Daily Kickoff: Eric Cantor’s Jewish Cousin vs. Israeli Gov’t; Talmudic Coders; U.S. Jewish Mayors Fulop & Garcetti; 27 Things Jewish Moms Love

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Top Talker: American Jewish Family Accuses Israel of Caving In To China; Urges U.S. Court to Reject Israeli Attempt to Silence Witness: “An American family that is suing the Bank of China in a U.S. terrorism case accused Israel on Tuesday of caving in to Chinese pressure by blocking a key witness from testifying. The lawsuit revolves around allegations that Bank of China knowingly allowed Palestinian militants to use its accounts to finance their operations, including the suicide attack that killed 16-year-old Daniel Wultz, and 10 others. Bank of China denies the allegations.

–Wultz’s parents, who live in Florida, hoped that evidence from a former Israeli intelligence officer, Uzi Shaya, who allegedly told Chinese counterparts in 2005 about the suspicious bank transactions, would prove decisive. After initially helping Wultz’s parents prepare the U.S. lawsuit against China’s fourth largest lender, the Israeli government hit the brakes last month, filing a petition seeking to prevent Shaya from giving testimony. The court filing included some potentially embarrassing accusations against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying he had barred the witness from testifying in order to bring “75 of his closest friends and family” on an official visit to China. It comes as China’s foreign minister is visiting Israel.

–In a declaration, Wultz’s mother, Sheryl Cantor Wultz, said Shaya told her last May that China was putting heavy pressure on Israel. “Mr. Shaya told me that Prime Minister Netanyahu had wanted to visit China for a long time but was not invited to do so. Now he had been invited by high-level Chinese government officials for a special visit and was encouraged to bring 75 of his closest friends and family, who were treated like royalty. The trip was condition on Mr. Shaya not testifying,” she said. The case is being tried in U.S. federal court because the financial transfers allegedly were processed by the bank’s U.S. branches. Adding to the high profile of the case, Sheryl Cantor Wultz is a cousin of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Virginia. In addition to the Wultz family, nearly two dozen Israeli families of people killed in Palestinian violence are pursuing similar claims against the bank. Those families’ lawyers are also seeking Shaya’s testimony.” [Reuters] [AP]

NYTimes: Conflicting Tales on How a Jewish Brooklyn Businessman Evaded Bolivian Custody: “In an odd twist to a serpentine tale, two discrete stories emerged on Tuesday about how a Brooklyn businessman who was jailed in a squalid prison in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, for 18 months, then placed under house arrest, managed to escape and make his way to the United States. At a press conference in La Paz, Bolivia, Justice Minister Cecilia Ayllón described a remarkably lax house-arrest arrangement with little supervision and suggested that the businessman, Jacob Ostreicher, had been gradually testing the boundaries of his confinement, including trips to La Paz, until he simply slipped away “clandestinely.”

–But Mr. Ostreicher’s daughter, Gitty Weinberger, told an entirely different story Tuesday. She said she had been told by her uncle, Aron Ostreicher, that her father was kidnapped from Santa Cruz. Her uncle, she said, made contact with the kidnappers and “negotiated a ransom.” She said she had not yet spoken with her father. “He paid X amount of money and my father was dropped off in Pacific waters,” said Mrs. Weinberger, 31, the mother of five, in a phone call from her home in Lakewood, N.J. She did not know whether by Pacific waters her uncle meant a boat. “From there he was taken to an undisclosed location,” she said. Mr. Ostreicher’s daughter said she had not seen her father since August when she traveled there. She said her father, who has the tremors of Parkinson’s disease, did not look well. Mr. Ostreicher’s wife, Miriam, said the two separated in September. She said she had not heard from him about his return.” [NYTimes] — Fat Chance: Bolivia to ask Washington, Interpol to extradite escaped U.S. businessman [Reuters]

U.S. Fingers Iranian Commandos for Kidnapping Raid Inside Iraq – by Yochi Dreazen: “U.S. intelligence officials believe that Iranian commandos took part in a deadly attack on a compound of dissidents inside Iraq and then spirited seven members of the group back to Iran, highlighting Tehran’s increasingly free hand inside Iraq in the wake of the U.S withdrawal from the country. The Sept. 1 attack on a base called Camp Ashraf killed at least 50 members of the Mujahedeen-e Khalq, or MEK, which had disarmed at the request of the U.S. military after the American invasion of Iraq and received explicit promises of protection from senior commanders. Instead, gory videos released by the group showed that many of its members had been shot with their hands tied behind their backs or in one of the camp’s makeshift hospitals. MEK leaders, backed by an array of U.S. lawmakers, said Iraqi security forces carried out the attack.”[TheCable]

