turning point in the way members of our community relate to their Jewish identity,” writes Sarah Eisenman, chief community and Jewish life officer for the Jewish Federations of North America, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Fight or flight: “For many, it is an inflection point calling them to hold more tightly to their Jewishness… In response to these challenging times, more Jews are attending pro-Israel rallies (including November’s historic March for Israel in Washington, D.C.), attending synagogue, buying Judaica, sending their children to day schools and buying challah. Professionals in synagogues, Hillels, JCCs and day schools are responding to new levels of demand… For other members of the Jewish community, however, it feels like a moment to hide, to push their Jewish identity into the shadows.”

A ‘Shabbat of Love’: “It will take some more time for Jewish organizations and philanthropy to develop both short- and long-term strategies to deal with the massive disruptions and opportunities caused by this war, but one thing is clear: Our community needs Jewish-positive experiences, messages and spaces to feel both affirmed and safe in our Jewishness… Supported by the Jim Joseph Foundation, Shabbat of Love is an ambitious nationwide event that aims to embrace as many Jews as possible, whether they are feeling isolated and fearful or have a newfound pride in their Jewish identity. Shabbat of Love is an opportunity to bring our community together, an outlet our community is craving.”

Read the full piece here.

A READER RESPONDS

The ROI of funding Jewish schools

Courtesy

“While the shocking events of Oct. 7 through the present day feel all-consuming and devastating, reading the resonant ideas presented in “The ROI of funding Jewish communal infrastructure in a post-Oct. 7 world” (eJewishPhilanthropy, Dec. 11, 2023) was a joyous experience. Philanthropists who have the foresight to invest in infrastructure for our important communal endeavors — and professionals and lay leaders who find solace and support in the wisdom of our ancient yet relevant texts because of that structure — give me so much hope,” writes Amian Frost Kelemer, director of operating programs for the Mayberg Foundation, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

A community of learning: “Having adult learners connect more deeply to the people with whom they study is priceless. After all, finding meaning in the text and in the community is what has held the Jewish people together since Mount Sinai… Inspired children will also become the kind of adults who independently pick up a sefer (book) or seek out a study partner. This exchange of ideas and esprit de corps is what builds community and a robust and bright future for the Jewish people.”

Identifying essential elements: “With the vision and support of the Mayberg Foundation, the Jewish Education Innovation Challenge was established over 10 years ago to invigorate educational environments with new ways of teaching and learning. JEIC staff members both design new initiatives and identify and promote existing models that uniquely engage students in text study, an activity that also connects them to themselves, their communities and God… Indeed, fostering intrinsic motivation for the study of Jewish wisdom in our youth ensures the health and well-being of our Jewish future is not only valuable — it is imperative.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Good Metrics, Good Values: In Philanthropy Roundtable, Leah Kral, author of Innovation for Social Change: How Wildly Successful Nonprofits Inspire and Deliver Resultsdiscusses her recommendations for nonprofits looking to innovate. “I see nonprofit teams getting justifiably frustrated with metrics and evaluation all the time. We can easily be measuring the wrong thing. We can create bad incentives. Poorly designed metrics can waste our time… Metrics, when done right, help us answer the question, ‘How do we know if what we are doing is working’ And the information should lead to action or decisions. Evaluation and metrics must be meaningful and actionable. They can help you decide if a program is worth pursuing. They also can help you test your theories and learn from experiments… Mayo Clinic is perhaps the best nonprofit hospital in the world… In interviews, team members of Mayo Clinic say that good patient outcomes occur because employees are empowered to carry out their organizational values… A culture like this is intentional. It requires leaders to get out of the way. It involves taking risks and leaving room for bottom-up experimentation, and even failure, from which we can learn and adjust. These are practices that any type of nonprofit with any size budget, big or small, can learn from and replicate.” [PhilanthropyRoundtable

