Daily Kickoff: Lectures on the lunch menu for Naftali Bennett | Tzipi Livni walks into a New York deli


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SCENE YESTERDAY — Lectures on the lunch menu for Naftali Bennett: When Naftali Bennett, Israel’s Minister of Diaspora Affairs, entered the Drawing Room at the Harold Pratt House in New York City for lunch on Wednesday, he was not in familiar territory. Yes, to Bennett’s right sat the bow tie-clad conservative philanthropist Roger Hertog and across the table a friend in financier and Birthright founder Michael Steinhardt. However, for Bennett, the other dozen Jewish Americans at the Council on Foreign Relations represented views that rarely share the same tent as his own.

On Bennett’s literal and figurative left sat the event’s moderator Martin Indyk. Acknowledging the starkly differing political views, Bennett compared the roundtable conversation to a Passover Seder among family members who don’t see eye to eye. “You and I view many things differently but I am not giving up,” Bennett declared. “I am not giving up on the future of our relationship.”

During his introductory remarks, Bennett — who travelled to Pittsburgh on Sunday to express the Israeli government’s solidarity with the families of the victims and the local Jewish community — put into doubt the perception that the number of anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. has increased under President Trump. “I am not sure at all that there’s a surge in anti-Semitism in America,” Bennett mused. Bennett also doubled down on a series of tweets in which he praised President Trump as “a true friend of the State of Israel and to the Jewish people.”

Henry Siegman was not impressed. Born in Germany in 1930, Siegman noted that as a survivor of the Nazi era he “knows something about anti-Semitism.” Siegman, a critic of certain Israeli policies towards the Palestinians, proceeded to lecture Bennett for failing to acknowledge that Trump has fostered an atmosphere that allows hate and anti-Semitism to flourish. Siegman pointed out that a vast majority of American Jews are worried and concerned about Trump’s rhetoric and policies. “It is not very wise of you coming to tell us that this is not your problem just because he’s helping Israel,” he warned Bennett. [Pic]

Edward Bleier, a former Warner Bros. president, told Bennett: “Some of us are older than you are and we recall the pre-war period in America when the Nazis convened in Madison Square Garden and paraded on 96th street with brown shirts and swastikas. And the rallying cry of the anti-Semites was ‘America First.’ So my hair stands on end when I hear an American president invoke that line.” Read in full here [JewishInsider]

Bennett to the Wall Street Journal: “Any attempt to blame President Trump for this horrific attack is simply wrong and unfair.”

Abe Foxman tells us… “I think Israeli officials and Israeli representatives should come and stand in solidarity with the American Jewish community in a time of pain and anguish and tragedy. I don’t think they should come to the United States and stand in solidarity with the President of the United States, especially during an election period. I can thank Trump on one hand for the good things that he’s done, but that does not take away from me the right to be able to criticize him on issues of value and that I feel are part of our tradition.”

“Mr. Bennett is a great expert on education in Israel, may be a great expert on security in Israel, but he’s far from being an expert on the level of anti-Semitism in the United States. He certainly is not a maven — even though he’s head of the Diaspora division — as to the statistics, the findings, and the level of anti-Semitism. The fact is, whether it’s exactly the statistics that organizations like the ADL are bringing forth, there is serious anti-Semitism in America, and there has been.”

Bennett on fighting anti-Semitism on the left: “I dived into this world of anti-Semitism in America over the past few days. I saw — I couldn’t believe it — this video of just a week ago of Louis Farrakhan who compared Jews to termites. It was horrible what this guy said. But what was more horrible is how the audience responded. He got a standing ovation for comparing Jews to termites, for heaven’s sake. I think this should have opened all TV shows, all news. This guy is not a meaningless person in the U.S. He compared Jews to termites and he got a round of applause… We have to condemn the David Dukes of the world, the Louis Farrakhans of this world. We have to stand up to anti-Semitism whenever it’s there.” [JewishInsider]

HEARD YESTERDAY ― Former Senator Norm Coleman on CNN Newsroom: “We have no place in the Republican Party for bigots [and] for the far right. By the way, the Dems should do the same. President [Bill] Clinton sat next to Louis Farrakhan, who talks about Jews as termites. Where is the outrage?”

