Daily Kickoff: Spotted at Trump’s Hanukkah party; Congressional Dems were not | Ori Allon raises $450M from SoftBank | Trump vs. his hometown on taxes
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WHITE HOUSE SCENE — by Jacob Kornbluh: President Donald Trump hosted his first White House Hanukkah party last night. Speaking before some 300 guests, Trump remarked gleefully, “I know for a fact there are a lot of happy people in this room — Jerusalem!” The President also spoke about the contribution American Jews have made to society. “On behalf of all Americans, I also want to say how grateful I am for Jewish congregations throughout our country. You cherish your families, support your communities, and uplift our beloved country,” he said.
Trump was joined on stage by First Lady Melania Trump, Holocaust survivor Louise Lawrence-Israels, Vice President Mike Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence, Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, along with his grandchildren. Before the President arrived in the room, two songs were sung by the Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy Lower School Girls Choir from Rockville. The menorah lighting was overseen by Rabbi Meir Soloveichik, who first recited the blessing that is said in the presence of a head of state, and then assisted Trump’s grandchildren Arabella and Joseph in lighting the first candle.
As always, the food was under the strict rabbinical supervision of Rabbi Levi Shemtov, the meat was “Glatt Kosher,” the bread was “Pas Yisroel” and the wine was “Mevushel.” Unlike prior years, the line outside the White House was relatively small, the event was not livestreamed by the White House — although some participants streamed it on Facebook Live — and the President appeared not to stand by the menorah while it was being lit. Even though the event was later broadcast on C-SPAN, one aspect that didn’t change were the amount of smartphones in the air snapping videos of the President on stage. Ironically, the Twitter-verse pointed out that the gathering took place five days before the start of Hanukkah, ahead of Trump’s extended visit to Mar-a-Lago. In 2011, Trump criticized then-President Barack Obama for hosting the Hanukkah celebration early. “Why was the Hanukah celebration held in the White House two weeks early? @BarackObama wants to vacation in Hawaii in late December. Sad,” Trump tweeted.
From WH pooler George Condon: “The White House Hanukkah party tonight was very much a celebration of the president’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to take the first steps toward construction of the U.S. Embassy in the Eternal City. It was mentioned several times both by the President and by the rabbi who spoke, each time igniting bursts of enthusiastic, often prolonged, applause and the occasional whoop and shout.”
PICS FROM JI READERS: Sheldon Adelson posing with guests [Pic; Pic] • Miriam Adelson filming the event [Pic] • Dessert buffet [Pic] • White House Chief of Staff John Kelly [Pic] • The United States Marine Band [Pic] • Vice President Mike Pence [Pic]
SPOTTED: Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, Members of Congress Lee Zeldin and David Kustoff, Israeli Ambassador Ron and Rhoda Dermer, Jason Greenblatt, Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, Charles & Seryl Kushner, Aryeh Bourkoff, Yitz Applbaum, Abbe Lowell, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, VA Secretary David Shulkin, Gary Cohn, Michael Cohen, Reed & Maggie Cordish, Avi Berkowitz, Julia Hahn, Eli Miller, Jeremy Katz, Paul Teller, Josh Raffel, Norm Coleman, Matt Brooks, Josh Mandel, Mort Klein, Ari & Marissa Schaffer, Tom Rose, Rabbi Shmuley & Debbie Boteach, Jeff Ballabon, Ken Weinstein and Amy Kauffman, Roger and Susan Hertog, Richard and Phyllis Heidemann, Adam Kennedy, Gabriel Berger, Adam and Ellen Behrens, Sarah and Buddy Stern, Doron Gorshein, Joseph Stamm, Ezra Friedlander, Leon Goldenberg, Abba Cohen, Chaim David Zwiebel, Duvi Honig, Richard Bernstein, Yarden Golan, Charles Bedzow, David Obrand, Jeff Miller, Lena Epstein, Daniel Schwab, Joel Eisdorfer, Nathan Diament, Michael David Epstein, David Milstein, Yasmin Lukatch, Elliott & Robin Broidy, Lee Samson, Joe Hagin, Boris Epshteyn, Rabbi Marvin Hier, Rabbi Meyer May, Richard Sandler, George Klein, Larry Mizel, Drew & Careena Parker, Ed & Elissa Czuker.
HOW IT PLAYED: “Congressional Democrats Left Out of White House Hanukkah Party” by Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Katie Rogers: “The latkes were fried and the kosher lamb chops were prepared on Thursday, just as in past years, for the first White House Hanukkah party of the Trump era. But there was one prominent break with tradition: President Trump did not invite Democratic lawmakers…. “It’s deeply unfortunate that the White House Hanukkah Party — a bipartisan event bringing together Jewish and non-Jewish leaders alike to celebrate the Festival of Lights since 2001 — has turned into a partisan affair under this administration,” Representative Nita M. Lowey of New York said in a statement.”
