Daily Kickoff

Jewish Insider Daily Kickoff – Dec. 2

Driving the Week – As senators work on Iran sanctions bill, White House lobbies lawmakers not to act: “As much as any other foreign policy issue during President Obama’s five years in office, the question of Iran sanctions now finds him at odds with a hefty portion of his own party’s lawmakers, as well as most Republicans. A bipartisan juggernaut of senior senators is spending the remaining week of the Thanksgiving recess forging agreement on a new sanctions bill that the senators hope to pass before breaking again for Christmas.”

–“Nathan Diament, executive director for public policy at the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, said he listened in on three White House conference calls last week — two to pro-Israel groups and one to a broader collection of faith-based groups — during which officials stated their case. “This is going to make the president’s Hanukkah party very interesting,” said Diament, whose group favors new sanctions. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee has declared passage of a sanctions bill its top current priority.” [WashPost]

According to @Kampeas – Obama to host TWO Hanukkah parties on same day, Thursday, because of overflow.

Scene Last Night – Canadian PM Harper at JNF gala dinner in Toronto. 4,000 in attendance and more than $6,000,000 raised. Harper vowed ‘Israel will always have Canada’ and announced his first trip to Israel next year. The PM also performed with his rock band for the crowd as the lead singer and keyboard player.  

Netanyahu meets with Pope Francis today in Italy: [JPost]

Olmert and Netanyahu trade barbs – Olmert accuses Bibi of declaring war on the U.S., Bibi responds “I will not shut up.” [Forward]

Netanyahu orders Mossad to expose Iranian breaches of interim deal: “According to a source in the Obama administration quoted by The New York Times Saturday, “If there’s any evidence of some secret nuclear site the Iranians forgot to [mention], this is over.” [ToI]

Tehran Dispatch – Iran’s Hard-Liners Keep Their Criticism of Nuclear Pact to Themselves: “That pact, in which Iran’s moderate government agreed to freeze parts of its nuclear program for six months in exchange for limited relief from crippling economic sanctions, was greeted with wild enthusiasm in most quarters here. A conspicuous exception, however, were Iran’s hard-liners, who mostly maintained a studied silence, unwilling to risk a public confrontation with their patron over the years — the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has cautiously welcomed the deal. But that silence may not last, experts say. At the slightest signal from the supreme leader, they say, the hard-liners could unleash protests by hundreds of thousands on the streets along with an outpouring of criticism from state-run news media.” [NYTimes]

AP Big Story Report – Iran Needs More Nuclear Power Plants: “Iran’s nuclear chief said Sunday that the Islamic Republic needs more nuclear power plants, the country’s official news agency reported, just after it struck a deal regarding its contested nuclear program with world powers. Ali Akbar Salehi said the additional nuclear power would help the country reduce its carbon emissions and its consumption of oil, IRNA reported. He said Iran should produce 150 tons of nuclear fuel to supply five nuclear power plants.” [AP]

Israeli TV suggest Iran persuaded Assad to give up chemical weapons in exchange for US abandoning punitive attack on Syria this summer: [ToI]

Wendy Sherman Profile – Politics and a Ruptured Tendon Don’t Faze Lead Iran Negotiator: “Ms. Sherman was the State Department’s chief strategist in dealing with the North Korean nuclear program. It was a searing experience, in both its temporary successes and long-term failure, that prepared her for the complexity of the Iranian negotiations, and has made her a target for those on Capitol Hill who argue that history is about to repeat itself.” [NYTimes]

According to her allies: Hillary Clinton clear-eyed on Iran deal – by Maggie Haberman & Katie Glueck: [Politico]

Seth Lipsky – Will Sen. Schumer blink on Iran deal? He talks a big game to the New York Jewish community but will he do anything in DC? Or will this be just like the Jerusalem Embassy Act and the Hagel confirmation? [NYPost]

Axis of Evil Update? Iraqi PM to visit Iran this week: [ToI]

An Israeli-Saudi axis? Not likely according to Bruce Riedel: [AlMonitor]

Roderen profiles Avigdor Lieberman – Israel’s Foreign Minister Returns, but Abrasive Style Appears Absent: “Rivals and political analysts see the changes as a superficial pivot by an ambitious politician who needs to broaden his base and improve his international standing in hopes of soon seeking the premiership. Friends and aides say what seems like a transformation is really the emergence of the pragmatic, reasonable, even thoughtful man they know after years of unfair caricature.” [NYTimes]