Former Ambassador Daniel Shapiro writes… “Memo To Israelis: America Is Sitting Shiva. Your Job Is To Listen: Israel has much to offer to the discussion on the phenomenon of anti-Semitism in America. But as you make your rounds this week, please listen. Even if you hear things you disagree with. Please don’t bring politics into the discussion, in your private visits or your public remarks on these events. Not during shiva. Please don’t lecture us on how we should feel… And while Israeli leaders naturally and appropriately seek to maintain the best possible relationship with the President of the United States, the bipartisan basis of the U.S.-Israel relationship is best preserved when Israel does not become a political football.” [Forward]

IN THE SPOTLIGHT ― After the Pittsburgh Shooting, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society Receives an Outpouring of Support — by Masha Gessen: “During the first week of the Trump Administration, Mark Hetfield, the president of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), sent the President’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, a copy of a file. It documented Kushner’s grandparents’ immigration to the United States… Hetfield wanted to put HIAS on Kushner’s radar… Hetfield never heard back from Kushner: not then, and not after a shooter—apparently moved by his hatred of HIAS and refugees—opened fire at the Tree of Life synagogue… HIAS has not heard from President Trump, either, nor from Mike Pompeo… even though HIAS is a State Department contractor.” [NewYorker]

UN Secretary-General António Guterres at an interfaith memorial held yesterday at the Park East Synagogue: “I worked with HIAS for many years. It’s the most fantastic humanitarian organization I have ever met. They are the true expression of humanitarianism, but also of humanism and solidarity… And I was shocked that this organization that is the symbol of everything I can see is good in the world was being used as a pretext to justify this horrendous act.” [Video]

How Vilification of George Soros Moved From the Fringes to the Mainstream — by Ken Vogel, Scott Shane and Patrick Kingsley: “Soros is vilified because he is effective,” said Stephen K. Bannon, Mr. Trump’s former campaign strategist and White House adviser… “I only hope one day I’m as effective as he has been — and as vilified,” Mr. Bannon said… “He’s a banker, he’s Jewish, he gives to Democrats — he’s sort of a perfect storm for vilification by the right, here and in Europe,” said Michael H. Posner, a human rights lawyer and former State Department official in the Obama administration.”

“When friends reached out to express concern for his safety after the pipe bomb news broke, Mr. Soros… changed the subject to what he called “the damage” being done by the Trump administration, said his political adviser, Michael Vachon. Mr. Vachon said that Mr. Soros in recent days has drawn a connection from the president’s rhetorical attacks on his critics to the pipe bombs and even to the killing of 11 people on Saturday at a Pittsburgh synagogue. In an email to The New York Times, Mr. Soros said he was grieving for the victims of the Pittsburgh shooting and their families. He added: “I came to this country to find refuge. I am deeply distressed that in America in 2018 Jews are being massacred just because they are Jewish.” [NYTimes]

DRIVING THE CONVO — How Will Pittsburgh’s Jews Translate Tragedy Into Action? — by Emma Green: “Some Jews in Pittsburgh may support Trump. Still others… may think that, whatever their personal feelings, it’s right to welcome the president when he comes to town after a national tragedy. But there were disagreements even among those who didn’t want Trump to come. Bend the Arc focused its protest on defending immigrants and minorities and denouncing white nationalism and anti-Semitism. If Not Now shared those goals, but added to them: Diana Clarke… told me that the goal of the “civil disobedience” that followed the main protest “was to have a public space for mourning for folk murdered on Saturday that did not celebrate the police.”

