Daily Kickoff: Passover Long-Reads | ‘Orthodox Jews’ now the ‘moderates’ in the White House, Kushner jokes | Yitz’s Passover Wine Picks
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Festival of Freedom Edition
Ed Note: Greetings from JI’s Helsinki bureau. Below are some items for Passover — reading material to escape the daily news crush or, at the very least, to get you through the seder. Thank you to the volunteer JI-ers who helped us put this special edition together.
News cycle permitting, the Daily Kickoff will be on break until after Passover. In the meantime, if you’re experiencing any withdrawal, follow us on Twitter.
Pesach/Passover means different things to different people. So, whether you’re thinking about…
…a great story of hope…
Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks: “Pesach is the oldest and most transformative story of hope ever told. It tells of how an otherwise undistinguished group of slaves found their way to freedom from the greatest and longest-lived empire of their time, indeed of any time. It tells the revolutionary story of how the supreme Power intervened in history to liberate the supremely powerless. It is a story of the defeat of probability by force of possibility. It defines what it is to be a Jew: a living symbol of hope.” [KorenPublishers]
…or remembering the Exodus from Egypt….
Rabbi Sharon Brous: “Passover is the centerpiece of the Jewish moral imagination and the Jewish collective memory, and so every aspect of Jewish liturgy, of the calendar, of the Jewish experience in the world is in some way rooted in the experience of the Yetziat Mitzrayim, of the Exodus from Egypt.”[PBS]
FOR YOUR LAST MINUTE HAGGADAH PRINTING NEEDS — “15 are the Haggadah commentaries… 8 are the English translations of the Haggadah…. 2 are the versions of the Hebrew Haggadah (Ashkenazi and Edot haMizrach)…. 1 is God (in Heaven and Earth)… and it’s also the one website where all this information lives, for free and for everyone.” [Sefaria]
Jonathan Safran Foer: “In the absence of a stable homeland, Jews have made their home in books, and the Haggadah — whose core is the retelling of the Exodus from Egypt — has been translated more widely, and revised more often, than any other Jewish book. Everywhere Jews have wandered, there have been Haggadot — from the 14th-century Sarajevo Haggadah (which is said to have survived World War II under the floorboards of a mosque, and the siege of Sarajevo in a bank vault), to those made by Ethiopian Jews airlifted to Israel during Operation Moses.” [NYTimes]
“The Book of Exodus: A double rescue in wartime Sarajevo” by Geraldine Brooks: “Servet [Korkut] remembers very clearly the day her husband came home for lunch with the Haggadah still under his jacket. “I knew he had a book from the library, and that it was very important,” she recalled. “He said, ‘Take care, don’t tell. No one must know or they’ll kill us and destroy the book.’ ” Over the midday meal, he pondered what to do with the Haggadah. That afternoon, he drove out of the city, to Visoko, where one of his sisters lived, on the pretext of visiting her. From there, he took the book to a remote village on nearby Trescavica, where his friend was hodza, or imam, of the small local mosque. There, Servet said, the Haggadah was hidden among Korans and other Islamic texts for the duration of the war. When it was safe, “the hodza brought it back to us, and Dervis returned it to the museum,” she said.” [NewYorker]
…or 280 characters…
JI-er Noam Neusner posts… “If you’re on Twitter and you’re interested in learning more about Passover (which starts on Friday night), this week my dad is posthumously tweeting a ton of insights about Passover and its meaning…His tweets come from his books — I just load up the words on Hootsuite.” [Twitter]
….or intellectual fare….
