Daily Kickoff: Amb. Dermer defends Bibi’s US visit as “sacred duty” | Spotlight on Evan Lowenstein’s Stageit | NYMag: “Sitting Shiva With Larry David”

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HEARD LAST NIGHT: Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer at an Israel Bonds event in Boca Raton, Florida: “The Prime Minister’s visit here is not intended to show any disrespect to President Obama. Israel deeply appreciates the strong support we have received from President Obama in many areas including enhanced security cooperation, heightened intelligence sharing, generous military assistance, iron dome funding, and opposition to anti-Israel initiatives at the United Nations. Now, I have no doubt that the Prime Minister will speak very forcefully about that strong support from President Obama when he appears before Congress.”

“There may be some people who believe that the Prime Minster should have declined an invitation to speak before the most powerful parliament in the world on an issue that concerns the future and survival of Israel. But we have learned from our history that the world becomes a more dangerous place for the Jewish people when the Jewish people are silent. That is why the Prime Minister feels the deepest moral obligation to appear before the Congress to speak about an existential issue facing the one and only Jewish state. That is not just the right of the Prime Minister of Israel. It is his most sacred duty — to do whatever he can to prevent Iran from ever developing nuclear weapons that can be aimed at Israel.” [CNN Video;Transcript]

SUNDAY SHOWS: “White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough: “Our relationship with Israel is many faceted, deep and abiding. It’s focused on a shared series of threats, but also, on a shared series of values that one particular instance is not going to inform overwhelming,” he added during another interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” [TheHillPolitico; ] • “Sen. Feinstein worries about Mideast turmoil” [Politico] • Sen. Feinstein: PM speech ‘inappropriate,’ Iran sanctions ‘dangerous’ [Haaretz]

SNL Weekend Update: “Reported admin threats to Neyanyahu “brings the # of countries that have threatened Israel up to an even all of them.” [Twitter – @McKayCoppins]

Herzog to speak at AIPAC? “Opposition leader Isaac Herzog will make a decision soon about whether to accept an invitation to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee Policy Conference in Washington, sources close to him said Sunday.” [JPost]

“Former Israeli ambassador to U.S. Michael Oren calls on Netanyahu to cancel upcoming speech to Congress: Member of Kulanu and Israel’s former ambassador in Washington Michael Oren has called for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to cancel his planned address to Congress. “The behavior over the last few days created the impression of a cynical political move, and it could hurt our attempts to act against Iran,” said Oren. “It’s advisable to cancel the speech to Congress so as not to cause a rift with the American government. Much responsibility and reasoned political behavior are needed to guard interests in the White House.” [YNetForward]

ISRAELI POV: “Senior Israeli sources told Israel’s Channel 2 Friday night that given “the deep disagreements between Israel and the US” on the Iranian nuclear talks, Netanyahu felt that “he must present his stance even if that doesn’t suit Obama. This is a matter of substance.” The Israeli sources charged that the US was proving “worryingly” willing to over-compromise in the nuclear talks and was ready to allow Iran to keep more than 6,000 centrifuges for enriching uranium. The Israeli sources further said that the US administration was taking advantage of the Israeli election season to seal a deal with Iran, and that this move must be opposed, Channel 2 reported. The fear in Jerusalem is that a US-led deal with Iran “is weeks away,” the TV report said.” [ToI]

TOP-OP: “Time to Take It to Iran” by Dennis Ross, Eric Edelman, and Ray Takeyh: “These two simultaneous developments—the deadlock in nuclear talks and Iran’s aggressive moves in the region—are not coincidental. They are intimately linked, and that should be a lesson for President Obama: The nuclear deadlock cannot be broken unless Washington reengages in the myriad of conflicts and civil wars plaguing the region, particularly now that Yemen is vulnerable and the Saudi royal family is in a state of turmoil following the death of King Abdullah on Thursday…. Hence it is time to acknowledge that we need a revamped coercive strategy, one that threatens what the Islamic Republic values the most—its influence in the Middle East and its standing at home. And the pattern of concessions at the negotiating table must stop if there is to be an acceptable agreement.” [PoliticoMag] • WSJ Editorial: “Our Man in Damascus: The White House leaks that it is tilting toward Assad and Iran” [WSJ] • “Interview with Bashar al-Assad” [ForeignAffairs] • “King Salman’s War: Why the new Saudi ruler will likely ratchet up the region-wide conflict with Iran” by Mohamad Bazzi [PoliticoMag]

