Daily Kickoff: Meet Trump’s determined inaugural spokesman Boris Epshteyn | Ofer Brothers’ Lottery | Wary of Adelson, Jon Ralston launches news site


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HEARD AT DAVOS — “His expertise seems to be that he once went to Jewish summer camp,” Tom Friedman telling John Kerry about Jared Kushner becoming Trump’s Middle East peace envoy. [Twitter]

PATH TO PENN AVE — With Donald Trump’s inauguration only days away, several prominent JI readers shared with us their expectations for the upcoming Trump Administration, its relationship with the Jewish community and Israel, along with any advice they would give to the new President and his senior advisor Jared Kushner. Over the next few days, we will feature additional responses here. Email us your thoughts at Editor@JewishInsider.com

Q: What are your expectations of a President Trump? 

Dr. Dore Gold, former Director-General of Israel’s Foreign Ministry: “I hope President Trump will restore America’ deterrent power making its enemies think twice before they drag the US or its allies into another war.”

NYC Councilman David Greenfield (D-Brooklyn): “I expect President Trump will be more pragmatic than candidate Trump.”

Noam Neusner, WH Jewish Liaison for Bush 43: “Washington has never seen anything like a Donald Trump Administration. It’s impossible to predict what he will do, but one thing is for sure – 100 days won’t limit him in any way.”

Q: What will the relationship between the Trump administration and the Jewish community look like?

Greenfield: “The relationship between President Trump and most Jewish groups will likely be contentious with the exception of Orthodox Jewish groups that traditionally skew Republican.”

Neusner: “Cautious and wary, on both sides. But both sides of that relationship have a lot to gain by regular dialogue, and they’d both be smart to focus on where they can work together.”

Q: Will Israel become more partisan in DC?

Greenfield: “There is enough political support in both parties for Israel to remain bi-partisan. A good example of that is the significant number of senior Democratic members of Congress who slammed President Obama for the UN resolution. That’s good. Because it’s not in Israel’s interest for Israel to be a partisan issue.”

Neusner: “It already is – the party’s leadership and major supporters are still meaningfully and overwhelmingly pro-Israel, but a party’s base determines the party’s future – and the Democratic base has turned against Israel. The pro-Israel Democratic activists have their work cut out for them.”

Ann Lewis, former White House Communications Director for the Clinton Administration: “I think this new administration poses a serious challenge for the Jewish community. For decades, we have built bipartisan support for a strong US-Israel relationship, based on shared values and shared strategic interests. Unfortunately, it seems that Trump administration strategy is to make Israel a partisan issue, one that divides the Jewish community and our allies. That’s bad math and bad politics. It would reduce our ability to be effective on everything we care about: US-Israel and domestic issues alike. With so much at stake, I think the American Jewish community will be smart enough to overcome attempts to divide us – but we will have work to do.”

Q: What will happen with the Iran deal? 

Gold: “The agreement with Iran is dangerous for Israel and the West as a whole. It expires after little more than a decade allowing Iran to resume unlimited uranium enrichment with fast centrifuges. The agreement puts no limits on Iran’s ballistic missile program which will give it the ability to strike America, just as its enrichment program is restarted. The West needs an entirely new approach.”

Neusner: “Depends on a lot of things I don’t know – what does the intel say, what promises were made by the Obama administration have been broken by the Iranians, how angry are Republicans about being lied to and steamrolled by the Obama administration, and the appetite of Trump’s security team for a big effort to rebuild the international coalition blocking Iran from access to global banking, trade and energy markets. That takes a lot of work – they have to be willing to do it to tear up the deal. Also, it may be a major test for Trump and his relationship with Putin.”

PROFILE: “No Stars? No Problem! Meet Donald Trump’s Determined Inaugural Spokesman” by Olivia Nuzzi: “[Boris] Epshteyn’s journey to the center of Trump’s orbit begins, like Trump’s victory might’ve, in Moscow. He was raised there until 1993, when he immigrated to Princeton, New Jersey, with his father, who he said is a scientist, and mother, a real-estate agent. He describes his family as Jewish refugees and doesn’t have much by way of a sense of humor about the coincidence of his Russian heritage and the claims that the country meddled in the U.S. election that made his boss president. “I was 11,” he said, sternly, when asked about any connections he might have to Russia now. He added that rumors, like one that he’s a Russian spy, which have been floated on Democratic message boards, are “offensive.””

“Asked how he reconciles his Jewish faith with the enthusiastic support of some anti-Semites for the incoming president, he denied the premise. “If you look at my Twitter and the things the left has said about me, it’s as bad if not worse,” he said, “and I’ve had family who died in the Holocaust.” He added, “I know that the president-elect is somebody who’s accepting, uniting, kind, obviously he’s got members of his family who are Jewish—his daughter is Jewish, his son-in-law’s Jewish, his grandkids are Jewish, and to me personally, I cannot express the amount of support and positivity that I’ve experienced from the president-elect.”” [DailyBeast]

“Surprisingly, Trump inauguration shapes up to be a relatively low-key affair” by John Wagner and Karen Tumulty: “Trump’s trip down Pennsylvania Avenue is expected to clock in at 90 minutes — making it among the shortest on record. In a word, the 45th president’s inaugural activities will be “workmanlike,” said Boris Epshteyn, communications director for the Presidential Inaugural Committee.” [WashPost]

Anshel Pfeffer: “Nearly every settler leader I’ve spoken to in the last few days is boarding a plane in 24 hours to Washington for the #TrumpInauguration” [Twitter

Eli Pieprz, Director of International Affairs for YESHA Council tells us that Oded Revivi, Chief Foreign Envoy for YESHA Council and Mayor of Efrat, will lead the delegation, which includes Yossi Dagan, Mayor of Samaria Regional Council, and Beni Kashriel, Mayor of Maale Adumim and leading candidate to replace Natan Sharansky as head of the Jewish Agency in June.

“Scalpers losing money on tickets to Trump inauguration” by Adam Edelman: “Yossi Rosenberg, 36, of upper Manhattan, told the Daily News, he bought a pair of tickets to Friday’sWashington, D.C. event from a woman in Westchester County for $700, thinking he could flip them for at least twice as much. But nobody’s biting. “Nobody wants to buy them,” Rosenberg told The News.” It looks like I’m stuck with them, I might even have to go.”” [NYDN

TOP TALKER: “Jared Kushner has Trump’s trust but lacks experience for Middle East role” by Peter Beaumont: “It has emerged that the only previous encounter Kushner… has had with Israel’s prime minister was when he was a child and Benjamin Netanyahu visited his father. Indeed, Kushner’s only other significant contact with a senior Israeli politician before last year appears to have been with the mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat… Kushner’s views on the issue are believed to be reflected in his contribution to a speech Trump delivered to a pro-Israel lobby group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, in the spring… Palestinian officials… told the Guardian that they had been told several weeks ago that Kushner was calling “the shots on the issue”, including over the embassy move.” [Guardian

“Likud minister Tzachi Hanegbi: Trump could edge Palestinians toward peace” by Raphael Ahren: “The fact that we have such a major change in the US could make the Palestinians become more realistic and more pragmatic about going back to the negotiating table,” he said… If the Trump administration decides it wants to play a role in fostering Israeli-Palestinian peace, “we will be more than happy,” as long as Washington’s role remains helping the parties “sit in intimate environment to try to put our disputes to an end.” [ToI]

“For Israel, more unknowns than knowns with Trump” by Ben Caspit: “No one can remember the last time that Jews waited for anyone — apart from the Messiah… with the kind of eager anticipation they have of Trump taking office. One Likud member jokingly told Al-Monitor that the people of Israel expect Trump to forgo Air Force One and come riding in on a white donkey, as Jewish tradition has the Messiah arriving. The Israeli right’s expectations in regard to the new president are sky high… When it comes to Israel’s relationship with the Palestinians, to moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem… Israel’s defense establishment prefers to wait until Trump formulates his positions. “There is no way of knowing which way he will go,” one senior defense official told Al-Monitor.” [Al-Monitor] • Yair Lapid: ‘Donald Trump is a great friend of Israel’ [France24]