Civil War Seder: “In the midst of the bloodiest conflict in American history, after a long winter in West Virginia backcountry, this plucky group of Jews improvised a unique version of an ancient tradition, cobbling together the tastes and symbols of Passover under truly unusual circumstances.” [JewishReviewOfBooks]
…or simply what’s on the menu…
Put Some Spring in Your Passover Seder with the Jewish Food Society’s Naama Shefi — “Passover begins at the end of this week, and as is the case with most holidays, old traditions come to mind. In the case of the Seder dinner, you’ve got your brisket, your charoset, your matzo ball soup. “I think about tradition too, for sure,” Naama Shefi, the founder of the Jewish Food Society, told WNYC. “But then I really think about spring. Growing up in Israel, for me, Passover equals spring. I think about the first artichokes of the season, and fava beans, and peas. That’s my starting point.” And when it comes to “traditional” food among the Jewish diaspora, there’s no one single source. “It’s important to remember that the Jewish people lived for thousands of years all around the world,” Shefi said, “They created their own cuisines that were the result of a constant negotiation between the local food traditions, their kashrut rules, and special foods for the holiday.” For this year’s Seder, Shefi’s table will feature Turkish stuffed onions and tomatoes, steamed artichokes with lemon, chopped liver, and a matzo ball soup with a Mexican twist.” [WNYC]
…we wish you a happy and healthy Passover — Chag Kasher V’Sameach!
And now the news…
TRUMP TUMULT — “Trump ousts Veterans Affairs chief Shulkin, nominates personal physician to replace him” by Emily Wax-Thibodeaux, Josh Dawsey and Lisa Rein: “President Trump on Wednesday ousted Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin after turmoil in the agency’s senior ranks generated weeks of unflattering headlines… The president announced the move on Twitter… [John] Kelly called Shulkin Wednesdayafternoon and told him he was losing his job, a White House official said. “It was just a courtesy. Thanks for your service,” this person said, describing the call… Shulkin’s biggest weakness [Phillip] Carter said, was that he didn’t connect with the president’s allies. “That was always festering beneath the surface — he was an Obama holdover,” Carter said.” [WashPost]
— Shulkin writes in the New York Times… “As many of you know, I am a physician, not a politician. I came to government with an understanding that Washington can be ugly, but I assumed that I could avoid all of the ugliness by staying true to my values. I have been falsely accused of things by people who wanted me out of the way. But despite these politically-based attacks on me and my family’s character, I am proud of my record and know that I acted with the utmost integrity. Unfortunately, none of that mattered. As I prepare to leave government, I am struck by a recurring thought: It should not be this hard to serve your country.” [NYTimes]
TOP TALKER — “Shake-Up Remakes Kushner’s Role” by Peter Nicholas and Felicia Schwartz: “The nomination of Mike Pompeo as secretary of state and the appointment of John Bolton as national security adviser could also curb Mr. Kushner’s sway if foreign diplomats, who have been courting the president’s son-in-law as an alternative to Mr. Tillerson, turn more to the traditional U.S. diplomatic machinery… In talking with friends, Mr. Kushner has joked about the Middle East views of Mr. Bolton… The “Orthodox Jews” working toward a Middle East peace deal… are now looking like “the moderates,” Mr. Kushner has told people.”
“Coming off the latest White House shake-up, Mr. Kushner is engaging in diplomacy of a more personal sort as he and Messrs. Bolton and Pompeo carve out their respective roles… Mr. Kushner has made clear he wants to work collaboratively with Mr. Pompeo… Mr. Kushner has a longer history with Mr. Bolton, having dealt with the incoming national security adviser during the campaign. When Mr. Bolton visited the White House, he often stopped in to see Mr. Kushner. Over the past year, Mr. Kushner has called Mr. Bolton for advice, including about the operations of the United Nations.” [WSJ]
REGIME CHANGE OR MAYBE SAUDI-LED DEAL? — “U.S. ambassador to Israel: If Abbas won’t negotiate, someone else will” by Barak Ravid: “David Friedman made his comments in an interview with… a newspaper called “Shviee” which is distributed in synagogues in Israel… “Time doesn’t stand still…and if he is not interested is negotiating – I am sure somebody else will. Vacuums tend to be filled. If [Mahmoud Abbas] creates a vacuum I am sure somebody will fill it. And we will move forward (on the peace process). The U.S. wants to help the Palestinian people – if the leadership is not on the same page then so be it, but we will not abandon the desire to improve the life of Palestinians.”
“In the interview Friedman spoke about Abbas’s latest speech, in which he called the U.S. ambassador a “son of a dog.” Friedman said he was not insulted personally by the derogatory remark. He added: “He did a disservice to his people…those types of comments are very undiplomatic and make it more difficult for the U.S. to have serious conversations about serious issues. Calling me names is not going to improve the situation of the Palestinians.”” [Axios]
Former Ambassador Martin Indyk tweets: “So now it’s regime change time in Palestine? Great way to promote peace!”
