Daily Kickoff: Jewish leaders on Speaker Ryan | Larry Mizel backing Rubio? | First thing Joshua Malina says in the morning | Howard Friedman turns 5-0

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TOP TALKER: “The Pivot to Tehran” by Colum Lynch, John Hudson: “Washington long told Iran the price of admission to any Syria peace talks was a commitment to ushering Assad out of power. Not anymore.” [ForeignPolicy]

“The US just sent a major signal about how it views Iranian legitimacy in the Middle East” by Natasha Bertrand: “By allowing Iran to participate in these talks, the US is essentially saying that Iran has a legitimate stake in Syria,” said Tony Badran, a researcher at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. “But Iran’s only stake in Syria is maintaining its bridge to Hezbollah in Lebanon.” [BusinessInsider]

“Rancor Between Saudi Arabia and Iran Threatens Talks on Syria” by David E. Sanger, David Kirkpatrick: “…The bigger challenge may well be reconciling the Saudis and the Iranians, longtime rivals who have turned Syria into the main battlefield in a broadening proxy war for dominance in the Middle East.” [NYTimes]

“Another Iranian American arrested and imprisoned in Tehran: Iranian security forces have arrested an Iranian-American businessman who had promoted improved ties between the two countries, adding to signs that hard-liners in Tehran are trying to block foreign investors from entering the Islamic Republic in the wake of the historic nuclear deal.” [WSJWashPost]

Haleh Esfandiari: “How a Conflicted Iran Undercuts Its Own Regional Ambitions” [WSJ]

Eli Lake: “Iran’s War on Drugs Shows How It Would ‘Help’ in Syria” [BloombergView]

HEARD LAST NIGHT — by Jared Sichel: Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton was at the Modern Orthodox Beth Jacob Congregation in Los Angeles for a moderated discussion with Israeli Brig. Gen. Relik Shafir, who was one of eight IAF pilots in Israel’s bombing raid of Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981. With about 300 people in attendance for what was a fundraiser for the Israel Air Force Center Foundation, Bolton and Shafir opined on Iran’s nuclear weapons program… Bolton said that Israel may have missed its opportunity for a preemptive strike while his former boss, President George W. Bush, was in the White House. “The chances of success were higher and the perception in Washington would have been better,” he said.

Yossi Klein Halevi spoke at Columbia University last night — by Jacob Kornbluh: “One of the main problems we face in our relationship between Israelis and American Jews is that our two communities have diametrically opposing challenges and goals. The goal of Israelis in the Middle East is to survive in one of the world’s most brutal and inhospitable regions. The goal of American Jews is to find their place as Jews in the most hospitable atmosphere that Jews have ever had. And that leaves to very different strategies. Our (Israelis) strategy is to be as tough as possible and your strategy is to be as quiet and pleasant as possible.”

“The question we face is whether our geographical circumstances are going to define the essence of what kind of Jewish community we are. Is Israel going to be a brutal society? Are we going to take up the brutality around us? And the question for American Jews is whether the naivete of America is going to define an American Jewish politics of culture? And there are signs of this coming through as we’ve seen with the Iran deal, and the blind support that a majority of American Jews has given to this president. And that risks some worrisome trends. If we become defined by brutality from one hand and naivete on the other, then we have no common language.”

2016 WATCH: “Rubio team goes after Bush donors” by Eli Stokols: “Penry declined to discuss specific Colorado donors, although one of the biggest gets in the state, Larry Mizel, appears to be on board. Mizel, a Sheldon Adelson confidante and member of his Republican Jewish Coalition, met with Rubio earlier this week, spent Wednesday afternoon in the spin room and watched the debate in person. Thursday morning, he walked into the Brown Palace Hotel downtown for a Rubio fundraiser (a make-up for a previously postponed event) carrying a check. “He likes to keep his name out of it and work behind the scenes, but he’s with Marco,” said a source close to Mizel.” [Politico]

Last week, Mizel attended a fundraiser for Jeb Bush headlined by former President George W. Bush… When asked if Mizel committed to exclusively backing Rubio, a source close to the campaign told Jewish Insider that “Mizel did not tell me one way or another.” [JewishInsider]

