Jewish Insider Kickoff


U.S. House Passes Iran Sanctions Bill to Slash Oil Exports: “The House overwhelmingly approved legislation on Wednesday that would impose the toughest sanctions yet on Iran, calling the measure a critical step to cripple the country’s disputed nuclear program and brushing aside calls for restraint by critics who said the Iranian president-elect should first be given a chance to negotiate. The 400-to-20 vote to approve the legislation, known as the Nuclear Iran Prevention Act, came four days before the inauguration of Iran’s President-elect Hassan Rouhani, a moderate cleric who won on a tide of dissatisfaction with the conservative hard-liners who have been in power in Iran for the past eight years. Mr. Rouhani, a former nuclear negotiator, has said he will seek to ease tensions with the United States.

“Iran may have a new president, but its march toward a nuclear program continues,” Representative Ed Royce, a California Republican who was a main sponsor of the bipartisan legislation, said after the vote. “The economic and political pressure on Tehran must be ratcheted up.” There had been little doubt that the bill, which now goes to the Senate for consideration in September after the Congressional summer recess, would be approved, given the widespread antipathy in Washington for Iran’s government since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. But the timing of the vote had raised alarm among some lawmakers who contended it would be viewed in Iran as a blatantly hostile signal at a delicate time. Experts in Iranian politics said they feared the vote could embolden Iran’s hard-liners and weaken Mr. Rouhani’s ability to ease the estrangement with the United States. “They have a strong case to make that they can’t trust us,” said Gary G. Sick, an Iran expert who teaches at Columbia and served on the National Security Council under the Ford, Carter and Reagan administrations, which included the break with Iran. “What the Congress is trying to do is confirm that.” Mr. Royce and other supporters of the bill rejected that view, arguing that Mr. Rouhani will have limited power under Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who deeply mistrusts the United States. “Congressional efforts to impose new sanctions should not be based on the Iranian political calendar,” Mr. Royce said.” [NYTimes]

Reuters – In raging Middle East, Israel wins time with Palestinian peace talks: Pressured by Washington, worried about its international standing and perturbed by Middle East turmoil, Israel had many reasons to return to peace talks with the Palestinians this week after a three year hiatus. On the surface, Israelis saw little reason to jump back into negotiations. The status quo in the occupied Palestinian territories was holding and the question of the so-called peace process had largely fallen off the domestic political agenda. But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may have realized he could not take the rap for cold shouldering U.S. efforts to revive the talks, and recognized that turbulent regional dynamics made it worthwhile to engage with the Palestinians once more.

“Resuming the diplomatic process at this time is important for the state of Israel both in order to try to end the conflict and given the complex reality in our region, especially the security challenges from Syria and Iran,” Netanyahu told his cabinet on Sunday before it sanctioned the resumption of talks. The last round of U.S.-brokered negotiations collapsed barely after they began in 2010 in a row over continued Jewish settlement building in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem on land the Palestinians want for their future state. Although Netanyahu continues to reject Palestinian demands that he halt the construction, he has agreed to release 104 Arab prisoners as a goodwill gesture, drawing heavy criticism from rightist allies who say it will encourage terrorism.

The fact he made such a politically sensitive concession suggests he was put under enormous pressure by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who visited the region six times in just five months to try to revive the long-moribund peace process. “No one wanted to lose the blame game, so that’s why we went to Washington,” said Amos Yadlin, a former Israeli military intelligence chief who now heads the Institute for National Security Studies. The same is true for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and that pressure could also produce progress: “Whoever botches the Americans’ plans will have a price to pay,” one Israeli official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.” [Reuters]

US Using the UN to Bully Israel? – “The UN made me do it. That’s how Obama officials are explaining Secretary Kerry’s intense efforts to move Israel onto the front burner and shove over the bloody turmoil immediately affecting millions of Israel’s neighbors and the imminent catastrophe of an Iranian nuclear weapon. Speaking to reporters on July 30, 2013, senior officials said the administration was seeking “to avoid a train wreck” at the United Nations. “Throughout the course of this year Palestinians have been making clear that if they couldn’t see progress on the peace front, their intention would be to seek other elevations of their status… at the UN.” They explained a “new dynamic vis-à-vis the United Nations,” was driving the immediacy for renewed talks. The comments mirror Secretary Kerry’s remarks in June: “the Palestinians have said that they will go to the UN and seek to join more UN organizations… And the Palestinians have also threatened to take their case to the International Criminal Court.” Now Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has generously promised to delay those moves during the next nine months of talks. The claim that the United Nations – and more specifically, the Arab stranglehold over its output – is genuinely intimidating the President of the United States ought to ring major alarm bells for anyone under the impression that elected American representatives set American foreign policy.” [Breitbart]

