Daily Kickoff: RJC’s Vegas confab | Bibi attempts to hold off settlement annexation | Shabbat in NYC with President of Guatemala | David Simon BDay

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DRIVING THE WEEKEND — Republican donors and leaders are gathering this weekend for the Republican Jewish Coalition’s (RJC) Annual Leadership Meeting. As in past years, the gathering will be held at Sheldon Adelson’s Venetian/Palazzo Resort in Las Vegas. The confab kicked off last night with a VIP dinner hosted by Adelson that featured remarks from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. [Pic]

Speakers at the RJC’s Shabbat dinner this evening include Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer, Senator Lindsey Graham, and Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts. On Saturday morning, RJC National Chairman and former U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, Governors Rick Scott (FL) and Eric Greitens (MO), Israel’s UN Ambassador Danny Danon, and former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton will deliver remarks. The morning session will also include a foreign policy panel with Reps. Mike Gallagher (WI), Joe Wilson (SC) and Lee Zeldin (NY). The afternoon VIP Luncheon will feature former (and briefly) White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.

Saturday night will include special presentations of the Defender of Freedom and Security Award to Micah Avni, Shakib Shanan, and Minister Gilad Erdan by Steven Mizel; a tribute to Stuart & Robbi Force, the parents of Taylor Force, and remarks by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

“House Republican goes after J Street in an effort to lure Jewish donors” by Theodoric Meyer and Marianne LeVine: “A new joint fundraising committee started on Tuesday by Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-Wis.) and the Republican Party of Wisconsin, called Stop J Street… takes aim at J Street… where Grothman’s likely Democratic opponent, Dan Kohl, worked as vice president of political affairs… The new committee was started ahead of the Republican Jewish Coalition’s annual leadership summit in Las Vegas this weekend and is intended to appeal to conservative Jewish donors who loathe J Street. Wisconsin Republicans are heading to Las Vegas, “making the pitch directly to meeting attendees,” according to the state party.” [Politico]

2018 WATCH — “What happens in Vegas: Politics, policy, poker and Richard Corcoran” by Steve Bousquet: “Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran… headed to Las Vegas for the annual leadership meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition… It’s the latest red flag that Corcoran’s sights are on the Governor’s Mansion…Hanging out with Adelson in Vegas looks like Corcoran is brashly trampling on what should be [Rep. Ron] DeSantis’ turf, with the speaker’s pal, Rick Scott, possibly helping with introductions…”[TampaBay]

PROFILE: “Matt Gaetz, Ultimate Trump Defender, Is Happy Being Notorious” by Alexis Levinson: “Just two weeks ago at the State of the Union, [Rep. Matt] Gaetz set off a small flury of outrage by inviting as his guest Chuck Johnson, a right-wing provocateur who once stated on Reddit that he did not believe the Holocaust happened… “I think he’s a rising star, but I told him, I don’t want him to hitch his star on notoriety,” Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen told BuzzFeed News, after expressing, several times over, her intense displeasure over his State of the Union guest.”

“Gaetz critics and defenders were careful to note that he, himself, is very pro-Israel. “A champion of Israel and the Jewish people,” his friend Joel Greenberg, the elected tax collector of Seminole County, who counts Gaetz as a friend and political mentor, offered, unbidden. “We may have to retroactively throw him a bat mitzvah,” he added. “A bar mitzvah. Both, he gets.”