SIGHTING: Trump’s Mideast Envoy Jason Greenblatt walking yesterday at 6th Avenue and 57th Street in NYC. Worth noting: Saudi Crown Prince MBS had been staying in the neighborhood.
LOOMING — “Israel warns it may use lethal fire on Gaza border protests” by Laurent Lozano and Adel Zaanoun: “Israel has warned that its soldiers could use live fire if Gaza Palestinians try to breach the border with Israel during a mass rally planned for Friday… It is expected to kick off more than six weeks of protests throughout the Palestinian territories leading up to the inauguration of the new US embassy in Jerusalem around May 14. Israeli armed forces chief Lieutenant General Gadi Eisenkot said… reinforcements, including more than 100 special forces snipers, had been deployed to the border and the army was prepared for all scenarios… “The instructions are to use a lot of force,” he said.” [AFP]
PROFILE — “‘Tibi, Not Bibi’: The Palestinian Who Stood up to Pence on Why He Could Be the Region’s Next Leader” by Jack Moore: “As the election of President Donald Trump and the policies of a right-wing Israeli coalition government render a two-state solution more distant than ever, Ahmad Tibi believes the region’s next leader could an Arab lawmaker. In one word, him. “Tibi will be the prime minister, not Bibi. From the sea to the river, we are more. It’s a nightmare for the Israelis,” he said… In a one-state solution, the deputy speaker of the Knesset is confident that he would win enough votes if that state held equal rights for Arabs and Jews, and a one-person, one-vote system. But Israel will prevent this outcome, he predicted… “I really support the vision of a two-state solution. But both Netanyahu and Trump killed it,” he said.” [Newsweek]
TURTLE BAY — Germany denies deal to give Israel UN council seat: “Pro-Israel activists in the United States have accused Berlin of not honoring an agreement struck almost 20 years ago… to let Israel run uncontested for one of the non-permanent seats reserved for the [WEOG] regional group, but Germany denies that such a pledge was made. “It’s always been the case in the past that there are different candidacies,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told journalists in New York… “We do not run against anyone. We are running for a seat at the Security Council.” Israel, Germany and Belgium are vying for the two seats reserved for the regional group… on June 8.” [YahooNews]
IRAN DEAL TALKS — “European powers press for Iran sanctions to buttress nuclear deal” by Robin Emmott and John Irish: “The new measures proposed by London, Paris and Berlin were discussed by the EU’s 28 ambassadors and could include members of Iran’s most powerful security force, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC)… In Brussels at the closed-door meeting, the three pushed for agreement on possible travel bans and asset freezes before a foreign ministers’ meeting next month… Diplomats pointed to the next EU foreign ministers’ meeting in Luxembourg on April 16, the last formal gathering on the EU agenda before Trump’s May deadline… But another diplomat said: “It will be complicated because this will need time to convince the member states.”” [Reuters]
HEARD YESTERDAY — Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon at a United Nations Security Council meeting on peacekeeping: “To the permanent members of this Council I have a simple message: do not miss this opportunity. In 45 days the clock will run out and the rules of the game will change. You now have a choice to make. Either choose to work with the Americans and support their genuine efforts to make the Middle East a safer place — or choose Iran and enable a dangerous regime. I urge you to make the right choice.”
“Does Israel need France more than France needs Israel?” by Rina Bassist: “Netanyahu is heavily invested in Trump, but this does not mean that he will neglect the rest of the world, especially Europe. He knows that if there is one European leader that Trump likes, it’s French President Emmanuel Macron. He also knows that if Trump’s Middle East peace plan fails, the European Union is likely to step in… European foreign policy is being championed and shaped by the pro-EU Macron, especially on the Iranian file. Both Jerusalem and Washington share this assessment of Macron, although he has so far failed to change Trump’s mind on Iran.”
