Daily Kickoff: Spielberg at Harvard; Kraft at YU | Trump’s Neo-Nazi & Jewish Backers Think He’s On Their Side | Aryeh Bourkoff’s LionTree bounces back

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HEARD AT YESHIVA — New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft delivered the commencement address for Yeshiva University this week at Madison Square Garden: After receiving a strong welcoming applause at the beginning of his speech, Kraft joked “that’s not the reception I typically get when entering sports arenas in New York” (laughter). “One of my father’s favorite teachings was from Pirkei Avot: Ben Zoma taught ‘eizehu ashir? hasameach bechelko‘ — who is rich? The person who is happy with their portion. What do people want in life? They want to feel connected; to something larger than themselves… That sense of being connected applies to great sports teams like the Patriots and the Minnesota Vikings [owners Zygi & Mark Wilf are on the YU board], it applies to great universities like Yeshiva [University], and it applies to the State of Israel, where so many sacrifice so much that the Jewish homeland can live and be a strong inspiration to the Diaspora.”

“The best things we do, the businesses we build, the people we help, the championships we win, the tzedakah (charity) we give, and the communities we strengthen, are truly a gift from God. My father left me an ethical will. In that will he told me something that I think about, literally, every day of my life. He said: ‘At the end of every day, as we lay our head on our pillow, we should ask ourselves a simple question: are the people you touched today richer and better for having known you?’ Go forward from here, my friends, and make people’s lives richer and better because they have known all of you.” Watch the speech [YouTube]

Steven Spielberg Tells Harvard Graduates, “We Are a Nation of Immigrants — at Least for Now” — by Mia Galuppo: “Spielberg discussed his being bullied in grade school for being Jewish and his starting the Shoah Foundation, the USC-based nonprofit that seeks to record testimonies from survivors of the Holocaust and other genocides. He admonished those who persecute anyone on the basis of nation, religion, race, gender or sexuality. “We are a nation of immigrants — at least for now,” said Spielberg to laughter from the crowd. He warned against nationalist tendencies, adding, “I don’t have to tell a crowd of Red Sox fans that we are wired for tribalism.” He then called on the graduates to fight against such mistreatments through peaceful protests and by voting in the upcoming election.” [HollywoodReporterAP• Watch the speech [YouTube]

“Trump’s Neo-Nazi And Jewish Backers Are Both Convinced He’s Secretly On Their Side: Which works out great for him” by Jessica Schulberg: “Rabbi Bernhard Rosenberg, the founder of the Facebook group Rabbis for Trump, argues that Trump’s daughter’s conversion to Orthodox Judaism is proof enough that he harbors no ill-will toward Jews. “You’ve got two Trumps — The Trump that’s trying to get the vote, and the Trump in real life,” said Rosenberg, who renamed his group “Rabbi for Trump” after failing to attract support from other Jewish clergy members… Anglin agrees that there are two Trumps, and he isn’t worried that Trump has Jewish supporters and family members. Trump, he said, is too savvy to openly announce his views on Jews, and only allowed his daughter to convert to Judaism to trick Jews into supporting him. “He couldn’t simply say it straight,” Anglin wrote. “That just wouldn’t fly in America.”” [HuffPost]

LongRead: “Inside A White Nationalist Conference Energized By Trump’s Rise” by Rosie Gray: “In a remote conference room in Tennessee, some of America’s most prominent white nationalists and many in the alt-right gathered last weekend for an annual meeting. This year, however, is different.”[BuzzFeed]

“The Surreal Presidential Debate You Didn’t See: Libertarians In Las Vegas” by Kelefa Sanneh: “During a discussion of religious freedom, Johnson referred dismissively to “the Nazi cake baker.” This was a reference to a moment from an earlier debate, on the Fox Business Network, in which Johnson suggested that bakers who make wedding cakes should not be allowed to refuse, on religious grounds, to serve same-sex couples. Petersen asked, “Should a Jewish baker be required to bake a Nazi wedding cake?” And Johnson replied that the baker should.” [NewYorker]

“The Nazi Tweets of ‘Trump God Emperor’” by Jonathan Weisman: “The imaginings by my tormentors of me as an Orthodox Jew in wide-brimmed hat and Hasidic garb were, of course, laughable. The truth is, I have become largely disconnected from Jewish life and faith over the years, and like many American Jews I have been lulled into complacency… A Jewish 17-year-old, inflamed by the Black Lives Matter movement and the cause of L.G.B.T. rights, told me recently there is no anti-Semitism, certainly nothing compared with the prejudices that afflict other minorities. I surprised myself when I recoiled from her words and argued passionately that Jews must never think anti-Semitism has been eradicated. I sounded like my mother.” [NYTimes]

REPORT: “Sources in Jerusalem say that Netanyahu is not eager to have Trump visit as it could anger rival factions within the Republican party, as well as the Democratic frontrunner, Hillary Clinton.” [TheJC]