“In Gaetz’s retelling, he’s placated concerns from colleagues about Johnson by pointing to statements from Alan Dershowitz… that Johnson is not an anti-Semite or Holocaust denier… “He’s a provoker, I should’ve vetted him better before inviting him to the State of the Union, I regret that I didn’t. That’s my fault. I take responsibility for it. But he is not a Holocaust denier.” [Buzzfeed]

KFILE: “North Dakota GOP Senate candidate blasted a ‘bunch of Arabs’ in 2014 Facebook post” by Andrew Kaczynski and Chris Massie: “A Republican candidate for US Senate in North Dakota shared a story on Facebook in 2014 about anti-Israel protesters clashing with riot police, adding the comment, “Bunch of Arabs… what do you expect?” The comment is just one of several inflammatory posts Gary Emineth, the former North Dakota Republican Party chairman, shared on social media.” [CNN]

“Democratic Rep. Danny Davis Calls Louis Farrakhan ‘An Outstanding Human Being’” by Yair Rosenberg: “I personally know [Farrakhan], I’ve been to his home, done meetings, participated in events with him,” Democratic Rep. Danny Davis told The Daily Caller’s Peter Hasson. “I don’t regard Louis Farrakhan as an aberration or anything, I regard him as an outstanding human being…” Republican elected officials from Donald Trump on down have rightly faced heavy criticism from Democrats over their ties to and defenses of bigoted hate groups and individuals. Whether Democrats will hold their own official, Rep. Davis, to the same standard remains to be seen.” [Tablet]

PALACE INTRIGUE — “With Rob Porter Gone, Trump Turns His Anger On Hicks and Kelly” by Gabriel Sherman: “Trump was also not aware of the severity of the alleged abuse until yesterday, when Ivanka walked into the Oval Office and showed her father a photo published in the Daily Mail of [Rob] Porter’s ex-wife with a black eye. “He was f***ing pissed,” said one Republican briefed on the conversation. According to a source, Ivanka and Jared Kushner have been discussing possible chief-of-staff replacements…”[VanityFair]

“Dozens at White House lack permanent security clearances” by Josh Dawsey, Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett: “People familiar with the security-clearance process said one of those White House officials with an interim approval is Jared Kushner… In Kushner’s case, his extensive travel and overseas contacts are one reason the clearance process has dragged on, as investigators try to verify his reporting… assuming the process began when Kushner was in the transition, “it is longer than it should be,” the former official said. “That just tells me that somebody’s uncomfortable with the information that they have in his background.” [WashPost]

‘NO DAYLIGHT’ — “Netanyahu urges delay on settlement annexation bill until after Trump peace plan” by Barak Ravid: “Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has asked members of his party in the Knesset not to press forward on a bill annexing the Jewish settlements in the West Bank until President Trump presents his Middle East peace plan… Netanyahu explained that after Trump presents his peace plan and the Palestinians reject it, Israel will have a better chance to start discussing with the White House the possibility of annexing the settlements…” [Axios]

“Trump tells Israel peace means compromise” by Dan Williams: “In an interview with an Israeli newspaper… Trump described his Jerusalem move as a “high point” of his first year in office… “I wanted to make clear that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. Regarding specific borders, I will grant my support to what the two sides agree between themselves,” he told the conservative Israel Hayom daily… “I think that both sides will have to make significant compromises in order for achieving a peace deal to be possible,” Trump added, without elaborating.” [Reuters]

“U.S. ambassador unleashes rare public criticism on Israeli paper” by Barak Ravid: “U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman went on an unusual and probably unprecedented attack today against the Haaretz newspaper a day after one of its senior columnists published an op-ed criticizing his support for the Jewish settlements…” [Axios]

“India’s balancing act as Modi heads to Ramallah” by Nikhil Kumar: “The optics during Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to India in January could hardly have been better. But they also masked differences that will be highlighted by another visit this weekend, when India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi heads to the Palestinian territories. The way he’s getting there is itself telling. Instead of traveling there via Israel, Modi is flying to Amman in Jordan and then taking a helicopter to Ramallah. On Saturday, when he becomes the first Indian leader to visit Ramallah, he’ll do so while avoiding a stop in Israel, even though India would have had to work with the Israelis to facilitate the trip to Ramallah…  Why? It’s part of what Indian diplomats say is an effort to “de-hyphenate” its ties with the Israelis and the Palestinians.” [CNN