John Kerry on Kushner as Mideast peace envoy: “Well, more power to them if they can do that. But you have to have a theory of how you’re going to do that and what compromises are going to be made to do it… The leaders of the two countries involved – one country and one entity, the Palestinian Authority – have failed to come to the table and reach [an] agreement. You know the old saying – you can lead a horse to water, you can’t make it drink. Now, we did a lot of leading to a lot of water, but people decided they weren’t ready for one reason or another to move.” [State] • Kerry tells Benjamin Netanyahu: ‘You’re affecting the ability to make peace’ [JPost]

HEARD YESTERDAY — Outgoing National Security Advisor Susan Rice to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem: “Already, the reaction of some of our closest partners in the region, most notably Jordan that has indicated that it would put great stress on their security – the internal dynamics in Jordan and throughout the region – because this is a very emotional issue and one that many presidents have considered when they were running for president, but not a single American President has chosen to date to make that decision because it’s an extremely volatile choice and one that would put stability inside of Israel and the Palestinian territories, and potentially even the security of American personnel in the region at risk.”

EXIT INTERVIEW — “Joe Biden: ‘I Wish to Hell I’d Just Kept Saying the Exact Same Thing’” by Jonathan Alter: “Biden’s national security adviser, Colin Kahl, who was with the vice president on the plane, interjected to outline the contradictions in Trump’s emerging foreign policy. If the United States is going to be more cooperative with Russia and Bashar al-Assad’s Syria but more confrontational with Iran, Kahl asked, how will Trump handle them joining together to fight ISIS? “It’s like a Rubik’s cube trying to figure this guy out,” Biden sighed. “We have no freakin’ idea what he’s gonna do.” [NYTimes]

“CIA Director John Brennan Rejects Donald Trump’s Criticism” by Shane Harris: “It’s when there are allegations made about leaking or about dishonesty or a lack of integrity, that’s where I think the line is crossed,” he continued, taking particular umbrage at Mr. Trump’s comments last week that leaking intelligence on political figures was something that Nazi Germany “would have done and did do.” “Tell the families of those 117 CIA officers who are forever memorialized on our wall of honor that their loved ones who gave their lives were akin to Nazis,” Mr. Brennan said. “Tell the CIA officers who are serving in harm’s way right now and their families who are worried about them that they are akin to Nazi Germany. I found that to be very repugnant, and I will forever stand up for the integrity and patriotism of my officers who have done much over the years to sacrifice for their fellow citizens.” [WSJ

“Ex-CIA chief rejects report Israel was warned of sharing intel with Trump” by Yonah Jeremy Bob: “Former CIA and NSA director Gen. (ret.) Michael Hayden rejected a recent report that Obama administration intelligence officials told Israeli officials to be wary of sharing intelligence with the incoming Trump administration… “I don’t share those concerns. I saw the reporting. I don’t think, even looking at the dynamics we are talking about, I don’t think the Americans would do it. It is still America’s CIA.” Regarding US-Israeli intelligence cooperation in general, he said that Trump’s pick for CIA director, Mike Pompeo, should see to it that one of his first visits is to Israel.” [JPost

TRANSITION TOWER: “‘Never Trump’ national-security Republicans fear they have been blacklisted” by David Nakamura: “The conflict was exacerbated shortly after the election when Eliot Cohen… aired new criticism of the Trump transition… and he warned young policy experts against working for the administration. Cohen has had no further communications with the transition team. “Believe me — my phone is not ringing,” he said in a recent interview. Other letter signers said Cohen had misinterpreted emails from the transition official and overreacted, and some of them expressed a sense of regret.” [WashPost

“How a liberal Santa Monica high school produced a top Trump advisor and speechwriter” by Lisa Mascaro: “Miller grew up in the tony north-of-Montana neighborhood, the middle child, in a Jewish family of longtime Franklin Roosevelt Democrats. He played tennis and golf. But their status abruptly shifted when his parents’ real estate company faltered and the family moved to a rental on the south side of town. A subscription to Guns and Ammo magazine introduced him to the writings of National Rifle Assn. leader Wayne LaPierre, sparking Miller’s interest in politics. The conservative ideas were like nothing he had ever heard.” [LATimes]

“Mnuchin’s stiff prep” by Mike Allen: “Transition officials tell us they are worried about Steven Mnuchin’s readiness for his Thursday confirmation hearing to run Treasury. In early prep sessions, he came off as uneven and stiff, so extra people were brought in to help get him ready. (One spy at the transition office told me that all the suits surrounding a conference table during one of Mnuchin’s prep sessions made it look like a Fortune 500 board meeting.) And some insiders worry about how he’d react to demonstrators. Democrats hope to derail at least one pick, and Mnuchin still tops the list.” [Axios]

“Donald Trump Asks Richard LeFrak, Steven Roth to Monitor Infrastructure Plan’s Costs” by Peter Grant and Ted Mann: “Mr. Roth is chairman and chief executive of Vornado Realty Trust, a large real-estate investment trust that owns high profile office and retail property in New York, Washington, D.C. and other cities. Vornado controls two of Mr. Trump’s most valuable assets: 30% stakes in office buildings at 1290 Sixth Avenue in Manhattan and 555 California Street in San Francisco. Mr. Trump’s annual pretax income from the two assets comes to roughly $22.7 million, according to a financial services firm’s analysis last year of Vornado filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.” [WSJ]

ON THE HILL: “McCain leans toward voting for Tillerson” by Cyra Master: “Some of my concerns have been satisfied, [but] I haven’t made up my mind completely,” McCain said… When pressed Monday evening on whether he’ll support Tillerson going forward, McCain said, “Barely, yes.” [TheHill

“Marco Rubio still mulling vote on Tillerson confirmation” by Patricia Mazzei: “We’re going to go through the transcripts of the hearing, which I’ve begun to do,” Rubio told reporters in Miami. “We need to have a foreign policy that while always acting in the national interest of the United States is always rooted in our values as a nation.” [TampaBay

“What will Feinstein do? California Democrats await senator’s reelection decision to plot their own futures” by Seema Mehta: “News that Feinstein was fitted with a pacemaker last week reignited the parlor game, with California political circles discussing anew what the procedure might mean for the veteran lawmaker as she evaluates her options.” [LATimes]

BUZZ ON BALFOUR: “New Leaks: Netanyahu and Mozes Discuss How Deeply Adelson’s Daily Must Be Cut” by Haaretz: “According to Channel 2, Netanyahu and Mozes discussed how the number of copies of Sheldon Adelson’s Israel Hayom can be reduced in order to ease the competition with Mozes’ Yedioth Ahronoth… Meanwhile, Channel 10 reported Mondaythat the prime minister’s son Yair Netanyahu will arrive Tuesday evening at the offices of the police’s Lahav 433 fraud investigations unit to give his version of the gifts affair. The younger Netanyahu is expected to be asked about the financing he received from the Australian billionaire James Packer and Packer’s connection with his father.” [Haaretz

“Adelson expected to testify in Netanyahu probe — report” by Raoul Wootliff: “According to a Channel 10 report Monday, investigators are expected to ask Adelson whether he was aware of the alleged quid pro quo deal the prime minister discussed with Yedioth publisher Arnon Mozes. It is unclear if Adelson, who lives in the US, will come to Israel to speak with police or will provide a written or video testimony.” [ToI]  

