Daily Kickoff: Meet Doug Jemal, Washington’s eccentric mogul | Interview with Sen. Ben Cardin | How Facebook enabled advertisers to reach anti-Semites
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LONG-READ PROFILE: “Inside an eccentric mogul’s quest to save D.C.’s most distinctive buildings” by Jonathan O’Connell: “Douglas Jemal leans back in his chair, rubs his bald head front to back with his fingertips, and smiles. He is sitting in his office at Douglas Development, surrounded by antique glass medicine bottles, Depression-era D.C. license plates and a photo of his father, Norman. Nearby is Eagle, an African gray parrot old enough to rent a car. Eagle lives in a cage by Jemal’s desk, among assorted other birds. Long ago, Jemal taught the bird that when he yells, “F— you, Eagle!” the bird should return in kind.”
“Today, you can stand at the corner of Seventh and H streets NW, outside of Jemal’s office, look in any direction, and see his fingerprints on some of Washington’s most distinctive blocks. Douglas Development now owns about 240 properties, about 150 of them in the District, and has 5 million square feet of projects in the works. All of this has made Jemal a wealthy man, though he is cagey about just how wealthy. Published estimates of his net worth start at $150 million. The last time I asked him for a ballpark figure, he reminded me that he drives a 1994 Ford Taurus to work every day. “I’ll be written down in every history book of Washington, D.C., forever,” he says. “Fifty years from now they’ll say, ‘That’s a Douglas building, that’s a Jemal building.’ So how do you put a price on something like that?” [WashPost]
FLASHBACK — How Sixth & I was ‘born again’: “Doug Jemal and Abe Pollin were walking together along a downtown street when Jemal brought up his yearning to establish a place for Jews to pray in the District’s revitalized center city. That was five years ago . “I want to put a synagogue downtown,” said Jemal, a rough and rowdy developer who’s been a driving force in the redevelopment of DC’s East End. In the winter of 2002, a church on the edge of Chinatown was about to be sold to a nightclub owner. It had been the home of Turner Memorial AME Church since 1951. But the pale brick building at Sixth and I streets, Northwest, originally had been a synagogue… A little more than a year later, the historic Sixth & I Synagogue has started holding services and hosting community events.” [Washingtonian]
TODAY AT 11AM: President Trump’s High holidays conference call with Jewish community leaders. The Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Rabbinical Assembly, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism announced last month they would not participate in the call.
“Trump invites Orthodox, but not Jewish groups who snubbed him, to High Holidays conference call” by Ron Kampeas: “In addition to the Orthodox Union, Agudath Israel of America and the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, participants who confirmed to JTA that they would be joining the call include four general organizations: the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Zionist Organization of America.” [JTA]
“Why We Are Joining President Trump’s Rosh Hashanah Call” by Agudath Israel’s Avi Shafran: “The Jewish religious tradition is very clear on the matter of showing honor to governmental leaders – even those with overactive Twitter feeds.” [Forward]
Will Pence continue the tradition of hosting Jewish leaders at the Naval Observatory? — by Jacob Kornbluh: Earlier this year in May, Vice President Mike Pence hosted the first-ever White House event celebrating Israel’s Independence Day. However, Pence does not appear to be continuing a tradition from the prior administration of inviting Jewish leaders to the Vice President’s residence in honor of the Jewish New Year. The event, often held in the backyard pool area of the U.S. Naval Observatory residence, was considered by attendees to be more exclusive than the much-hyped annual White House Hanukkah party.
Asked about Biden’s tradition last week, Pence advisor Tom Rose emailed that it was a “good idea. Should have thought of it.” As of Thursday, sources confirmed that no invites have been sent for a similar gathering at Pence’s home this year. Organizing the now highly-anticipated call with Jewish leaders — mostly from groups supporting the administration — at the last minute and the limited White House access many Jewish communal leaders face, points to the Trump administration’s lack of an official Jewish Liaison. Two months ago, several members of Congress wrote a bipartisan letter to President Trump urging him to continue a 40-year tradition by immediately appointing a White House liaison to the Jewish community.