Trump thanks Guatemalan president for his support on Israel: “President Donald Trump on Thursday thanked the president of Guatemala for supporting the U.S. decision to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, the White House said. Trump and President Jimmy Morales met at the Washington Hilton hotel before they attended the annual National Prayer Breakfast… Guatemala is also one of nine nations that sided with the United States on a U.N. vote condemning the U.S. decision.” [AP

— “President of Guatemala at Chabad Jewish Latin Center Shabbat Dinner” by Mordechai Lightstone: “President James Morales of Guatemala will attend a special Shabbat meal on Friday night hosted by Chabad’s Jewish Latin Center in Manhattan… Morales said he was interested in experiencing a traditional Shabbat dinner… Some 200 people are expected to attend the dinner… [including] the Consul General of Israel, Dani Dayan.”[Chabad]

Dani Dayan tweets: “As the son of a former Ambassador of Israel to Guatemala and as Israel’s Consul General in New York I will be honored to participate and thank President Jimmy Morales.” [Twitter

ON THE HILL: A group of 102 Democratic lawmakers — led by Reps. Peter Welch (FL) and David Price (NC) — sent a letter to President Trump on Thursday urging him to continue U.S. funding for UNRWA and to the Palestinian Authority. “Continuing to freeze this aid will harm American interests by exacerbating the threats facing both peoples and reducing the United States’ ability to help the Israelis and Palestinians reach a two-state solution,” the letter reads.

Scott Anderson, Director of UNRWA Operations in the West Bank, tells NPR: “People, especially in the Department of Defense, understand the challenges that this could create. I have a lot of interaction with the Israeli army and they clearly understand what this means if UNRWA is not providing these services and it has them a bit nervous.” [NPR]

“Qatari envoy urges world to aid Gaza” by Josef Federman: “In an interview, Mohammed Al-Emadi, the head of Qatar’s Gaza reconstruction committee, said he hopes that his country’s support for the territory, highlighted by a $9 million pledge on Thursday, will encourage other nations to join the effort… “This is part of our effort, working very closely with Israel, very closely with everyone in Gaza, to prevent any more escalation and war. We want peace in the region, and to help the people.” … Over the years, Al-Emadi said he has developed a cordial relationship with his Israeli counterpart, Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai. “You can say it’s good,” he said.” [AP]

GULF VISIT — “US Jewish leaders to visit United Arab Emirates” by Herb Keinon: “Members of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations… will travel to Abu Dhabi and Dubai as part of their annual leadership mission before coming to Israel… [Malcolm] Hoenlein told The Jerusalem Post that the aim is to “foster better ties with the US, the American Jewish community and Israel.” Although this is not the first time his organization will bring a delegation to the UAE, he said it will be the largest.”[JPost

TOP-OP: “Trump Is All Talk on Iran” by Dennis Ross: “The president has wooed Saudi Arabia and Israel with promises to roll back Iranian influence—but he has so far failed to match those words with action… To date, Trump’s support for the Israelis and Saudis is primarily symbolic. To be sure, for both, symbolism matters. Both see symbolic support as sending a signal to their adversaries that the United States will be there for them—and clearly Israelis prefer Trump’s symbolic embrace to Obama’s public criticism. While symbolism clearly counts for something, it needs to be backed by substance lest it lose its meaning.” [WashInstitute

BUZZ ON BALFOUR: “Bibi Takes Another Trick From Trump’s Playbook” by Marc Schulman: “The prime minister, taking a page from Trump’s playbook, went public with a Facebook post (Netanyahu is a more active user of Facebook than Twitter) attacking the Police Commissioner… Netanyahu’s situation is similar to that of Trump, in that the end of the case against him is far from over. Once the police recommendations are made, the baton is passed to the Attorney General… It should be noted that there is no time limit for reaching that decision, which is widely expected to take up to a year.”