A 112-page Jeb campaign presentation was leaked to US News. On Page 19 is a list of bullet points attacking Rubio. Titled “Marco Is A Risky Bet,” the document highlights Rubio’s “closeness with Norman Braman, who doubles as personal benefactor raises major ethical questions.” [USNews]

“Marco Rubio leads race for donations from casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson” by Peter Stone: “Adelson looks poised to make a multimillion-dollar donation to the pro-Rubio Conservative Solutions Project nonprofit or an allied Super Pac, also called Conservative Solutions, say three GOP sources familiar with Adelson.” [TheGuardian]

Source close to the Cruz campaign emails us… “Sheldon and Miriam remain in frequent and regular contact with Cruz and an endorsement is very much under consideration. Miriam has been telling people for a long time that Cruz is her first choice. The Adelsons have been impressed by Cruz’s superior fundraising, organization in the early and Super Tuesday states, and debate performances.”

What the money is spent on — “Winning Isn’t Everything” by Jason Zengerle: “There are plenty of methods consultants employ to separate candidates from their money—and the money involved has grown enormously over the past couple of decades… Most consultants running those races receive monthly retainers—anywhere from $7,500 for a congressional race to $25,000 or more for a major statewide or presidential campaign. Beyond that, they often take cuts of various services the campaign spends money on. The biggest of these typically come from television advertising, where, per industry standard, the campaign pays a commission—usually ranging from 7 to 15 percent—to the consultant whenever it purchases air time.” [PoliticoMag]

HEARD ON THE TRAIL — Donald Trump: “Israel is safe with this one,” Trump declared, poking his chest. “Safe, safe! We will save Israel. Nothing, nothing bad is going to happen to Israel.” [JI]

Bernie Sanders to an American-Muslim student: “Let me be very personal here if I may, I’m Jewish. My father’s family died in the concentration camps. I will do everything that I can to rid this country of the ugly stain of racism which has existed for far too many years. And you are right, there is a lot of anger being generated, a lot of hatred being generated against Muslims in this country, that’s absolutely correct. There is hatred being generated against immigrants in this country. And if you stand for anything we have got to stand together and end all forms of racism.” [JI]

PROFILE: “Eric Garcetti is the Instagramming, jazz-loving, bilingual Jewish mayor of L.A. He may also be the Democratic Party’s future” [Yahoo]

HAPPENING THIS WEEKEND: “Two decades on, Bill Clinton back in Israel for Rabin memorial: Former United States president Bill Clinton arrived in Israel on Thursday ahead of a scheduled speech at a Tel Aviv rally marking the 20th anniversary of the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.” [ToI• Clinton met with President Reuven Rivlin today [Twitter]

Rob Eshman: “Bring Bill Clinton back to the Israeli-Palestinian peace table” [JewishJournal]

“Dems Push Partisan Resolution on Two-State Solution in Memory of Rabin” by Jacob Kornbluh: “Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN) introduced the resolution to the House of Representatives, with Reps. Steve Cohen (D-TN), John Yarmuth (D-KY), and Earl Blumenauer signing on as co-sponsors. “The violence that killed Prime Minister Rabin stems from the same place as the violence we see today: the lack of two states for two peoples, living side-by-side in peace and security. We need Prime Minister Rabin’s courage now.” [JI]

NEW HOUSE SPEAKER: Jewish leaders welcome Paul Ryan — by Jacob Kornbluh [JI]

William Daroff: “Paul Ryan and I both started our political careers working for the late Jack Kemp. I am hopeful that Speaker Ryan will lead House Republicans in returning to Kemp’s founding philosophy of “compassionate conservatism” and recognizing the importance of caring for the vulnerable. I am certain that the new Speaker’s longstanding support for a strong US-Israel relationship will continue to strengthen the bipartisan support for Israel that already permeates both parties in the House and Senate.”

Nathan Diament: “John Boehner was a great legislator and leader to work with, as we did over the years, especially on issues the OU cares most about – the security of Israel and educational opportunity and choice. The good news is that Paul Ryan is committed to these policies and values as well,  and we look forward to working with him.”