“Given this, the cross-cultural Israel-France Season might offer Netanyahu a golden opportunity. He has already confirmed his attendance at one of the main events at the Grand Palais in Paris in June. Associates of the prime minister say that the international timetable works in his favor. If indeed Trump nixes the Iran deal in May, then Netanyahu will arrive in Paris as a winner… For the moment, Netanyahu is trying to channel dialogue toward what unites Israel and Europe, instead of what divides them.” [Al-Monitor]
STATESIDE — New law lets Mississippi invest in bonds issued by Israel: “A new Mississippi law will allow the state treasury to invest up to $20 million in bonds issued by Israel. Republican Gov. Phil Bryant, who has traveled to Israel several times, signed Senate Bill 2051 Tuesday. The law takes effect July 1. It will authorize Mississippi to use excess general funds to invest in Israeli bonds. Investments must be made in U.S. currency.” [AP]
** Good Thursday Morning! Enjoying the Daily Kickoff? Please share us with your friends & tell them to sign up at [JI]. Have a tip, scoop, or op-ed? We’d love to hear from you. Anything from hard news and punditry to the lighter stuff, including event coverage, job transitions, or even special birthdays, is much appreciated. Email Editor@JewishInsider.com **
START UP NATION: “A Big Chunk of Israel’s Tech Scene is Actually Based in New York” by Gerrit De Vynck: “More than 350 startups with Israeli founders have set up shop in New York, up from 60 five years ago, says Guy Franklin, general manager of SOSA NYC, a local tech hub for his countrymen and who has cataloged the phenomenon. Three of the five biggest funding rounds in New York last year were for companies run by Israelis or Israeli-Americans: co-working business WeWork, real estate app Compass and ride-sharing company Via.”
“Israelis are going to the next level,” says Erel Margalit, founder of Jerusalem Venture Partners and one of Israel’s best-known venture capitalists. “They’re second- or third-time entrepreneurs, they’ve now moved to the U.S. — primarily to New York — in order to engage with the businesses.” … New York is… a natural fit for Israelis because it has long had strong business and cultural ties to Israel, with thousands of Israelis living in the city and the largest Jewish community in the U.S. “The Israeli community is a close and tight community where everyone is helping everyone,” Franklin says.” [Bloomberg]
SPOTLIGHT: “Executive Who Sold Self-Driving Truck Start-Up to Uber Departs” by Daisuke Wakabayashi:”Lior Ron — who along with Anthony Levandowski sold Otto to Uber in 2016, six months after leaving Google — was in charge of Uber Freight, a truck shipment booking service. Most of Uber Freight’s business does not involve the company’s autonomous trucks. The departure followed a fatal crash involving an Uber self-driving car in Tempe, Ariz. An Uber spokesman, Matt Kallman, said the departure was unrelated to the crash in Tempe, but he would not elaborate on why Mr. Ron had left or the timing of his exit.” [NYTimes]
–Watch Lior Ron interview Omri Casspi at ICON’s launch event in San Francisco [Video]
BUBBE’S INFLUENCE: “Slack is developing tools to tell if you treat men and women differently” by Leah Fessler: “CEO Stewart Butterfield indicated that Slack was beginning to address concerns, by developing tools to analyze communication trends on its platform, at the Wharton People Analytics Conference in Philadelphia on March 23. In response to a question from Wharton management professor Mae McDonnell on whether Butterfield ever worries that private Slack chat “channels” can reinforce exclusion, CEO also joked, “I worry about everything. I have a Jewish grandmother.” [Quartz]
Mayim Bialik writes… “Confronting politics and finding meaning on my trip to Israel: I spoke at the 6th Global Forum on Anti-Semitism in Jerusalem last week. I was invited by the Consul General of Los Angeles, Sam Grundwerg… I was asked to meet with President Trump’s Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, and I was nervous about it since I do not understand many of his positions. I politely gave him a piece of my liberal mind about his boss, suggesting that the President would have fewer problems with the “liberal media” if he would simply stop tweeting insults to actors and countries with nuclear weapons capabilities. Even though Friedman stood by his political leanings and I stood by mine, it was a respectful, if colorful, conversation. Politics is indeed part of the problem, but I decided to find a way to speak about my experience with anti-Semitism without making it about who I voted for. And I am glad I did: leaving politics aside – I hoped – we could all focus on where we are united…” [GrokNation]
ACROSS THE POND — Jeremy Corbyn admits hundreds of anti-Semitism cases referred in Labour since 2015: “In an interview with the Jewish News, Mr. Corbyn said action was being taken to crack down on the issue, adding that 150 people have been expelled or have resigned from the party. There are 74 cases still pending, which Mr. Corbyn said must be dealt with “as quickly as possible.” … Mr. Corbyn has insisted anti-Semitism will be the “first priority” of the Labour’s new General Secretary, adding that a legal team would be appointed to ensure there is a “proper approach”. “Any abuse that’s done is certainly not in my name,” he said.” [SkyNews]
