Daily Kickoff: NBA’s Steve Kerr on growing up in the Middle East “more worried about Israeli right than Lebanon” | Natalie Portman is Jackie Kennedy

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DRIVING THE CONVERSATION: “For Trump son-in-law and confidant Jared Kushner, a long history of fierce loyalty” by Shawn Boburg: “The same dynamic — this time between Kushner and Trump — played out on the campaign trail, when Kushner, an Orthodox Jew, publicly defended his father-in-law against claims that his rhetoric was fueling anti-Semitism and racism. And it seems likely to carry over into the White House, where Kushner is expected to play the role of informal gatekeeper and confidant to the president and may be entrusted with the enormous task of trying to broker an end to conflict in the Middle East.”

— “The Kushners gave millions to political, charitable and pro-Israel causes… In 1997, when Kushner was just 16, then-President Bill Clinton made a stop at the corporate headquarters of the family business, lavishing praise on the Kushners during a speech. To mark the moment, the Kushners gave Clinton a shofar… Rabbi Hirschy Zarchi, founder of Chabad House at Harvard, who met Jared his freshman year and became close to the Kushner family, said that as a student Jared was devoted to his family and his Orthodox Jewish faith and had the mature bearing of a graduate student.”

— Kushner on bridge-gate: “Back on Dec. 7, 2013, the day after Wildstein resigned from the Port Authority amid growing evidence that he had ordered the lane closures, Kushner got in touch with him. In an email obtained by The Post, Kushner drew a parallel between Wildstein and his father, who had also resigned as a Port Authority commissioner in 2003 as questions began to percolate about Kushner’s campaign contributions. “Just wanted you to know that I am thinking of you and wishing the best. For what it’s worth, I thought the move you pulled was kind of badass,” Kushner wrote. Heller, the Kushner Companies spokeswoman, said this week that the message was a “poorly worded way of Jared trying to cheer up an old friend.”” [WashPost]

“Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, is next president’s ‘eyes and ears’” by Chris Megerian: “The election results were rolling in, and so were the phone calls for Donald Trump. But no matter who was on the other end of the line, the person handing the phone to the next president of the United States was the same. “Jared was screening the calls,” said Armstrong Williams, a political ally who described the scene in Trump’s Manhattan skyscraper on election night…. “If Jared is going to call you in the morning, it won’t be before 9 or 10 o’clock, because he always has breakfast with his wife and kids,” said Williams… Despite overseeing the purchase and sale of billions of dollars in property over the last decade, Kushner is the kind of person who cleans up after meetings even when they’re not in his own office, said Asher Abehsera, a fellow real estate executive… No matter what, Williams said, “he watches his father-in-law’s back, like a hawk.”” [LATimes]

“Kushner took central role in Trump-Abe meeting,” by Naoya Yoshino: “The sources said the swift action was enabled by Jared Kushner, the husband of Trump’s eldest daughter, Ivanka, who is one of her father’s closest aides. It was Kushner who informed Japanese officials several days before the meeting that it would take place in Trump Tower.” [Nikkei]

Breakfast with Trump: The Trump Transition Finance Committee, led by Lew Eisenberg and Steven Mnuchin, are hosting a breakfast with President-Elect Trump in NYC on December 7th. Tickets are $5,000 per person. Hosts on the invite include Stanley Chera, Edward Czuker, Richard LeFrak, Howard Lorber, Jamie McCourt, Larry Mizel, Elliott Broidy, Wilbur Ross, Lee Samson, and Mel Sembler. h/t Maggie Haberman [Twitter]

TRANSITION TOWER: “Tug of War Delays Some of Donald Trump’s Key Hires” by Damian Paletta: “Newt Gingrich, who backs former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani for secretary of state, said the search is playing out a bit like Mr. Trump’s longtime reality show, “The Apprentice,” as he publicly mulls the candidates’ skill sets and invites “audience participation.” One conservative activist said he believes the choice has come down to Messrs. Romney and Bolton, while he said Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, remains a long shot for the job.” [WSJ