MEDIA WATCH: “Wary of Sheldon Adelson, Nevada Journalist Starts a News Website” by Timothy Pratt and Sydney Emberjan: “In blog posts and postings on Twitter, Jon Ralston, perhaps the state’s most prominent political reporter and columnist, referred to The Review-Journal as “The Adelson News,” suggesting Mr. Adelson was unduly influencing Nevada’s largest newspaper… On Tuesday, Mr. Ralston will set off on his own with The Nevada Independent, a nonprofit, donation-based news website that he hopes will add more journalistic heft to the coverage of state politics… The site, he said, will focus on state and local politics, and public policy, but it will also delve into areas like business… Mr. Ralston said he did not start The Independent as a response to Mr. Adelson’s acquisition or any other negative perceptions about the state of the news media in Nevada.” [NYTimes]

** Good Tuesday 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 **

DAVOS SCENE: “Trump’s Translator Wants The Global Elite To Understand Him” by Miriam Elder: “Anthony Scaramucci was once known as the party boy of Davos, hosting a shindig at the hotel piano bar that is the center of social life during the week that the small Alpine village turns into a gathering of the global elite. This year, the asset manager turned Trump adviser came to the World Economic Forum, as one participant put it, as an “ambassador and future interpreter.” Those gathered at Davos represent the epitome of what Donald Trump ran against — men (and a few women) in fine suits cloistered away in the Swiss Alps discussing their prescriptions for making the world a better place, while ensuring the average Joe remains far from the checkpoints that line the roads to the village center.” [BuzzFeed]

SPOTLIGHT: “One Winner, One Loser in Brothers’ Lottery Worth Billions” by Devon Pendleton and Yaacov Benmeleh: “After outside managers divvied up shipping magnate Sammy Ofer’s hundreds of tankers, container carriers, and other cargo vessels into two groups of equal value, sons Idan and Eyal each picked one out of a hat as their mother looked on. “We literally reached in and grabbed an envelope,” says the younger brother, Idan, 61. “And that’s it. It was peaceful, no drama.” … When the split was finalized in 2013, both brothers were worth more than $6 billion. Idan’s stash has since dropped to $3 billion while the fortune of Eyal has grown to $8.6 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.” [Bloomberg]

“Mark Zuckerberg: Don’t Raise Your Child as a JewBu” by Naomi Schaefer Riley: “Last month, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg wished Facebook users a Happy Chanukah and a Merry Christmas… It was a lovely sentiment. But wait, one of his more sharp-eyed “friends” responded, “Aren’t you an atheist?” “No,” wrote back Zuckerberg. “I was raised Jewish and then I went through a period where I questioned things, but now I believe religion is very important.”” [Acculturated]

TALK OF THE TOWN: “Dispute over Obama’s membership in largely Jewish country club heats up” by George Altshuler: “[Jeffrey] Slavin wrote in a widely circulated email to Woodmont General Manager Brian Pizzimenti that he was withdrawing from the club… “I can no longer belong to a community where intolerance is accepted, where history is forgotten, where freedom of speech is denied and where the nation’s first black president is disrespected,” wrote Slavin, who is active in the Democratic Party and the liberal pro-Israel organization J Street… Slavin said that he was inspired this weekend to resign from the club after attending an interfaith Shabbat service at Washington Hebrew Congregation that honored Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He added that since he went public with his resignation, he had received a good amount of hate email, including from Jews who accused him of being anti-Semitic.” [WashJewishWeek; TheHill]

“Will Holocaust survivor, longtime presidents’ tailor, dress Trump?” by Renee Ghert-Zand: “Martin Greenfield, 88, has made suits for both Democratic and Republican presidents, including President Dwight Eisenhower, who, as a Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces in Europe had liberated Greenfield from the Buchenwald concentration camp in April 1945… Whether or not Trump would be open to changing his look, Jay Greenfield said Martin Greenfield Clothiers would be appreciative to get a suit order from the White House after January 20. “It is always an honor to dress the president of the United States,” he said.” [ToI

“The alt-right eats its own: Neo-Nazi podcaster “Mike Enoch” quits after doxxers reveal his wife is Jewish” by Matthew Sheffield: “Mike Enoch’s downfall was set in motion in December when a former alt-right vlogger named Mike Cernovich hinted to his viewers that one of his rivals “is morbidly obese and is married to a Jewish woman.” He declined to say whom he meant, but that salacious rumor set the cyber-sleuths to their task. As the doxxing unfolded this weekend, Peinovich said nothing on Twitter or on his own site… When asked if he would be willing to conduct a telephone interview, Peinovich replied, “Let me talk to my wife.” He never answered back.” [Salon

HOW I BUILT THIS — Honest Tea: Seth Goldman: “In 1997, after going for a long run, Seth Goldman was frustrated with the sugar-filled drinks at the corner market. So he brewed up a beverage in his kitchen, and turned it into Honest Tea.” [NPR]

SPORTS BLINK: “Theo Epstein on baseball, politics and what he may do next” by Matthew Jaffe: “What’s next when you have helped snap the two longest championship droughts in sports history and, at 43, have all but clinched a place in baseball’s Hall of Fame? If you are Theo Epstein of the World Series champion Chicago Cubs, the answer is at some point you could own a baseball franchise and not just run one.” [CNN] • Rabbi Jack Moline at the White House yesterday for the Cubs celebration with a kippah signed by the players [Pic]

WEEKEND WEDDING: Alisha Kinman, marketing coordinator at UF Health, recently married Nadav Katz, assistant director at University of Florida’s Division of Enrollment Management. “The wedding was at the UF Hilton in Gainesville, Florida. Nadav and I met at our local synagogue in Gainesville, Congregation B’nai Israel. Nadav moved to Gainesville from Jerusalem, Israel at 16 years old. However, we didn’t start dating until about 6 years ago when we reconnected over the high holidays at B’nai.” [Instapic]

BIRTHDAYS: Host of tv tabloid talk show “Maury,” originally known as the “Maury Povich Show,” Maury Povich turns 78… Joseph Berger turns 71… Majority owner of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, founder and Chairman of Quicken Loans, Dan Gilbert turns 55… Odessa-born, dancer, choreographer and dance instructor, widely known as one of the professional dancers in “Dancing with the Stars,” Maksim Chmerkovskiy turns 37… Freelance writer and digital content manager at Emily’s List, Alyssa Franke turns 25… President and co-founder of Bluelight Strategies, a marketing, media relations, message development, branding and social media firm, Steve Rabinowitz… Kansas City-native, now DC-based SVP for PR firm Finsbury, previously VP of media strategy at Ketchum, and for 15 years prior to that a reporter for both Reuters and Bloomberg, Jeremy Pelofsky (h/t Playbook)… New York Director of Institutional Advancement for Moishe House, previously director of individual giving at the JCC Association, Jason Freeman… National Political Reporter at RealClearPolitics, previously a writer for the Washington Examiner and BuzzFeed, Rebecca Berg… Aisha Creswick

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Daily Kickoff: The ‘Davos Class’ in the Trump Era | The Other Kushner Brother | Lynton leaves Sony for Snapchat | Remembering Irwin Isaacson Jr.


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DRIVING THE WEEK: Parallel Inauguration Week — “Corporations Open the Cash Spigot for Trump’s Inauguration” by Nicholas Fandos: “Chevron, the oil giant, has given $500,000 for the dayslong festivities. Boeing, which has been a target of Mr. Trump, pledged $1 million. And Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, giants of the gambling industry, are said to have donated more than that by themselves… In exchange, Mr. Trump’s most prolific donors will gain access to what amounts to a parallel inauguration week, carefully planned and largely out of public sight, during which they can mingle with members of the incoming administration over intimate meals and witness Mr. Trump’s ascension from the front rows.”

