Jewish Insider Kickoff


Talk Of Our Nation: BBC News – The Talmud: Why has a Jewish law book become so popular? “The Talmud, the book of Jewish law, is one of the most challenging religious texts in the world. But it is being read in ever larger numbers, partly thanks to digital tools that make it easier to grasp, and growing interest from women – who see no reason why men should have it to themselves.

–Step into the last carriage of the 07:53 train from Inwood to Penn Station in New York and you may be in for a surprise. The commuters here are not looking at their phones or checking the value of their shares, but peering down at ancient Hebrew and Aramaic text and discussing fine points of Judaic law. It’s a study group on wheels, and the book absorbing their attention in between station announcements is the Talmud – one of the most challenging and perplexing religious texts in the world. The group started 22 years ago, to help Long Island’s Jewish commuters find their way through the “book”, which stretches to well over 10 million words across 38 volumes.

–When someone asked Einstein, shortly before his death, what he would do differently if he could live his life again, he replied without hesitation: “I would study the Talmud.” It contains the foundations of Halakha – the religious laws that dictate all aspects of life for observant Jews from when they wake in the morning to when they go to sleep at night. Every imaginable topic is covered, from architecture to trapping mice. To a greater extent than the other main Jewish holy book, the Torah, the Talmud is a practical book about how to live. But the Talmud is perhaps better described as a prompt for discussion and reflection, rather than a big book of Do’s and Don’ts.” [BBC News]

Former UK Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks to Teach at Yeshiva University and NYU: “Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, who stepped down as Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom in August, will teach at both Yeshiva University and New York University beginning in January 2014. The 65-year-old Sacks, who is the author of 25 books, will serve as the Kressel and Efrat University Professor of Jewish Thought at YU, and the Ingeborg and Ira Rennert Global Distinguished Professor of Judaic Thought at NYU.” [Tablet Mag]

TOI – Unusual meeting of selected Jewish leaders with senior Obama officials comes amid signs of divergence in US and Israeli positions on nuclear crisis by Rebecca Shimoni Stoil:  A group of American Jewish leaders met Tuesday at the White House with senior Administration officials to discuss efforts to halt Iran’s nuclear weapons program. The meeting, arranged at the last minute, was described in a joint statement issued by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations as a “constructive and open exchange.” The sides agreed “to continue the consultation to enhance the prospect of achieving a transparent and effective diplomatic resolution,” the statement said. The Jewish leaders — from the Conference, the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, and AIPAC — said the Administration officials reaffirmed President Barack Obama’s “commitment to prevent Iran from attaining nuclear capability and that all options remain viable to assure that end.” Members of left-leaning organizations said that they had been excluded from the session by the White House.

–One person present described the atmosphere as “congenial,” and said several aspects of US policy on Iran were discussed, including the new international negotiations and the pending Senate legislation. The meeting was arranged amid an escalation of signals that the Obama and Netanyahu governments are parting ways on Iran strategy, and those leaders invited came from groups that deal closely with Israel and its security concerns. A number of groups normally high on the list for White House briefings were not invited, including representatives of the Reform and Orthodox movements. A White House meeting with a broader group of Jewish-American organization leaders had been scheduled for Monday, but on Sunday, White House officials contacted some organizations to tell them that the meeting was delayed. When the meeting was rescheduled for Tuesday, one source told The Times of Israel, White House officials once again contacted the excluded organizations and explained to them that the meeting was only with the organizations that had challenged the administration’s policies on Iran. [Times of Israel]

In addition to Robert Sugarman, Malcolm Hoenlein and Abe Foxman, other participants included former Conference Chairman Alan Solow, who is close to President Obama and the White House, as well as AIPAC leader Howard Kohr and Jason Isaacson, Director of Governmental and International Affairs at the American Jewish Committee. [Haaretz]

SoCal Public Radio asks – Who is Haim Saban and why is he hosting Hillary Clinton in LA today? “Hillary Clinton is headlining a $15,000 per-plate lunch Wednesday to raise money for Terry McAuliffe, who’s running for Governor of Virginia. And the venue for the fundraiser is very familiar territory for the Clintons: The Beverly Hills home of Haim and Cheryl Saban. When President Obama hosts an L.A. fundraiser next month, his aides are considering holding the event at Saban’s mansion, according to Variety Senior Editor Ted Johnson. “These politicians — at the upper rung of politics — they want to come into town and they want to be assured that they’re not wasting their time and that they can raise substantial amounts of money in one evening,” said Johnson. And it’s not just Saban’s own money. It’s his friends’. There’s plenty of people with cash: Saban has influence. Last year, when Nancy Pelosi convened a gathering of LA’s top 50 political fundraisers and consultants, guess where they met? “If you pick his home to have a fundraiser, you are tying into his network,” said Johnson.

–Saban was born in Egypt in 1944, before his family immigrated to Israel when he was 12. Though he’s lived in the U.S. for decades – and is a duel citizen – by far his biggest passion remains Israel. “There is no country in the region – arguably in the world – whose values are more aligned with the U.S. than Israel,” Saban told a pro-Israel group in L.A. two years ago. “But it isn’t only our shared values and love of freedom that ties us together. It is also our common interests.” “The majority of his philanthropy, that I’m aware is philanthropy, is focusing on Israel’s issues, either in Washington or Israel,” said Jay Sanderson, President and chief executive officer of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. “I’m not aware of his involvement locally.”