TWEET DU JOUR – Micky Rosenfeld, Israel Police Foreign Press Spokesman (@MickyRosenfeld): “Israel police arrest man 46 in Jerusalem from Natureh Karta suspected of having contact with a foreign agent and transferring information.”

Neturei Karta Member Charged with Espionage for Iran: “A Jerusalem resident who belongs to the ultra-Haredi Neturei Karta sect is being charged with contacting the Iranian embassy in Berlin, offering to spy for Iran in Israel, and even proposing to murder a Zionist for Iran. The man is being charged with contact with a foreign agent and an intent to commit treason. According to the charges, which were made public today, the man decided three years ago to start spying for Iran. He went online—not a small feat for a Neturei Karta man—and checked out Iranian embassies in Europe. In January, 2011, he flew to Berlin, showed up at the Iranian embassy and told the reception clerk that he was an Israeli citizen interested in meeting an Iranian official.

He was taken to an office in the embassy where, according to the charges, he met with three unknown individuals. He told the Iranians who he was, explaining that his faith rejects the existence of the state of Israel, and that he wished to replace the current Israeli government with a gentile government. He then proposed to pas intelligence information to the Iranians. During the meeting, the man asked his hosts how come they don’t manage to guard their people in Iran against Israeli assassinations. In response, the Iranians asked how he can be so insolent when he’s asking for political asylum, and he responded that he wasn’t interested in an asylum, and that he would gladly murder a Zionist for them.

According to the charges, the Iranians told the accused they were going to check the matter with their superiors and gave the accused man a note with an email where they would send him messages. They also instructed him to call them at the embassy. The accused returned to Israel and started checking the email account in Internet cafes around Jerusalem. He also made several payphone calls to Iran’s Berlin embassy, asking to speak to “Haji Baba,” the nickname of one of the Iranian with whom he had contact in Germany. The arrest of double-oy-vey-seven took place two weeks ago, under a massive gag order. He was remanded to a holding cell in the Petach Tikva magistrate court and his appeal of the arrest was rejected by the district court. According to the prosecution, the accused has already admitted the charges against him.” [Jewish Press]

Kenyan lawyer takes State of Israel, Jews to the Hague over Jesus’ death: “A Kenyan lawyer has filed a petition with the International Court of Justice in The Hague, suggesting that the trial and crucifixion of Jesus Christ was unlawful, and the State of Israel among others should be held responsible, Kenyan news outlet the Nairobian reported on Friday. Dola Indidis, a lawyer and former spokesman of the Kenyan Judiciary is reportedly attempting to sue Tiberius (emperor of Rome, 42 BCE-37 CE), Pontius Pilate, a selection of Jewish elders, King Herod, the Republic of Italy and the State of Israel. “Evidence today is on record in the Bible, and you cannot discredit the Bible,” Indidis told the Kenyan Citizen News. Although those he suggests should have been convicted during the original trial have not been alive for more than 2,000 years, Indidis insists that the government for whom they acted can and should still be held responsible.” [Jerusalem Post]

Op-ed – Are Christian invocations constitutional in the US? by Nathan Lewin? “The US Supreme Court announced last Monday that when the justices return from their summer vacations they will tackle a uniquely American church-state constitutional question that they have avoided for 30 years. There is no country in the world where divine guidance is sought as consistently at the inception of governmental deliberations and ceremonial occasions as it is in the United States. The inauguration of an American president has, since 1937, always begun with an invocation by a clergyman and ended with a benediction, as does the convention of every political party. The fact that the 2012 Republican Convention began with a prayer by a young Orthodox rabbi wearing a kippa was well publicized in Israel and in the United States. Rabbis Abba Hillel Silver, Louis Finkelstein and Nelson Glueck delivered prayers at the inaugurations of presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy.