Politico Magazine – The World According to Zbig – Charles Gati interviews Zbigniew Brzezinski: “Last week, he waded into the debate over the U.S.-led negotiations with Iran with this controversial tweet: “Obama/Kerry = best policy team since Bush I/Jim Baker. Congress is finally becoming embarrassed by Netanyahu’s efforts to dictate US policy,” which Bloomberg columnist Jeffrey Goldberg ripped as “Jews run America, suggests ex-national security adviser.” CG: Would you talk about your father? I’d be particularly interested in the role he played in helping Central and Eastern European Jews escape persecution in the years before World War II. ZB: Not long ago, I got a letter from a woman who lives near Washington, in Bethesda, Md. She started off by saying, “I’m 93 and I meant to write to you much earlier, but I am doing it now, before I pass away. I want you to know that your father [a Polish consul in Germany, 1931–1935] saved me and my late husband by issuing my father passports for our family. He certified that we were Polish citizens.” In fact, they were German citizens. My father’s actions were contrary to his diplomatic status. CG: Did he ever talk to you about his views? ZB: He was a profoundly liberal person who was offended by the semi-fascist manifestations of Polish anti-Semitism. The first time I remember it coming up was when in the mid-1930s we were walking together down the streets of a city called Lwow [now Lviv, Ukraine]. I was about 6. We saw a bunch of right-wing fanatics. They had a huge sign in Polish that said, “All Jews and swine live only in Palestine. Warsaw and Krakow are only for the Poles.” My father was using a cane, not because he needed it but because it was a stylish European habit at that time, and he charged at them with it. As for the passports he’d issued, while I was a child I didn’t really know that he was issuing them. I know that he did it because the Israeli government recognized him, and several years ago he was honored for what he did.

—…CG: Is Carter getting a raw deal now? Is his current critical view of Israel a source of these criticisms? Is this, at least partly, a retroactive judgment? ZB: First of all, I don’t think that the prevailing national opinion is that hostile, but it’s certainly true that segments of our society feel negatively about him, especially those who believe in the unilateral use of force, and also what you mentioned with respect to his views on Israel. I would argue that on balance he might be seen as a president who anticipated the serious problems we have now with energy and who dealt very effectively with a number of critical foreign policy issues. If George W. Bush or Barack Obama had accomplished half as much during their time in office, it would be viewed as a great success. I also think a lot of the interpretation of Carter’s legacy has to do with emotions. Let’s face it: The Jewish community is the most active political community in American society. And people within that community were very upset by Carter asserting that Israel was becoming an apartheid state. CG: That upset me, too. ZB: Well, it may bother you, it bothers me in the sense that I wish it wasn’t happening. But you know who else has said that? [Former Israeli prime minister] Ehud Barak, among others. Word for word. When it comes to Jewish sensitivity, I don’t find the proposition compelling that non-Jews have no right to comment. We all have the right to comment about each other. And I object when people say that these comments are motivated by anti-Semitism. It’s a much more complicated issue, and it actually trivializes anti-Semitism.” [PoliticoMag]

Bedouins in Israel Protest Plan to Regulate Settlement: [NYTimes]

Israel’s New Opposition Chief Isaac Herzog Meets With Abbas: [AP]

Ari Shavit OpEd – In Israel, a Dream Made Real – Against all odds, Zionism has allowed an almost extinguished people to renew itself: [WSJ]

Talk of Our Nation – BBC: Rise of the ‘secret’ ultra-Orthodox Jewish beauty salons [BBC News]

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks on The Role Of Faith In Jewish Life: [NPR]

LongRead – Uncovering Jamaica’s Jewish Past – by Debra A. Klein: [DailyBeast]

Karate rabbi wants to train Jewish kids to combat ‘knockout’ thugs: [NYPost]

Politicians Tweet Happy Hanukkah Greetings: Over 80 heads of state, governors, senators, members of congress, mayors, candidates, and council members tweeted happy hanukkah greetings to the Jewish community. Award for best hanukkah greeting goes to UK Deputy PM Nick Clegg who mastered the guttural “ch” in CHanukkah and samaeCH in his Hanukkah Greetings YouTube video. See all the tweets here [JewishInsider]

Massachusetts State House menorah lighting tonight: “Gov. Deval Patrick and other top state politicians are joining members of the state’s Jewish community to light an 18-foot menorah in the Statehouse to mark Hanukkah. The menorah scheduled to be lit Monday at The Grand Staircase is so large that a scissor-lift is required to lift Patrick, House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Rabbi Rachmiel Liberman to reach it.” [Boston]

Jews on NYC Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio’s Inauguration Team: “Heshie Dembitzer; Matthew Hiltzik; Isaac Leshinsky; Jona Rechnitz; Ronald Perelman; Morris Missry; Jay Eisenhofer: [JewishInsider]


Out Today, First Look – New York Magazine Feature Story – How the Podolsky Family Turns Subpar Real Estate Into For-Profit Homeless Shelters: “The story of the family business traces back to a Coney Island kosher butcher shop and a hardened patriarch. Zenek Podolsky was born in Poland in 1920. Most of his family was killed at Treblinka. He later recounted, in a testimony for the Shoah Foundation, that he survived the Holocaust by working for the Gestapo as a mechanic, then on a crew commanded by the Jewish Police. His job involved traveling “city by city, cleaning out the Jewish neighborhoods” after their occupants had been deported. “They gave me a torch,” he said, “and made me in charge of opening up the safes.”

