Daily Kickoff: Obama signs anti-BDS law but with reservations | How Sacha Baron Cohen got his start | Profiles: Marc Platt; David Magerman

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TOP TALKER: “Obama Signs Anti-BDS Bill, Objects to Pro-Settlement Provisions” by Jacob Kornbluh: “President Obama reiterated his strong opposition to the BDS movement as he signed the “Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015″ on Wednesday, despite the inclusion of a provision that makes anti-BDS sanctions equally applicable to ‘Israel’ and ‘Israeli-controlled territories.’ “I have directed my Administration to strongly oppose boycotts, divestment campaigns, and sanctions targeting the State of Israel,” President Obama said in a statement following the signing ceremony in the Oval Office. “As long as I am President, we will continue to do so.” However, the President objected to the wording that conflates Israel and ‘Israeli-controlled territories,’ since they are “contrary to longstanding bipartisan United States policy, including with regard to the treatment of settlements.” [JIJTA]

Florida legislature passes anti-BDS bill — by Eric Cortellessa: “Florida’s Senate overwhelmingly passed a measure Wednesday aimed to deter corporate entities from participating in the BDS campaign against Israel. The bill passed by a vote of 112-2, and now moves to the office of Florida Governor Rick Scott, who must decide whether to sign it into law.” [ToI]

Kerry: Israeli Settlement Construction ‘Unhelpful’ — “I don’t think that the situation is helped by additional settlement construction and building,” Kerry said during a hearing at the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee on Foreign Operations. “I think that I know we need to see measures taken on both sides to indicate a readiness and willingness to try to proceed forward and reduce the violence.” [JewishInsider] • “David Cameron blasts Israel’s ‘genuinely shocking’ illegal settlements” [Independent]

HEARD YESTERDAY: “Trump will ‘emphatically’ stand with Israel” by Jacob Kornbluh:During a presidential forum at Regent University in Virginia, Trump said he had concluded that Obama “was the worst thing that has ever happened to Israel,” by witnessing what “Bibi Netanyahu” went through during the negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program. “You could just see the level of exasperation on that man’s face. They were so against this Iran deal,” said Trump. “This will be studied, and studied for a long time, and this will prove to be a very bad deal,” he added. Trump also sought to calm fears about his policy on Israel following recent comments, in which he suggested that he would take a ‘neutral’ approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “Will you emphatically stand with Israel?” CBN News’ David Brody asked Trump. “Yes. A very simple answer: Yes,” Trump replied. “They have been our most reliable ally, especially in the Middle East. I am with Israel one hundred percent.” [JICBN]

Trump quote on the Iran deal: “(Secretary John) Kerry is the worst negotiator I think I’ve ever seen… Obviously Kerry did not read ‘The Art of the Deal.’ Probably didn’t read the Bible, either.”

Trump: Zoning for NYC buildings “about as tough a deal” as Israeli-Palestinian peace. [CNN]

Rob Eshman: “Donald Trump has a white supremacist problem” [JewishJournal]

“Rubio Hits Trump Over ‘Neutral’ Stance on Israel” by Jacob Kornbluh: “We have a frontrunner in this race, Donald Trump, who says he’s not going to take sides on Israel versus the Palestinians,” said Rubio. “He wants to be an honest broker. Well, there is no such thing as an honest broker in that because the Palestinian Authority, which has strong links to terror, they teach little kids that it’s a glorious thing to kill Jews. They turn down deal after deal after deal. They don’t want a deal. They’ve already said, ‘We want to destroy Israel.’ “We will not be an impartial advocate when it comes to the issue of Israel,” Rubio stressed. “When I’m president, we’re going to take sides. We are going to be on Israel’s side.” [JewishInsider]

“Sanders reaches out for foreign-policy help” by Michael Crowley: “In what may be a sign of the challenge Sanders has faced in finding Democratic experts unaligned with — or willing to alienate — Hillary Clinton, he has reached out to at least one former member of George W. Bush’s administration. Lawrence Wilkerson, who served as chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell — and who harshly criticized Bush’s 2003 invasion of Iraq — said that he has given Sanders his advice.” [Politico]

Yair Rosenberg: “Why is Sanders Taking Foreign Policy Advice from Someone Who Suggested Israel—Not Assad—Gassed Syrians?” [TabletMag]

Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer at the National Religious Broadcasters International Christian Media Convention: “The current status [between the Netanyahu and Obama administrations] has been good, given the circumstances.. Our main concern [with the nuclear agreement] was, and still remains, not that Iran is going to violate the deal and get to the bomb, but that they can get to the bomb by keeping the deal. I am very proud that my Prime Minister made that case, and I think that history will judge him very kindly for having done so.” [JNS]

