Daily Kickoff: Ted Cruz is now a Passover attraction | Must Read: Jeff Robbins on American Jewish Organizations | Silver, Scalise, Grimm had a bad day

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(Ed note: We’ll be overseas for the next two weeks, and while we will not be producing the Daily Kickoff during that time, we will be keeping an active twitter account — @J_Insider — where we will do our best to curate the news you care about. See you in 2015!)

HOW WE FEEL ABOUT THE NEWS THIS TIME OF YEAR: “There Are Way Too Many ‘Best Of 2014’ Lists” by Hayley Munguia [FiveThirtyEight]

HALACH MA’ANYA: “Ted Cruz is billed as a Passover vacation attraction” by Maggie Haberman in Politico: “Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a likely Republican presidential candidate and a vocal pro-Israel hawk, is being advertised as a featured attraction at a string of ritzy resort vacation getaways catering to religious Jews. Cruz, along with several rabbis, is listed as a speaker at four different vacation spots, including Aspen, over Passover, the spring holiday that honors the freeing of enslaved Jews in Egypt. The Prime Hospitality Group is the company behind the offers… A Cruz adviser insisted he’s speaking at only one event, although Prime Hospitality’s ads suggest he’ll be at getaways in Westlake Village and Monarch Beach in California; Aspen, Colorado; and in Vieques Island, Puerto Rico… Cruz is expected to talk about foreign policy and Israel when he appears at the resort. The Republican has been aggressively trying to court prospective donors for a likely presidential run, traveling to several states, including repeatedly to New York and California.” [Politico] — @GlennThrush called it “Rocky Mountain Chai”

—What we want to know is the over/under on how many times the names… “Rabbi Eli Mansour, Rabbi Daniel Mechanic, Rabbi Shlomo Einhorn, Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis” will be mentioned again in Politico during the next five years? We assume that the four other names mentioned — Rabbi Lord Jonathan SacksMalcolm Hoenlein, Rabbi Marvin Hier, and Rabbi Abraham Cooper have higher odds.

TOP TALKER: “U.S. Said to Investigate Sheldon Silver, New York Assembly Speaker, Over Payments” by William K. Rashbaum, Thomas Kaplan, and Susanne Craig: “Federal authorities are investigating substantial payments made to the State Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, by a small law firm that seeks real estate tax reductions for commercial and residential properties in New York City, according to people with knowledge of the matter. Prosecutors from the United States attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York and agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation have found that the law firm, Goldberg & Iryami, P.C., has paid Mr. Silver the sums over roughly a decade, but that he did not list that income on his annual financial disclosure forms, as required, the people said… Mr. Silver, who has wielded enormous influence in Albany for the two decades in which he has served as speaker, is a personal injury lawyer. He is not known to have any expertise in the complex and highly specialized area of the law in which Goldberg & Iryami practices, known as tax certiorari, which involves challenging real estate tax assessments and seeking reductions from municipalities.” [NYTimes]

—One Group That Probably Doesn’t Want To See Silver Leave Office Anytime Soon: “Orthodox Union Launches Push for Millions in Funding for New York Yeshivas” by Uriel Heilman: “The Orthodox Union is launching a multimillion-dollar advocacy campaign to increase government funding for Jewish day schools in New York. The organization will be adding staff to the 10 full-timers already working on the issue and launching a multi-year campaign, according to its executive vice president, Allen Fagin. He also said the O.U. will retain “one of the leading political strategists in New York” to guide the effort. The O.U. declined to disclose the strategist’s identity. “We all recognize that the real solution to the tuition crisis lies in using our political power and our advocacy efforts to increase state and local government funding for yeshivot and day schools,” Fagin said Saturday night at a speech at the O.U.’s biannual convention, which drew a crowd of about 350 to a hotel in this suburban village not far from Manhattan.” [Forward]

MONDAY WAS NOT A GOOD DAY FOR SOME ELECTED OFFICIALS: “Majority Whip Steve Scalise Struggles To Distance Himself From David Duke” by Mollie Reilly, Amanda Terkel, and Matt Sledge in the Huffington Post: “House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), whose office has been beating back criticism about a speech he gave at a 2002 gathering hosted by a white supremacist group, received some ill-timed praise from the group’s founder Monday evening. The notorious former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke described Scalise as “a fine family man” with whom he often agrees.”[HuffPost]