–“After the war, Zenek and his wife, Fanny, immigrated and opened the shop on Mermaid Avenue. Podolsky spent his workdays cutting meat, evenings at the local Democratic clubhouse, and weekends acquiring Coney Island rooming houses. Between 1970 and 1978, according to a document filed by District Attorney Robert Morgenthau in an unrelated case years later, “almost all were burned down in over 125 suspicious fires.” Podolsky was never charged with a related crime, and he profited when the government condemned the properties for urban renewal. Podolsky used the condemnation windfall to expand. Every Friday, he and his seven children talked real estate over Sabbath dinner. The family philosophy was summed up by the name of a company it used to acquire one Brooklyn building: Fountainhead Associates. There and elsewhere, the Podolskys clashed with tenants. They also fought with each other: In 1984, Zenek sued his eldest son, Abraham, over ownership of some properties, and the two traded accusations of fraud, forgery, and betrayal. Jay and Stuart took their father’s side in the bitter feud, which resulted in an unhappy division of assets.” [NYMag]

Side note – Lawrence C. Burnstein’s New York Magazine, Long on Cutting Edge of Print, Cutting Back [NYTimes]

An interview with Mortimer Zuckerman: How he succeeds in real estate: “Mortimer Zuckerman, 76, is known for being a regular on the political talk show “The McLaughlin Group” and for owning such media properties as the New York Daily News, U.S. News & World Report and the Atlantic Monthly, the last of which he sold to Washington businessman David Bradley for about $10 million in 1999. But he made his fortune, estimated at more than $2 billion, buying and constructing office buildings. He is the founder and chairman of Boston Properties, a publicly traded real estate investment trust with 138 properties, many of them in the Washington market. His is one of the most respected minds in the real estate business. Zuckerman was born in Montreal, the son of a successful merchant. He has degrees from McGill, Harvard Law School and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He has two children: a teenage daughter, Abigail, whose mother, Marla Prather, he divorced in 2001. His other daughter, Renee, is 4.

Do you ever wish you ran for office? Yes, I do. What would you have become if you had not gone into business? A teacher, I think. Do you have any big plays left? Who knows? To be honest with you, if anybody had told me that my life would play out the way it did, I would have told them you’ve got to stop smoking. Who could have imagined? I’m the luckiest guy in the world, first because I’ve got two great children. But beyond that, look at the career. I started out with nothing. (Laughing) When I joined, Cabot, Cabot & Forbes, I had a six-year-old Chevy and I owed $500 to the Harvard Law School. So Gerry [Blakely] asked me, “What do you think would be a fair salary?” I figured I’ll go for the top, and I said $7,750. I don’t know where I came up with that. He said, “We’ll pay you $8,750.” I said this is the right place for me (laughs). That’s where I started.” [WashPost]

The Times — Zakay brothers build hotels group by the dozen: “The Jewish billionaire Zakay brothers have acquired Menzies Hotels from administration in an £80 million-plus deal as part of a £1 billion assault on the hotel industry. Topland, the property group owned by Sol and Eddie Zakay, has purchased 12 of the regional operator’s 15 hotels for between £80 million and £85 million ,together with its head office in Derby.” [TheTImes]

El Al chief unexpectedly steps down: Eliezer Shkedi, who has been heading Israel’s national air carrier for four years, gives no reason for departure • Shkedi to remain in office pending replacement’s nomination • “I have great faith in the company, its personnel and its potential,” he says. [IsraelHayom]

Swiss Stays “Think Yiddish, Dress British” Edition Features Yiddish Phrases: “David Schottenstein’s collar stays startup Swiss Stays announced a special edition called “Think Yiddish, Dress British” where each stay features a Yiddish word on one side relating to the Shmatta, or rag, industry with the English translation listed below. “A tribute to the Jewish roots of the garment industry. Starting this weekend these special edition stays will be available at Saks Fifth Avenue stores nationwide.” [JewishInsider]

StartUp Nation – Success Recipe: Elevator pitches and the grandmother test – An innovative contest for entrepreneurs is coming to Tel Aviv, with 100 Israeli companies competing for a chance to win $100,000: [ToI]

Dessert – Kosher food is busting out of the Lower East Side and its creative constraints: “Clever chefs like Moshe Wendel and Itta Werdiger Roth are bringing kosher into the 21st century at eateries like Pardes, Mason & Mug, Blossom and Reserve Cut. [DailyNews]

Is Turkey Kosher? – This year, in honor of “Thanksgivukkah,” the convergence of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah, Ari Shapiro talks with Rabbi Joshua Heller of Congregation B’nai Torah in Atlanta about the esoteric question of whether turkey is in fact kosher. Because turkeys were not around in biblical times, it’s not as clear as some might think. [NPR]

Thats all folks, have a great Monday! 

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