“Perhaps it’s fitting that Pittsburgh’s Jews are turning this horrible moment into a chance to fight for what they believe—even if they occasionally fight with one another. It is, in its own way, a defiant return to normalcy. “Isn’t that what we do?” [Joshua] Friedman said. “We argue.” [TheAtlantic]

Leslie Wexner blames Trump’s rhetoric for Pittsburgh synagogue shooting —by Alana Abramson: “For Les Wexner, Saturday’s shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue wasn’t just an attack on his faith; it was a reaffirmation of his decision to leave the Republican Party… “I think it’s more than coincidence,” Wexner told TIME… “I think that clearly it’s the tone at the top.”[Time]

Amb. David Friedman to Jews: Stop fighting over Pittsburgh massacre: “The monster who killed 11 precious souls in Pittsburgh must also be denied a victory,” Friedman said at a solidarity event the Anti-Defamation League hosted Wednesday night at Beit Hatfutsot… in Tel Aviv… “We must never allow him the satisfaction that he so craves of inflicting lasting damage upon the Jewish people… We can never allow ourselves to be divided over the pointless exercise of assigning blame to anyone but the killer himself. It plays right into his sick and demented mind.” [JPost]

Behind the Scenes of Trump’s Fraught, Controversial Visit to Pittsburgh — by Emily Jane Fox: “Staffers were going back and forth on the topic over the weekend. Jason Greenblatt and Avi Berkowitz, who work closely with [Jared] Kushner, were dispatched to Pittsburgh on Sunday to attend public events as the faces of the administration. Privately, they stopped by area schools and spoke to local leaders and community members to take the temperature about how a presidential visit would be perceived. As part of the process, Kushner was involved in the details of the visit coming together, including joining advance calls to set up what the president might do when he did visit.” [VanityFair]

Pittsburgh rabbi was ‘pleasantly surprised’ by Trump — by Megan Keller: “The president was very warm, very consoling,” Jeffrey Myers said… “He put his hand on my shoulder and the first question he asked me was, ‘rabbi, tell me how are you doing?’ And I must say, throughout the time we spent together, I was pleasantly surprised by a warm and personal side to the president that I don’t think America has ever seen.” [TheHill]

HEARD ON THE TRAIL — President Trump at a campaign rally in Fort Myers, Florida: “After this day of unity and togetherness, I came home and, sadly, turned on the news and watched as the far-left media once again used tragedy to sow anger and division. Sadly, they took a small group of protesters [who were] far away from where we were. We could not have been treated better, the first lady and myself. But we’re representing the presidency, and [the media] did everything in their power to try to play it up and push people apart.” [Video]

MIDTERMS —Congressional candidate says Jews need to arm themselves, are ‘stupid’ to attack Trump —by Bill Gallo: “Jews in America today are in danger of being beaten and killed for just being Jews just like my grandparents when they lived in Eastern Europe more than 100 years ago,” Republican Seth Grossman said in a press release… Grossman went to Twitter Wednesday morning with a series of posts calling for Jews in the U.S. to arm themselves.” [NJAdvance]

Embattled Iowa Lawmaker King Says Ted Cruz Expressed His Support — by Sahil Kapur: “Representative Steve King of Iowa, who has been abandoned by Republican leaders and donors over his embrace of white nationalists and for rhetoric that has been denounced as racist, said he got a supportive phone call from Senator Ted Cruz of Texas… Cruz campaign spokeswoman Catherine Frazier called the conversation “a personal call, and Senator Cruz told him the same thing he said to reporters today,” she said. Cruz was quoted by the Dallas Morning News as calling King’s remarks “disappointing” and divisive but he didn’t condemn the congressman.”[Bloomberg]

NJ Senate — Democrats in an All-Hands-on-Deck Scramble to Save Menendez in New Jersey — by Nick Corasaniti and Jonathan Martin: “New Jersey’s leading Democrats — including [Cory] Booker, who has been spending much of his time out of state preparing for a widely expected presidential bid — are pleading for voters to rally behind [Bob] Menendez. The senator’s campaign has sought to highlight the stakes by broadcasting a commercial portraying a vote for [Bob] Hugin as a vote for Mr. Trump.”[NYTimes]

Midterms in Hamptons: Where Both Sides Love Israel and Being Jewish Doesn’t Matter — by Brian Schaefer: “Republican Lee Zeldin and his Democratic challenger Perry Gershon both more or less subscribe to their respective party’s lines… But there’s one issue on which both are aligned: Israel… Both candidates agree that the Trump administration’s relocation of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem last May was the right move. “Zeldin and I are in agreement that the American embassy belongs in Jerusalem,” Gershon tells Haaretz. “We disagree on how the move was done, but once it’s done I don’t believe you should move it back.”