Congress routinely begins each legislative day with a ceremonial prayer recited by the chaplain of the House or Senate or by a visiting clergyman who is given the honor. The first rabbi to be given that distinction delivered an invocation in 1860 wearing a tallit and a yarmulke. He included the priestly blessing in his text. He was invited again although the Episcopal Church viewed his participation as an insult to Christianity. A Muslim imam was first given the honor in 1991 and a Hindu priest in 2000. Rabbis were invited to open a House of Representatives session seven times during the 112th Congress. This American tradition developed from British practice where, it is said, both Houses of Parliament have, since the 16th century, opened their sessions with prayers. In the United States, the custom has been followed down to the least significant and smallest governmental bodies.” [Jerusalem Post]

With popular website, Kiev project becomes hub for young Jews:  Hours after assailants shot Rabbi Artur Ovadia Isakov on a street in the Russian republic of Dagestan last week, mainstream Russian media were still scrambling to ascertain his identity. But Isakov’s name and condition  already were known to the readers of Jewishnet.ru, a growing social network with 80,000 daily users that has relied on user participation to cover Jewish news and help connect fast-assimilating Jews across the Russian-speaking world. The first report about Isakov was posted by a user from Israel, where the rabbi is recovering from what authorities say may have been a hate attack. Other users added new information on Jewishnet’s Facebook page, including details about Isakov’s evacuation to Israel and pictures of the rabbi’s family.

“Traffic on the website usually picks up when something dramatic happens in the Middle East or involving the Jewish community,” said Igor Kozlovskiy, a technology professional and the site’s co-founder. While English-speaking Jews have a number of social networks to share news and connect around shared interests, Russian-speaking Jewry had none when Kozlovskiy founded Jewishnet with a partner, Roman Gold, in 2011. The site, which maintains sections devoted to dating, couch surfing and finding travel buddies, is used as well to promote Jewish events in Kiev, home to one of the largest Jewish communities in the former Soviet Union and one of the most highly assimilated.” [JTA]

Op-ed – The American Jewish Establishment Must Embrace Social Media by Ronn Torossian: “One of the biggest challenges facing American Jewry is assimilation, which is happening at an alarming rate. Looking at the situation, it is clear that the Jewish establishment has yet to find a way to effectively connect with many of these disaffected Jews. There is, perhaps, no bigger buzz-word than continuity when it comes to Jewish communal advocacy.  Every Jewish organization is looking for a way to preserve Judaism and see it flourish. Despite this, social media (the Internet revolution – Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc.), which is one of the best ways to reach today’s and tomorrow’s generations, hasn’t quite reached the American Jewish establishment.” [Algemeiner]

Jewish Late-comer Candidate Sees Opportunity In Chaotic New York City Mayoral Race: “In a New York City mayoral race marked by scandal and the clear absence of a front runner, wealthy tech entrepreneur Jack Hidary sees an opening for another candidate – one with a sweeping vision for the city’s future. “The message across the board is, thank God someone else is in the race,” Hidary said in an interview. Hidary, who casts himself as a business-friendly candidate in the mold of New York City’s current mayor Michael Bloomberg, said two weeks ago that he was entering the race. He has hired seasoned campaign aides, including Joe Trippi, a veteran of Democratic presidential campaigns.

Unlike Bloomberg, a billionaire businessman who as mayor pioneered changes in public health and economic development, Hidary is largely unknown in the city and, even among his admirers, there are questions about whether he has the skills needed to manage a massive, complicated city. “He is a very creative, smart guy who is a great spokesman for the New York tech sector,” said Kathryn Wylde, president of the Partnership for New York City, a business group. Asked if those skills translate into politics, Wylde said, simply, “No.” “It’s a fine art that demands a blend of political and management skills. And Jack is untested,” she said. Still, with voters largely undecided, “anything could happen,” she said.” [Reuters]