“Clinton vs. Trump: What Israel thinks about the US election” by Jacob Pramuk: “Some doubts also surround Clinton, despite her hawkish, pro-Israel rhetoric — after all, she served as Obama’s secretary of state from 2009 to 2013. But many within Israel associate her less with Obama and more with her husband, former President Bill Clinton who remains popular there. “If he would go and run for the prime minister of Israel today, he might be winning,” Ronen Bergman said of the former President.” [CNBC]

“Trump’s Israel Advisor Visits Brooklyn Jewish Community” by Jacob Kornbluh: “Greenblatt, who was outed as Trump’s advisor during a meeting with Jewish media representatives in April, met with several rabbis and with community leaders, including leaders of Agudath Israel of America, Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zweibel, Sol Werdiger, and Chaskel Bennett.” [JewishInsider]

ADL’s Jonathan Greenblatt on Sanders’ proposed changes to Dem platform: “Cornel West is a scholar of racial and economic justice, but claiming war crimes by Israel’s Prime Minister and BDS support [is] unacceptable. The Democrats’ platform should support [the] two-state solution but also make 100 percent clear that long-standing policy [of] supporting Israel will not waver.” [JewishInsider]

NYTimes removes quotes around “occupation” — “Times reporters Jason Horowitz and Maggie Haberman wrote the word “occupation” in scare quotes in the article, leading to backlash from journalists. On social media, Glenn Greenwald and other journalists called out the Times and its reporters… Later, without explanation, the Times removed the quotes around “occupation.” It did not add an editor’s note to the article.” [Salon]

KAFE KNESSET — by Amir Tibon & Tal Shalev: The ongoing political drama in Israel continued this morning, as another member of Netanyahu’s government decided to resign: Enviromental Protection Minister Avi Gabay, from the centrist party Kulanu. “The State of Israel is our 3rd Temple. The 2nd Temple was destroyed because of hatred within our nation I fear we are heading to the 3rd temple’s destruction as well,” he warned at a Tel Aviv press conference.

Gabay is a close political ally of Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, and as the former CEO of Israel’s largest telecommunication company, was the most experienced cabinet member in the business and economic fields. Avigdor Lieberman’s appointment as Defense Minister, he explained, “was a frog I could not swallow.” Israel’s Broadcast Authority just published a new poll showing that if former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon led a center-right party in the next elections, together with fellow Netanyahu rival Gideon Sa’ar, it would receive 25 Knesset seats to Likud’s 21.

**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: “New York Developer Ashkenazy Said to Bid on Israel’s Clal Insurance” [Bloomberg• “Westfield boots tenant Dune London from long-delayed WTC mall” [RealDeal] • “How Viacom Could Have Avoided Its ‘Game of Thrones’ Leadership Saga” [Fortune] • “Guest list for Sumner Redstone’s birthday party has dwindled” [PageSix]

SPOTLIGHT: “Aryeh Bourkoff’s LionTree bounces back in Charter’s $78bn TWC deal” by James Fontanelle-Khan: “Two years earlier, Mr Bourkoff’s young company, LionTree, had secured the mandate for Charter’s first attempt to buy TWC — with the prospect of rich fees if it succeeded — only to see the deal torpedoed by a higher counterbid from Comcast. For the star analyst turned banker, who had worked on the deal for more than a year, the failure was a serious setback, putting into question his ambition to create an advisory firm that would outlast its founder’s contact book. It took a shift in the regulatory winds to persuade Comcast to walk away from the deal and give Charter and Mr Bourkoff a second shot.” [FinancialTimes]

TALK OF THE TOWN: Indian synagogue held first Sabbath service in decades” by Fred de Sam Lazaro: “A nearly 900-year-old synagogue recently held its first Sabbath service in decades in one of the diaspora’s farthest flung places: the coastal Indian city of Cochin.” [RNS]

“A synagogue is born in a little Polish town, but no Jews are left” by Julie Masis: “A small town in Poland is building a wooden synagogue — more than 70 years after the Nazis burned all the country’s wooden Jewish temples to the ground. Thing is, there aren’t any Jews left in the town of Bilgoraj. Even the retired businessman who came up with the idea, 62-year-old Tadeusz Kuźmiński, isn’t Jewish. But he had a vision, and a dose of historical nostalgia.” [PRI]

“Under high security, Jewish pilgrims gather” by Bouazza Ben Bouazza: “Under unprecedented security, the Tunisian island of Djerba hosted an annual Jewish pilgrimage amid raised fears of religious violence after deadly Islamic extremist attacks last year scared away visitors. Under a sweltering heat, crowds gathered for ceremonies Wednesday and Thursday at the 2,500-year-old Ghriba synagogue, which was targeted in a 2002 attack.” [WashPost]