“Unfortunately, politics have divided us more than united us, and the fact that both candidates are Jewish doesn’t help the situation,” says Rabbi Joshua Franklin of the Jewish Center of the Hamptons… “The Democrats in our community aren’t comforted that Zeldin is Jewish, and the Republicans aren’t comforted that Gershon is Jewish,” he adds. ” [Haaretz]

This Democrat Is Trying To Win A Trump-Loving District By Taking Trump’s Style — by Darren Sands: “Trump, himself an outer-borough guy, remains wildly popular here on Staten Island, where [Max] Rose, a 31-year-old vet, is running as a Democrat in a district that extends into Brooklyn and leans Republican. Rose leaned in and sounded a little like one of those Democrats who say that even though Trump’s vision for the country was flawed and dark and divisive, it was still a vision… He’s contorted himself into a political force: a gregarious but relatable policy wonk, a veteran for the forgotten man in the straight-talking, swashbuckling, swamp-draining mold of Donald Trump.”[BuzzFeed]

Son, daughter oppose father’s election to Missouri House: “The son and daughter of a Missouri House candidate are urging people not to vote for him because he regularly espouses racial and homophobic views and dislikes Jews and Muslims. Steve West, 64, gained attention after winning the August Republican primary for a northwest Missouri House seat when word spread about views he frequently expressed on a radio show.” [AP]

DC DISPATCH — Trump Won’t Punish Allies for Buying Iranian Oil Despite Sanctions — by Laura Kelly: National Security Advisor John Bolton said Wednesday that the Trump administration is unlikely to impose harsh punishments on American allies who continue to buy Iranian oil after new sanctions are imposed on November 5. “We want to achieve maximum pressure but we don’t want to harm friends and allies either and we’re working our way through that,” Bolton said, addressing the Alexander Hamilton Society.

Despite the expected setback, Bolton said the effect of the August sanctions have already borne fruit and that Iranian crude oil purchases have decreased in China and European businesses are “fleeing the Iranian market.” “I think people understand there has to be fundamental change in the behavior of the Iranian regime to get them back to the [negotiating] table.” [JewishInsider] • As New Sanctions Loom, U.S. Push Against Iran Faces Steep Obstacles [NYTimesWSJ]

ON THE HILL — Khashoggi Killing Spurs Senate Fury Over Nuclear-Power Talks — by  Ari Natter and Ethan Bronner: “A group of Republican senators is urging a halt to talks on selling U.S. nuclear power equipment to Saudi Arabia in response to the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi… [Sen. Marco] Rubio is considering introducing legislation to block a U.S.-Saudi nuclear pact through a legally binding joint resolution of disapproval… A House bill introduced by Florida Republican Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in March would require congressional approval for so-called 123 agreements if they don’t maintain the “gold standard” barring enrichment and reprocessing of uranium… A growing number of senators seemed to share [that] view, bolstered by Israel’s publicly stated concern that nuclear proliferation in the Arab world, even with a budding ally like Saudi Arabia, was a threat to its security.” [Bloomberg]

Norm Coleman on CNN: “So I work for the Saudis on dealing with the Iranian threat to the region. Whatever’s gone on [with Khashoggi] is terrible, and let’s figure that out. But the bottom line is the strategic relationship is going to continue. And so what I can do to be helpful to make sure that Iran cannot do its mischievous deeds in the region, cannot threaten the existence of Israel — if I can be helpful in that regard, I’m going to try to continue to be helpful.”[Video]

Aaron David Miller and Hillel Zand write: “In the Middle East, Progress Without Peace: Netanyahu appears to be dealing with an Arab world ready to engage incrementally with Israel despite that fact that a peace deal is not forthcoming. In a volatile and combustible Middle East, the prime minister should enjoy his thaw while it lasts.” [TheAtlantic]