“In one final irony, it should be noted that less than two years ago, Netanyahu whimsically proposed that Israel bring back the tradition of conducting an annual military parade, a practice which Israel gave up soon after the Six Day War… Netanyahu received little, or no support for his idea, which he had hoped to implement for this year’s 70th anniversary of Israel’s independence. As a result, he was forced to drop it. So far, Trump’s parade remains in the cards.” [Newsweek] • Netanyahu Lashes Out as Israeli Police Wrap Up Graft Inquiries [NYTimes]

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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Lyft offered to buy Lior Ron’s startup at center of Waymo-Uber dispute [Axios] • Israel, A Land Flowing With AI and Autonomous Cars [BostonTech• Apollo Billionaire Josh Harris Sells $153 Million in Shares [Bloomberg• Aby Rosen’s Midtown tower now has ‘skyscraper lofts’ for art collectors [Curbed] • The Daily Telegraph’s Editor Personally Assured Staff The Newspaper’s Front Page Was Not Anti-Semitic [BuzzFeed]

STARTUP NATION: “Israeli Start-Up Strives to Make Broadway Theaters More Accessible to Patrons with Disabilities” by Gabriela Geselowitz: “GalaPro, only operating since 2015, is short for “Gala Prompter,” because its major service is subtitles for live Broadway shows… The process is simple: Users download the GalaPro app on their phone, and enter the theater, which has a wifi network solely dedicated to the app… Then, you can select the show you’re seeing, and the services you select will begin playing automatically on your phone when the curtain goes up.” [Tablet]

IN THE SPOTLIGHT… “On Tour With Notorious R.B.G., Judicial Rock Star” by Adam Liptak: “They say that Bob Dylan, 76, is on a never-ending tour. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who is eight years older and has a day job, seems to have acquired Mr. Dylan’s taste for the road. In the space of three weeks, she is set to make at least nine public appearances… She seems to enjoy the attention. “I am soon to be 85,” she said on Tuesday at New York Law School, “and everyone wants to take their picture with me.” …” [NYTimes]

“From holograms to Justin Bieber, Anne Frank’s stepsister is using any means to keep the Holocaust’s lessons alive” by Michelle Boorstein: “I talk about it and tell people, this is what Germany was. Not everybody was — by no means — anti-Semitic or supported Hitler. They had good Jewish friends, but they took the easy way out and looked the other way. It is the danger of the bystander,” Schloss said in an interview Wednesday before an evening appearance at the Center for the Arts at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. “This is what we have to teach young people — not to be indifferent, but take part; if you see injustice being done, speak out.” … [WashPost]

TALK OF THE TOWN — “Lawmakers are trying to cancel Lorde’s upcoming Florida shows because of her stance on Israel” by Colin Wolf: “Republican state Rep. Randy Fine is trying to get Miami and Tampa to cancel Lorde’s upcoming shows, citing a state statute that prohibits businesses from conducting business over $1 million with any organization engaged in a boycott of Israel. “Florida has no tolerance for anti-Semitism and boycotts intended to destroy the State of Israel,” said Fine…”The taxpayers of Miami and Tampa should not have to facilitate bigotry and anti-Semitism, and I look forward to the Miami Sports and Exhibition Authority and the Tampa Sports Authority complying with the law and canceling these concerts.”” [OrlandoWeekly]

WINTER OLYMPICS — “Israel’s Largest-Ever Winter Olympics Squad Heads to Korea” by Abigail Klein Leichman: “Ten Israelis athletes will represent Israel in four sports at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics… This is Israel’s largest-ever Winter Olympics delegation since its first participation in the games in 1994… Only three of the 2018 Olympics teammates… are Israeli by birth… [A.J] Edelman, [Paige] Conners and [Aimee] Buchanan were born in the United States.” [JewishLink]

“Of Course The Israeli Skater Performed To “Hava Nagila”” by Dvora Meyers: “Alexei Bychenko, a figure skater representing Israel… did very well, putting out one of the few clean programs of the men’s competition. After the ten men skated, he found himself in second place behind Shoma Uno of Japan… And Bychenko, who used to skate for Ukraine but was able to obtain Israeli citizenship due to Jewish roots on his mother’s side, pulled off this feat skating to the most cliched Jewish song of all time—Hava Nagila.” [Deadspin]