“Trump spent Thanksgiving asking: Mitt or Rudy?” by Emily Smith: “One witness told us Trump took a prime table next to the fireplace in the club’s living room, but spent a lot of time greeting members and asking who they think should be his top diplomat… Guests joining Trump for Thanksgiving at Mar-a-Lago included… Marvel Entertainment CEO Ike Perlmutter…” [NYPost• Conway: Trump backers feel ‘betrayed’ by Romney consideration [CNN]

Kellyanne Conway on CNN’s State of the Union: “I mean has [Romney] been around the globe doing something on behalf of the United States, of which we’re unaware? … Has he been helpful to Mr. Netanyahu?”

Trump ‘furious’ over Kellyanne Conway comments on Sunday shows about Romney:“Kellyanne went rogue at Donald Trump’s expense at the worst possible time,” a source familiar with Trump’s thinking told MSNBC. Trump’s top aides said they were “baffled” by Conway’s comments and suggested that it feeds into a growing concern inside the campaign that “instead of driving Donald Trump’s message, she’s pushing her own agenda.”” [CNBC]

“Joe Lieberman praises Trump’s national security picks” by Ana Radelat: “The Trump transition team’s release announcing the appointment of Kathleen Troia “KT” McFarland to serve as deputy national security advisor quoted Lieberman as saying the appointment “has brought to the top ranks of his administration one of our country’s most experienced, informed, and wise foreign policy and national security experts… KT and General Mike Flynn will form a very strong leadership team at the National Security Council,” Lieberman said… From 1970-1976 McFarland served as an aide to Henry Kissinger on the National Security Council.” [CTMirror]

INBOX — JINSA statement on General Mattis: “We are pleased with the array of highly qualified candidates that President-elect Donald Trump is reportedly considering for Secretary of Defense… We feel compelled to convey that characterizations of one candidate, General James N. Mattis, USMC (ret.), as anti-Israel are ill-founded and unfair… Were General Mattis to become Secretary of Defense, and work more closely with Israel in that position, we believe he will become an even closer friend of the State of Israel.”

“Trump disavowal of white supremacists doesn’t quiet concerns” by Bill Barrow and Jonathan Lemire: “The ADL’s [Oren] Segal called Trump’s answers when questioned an important step to “allay any illusions” white supremacists have about their place in a Trump administration.” [AP]

“Harvard classmates barely recognize the Bannon of today” by Matt Viser: “A Jewish classmate said he never heard him say anything anti-Semitic. “I don’t think there’s a racist bone in his body,” said Thomas Meredith, who sat with Bannon in the skydeck.” [BostonGlobe• Combative, Populist Steve Bannon Found His Man in Donald Trump [NYTimes]

— “When asked about the scenes from the alt-right conference, Bannon said he doesn’t follow Spencer’s group and doesn’t know much about it. Breitbart’s mission, he said, calls for “more voices, not less,” with no single line of thought dominating the site. Race-based nationalism, he said, is a “non-starter.” “I don’t think it stands the test of logic and there is no future for that really in America,” Bannon said.” [RichmondTimes

“Jewish leader urges open mind about Trump despite antisemitism concerns” by Harriet Sherwood: “Jack Rosen, president of the American Jewish Congress, told the Guardian: “I think the president has the right to choose his own people and we should take a look-and-see approach… You give Trump the benefit of the doubt. He is the president. Every president picks people that we don’t necessarily agree with and hold our noses on… Rosen said: “I expect Trump to be a strong supporter of Israel and to understand Israel’s security concerns. I think he’ll be a good friend … The election of Trump in the immediate term will be a bigger hug, call it that, with Israel [than would have been the case with Hillary Clinton].” Despite anxieties in some quarters over Trump’s policies and appointments, “we need to give him a chance,” said Rosen.” [TheGuardian

ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt: “Questions about Keith Ellison Reflect Questions about the Democratic Party: As it relates to Israel as a major foreign policy priority, the Congressman needs to explain past votes, to share his present vision, and to clarify how he will act in a future crisis. Without a clear understanding of his positions, it seems impossible to imagine he could build the trust needed to lead a major political party at such a delicate time.” [Medium]

SCENE LAST NIGHT IN NYC — Over 5,000 Chabad shluchim (emissaries) and their family, friends, supporters from over 90 countries gathered at Pier 8 in Red Hook, Brooklyn, last night for the Annual ‘Kinus Hashluchim’ Banquet. Keynote speaker Malcolm Hoenlein shared stories of his long association with the Lubavitcher Rebbe – which began with a visit to Crown Heights at age 13 – and his experiences with Chabad houses across the world, including those active in the fight for Soviet Jewry. Other speakers included Rabbi Dovid Hazdan of South Africa and emcee and Chabad leader Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, who announced the opening of a Chabad house in South Dakota, the last state without a permanent rabbinic representative.

“Brooklyn man set to become South Dakota’s only rabbi” by Reuven Fenton: “Although Jews have lived in the Mount Rushmore State since the mid-1800s, their numbers have dwindled to some 400 spread across 77,000 square miles. There are three synagogues in the state, but all they get is occasional visits from student rabbis out of Cincinnati. Sioux Falls, the largest city, also has South Dakota’s largest Jewish community — about 150 members.” [NYPostChabad.org]

Rabbi Yossi Lazaroff: “World’s largest #mannequinchallenge attempted with 4,000 Rabbis.” [Video]Andrew Cuomo: “Thanks for coming to NY! We hope you enjoyed your time here.” [Twitter

SPOTTED: Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky (named most influential rabbi by Newsweek), Rabbi Abraham Shemtov, Chief Rabbi of Dnepropetrovsk, Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky, Ukrainian businessman Gennadiy Bogolyubov, Argentinian businessman Eduardo Elsztain, Rabbi Steven Wernick, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Former NY AG Bob Abrams, Rabbi Mendy Alperowitz, Chabad’s first Shaliach in South Dakota, Russian Chief Rabbi and friend of Putin, Berel Lazar, Matt Lewin, David Slager, Rabbi Levi Shemtov, Tablet’s Liel Liebovitz, UJA’s Eric Goldstein, JCRC’s Michael Miller, Israeli Consul General to NY Dani Dayan, Israel’s UN Ambassador Danny Danon, NYPD Commissioner John O’Neill, Councilman David Greenfield, Conference of Presidents’ Sam Schear, Richard Stone, Stephen Greenberg, FIDF’s General Meir Klifi, and author of the “Hertog Study” on Chabad’s campus impact and Brandeis Professor, Marc Rosen, Shabbat host to the Stars, Mordechai Lightstone, Chabad’s media guru Motti Seligson, Yaacov Behrman, Jeff Leb, Herbert Block, Jason Koppel, Andrew Herenstein, Kalman Yeger, Yidel Perlstein, Joel Eisdorfer, NYC Public Advocate Office’s Yoel Lefkowitz, NYC Mayor’s Office community liaison Pinny Ringel, and Rabbi Abe Friedman.

“After Fidel Castro’s Death, Can Cuba’s Resilient Jews Survive — or Even Thrive?” by Ilan Stavans : “Under Castro, Cuba continued to maintain official relations with Israel even after the 1967 Six Day War, when most of the rest of the communist world cut ties with Jerusalem. Cuba cut those ties only after the Yom Kippur War, in October 1973. But Israeli tourists have long visited Cuba freely, and Cuban artists and intellectuals have visited Israel regularly…  Ruth Behar, a Jewish Cuban-American anthropologist who teaches at the University of Michigan… believes that many Cuban Jews in Miami want to return now to invest in and rebuild the island’s infrastructure. Moreover, this “new flow of people, ideas and money” will help to re-energize Cuba’s Jewish community, she said.” [Forward]