Bret Stephens writes… “Jeremy Corbyn, Accidental Anti-Semite: Corbyn is now urgently seeking meetings with Jewish leaders while saying he is “sincerely sorry for the pain which has been caused.” Note the passive voice. Meanwhile, anti-Semitic incidents in Britain hit a record high last year. Corbyn’s rise may not be the cause of it, but it’s unmistakably a symptom. Countries that care about the safety of Jews don’t elevate leaders who have spent their careers being dismissive of it.” [NYTimes]
HOLLYWOOD — “Harvey Keitel to Star in Pavel Lungin’s ‘Esau,’ Modern Retelling of Biblical Story” by Debra Kamin: “Harvey Keitel, Lior Ashkenazi (“Foxtrot”) and Mark Ivanir (“Homeland”) will headline “Esau,” the first English-language film from acclaimed Russian-French director Pavel Lungin. “Esau,” which is being adapted from the novel of the same name by Israeli author Meir Shalev, follows a 40-year-old writer who returns to his family home after half a lifetime to face the brother who stole both his love and livelihood. The story is a modern twist on the biblical story of Jacob and Esau in the book of Genesis… Other cast members are Yulia Peresild (“Battle for Sevastopol”), Kseniya Rappoport (“The Unknown Woman”), and Shira Haas (“Princess”, “Foxtrot”). A cameo from Israeli theatrical grand dame Gila Almagor has also been announced.” [Variety]
“Scarlett Johansson to Star in Taika Waititi’s ‘Jojo Rabbit’ for Fox Searchlight” by Justin Kroll: “Scarlett Johansson is in final negotiations to star in Fox Searchlight’s World War II film “Jojo Rabbit,” sources tell Variety. The project is Taika Waititi’s follow-up to “Thor: Ragnarok,” and centers on a young boy in Hitler’s army who finds out that his mother, to be played by Johansson, is hiding a Jewish boy in their home… With Johansson now on board, Waititi will now look to cast the young boy role.” [Variety]
HEARD YESTERDAY — Steven Spielberg in an interview with Israel’s Hadashot News on Israel’s 70 anniversary: “You are only as old as you feel, and I think Israel – because of its youth – is a young and vital country and probably doesn’t feel a day over 20.” – Min. 46 [Mako]
REMEMBERING — “Johan van Hulst, Dutch schoolteacher who saved hundreds of Jewish children during Holocaust, dies at 107” by Ellie Silverman: “Dr. van Hulst, who was credited with saving more than 600 Jewish babies and children during World War II and, in 1972, was named Righteous Among the Nations by the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial center in Jerusalem, died March 22 in Amsterdam…” [WashPost]
DESSERT — “Rosenberg’s Bagels cuts hours at kosher store” by Aaron Kremer: “Denver bagel chain Rosenberg’s Bagels and Delicatessen is trimming the hours at one of its three locations.Owner Joshua Pollack, a New Jersey native and CU grad who founded the business in Five Points in 2014, said he can’t find enough employees who show up to work, so he’s paring back… Pollack said… customers accustomed to the other two locations would be surprised to find a different menu at the kosher location. He said every day customers tried to order a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich. “We’d have to spend time explaining what kosher meant,” he said.” [BusinessDen]
CHAMETZ SOLD – Zak the Baker: “I no longer own Zak The Baker! Just sold it to Rémi for the week of Passover. Bakery will be closed from March 30th until April 7th. Back in action on the 8th, until then, TRADITION.”[Instagram]
“3 kosher cocktail recipes to enjoy during the holidays” by Emily DeCiccio: “Heading over to a Passover Seder? Manischewitz is likely to be ubiquitous, but it’s not the only type of beverage you can bring to or imbibe with your hosts. Master bartender Kenneth McCoy, the creative director of Public House Collective in New York City, delivers some kosher mixed drink options to impress everyone at the celebration…” [FoxNews]
Wine company says kosher wines are not just for Jewish events: “Kosher wines once had a reputation for being sweet and syrupy, but Royal Wine vice president Jay Buschbaum says that this is no longer the case. The company produces its own wines and grape juice under the Kedem brand and distributes hundreds of kosher wines from around the world. “The objective is first that they be great wines and that just happen to be kosher,” Buschbaum says… “We guesstimate about 5 to 10 percent of people who are drinking this are kosher consumers,” he says. “They are drinking it just because they like it.” [NJNews12]
PASSOVER WINE PICKS — by Yitz Applbaum: “I find it impossible to limit myself to just the four required cups of wine for Seder night. To celebrate the four-cup tradition, I find myself choosing good wines which are more easily semi-gulped, and then for the meal itself, I reward myself and my family with four exceptional bottles to celebrate our being freed from slavery. The four bottles used in obligatory rite are, of course, themselves wonderful wines. Their cost, though, are slight easier to absorb than the dinner cups. The four freedom-cups enhance the latter half of the Seder, which, by cup six, glides by.