—Iran’s foreign minister summoned to parliament over walk with Kerry: “Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is to appear before parliament following controversy over a promenade with his American counterpart during intense nuclear negotiations in Geneva, state media reported on Sunday. Media images of the top diplomats from old adversaries strolling together in a foreign land provoked an outcry among Iranian hard-liners deeply wary of rapprochement with the “Great Satan”.”[Reuters]

HAPPENING THIS WEEK: Israel Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman travels to Russia and China[MFA] • Israeli President Rivlin visits the US: “Rivlin is scheduled to launch a Yad Vashem exhibition at UN headquarters on Monday evening, to meet with Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and to address the General Assembly on Tuesday in honor of International Holocaust Day. On Monday morning he will travel to West Point where he will lay a wreath at the grave of Colonel Micky Marcus, the American officer who volunteered to assist the fledgling Israeli army in the 1948 War of Independence and was killed by friendly fire… Rivlin is also slated to meet with Henry Kissinger as well as Governors Chris Christie of New Jersey and Andrew Cuomo of New York and to visit the 9/11 memorial in downtown Manhattan.” [Haaretz

2016 WATCH: “Chris Christie Joins Crowded GOP Fight for Donors” by Heather Haddon and Reid J. Epstein: “New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and his supporters have formed a political-action committee ahead of a likely bid for president, adding a third well-known Republican figure to the fight for campaign funds among the party’s core donor class. The launch of the PAC, called Leadership Matters for America, is the clearest sign yet that Mr. Christie is running. It allows Mr. Christie to assemble a team of about a dozen staffers and fundraisers who could support a potential run for president, as well as to raise money that can be used to contribute to like-minded political candidates.” [WSJ]

“Inside Hillary Clinton’s 2016 Plan” by Mike Allen: “Not only is she running, but we have a very good idea of what it will look like. Hillary Clinton is in the final stages of planning a presidential campaign that is likely to launch in early April, and has made decisions on most top posts, according to numerous Democrats in close contact with the Clintons and their aides. Campaign advisers say the likelihood of a campaign, long at 98 percent (she never really hesitated, according to one person close to her), went to 100 percent right after Christmas, when Clinton approved a preliminary budget and several key hires.”[Politico]

JI SCOOP: Jeb Bush was in San Francisco over the weekend where, besides speaking to a large convention gathering of auto dealers, he also attended a Jewish fundraiser, hosted and organized by Isaac ‘Yitz’ Applbaum, in support of Bush’s Right to Rise PAC.

—“Ready for 2016: Has the Republican Party made inroads of support among traditionally Democratic Jewish voters? Jeremy Wynes, for one, thinks so. It’s one reason the Republican Jewish Coalition, a national organization, decided to open a Chicago office, with Wynes as the Midwest regional director. He comes to the position with political experience acquired in his last job, where for seven years he served as the Midwest political director for AIPAC… “One reason I wanted to make the switch” from AIPAC to the RJC, Wynes says, “is that we are major players at the presidential level. He still has hopes for bipartisanship, though. At AIPAC, he says, “for seven years I worked in a bipartisan environment, building relationships on both sides of the aisle. I do believe in and hope we get back to that point where I can say support for Israel is the same on both sides of the aisle.” [CJN]