SCENE LAST NIGHT: Approximately one hundred and fifty guests of the Israeli Embassy and the Elijah Cummings Youth Leadership Program in Israel (ECYP) gathered in the lower level of the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center for a reception celebrating Black History Month. NFL Hall of Fame running back Thurman Thomas of the Buffalo Bills, fresh off a recent trip to Israel this past summer with Patriots owner Bob Kraft, was the guest of honor. Israeli Amb. Ron Dermer began his remarks by joking he’s ‘a die-hard Miami Dolphins’ fan’ and added later “that other than being a Buffalo Bill, Thurman is alright (laughter). “He even redeemed himself — there’s alway salvation in the end — by donning a Miami Dolphins uniform at the end of his career,” the Ambassador noted. Dermer continued, “Yeah you hide it (laughter), you hide it Thurman but I saw it and I’m gonna get a yuuge poster of Thurman Thomas in a Dolphins uniform and I’m gonna put it up on the side of our embassy (laughter).”

On a more serious note, Amb. Dermer praised Rep. Elijah Cummings for his leadership and vision. “For nearly twenty years, Congressman Cummings has been the instrumental force behind this youth program that brings young African-American students from Baltimore to Israel. I think it’s 12 students every year — 12, btw, is a pretty good number in Israel — 12 tribes, 12 apostles – 12 is good. You can change the world with 12. And over nearly two decades, there have been some 200 students who have gone on that program. There’s only one Ambassador to Israel in the United States at a time. But I know because of this program, every year, there are 12 other Ambassadors who are sitting in Baltimore, who have been to Israel, who are invested in the relationship with Israel, and serve really as ambassadors of goodwill for Israel.”

Congressman Cummings spoke next on the tremendous benefits of the program. “We have a 100% high school graduation rate, a 98% graduation from college in four years rate, hello? (applause). One of my favorite sayings is ‘our children are the living messages we send to a future we will never see.’ There’s gonna come a time when go off the scene. The things we stood for, the things we believed in, the things we cared about are going to be taken on into the future by our children. The question always becomes how will we send them to the future? I am convinced this program will send them strong… In Israel, they stay at a place called Yemin Orde, and this is a dorm-type setting where young people from all over the world come, and they have an opportunity to interact with them. They are there for about 3-4 weeks, and when they come back, they are different people.” [Pic]

After listening to a young EYCP fellow describe the experience, Thurman Thomas spoke to close the program and related how inspired and motivated he is to start a similar program for kids in Buffalo and how this program could be replicated throughout the country. [Pic]

Spotted: ECYP’s Founding Chairman Howard Friedman, Gary Ginsberg, Jordana Cutler, Rep. Ted Deutch, Rep. Donald Payne, Rep. Charlie Rangel, Rep. Nita Lowey, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, Rep. Alma Adams, Rep. Jerry Nadler, Maryland State Delegate Keith Haynes, Department of Education General Counsel James Cole, Jr., Carla Farrington, Kathleen St. Villier, Patti Thomas, Yarden Golan, Aaron Segui, Dor Shapira, Clara Scheinmann, Jeff Mendelsohn, Marin Stein, Ron Kampeas, Kevin Johnson.

**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: “Peter Orszag Leaves One Bank For Another” [WSJ] • “Industry Veterans Form Cybersecurity Investment Fund” [SecurityWeekFCWSCV] • “Billionaire Steven Cohen builds a large fence in East Hampton, angers his neighbors” [LLNYC] • “Protesters bypass hotel security to disrupt Marc Lasry at investors conference in the Waldorf” [NYPost] • “KKR Said to Weigh Calgary Closing as Dealmaker Goes to Menlo” [Bloomberg] • “Still Stealthy, New Insurance Company Lemonade Continues To Impress With New Hire, Dan Ariely” [TechCrunch]

MEDIA WATCH: “CNN Seeing Dividend From Its Investment in Politics” by Nick Corasaniti: “Jeff Zucker scowled over a laptop in a CNN truck here recently, scouring a new report by BuzzFeed: Donald J. Trump, contrary to his campaign trail boasts, initially supported the invasion of Iraq. A wall of monitors still showed Jeb Bush, but Mr. Trump would take the stage in CNN’s latest Republican town hall-style meeting in minutes. Yet Mr. Zucker, the network’s president, urged care. “I get it, we need to do this, but let’s get it right,” he said to Sam Feist, the network’s Washington bureau chief, and David Chalian, the political director, but also to everyone else in the truck.” [NYTimes]