Thomas Barrack Jr., the private equity investor leading the committee, said his group’s work was made considerably easier by a large untapped pool of donors who for one reason or another did not support Mr. Trump’s campaign. “A lot of the people who were not on board early on are now getting on,” said Mel Sembler, a longtime Republican fund-raiser who has helped solicit donations… Sembler agreed, but said it was certainly “good public relations” for American companies to be backing the celebration. “It’s important to have your name there if you are in that business,” he said. “It’s like supporting your community.” [NYTimes]

TOP TALKER: “Trump could cause ‘the death of think tanks as we know them’” by Josh Rogin: “Those close to him, including chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon and senior adviser Jared Kushner, see think tanks as part of a Washington culture that has failed to implement good governance, while becoming beholden to donors. “This is the death of think tanks as we know them in D.C.,” one transition official told me… If the Trump team succeeds in diminishing the influence of Washington think tanks and keeping their scholars out of government, policymaking will suffer. Many of these scholars hold the institutional knowledge and deep subject matter expertise the incoming administration needs.” [WashPost

“Donald Trump: I’ll do a deal with Britain” by Michael Gove and Oliver Wright: “Mr. Trump also confirmed that he would appoint Jared Kushner, his son-in-law, to broker a Middle East peace deal (“He’s a good boy and he will get an Israel agreement that no one else would pull off”), urged Britain to veto any new UN Security Council resolution critical of Israel and repeated his criticism of President Obama’s handling of the Iran nuclear deal.” [SunTimes• Trump Calls NATO Obsolete and Dismisses EU in German Interview [Bloomberg; Bild]  

Trump on the Iran deal: “I don’t want to say what I am gonna to do with the Iran deal. I just don’t want to play the cards. I mean, look, I’m not a politician, I don’t go out and say, ‘I’m gonna do this’ – I’m gonna do, I gotta do what I gotta do… But I’m not happy with the Iran deal.” [SunTimes]

Europe hits back at Trump over NATO, Iran deal: “Speaking ahead of a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels, Federica Mogherini said the deal was “proof that diplomacy works and delivers.” … Britain’s foreign minister Boris Johnson also defended the deal, saying it had “great merit” and “we want to keep it going.”” [AFP]

“Reince Priebus: Iran Nuclear Deal Is ‘On Life Support’” by Harriet Torry: “Mr. Priebus told ABC’s “This Week” that a decision on the Iran deal will be made by the incoming president in conjunction with his closest advisers. “We all know that President-elect Trump doesn’t like the Iran deal, thinks it’s a terrible document…but moving forward, the best way is going to be something that is going to be a collective decision that is made, of course, with President-elect Trump having the primary say,” Mr. Priebus said. “I’m not here to declare one way or the other ultimately where this is going to go, but I do believe it’s on life support,” Mr. Priebus said.” [WSJ

“Obama says U.N. vote didn’t rupture U.S.-Israel relations” by Phil Stewart: “I don’t think it caused a major rupture in relations between the United States and Israel,” Obama said in an interview with the CBS program “60 Minutes” airing on Sunday night. “If you’re saying that Prime Minister Netanyahu – got fired up, he’s been fired up repeatedly during the course of my presidency.” [Reuters

“Obama’s parting thoughts on Syria, Israel” by Cyra Master: “And despite all the noise and hullabaloo, military cooperation, intelligence cooperation, all of that has continued. We have defended them consistently in every imaginable way.” But, he said, allowing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to worsen is a problem for both the U.S. and Israel and said settlements are “a contributing factor to the inability to solve that problem.” Obama said he wanted “to make that point” with the vote.” [TheHill; CBSNews]

HEARD LAST NIGHT: Sen. Chuck Schumer at the annual HASC concert in NYC: “…That awful one-sided resolution at the UN. But some of us worked very hard and tonight they announced, no matter what happens in Paris, nothing more is going to happen at the UN. So we don’t have to worry about that.” [Video]

DRIVING THE CONVERSATION: “Mideast conference has an urgent message for Trump” by Carol Morello and William Booth: “Though Trump was not mentioned by name, there was widespread concern in Paris that the new administration, which will occupy the White House in five days, will be so pro-Israel that its policies could threaten the idea of two states living side by side in peace and security, with Jerusalem as their shared capital… And Netanyahu signaled that he was looking forward to Trump’s inauguration when he said the conference exemplified the “final palpitations of yesterday’s world. Tomorrow will look a lot different, and tomorrow is very close.”

— “Israeli media reported that Netanyahu brought up [the UNSC resolution] and told Kerry flatly that “the damage was already done.” Kerry pulled out a sheet of paper that apparently was a transcript of his phone call, and he read aloud a portion of it regarding the resolution, inviting reporters to quote in its entirety what he told Netanyahu: “Now, I want to stress this point: We fully respect Israel’s profound historic and religious ties to the city and to its holy sites. We’ve never questioned that. This resolution in no manner prejudges the outcome of permanent status negotiations on East Jerusalem, which must, of course, reflect those historic ties and the realities on the ground. That’s our position. We still support it.”” [WashPost; AFP

“Kerry says ‘inappropriate’ for conference to mention possible U.S. embassy move to Jerusalem” by Lesley Wroughton: “”It is being debated publicly at home and does not belong within international fora at this moment in time. It’s inappropriate,” Kerry told reporters.” [Reuters

“Israeli officials cheer ‘weakened’ Paris peace summit declaration” by Raphael Ahren: “The Israeli officials were jubilant that “problematic passages” in a contentious recent UN Security Council resolution on the settlements were not included in the Paris document… Furthermore, the Israeli officials expressed satisfaction over the fact that no further action against Israeli settlements is planned at the Security Council… The ostensible success, the officials concluded, was the “result of harsh reactions” voiced by Israel against Resolution 2334.” [ToI

“UK signals closeness to Trump with snub to French Middle East summit” by Patrick Wintour: “The British government has signalled its determination to stay close to Donald Trump’s administration by refusing to send a high-level delegation to the Middle East peace conference organised by the French government… Trump’s transition team reportedly told French diplomats they disapproved of the conference going ahead, seeing it as an attempt to put unfair pressure on Israel and give an unjustified reward to the Palestinians.” [Guardian• Anshel Pfeffer: “This statement from UK government on the Paris conference is exactly Netanyahu’s position (minus a bit of rhetoric).” [Twitter

“Here’s what Plan B in the Middle East should look like” by Stuart E. Eizenstat and Dennis Ross: “Building could continue unabated within the three major settlement blocs near the pre-1967 Green Line… But settlement expansion would cease in those areas outside the blocs in what could eventually become a demilitarized Palestinian state… The other centerpiece of Plan B would be empowering the Palestinian economy through the kind of private-sector development the Trump administration should like, rather than sending more U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority.” [WashPost

TRANSITION TOWER: “Trump slow to vet ultra-rich ambassador candidates” by Tara Palmeri: “Another candidate for Italy, financier Lew Eisenberg, a Trump loyalist, has the confidence of the transition team to get through brutal Senate hearings, a transition official said… “For Lew Eisenberg, the transition team is very comfortable that this issue has been publicly dismissed and has no merit,” the official added, noting Eisenberg’s loyalty to Trump. “Lew’s a different situation, because he’s been so active.”” [Politico

“In Bid to Block David Friedman’s Ambassadorship, Liberal Jews Lean on Chuck Schumer” by Judy Maltz: “Over the weekend, a group of 120 professors of Jewish studies, representing universities and colleges across the United States, sent a letter to Schumer urging him to vote against the appointment… Ricki Lieberman, a Democratic Party activist based in Israel who has worked as a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton, is encouraging the “many thousands” of Trump opponents on her email list to write letters to Schumer expressing their opposition to Friedman’s appointment.” [Haaretz

“Israeli Settler Leaders Will Attend Trump Inauguration” by Naomi Zeveloff: “Yehuda Glick, a Brooklyn-born rabbi and member of the Israeli parliament’s ruling Likud party confirmed that he will be attending the inauguration with fellow Likud lawmaker Sharren Haskel… According to the Times of Israel, Oded Revivi, the chairman of the Yesha settler’s council, will be attending along with Benny Kasriel, the mayor of Ma’aleh Adumim, a settlement outside Jerusalem.” [Forward