ON THE GROUND — Iran Ally Hezbollah Pays Syrian Rebels to Switch Sides — by Sune Engel Rasmussen and Suha Ma’aye: “Iran’s ally Hezbollah is paying former U.S.-backed rebels to switch sides and join a growing force in southern Syria, deepening its presence near Israel’s border after appearing to withdraw to avoid Israeli airstrikes, according to activists and a former rebel commander.” [WSJ]

** 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 **

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Carl Icahn Commences Litigation Against Dell Technologies [BloombergReuters] • McKinsey’s Work for Saudi Arabia Highlights its History of Unsavory Entanglements [NewYorker] •
Michael Milken tells David Rubenstein how he changed Wall Street [Bloomberg] • How Mark Zuckerberg Became Too Big to Fail [NYTimes] • Australian-Israeli startup creates water-based fuel for electric vehicles [ToI] • Ben & Jerry’s Israel distances itself from political US flavor [JPost]

HAPPENING TODAY — BlackRock CEO Larry Fink, former Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, entrepreneur Peter Thiel, among others, are discussing how to navigate the challenges ahead at the NYTimes’ DealBook’s annual conference, titled Playing for the Long Term, in New York City. [LiveUpdates]

SPOTLIGHT —  The Scientist, The Investor And The CEO: How ‘Shots Fired!’ Technology Turned A Profit — by Elizabeth MacBride: “[Gary] Lauder, a grandson of cosmetics entrepreneur Estee Lauder, is a venture capitalist, though he rarely seeks publicity. He makes a handful of $500,000-$4 million investments each year. Last year, he made eight, he told me in an interview over the summer at the Aspen Institute’s Socrates Seminars, where I met him… He also collects maps. As he was scouting for maps to buy one day in 1998-99, he ended up in the map room of the U.S. geological survey in Menlo Park. He noticed a story on a bulletin board about triangulating gunshot sounds the same way that seismographs locate earthquakes, which led him to Dr. Bob’s work and ShotSpotter. A few years later, shortly after 9/11, Lauder remembered the story and found Dr. Bob…”[Forbes]

MEDIA WATCH — Here’s How Much Bots Drive Conversation During News Events: “On Sunday, one day after the [Pittsburgh synagogue] shooting, bots were driving 23 percent of the Twitter activity related to the incident, according to FactCheck.me. “These big crises happen, and there’s a flurry of social media activity, but it’s really hard to go back and see what’s being spread and get numbers around bot activity,” says Ash Bhat, a Robhat Labs cofounder. So the team built an internal tool. Now they’re launching it publicly, in hopes of helping newsrooms measure the true volume of conversation during breaking news events, apart from the bot-driven din.”[Wired] • From Silicon Valley elite to social media hate: The radicalization that led to Gab [WashPost]

CNN cools on hiring Trump alums — by Jason Schwartz and Gabby Orr: “CNN president Jeff Zucker has told people inside and outside the network that he’s not interested in hiring former officials he perceives as complicit in spreading falsehoods or spurious talking points… There is no hard rule in place, however, and Zucker would be interested in what he views as independent-minded officials who he thinks have avoided damaging their credibility, another of the people said, citing Nikki Haley, the outgoing U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, as an example.” [Politico]

PROFILE — Can Israeli Opposition Leader Tzipi Livni Connect With American Jews? — by Abraham Riesman: “On a dreary Wednesday in late September, Tzipi Livni, the leader of the opposition in the Israeli government and a three-time near-miss candidate for prime minister, walked into a Jewish diner in midtown Manhattan with a sole publicist and no security detail, pursing her lips and raising her eyebrows as if to say, “Nu, this is the dump I’m stuck in?” She was in town for a few days on a meeting spree with foreign dignitaries during the U.N. General Assembly. I’d picked the location as a bit of an experiment. I wanted to see how one of the most prominent Jews in Israeli public life would react to an establishment that exemplified the sort of American Jewishness I’ve grown up with.”