HOLLYWOOD: Sacha Baron Cohen on how his Jewish identity shaped his start in comedy:“I think I was about 9 years old when I wrote my first sketch. I was in this Jewish youth club, and they would do final performances, and final parties, and I would write a little sketch, and I’d get sort of excited about it. Then, I don’t know. I started doing a little routine with my brother on the circuit. He was a musician, as we said. It was kind of the Jewish old age home circuit. I was about 16. We would dress as Hasidic Jews, and sing Jewish songs. One of the songs was this song called ‘Schvitzing,’ which was about how the Hasidic Jews get so hot that they end up shaving their beards, and taking their clothes off, and actually converting to Christianity at the end. It would go down terribly. These old age homes would hate it. People were like, “Please, take the money, and never come back here again… We called ourselves ‘The Schvitzing Brothers.’ Eventually, I got seen doing that, and I got hired by the Paramount comedy channel to do Bruno, actually. To do some kind of undercover stuff.” [IndieWire]

PROFILE: “Why creating meaningful art is important to “Bridge of Spies” producer Marc Platt” by Danielle Berrin: “They say you can’t have it all, but Marc Platt seems to defy the conventional wisdom. The Oscar-nominated producer of “Bridge of Spies,” the Cold War-era drama directed by Steven Spielberg, has developed some of the most successful film, theater and television entertainments of the last 30 years… Platt is also a father of five (two of his sons are stars on Broadway) and the longtime husband of Julie Platt, chairwoman of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. He is also a devoted philanthropist, a sought-after speaker and a practicing Jew.” [JewishJournal]

TALK OF OUR NATION: “The last of Iowa’s small-town synagogues: seven members still praying” by Ryan Schuessler: “When the temple was founded in 1915, it numbered several hundred people. Today there are just seven members, and they know the inevitable is looming: B’nai Jacob will soon dissolve, joining the list of small-town synagogues that have disappeared, closing a critical chapter of Iowa’s Jewish story. The decline of Iowa’s small-town synagogues is tied to the decline of small-town Iowa itself.” [TheGuardian]

AP Correction: “In a story Feb. 23, The Associated Press reported that a conflict over housing in Lakewood, New Jersey, was caused by an influx of Hasidic Jews. While the town has a large population of Hasidic Jews, according to Avi Schnall, the state director of Agudath Israel of America, an organization representing Orthodox Jews, the story should have noted that the majority of the Jews in Lakewood are of Lithuanian Ashkenazi descent and that Orthodox Jews overall are driving the housing crunch.” [AP]

“Meet Georgetown’s Holocaust grave hunter” by Nick Anderson: “Desbois’s forensic work on the Holocaust is at the heart of a gift that Georgetown just announced, $10 million from Miami philanthropists Norman and Irma Braman, to support research into the Nazi-led extermination of 6 million Jews in during World War II.” [WashPost]

TALK OF THE TOWN: “A ‘divisive community builder’ sounds like a contradiction in terms. Meet David Magerman” by Gary Rosenblatt: “David Magerman, a man on a mission to build and sustain a vibrant Orthodox community in Philadelphia, is a tangle of contradictions. A wealthy hedge fund manager, he finds the consumer-driven life pointless and in the last decade has embraced Orthodox Judaism with great passion. He insists that the Jewish day school system is broken and that lack of quality education, not money, is the root problem.” [JewishWeek]

LongRead: “Legacies: Five Years after @MayorEmanuel” by Dan Sinker: “Five years ago today, @MayorEmanuel, the foul-mouthed Twitter character I created to parody Chicago’s first real mayoral election in 22 years, was sucked back into the parallel dimension he came from, his voice silenced mid-sentence. It was the day after the actual 2011 election here in Chicago. Rahm Emanuel had won in a walk… With that final clap of thunder, the legacy of the account began. Wired called the @MayorEmanuel story “the first, truly great piece of literature to be produced using this micromedium that’s rapidly transforming communication in the digital age.” [Medium]

DESSERT: “Russ & Daughters Opens Kosher Restaurant at the Jewish Museum” by Sara Ivry: “Upper East Siders hankering for a bissel of mouth-watering sable have reason to rejoice today. On Tuesday, Russ & Daughters, the legendary appetizing shop and restaurant, opened the doors to a long-awaited 70-seat kosher restaurant in the Jewish Museum on Fifth Avenue and 92nd Street in Manhattan.”[TabletMagDNAinfo]

BIRTHDAYS: Rabbi Steve Gutow… Comedienne, Chelsea Handler, turns 41… Actor, Justin Berfield, turns 30… Former talk show host, Sally Jessy Raphael (born Sally Lowenthal) turns 81… Rob Goldberg… American figure skating champion, Max Aaron, turns 24…

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