BUZZ IN BALFOUR: “Netanyahu Reportedly Orchestrated Meeting Between Media Mogul and Businessmen: “According to Channel 2, Netanyahu helped set up meetings between Mozes and the Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, the Australian billionaire James Packer and even Oracle CEO Larry Ellison. He also helped Mozes reach out to the German media concern Axel Springer. All contacts were made as part of an attempt to help Mozes’ Yedioth Aharnoth daily deal with financial issues by bringing in investors… Last week, Channel 10 reported that police had searched Arnon Milchan’s office and found receipts for the purchase of cigars and other gifts for Netanyahu adding up to over 400,000 shekels ($105,000). According to that report, additional receipts for gifts worth tens or even hundreds of thousands of shekels were found in the offices of Australian billionaire James Packer.” [Haaretz] • Netanyahu decries ‘biased leaks’ over scandal with publisher [ToI]

“The neutering of Israeli journalism” by David Horivitz: “There’s a great deal that we do not definitively know, and might come to know fairly soon. But what we’ve learned already stinks. And it stinks, particularly, from the journalistic side of the political power/media watchdog equation. Politicians — shock — want to stay in power. It’s why they are politicians. Prime ministers most of all. Journalists are meant to scrutinize them, honestly.” [ToI
** 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 **
PROFILE: “The Other Kushner Brother’s Big Bet” by Katie Benner: “In the weeks after the election, Mr. Kushner has grappled with many questions over Oscar Health. The company, which is one of Mr. Kushner’s most prominent investments, sells health insurance to individuals under President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. That is a law that Jared Kushner is uniquely positioned to influence now that he is a senior adviser to the president-elect, which puts his younger brother and the start-up in an awkward position. At the same time, Joshua Kushner has had to deal with queries from investors in his venture capital funds who have asked him how Mr. Trump’s ascension would affect his work”

“Joshua Kushner grew up in New Jersey, where his grandparents, Holocaust survivors who immigrated from Europe in 1949, had built apartments… At Harvard, Mr. Kushner roomed with Alexander Blankfein, the son of the chief executive of Goldman Sachs, Lloyd Blankfein. His circle also included Alexander de Carvalho, an heir to the Heineken beer fortune. Mr. Kushner dipped into media when he became the executive editor of a short-lived society magazine for Harvard students called Scene…”

“Mr. Kushner set about building Thrive in a methodical way, drawing on his constellation of connections. Aryeh Bourkoff, the founder of LionTree, a merchant bank that specializes in tech and media deals, said he was impressed by Mr. Kushner’s focus when the young investor spoke at an event Mr. Bourkoff held in 2011. Mr. Kushner argued before a roomful of media executives that online video would create more upheaval than the cable industry anticipated. Many in the room disagreed with that idea at the time but said he made a compelling case.” [NYTimes]

“Courtside Ventures has active first year of dealmaking” by Michael Smith: “Courtside Ventures, the venture capital fund headlined by Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, George Pyne’s Bruin Sports Capital, and WPP, spent its first year investing in 14 early-stage companies… The idea behind the $35 million fund, which launched in January 2016, was to dive deep into the intersection of sports, media and technology, something it did with investments that ranged from $200,000 up to $1.5 million across the 14 businesses.” [BizJournals]

TRANSITION: “Michael Lynton Exiting Sony to Serve as Snapchat Chairman” by Kim Masters: “Michael Lynton is stepping down from his position as CEO of Sony Entertainment, the film, television and music conglomerate, to serve full-time as chairman of the board of social media power Snapchat. Lynton, who before Sony was an executive at Penguin Group, The Walt Disney Co. and AOL Europe, was an early investor in Los Angeles-based Snapchat and has served on the board of the renamed Snap Inc. for four years. He quietly became board chairman in late 2016.” [HollywoodReporter]

“Will Mark Zuckerberg Be Our Next President?” by Nick Bilton: “Increasingly, a number of influential people in Silicon Valley seem to think that Mark Zuckerberg will likely run for president of the United States one day. And some people, including myself, believe that he could indeed win. “He wants to be emperor” is a phrase that has become common among people who have known him over the years.” [VanityFair]

TALK OF THE TOWN: “At Least Washington Finally Has Interesting Billionaires Now” by Benjamin Freed: “Outside of sports and [David] Rubenstein, DC’s billionaires are a fairly quiet bunch, not really the scary “billyunayuhs” of a Bernie Sanders rally. That’s all changing thanks to Donald Trump. It’s hard for anyone, regardless of net worth, to be as colorful as the President-elect. But DC really feels like the invasion of the billionaires is truly underway.” [Washingtonian]

“What to Make of the ‘Davos Class’ in the Trump Era” by Andrew Ross Sorkin: “The World Economic Forum — an annual gathering of global policy and business leaders, who come to debate the world’s great challenges — gets underway here Monday night as the shifting political trends toward nationalism and against a sense of globalism are raising renewed questions about the relevance of the elites known as the “Davos class.” It is this group of so-called plutocrats that largely failed to anticipate — and may have even unconsciously generated — the seeping anti-establishment movement across the globe.” [DealBook]

LongRead: “The Bitter Legal Battle over Peggy Guggenheim’s Blockbuster Art Collection” by Milton Esterow: “Peggy, whose given name was Marguerite, came from two wealthy Jewish-American families—the Guggenheims and the Seligmans, although one writer said she was from “one of the poorer branches of the family.” Her father, Benjamin Guggenheim, went down with the Titanic after reportedly relinquishing his place on a lifeboat to his French mistress. In 1919, when she was 21, Peggy inherited $450,000, the equivalent of about $6.4 million today. In 1937, after her mother’s estate was settled, her income was averaging about $40,000 a year, which would be roughly $675,000 today. No one, including Peggy, seemed to know how much she was worth. She was extremely generous and supported friends financially for many years.” [VanityFair]

“With sale to Canadian firm, American Apparel will be American no longer” by Shan Li: “Founder Dov Charney charted a maverick path when he moved a nascent American Apparel to Los Angeles in 1997 and began manufacturing its cotton basics in the region. The company’s colorful garments and provocative advertising quickly caught on with young fashionistas. Charney gained prominence as a vocal supporter of immigration reform and worker rights, as the company’s “Made in USA — Sweatshop Free” motto appeared in billboards and print ads throughout the country… For Charney, the sale is a final chapter in a company that he started in his dorm room as a student at Tufts University in Medford, Mass. Charney, who is working on a new L.A. clothing company, said he tried to put together another bid for American Apparel, but the financing fell through.” [LATimes

“The world’s tallest solar tower is being built in Israel” by Nathan Giannini: “Deep in Israel’s Negev Desert construction is well under way on what will soon become the tallest solar tower in the world. Scheduled to be finished later this year at a cost of about $570 million, the Ashalim tower will soar a staggering 820 feet into the sky… “We multiplied the size of the mirrors by three compared to the previous generation,” Megalim Power CEO Eran Gartner, who heads the consortium managing the project, told the Times of Israel. “Everything is connected by WiFi instead of by cables. The tower and its boiler are also designed to reduce costs. Everything is done to pursue profitability.” The current tallest solar structure in the world is the Ivanpah plant, located in California’s Mojave Desert.” [YahooFinance

“How Musician Meir Banai Reflected Israeli Culture’s Recent Return to Jewish Tradition” by Daniel Gordis: “Banai’s life and work was a reminder that it is never too late to ask ourselves what the Jewish State is all about. There are many ways to answer that question, of course, but the move from the secularism of Israel’s early generations to the heartbreak of 1973 to the religious inquisitiveness of recent decades suggests that more than anything, Israel is the place where Jews have come to reimagine what Jewish peoplehood might mean when it resides in its ancestral homeland and is coupled to sovereignty… Meir Banai’s life, and his musical output particularly after he began to re-engage his roots, is a powerful reminder that not far beneath Israel’s tempestuousness, there is a quest, a hunger and a yearning that is both deeply Jewish and achingly exquisite.” [Tablet