—David Duke spoke to the HuffPost’s Jennifer Bendery who tweeted Duke’s remarks:“David Duke just called. Wow. “Not only am I not a white supremacist, you have to understand Israel is the true racist supremacist state.” [Twitter] “I like the man personally. Seems like a pretty nice guy to me. A family man.” – Duke on Scalise” [Twitter] “Duke re: House GOP leaders: “At least they got rid of that radical extreme Zionist Cantor. Thank god for that. Otherwise, he’d be the speaker.” [Twitter] “Ok no more negativity from Duke. He really really really does not like Israel. Also he said he’s “a liberal” and urged me to call anytime.” [Twitter]

—“Democrat: Scalise doesn’t have ‘racist bone in his body'” — “Louisiana Democratic Rep.Cedric Richmond defended colleague Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) in the midst of reports that Scalise spoke at a white supremacist convention in 2002. “I don’t think Steve Scalise has a racist bone in his body,” Richmond, who is black, told the New Orleans Times Picayune. “Steve and I have worked on issues that benefit poor people, black people, white people, Jewish people. I know his character.” [TheHill]

TOP-OP: “While American Jewish organizations fiddle” by Jeff Robbins: “It is difficult not to regard J Street’s branding itself as “the political home for pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans” as brilliant gimmickry of the first order, casting those who are unable to accept its particular analysis of the conflict as “anti-peace” while J Street alone favors it. This bit of marketing razzmatazz might be eye-rolling had it not proved so successful. J Street has dined out on the amusing conceit, which it has promoted with some skill, that it requires “courage” to criticize Israel when, quite to the contrary, criticizing Israel is the most comfortable fashion of them all, on campuses, on op-ed pages and, for that matter, in synagogues. And ithas deftly portrayed itself as the victim of incivility even as it levels caustic attacks on Jewish organizations and leaders who happen to simply disagree with it.”

“Still, the Jewish organizations that J Street sustains itself by treating as bogeymen have in some ways done their best to undermine their own appeal. They have sometimes made themselves easy targets for theimpatience, or downright exasperation, of American Jews waiting for them to show signs of life in the face of the challenges before us. These organizations — ones with which I have been, and remain, very proud to be associated – too often present as tired, wedded to the same-old same-old, and as determined to remain as uninspiring to young people and to people without large bank accounts as possible… The organizations’ use of social media is woeful, and the positive consequences were it otherwise are incalculable. Organizations like the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, AIPAC and the Jewish federations have thousands of supporters who would like to help make Israel’s case, if they were only enlisted to do so – on social media, in the mainstream media, or in the general community at large.”

“The big Jewish organizations have too long and too often seemed to be invitation-only affairs, with invitations limited to the wealthy, generally meaning those over 50. Their penchant for being of thealtacockers, for the altacockers and by the altacockers has not only been off-putting for young people… The good news is that there are plenty of American supporters of Israel who are hungry for leadership that enlists them in making the case for Israel based on its progressive values – values that are shared with the vast majority of Americans – and in doing so with energy. The question is: will American Jewish leaders provide that leadership at this critical historic moment, or will they revert to dysfunction and tired mediocrity?” [ToI]

—Barry Shrage, President of CJP – Boston’s Jewish Federation, tweeted – “Jeff helped energize our community! Important Voice!” [Twitter]

WASHINGTON POST EDITORIAL: “Mahmoud Abbas is again insisting on failure”: “IN A meeting with President Obama last March, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas refused to accept a U.S.-brokered “framework” for the creation of a Palestinian state. The U.S. draft would have backed key Palestinian demands, including a stipulation that the territory of the future Palestine be based on Israel’s 1967 borders. Had Mr. Abbas signed on, the momentum toward statehood would have greatly accelerated, and Israel’s government would have been placed under enormous pressure to put forward reasonable terms. Instead, having refused to respond to Mr. Obama. Mr. Abbas is now pushing yet another quixotic attempt to have the U.N. Security Council impose Palestinian terms for a settlement on Israel. On Monday, Arab diplomats said they were reluctantly going along with a Palestinian demand to introduce a resolution to the Security Council — though Arab opposition may force a postponement of the Tuesday vote Mr. Abbas wants.”