COMING SOON — “The bagel emoji is heading to your phone” by Amy Spiro: “The latest slate of more than 150 new emoji released by the Unicode Consortium on Wednesday include a bagel, one of the most iconic Jewish foods. The bread will appear in its sliced format, in an effort to differentiate it from a doughnut. As phone operation systems and apps update, the emoji should appear on smartphones around the world later in the year. “[JPost]

DESSERT: “For Some Elderly Jews in California, Wendy’s is the Place to Be on Shabbat” by Jesse Bernstein: “For most of the last decade, a group of God’s chosen Golden Oldies have gathered to celebrate the day of His rest at a Wendy’s in Palm Desert, California. The number of regular attendees is somewhere between 18 and 28, according to Rachel Myers, director of a new short documentary about the group, the appropriately titled Wendy’s Shabbat… Myers, a director and production designer based in Los Angeles, first heard of the weekly ritual from her grandmother a few years back. “I just thought it was the most hilarious thing,” she said… Years later, she mentioned her grandmother’s fryer oil-soaked Shabbos to a friend, Juliana Schatz, who encouraged her to pursue the idea as a film.” [Tablet• Watch the documentary [Vimeoh/t Dan Smith

WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS — FRIDAYGrammy Award winning songwriter, Barry Mann (born Barry Imberman) turns 79… Singer-songwriter, Carole King (born Carol Klein) turns 76… Economist and a professor at Columbia University, Nobel laureate in Economics in 2001, former SVP and chief economist of the World Bank (1997-2000), Joseph Stiglitz, turns 75… Two-time Tony Award and two-time Emmy Award winning actress, Judith Light turns 69… Professor of history and modern Jewish studies at UCSD since 2004, Deborah Hertz turns 69… Israeli singer, Shimi Tavori (born Shimshon Tawili) turns 65… Australian philanthropist and owner of a series of mineral and energy companies, Georgina Hope “Gina” Rinehart turns 64… Former Governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe, a/k/a “the macker,” turns 61… Creator of the HBO series The Wire and NBC’s series Homicide, David Simon turns 58… Theoretical physics professor at Columbia University, Brian Greene turns 55… Play-by-play announcer for ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball and ESPN’s men’s college basketball, Dan Shulman turns 51… Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the LA Times, now an assistant adjunct professor at UCLA, Abigail Helaine (“Abbe”) Goldman turns 48… Managing Director of Tiedemann Wealth Management, Jeffrey L. Zlotturns 47… Television and film actress, Margarita Levieva turns 38… Deputy Director of Congressional Relations at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Boris Zilberman turns 34… Principal at DC-based Blue Zone Partners, he served as Carly Fiorina’s national political director during the 2016 presidential primary, Thomas Szold turns 33 (h/t Shawn McCoy and cousin Daniel Lippman)… Senior account executive at Ruder Finn, Carly Abensteinturns 24… Israeli-Arab teenager who, in 2014, was forced to go into hiding after he publicly expressed support for Zionism and the State of Israel, Muhammad Zoabi turns 21… Isaac Lieberman… Rafael Regla

SATURDAYChairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company since 2005, Robert Allen “Bob” Iger turns 67… Founding figure of Postminimalism’s conceptual art, long-time resident of Manhattan’s West Village, Lawrence Weiner turns 76… Rabbi in Vienna, Austria (1983-1989), in Munich (1989-1997) and Berlin (1997-2015), Yitshak Ehrenberg turns 68… Swimmer, who won seven gold medals at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Mark Spitzturns 68… Philanthropist Jayne Abess turns 63… Host of CNBC’s “Mad Money” James J. “Jim” Cramer turns 63… Ethiopian-born, member of Knesset for the Likud party since 2015, he is an activist for the Falash Mura community, Avraham Neguise turns 60… Journalist and syndicated newspaper columnist whose work has been published on the op-ed page of the Boston Globe since 1994, Jeff Jacoby turns 59… Former NASA astronaut, famous for his mezuzah in the International Space Station, awarded a Ph.D. from Cal Tech in 1997, Garrett Reisman turns 50… Columbus-based executive director of Ohio Jewish Communities, previously Ohio director of state affairs for the Orthodox Union, Howie Beigelman turns 44… Israeli pop star, Ivri Lider turns 44… Managing partner at Roberti Global, previously an aide for Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and then-Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA). also a senior principal at the Podesta Group, Israel “Izzy” Klein turns 41… Candidate for Vice President of the United States in the 2016 election as the running mate of Evan McMullin, entrepreneur and digital media strategist,Mindy Finn turns 37… Executive Producer of the “Architects of Change” series and “Shriver Report Snapshots” at Maria Shriver’s Shriver Media, Michelle Levi Noe… Founder and principal of The Tool Shed Group, Jason Katz… Avital Mannis

SUNDAYJournalist and author of a Passover Haggadah co-written with his wife Cokie Roberts, Steven V. Roberts turns 75… NYC-based physician, he is the president of American Friends of Likud, Julio Messer, M.D. turns 66… Second son of former President George H. W. Bush, he was the Governor of Florida (1999-2007) and a leading early candidate for US President in 2016,John Ellis “Jeb” Bush turns 65… ProPublica’s editor-in-chief, previously at the New York Times, Stephen Engelberg turns 60… National medical director of Seasons Hospice and Palliative Care, former EVP and chief medical officer for Erickson Retirement Communities (1989-2005), Gary E. Applebaum, MD turns 59… Executive producer for Atlantic Live Rob Hendin turns 41… VP and deputy head of communications at News Corp, Ilana Ozernoy turns 40… Tight end on the NFL’s Carolina Panthers for four seasons (2003-2006), having played college football at UCLA, Mike Seidmanturns 37… Chief of Staff for Congressman Bob Dold (R-IL-10) through 2017, David B. Stern turns 34… Politico’s Michelle Zar turns 29… Eric Wasserman Stern turns 25… Scott Wasserman Stern turns 25… Shirley Munch… Evan Siegfried… Avid reader Chaya Yehudis Neuberger… Avid snowboarder Israel Neuberger

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Daily Kickoff: Blackstone’s Schwarzman makes first donation in Israel | Did Qatar promise to squash anti-Israel documentary? | Story of Moe Berg

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BIG NEWS — AP HEADLINE: “Billionaire Trump adviser donates to Israel National Library” … “Stephen Schwarzman, chief executive of private equity firm Blackstone, says the $10 million donation is his first in Israel. The donation will fund classrooms and education workshops Schwarzman hopes will foster inclusiveness and “cross-cultural relationships” between Jews, Christians and Muslims… Schwarzman said on Wednesday the collection “enables all different types of groups to be comfortable in that setting and see things that reflect their historical backgrounds.”” [AP]

FLASHBACK to 2015: “The Archdiocese of New York Announces Record Gift of $40 Million from Christine & Stephen A. Schwarzman” [Newswire]

From a 2008 New Yorker profile of Schwarzman: “Jimmy Lee jokes that his friend [Schwarzman] has received more accolades and raised more money for the Catholic Archdiocese of New York than any other Jew…” [NewYorker]

COMING SOON: “Evangelical-funded Israel Charity Hopes to Cash in by Getting Cozy With Trump” by Judy Maltz: “For an organization that relies heavily on donations from evangelical Christians – that is, on Trump’s political base – having an in with the president might actually benefit fundraising efforts. That appears to be the thinking of Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, the founder and president of the [International Fellowship for Christians and Jews], which is holding a first-of-its kind fundraising dinner at Mar-a-Lago next month. The gala event, scheduled for Sunday March 25, is meant to mark the 70th anniversary of the establishment of Israel…”