“Irwin Isaacson Jr., Superdome engineer, dies at 91” by John Pope: “Irwin Isaacson Jr., an engineer on projects that included the Superdome, the World Trade Center and the Rivergate, died Wednesday (Jan. 11) of a heart attack at Touro Infirmary. He was 91. A lifelong New Orleanian, Mr. Isaacson was president and chairman of Weil and Moses Inc., where he worked for most of his career, said his son Walter Isaacson, president and chief executive officer of the Aspen Institute… Mr. Isaacson was a former vice president of the Jewish Community Center. No matter how serious the situation, Mr. Isaacson never lost his sense of humor, even on his deathbed, Rabbi Edward Cohn of Temple Sinai said.” [NoLa]

“Life’s Work: An Interview with Jerry Seinfeld” by Daniel McGinn: “You can teach someone aspects of making it in the comedy profession, but you can’t teach someone to be funny. I didn’t realize how genetic it was until I saw my daughter—I couldn’t believe how funny she was. I didn’t teach her to be that way, and I know my dad was funny, so now I see that there’s a huge genetic component. You just pop out with this thing.” [HBR]

BIRTHDAYS: Physicist and professor of materials science at Oxford (1966-1992), Sir Peter Bernhard Hirsch turns 92… Editor-in-Chief (1960-1995; now Editor-at-Large) of Commentary magazine, author of the 2009 book “Why Are Jews Liberals?” Norman Podhoretz turns 87… Socially conservative talk radio host and relationship advisor since 1975, on Sirius XM Radio since 2011, author of over 20 books, Dr. Laura Schlessinger turns 70… Chef, food writer, culinary editor for the Modern Library, host of PBS’s “Gourmet’s Adventures With Ruth,” recipient of four James Beard Awards, Ruth Reichl turns 69… Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel and Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Hazon Ovadia, Harav Yitzhak Yosef turns 65… Billionaire, first employee and subsequently first president of eBay, internet entrepreneur, philanthropist and movie producer, Jeffrey Skoll turns 52… DC-native, back in DC after 10 years in London, a strategic communications consultant at Podium, Debbie Berger Fox turns 44… Author, writer and Ph.D. candidate in political theory at Columbia U, former speechwriter for then-House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Senator Chris Dodd, Rob Goodman turns 33 (h/t Playbook)… Joseph Bornstein… Suzi Brozman… David Ptalis

Gratuity not included. We love receiving news tips but we also gladly accept tax deductible tips. 100% of your donation will go directly towards improving Jewish Insider. Thanks! [PayPal]




Daily Kickoff: Booker, Kaine support Udall amendment criticizing settlements | Arbess meets Abbas | Struggling Sports Bar went Kosher, Biz Took Off


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EXCLUSIVE: Sen. Udall’s Amendment Criticizing Settlements Rejected In Committee — by Aaron Magid: “The Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed Resolution 6 on Thursday criticizing the recent UNSC action against Israel, and it will head to the Senate floor for a vote at a later time. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) introduced an amendment to the bill yesterday, which added a line, “reaffirming that it is also the policy of the United States to discourage settlement building.” Seven Democrats supported the revision including Tim Kaine (VA) and Cory Booker (NJ). Notably, Booker “received more money from pro-Israel donors than any other Democratic candidate in the 2014 election cycle,” according to NJ.com. Nonetheless, the amendment failed to pass as the other members of the committee including three Democrats — Robert Menendez (NJ), Ben Cardin (MD) & Chris Coons (DE) — joined the remaining eleven GOP members on the committee to oppose the provision.” [JewishInsider]

“For the first time, Democrats are about as pro-Palestinian as pro-Israel” by Aaron Blake: “Similar numbers of Republicans and Democrats have sympathized more with Israel than with the Palestinians dating back to the late 1970s. Today, though, 74 percent of Republicans sympathize more with Israel, while just 33 percent of Democrats do the same. And perhaps most notably, for the first time this century — if not ever — Democrats are now about equally split between sympathizing more with Israel (33 percent) and with the Palestinians (31 percent)… While liberal Democrats favored Israel by 30 points at the turn of the century, they now favor the Palestinians by 12 points. The causes could be many. Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu and President Obama haven’t exactly been buddies, and Pew’s data shows Democrats’ views of Netanyahu are pretty dim. Perhaps that has depressed support for Israel among Democrats.” [WashPost]

ON THE HILL: “Capital of Israel Is Tel Aviv, Says Trump’s Pentagon Pick Mattis” by Amir Tibon:“The U.S. embassy is in Tel Aviv, however U.S. policy doesn’t explicitly state that Tel Aviv is Israel’s capital. Mattis also explained that “that’s where all the government people are.” While Israel’s Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are both located in Jerusalem, the Israeli Defense Ministry and the IDF headquarters – two places that Mattis has visited many times when he served in the U.S. military – are in fact located in Tel Aviv.” [Haaretz; JewishInsider]

FULL EXCHANGE — Graham: What’s the capital of Israel? Mattis: The capital of Israel that I go to, sir, is Tel Aviv because that’s where all their government people are, but… Graham: Do you agree with me that the capital of Israel is Jerusalem? Mattis: Sir, right now I stick with the U.S. policy. Graham: Okay. Do you support moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem? Mattis: I would defer to the nominee for Secretary of State on that, sir. Graham: Do you support maintaining the qualitative edge for Israel against all potential adversaries in terms of their military capability? Mattis: I do, sir. Graham: Do you support a two-state solution? Mattis: I do. If that brings peace to the Middle East, I am eager to see it work. If there’s another solution, I’d be happy to hear what it is. Graham: Absolutely. Who is in charge of the Palestinian community? Mattis: That’s a good question, sir. I think there’s a number of people who think they are. Graham: It’d be hard to have a two-state solution if one of the parties really doesn’t have anybody in charge. Mattis: There is nothing easy about the two-state solution.

On Hamas — Graham: You think Hamas is a terrorist organization? Mattis: I do, sir. Graham: You think they would abide by any agreement that the Palestinian Authority negotiated with Israel given the state of affairs as we know today? Mattis: Only if forced to. Graham: Okay. I’d like to know how we would force them.

— “Mattis on several occasions during his testimony defended the F-35 in light of Trump tweets that called into question the program costs. Mattis said it was a superior aircraft with stealth and electronics beyond the current generation of fighters. Allies that are purchasing the aircraft are also depending on the program, he noted. Trump only wants to make sure the program is getting “the most bang for the buck,” he said.” [NDIA] • Mattis: “Israel’s security is very, very important to the United States.” [YouTube

“Mattis breaks with Trump on Iran, Russia” by Austin Wright and Jeremy Herb: “While Mattis is known as an Iran hawk, he said Thursday he believed the United States should stick with the Iranian nuclear deal. “I think it is an imperfect arms control agreement — it’s not a friendship treaty,” Mattis said in response to questions from Senate Armed Services ranking Democrat Jack Reed of Rhode Island. “But when America gives her word, we have to live up to it and work with our allies.”” [PoliticoNYTimes]

“Rex Tillerson couldn’t recall ExxonMobil subsidiary’s work with Iran. Here’s the proof it happened” by Ed O’Keefe and Steven Mufson: “Documents obtained by The Washington Post show that the Securities and Exchange Commission contacted ExxonMobil in 2006 and 2010 about Exxon’s dealings with Iran, Syria and Sudan, including Infineum and its work with Iran… While these transactions were small compared to the oil giant’s overall business… any leaks in a sanctions regime can undercut U.S. policy even if they are not large for an individual company the size of Exxon, sanctions experts note… On Feb. 7, 2006, Exxon’s assistant general counsel Richard E. Gutman wrote back saying the transactions were too tiny for a company with $371 billion in revenue to matter to investors.” [WashPost