“I am not aware of the political affiliation of any of the guests, but I do know that this year was meant to be more personal than political,” said Stephanie Grisham, a spokeswoman for Melania Trump, the first lady, whose office oversees White House party planning. She declined to elaborate… But for some invitees, the message was clear. “He did not invite people who have been hostile to him,” Mort Klein said in an interview.” [NYTimes] • Trump to Jewish Democrats: No Hanukkah party for you [McClatchy]
SPOTTED at the Republican Jewish Coalition/America First Action Hanukkah after party held at the Trump International Hotel: Reps. Lee Zeldin, David Kustoff, Ed Royce, Don Bacon, Raul Labrador, Claudia Tenney, Brian Mast, Mike Gallagher, Scott Taylor, and Joe Wilson; Matt Brooks, Norm Coleman, Josh Mandel, Elliott Broidy, Jeff Gunter, Larry Mizel, Norm Brownstein, Yitz Applbaum, Richard and Phyllis Heideman, Sheriff David Clarke, Corey Lewandowski, David Bossie, Katrina Pierson, Michael Epstein, Mendy Carlebach, and Moshe Friedman.
INTERVIEW with Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer — by JI’s Aaron Magid: After President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer encouraged the White House to now consider Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. The Golan Heights is an “issue that we’ve raised many times. We think all governments should recognize our sovereignty there,” Dermer explained in an interview with Jewish Insider. “Maybe we’ll have another historic day during the Trump Presidency. We’ll see,” he added. “Meanwhile, we should all appreciate what happened Wednesday.” [JewishInsider]
DRIVING THE CONVO: “Trump dangles Middle East peace plan to limit Jerusalem outcry” by Matt Spetalnick and Steve Holland: “In his call to Abbas on Tuesday, Trump sought to temper the blow from his Jerusalem announcement by stressing that the Palestinians stood to gain from the peace plan that Kushner and… Jason Greenblatt were crafting, according to two U.S. and two Palestinian officials… Trump told Abbas… that the final peace blueprint would offer the Palestinians an important settlement that they would be pleased with, but did not provide specifics… Another argument that Trump’s aides will likely make to Palestinians is that having granted Israel recognition of its claim to Jerusalem, the U.S. leader might now have more leverage for seeking concessions later on from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.”[Reuters]
— “I don’t want to minimize the hurt the Palestinians feel,” said David Makovsky, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy… “Right now their anger is such that they probably can’t hear this… But if he presents a plan in the first quarter, are you not going to want to hear what it is? The Palestinians still think Trump’s enough of a bulldozer that if he gave something to the Israelis on a Wednesday, he’s capable of giving something to the Palestinians on a Thursday.” [NYTimes]
REALITY ON GROUND: “A day later, no ‘Jerusalem, Israel,’ on US government maps” by Matthew Lee: “The State Department… told The Associated Press it doesn’t plan to change several longstanding policies regarding Jerusalem… Some pro-Israel groups had hoped Trump’s decision would herald a change in a long-standing U.S. policy that bars American citizens born in Jerusalem from recording “Israel” as their place of birth. The State Department said Thursday it wouldn’t revise the policy… The State Department says officials are looking at ways to identify Jerusalem as the capital, such as commonly used bold or underlined lettering or a star notation, on official maps but that they won’t be redrawn.” [AP]
“Israeli minister sees Trump ‘hint’ at Jerusalem partition with Palestinians” by Dan Williams: “He even hinted that borders in Jerusalem will also be set as a result of negotiations, which presupposes an option of partition,” said Elkin, who holds the Jerusalem Affairs portfolio in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government… Elkin said he “would have been happy” had Trump described Jerusalem as Israel’s united capital. But he played down any possibility of partition… “This is a very, very important factor, and I currently have no doubt that Israel would not agree. Ultimately, in actuality, this is what matters.”