DEI Under Fire: Fourteen states are poised to consider legislation to curb diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives on campus — DEI offices, identity-based preferences for hiring and admissions, staff and faculty pledges to DEI goals (aka. diversity statements) and mandatory diversity training — and that number may grow, reports J. Bryan Charles in The Chronicle of Higher Education. “??While college administrators argue that they have a legal, moral, and financial obligation to more aggressively tackle forms of discrimination on campus and provide extra resources to historically marginalized employees and students — who will soon make up more than half of the nation’s population — opponents say those efforts are ineffective, illegal, and, in fact, discriminatory… The origin of the political campaign to dismantle colleges’ DEI efforts traces back to January 2023, when the Manhattan Institute and the Goldwater Institute created a playbook for lawmakers wishing to oppose DEI. In its proposal, scholars described DEI offices and their staff as ‘a kind of revolutionary vanguard on campuses; their livelihood can only be justified by discovering — i.e., manufacturing — new inequities to be remedied.’… Others see DEI efforts as a distraction from the structural inequalities that colleges create. ‘DEI offices are focused on the least impactful inequalities on campus,’ said Tyler A. Harper, an assistant professor of environmental studies at Bates College.” [ChronicleofHigherEd]

A Different Type of Pipeline: To help meet the needs of a desperate job market, Bloomberg Philanthropies is dedicating $250 million toward preparing students in 10 cities for health care jobs — straight out of high school, if desired, reports Jenna Russell in The New York Times. “Students will earn college credits as they train for careers in nursing, emergency medicine, lab science, medical imaging and surgery. But in a nod to evolving views on higher education, and to surging demand for vocational training, the program will prepare thousands of students to start full-time jobs upon graduation instead of college if they choose. ‘There’s a growing sense that the value of college has diminished, relative to cost,’ Howard Wolfson, education program lead at Bloomberg Philanthropies, said in an interview on Tuesday. ‘This should not be construed as anti-college — every kid who wants to go should have the opportunity. But at the same time, we have to acknowledge the reality that, for a lot of kids, college is not an option, or they want to get on with their careers.’… Wolfson said he envisions cities across the country setting up similar pipelines to fill 2 million job openings in health care, a number projected to double by 2031. In Boston, Mary Skipper, the schools superintendent, said she can imagine feeder schools to help address the critical national shortage of teachers in addition to health care workers. ‘It’s a very powerful model,’ she said. ‘It sets a blueprint.’” [NYT]

Around the Web

A shipment of medicine for the hostages being held in Gaza arrived in the Strip yesterday, along with a large shipment of humanitarian aid for Palestinians, as part of a deal mediated by France and Qatar…

Anat Vidor was appointed the next president of the Women’s International Zionist Organization. Vidor replaces Esther Mor, who served for two consecutive four-year terms…

The International Ice Hockey Federation reversed its decision to bar the Israeli National Team from competing in world championship events on security grounds, saying it had received confirmation from local authorities that sufficient safety measures were in place to allow the team to participate…

Demolition crews began taking down part of Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue in order to make way for a memorial at the site in honor of the 11 people murdered there in 2018 in the deadliest antisemitic attack in American history…

Former Meta chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg is reportedly planning to leave its board of directors and instead serve as an informal adviser to the company beginning in May…

The Finnish government donated $1 million to the Magen David Adom emergency service…

Jen Rosen was named senior program officer for Jewish values at the Carolinas-focused Leon Levine Foundation. Rosen joined the foundation after nearly 20 years at the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies and then at Moishe House

The National Endowment for the Humanities awarded the Yiddish Book Center a $147,000 grant to help it scan and make searchable Yiddish texts…

Believe in SF, a political action committee supporting San Francisco mayoral candidate Daniel Luriehas raised $3.3 million for his campaign against the incumbent, London Breed

Masa Israel Journey launched a six-week program to bring young Diaspora Jews to volunteer in Israel during the ongoing Israel-Hamas war…

The Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles awarded a total of $1.1 million in grants to seven local nonprofits addressing infant and maternal health, particularly those focused on disparities in maternal health care for Black families

The World Jewish Relief won a competitive bid from the Start Fund to support 320 households from at-risk and vulnerable communities in Colombia who are facing drought due to climate change….