—“The $5 billion presidential campaign?” [TheHill] • “Ron Fournier: Hillary Worried Obama Pushing Her to ‘the Left Quicker and Harder than She Would Like to Be’ [NR] • “Splits on Iran, Cuba Dominate First GOP Presidential Forum” [ABC News] • “Kasich still mulling bid” [Politico• Sen. Marco Rubio to aides: ‘Prepare for a presidential campaign’… Should Rubio run for president, aides say, he could count on these fundraisers to help out including… Wayne Berman: a top advisor to the Blackstone Group and Republican Jewish Coalition” [MiamiHerald] • Lindsey Graham: “‘I’m well qualified’ to be president”[TheHill] • “Romney’s Faith Informs Thoughts on Candidacy, Allies Say” [NYTimes]

This Week: 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz: “The main commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz will be held in front of the Death Gate of KL Auschwitz II–Birkenau. About 300 Auschwitz survivors are expected at this month’s events at the site in Poland. Amongguests will be Presidents François Hollande of France and Joachim Gauck of Germany and U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, who is Jewish and whose father’s family left Poland before World War II. [70.AushwitzWSJ] … Also expected to attend: Ron Lauder, Steven Spielberg, Haim Saban, David Zaslav [Variety]

—Noticeably Absent: Vladimir Putin — “Russian President Vladimir Putin attended the last big anniversary 10 years ago, as representative of the largest country that emerged from the collapse of the Soviet Union. Soviet soldiers liberated the camp on 27 January, 1945. But Russia’s annexation of Crimeaand its support for separatist rebels fighting in eastern Ukraine put the ceremony’s organisers, the Auschwitz Council, in a difficult position. Poland has been one of the sharpest critics of Russia’s intervention in Ukraine.” [BBC

WSJ FRONT PAGE: “How Grandson of Auschwitz Boss Is Trying to Remake Family Name: When Auschwitz commemorates the 70th anniversary of its liberation on Jan. 27, the ceremonies will include an unlikely attendee: the grandson of the camp commandant who was held responsible for 1.1 million deaths there. Rainer Hoess, 49 years old, has grappled with the curse of his bloodline since his teens. He has tattoos of a Star of David and of the Auschwitz numbers of several survivors he has met.”[WSJ] • “How Nazis’ Descendants Confront Legacy” [WSJ]

—Reuters: “Beautiful Portraits Of Auschwitz Survivors: As the liberation of Auschwitzapproaches its 70th anniversary this month, Reuters photographers took portraits of now elderly survivors.” [BuzzFeed/Reuters]

**Good Monday 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: “There’s Talk About Michael Bloomberg Buying the New York Times, Including Michael Bloomberg” by Gabriel Sherman: “Near the end of Bloomberg’s time as mayor, he told Times chairman and publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. that he was interested in buying the Times, according to a source with direct knowledge of the conversation. Sulzberger replied that the paper was not for sale. Bloomberg’s overture, previously unreported, might be one reason why talk of a Bloomberg-Times eventuality has flared up among insiders in the wake of the most recent round of Times’ layoffs”… Last night, Bloomberg made light of stories about his interest in buying The N.Y. Times. On whether he is interested in buying it, “Yes, I am. I buy it every day.” [NYMagPlaybook] • “Bloomberg Shakes Up Newsroom Side of His Company” [NYTimes]

—“Las Vegas Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson To Lead China Subsidiary” [WSJABC8] •  “Jason Pomeranc’s Sixty Hotels to add property in Montreal” [NYPost] • “How Paul Singer’s Elliott Gained an Edge on Caesars Swaps” [WSJ]

STARTUP NATION: “Israel Grows From Startup Nation To Exit Nation” by Dennis Mitzner:“Thanks to a string of big exits over the past year, Israel’s technology companies are moving the country from a startup nation to an exit nation. With nearly $15 billion in exits through mergers and acquisitions and public offerings, 2014 was an all-time record year for the Israeli hi-tech industry, compared with a mere $1.2 billion raised in 2013, according to a PwC report for 2014.” [TechCrunch] • “Israeli Mobile Ads Analytics Company AppsFlyer Raises $20M” [WSJ]