Natalie Strom, a White spokeswoman, emails us… “The Trump Administration will be commemorating the upcoming High Holidays in several ways. President Donald J. Trump will hold a conference call with Jewish leaders and staff to send well wishes for the upcoming holidays and discuss his Administration’s progress on issues of interest to the Jewish community.” [JewishInsider]
DRIVING THE CONVO — “US set to extend Iran sanctions relief under nuclear deal” by Matthew Lee: “The Trump administration is poised to extend sanctions relief to Iran… “The Trump administration is continuing to review and develop its policy on Iran,” [Rex] Tillerson said at a news conference… in London… Tillerson said talks continue with the president and his senior advisers, but “no decision has been made.”” [AP] • US, Iran set for first meeting on nuclear deal at UN [ToI]
HEARD YESTERDAY — Trump in gaggle to reporters on AF1: “You’ll see what I’m going to be doing very shortly in October. The Iran deal is one of the worst deals I’ve ever seen. Certainly, at a minimum, the spirit of the deal is atrociously kept. The Iran deal is not a fair deal to this country. It’s a deal that should not have ever been made…”
“Iran Nuclear Deal Critics Push Plan for ‘Global Economic Embargo’” by Jana Winter and Dan De Luce: “The document, which has been circulating on Capitol Hill and in the White House, says the president should declare to Congress next month that the deal is no longer in the national security interest of the United States. Then the president would make clear his readiness to hit Iran with a “de-facto global economic embargo” if it failed to meet certain conditions over a 90-day period, including opening military sites to international inspectors. “This would be a 21st century financial version of [John F.] Kennedy’s Cuba quarantine,” according to a copy of the proposal obtained by Foreign Policy… The unsigned memo was written by Richard Goldberg, a former Republican congressional aide who has long advocated tough action against Iran.” [FP]
“Netanyahu at Odds With Israeli Military and Intelligence Brass Over Whether to Push Trump to Scrap Iran Nuclear Deal” by Barak Ravid, Amos Harel, Chaim Levinson and Amir Tibon: “Israeli officials said Netanyahu and Israel’s ambassador in Washington Ron Dermer are encouraging Trump and his close circle of advisers not to recertify the agreement and announce that Iran is breaching it. Netanyahu and Lieberman’s position is at odds with most Israeli experts in Military Intelligence and in the IDF’s Planning Directorate, the Mossad, Foreign Ministry and the Atomic Energy Committee… “Like in the United States, we have disagreements on this issue,” said an Israeli official.” [Haaretz]
“U.N. braces for Trump” by Nahal Toosi: “Trump will meet next week with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and he will see Jordan’s King Abdullah, an influential Arab ally… Trump may use his U.N. meetings to gauge support for fiddling with or abandoning the internationally negotiated nuclear deal with Iran… There are some hints… that a few world leaders may be open to the idea of hammering out supplemental agreements with Iran that deal with sensitive issues such as its ballistic missile program.” [Politico]
SCENE YESTERDAY IN NYC: U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley along with Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon met with the national leadership of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Organizations for a preview of the upcoming UN General Assembly. [Pic]
JI INTERVIEW — Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) discussed the Anti-Boycott Act he introduced with Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) and the Iran deal in an interview with JI’s Aaron Magid yesterday. Cardin expressed concern regarding the Trump administration’s possible decertification of Iranian compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal. “From everything we know, Iran is not in material breach. So therefore if the President doesn’t certify, he is setting up a situation where the U.S would be walking away and be the violator of an agreement, isolating the U.S. from Europe and giving Iran a much stronger platform in the international community,” he explained.
Cardin on the Anti-Boycott Act: “Those who have taken the effort to truly understand our amendment recognize that all of the complaints that have been raised deal with the underlying current law not with the amendment that followed. Having said that, we think there is ample support in Congress to pass this. We are open to clarifying this.” Read the full interview here[JewishInsider]
TAYLOR FORCE ACT: State Department declares its support for the Taylor Force Act — by Aaron Magid: The State Department told Jewish Insider yesterday that the “Trump administration strongly supports the Taylor Force Act,” noting that the legislation is a “consequence of Palestinian Authority and Palestine Liberation Organization’s policy of paying terrorists and their families.” The administration “is closely following the progress of the legislation and looks forward to working with Congress as it takes its final form,” the State Department official added. [JewishInsider]