Court: New Jersey can’t give $11M to religious schools: “The state appeals court ruled the $10.6 million grant to the all-male Beth Medrash Govoha yeshiva in Lakewood and $645,323 to the Princeton Theological Seminary are unconstitutional. Moshe Gleiberman, vice president of BMG, said the yeshiva is disappointed in the ruling and is confident the grants will be reinstated by the state Supreme Court. “Excluding these students and the institutions which serve them from funding solely on the basis of religion — even though they meet all grant criteria — is its own form of discrimination,” Gleiberman said. “This doesn’t just hurt Jewish students, it hurts us all.” [AP]

TALK OF OUR NATION — “Gallup: “U.S. Religious Groups Disagree on Five Key Moral Issues” by Jeffrey M. Jones: “Jews and those with no religious preferences have virtually identical views on the morality of abortion, doctor-assisted suicide, gay-lesbian relations and cloning animals. Jews are somewhat less likely than nonreligious Americans to believe having a baby outside of marriage is moral, 68% to 80%. Just shy of nine in 10 Jewish and nonreligious Americans believe divorce is OK. Jews, on the other hand, are least likely to say the death penalty is morally acceptable (54%), while Mormons (79%) are most likely to believe it is.” [Gallup]

HOUSES OF WORSHIP: “The Jews of the American Revolution” by Meir Soloveichik: “For many Americans, Memorial Day obligates us once a year to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their nation. Yet for Jews, memory, bridging the gap between past and present, is a constant duty. The renowned 20th-century Talmudist Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik once wrote that for Jews, “bygones turn into facts, pale memories into living experiences and archaeological history into a vibrant reality.” I am reminded of this every spring, when, in a small cemetery in downtown Manhattan, patriotic Jews, buried for centuries, are given the chance to live again.” [WSJ]

Yitz Applbaum on the Wine of the Week: “There are few places more beautiful than the rooftop of the Mamila Hotel in Jerusalem. The proximate view of the Old City elevates the rooftop higher than the elevator buttons suggest. Last night I sat there, with a photographer for whom this trip to Israel was her first. Being that I was with a friend who has eyes trained to notice visual nuance, I decided to go with an edgy and intricate taste to match.”

“The Matar 2012 is 100 percent Petit Verdot, the right wine for this occasion. If I could only use one word to describe this bottle, it would be ‘inky.’ It has a bold nose and a dark yet translucent color. The fact that it was aged for 15 months in new French oak gives the wine a full, woody flavor with distinct notes of blackberry and dark chocolate. These grapes are grown in the Golan. The forward is slightly acidic and the finish has a brilliant coffee-like flavor. This pour is very satisfying. This wine will age beautifully and will cozy up to any food one can imagine.”

TODAY’S BIG BDAY — Herman Wouk turns 101: We’ll often note birthdays with just a name, title and age. It is rare that we mark a 101st birthday. Even more rare is someone like Herman Wouk who started his second century by publishing an autobiographical memoir entitled Sailor and Fiddler: Reflections of a 100-Year-Old Author. Herman Wouk won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1951 for The Caine Mutiny. In addition to many best selling historical novels, Herman Wouk also wrote a best selling explanation of Judaism, This is My G-d: The Jewish Way of Life. In 2008, Wouk was the first ever recipient of the Library of Congress Lifetime Achievement Award for the Writing of Fiction. Wouk, a long time member of Kesher Israel in Georgetown, once called it “the best little shul in America.”

WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS: Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger turns 93… Sherry Amatenstein… Philadelphia Inquirer’s reporter in Trenton, Andrew Seidman… Long time senior editor for The New Republic, now at the New York Times, Rhodes Scholar Noam Scheiber… Sumner Redstone (born Sumner Murray Rothstein), until recently the executive chairman of both CBS and Viacom, turns 93… Marc Stanley (h/t Playbook & Jon Haber)… Professor of International Marketing at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, Philip Kotler turns 85… Actor, producer and real estate developer, Zack Norman (born Howard Jerrold Zuker) turns 76… Joshua Fitterman… General Manager of Phibro Israel, Jonathan Bendheim… Associate Director of Development at JCRC of NY, Grant Silverstein…

David Lobl… Irwin Weiss… Founding rabbi of both Lincoln Square Synagogue in NYC and then later the City of Efrat in the Judean Hills, Rabbi Shlomo Riskin turns 76… UCSF’s neurologist and biochemist, Stanley B. Prusiner, M.D., winner of a Nobel Prize, turns 74… Manager of the Executive Office at The Pew Charitable Trusts, Lauren Mandelker… Politics and national security reporter for Breitbart News, Adelle Nazarian… Jewish Insider’s indefatigable NYC-based reporter, Jacob Kornbluh… JTA’s Ami Eden… Actor, singer and songwriter Danny Elfman turns 63… Orthodox Union’s Jake Adler…

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