STARTUP SPOTLIGHT: “Evan Lowenstein’s Stageit brings concerts to your living room” by Jefferson Graham: “Artists like Buffett, Bareilles, Jon Bon Jovi and Bonnie Raitt aren’t alone in pursuing the new online platform Stageit.  They’ve been joined by many emerging acts with strong online presences, who are using it as a way to make money from their down time, by staging concerts from their laptop. Stageit, started with $4 million in 2012, quietly just turned profitable in December, after some lean years.” For the artist, the benefit is they have tons of social media, but they haven’t been able to monetize them,” says Evan Lowenstein, the boyish looking 40-year-old former pop star who runs Stageit from his downtown loft here. “Now they can give fans an experience they never had before, and bring in some money.”​

“In 2000, Evan and twin brother Jaron had a top-10 hit with Crazy for this Girl, but then the record industry collapsed, and the interest in a follow-up was minimal. So after knocking around Hollywood and writing unproduced screenplays, Lowenstein decided to switch gears and become a tech mogul. Luckily, he had made some good friends along the way — including music legend Buffett, Napster co-founder Sean Parker and former 20th Century Fox president Strauss Zelnick, who all invested in Stageit, along with brother Jaron.​.. Lowenstein has a tiny staff of just three — and that includes himself. “The beauty of this is the self-service platform.” [USA Today

—Background: “Evan and Jaron were discovered by Jimmy Buffett back in 1996, when they were playing bars in Atlanta. He helped them land a deal with Universal’s Island Records. One potential roadblock: religious observance. “I knew they were Orthodox Jews who wouldn’t work on Saturdays,” Buffett recalls. No problem. “Crazy for This Girl” climbed to 15 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2000.”[Forbes] • “They were so much in demand that their religious convictions were no longer an obstacle for those trying to promote them. It’s how they persuaded the most listened-to Top 40 radio station in the country to fly a rabbi to Jamaica to read the Megillah for them on Purim. It’s how they got CBS to spend more than $100,000 to switch a taping from Friday night to Thursday, so they could be included. It’s how they got the Mississippi state troopers to give them a police escort home in time to make Shabbat.”[AtlantaJewish]

NYPOST IN SHUL: “Sheldon Silver declines synagogue’s prayer offer” by Laura Italiano:“Disgraced Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver repeatedly turned down the offer of a special, individualized “hardship” prayer during Shabbos services Saturday — apparently the only perk he won’t accept. “Shall we make a Mi Sheberach for you?” Rabbi Mordechai Greenberg asked the embattled pol during 7 a.m.services at the speaker’s neighborhood shul, the historic Bialystoker Synagogue on the Lower East Side. “No, no. Thank you,” Silver answered, waving his hand and shaking his head. “No.”…

“And while the Democratic power broker moved among the worshippers with a bowed head and a quiet humility, he was treated like a celebrity. Silver was chosen to stand at the Torah and recite the sixth aliyah, or blessing, over the sacred text — an honor that in many Orthodox synagogues is reserved for the rabbi himself… Later, he sat near the rabbi for the shared Kiddish meal of kugel, herring and schnapps… Silver left nearly three hours after arriving, hat brim low, scarf high, secreted away from the waiting press in a huddle of similarly hatted and dark-coated worshippers.” [NYPost] • “Developer Who Keeps Low Profile Is Embroiled in Silver Scandal” [NYTimes] • “Silver arrest lengthens shadow over major nonprofit Met Council on Jewish Poverty” [Crains] • “Chief of Staff Rapfogel rallies Democrats behind Sheldon Silver” [NYPost] • “Sheldon Silver to Temporarily Relinquish Speaker Duties” [NYTimes]

FROM RUSSIA WITH ANTI-SEMITISM: “I Tried It… Admitting I’m Jewish” by Margarita Gokun Silver: “I grew up in Moscow, USSR, where during a regular school day, I learned how to take apart the Kalashnikov, how to find the closest metro station with a nuclear fallout shelter and how to hide my Jewish identity. At age 10, when a classmate called me a kike for the first time (within earshot of the teacher, who said nothing), I ran home in tears… In 1989, when I turned 20, I left the USSR for the USA. I spent the next 20 years learning to acknowledge being a Jew. But it wasn’t my religion my Soviet atheist upbringing had robbed me of that I struggled to reclaim. It was the ability to reveal my Jewishness in conversations with people who were not Jewish. Every time I did, my insides shook.”