“As it turned out, she was a little bewildered. She eschewed food in favor of a grapefruit juice (I told her that anything she ordered was on me, and she pointed to her gut and said, “It stays on me, later, so.”) and couldn’t quite suss out why she was there. “What makes this diner Jewish, by the way?” she asked. I told her it was the ambience, but also the cuisine: bagels, lox, challah rolls. “Okay,” she replied, “because what I see is the ketchup, so.” I asked her if ketchup is definitionally non-Jewish. “It’s basically American,” she said… The impasse may seem small, but it’s indicative of a larger disconnect that Livni and the rest of the Israeli opposition struggles with today.” [NYMag]

The Israeli Model Bar Refaeli Just Starred In A Clothing Ad Promoting “Freedom” By Showing Her Taking Off A Niqab — by Rose Troup Buchanan and Ikran Dahir: “Israeli model Bar Refaeli has starred in an Israeli clothing company’s advert that depicts her taking off a niqab in a campaign titled “freedom is basic.” The advert was published Oct. 29 on Instagram and YouTube… Both Refaeli and Hoodies had deleted the posts from their Instagram, as of Oct. 30… The beginning of the video is overlaid with Hebrew, which reads: “Iran is here?” before showing Refaeli taking off the niqab and hijab she is wearing.” [BuzzFeed]

TALK OF THE TOWN — Brooklyn Heights Residence Vandalized With Swastikas Amid Uptick In NYC Anti-Semitic Incidents — by Jame Offenhartz: “A residence in Brooklyn Heights was vandalized with swastikas and racial slurs on Tuesday night… A spokesperson for the NYPD tells Gothamist that there have been a total of 142 anti-Semitic hate crimes reported this year, up from 126 at this time in 2017. It appears that 26 of those incidents occurred in the last three weeks alone.” [Gothamist]

A Family Recovered Most of What the Nazis Stole. But Not This — by Catherine Hickley: “The family of Paul Rosenberg, a renowned Paris art dealer whose gallery had exclusive arrangements with Braque, Matisse and Picasso, has worked tirelessly, with tremendous success, to recover the 400 works the Nazis looted from him… But one pastel portrait by Edgar Degas, an image of particular importance to Paul Rosenberg, has proved to be maddeningly elusive… “It has been completely frustrating,” said Marianne Rosenberg, Paul’s granddaughter and an art dealer with a gallery in New York. “Something appears, then it disappears again and you lose it for another 20 years.” [NYTimes]

BIRTHDAYS: Rabbi of Baltimore’s Beth Tfiloh Congregation, Mitchell Wohlberg turns 74… Country singer, songwriter, novelist and humorist, his failed bid for Governor of Texas in 2006 won him 13% of the votes in a six-way race, Richard Samet “Kinky” Friedman turns 74… Pioneering investor in the personal computing industry, founder of Lotus and co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Mitch Kapor turns 68… Senior Rabbi at Beit T’Shuvah, a nonprofit Jewish addiction treatment center and synagogue community in Los Angeles, Mark Borovitz turns 67… Management analyst at the US Department of Energy, he was formerly a staffer for VPOTUS Dan Quayle (1989-93), Les Novitsky turns 61… Managing Director in the DC-office of AIPAC since 2014, he was previously AIPAC’s Western States director based in Los Angeles (2002-2014), Elliot Brandt turns 5-0…

Actress, born in Odessa, she is best known for her roles on All My Children, Days of Our Lives and General Hospital, Alla Korot turns 48… Principal at Calabasas, California-based CRC-Commercial Realty Consultants, he is a vice-chair of the real estate and construction division of the Los Angeles Jewish Federation, Brian Weisberg turns 46… Associate in the DC office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, she was a law clerk for USDC Judge Ellen Hollander in Baltimore, Clare F. Steinberg turns 30… Senior associate at the DC-based PR firm M+R, he was previously a communications fellow at the Schusterman Family Foundation, Mitchell Caminer turns 25… Pitcher in the KC Royals organization, he pitched for Team Israel at the 2017 World Baseball Classic and became an Israeli citizen in 2018 so that he can play for Israel in the 2020 Olympics, Gabe Cramer turns 24… Researcher and producer for CNN’s political unit, Marshall Cohen… Grassroots engagement director since 2017 for Teach NYS at the at Orthodox Union’s Advocacy Center, she was previously AIPAC’s Director of South Shore Long Island, Annie Peck Watman


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