Daily Kickoff

Daily Kickoff: President Obama says ‘We are all Jews’ in speech at Israeli Embassy | Bloomberg’s ambition | On this day: Brandeis nominated to SCOTUS

Have our people email your people. Share this sign up link with your friends.

SCENE YESTERDAY: At around 5:45PM on Wednesday afternoon, President Obama’s motorcade turned onto International Drive in Northwest D.C., passing the prominent Embassies of the People’s Republic of China, Singapore, Jordan, and Pakistan, before making its way down the driveway of the relatively smaller building on the corner; the Embassy of the State of Israel. One can only imagine the thoughts at the other Embassies on the block, but in many ways this historic visit by a sitting U.S. President reflects the prominent role that Israel, despite its smaller size, plays on the world stage.

On November 5th, 1995, President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Clinton visited the Israeli Embassy in Washington to sign the condolence book for the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. In the picture, Israeli Ambassador to the US Itamar Rabinovich looks on as US First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton comforts Rabinovich’s wife Efrat. [Getty; CSPAN]

Yesterday, President Obama made history by becoming the first sitting U.S. President to deliver a speech at the Israeli Embassy in D.C.

Israeli Amb. Ron Dermer began by noting the historic occasion: “Mr. President, your presence here on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, is a powerful tribute to the memory of the victims, as well as a testament to the unique nature of this ceremony, in which we have come together to honor two Americans and two Poles who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. Your presence is also a testament to the unique relationship between Israel and the United States. It is not every day, nor every year, nor even every decade, that a sitting American President speaks at a foreign embassy. In fact, this is the first time that a sitting President has ever spoken in our Embassy in Washington.”

“The 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust were murdered by other human beings – by human beings who had a choice. So perhaps the question, “where are you?,” Ayeka, a question that so many asked God during the holocaust and which so many of us have been asking God ever since, is not a question for us to ask God, but a question for God to ask us. Where was man during the Holocaust?… Too often, they justified their failure to accept our moral obligations to one another by hiding behind another question. They answered the first question asked by God in the Bible with the first question asked by Man in the Bible. It was the question asked by Cain after murdering Abel. Am I my brother’s keeper? Ladies and Gentlemen, We are all here tonight to honor four people who were their brother’s keeper.” [Video]

–Sidebar: President Obama’s initiative to help young men of color reach their full potential is called ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ [WhiteHouse]

President Obama’s speech: “The Talmud teaches that if a person destroys one life, it is as if they’ve destroyed an entire world, and if a person saves one life, it is as if they’ve saved an entire world. What an extraordinary honor to be with you as we honor four Righteous individuals whose courage is measured in the lives they saved — one child, one refugee, one comrade at a time — and who, in so doing, helped save our world. I deliver a lot of speeches.  Very rarely am I so humbled by the eloquence that has preceded me – not just in words, but in the acts that we commemorate today.”

‘We are all Jews’ — “We are all Jews. Because anti-Semitism is a distillation, an expression of an evil that runs through so much of human history, and if we do not answer that, we do not answer any other form of evil. When any Jew anywhere is targeted just for being Jewish, we all have to respond as Roddie Edmonds did – “We are all Jews.” [Video]

–President’s words: Erev Tov… Tzedek, Tzedek tirdof… And may we all strive to live up to their noble example, to be the Lamed Vovniks of our generation…

HIGHLIGHTS: Pastor Chris Edmonds, son of Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds, joked to President Obama that “might I also say it’s my first time speaking at the Embassy as well (laughter)” [Video] • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the gathering via video recording [Video] • NPR’s Nina Totenberg explains who she was named after [Video] • President Obama stayed an extra few minutes to shake hands and greet the Holocaust survivors in attendance. As he made his way for the exit, the President joked “If I don’t get out of here nobody’s going to eat.” [Video]

QUICK TAKES — from JI Readers: Alan Solow — “The event was a reminder of how even a single individual can stand up and stop evil. The personal stories of the Righteous were beautifully told and deeply moving. Ambassador Dermer hit the right notes. President Obama emphasized the continuing need to fight anti-semitism and other hatred that demonizes those of faiths different than their own. Justice, justice you shall pursue, he reminded us, and the actions of those honored illustrate what happens when we do so.”

Jeffrey Goldberg: “It’s fairly remarkable for a serving President to sit through an entire ceremony of any sort, but I imagine he’s glad he did in this case, because it was an extraordinary event. I think we saw a President who was moved by the stories he heard, and a President who, more generally, is moved by the Jewish story. One of the reasons he came, I think, is because he’s trying to communicate that, despite his dysfunctional relationship with the Israeli prime minister, his relationship with the Jewish people is sound.”