“White House, Israeli Embassy Strongly Deny Report McMaster Yelled at Israeli Officials” by Amir Tibon: “Michael Anton, the spokesman for the National Security Council at the White House, told Haaretz that McMaster “never yelled” at any Israeli officials. Itai Bar Dov, a spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Washington separately confirmed that the allegation was indeed false… Bar Dov, the Israeli Embassy spokesman, stated that Israel “never asked” for [White House counter-terrorism expert Mustafa] Ali not to attend the meeting, and added that the allegations in the original report are “totally false.” He also told Haaretz that “Israel appreciates Gen. McMaster’s efforts to strengthen the U.S.-Israel relationship.”” [Haaretz]
“Palestinians Seek More Assertive Trump for Talks With Israel” by Jonathan Ferziger and Fadwa Hodali: “Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas will try to persuade U.S. President Donald Trump when they meet next week to endorse a two-state solution… “We want to see him intervening, we want to see him successful and we want to see an ultimate deal,” Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian ambassador to the U.S., said in a phone interview. “We just have to know where we’re going, what’s the final destination.” … Abbas will meet Trump in New York on Sept. 20, the same day he addresses the annual gathering of the United Nations General Assembly.” [Bloomberg]
TOP TALKER: “Trump signs resolution condemning ‘racist violence’ in Charlottesville” by Gregory Korte: “President Trump signed a congressional resolution condemning a white nationalist march on Charlottesville, Va. last month, saying he opposes “hatred, bigotry, and racism in all forms.” But the signing came just hours after he once again compared white supremacists, neo-Nazis and the KKK to the anti-fascist “antifa” movement, repeating some of the very remarks that led Congress to pass the resolution in the first place. “I think especially in light of the advent of antifa, if you look at what’s going on there, you know, you have some pretty bad dudes on the other side also,” Trump told reporters on board Air Force One Thursday. “A lot of people are saying — in fact a lot of people have actually written — ‘Gee, Trump might have a point.’ I said, you got some very bad people on the other side also, which is true.”” [USAToday]
ADL’s Jonathan Greenblatt: “It is sad that the President seems not to have learned from his conversation with Senator [Tim] Scott or from the unanimous vote from Congress condemning the neo-Nazis and white supremacists in Charlottesville. If he is not going to provide the moral leadership the country needs on this issue, we are glad that leaders from both parties are stepping up and doing so.” [Twitter]
“Rahm Emanuel to US Jews: ‘This is our moment’ to defend the values that aided us” by David Horovitz: “Trust me, I know” there’s anti-Semitism, he says. But the Jewish community is more capable and influential than others who are facing hatred, he argues. Anti-Semitism has “always been present, as has bigotry and racism before,” he says… “But that fact is,” he elaborates, “American Jews, in our history, as a people, we’re in a unique position in America. You’re looking at the mayor of Chicago. The mayor of Chicago is an American Jew. The mayor of Los Angeles is an American Jew.”[ToI]
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Signature’s ideal buyer? A foreign bank that preserves its independence [AmericanBanker] • Sam Nazarian’s SBE Wants to Become the Ultimate Lifestyle Hospitality Group [Skift] • Joshua Harris scores UES mega mansion for $45M [NYPost] • The Political Awakening of Silicon Valley: What happens when tech leaders, like Y Combinator’s Sam Altman, believe our system is broken? They treat it like a startup [CaliforniaSunday]
SPOTLIGHT: “Facebook Enabled Advertisers to Reach ‘Jew Haters’” by Julia Angwin, Madeleine Varner and Ariana Tobin: “Until this week, when we asked Facebook about it, the world’s largest social network enabled advertisers to direct their pitches to the news feeds of almost 2,300 people who expressed interest in the topics of “Jew hater,” “How to burn jews,” or, “History of ‘why jews ruin the world.’” … After we contacted Facebook, it removed the anti-Semitic categories — which were created by an algorithm rather than by people — and said it would explore ways to fix the problem, such as limiting the number of categories available or scrutinizing them before they are displayed to buyers… Since we contacted Facebook, most of the anti-Semitic categories have disappeared. Facebook spokesman Joe Osborne said that they didn’t appear to have been widely used.” [ProPublica]
KAFE KNESSET — Framers of the constitution? — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked dropped a bombshell last night, announcing a plan to institute a constitution for Israel. Their plan is inspired by repeated Supreme Court intervention in legislation, which they and much of the Israeli Right feel is not legitimate. Therefore, their proposed constitution would regulate the separation of government powers in Israel, or “restore the balance,” as they put it. Part of that would be a clause allowing the Knesset to re-enact laws that the court cancels. The Bennett-Shaked constitution would also include what is commonly known as the “nationality bill,” declaring Israel to be the Jewish State, which has been floating around the Knesset in various forms for years and is very controversial.