Iran President Hassan Rohani is facing mounting opposition at home for its endeavors abroad: “The administration dodged any serious backlash from conservatives in Tehran for its interim nuclear deal with six world powers. But recent remarks by government ministers have caused discontent all the way to the top of the powerful military.” [Economist]

Meet the Israeli intelligence officer who really knows what the Iranians are talking about. Mitch Ginsburg meets Major M., an immigrant from Tehran who has been helping the army understand the Islamist regime, and still hopes to return [ToI]

Palestinians: Kerry taking Israel’s side, no longer neutral mediator – Senior officials in Ramallah accuse Secretary Kerry of compensating Jerusalem for U.S. position on Iran: “According to a senior Palestinian official, during U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s last two visits to the region and in his meetings with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and the negotiating team, there were significant disagreements and a difficult atmosphere prevailed in the discussions. The source said that in addition to the security plan suggested by the Americans, which promised an Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley for 10 years, the issue of recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, as demanded by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was also raised.

–On Monday the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper, quoting senior Palestinian sources, reported that the United States had agreed to Israel’s demand regarding Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, and that the Americans were pressuring the Palestinians to accept this position and include it in the framework agreement that Kerry plans to present in the next few weeks. “The Americans see this as a legitimate proposal, but the Palestinian response was clear – that we cannot agree to suggestions that constitute a gross violation of Palestinian national principles,” said one source close to Abbas. “Imagine if the United States would demand that it be recognized as a state of white Christians. What would the response be in the United States and in the rest of the world?” [Haaretz]

Cameron F. Kerry, younger brother and political confidant of John F. Kerry, joins Brookings as the Ann R. and Andrew H. Tisch Distinguished Fellow: “I am proud to be joining Brookings,” Kerry said.  “It has such an unparalleled history of thought leadership across a range of areas, and I know it will provide an excellent platform from which to continue work on issues that are vital to sustained innovation and economic growth.” Press Release [Brookings]

EU Warns Israel Over Settlement Construction: “The European Union said Tuesday it has asked Israel not to announce any new West Bank settlement construction following an expected Palestinian prisoner release, warning that it would be held responsible for any resulting failure in Mideast peace talks.” [AP]

Israel Fears Other American University Groups Will Join Academic Boycott: “Israel dismissed as “radical leftist” a group of American scholars that has decided to boycott it but worries that other academic forums in the United States could take similar action, the deputy Israeli foreign minister said on Tuesday.” [Reuters

U.S. student group to boycott Israeli billionaire Shari Arison – Anti-Israel activists at George Mason University plan to walk out when the Israeli businesswoman-philanthropist addresses graduation ceremony: “Students at George Mason University in Virginia plan to walk out of their graduation ceremony on Thursday in protest of Israeli businesswoman-philanthropist Shari Arison, who is due to deliver a speech and receive an honorary degree from the university. In 2012, Arison donated funds to the public university for creating the Shari Arison Endowed Professorship of Doing Good Values. The purpose of the endowment is to “[explore] a values-based philosophy in business and other leadership spheres.”[Haaretz]

Talmudic Coders: Studying Talmud in the morning, writing code in the afternoon – An innovative program is bringing ultra-Orthodox Israeli men into the high-tech workforce: “Hidden above a seminary in the largely ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak, some 20 young men are hard at work in the offices of software company Ravtech Beit Tochna Torani. They’re building mobile applications and websites. Representing a cross section of Haredi society, these men lacked even a basic knowledge of math or English as recently as last year. Now they combine Talmud studies in the morning with programming in the afternoon and evening.

–Defined as a social enterprise, the company works closely with Avratech, an organization that runs a software training program for Haredi men. The course of studies includes eight to 10 months of training starting with extreme basics such as the multiplication tables. The final stage is geared toward job skills and splits into specializations: mobile development (iOS, Android), website design (Java, HTML), and the testing of software for automated systems. While training, students receive a 2,000 shekel ($570) monthly stipend, equal to what they received during their studies in a kollel, a yeshiva for married men. And the course is fully subsidized.