–But it took him along time to start writing checks to Barack Obama, who he viewed as soft on Israel. “Saban was very hesitant and very suspicious that Obama was, at the worst, anti-Israel and the best, neutral on Israel,” said Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, Senior Fellow at USC’s Price School of Public Policy. “And that didn’t cut it.” Saban was so crushed after Hillary Clinton lost the Democratic nomination that he considered supporting John McCain. Ultimately he decided he couldn’t abandon the Democrats. Bebich Jeffe says Obama continued courting Saban, because his support was too crucial to miss. “There’s money there and if you alienate him, if you send him over to your opponent, inside the beltway and inside Hollywood the perception is you alienated a political player,” said Bebitch Jeffe. Before last year’s election, Saban penned a New York Times editorial, writing that while Obama could have done a better job highlighting his friendship for Israel, his support for Israel had been rock solid.” [SoCal Public Radio]

Abraham H. Foxman: America’s Evolving Middle East Policy – “Kissinger, writing about American policy during the Cold War, argued that the core principle of America’s approach to the region was not only to support our ally Israel but to ensure that the moderate Arab countries — Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states — did not desert America and move to the Soviet side. Unlike Zbigniew Brzezinski, who concluded that the key to keeping Arabs on our side was pressure on Israel over the Palestinian issue, Kissinger believed, correctly in my view, that what the Arabs wanted was American strength and loyalty to its allies.” [HuffingtonPost]

Aaron David Miller: Now isn’t the time to negotiate over Syria’s civil war – “Secretary of State John Kerry is on a roll. Against the odds, Israeli-Palestinian negotiations are alive; the U.S.-Russia agreement for removing Syria’s chemical weapons is working; and the U.S.-Afghan security pact is almost final. In trying to convene a United Nations-sponsored meeting to end Syria’s civil war, however, Kerry may be overreaching.” [Newsday]

NYTimes OpEd – In Hungary, Anti-Semitism Rises Again by Marianne Szegedy-Maszak: “The hardy perennial of anti-Semitism has made a dramatic comeback in Central Europe. Germany has recently reiterated its friendship with Israel, in response to recent anti-Jewish activity. Far-right political parties in France and Austria have gained force. In Hungary, a virulently anti-Semitic party, Jobbik, is now the third-largest in Parliament. One party official has called for a list of all Jewish legislators, to assess their loyalty — a move that even the right-wing government condemned.” [NYTimes]

Wilf Family Honored at Anti-Defamation League Centennial Celebration: “On Tuesday, October 22, the families of Vikings owners Zygi, Mark and Lenny Wilf were honored as part of the Anti-Defamation League’s Centennial Celebration at the Hyatt Regency in Jersey City, New Jersey. Those attending the dinner heard an impactful introduction of the families of Joseph and Harry Wilf, the fathers of Mark, Zygi and Lenny Wilf and the founders of Garden Homes, Inc., the Wilf’s real estate development company based in New Jersey and New York. Mark Wilf accepted the evening’s honor on behalf of the Wilf family and spoke about the importance of giving back to the community and building a world without hate. Business success for the Wilfs has always run on a parallel course to a deep involvement in philanthropic causes, including many efforts to better the lives of Jewish people in the United States and Israel.” [Vikings]

Observer Publishes Hit Piece on WIlf Family: “In an exposé titled “Big Bad Wilf: Did Zygi’s Stardust Take It All Too Far?,” the New York Observer takes a deep look at the Wilfs, a prominent New Jersey-based Jewish real estate family. The New York Observer is owned by the scion of another prominent New Jersey real estate family, Jared Kushner. Perhaps best not to invite them both to the same party anytime soon.” [JewishInsider]

Real Estate RoundUp

Jay Schottenstein’s real estate arm sells six Central Ohio apartment complexes:“Schottenstein Property Group, the real estate investment arm of Columbus retail mogul Jay Schottenstein, has sold six apartment complexes to a joint venture between Cincinnati-based Towne Properties and Kansas City-based KC Venture Group. The properties with a combined 886 units sold Friday for $14.4 million through Crawford Hoying Real Estate Services. Schottenstein Property Group wants to focus more these days on retail than residential.” [Columbus Business First]

Thor CEO Joe Sitt Says He Owns Shares of Empire State Realty Trust ANYWAY: “Joseph Sitt, whose Thor Equities LLC unsuccessfully tried to buy the Empire State Building to avert its inclusion in an initial public offering, said he now owns shares of the new company, Empire State Realty Trust Inc. “I bought it for a cheaper price than they would have sold it to me for,” Sitt, the chief executive officer of New York-based Thor, said of the stock in an interview today on Bloomberg Television’s “In the Loop with Betty Liu.” He wouldn’t say how many shares he owns.” [BusinessWeek]

The Deal Sheet – “A private investor repped by Rosewood Realty’s Aaron Jungreis bought seven buildings (435 apartments and 299 parking spots) in New Jersey from another private investor, repped by Rosewood’s David Berger, for $25.2M.” [Real Estate BisNow]

Sam Zell on Marriage, Multi-Family and Single-Family Real Estate: “Prominent real-estate investor Sam Zell laid out his 10,000-foot view of the U.S real-estate market on Tuesday, calling the market in private and commercial real-estate “healthy” with multi-family buildings the strongest sector.” [Wall Street Journal]

Meet the Jewish NYC Mayoral Candidate who thinks Hudson Yards should be a car-sharing hub: “Brooklyn native Jack D. Hidary is a respected technology entrepreneur, angel investor, board member of nonprofits such as the Clinton Global Initiative, and a cousin to his namesake Jack A. Hidary, the CEO of Hidrock Realty, which owns several properties in New York City, including the Courtyard by Marriott hotels at 960 Avenue of the Americas and 133 Greenwich Street. What’s less well-known about Hidary is that he’s running to be mayor of New York City.” [TheRealDeal]

Desert – Video: Katy Perry responds to Olivia Wise, a 17 year old from Toronto who is battling brain cancer, thanks to some extraordinary efforts by Chai Lifeline Canada. [YouTube]

Thats all folks, have a great Wednesday! 

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