“Until the recent offensive in Gaza started — and anti-Semitism began to rise with the speed of a Hamas rocket. My Facebook feed filled with posts from liberal media outlets with anti-Israel bias and groups calling for the destruction of Israel and death to the Jews. I saw posts branding Israel’s actions genocide while ignoring Assad’s killings in Syria. And I read about Europe engaging in Jew hatred so passionate Goebbels would’ve been proud. Suddenly, my old desire to hide returned with tsunami force. How long before my friends joined the chorus calling Israel a Nazi state? How long before they liked a post condemning all Jews? When it finally happened, and someone I knew compared Israelis to fascists, I looked at her post for an hour before I gathered the courage — after four decades of keeping quiet — to speak up. Virtually, at least.” [Ozy]

WSJ on Dasha Zhukova and her efforts to build a Moscow museum: “Art collector and philanthropist Dasha Zhukova is launching an ambitious campaign to connect Moscow to the international art world, and she’s tapped architect Rem Koolhaas to execute her vision… Zhukova’shusband—the London-based Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich (the couple met in 2005 and were married a few years later; they have two children). Together, Zhukova and Abramovich have assembled an impressive art collection that includes works by Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon.” [WSJ]

FIRST LOOK: “Sitting Shiva With Larry David: Larry David the Schmuck Was the Best Thing to Happen to Larry David the Mensch” by Benjamin Wallace in New York Magazine:“By his own account, and that of others, David wasn’t a funny kid. But once he began to develop his comic voice in his 20s, finding his groove in the absurdities of social infractions and in an abiding expectation of doom, he had a wealth of childhood material to draw on. “It’s amazing such a functional human being came from that household, honestly,” David’s ex-wife, Laurie, says of the Sheepshead Bay apartment where Larry and his older brother, Ken, the children of Rose and Morty David, a clothing manufacturer, grew up with little privacy.” [NYMag]

SPORTS BLINK: “Gary Bettman’s Hockey Goal” by Alexandra Wolfe: “National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman didn’t grow up ice skating. He only learned in college, when his girlfriend at the time (now his wife) helped teach him. These days, Mr. Bettman doesn’t skate much, but he does watch his grandson play. The longest serving commissioner in any major league sport today, the 62-year-old Mr.Bettman is looking for new ways to attract fans. At the NHL All-Star Game in Columbus, Ohio, this past weekend, he announced the slate of outdoor NHL games for next season (most games are played in covered arenas), as well as the return of the World Cup, an international hockey event that he says “will be back in a major way” next year.” [WSJ]

From our friends at CSPAN… “Here’s a video of Andrew Keen, who was a guest on C-Span’s Q&A last night… he talks about being “middle-class Jewish” at the beginning, around 3:15 into the program.[CSPAN]

DESSERT: “Prime” time for Kosher: High-end kosher restaurants are sweeping the city” [RealDeal]

“That Blue Bottle: How Black America Fell In Love With A Kosher Wine From Italy” by Adam Teeter in VinePair: For Jewish Americans, Bartenura Moscato was a nice change of pace from the other widely available kosher wines on the market, such as Mogen David and Manischewitz. Not only was it a white wine, but it was Italian, which allowed many Jews to feel as if there were other worldly options of kosher wine out there, when really, at the time, the options were quite limited. During this time, eighty-five to ninety-five percent of the wine’s consumers were Jews… Then at some point, my family and I moved on from Bartenura, but as we moved on, another population that wasn’t Jewish was fully embracing it and that embrace took Bartenura from its humble status as a small kosher wine, and turned it into the largest and most widely recognized Moscato brand on the American market. This year alone, thanks to celebrities like Drake and others in the Hip-Hop community, the company will sell four million bottles of the stuff.” [VinePair]


That’s all folks; have a great day!
**Have a tip, suggestion, or even an op-ed? We’d love to hear from you. Email  editor@jewishinsider.com**


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