Daily Kickoff: Super Bowl Diplomacy; JI Highlights: Kraft, Wix, & Idina Menzel | Rabbi Sacks in the WSJ | NYTimes on ‘Pay What You Want’ at Synagogues

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TOP TWEET: @AmbDermer before yesterday’s Kickoff — “Breaking Protocol, Choosing Sides: Go Patriots.” [Twitter]

—Someone took it a bit too seriously: “Israel’s ambassador jokes on Twitter about undermining Obama” by Max Fisher [Vox]

Meanwhile in Israel, U.S. Ambassador Dan Shapiro stayed up all night rooting for the Patriots — @AmbShapiro: “Hard for a Bears fan to get too fired up for this #SuperBowl, (much less stay up all night). Nevertheless: Boston Strong — Go Patriots!” [Twitter] — @AmbDermer responded… “@AmbShapiro As a Dolphins fan, I feel your pain (including that monday night loss in 1985). But got to love Bob Kraft.”[Twitter] — No response from Amb. Shapiro left some wondering if there is some social media silent treatment going on.

POSTGAME: Amb. Dermer emails Jewish Insider… “What a game! Congratulations to Patriots owner Robert Kraft, the players and all their fans.”

KRAFT FAMILY + ISRAEL: “Robert loves taking people to Israel,” said Barry Shrage, close friend of the family and president of Boston’s Combined Jewish Philanthropies. “Myra was completely in love with the country. Every stone, every rock, every tree. And she knew all their names.” “It was a way for her to express her intense feeling of love for the country. It was very important to herShe really was a beautiful person.”… And it wasn’t only members of the Jewish community who toured the country with Myra. Before she passed away in 2011 after a bout with cancer, Myra Kraft used to take Patriots players to Israel regularly.”

“Not all the trips went off according to plan. In 2002, after the Patriot’s first Super Bowl victory over the St. Louis Rams, Kraft and Shrage were invited by then-Jerusalem mayor Ehud Olmert and prime minister Ariel Sharon to visit the Prime Minister’s Office with the trophy. The guards at the PMO had no idea who Kraft was, had never seen the big metal trophy in his hand before, and were at a total loss whether to let it through or not. Their solution? Dismantle the trophy to make sure nothing was hidden inside. “Luckily, one of the guards was American-born, and when he saw what was happening, he told them they couldn’t do that to the Super Bowl trophy,” recalled Shrage.” [ToI]

Spotted: CJP Boston’s Barry Shrage celebrating after the Patriots win at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, AZ [JI Pic]

NEXT GEN: “Jonathan Kraft has been stepping out of his father’s shadow” by Bob Hohler in the Boston Globe: “He may lack some of his father’s charisma and taste for celebrity. His temper may run hotter, as those he has verbally accosted over perceived slights have discovered. And he has yet to embrace the virtues of forgiveness. He remains highly contemptuous of the politicians and pundits hebelieves have wronged him in the past 20 years. But on the day of Jonathan Kraft’s succession, the dynasty will pass to a sharp-edged chief executive whose focus rarely wavers from his father’s passions: family, philanthropy, and making it big in business, whether it’s recycling cardboard or chasing Super Bowl titles.”

“Vikings owner Mark Wilf, who like Kraft is descended from Holocaust survivors, sits on the NFL’s digital media committee, which Kraft chairs… He especially praised Kraft’s philanthropy. “Each of us has tried to continue the connection to our Jewish heritage and our giving back to the community,’’ Wilf said. “Jonathan is passionate about his business, his heritage, and his community, and I have great respect for him.’’ [BostonGlobe]

HEARD OVER THE WEEKEND: At the 102nd Alfalfa Club dinner, Washington’s most exclusive event. Sen. Dianne Feinstein — “Jeb Bush looks like he’s running for president. So now we know what the Bush family means by ‘no child left behind.’” Former SecDef Bob Gates: “When it comes to drones, I do think we need to reduce their number. The 435 we have in the House is enough. … Mike Bloomberg had a tough time as mayor of New York. The city’s soda vendors turned their backs on him. … Washington is the only place where you can see someone walking down Lovers Lane, holding his own hand.”[Politico]

TOP-OP: “Why Bibi-Gate Is Bunk: It doesn’t matter if Netanyahu comes or not. The U.S.-Israel relationship is too big to fail.” by Aaron David Miller: “Whether Netanyahu ultimately does come or not, the United States will continue to take it. And for reasons of politics, policy and shared values, Washington will continue to accord Israel tremendous leeway in this Administration and in the years ahead regardless of opposition to some of its policies. And here’s why. First, the Middle East is melting down at a rate nobody could ever have predicted. And despite the risks this turbulence may pose to Israel’s own Israeli security interests, the Middle East muddle is good for the U.S.-Israeli relationship.”