“There’s a strong possibility that the president will stop by,” Eckstein told Haaretz… The event, Eckstein noted, is scheduled to begin at 5 P.M. – an hour that was chosen carefully. “That will give the president time to hang around before he needs to head back to Washington,” he said. More importantly, Eckstein made sure to appoint someone he describes as close to Trump to the dinner-planning committee… According to Eckstein, [Keith] Frankel (CEO of Vitaquest) and Trump play golf together “almost every Saturday.”” [Haaretz] • Evangelicals, Having Backed Trump, Find White House ‘Front Door Is Open’ [NYTimes]

“Ivanka Trump, ex-Democratic donor, teams up with conservatives to push family-friendly policies” by Eliza Collins: “USA TODAY took an exclusive day trip with Ivanka Trump to deep-red South Carolina late last month for a tax event with Republican women hosted by GOP Sen. Tim Scott… Stopping for coffee before the event, Ivanka Trump was swarmed by fans who wanted a picture with her and to give their gratitude to the Trump administration— she stayed and took every last one… Kenneth Beattie said he was “very right-wing” but he believed in “reaching across the table, some” and Ivanka Trump is the person to do it. “I think it’s possible (she) may be our president in the future,” Beattie continued…” [USAToday]

HEARD THIS MORNING — CNN’s Camerota Confronts Literal Nazi Running For GOP Congressional Seat in Insane Interview” by Aidan McLaughlin: “It is shocking to hear how vocally and unapologetically racist you are,” [CNN host Alisyn] Camerota opened the interview. “Are you a Nazi?” [Arthur] Jones contended that he does not call himself a Nazi, but an “American patriot and statesman.” Camerota noted that Jones dresses in Nazi garb and celebrates Hitler’s birthday. “You’re a Nazi,” she charged… As Camerota patiently tried to reason with Jones, he began shaking his fist at her. “The Democrats and Republicans, it’s the cursed two party, Jew party system can’t stand it!” “You deny the Holocaust,” Camerota noted. “Yes I deny the Holocaust, it’s an extortion racket!” When Camerota began listing Holocaust facts, Jones exclaimed: “Poppycock!” [Mediaite

BIDEN SPEAKS OUT — Addressing the House Democratic Issues Conference on Capitol Hill yesterday, former Vice President Joe Biden said too many Republicans were silent as Trump gave “comfort and safe harbor” to neo-Nazis and white nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia last summer: “We are not a nation that gives comfort and safe harbor to neo-Nazis crawling out of fields carrying torches, walking through a historic city in the United States of America, chanting the same anti-Semitic bile, carrying Nazi flags that occurred in Germany in the 1930s, accompanied by white supremacists, and being resisted by groups who said, ‘Not here.’ And a President making a moral equivalency, saying there are good people in both groups… I was a good boy, I kept quiet for the longest time until Charlottesville. I couldn’t remain quiet anymore.” [Video]

INSIDE THE ADMIN — “How Betsy DeVos softened her message on school choice” by Kim Hefling and Caitlin Emma: “Behind the scenes, DeVos met with Frank Luntz, one of the top Republican messaging experts, to figure out how to talk about conservative educational policies without sparking protests from teachers and liberals. “Frank has a 60-slide deck of the words to use, and the words to lose, regarding parental choice, vouchers, charter schools, teacher pay, and all the other issues in education reform,” said a copy of her schedule from last June, published by the liberal nonprofit American Oversight, which sued for her calendar.” [Politico]