David Suissa: “The truth is, Jews frown on victimhood. Ask any therapist– you want to fail in life, act like a victim. Jews could never have built an amazingly powerful nation like Israel off the meager nourishment of victimhood. And yet, on Wednesday at the Israeli embassy, it felt OK to wallow in the sting of the greatest embodiment of victimhood in human history. At a time when microaggressions are the emotion du jour, this was a reminder of humanity’s ability to inflict macroaggressions on each other. I wasn’t there, I only saw the speeches online– but I felt the waves of emotion coming through. Are we really all Jews? I wonder.”

SPOTTED: Sen. Bob Corker, Sen. Lamar Alexander, Sen. Cory Booker, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, Steven Spielberg who introduced President Obama, Gary Ginsberg & Susanna Aaron, Alec Ginsberg, Mrs. Rhoda Dermer, Embassy Chief of Staff Jordana Cutler, Leonard Wilf, Mark Wilf, AIPAC’s Howard Kohr, AIPAC’s Bob Cohen, Tzachi Hanegbi, Maj. Gen. Yaacov Ayish, Alan & Andrea Solow, Jeffrey Goldberg, White House Jewish Liaison Matt Nosanchuk, Special Envoy to Monitor & Combat Anti-Semitism Ira Forman, B’nai B’rith’s Dan Mariaschin, NCSEJ’s Mark Levin, Amb. Dermer’s senior advisor Yarden Golan, Rabbi Levi & Nechama Shemtov, Washington Institute’s Robert Satloff, Sen. Booker’s Chief of Staff Matt Klapper, Chemi Shalev, Ron Kampeas, Nathan Guttman, Michael Wilner, Israeli Embassy Spokesman Aaron Segui, Galia Nurko, Clara Scheinmann, White House Photographer Pete Souza.

Amb. Dermer’s gift to President Obama: “As a gift, I gave the President the book, “And Every Single One Was Someone”, in which the word “Jew” is written 6,000,000 times, with the following inscription…” [Facebook]

HOW IT PLAYED: “Saying ‘We Are All Jews,’ Obama Honors Americans’ Lifesaving Efforts in Holocaust” [NYTimes] • “Obama Isn’t Letting Netanyahu Get in Way of His Commitment to Jews and Israel” [Haaretz] • “Honoring Holocaust Heroes, Obama Warns Against Rise of Intolerance” [Reuters]• “Obama speaks at Israeli embassy amid thaw in relations” [CNN] • “‘We are all Jews,’ Obama declares as world marks Holocaust Remembrance Day” [JPost]

DRIVING THE DAY: The Fox News – Google GOP Debates at 7PM & 9PM Tonight From Des Moines [FoxNews]

2016 WATCH: “Bernie Sanders Bids for Jewish History” by Russell Berman: “If the Vermont senator defeats Hillary Clinton in either Iowa or New Hampshire in the next two weeks, he’ll become the first Jewish candidate to win a nominating contest in either major party. The milestone is both significant and overlooked, in part because Sanders talks so little about his faith and, well, because there’s that other candidate trying to break a glass ceiling in 2016.” [TheAtlanticBustle]

“Obama, Sanders at the White House: Nice chat but that’s all” by Kathleen Hennessey: “As I mentioned to the president, I, in my small state of Vermont went to too, too many funerals of wonderful young people and I am very happy to tell you that in the last few years, I’ve not gone to funerals of young men or women in our military,” Mr. Sanders said. “I think what the president is trying to do is the right thing, and what he is trying to do is keep our young men and women in the military out of a perpetual war in the quagmire of the Middle East.” [WashTimesAP]

HEARD ON THE TRAIL: Hillary in Adel, Iowa: “We are safer because we have this agreement, but we are not safe enough.”

Robert Naiman: “Is Team Clinton Campaigning Against President Obama On Iran Diplomacy?” [HuffPost]

“Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy wonk” by Rob Eshman: “Laura Rosenberger is the foreign-policy adviser to the Clinton campaign. When I asked her how many paid staff are on her team, she allowed herself a laugh. The answer is: Laura Rosenberger. Her role is a window not just into the leviathan that is the modern major presidential campaign, but also into the foreign policy thinking of someone who may very well be our next president.” [JewishJournal]

“Report: Hillary Raised $400K at Lichtenstein Fundraiser” by Jacob Kornbluh:“Contributions for Hillary topped the $150K and the $100K raised in recent NORPAC-sponsored events for Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio respectively.” [JewishInsider]

Ben Chouake: “By-and-large, I think her tenure was very solid on Israel. Some people complained that she had arguments with [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu. Hello? Everybody fights with Netanyahu.” [NJJN]