“Second, the Middle East meltdown has demonstrated the need for traditional friends who are able to offer stability and continuity… Third, if the United States wants to manage the key issues and conflicts in the region and retain its previous influence (now much deflated) it will have to find a way to work with the Israelis… Fourth, while the pro-Israeli community in America (Christian and Jewish) has never had a veto over U.S. foreign policy, it does and will continue to have a very powerful voice, certainly in Congress and in the public debate… Fifth, the Obama-Netanyahu soap opera that has been playing almost continuously for five years will end before long—certainly no later than Jan. 20, 2017…”

“Finally, we are about to enter a well- known season that’s likely to play to the strengths, not weaknesses, of the U.S.-Israeli relationship. A staunchly pro-Israel Republican-controlled Congress will be watching the administration carefully for any pro-Iranian or anti-Israeli funny business. No agreement with Iran (an outcome that now seems likelier) will only lead to a chorus of pro-Israeli “I told you sos”; and within a few months, we’re going to watch a slew of Democratic and Republican presidential candidates try to outbid one another in declaring their undying love for Israel.” [PoliticoMag] • “A Strained Alliance: Obama-Netanyahu Rift Grew Over Years” by Peter Baker and Jodi Rudoren [NYTimes] • “Let Him Make His Case, Then Consider Why He’s Wrong” by James Fallows [TheAtlantic]

PUNDITRY: “Ambassador Martin S. Indyk with Roger Cohen: What’s Next for Israel?” [YouTube]

WSJ’s SATURDAY ESSAY: “The Return of Anti-Semitism: Seventy years after the liberation of Auschwitz, violence and hatred against Jews is on the rise, especially in the Middle East and among Muslims in Europe” by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks: “According to the Middle East Media Research Institute, an Egyptian cleric, Muhammad Hussein Yaqub, speaking in January 2009 on Al Rahma, a popular religious TV station in Egypt, made the contours of the new hate impeccably clear: “If the Jews left Palestine to us, would we start loving them? Of course not. We will never love them… They are enemies not because they occupied Palestine. They would have been enemies even if they did not occupy a thingYou must believe that we will fight, defeat and annihilate them until not a single Jew remains on the face of the Earth… You will not survive as long as a single one of us remains.”

“Not everyone would put it so forcefully, but this is the hate in which much of the Middle East and the Muslim world has been awash for decades, and it is now seeping back into Europe. For Jews, “never again” has become “ever again.”… At this juncture in the history of hate, we must remember what anti-Semitism is. It is only contingently, even accidentally, about Jews. Jews die from it, but they are not its only victims. Today Christian communities are being ravaged, terrorized and decimated throughout the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia, and scores of Muslims are killed every day by their brothers, with Sunnis arrayed against Shiites, radicals against moderates, the religious against the secular. The hate that begins with Jews never ends with Jews.” [WSJ]

—“Should American Jews Stop Obsessing Over the Holocaust? Jacob Neusner shows how an identity founded on oppression and persecution limits the potential of the Diaspora” by Shaul Magid[TabletMag]

AUDIO: DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz at a Jewish Federation event in South Florida. “Every time we think that we can maybe ease back a bit and that there has been calm, we’re reminded that people hate us because of who we (Jews) are…” [SharkTank]