–“The population arriving here is made up of people who decided at a certain stage that they need to make a living,” adds Aharon Safrai, Avratech’s director. “They can’t integrate in a secular workplace because having a religious work environment is important to them. And something else is important to them – quality hours of Talmud study in the morning.” “These are talented men who can quickly reach a level high enough to work,” says Mor. “They can work remotely and therefore don’t need to work at a secular company. There’s also the possibility of flexible work hours so they can pursue Torah studies part of the day. Many who came here said we rescued them.” [Haaretz]

Israeli Billionaire Beny Steinmetz Sues George Soros-Linked Global Witness:“Israel’s richest person Beny Steinmetz sued Global Witness, claiming breaches of his human and data-protection rights as part of a “sustained negative publicity campaign” led by the anti-corruption activist group. The claim by Steinmetz and three other individuals, who are employed by or associated with his BSG Resources Ltd., was filed at London’s High Court and served on Global Witness today. The claim was brought under the U.K.’s Data Protection Act after Global Witness refused requests to produce personal data on the claimants for almost a year, according to an e-mailed statement.

–Steinmetz said the group had made a number of “bogus” claims about BSGR, which is subject to a probe into how it obtained mining rights in Guinea. Global Witness’s chief donor, billionaire George Soros, has advised the West African nation’s government on mining issues, according to the statement. The case is Steinmetz & Ors v. Global Witness Ltd., 13-5380, High Court of Justice, Chancery Division.” [Bloomberg]

Israeli Court Wrests Holding Company From Tycoon Nochi Dankner: “An Israeli court has approved a restructuring plan that would wrest control of the country’s largest holding company from one of its most prominent businessmen. The court decided to give ownership of debt-ridden IDB Holding Corp. to businessmen Eduardo Elsztain and Motti Ben-Moshe, ousting controlling shareholder Nochi Dankner. The court said the ruling would go into effect once the two men provide the financial details behind their rescue plan. Speaking to reporters outside the courtroom Tuesday, Dankner indicated he would appeal the ruling, saying “the company will stay in our hands.” IDB, whose holdings include a major mobile phone carrier and a leading supermarket chain, took on millions of dollars in debts following a series of bad business deals.”[AP]

U.S. Holocaust museum gets long lost diary from top Hitler aide: “The long-lost diary kept by a top aide to Adolf Hitler as he oversaw the genocide against Jews and others during World War Two, a key piece of evidence during the Nuremberg trials, was handed over on Tuesday to the U.S. Holocaust Museum. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents found and seized Alfred Rosenberg’s 400-page diary in Wilmington, Delaware this year, ending a nearly 70-year hunt for the diary which disappeared after the Nuremberg trials in 1946.”[Reuters]

Jewish groups, Jersey City Mayor Fulop slam NRA for Holocaust comments: “Jewish groups and Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop are firing back at the National Rifle Association over what they say were “offensive” and “disturbing” remarks made by a local NRA official last week. Fulop recently announced he would ask gun manufacturers doing business with Jersey City to answer several questions before being considered for a city contract. The questions include manufacturers’ policies on automatic weapons sales, resales and the use of their brands in video games. Scott Bach, a member of the NRA’s board of directors and executive director of the Association of New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs said he was surprised Fulop would be anti-gun since his grandparents were Holocaust survivors.

–“His grandparents were Holocaust survivors according to Wikipedia,” Bach said in an interview on NRA News, calling for gunmakers to boycott Jersey City. “So you’ve got to wonder why he is not getting it.” Fulop’s grandmother was held at the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II and his grandfather was held at a Nazi labor camp. They both survived and emigrated to the U.S. in the late 1960s. This week, national and local Jewish groups also criticized Bach and the NRA for likening gun control proponents to Nazi Germany.

–“Invoking the Holocaust and bringing Hitler into this argument is historically inaccurate and offensive to Holocaust survivors and the Jewish community,” the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ said in a statement. “Access to guns and the systematic murder of six million Jews have no basis for comparison in the United States or in New Jersey. The Holocaust has no place in this discussion and it is offensive to link this tragedy to such a debate.” The national Anti-Defamation League also weighed in. “There is absolutely no comparison of the issue of gun control in the U.S. to the genocidal actions of the Nazi regime,” said Abraham H. Foxman, a Holocaust survivor and league director.” [NJ]

Italian, Mexican, Jew: Meet LA.’s New Mayor, Eric Garcetti: “When Garcetti was elected, he and his wife Amy Wakeland—a fellow Rhodes Scholar—decided to move with their toddler daughter Maya from their $1.4 million home in the hip Sliver Lake neighborhood to Getty House, the city’s official mayoral residence in Hancock Park. One of the first things they did was invite their rabbi, Sharon Brous, the head of L.A.’s progressive IKAR congregation, to bless the first mezuzah ever to grace the doorframe of the Tudor-style mansion, which was built in 1921. Since then, Brous has paid twice-monthly visits to Garcetti’s office to study Talmud. At a reception the city’s Jewish federation held for the new mayor last August, Brous told him in front of the crowd, “We are here to help you, and to utz you.”