STARTUP NATION

Futuristic transport pods coming to Tel Aviv: “A group of engineers and dreamers are hoping to ease Tel Aviv’s notorious traffic by making the First Hebrew City the first city in the world to host a mass transport system of magnetically levitating pods. The city recently hired US consultancy Jenkins Gales & Martinez to get the ball rolling, or pod sliding, on the project. According to the planners, the SkyTran will provide a cheaper, faster, environmental friendly and comfortable alternative to cars and buses, which are the main cause for congestion and pollution in the country’s metropolitan area, designboom reported. No timetable has been reported for the project. The system will ferry passengers in personal pods around the city, much like a taxi, but will charge a fare closer to that of a bus, according to Sanders. Passengers will able to order rides via a smartphone application.” [Times of Israel]

Plan Approved for Israel’s Tallest Building: “The Tel Aviv Local Planning and Building Commission today approved the “Keren Hakirya” plan for the construction of an office, commercial, and residential complex at the corner of Shaul Hamelekh Street and Namir Road. The plan will include an 80-floor skyscraper – Israel’s tallest building to date. Under the approved plan, 240,000 square meters of office and building space will be built, including 540 apartments and 100,000 square meters of office space. The plan calls for the construction of 80-floor and 50-floor office buildings, and two 45-floor residential high rises, atop a commercial floor. The 80-floor skyscraper will be considerably higher than the nearby Azrieli Towers.” [Globes]

EatWith, an Israeli Airbnb for Dinner Parties, Sets Its Sights on U.S. Cities: “In the growing “sharing” economy, online communities are offering peer-to-peer services for almost anything — apartment rentals (Airbnb), car rides (Lyft), house cleaning (Exec), shelf-building (TaskRabbit), laundry pick-up (I mean, really) and many other tasks and experiences. EatWith is one such website, and this one, as its name implies, lets you eat with local families while traveling, instead of falling into tourist traps. And now the year-old, Israeli-based startup is expanding into the U.S., starting in New York City.

Here’s how EatWith works: If you’re interested in hosting, an EatWith representative will swing by to meet with you, check out your digs and judge your cooking. If deemed worthy, you then set up a profile and advertise your own brunches, lunches and dinner parties, often with themes (such as a Cinco de Mayo brunch, a contemporary Thai-Brazilian feast, or a “crazy dinner of borscht and flautas”). Hosts also set a suggested donation per attendee. If you’re a guest seeking a slice of local life, you can search the website by location and apply for a seat at a gathering nearby. The host will assess your online profile, start a dialogue with you and decide whether to accept you as a guest. Most gatherings range in price per guest from $25 to $50. EatWith then takes a 15 percent cut of each transaction.” [AllThingsD]

Glide Tops 3.5M Downloads With Over 12 Million Seconds of Video Shared Each Day: “Glide, the Jerusalem-based video messaging app that launched on the Disrupt NY stage just a few months ago, today announced that it has reached 3.5 million downloads, with users sharing upwards of 12 million seconds of video each day. For some perspective, that’s about 139 days worth of video. Those users are also watching around 15 million seconds of video each day. According to the official press release, daily active users have grown by 120 percent in July. Glide is an app that lets users send private video messages to each other, in lieu of text messages. Users can also live broadcast Glides or store them in the cloud for later consumption.” [TechCrunch]

BUSINESS BRIEFS

SodaStream Rallies Most Since May After Raising Outlook: “SodaStream International Ltd, the Israeli maker of home soda machines, surged the most in 11 weeks after boosting its revenue outlook for 2013 and reporting second-quarter earnings that beat analysts’ estimates. Shares of the Airport City, Israel-based company jumped 15 percent to $67.10 at 10:08 a.m. in New York. The advance pared the stock’s retreat in July to 8 percent, the biggest slump since October.” [Bloomberg]

PCMR, in open court, challenges Talisker Corp. – Vail deal: “The lead attorney for Park City Mountain Resort on Tuesday broached the idea that Talisker Corporation’s deal with Vail Resorts for the Colorado firm to operate Canyons Resort might have violated a lease agreement between PCMR and Talikser Corporation. Alan Sullivan, who represents PCMR in the high-profile lawsuit against Talisker Corporation centered on the resort’s lease of much of its ski terrain, mentioned the idea during a conference in Third District Court at Silver Summit in front of Judge Ryan Harris. Sullivan said there could have been a breach of a clause allowing PCMR the right of first refusal. He did not discuss the topic in detail, however. The Talisker Corporation-Vail Resorts deal, announced in May, includes the possibility of Vail Resorts operating PCMR, depending on the outcome of the lawsuit. Vail Resorts assumed the lead role in the case for the Talisker Corporation side as a part of the deal.