“Tales of love from the Iowa campaign trenches” by Michael Morain: “In 2007 what if Des Moines lawyer David Adelman hadn’t delivered a box of campaign stuff to then-Sen. Barack Obama’s headquarters in Chicago? What if staffer Liz Rodgers hadn’t greeted him at the door? And what if her boss hadn’t transferred her to Des Moines? Would she have spent her first Christmas away from home eating Chinese food with a Jewish guy? Would they be married now, raising three kids in a nice house on Ingersoll Avenue? “I could have just left that box at the front desk,” said David Adelman, who was supporting former Sen. Chris Dodd’s campaign at the time.” [DesMoinesRegister]

“President of Henderson synagogue running for Congress” by Megan Messerly: “Democrat Jacky Rosen, president of Congregation Ner Tamid in Henderson, announced today she is running to represent Nevada’s 3rd Congressional District, a seat held by Republican Rep. Joe Heck, who is not seeking re-election.” [LasVegasSun]

“For Bloomberg, Ambition Vies With Caution” by Joyce Purnick: “What he will decide is an open question. How he will decide is easier to predict: He will sift through the data, listen to advisers, discount the advice of those more interested in their own futures than his (a common campaign-season affliction). And he will run for the White House only if he can see a plausible path around the obstacles of history and his own political biography.” [NYTimes]

“Bloomberg Editor Quits Over Fear The Company Can’t Cover Michael Bloomberg Aggressively” by Michael Calderone: “Kathy Kiely, the Washington news director for Bloomberg Politics, resigned Wednesday over concerns the company could not adequately cover owner Michael Bloomberg’s considerations about whether to run for president as an independent candidate.” [HuffPost]

REPORT: “How Netanyahu Won Reelection” by Jacob Kornbluh: “On Election Day alone, some five million text messages were sent with the cost of eight million shekels, Segal reported. Text messages sent to voters from 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. included “Voter turnout triples in the Arab sector! The fear is coming true: Abu Mazen’s calls and American money are bringing the Arabs to the polls. Go vote!” and “Arab residents of Beersheba vote en masse. Don’t let them appoint the ministers in the next government.” [JewishInsider]

Roger Cohen: “America’s ‘Jew Boy’ in Tel Aviv” [NYTimes

Peter Beinart: “Following in Obama’s Footsteps, Ambassador Shapiro Succumbs to Netanyahu” [Haaretz]

Noah Feldman: “Israeli Military Wages an Internal Battle Over Faith” [BloombergView]

David Suissa: “Calling out anti-Semitism” [JewishJournal]

Matthew Levitt: “The Crackdown on Hezbollah’s Financing Network” [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: “Chemical Bank of Midland acquires Gary Torgow’s Talmer Bancorp of Troy in $1.1B deal” [MLiveFreePress] • “Barry Diller: I’d Cross the Street to Avoid Donald Trump” [Bloomberg] • “Saban Capital promotes Gluckman to executive VP” [PeHub] • “In Paul Singer Versus the New Argentina, the Bad Blood Remains” [Bloomberg] • “Chanel’s chairman, Alain Wertheimer, the grandson of the original business partner of the founder, Gabrielle Chanel, will take over the operational management of the company during the search for a new CEO” [NYTimes]

LongRead: “How did Putin’s man become the president of European Jews?” by Anshel Pfeffer: “For the last eight years, the European Jewish Congress has been led by a Russian oligarch with close ties to the Kremlin. And now, Moshe Vyacheslav Kantor has been elected to a third term – without a challenger.” [Haaretz]

100 years ago today, on January 28, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson nominated the first ever Jewish Supreme Court Justice, Louis Brandeis. Amazingly, prior to Brandeis’ appointment, the Senate had never held a public hearing on a President’s nominee to the Supreme Court and many previous Justices were confirmed on the very day of their nomination. Senate Judiciary Committee hearings took four months from the date of President Wilson’s nomination until the full Senate voted on Brandeis, a record setting amount of time. Unlike today’s Supreme Court nominees, Brandeis himself was not called to testify. That distinction was reserved for the third Jewish nominee to the Court, Felix Frankfurter, in 1939. On June 1, 1916, the full Senate confirmed Brandeis by a vote of 47-22. The sixth, seventh and eighth Jewish justices (Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Steven Breyer and Elena Kagan) constitute one-third of today’s Supreme Court.

Jonathan Kirsch: “Brandeis: The first Jewish jurist named to the Supreme Court” [JewishJournal

Erwin Chemerinsky: ‘Freedom to think as you will and to speak as you think’ [JewishJournal]

Laura Brill: “How evidence became the winning argument” [JewishJournal]

Gratuity not included. We love receiving news tips but we also gladly accept tax deductible tips. 100% of your donation will go directly towards improving Jewish Insider. Thanks! [PayPal]

Subscribe now to
the Daily Kickoff

The politics and business news you need to stay up to date, delivered daily in a must-read newsletter.