**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: “The house that Ira Rennert built” [Crains] • “Daily Mail Acquires David Arabov’s Millennial-Focused Website Elite Daily” [TechCrunch] • “Alex Sapir and Rotem Rosen’s Israeli public company, ASRR Capital, bought a large townhouse at 218 Madison Ave. for $18.5M that will be demolished for a 10-story luxury property.” [NYPost] • “Media Titans Bloomberg and Murdoch at Play in Politics and News” [NYTimes] • “Feds investigating Sheldon Silver’s influence over civil court”[NYPost] • “Israeli Biotech Surges on Mystery Firm’s No-Name Report” [Bloomberg] • “Noble Energy team in Egypt for talks on importing Israeli gas” [Reuters• “Battling Jewish Titans Alan Dershowitz and Ronn Torossian Make Up” [Observer] • “Radio host Michael Medved says he has throat cancer” [CNN Money] • “Chai Lifeline’s ‘biggest donor’ questions where his money to charity camp went” [NYPost]

2016 WATCH: “Rupert Murdoch Says Joe Biden ‘Actively Preparing’ to Run Against Hillary Clinton”[Bloomberg] • “The Race Is On For 2016 Republicans To Land Romney’s Most Valuable FundraiserSpencer Zwick” [BuzzFeed] • “God and the G.O.P.” [NewYorker] • “Could federal indictments of allies derail a Christie presidential bid?” [NJ] • “Scott Walker’s big week” [Politico]

—Top Tweet: After Romney’s announcement that he will not seek the Republican nomination in 2016.@MViser — “Romney confidant Ron Kaufman says he’s “sad for my kids, my grandkids, and my country.” “I leave for Israel tomorrow. I may not come back.” [Twitter]

SUNDAY SHOWS: “Paul Ryan: Invitation to Israeli PM ‘absolutely appropriate'” [NBC MTP] • “Sen. Durbin: GOP inviting Israeli PM a ‘mistake'” [CBS FTN] • “Sen. McCain: US relationship with Israel worse than ever under Obama” [The Hill]

TALK OF OUR NATION: “The ‘Pay What You Want’ Experiment at Synagogues” by Michael Paulson: “In what amounts to the first systematic rethinking of synagogue financing in a century, about 30 Reform, Conservative and independent synagogues across the United States have eliminated mandatory dues — all but a handful of them in the past five years… The move away from mandatory dues is in part an acknowledgment that many Jewish communal organizations are suffering the effects of growing secularization, declining affection for institutions, a dispersal of Jewish philanthropy and an end to the era in which membership in a congregation was seen as a social obligation.”

Most synagogues have held on to the dues tradition, but the leaderships of the Reform and Conservative movements have acknowledged questions about its sustainability, and on Monday the UJA-Federation of New York, a philanthropic organization, released the first comprehensive study of voluntary pledging. “It’s a very small percentage of the total synagogues in the country, but this clearly is picking up steam,” saidEric S. Goldstein, the federation’s chief executive… “Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism, which represents 862 Reform congregations, said voluntary pledging is appealing not just for financial reasons, but also because it can shift the way synagogues are perceived. “The bond that holds the Jewish people to one another is not primarily and fundamentally a financial arrangement, and when we suggest that it might be, it undermines everything we stand for,” he said.” [NYTimes]

—“Can Digital Badges Save Hebrew School? Jewish Teachers’ New Gamifying Technology” by David A.M. Wilensky: “With help from associations like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation and, in the Jewish arena, the Covenant Foundation, digital badges are booming. Open Badges, an open-source standard created by Mozilla, allows badges earned in one venue to be collected in a “digital backpack” and displayed in different places online, such as on one’s Facebook or LinkedIn profile… Depending on which side of the generational divide you’re on, digital badges can be thought of as analogous either to merit badges in scouting or achievements in video gaming. “This is a way of gamifying education. It doesn’t turn life or school into a game, but it brings some of the fun and incentives of games into education,” said Barry Joseph, a digital learning educator who has helped kick-start interest in digital badges among Jewish educators.” [Forward]

—“How To Keep ‘Shabbat’ in Havana: Life for Cuba’s Jews: There are fewer than 1,500 Jews in Cuba, 85 per cent of whom live in Havana. Yet, our correspondent discovers, they face little persecution in what has become a safe haven” [DailyBeast]

—“Birthright launching nationwide program to engage American alumni” by Sam Sokol: “A local program in Boston intended to provide follow-up of such returnees is going national in an effort to increase Jewish affiliation among American university students. 2015’s expansion of IACT (Inspired, Active, Committed, and Transformed), a program started by Boston’s Combined Jewish Philanthropies, is intended to create a “holistic experience” based around Birthright trips, incorporating both pretrippreparation and follow-up campus engagement, according to organizers.” [JPost]