Zionist historian and Haifa University Rector Gur Alroey has been named the next president of the institution…

Executives from Harvard University have reached out to a number of Silicon Valley investors to smooth ties following the outrage over the school’s handling of antisemitism on campus and its response to the Oct. 7 terror attacks…

Florida’s Board of Education banned the state’s public colleges from using state and federal funding for diversity, equity and inclusion programs

The Truist Foundation awarded a $40,000 grant to Baltimore’s Jewish Community Services to help unemployed and underemployed clients find “adequate” jobs…

The U.K.’s Jewish News spotlighted the JTeen helpline, which has been running for three years, providing assistance to young Jews…

Lawmakers from Maryland’s Senate and House of Delegates created the state’s first-ever Maryland Jewish Legislative Caucus

Pic of the Day

Courtesy/Hostages and Missing Families Forum

Today is the first birthday of Kfir Bibas, the youngest hostage taken to Gaza by Hamas on Oct. 7. Pictured here, Jimmy Miller (left) and Yosi Shnaider, cousins of Kfir’s mother Shiri Bibas (also currently held hostage in Gaza), marked the occasion yesterday in Kibbutz Nir Oz.

“The world has never lacked for people who hate Jews standing up for themselves, and others who wish we would die quietly,” Shnaider wrote in an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal. “I promise we will never stop fighting for Kfir to come home, along with all the hostages, and that his release day will finally be his new birthday.”

Speaking onstage at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, next to a photo of Kfir, Israeli President Isaac Herzog implored “the entire universe to work endlessly to free Kfir, and all the hostages that are there.”

Birthdays

Annie Liebovitz smiles
Courtesy/Yehoshua Halevi

Dean of the Jerusalem College of Technology (Machon Lev), head of the kollel at Yeshivat Har Etzion in the West Bank and a leading Israeli posekRabbi Yosef Zvi Rimon

Israeli businessman and former member of Knesset, Shlomo Eliahu… Retired executive director of the Israel on Campus Coalition of Greater Washington, Judy Novenstein… Publisher of a weekly community newspaper in Boston, David Jacobs… Executive editor at The 74 MediaJoAnne Wasserman… Microbiologist and professor of biology at Wichita State University, Mark A. Schneegurt, Ph.D.… Commissioner of the Social Security Administration starting one month ago, previously governor of Maryland and mayor of Baltimore, Martin O’Malley… Executive chairman of Aspen Square Management, Jeremy Pava… Executive director of Our Yisroel, Rabbi Yitz Greenman… Journalist and author of two New York Times bestsellers on personal finance, Beth Kobliner… Stand-up comedian, actor and writer, Dave Attell… Senior rabbi of Golders Green United Synagogue in London for 20 years until last month, Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski… NYC real estate entrepreneur, Andrew Heiberger… VP of government and airport affairs at JetBlue, Jeffrey Goodell… Former MLB All-Star and Gold Glove catcher, now a real estate investor, Mike Lieberthal… VP for communications and government affairs at Princeton University, Gadi Dechter… Samara Yudof Jones… Actor and screenwriter, Jason Jordan Segel… Basketball player, dubbed by Sports Illustrated as the “Jewish Jordan” in a 1999 feature, Tamir Goodman… Israeli-born, best known for his web series “Jake and Amir,” Amir Shmuel Blumenfeld… Chief development officer at Cleveland-based The Centers, Stacey Rubenfeld… British actor, Jacob Fortune-Lloyd… Talia Alter Gevaryahu… Cellist and music professor, Julian Schwarz… Singer, songwriter, actress and dancer with more than with 9.2 million followers on TikTok, Montana Tucker… All-star pitcher for the Atlanta Braves, Max Fried… Linda Rubin…