HEARD YESTERDAY – Jeffrey Goldberg, the last U.S. journalist to interview Fidel Castro, discussed the 2010 interview on CBS’s Face the Nation: “He called me down to Cuba to discuss an issue that was of concern to him, the Iranian nuclear program and the threat of nuclear war in the Middle East…  The key memory or one of the key memories of this is when I asked him if he regrets asking Khrushchev in 1962 to annihilate the United States with nuclear weapons. And he paused and he said — in essence, he said, that was probably a bit too much… I would just not be surprised if, 10 years from now, there is a Trump golf course at the Bay of Pigs. Just mark my words.” [CBSNews• Fidel Castro and Israel’s Right to Exist [TheAtlantic]

“Israel’s Military Intel Chief: 2017 Will Be Unstable for Palestinians, We Should Prepare for Terror Waves” by Barak Ravid: “The MI chief also addressed the recent U.S. election and upcoming elections in Europe. “The world is in its adolescence and there are many ‘anti’ votes,” he said as he showed a slide of Trump and Britain’s referendum on leaving the EU. “Trump won because he was anti-establishment. The question now is whether his ‘anti’ ideology will stand up to the test, and how will he act against the establishment from within the White House.”” [Haaretz]

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SPOTLIGHT — Edwards Lifesciences buys Israeli company Valtech Cardio for $1B: “Edwards Lifesciences Corporation is acquiring Israeli valve repair device company Valtech Cardio Ltd. The company has developed the Cardioband System for transcatheter repair of the mitral and tricuspid valves. Edwards will pay Valtech $340 million in stock and cash at closing, with the potential for up to $350 million in milestone payments over the next 10 years and $300 million more for Valtech’s early-stage transseptal mitral valve replacement technology program.” [Globes]

PROFILE: “Robert Morgenthau on His Years as District Attorney: ‘I Don’t Look Back’” by John Leland: “Robert Morris Morgenthau was born in 1919, into a family that rose to great public influence through public service. His grandfather Henry Morgenthau was President Woodrow Wilson’s ambassador to Turkey, where he unsuccessfully urged the United States to intervene in the Turkish slaughter of Armenians; his father, Henry Morgenthau Jr., was Treasury secretary under his friend President Franklin D. Roosevelt and persuaded the reluctant administration to intercede belatedly in the Nazi slaughter of Europe’s Jews.” [NYTimes]

Charles Renfrew and James Reynolds: “Obama Should Pardon This Iowa Kosher-Food Executive”[WSJ]

TALK OF THE TOWN: “How a serious opponent could beat Mayor de Blasio in upcoming re-election bid” by Jennifer Fermino: “Hank Sheinkopf, a political strategist going back some five decades to when John Lindsay was mayor, said the key is to find a “visionary” candidate not above taking jabs at de Blasio. He said he’d run a commercial with his candidate that asked, “Do you really think the mayor ought to be fighting with the governor? I’d say, ‘I’m the guy who wants to make sure Albany works with us and not against us,’” he said… He’d also target whites, specifically East Side Manhattan Dems, non-Orthodox Jews and “Queens Catholics,” he said.” [NYDailyNews

“Tatiana Navka, Wife Of Putin Aide, Sparks Outrage With Holocaust-Themed Ice Skating Routine” by Lee Moran: “Tatiana Navka, a former Olympic figure skating medalist and wife of Putin’s chief spokesman Dmitry Peskov, donned striped concentration camp uniforms complete with yellow stars of David, to competed for top honors on the celebrity competition show “Ice Age.” She and her partner Andre Burkovsky skated across the ice to “Beautiful That Way” by Israeli singer Achinoam “Noa” Nini. The performance appeared to be well received by the audience… Navka posted photographs of their performance to Instagram after the show. She explained the routine was “based on one of my favorite movies” and that it was important for children to know about the Holocaust.” [HuffPost; ToI]