—“It’s over: Jewish National Fund and Israel finally agree to part ways” by Yael Darel: “The Jewish National Fund is in the practical stage of parting ways with the State of Israel and the Israel Land Administration, due to what the JNF says are repeated infractions by the state.” [YNet]

LONGREAD: “How the CIA Took Down Hezbollah’s Top Terrorist, Imad Mugniyah” by Jeff Stein in Newsweek: “Before there was Osama Bin Laden, there was Imad Mugniyah, Hezbollah’s terrorist mastermind. He was called the “father of smoke,” because he disappeared like a wisp after engineering his spectacular terrorist attacks, including two that took the lives of hundreds of Americans in Lebanon in 1983 alone… But in February 2008, the CIA caught up with the terrorist kingpin in Damascus. A powerful car bomb liquidated him in the same way he had killed so many others. Media reports fingered Israel’s legendary Mossad for the hit. But according to former U.S. intelligence officials interviewed by Newsweek, the Mugniyah hit was a CIA operation, authorized personally by President George W. Bushand carried out by the CIA under the direct supervision of then-director Michael Hayden and a very, very small group of top CIA officials.” [Newsweek]

“How Iran Is Making It Impossible for the US to Beat ISIS” by Michael Weiss in the Daily Beast: “It was August 2007, and General David Petraeus, the top commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, was angry.  In his weekly report to then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Petraeus wrote:  “I am considering telling the President that I believe Iran is, in fact, waging war on the U.S. in Iraq, with all of the U.S. publicand governmental responses that could come from that revelation. … I do believe that Iran has gone beyond merely striving for influence in Iraq and could be creating proxies to actively fight us, thinking that they can keep us distracted while they try to build WMD and set up [the Mahdi Army] to act like Lebanese Hezbollah in Iraq.”

“There was no question there and then on the ground in Iraq that Iran was a very dangerous enemy. There should not be any question about that now, either. And the failure of the Obama administration to come to grips with that reality is making the task of defeating the so-called Islamic State more difficult—indeed, more likely to be impossible—every day.” [DailyBeast] • “The Iranian dream of a reborn Persian Empire”[NYPost] • “Nuclear talks are dividing Iran from within” [Haaretz] • “Iranian diplomat throws weight behind negotiators” [AlMonitor]

ISRAELEX: “Likud says Isaac Herzog breaking fundraising laws: Deputy ministers Tzipi Hotovely and Ophir Akunis, MKs Miri Regev and Yariv Levin, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s attorney David Shimron presented evidence connecting the Zionist Union to V15 (Victory in 2015), an organization working to bring down the government, which has received funding from non-Israeli citizens S. Daniel Abraham and Daniel Lubetzky.” [JPost] • “Herzog: If I win the election, I may ask Netanyahu to join the coalition” [IsraelHayom]

BOOK REVIEW: “The Jewish State’s George Washington: ‘Ben-Gurion’ by Anita Shapira” — reviewed by Liel Leibovitz: “Most biographers have focused on Ben-Gurion’s public accomplishments. But in “Ben-Gurion: Father of Modern Israel,” Ms. Shapira tries to shed light on the inner life of the man whom fellow Zionist leader Berl Katznelson called “history’s gift to the Jewish people.” [WSJ]

STARTUP NATION: “Israeli Wix’s gigantic Super Bowl bet” by Yaacov Benmeleh: “For a company that’s never posted a profit and is forecast to report revenue of just $140 million in 2014, putting up an estimated $10 million for a Super Bowl ad comes off as daring, to say the least. But bold, it would appear, is exactly what Wix[com] Ltd. is going for. The Tel Aviv-based company, which provides free online tools to build websites, is betting that this will be its breakout year as it converts more of its growing subscriber base to a paid premium service. The Super Bowl ad will help make that happen, company officials say.” [Bloomberg] • Also at the Super Bowl: M.O.T. Idina Menzel Blew Everyone Away at the Super Bowl [MICMashable]

BIRTHDAYS: Barry Diller turns 73… Zosia Mamet turns 27… Aaron Keyak… 

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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