“Not only does this text have no chance of being approved — notwithstanding the tensions between the Obama administration and the Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu, the United States would exercise its veto, if necessary — but the Palestinians’ support on the Security Council is weaker this week than it probably will be next month after a membership rotation. Yet Mr. Abbas appears ready to insist on failing, just a few months after turning aside a U.S. initiative that had at least some chance of delivering the state he says he wants. What could explain such maneuvering? Some diplomats suspect Mr. Abbas wants his maximalist resolution to be voted down — just as previous Palestinian attempts failed to obtain the necessary eight of 15 votes. By not forcing the United States into a veto, the Palestinian leader could preserve his lines of communication with Washington while obtaining a pretext to move on to his next pointless initiative — which could be seeking Palestinian membership in the International Criminal Court.” [WashPost]

—The Demographic Challenge: “Here are all the times the Palestinians have predicted they’ll outnumber Jews in Israel” by Gideon Lichfield in Quartz: “Palestinians will outnumber Israeli Jews in 2016,” read the headline in Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz on Monday, Dec. 29. Rather conveniently, as the Palestinian Authority presents its latest bid for statehood to the UN security council, what Jewish Israelis call the “demographic problem”—the moment when they become a Jewish minority ruling over an Arab majority—is apparently just around the corner. Or rather, it’s around the corner again. Ha’aretz’s report was based on the latest annual population survey from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS). It predicts that two years hence, the Jewish and Palestinian populations between the Jordan river and the Mediterranean sea—that is to say, Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza—will reach parity at 6.42 million each.”

“The thing is, in 2012, the PCBS made a similar prediction, though its population estimate was slightly higher—6.5 million each by 2016—and Ha’aretz reported on it then too. In 2011, it predicted parity by 2015. In 2010, it predicted it by 2014—that is to say, now. In fact, the Palestinian statistical body has been predicting that Palestinians will reach parity with Jews for at least a decade. And each time, the tipping point gets pushed back… If and when that point comes (if it hasn’t already), nobody will notice, because they will all be busy arguing over their own population surveys and projections. And even if by some miracle everyone came to agree that the magic moment had been reached, it would make zero difference to the legal status of Israel, Palestine, or the occupation. So if you want my advice: Next time you read a headline about Palestinians being about to outnumber Jews, ignore it, and move briskly to the next one.”[QZ]

ON THIS DATE IN… (via the AP): 1993 – “Israel and the Vatican agreed to recognize one another.”[AP]

**Good Tuesday 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**

2016 WATCH: “Indiana’s Mike Pence, a potential 2016er, visits Israel” [Politico “Jim Webb Gave Nearly $100,000 In Campaign Donations To His Family” [BusinessInsider] • “Rand Paul, Campaign Hawk” [NationalReview] • Five things to watch from Hillary in 2015 [AP• “Gilmore raises national profile, won’t rule out presidential bid” [WashPost]

ISRAELEX: “Corruption Probe Roils Israeli Election Campaign” by Tia Goldenberg: “A far-reaching Israeli corruption investigation that has roped in 30 public figures and politicians linked to a powerful, hard-line party has shaken up the campaign ahead of March elections and appears to have tipped the scales in favor of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Yisrael Beitenu party, led by Israel’s polarizing foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, has been a central player in Israel’s coalition politics for over a decade and has been an important partner in the last two governments under Netanyahu. The yearlong investigation could play out for months before any indictments are served, if at all, but a trial is already underway in the court of public opinion – with voters set to decide the fate of the once robust party in March 17 elections.” [AP] • “Netanyahu Fights ‘Bibi Fatigue’ as Young Likud Eye Rivals” [Bloomberg]