Sullivan’s mention of the possibility of a violation was one of the first major statements from the PCMR side with the prospects of drawing Vail Resorts further into the case in some fashion. Sullivan had earlier said in an interview he would be interested in learning more about the negotiations that led to the Talisker Corporation-Vail Resorts agreement, particularly the discussions centered on the future of the PCMR land. Sullivan said during the conference he is attempting to obtain information about the agreement. He said he wants to learn what Talisker Corporation chief Jack Bistricer told the Vail Resorts side during the negotiations. “To us, this is a $100 million case . . . It is a very, very important case,” Sullivan said, referring to the price tag attached to improvements PCMR made at the resort. John Lund, one of the attorneys for the Talisker Corporation side, though, countered that statements Bistricer may have made to Vail Resorts should not be part of the case. PCMR filed the lawsuit in March of 2012 while the agreement with Vail Resorts was announced in May of this year. Lund also said PCMR is attempting to expand the scope of the case by involving the Talisker Corporation-Vail Resorts agreement.” [Park Record]

The Book of Morman: Why the world’s most capitalist religion breeds so many entrepreneurs: “The Mormon religion’s emphasis on hard work, staying focused, and giving back to the Church stirs entrepreneurial inclinations. The almost-mandatory missions carried out by its young men and women before they start their careers forge an ability to withstand rejection and disappointment while also fostering communication skills that help not only with sales jobs but also in starting companies. All the while, an unrelenting focus on the family means that Mormons are incentivized to “follow the rules” and earn money to feed many mouths, while maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

In the Mormon culture, there is also no shame in getting rich, which provides people with the ability to help others. The Church itself is extraordinarily wealthy. It is the beneficiary of tithings that amount to 10 percent of all its members’ income. As a religious organization, it is also exempt from taxes on real estate and donated funds and holdings. Two years ago, it built a $2 billion shopping mall in downtown Salt Lake City, just across the street from Temple Square, the Church’s spiritual center. While it keeps its books closed, recent estimates by Reuters and University of Tampa sociologist Ryan Cragun put the Church’s annual tithings at about $8 billion and its total worth somewhere in the order of $40 billion. The riches, the drive, the emphasis on self-reliance, the entrepreneurial spirit: It might well be said that, fitting for the country from which it sprung, Mormonism is the world’s most capitalist religion. An American religion inspired by the American Dream.” [PandoDaily]

​Bob Diener: Seven tips for entrepreneurs – How to reach success and know when to walk away: Bob Diener is a pioneer in the hotel consolidation and online travel industry with more than 25 years of experience. Diener is the president and co-founder of www.getaroom.com and is co-founder of the Hotel Reservations Network, now known as Hotels.com. Set realistic goals. A positive attitude and confidence in your business’ long-term success are vital. However, when it comes to setting goals you need to inject a dose of realism. Manage your own expectations so that even if you reach modest success benchmarks, you won’t have any sense of disappointment. Set conservative goals that will allow you to grow slowly. Use market research to gauge the size of your market and set reasonable sales goals. Doing this legwork on the front end will pay off by helping you see if your plan is flawed and needs tweaking.

You have to stand out. The attributes that make your product or service unique will be your main selling proposition. Be honest about the true uniqueness and don’t simply trust your biased opinion. You need to be able to market your competitive differentiator, and it needs to matter from the customer’s perspective. Set the value proposition. If your product’s special traits don’t offer value, then they won’t do you any good. Gather the advice of others to gauge if you are presenting true cost vs. value to customers. The value proposition is a core of the business, and without one it will certainly fail. Implement and follow a sound business model. Do you have a plan in place for how the company will make money? You should be revenue-focused right away and closely watch all expenses, especially your initial capital costs and any personnel salaries. Creating a full business plan at the outset will also protect you from overextending yourself or dipping too far into personal finances.