ICYMI: “Anti-Semitism, America, and the Jews” by Alana Newhouse: “Here’s the truth that our communal leaders have been nervously dancing around for far too long: You are free to assimilate; you always have been. But you can’t abrogate both Jewish knowledge and Jewish experience and still be meaningfully Jewish. By diluting your Jewishness, you are depriving America of the gifts your ancestors brought here, and in doing so you are damaging a country that has been good to us.” [TabletMag]

HOLLYWOOD: “Natalie Portman Is Jackie Kennedy: Our First Lady of Sorrows” by Boris Kachka: “Natalie Portman was born in Jerusalem to an Israeli father and American mother. They moved Stateside when she was 3, living in Maryland and Connecticut before settling on Long Island… Portman’s version of Jackie is a woman who’s privately brash, secretly terrified, and publicly a lacquered black box. “She was an incredibly mysterious person, and I think Natalie has that in her eyes,” says Jackie director Pablo Larraín. “That’s why I wanted so many close-ups.” Portman’s polyglot charm, dancer’s poise, and eminent cheekbones compelled a writer to call her “the Jewish Jackie Kennedy.”” [Vulture

Ben Platt on Late Night with Seth Meyers: “Dear Evan Hansen star Ben Platt chats with Seth about his intense love of theater since childhood and his family’s neighborhood claim-to-fame as the Von Platts.”[NBC]

SPORTS BLINK: “Steve Kerr talks about his father’s assassination, growing up in the Middle East, not ‘sticking to sports’” by Olgun Uluc: “Speaking on ‘The Axe Files’ — a CNN and University of Chicago podcast, hosted by former Barack Obama Senior Advisor, David Axelrod — Kerr recalled the day he received the call about his father’s death, and how growing up in the Middle East — he was born in Beirut, Lebanon, before living in Egypt — has shaped his attitude toward the current state of politics… Despite understanding the risks of his father’s job — the family had their car firebombed by the Jewish Defence League, a far-right religious-political organisation — the Golden State Warriors’ head coach was in shock when he was told the news… “My dad was beloved in the Middle East. He spoke fluent Arabic. He was a champion for the Palestinian cause. If anything, we were more worried about right wing Israeli politics than anything going on in Lebanon,” Kerr said.” [FoxSports] • Listen to the podcast[CNN]

WEEKEND WEDDING: “Jenna Kauffman and Jonathan Grinberg: Don’t Send Flowers. Pizza Will Do” by Rosalie Radomsky: “Jenna Shane Kauffman was married Nov. 26 to Jonathan Grinberg. The couple met in April 2014 at a Seder on the first night of Passover at Sammy’s Roumanian Steakhouse on the Lower East Side of New York. He quickly learned that she loved pizza, which she stayed away from during Passover in observance of the holiday’s tradition of not eating bread. He ordered a large Domino’s pizza with extra cheese and ranch dressing to be delivered to her apartment as soon as the holiday was over. They began dating, and the next Passover she sat with him and his friend’s family at Sammy’s Roumanian.” [NYTimes]

BIRTHDAYS: Songwriter, arranger and composer, winner of two Academy Awards, three Emmys and six Grammys, Randy Newman turns 73… David Letterman’s musical director, band leader and sidekick from 1982 to 2015, Paul Shaffer turns 67… Former judge on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals and then Homeland Security Secretary (2005-2009), Michael Chertoff turns 63… Comedian and host of The Daily Show on Comedy Central (1999-2015), Jon Stewart (born Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz) turns 54… National political reporter for the Washington Post, Matea Gold turns 42… Principal at Podesta Group after five years at the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, Anna Weinstein… New Orleans Attorney and Associate Professor of Trial Advocacy at Tulane University Law School, Joel Loeffelholz… Managing Partner and founder of PR firm, EDGE Partners, Jeremy Wimpfheimer… Executive Director of Bikkurim, an incubator for Jewish nonprofit organizations, Aliza Mazor… Jude Rabinowitz… Steven Barkin

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