–“Eric is more open about his Jewish roots in public,” said Zev Yaroslavsky, a county supervisor who officiated at Garcetti’s wedding. “He’s more in touch now than ever before.” Many expected Yaroslavsky, who for 30 years has been the most prominent Jewish politician in Los Angeles, to be the first Jew elected to run the city, but instead the 64-year-old—who has announced he’s retiring next year—has become a mentor to Garcetti, advising him during the campaign and now in his first months at City Hall. And while Garcetti may have won nearly 58 percent of the city’s Jewish vote over Wendy Greuel—who was campaigning to become the city’s first female mayor—Yaroslavsky says his protégé has his work cut out for him. “Jews in this city are going to judge him not by how Jewish he is,” he said, “but by how many potholes he gets fixed.” [TabletMag]

End of Congress’ year brings odd reversal on Jewish priorities – by Ron Kampeas:“For Jewish and pro-Israel groups, the congressional year is ending with an odd reversal: the prospect, however fragile, of bipartisan comity on budget issues coupled with a rare partisan disagreement on Middle Eastern policy. Officials from centrist pro-Israel groups said there is still robust bipartisan support for the U.S.-Israel relationship. They noted the overwhelming passage in the House this month of bills that would advance Israel’s qualitative military edge and energy cooperation with the United States, as well as agreement in the House and Senate to triple the administration’s request for funding of missile defense cooperation to nearly $300 million.”[JTA]

Jane Eisner OpEd: Why the gender pay gap at Jewish nonprofits? “My staff and I selected about 75 of the most important national Jewish organizations — the 18 largest federations, which act as umbrella social service agencies across the country; advocacy, service and defense groups; and religious and education institutions. Then we tried to answer two simple questions. Who is in charge, a man or a woman? And how much does he or she earn? Even though this is public information, it still took all the resources of our small staff to gather and verify the data, and then publish it as accurately and clearly as possible.

–Our first survey, published at the end of 2009, painted a bleak picture of inequity: There were only eight women in leadership roles, and they earned roughly two-thirds of what the men earned. Each year since, we’ve repeated the survey, adding more data about the size of the organizations — specifically, expenditures and number of employees. But the male/female ratio and the salary gap remained stubbornly consistent. Consider: There are more Jewish women on the U.S. Supreme Court (two) than have ever run a major U.S. Jewish federation (one.) And that one woman, Jennifer Gorovitz in San Francisco, is dramatically underpaid.” [WashPost]

William Daroff OpEd: Community, A gift for the Jewish future: “Much can be learned from the much-discussed Pew Study on American Jewish life, but one key finding is that we need to engage more people in Jewish life, particularly younger Jews. While we are focusing on this critical challenge, we must not forget there are many who, for generations, have sought to be engaged and welcomed, but instead have been excluded or ignored, whether intentionally or not: people among us with disabilities.” [eJewishPhilanthropy]

StartUp Nation: Israel’s Rounds to integrate Vidyo’s video chat technology [Reuters] — An Israeli startup’s solution for the ‘customer service blues’ [ToI] — From Start-Up Nation to Scale-Up Nation: Israel Circa 2014 [Forbes]

Real Estate RoundUp: Passing the Torch: Real Estate Execs, Larry Silverstein, Bruce Ratner & Mort Zuckerman, Sign Off in 2013 [CommercialObserver] — Gary Barnett’s Extell Development acquires Crossroads Center [WCF-Courier] — Frank Lowy’s Westfield Group to manage Fulton Center leasing [RealDeal] — Jewish Fontainebleau Owners, Soffer Family, buys out Dubai government’s share at Fontainebleau Resort [MiamiHerald]

Dessert – BuzzFeed: 27 Things Jewish Moms Love – Where are you? Did you eat? Are you safe? Are you warm? [BuzzFeed]

Late Night: Jon Stewart Takes Down “The Deadly Knockout Game” [DailyShow]

Thats all folks, have a great Wednesday!

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