First dinner cup: Hevron Heights Armageddon. This wine is a blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 5% Syrah. This wine is aged 24 months in French oak barrels and one can taste blackberry skins and jam-y currents.
Second dinner cup: Black Tulip 2014. This brilliant wine is so differently experienced by different people, that I will leave it to the reader to discover her own unique tastes. [Tulip]
Third cup: Lueria Grand Vital 2014. 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc, this wine lets your palate rest in between two massive wine experiences. The subtle Bordeaux flavors give one’s palate a moment while brightening up the meal, along with a mixture of licorice and cinnamon.[LueriaWinery]
Last dinner cup: Flam Noble 2013. I drank this Cabernet-monster last night in Jerusalem. It is a wine which will stay in my taste-memory for a long time. The swirling raspberry sorbet mixed with deep pools of chocolate stay resident in one’s mouth for hours.” [FlamWinery]
BIRTHDAYS: Hollywood mogul, co-CEO of entertainment and media agency William Morris Endeavor, Ariel Zev “Ari” Emanuel turns 57… Evolutionary biologist, geneticist, academic and social commentator, professor of zoology and biology at Harvard for many years, Richard Lewontin turns 89… Florida plaintiff’s attorney, he earned a $300 million fee for suing the tobacco industry, the University of Florida law school bears his name, Fred Levin turns 81… Chemist, professor at both Hebrew University and UCLA, winner of the 1974 Israel Prize, Raphael David Levine turns 80… Attorney, NYT best-selling author, sports agent for many athletes including Cal Ripken, Jim Palmer, Brooks Robinson, Kirby Puckett and Eddie Murray, Ronald M. Shapiro turns 75… Houston-based labor law, employment law and personal injury attorney, active in Jewish organizations, Carol Nelkin turns 73…
Orthopedic surgeon, former professional boxer, entrepreneur, author, speaker, screenplay writer, movie producer and philanthropist, Harold “Hackie” Stuart Reitman, MD turns 68… Winner of the 2007 Nobel Prize for economics, University of Chicago professor Roger Myerson turns 67… Billionaire investor, computer scientist and founder of D. E. Shaw & Co., a hedge fund based upon high-speed quantitative trading, David Elliot Shawturns 67… Chairman of consulting firm Roubini Global Economics and professor at NYU, he was a senior economist for the Council of Economic Advisers in the Clinton administration, Nouriel Roubini turns 60… pro-Israel activist JoAnne Papir... National Press Secretary for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, David A. Bergstein turns 30… Analyst at Aurora Energy Advisors, he was the student commencement speaker at his 2013 George Washington University graduation, Alexander Zafran turns 27… Senior administrative assistant in Christie’s impressionist and modern art group, Annie Rosen… Adjunct fellow at The Washington Institute in the program on Arab politics, former special assistant to President Obama, Eric Pelofsky… Born in Atlanta, raised in Johannesburg, now VP of business development at Crowdpac, Liz Jaff…