“Don’t tear up the Iran deal, make it better” by Amos Yadlin and Avner Golov: “The incoming Trump administration should revive the two main levers that brought Iran to the negotiations, but were partially abandoned by the Obama administration: a credible threat of sanctions that could severely damage the Iranian energy and financial sectors, and a credible surgical military option… Close cooperation with Israel could strengthen the American position. Israeli intelligence on Iran can assist in detecting Iranian violations, while an Israeli military threat can also convince Iran not to exploit the flaw.” [USAToday]

TOP TALKER: “Meeting With Kushner’s Friend Convinced Abbas: Trump Serious About Embassy Move” by Barak Ravid and Jack Khoury:“Around two weeks ago New York businessman Daniel Arbess approached senior officials in Abbas’ office through the mediation of another American businessman, asking to meet with Abbas and the head of the Palestinian negotiating team, Saeb Erekat… An American source who knows him says Arbess has friendly ties with the most significant man in Trump’s entourage, his son-in-law Jared Kushner. The source says Arbess and Kushner sit beside each other at the Kehilath Jeshurun synagogue in Manhattan’s Upper East Side… An Israeli source familiar with details of the meeting said Arbess told Abbas that as far as he knew, Trump was serious about moving the embassy to Jerusalem and might announce this shortly after being sworn in on January 20.” [Haaretz]

Barak Ravid tweets:“Trump adviser Jason Greenblatt tells me “Daniel Arbess does not represent Trump, Jared Kushner or anyone in the upcoming administration… Daniel Arbess doesn’t know the President-elect’s views on Israel, the Palestinian Authority or the peace process.” [Twitter]

“Obama Surprises Joe Biden With Presidential Medal of Freedom” by Michael D. Shear: “For the first time, Mr. Obama awarded the medal with distinction, an added level of veneration that previous presidents had reserved for recipients like Pope John Paul II and Colin L. Powell… “To know Joe Biden is to know love without pretense, service without self-regard, and to live life fully,” Mr. Obama said during the televised ceremony, as Mr. Biden wiped tears from his eyes.” [NYTimes]

“U.S. Vice President Biden to make swansong visit to Ukraine” by Pavel Polityuk: “Biden… has been the front man for U.S. policy towards Ukraine since street protests in 2013-2014 forced a Russian-backed leader to flee and the pro-Western opposition took over… Biden has been closely involved, visiting Ukraine four times since the change in power and maintaining regular telephone contact with Poroshenko and the prime minister.” [Reuters] • Flashback 12-27-2016: Phone Call From Biden Said to Precipitate Ukraine’s UN ‘Yes’ Vote [Tablet]

“Biden: Intel officials told us Trump allegations might leak” by Josh Lederman: “The vice president… took umbrage at Trump’s comments accusing intelligence agencies of allowing the information to leak publicly and drawing a comparison to “living in Nazi Germany.” “The one thing you never want to invoke is Nazi Germany, no matter what the circumstances,” Biden said. “It’s an overwhelming diversion from the point you’re trying to make.”” [AP• German foreign minister ‘perplexed’ by Trump’s Nazi Germany comment [DW]

“Holocaust Survivor Evi Blaikie Denounces Trump Over Nazi Reference” by Jacob Kornbluh: “I was angry, I was really angry,” Blaikie, the founder of Hungarian Hidden Children of the Holocaust, told Jewish Insider outside City Hall on Thursday. “I was astounded that he would make such a statement that is so ignorant of what Nazi Germany was about… I’m afraid of Donald Trump,” she said, “but at the same time, I’m not going to let the fear paralyze me. I’m going to do my best and ask everyone else to fight him on everything. We can’t be kept silent. We have to speak up no matter what the ramifications.” … “I have a message for our President-elect: Mr. Trump when it comes to your prejudice attacks, shut your tweeting face,” Steven Goldstein, Executive Director of the Anne Frank Center [for Mutual Respect], said. “Your words injure.” [JewishInsider]

“Why Won’t More Jewish Groups Condemn Trump’s Shameful Nazi Comparisons?” by Jane Eisner: “There is one person, though, who should be able to persuade Trump to stop using Nazi references in such an awful way: his son-in-law, the grandson of survivors. Maybe the Jewish organizations that won’t publicly condemn Trump will try to whisper in Jared Kushner’s ear.” [Forward

TRANSITION TOWER: “New York Financier to Land White House Adviser Role” by Jonathan Lemire: “[Anthony Scaramucci’] may move into the Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs, which is currently run by Valerie Jarrett, one of President Barack Obama’s most powerful allies… He has deep ties with incoming White House strategist Steve Bannon and senior adviser Jared Kushner… In the closing months of the presidential campaign, Scaramucci became tight with Kushner.” [AP

** 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 **

TALK OF THE TOWN — Be’er Sheva Added to Bloomberg Innovation Team Grant List: “Program deepens funding in the United States and Israel, also expands to Canada. The program helps City Halls drive bold innovation, change culture, and tackle big problems to deliver better results for residents. Multi-year grants will be awarded to help cities create better results for a range of pressing problems – from tackling poverty and neighborhood revitalization to recruiting and retaining public employees… I-teams are currently in Tel Aviv, Israel and Jerusalem, Israel.[BloombergPhil; CityLab]

“Davos Wonders If It’s Part of the Problem” by Matthew Campbell and Simon Kennedy:“The repeated failure of business and political elites to predict what’s coming—last year, that included the U.K.’s vote to leave the European Union—doesn’t strike those returning this month to the Swiss Alps as very funny. After a year in which political upsets roiled financial markets and killed off the careers of once-dominant Davos-going politicians, the concern for delegates attending this year’s meeting isn’t that their forecasts are often wrong, but that their worldview is.” [Bloomberg]

“15 Israelis making a mark on Silicon Valley’s tech scene” by Viva Sarah Press: “Oren Zeev and Oren Dobronsky are often mentioned in the same sentence. The two share a sense of responsibility for grooming the next generation of Israelis in Silicon Valley. Zeev, founder of Zeev Ventures, was an early investor in Chegg, Houzz, Audible, Tipalti and others, and sits on numerous boards of directors. He is also cofounder and chairman of supplier payments automation platform Tipalti. “Israelis here succeed at all levels, as entrepreneurs and as executives. An Israeli who lands here has a massive advantage over Swedes, Italians — or even Texans — because everyone knows everyone,” Zeev told Haaretz, adding that Israelis are represented at every significant company in the area.” [Israel21c]

“Gaza is attracting the attention of Silicon Valley as young tech entrepreneurs push to solve problems themselves” by Christopher Schroeder: “If you have any doubt that near-universal access to tech is helping a new generation take control of their own lives, solving problems and building opportunity from the bottom-up everywhere — that “near-universal” means it’s not a phenomenon of the elite, but unleashing talent anywhere it resides — come to Gaza… More than two-thirds of Gazans are under 24, and nearly all have high written and computing literacy. If the definition of a great entrepreneur is one who thrives in working through and around challenges and creating innovative solutions, it’s no surprise that Gaza is chock-full of them.” [ReCode] • With Electricity in Short Supply, 10,000 Protest in Gaza, Defying Hamas [NYTimes]

THIS TOWN: “Jeff Bezos’s New $23 Million House Will Make Him Jared Kushner’s Neighbor” by Emily Jane Fox: “The Washington Post reported Thursday that Jeff Bezos bought a 27,000-square-foot property in October less than a half mile from Ivanka and Jared’s new digs. The home, the largest in the city, was purchased for $23 million in cash.” [VanityFair; WashPost]

“What I learned about Jared Kushner from working at The Observer” by Ross Barkan: “Long before Trump was a serious candidate for President, Observer staff was told to broaden its reach… We dropped “New York” from our website as a way to “nationalize” the brand. We were told we were now writing for people everywhere: the Midwest, the South and beyond. In theory this was noble, but in practice it made little sense. We weren’t traveling across America because our budget was rather meager… Thanks to a sleek redesign and the emergence of stories with clickbait headlines… web traffic grew, and Kushner took this as a sign that his paper, if he cared, was finally reaching the masses.” [NYDN