BUSINESS BRIEFS: “Stockpicker Sass in Spare Time Spins Off Funds Worth $30 Billion” by Rocky Swift: “Martin Sass manages $7 billion at M.D. Sass, the New York–based investment firm he started in 1972. When he’s not picking stocks, he has a sideline: seeding investment managers. During the past 42 years, he’s helped launch and nurture 29 hedge funds, private-equity vehicles and investment strategies that oversee more than $30 billion, by his reckoning. “I did it before I even knew it was an incubator,” Sass, 72, says.” [Bloomberg] • China to begin free trade negotiations with Israel in 2015[Haaretz] • “How This Grade-School Dropour Broke Israel’s Food Cartel” [Bloomberg] • “Israel’s Channel 10 Seeks Emergency Government Funding to Avert Shutdown” [Variety]

SPOTLIGHT: “Cari Tuna and Dustin Moskowitz: Young Silicon Valley billionaires pioneer new approach to philanthropy” by Ariana Eunjung Cha: “When Cari Tuna and her future husband, Dustin Moskovitz, a Facebook co-founder, decided they would give away most of their multibillion-dollar fortune to charity, they thought of asteroids. Or more specifically, the risk of one slamming to Earth and causing mass destruction. It was one of many early ideas and it wasn’t that they had any special passion for or expertise in the subject, but it wasn’t a joke either. In trying to figure out how they could make the maximum impact with their money, the couple wanted to cast as wide a net as possible and systematically evaluate every cause on its merits… Tuna and Moskovitz were in their mid-20s in 2010 when they became the youngest couple ever to sign on to the Giving Pledge, the campaign started by Bill Gates and Warren E. Buffett to encourage the world’s billionaires to commit to giving away most of their wealth.” [WashPost]

NYTIMES WEDDING: “A Relationship With Style and Substance” – “Brandon Cardet-Hernandez, a Cuban-American who grew up in Orlando, Fla., didn’t know the Yiddish term for soul mate(bashert) when he bumped into Ariel Foxman on the uptown A train in March 2012. But it’s clear now that that one subway trip was an express to destiny… After Mr. Cardet-Hernandez got off the train, he sent an email to Mr. Foxman about a class he was teaching on the Holocaust and human behavior. He wanted him to know that his syllabus included a speech on Armenian genocide by Mr. Foxman’s father, Abraham, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League.” [NYTimes]

AUSCHWITZ ANNIVERSARY A REMINDER OF THE DANGER OF STAYING SILENT: “Next month’s 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp is a reminder, at a time when anti-Semitism is on the rise again, of what happens when the world stays silent about persecution, the president of the World Jewish Congress said. Ronald S. Lauder told Reuters in an interview anti-Semitism had reached levels not seen since World War Two, driven by Islamist extremists using hatred of Jews as a way to attack Israel, and by far-right nationalists in Europe. He said the commemorations on Jan. 27 to mark the day Soviet troops liberated Auschwitz in 1945 would be the last major anniversary when survivors would be able to attend in numbers. The youngest are now in their 70s. “I believe it is a good reminder to people of what happens when we remain silent, and the world was silent when Hitler was starting, the world was silent when Jews were taken away, the world was silent at Kristallnacht and in many ways, although many people knew what was happening in the concentration camps, it was not publicized,” Lauder said.” [Reuters] • Book Review: ‘Three Minutes in Poland’ [WSJ]

LONGREAD: “The Secret Jewish Visit in 1979 to the Ayatollah, Which Saved Iran’s Jews” by Roya Hakakian: “They arrived late in the afternoon, delayed only by a stop to purchase fresh socks as they realized they had to remove their shoes to enter the ayatollah’s quarters. The residence was empty of the usual throng of disciples and pilgrims. The delegates soon learned that the quiet was in honor of their visit. Waiting was unnecessary. They were immediately guided into the press room and had yet to seat themselves on the rug when the ayatollah entered. Stunned in his presence, the envoys began to fumble. The rabbis rose to their feet. In a gesture of deference, the ayatollah insisted on remaining standing as long as his counterparts had not sat first. The rabbis, in return, refused to sit, following Persian etiquette, before a man of such stature. So was that afternoon’s spirit of civility. And solemnity. It was, after all, a dead man who had brought them all together.” [TabletMag]


That’s all folks; have a great day!
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