Know when to walk away. Ideally, you will walk away from your business on your own terms. Perhaps you have an offer to sell the company that will enable you to take time off or even retire early! If you think the company has reached its peak and cannot grab more market share, then you should consider selling. Conversely, if your strategies are simply not panning out, then you need to know when it’s time to pull the plug. Don’t risk personal financial ruin pursuing the business. If you have the entrepreneurial spirit then there is always another venture. When to begin again. If you walked away from your company and are in good financial shape, then you can explore starting another company. You should first have a reflective period where you look at the things you did right and wrong with your other business. Try to spot consistent issues. Perhaps you overestimated the costs of production or the expenses incurred due to staffing? Don’t be afraid to take some classes to broaden your knowledge base. Once you have learned some lessons and adjusted your strategy, then you can dive into your next company with the right focus. Find a niche. You not only need a product or service with unique traits, but you also need to identify a good niche within a decent-sized market. What’s a good example of a big market? Consider the hotel lodging business. It’s $500 billion. Think of any percentage of that sum and you have a hefty dollar amount.” [Smart Business]

Dessert – NPR Ted Radio Hour with Guy Raz – Why Is The High Wire Impossible To Resist: “It started out as another routine morning for a New York helicopter traffic reporter, but he had more to tell his radio listeners then how the traffic was on the West Side highway. “I’ll tell you what, I have a very queasy feeling in my stomach right now, because I’m at, let’s see, 1,500 feet and up here at 1,500 feet or in that area there is somebody out there on a tight rope walk between the two towers of the World Trade Center, right at the tippy top.” That somebody was Philippe Petit, a 24-year-old Frenchman doing his higher wire act 1,350 feet up and no net below.

RAZ: In his TED Talk, Philippe Petit tells a story of another wire walk he did, it was less well known than the one between the Twin Towers. He was invited to do it by Teddy Kollek, who was the mayor of Jerusalem at the time, and it was to open the Israel Festival.

PETIT: And I choose to put my wire between the Arab quarters and the Jewish quarters of Jerusalem over the Ben Hinnom Valley. And I thought it would be incredible if in the middle of the wire I stop, and I – like a magician, I produce, I make appear a dove and send her in the sky as a living symbol of peace. Eighty thousand people spread over the entire valley. The mayor of Jerusalem, Teddy Kollek, comes to wish me the best. But he’s nervous because, actually, all those people were people who considered each other enemies. So I start the walk. Everything is fine. I stop in the middle. I make the dove appear. People applaud in delight. And then, in a most magnificent gesture, I send the bird of peace into the azure, but the bird, instead of flying, it goes flop, flop, flop and lands on my head.

PETIT: And people scream. So I grab the dove, and for the second time, I send her in the air. But the dove, who obviously didn’t go to flying school, does flop, flop, flop and ends up at the end of my balancing pole. So now – you laugh, you laugh. But hey. I sit down immediately. It’s a reflex of wire walkers. Now in the meantime, the audience, they go crazy. I mean, they must think, this guy with this dove, he must have spent years working, what a genius, what a professional.

So I take a bow, you know, I salute with my hand and at the end, I bang my hand against the pole to dislodge the bird. Now the dove who, now you know obviously cannot fly, does, for the third time, a little flop, flop, flop, and ends up on the wire behind me. And the entire valley goes crazy. Now but hold on, I’m not finished. So now I’m like, what, 50 yards from my arrival. And I’m exhausted, so my steps are slow and something happened. Somebody, somewhere, a group of people start clapping in rhythm with my steps and within seconds, the entire valley is applauding in unison with each of my steps, but not in applause of delight like before, in applause of encouragement. For a moment, the entire crowd had forgotten their differences. They had become one, pushing me to triumph.

So after the walk, Teddy and I become friends. And he tells me, he has on his desk a picture of me in the middle of the wire with a dove on my head. He didn’t know the true story. And whenever he’s daunted by an impossible situation to solve in his, you know, hard-to-manage city, instead of giving up, he looks at the picture and he says, if Philippe can do that, I can do this. And he goes back to work. Inspiration. By inspiring ourselves we inspire others. I mean, I will never forget this music and I hope now neither will you. Please take this music with you home and start gluing feathers to your arms, and look at the world from a different perspective. And when you see mountains, remember, mountains can be moved.” [NPR]

Thats all folks, have a great Thursday! 

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