Many have tried adopting a constitution in the past, and just because they want something to happen does not mean that the rest of the coalition will go for it. The apparent futility of this effort did not stop the opposition from being up in arms over the proposal. Former Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said “they don’t want a constitution; they want to destroy democracy and the Supreme Court.” Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]
“Unwelcome in Israel, African refugees dream of home” by Stephen Weizman: “The migrants, who [Adi] Drori-Avraham says meet the UN definition of refugees, live in a strange half-world where the rules are often contradictory. Their visas do not grant the right to work but when the holders go to renew them every two months they are asked to produce payslips to prove they are employed… [Tsgahans] Goytiom has been in Israel for eight years, arriving after a gruelling trek across Ethiopia and what he says was kidnap and torture by Bedouin in Sudan and the Sinai. With his wife he runs a kindergarten for migrant youngsters. “If we had the option of change in Eritrea we would not stay here another month,” he told AFP. “Everybody is waiting for the present situation to change.”” [Yahoo]
DESSERT: “Oakland’s Oldest Kosher Bakery Bounces Back With a New Owner” by Clara Hogan: “[Sam Tobis] has set a lofty goal: to further the bakery’s engagement with the Jewish community, while at the same time, spreading the love for kosher baked goods to those who may think it’s off limits for them. “Jewish food is under-enjoyed and underappreciated in mass,” says Tobis. Grand Bakery will remain fully kosher, certified by Sunrise Kosher, one of the more strict supervising organizations. “I’m more of a live-and-let-live kind of Jew,” Tobis says. “If you want to keep kosher great; if not, great. I personally don’t keep kosher in my life, but Grand Bakery is kosher and we exist to serve both the kosher community and non-kosher alike.”” [SFEater]
WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS — FRIDAY: CEO and Chairman of Goldman Sachs, Lloyd Blankfein turns 63… Borscht Belt comedian known as “The Master of Malaprop,” Norm Crosby turns 90… 1969 Nobel Prize laureate in Physics and professor emeritus at the California Institute of Technology, Murray Gell-Mann turns 88… Professor of Education at Wheelock College in Boston, Diane Levin turns 70… NYC-based composer and multi-instrument musician, Ned Rothenberg turns 61… Kosher restauranteur and former quantitative research scientist at hedge fund Renaissance Technologies, David Magerman turns 49… NPR’s Media Correspondent who previously spent 10 years reporting at the Baltimore Sun, David Folkenflik turns 48… NYC-based fundraising and development consultant who has worked for JFNA and other Jewish organizations, Deborah Leipzig turns 41… Chicago public school teacher, event organizer and fundraiser, Shayla Rosen turns 39… Graduate of The Ohio State University, now a fellow there for the Israel on Campus Coalition, Tomer Elias turns 30… VP of business development at Rockville, Maryland based PW Communications, Amanda Bresler turns 29… Politico’s New York City education reporter, Eliza Shapiro turns 27…
SATURDAY: Argentinian physician, author of controversial books on gender relations, Esther Vilar (born Esther Katzen) turns 82… Defense policy advisor to Presidents Reagan, Bush 41 and Bush 43 and member of a number of DC based think tanks, Richard Perle turns 76… Montebello, California resident, Jon Olesen turns 73… Founder and CEO of OurCrowd, an equity-crowdfunding platform focused on investing in Israeli startups, Jonathan Medved turns 62… Senior account executive at The Forward, Fern Wallachturns 61… Award winning illusionist, who has sold over 33 million tickets to his shows worldwide, David Copperfield (born David Seth Kotkin) turns 61… Candidate for Congress from Wisconsin in 2018, he was the VP of political affairs and political director for J Street, he is a nephew of former US Senator Herb Kohl (who owned the Milwaukee Bucks), Dan Kohl turns 52… Yeshivat Chovevei Torah’s Rabbi Dov Linzer turns 51… Chapel Hill, NC resident, renowned magazine writer, Jason Zengerle turns 44… Israel’s only Olympic Gold medalist (to date), Bronze in Atlanta 1996; Gold in Athens 2004, windsurfer Gal Fridman turns 42… Jerusalem-born founder and chairman of “Over The Rainbow – the Zionist Movement,” a World Zionist Congress faction, Tzvi (Tziki) Avisar turns 39… Associate Director at The Advisory Board Company, previously at both Hillel and AIPAC, Suzy Goldenkranz…
SUNDAY: Founder and marketer of the Oreck Corporation, manufacturers of vacuum cleaners and air purifiers, David Irving Oreck (family name was originally Oreckovsky) turns 94… Newberry award winning author of many young adult books, Gail Carson Levine turns 70… Rochester attorney, he served as the Executive Director of the philanthropic leadership group at UJA-Federation of NYC (2001-2003) and was a board member of the Rochester Jewish Federation, Frank Hagelberg turns 69… Professional tennis player who achieved a world ranking of No. 5 in 1980, Harold Solomon turns 65… Comedian, writer and actress, frequent guest of Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show, Rita Rudner turns 64… Israeli businessman and former IAF pilot, with real estate holdings in Israel and NYC, he is the founder and chairman of NYC-based Alto Real Estate Funds and chair of the Israel Advertising Federation, Mody Kidon turns 63… Glasgow-born, senior rabbi of Masorati Judaism in the UK, rabbi of the New North London Synagogue with approximately 2,400 members, Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg turns 60… Professor of Economics at Princeton, formerly Assistant Treasury Secretary and then chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, Alan Krueger turns 57… Washington columnist for the British daily newspaper, The Guardian, he was an EVP and executive editor of MSNBC’s website, Richard Wolffe turns 49… Former regional communications director and spokesperson for President Obama, now at Blue Engine Message & Media, Adam Abrams turns 36…
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