MEDIA WATCH: “Libel Lawsuit Settled Between Casino Magnate Sheldon Adelson, WSJ Reporter” by Lukas I. Alpert: “The suit, filed in 2013, accused the Journal’s then-Hong-Kong-based Asia gambling-industry reporter, Kate O’Keeffe, of libel, for a passage in which Mr. Adelson was described as “a scrappy, foul-mouthed billionaire from working-class Dorchester, Mass.” Mr. Adelson has said he isn’t foul-mouthed. .. The case was brought in Hong Kong, where the law makes it easier for plaintiffs to win libel cases than in the U.S., in part, by putting the burden on defendants to prove the truth of the challenged statement… The Journal took action in U.S. federal courts to subpoena witnesses, including executives at Las Vegas Sands and Mr. Adelson’s former bodyguard and driver, who could testify about whether he indeed was foul-mouthed.” [WSJ] • “Trump met with mega-donor Sheldon Adelson, transition says” [TheHill]

WHITE HOUSE TRANSITIONS: “Jake Broder Fingert, senior policy adviser for the National Economic Council, will be a partner at Camber Creek, a D.C.-based venture capital firm focused on real estate tech. Jake covers infrastructure and real estate at the White House and previously helped manage the federal government’s real estate portfolio, acquisitions program and IT, as a senior adviser at GSA.” [Playbook] • President Obama announced his intent to appoint Andrew Weinstein to the United States Holocaust Memorial Council [WhiteHouse

“The Dark Irony of a Jewish Country Club’s Debate Over Whether to Admit President Obama” by Rachel Shukert: “Woodmont has the right to let in or not let in whoever they want, and I am confident the President—a President who held the first seder ever in the White House, who has had more Jews in key positions than any other administration in history, and whose policy views are echoed by the vast majority of American Jews—will ultimately find a nice place to play golf. But it is something that a club founded in protest of exclusion of those with different worldviews, so to speak, should feel so comfortable with it in practice.” [Tablet]

“‘Jewish Americana’ music gets its moment in the spotlight” by Gabe Friedman: “Since Jews were viewed as immigrants in the United States for a large part of the 20th century — and are still widely seen as an ethnic “other” in American society — Jewish music and Americana, at first glance, seem an unlikely mixture. But in addition to [Saul] Kaye, artists such as Nefesh Mountain, a husband-and-wife bluegrass duo from New Jersey, and Joe Buchanan, a convert to Judaism from Houston who plays James Taylor-esque country, are gaining in popularity on the national Jewish music circuit. Joey Weisenberg, a Brooklyn-based prayer leader and music teacher, has garnered praise for his modern bluesy, indie rock-inspired takes on “niggunim,” or traditional Jewish melodies.” [JTA]

SPORTS BLINK: “Amar’e In Israel: Fresh Start In The Old City” by Jon Wertheim: “While stopping short of considering himself Jewish, [Amar’e] Stoudemire self-identifies as a Hebrew Israelite, a tribe that’s believed to have descended from the Kingdom of Judah and inhabited what is now Israel before its expulsion by the Romans in 70 A.D. In keeping with kosher tradition, Stoudemire doesn’t eat pork or shellfish, and he sports a menorah tattoo on his left wrist… Stoudemire says that he’s committed to “holy living” and that in Jerusalem, “I’ve never felt more at home, more tied to a place where I’m playing.”” [SI]

Wine of the Week — by Yitz Applbaum: Sitting with Arnon, one of the founders of the Montefiore winery, is a wonderful experience. Arnon helped to shape the Israeli wine market over the past 20 years, so his knowledge and passion for Israeli wines are overwhelming. Imagine that you are overlooking the Montefiore Windmill in Jerusalem, sitting with Arnon – the wine is not even necessary to obtain a high.

The Montefiore Aria is a complex wine. It is a blend of 65 percent Syrah, 20 percent Carignan, and 15 percent Petite Syrah. An amazing trait of this wine is that you can taste the different grape varietals on completely different parts of your palate. One almost gets to blend the wine in one’s own mouth. The wine is aged predominantly in French oak with a touch of some American oak as well. Drink this wine now. Drink it with marinated meat and chicken if you can. This is likely to create a memorable meal. [MontefioreWines

DESSERT: “This Sports Bar Was Struggling — Until It Went Kosher and Business Took Off” by Britta Lokting: “The bar is located between Baruch College and Yeshiva University’s Stern College for Women, and Hardoon and Brooks, who are both Orthodox, watched unhappily as Jewish customers they knew to be observant ate nonkosher food. Hardoon didn’t like them violating kashrut in his establishment. He first tried offering sushi, which only partially worked, and then one night suggested to Brooks they just make the whole place kosher… Despite the higher costs and some lost weekend revenue, the bar makes more money than ever. Eddie Fahmy, the manager, says business is up 50 to 60 percent. One waitress says she can collect $200 in tips on some nights, a big boost from the $50 she might have earned before certification.” [GrubStreet]

WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS: South African biologist and a 2002 Nobel Prize laureate, Sydney Brenner turns 90… Founder of Working Today and Freelancers Union, leading organizations of independent workers, a MacArthur Fellow in 1999, Sara Horowitz turns 54… Statistician and writer who analyzes baseball and elections, editor-in-chief of ESPN’s FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver turns 39… AIPAC’s German Shepherd and Jack Russell Terrier mix, Jersey Brown turns 11… NYC pediatrician at Carnegie Hill Pediatrics, graduate of the University of Witwatersand in Johannesburg, Barry B. Stein, MD… DC-based Deputy Director of Communications for the Israel on Campus Coalition, Carly Freedman… North America Director at The Israel Forever Foundation, Heidi Krizer Daroff… Bruce Maclver… Shira Berenson… Lucia Meyerson… Rebecca Seider… Kathleen Chambers

Award-winning legal affairs correspondent for National Public Radio since 1975, focusing primarily on the US Supreme Court, Nina Totenberg turns 73… Screenwriter, director and producer, best known as co-writer of the films “The Empire Strikes Back,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “Return of the Jedi,” Lawrence Kasdan turns 68… AIPAC board member and activist, founding member and co-managing partner of LA-based law firm, Klee, Tuchin, Bogdanoff & Stern LLP, Michael L. Tuchin turns 52… Associate attorney in the Toronto law firm of McCague Borlack, Aryeh Samuel… Stephen Panikoff… Alba Farquharson… Barbara Singer-Meis… Eric Alterman… Saul Saulisbury

German-born, US-educated, moved to Israel at age 44, professor of electro-optics at the Jerusalem College of Technology, author of several books on Science and Judaism, Yehuda “Leo” Levi, Ph.D turns 91… Diplomat and attorney, former domestic policy advisor to President Carter, US Ambassador to the European Union (1993-1996), Deputy Secretary of Treasury (1999-2001), Ambassador Stuart E. Eizenstat turns 74… Cryptographer, computer security specialist, blogger, writer, author of 13 books, CTO at Resilient (an IBM company), a fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, Bruce Schneier turns 54… Basketball analyst for CBS Sports since 2012, after a ten-year stint at ESPN, formerly a college basketball star who played professionally in the USBL, Europe and for Maccabi Ra’anana, Doug Gottlieb turns 41… Conservative political commentator, nationally syndicated columnist, author, radio talk show host, and attorney, Ben Shapiro turns 33… Madelyn Palley turns 68…

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House Members Introduce Resolution Honoring Elie Wiesel

Thursday, July 7, 2016

A group of Congressmen introduced on Thursday a bipartisan resolution honoring the life and work of Holocaust survivor and activist, Elie Wiesel, who passed away on Saturday at…

Photo courtesy of Flatbush Jewish Community Coalition

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House Speaker Paul Ryan on Tuesday joined public criticism of Donald Trump’s weekend tweet against Hillary Clinton, which included an image of Clinton and a Star of David created by…