“Netanyahu Visits EU With New Wind in His Sails” by Laurence Norman: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu makes his first-ever official visit to the European Union’s capital on Monday. He brings the air of someone holding the upper hand, but translating that into diplomatic progress will be a challenge. Europe, by contrast, remains beset with international and internal problems. Israeli officials hope this context will help them improve ties and move conversations beyond the stalled peace process onto Israel’s top concerns: curtailing Iran’s regional influence and advancing bilateral projects.” [WSJ]
HEARD TODAY — Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) at the URJ Biennial convention in Boston: “My very first trip abroad as a senator was to Israel and the West Bank. I walked around Jerusalem, I saw firsthand how powerfully important that Holy City is to the Jewish people — and to Christians and to Muslims. Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, and diplomacy between Israelis and Palestinians should determine the final status of Jerusalem for all parties. I believe that a two state solution remains the best path to peace for all who live in the Holy Land.” [Livestream]
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Debt King Drahi Built a Cable Empire on Credit. Now What? [Bloomberg] • Gold trader says he made ‘maybe $150 million’ from plot to beat Iran sanctions [CNN] • Ori Allon’s Compass gets $450M from SoftBank; real estate portal now valued at $2.2B [TechCrunch; FastCompany]
SPOTLIGHT: “Inside Elliott Management: How Paul Singer’s Hedge Fund Always Wins” by Jen Wieczner: “Elliott Management was founded in 1977 by Paul Elliott Singer, a lawyer by training who found he could use the court system to great gain as an investor in bankruptcy situations and arbitrage. Conservative in almost every sense of the word, the billionaire Singer, now 73, insists on hedging all his investments to reduce the risk of loss, and prizes “manual efforts”—in other words, old-fashioned elbow grease—as the defining characteristic of his investment style.” [Fortune]
“On Tax Bill, It’s Trump vs. His Hometown” by Shane Goldmacher, Maggie Haberman and Kate Kelly: “When President Trump returned to his hometown on Saturday for a day of fund-raisers, his third and final check-collecting stop was the Park Avenue home of Stephen A. Schwarzman, where the crowd included some of Mr. Trump’s old New York friends and real estate colleagues. Some in the group, including Mr. Schwarzman, a founder of the private equity Blackstone Group, have been among those pushing the Trump administration to change the Republican tax package that is making its way through Congress… Richard LeFrak, a developer and longtime friend of Mr. Trump’s who has been among those lobbying, asked about what changes the president wanted to see. “LeFrak always has a question,” Mr. Trump mocked.”
“Some of the largest hedge-fund managers who operate in New York are also concerned about an element of the proposed legislation that prevents executives in certain financial-services companies from partaking of the new, lower pass-through rate — even if they are structured as partnerships. Their argument: that their treatment under that bill would drive the taxes for New York-based financial-service partnerships to 50 percent or more, driving business out of New York and into lower-tax states. This week, Kenneth C. Griffin, a major political donor and the founder of the hedge-fund company Citadel, which has its headquarters in Chicago but employs hundreds of people in New York, went to Washington to press that case, according to three people with knowledge of the travels. In discussions with lawmakers, Paul Singer, the founder of the hedge fund Elliott Management and one of the Republican Party’s most generous donors, made similar concerns known.” [NYTimes]
TALK OF THE TOWN: Foundation awards $1M for Jewish center security, upgrades: “The Lilly Endowment has awarded $1 million to the Jewish Federation of Greater Indianapolis to boost security at its campus and make other improvements. The money will be used for security improvements, upgrading computers and furthering two initiatives aimed at boosting the local community’s engagement with the federation’s campus on Indianapolis’ north side. The Federation and its five agencies provide programs and services to about 2,000 people, both Jewish and non-Jewish, every day.” [AP]
“3 Weddings, 4 Dozen Rabbis and 1,400 Cupcakes” by Marianne Rohrlich: “There was no cocktail hour, no chicken dinner, no teary-eyed mothers and fathers, and no beaming grandparents. But this was a grand Jewish wedding celebration, which took nine months to plan, in one of the largest synagogues in the United States. Three couples, each denied Jewish wedding ceremonies in Israel for various reasons, were married on Dec. 3 in a ceremony at Temple Emanu-El in Manhattan… In order to produce the wedding, [Gady] Levy said with a smile, “I became a part-time wedding planner.” The event he arranged was a stunner: Three couples were married in a traditional ceremony with klezmer music, violins, flowers, white wedding dresses and cupcakes. It was an event he called “Three Weddings and a Statement.” … There were more than 1,300 guests, six rabbis leading the ceremony and about 40 more who stood with them to bless the newlyweds at the closing of the Sunday wedding ceremony.” [NYTimes]
REMEMBERING: “Naomi Lauter, AIPAC legend and all-star mom, dies at 87” by Dan Pine: “Lauter served AIPAC for more than half a century, starting as the organization’s chief volunteer recruiter in the 1950s, going on to open AIPAC’s Bay Area office in 1983 and serving as regional director (its first), and, approaching her 70s, becoming a consultant in the late 1990s… “She had this very sweet, angelic face,” said Amy Friedkin, a former AIPAC president and board chair who came up through the organization under Lauter’s guidance. “She looked like your favorite bubbe, but she was tough. We use the term ‘mentor’ a lot, but it was really true in her case. She really taught us so much.”” [JWeekly]
WINE OF THE WEEK — Tzora Vineyards Judean Hills 2015 — by Yitz Applbaum: I rarely order wine by the glass when dining out as I find that restaurants do not partition their best bottles. Just the other night I was sitting with a senior leader from Daimler in one of Israel’s great fish restaurants. This was the last stop before flying back home, and I only had time for one glass. So, I went for it.