Rabbi Jonah Pesner: “On behalf of the Reform Jewish Movement, I offer a mazel tov to Rep. Paul Ryan on his election as Speaker of the House of Representatives. We hope that the selection of Speaker Ryan heralds a new era that ensures the chamber can meet its responsibilities to the American people… Speaker Ryan’s tenure as chair of the Ways and Means Committee gives us concern about his commitment to lifting up our nation’s most vulnerable, including senior citizens, children and persons with disabilities.”

Rabbi Levi Shemtov tweets: “Took a few minutes to head over to the Library of Congress and congratulate the new Speaker Paul Ryan. Shared Talmud’s message about power with Speaker Ryan. He didn’t want this job, got called. May G-d help him.” [Twitter]

**Good Friday 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: “Harvard Donations Top $1 Billion for Second Straight Year” [Bloomberg] • “Developers Fuel Political Group Backing NYC Mayor” [WSJ] • “Security Company Opening in Rubin Schron’s 42 Bway in Lower Manhattan” [Observer] • “What It’s Like to Work at Stewart Butterfield’s Slack” [Time] • “Congo Activists, Honored by Alex Soros in NYC, Urge U.S. Support to Investigate Soco Oil Search” [Bloomberg]

TALK OF THE TOWN: “Sheldon Silver’s Lawyers Confront Risks of Putting His Character on Trial” by Benjamin Weiser: “Benjamin Brafman, a veteran defense lawyer who has known Mr. Silver for years and is not involved in his defense, said, “I am personally very fond of Sheldon Silver and view him to be a man of high character.” Still, Mr. Brafman added, “in today’s climate, defendants facing political corruption charges must be concerned about potential juror bias that may be based more on perception than fact.” [NYTimes]

PRIMER: “Ahead of the G.A., what do Jewish federations actually do?” [JTA]

HOLLYWOOD: “Love and praise from Aaron Sorkin and Helen Mirren at Israel Film Festival’s opening night” by Danielle Berrin: “Nearly 2,000 attendees gathered at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills for the festival’s most star-studded event yet, and the premiere of “Baba Joon,” a father/son drama about an Iranian family that immigrates to Israel. But it was Sorkin and Mirren who were most astonishing in their roles, unafraid to speak lovingly about one of the most polarizing countries in the world.” [JewishJournal]

“Don’t Let Scandal’s Joshua Malina Get His Hands on Your Phone” by Jason Lynch: “What’s the first thing you do in the morning? The first thing I do is very analog. I say this brief Jewish prayer, the Modeh Ani: “Thank God, my soul is back, I’m alive again.” Then I [corrupt] my psyche by plunging into social media. I’ll check my email, and then it’s on to the news, which usually involves stumbling to the end of my driveway to get The New York Times, excitedly tearing the bag open and going straight to the arts section.” [AdWeek]

DESSERT: “Brisket came back, but Blue Star’s gone” by Suzanne Pollak: “Blue Star, the Rockville kosher restaurant whose motto was “We’re bringing brisket back” has closed, after being open less than a year-and-a-half. “I’m so sad there will now be one less kosher meat restaurant in the area,” said Steve Rabinowitz, president of Bluelight Strategies and a self-professed big kosher meat eater. “I thought the food was great at Blue Star, even if the service [was] spotty,” he said.” [WashingtonJewishWeek]

Yitz Applbaum on the Wine of the Week: “Everything about the Tulip Winery is special. The wines are made in the village of Kfar Tikvah, largely a community comprised of people with special needs. Many of them work in the winery. I know it sounds strange but it makes a difference in the taste of the wine. The Black Tulip is a Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cab Franc and Petite Verdot. The wine has so many of the qualities of a massive California Cab with rich berries, strong black currant with hints of chocolate, all while maintaining the earthiness and subtlety of a French Bordeaux. The wine is aged for 24 months in French Oak Barrels which produces a complicated flavor profile and brilliant finish.” [Tulip]

WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS: Howard E. Friedman turns 50… Ivanka ‘Yael’ Trump turns 34… Andrea Mitchell turns 69… Pencils of Promise founder Adam Braun turns 32… Maggie Haberman… Mordechai Lightstone… Brian Weisberg… Rabbi Mitchell Wohlberg turns 71… CNN’s Marshall Cohen…

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