The wine, from Tzora Vineyards greatly surpassed my expectations. Like the conversation, it was deep and fulfilling. The Judean Hills 2015 is a perfect blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petit Verdot and Merlot. I experienced some new sensations with this wine. Unexpectedly, the finish was not in the throat, but rather on my mid-palate. It was long, luscious and persistent. The texture of the wine was viscous like honey, and yet there was no cloying sweetness, just overtones of luxurious black currants. This wine was aged for 12 months in new French oak. It is extremely drinkable now, and should be drinkable for the next seven years. Drink this wine with almost any meat you can find, and adding mushrooms to your meat will make the wine shine particularly bright. [TzoraVineyards]
WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS — FRIDAY: Founder and CEO of Top Rank, a boxing promotion company based in Las Vegas, Bob Arum turns 86… Israeli chess grandmaster, Tatiana Zatulovskaya turns 82… Film, stage and television actor, and son of concert pianist Arthur Rubinstein, John Rubinstein turns 71… Israeli folk singer, lyricist, composer and musical arranger, Chava Alberstein turns 70… Astrophysicist and senior scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, Margaret Geller turns 70… Film director, producer and screenwriter, including box office successes such as “The Parent Trap” (1998) and “What Women Want” (2000), Nancy Meyers turns 68… Professor of Human Development at Cornell University, Robert Sternberg turns 68… Doug Bohannon turns 66… Senior executive producer of special events at ABC News, Marc Burstein turns 64… Controversial political science professor who has harshly criticized Israel and has been the subject of a highly publicized academic feud with Alan Dershowitz, Norman Finkelstein turns 64… Chairman of a nationwide insurance brokerage, Bruce P. Gendelman turns 63… Author of Toward a Meaningful Life, publisher of The Algemeiner, Rabbi Simon Jacobson turns 61… Rabbi, speaker and musician known as Rav Shmuel, he was the the head of the Yeshiva program run by the IDT Corporation in Newark, New Jersey, Shmuel Skaist turns 53… Co-founder of three successful companies, including Office Tiger in 1999, CloudBlue in 2001, and Xometry in 2013, where he is CEO, he ran for Congress from NY-1 in 2010 and 2012, Randy Altschuler turns 47… Author, she has been an editor at Huffington Post and the Daily Beast, Rachel Sklar turns 45… Founder in 2005 and editor-in-chief of the ThinkProgress political news blog based at the Center for American Progress, Judd Legum turns 39… Writer, photographer and designer, founder of the Honey Sharp Gallery and Ganesh Café in the Berkshires, mother of our friend Daniel Lippman of Politico’s Playbook, Honey Sharp… Venture capitalist at GE Ventures in Israel after three years at New Enterprise Associates based in Washington, Alex Oppenheimer… Associate Attorney at Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer, Ali Krimmer…
SATURDAY: Leading box office star of the 1950s and 1960s, appearing in over 90 movies during his 60 year acting career, Kirk Douglas (born Issur Danielovitch) turns 101… Los Angeles investor and entrepreneur, she is the founder of CaregiversDirect and Beverly Hills Egg Donation, and a past president of Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills, Lisa Greer turns 59… Former senior White House aide and Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Treasury in the Clinton and Obama administrations, now a senior counselor at the Brunswick Group, Neal S. Wolin turns 56… President of the Little Rock-based Advance Arkansas Institute, a free market think tank, he was previously a member of the Arkansas House of Representatives (2006-2011), Daniel “Dan” Greenberg turns 52… Member of the Knesset for Likud (2003-2014) with stints as Minister of the Interior and Education Minister, Gideon Sa’ar (born Gideon Zarechansky) turns 51… Junior United States Senator from New York since 2009, Kirsten Gillibrand turns 51… Senior fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, previously she was the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern affairs (2009-2012), Tamara Cofman Wittes turns 48… Senior Rabbi of the Boca Raton Synagogue, Rabbi Efrem Goldberg turns 43… Actor, comedian and musician, best known for his role as Howard Wolowitz in the sitcom The Big Bang Theory (2007-present), Simon Helberg turns 37… Manager of digital media for the R Street Institute, co-founder of Network Red and Executive Director for CityGOP, Shoshana Weissmann turns 25…
SUNDAY: Progressive political activist, headed the AmeriCorps VISTA program during the Carter administartion, Margery Tabankin turns 69… Israeli filmmaker and political activist, son of Israeli politician Shulamit Aloni, Udi Aloni turns 58… Actress, born in Montreal to a Sephardic Jewish family, known for her roles in HBO’s “Entourage” and CBS’s “The Mentalist,” Emmanuelle Chriqui turns 40… Owner of Judaica House in Teaneck, New Jersey, Reuben Nayowitz turns 71… Kaylene Hartford… Dan Goldstern…
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