“Trump’s favorite general: Can Mattis check an impulsive president and still retain his trust?” by Greg Jaffe and Missy Ryan: “One tense moment came last May as officials grew increasingly concerned about aggressive Iranian behavior. For weeks, [Defense Secretary James] Mattis had been resisting requests from the White House to provide military options for Iran. Now Trump made clear that he wanted the Pentagon to deliver a range of plans that included striking Iranian ballistic missile factories or hitting Iranian speedboats that routinely harassed U.S. Navy vessels. “Why can’t we sink them?” Trump would sometimes ask about the boats. National security adviser H.R. McMaster and his staff laid out the president’s request for Mattis in a conference call, but the defense secretary refused… At that point, McMaster took Mattis off speakerphone, cleared his staff from the room and continued the conversation. “It was clear that the call was not going well,” one official said. In the weeks that followed, the options never arrived…” [WashPost]

“U.S. Secretly Offered Iran a Channel for Talks on Prisoners” by Farnaz Fassihi and Felicia Schwartz: “The White House secretly reached out to Iran in December to propose creating a direct channel to negotiate the release of prisoners held by each side… However, Iran didn’t respond and, despite at least three subsequent offers from Washington, so far has refused to engage with U.S. officials on the offer… The U.S. offer in December represented the first time since Mr. Trump took office that it had signaled its willingness to engage in a potential prisoner swap…” [WSJ]

Tillerson to visit Lebanon on Middle East tour — by Michael Wilner: “Acting Assistant Secretary for Near East Affairs David Satterfield visited Lebanon in recent days to lay the groundwork for Tillerson’s visit. The last time a US secretary of state visited Beirut was in 2014 when John Kerry held the post. Tillerson’s travel will also include stopovers in Turkey, Kuwait, Jordan and Egypt, according to the UAE-based National.” [JPostDailyStar]

OF NOTE: Tillerson will skip Israel despite visiting three countries bordering with Israel and expected talks over rising tensions on the Israel-Lebanon border. The Secretary of State last visited Israel with Trump last May.

HEARD YESTERDAY — Tillerson on the administration following through with its threat to cut aid to countries that opposed the U.S. at the UN on Jerusalem during a press conference with Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness in Jamaica: “There has been no new policy adopted at this point, but he’s asked us to think about all of our elements of our aid programs, and are they really advancing and promoting the values that the American people want to see advanced.”

Dave Clark‏: “Interesting data point: Both the Jamaican questions at the Tillerson-Holness presser were about the UN Jerusalem vote and Trump/Haley threats to cut aid.” [Twitter]

HAPPENING TODAY: President Donald Trump will meet with Dr. Henry Kissinger in the Oval Office in the afternoon, according to the WH schedule.

‘NO DAYLIGHT’ — REPORT: Netanyahu nixes medical marijuana export because of Trump: “Israel will forego its plans to become a pioneer medical marijuana exporter for fear of upsetting US President Donald Trump, Channel 2 News reported… Netanyahu said Trump had called him and made clear his general attitude against marijuana exports… The report went on to say that when a Finance Ministry representative suggested that the issue could be skirted by avoiding export to the US, Netanyahu said it might not serve Israeli interests to go against the administration’s policy.” [JPost]

VIEW FROM RAMALLAH — Abbas spokesperson Nabil Abu Rudeinah blames Ambassador David Friedman for crisis in U.S.-Palestinian relations: “The statements by the US ambassador lead us to wonder about the ambassador’s relationship with the occupation: Does he represent the US or Israel? … The ambassador’s advice and consultations, which are not aimed at achieving a just peace based on international legality, have led to this crisis in US-Palestinian relations.” [Wafa]

Jason Greenblatt tweets: “Pres. Abbas states about Jerusalem: “it is Arab, Muslim, and Christian.” And makes no mention of any Jewish ties. Nothing peaceful or productive can come from statements like this. Lasting peace will not be achieved by denying Judaism’s thousands of years of ties to Jerusalem. Jerusalem is holy to Muslims, Christians, and Jews. Peace can ONLY be based on truth.” [Twitter]

INTERVIEW — “Q&A with Israel’s Interior Minister Aryeh Deri: Plan to deport thousands of Africans is not about race” by Ruth Eglash and Loveday Morris: “I think it is my job as the interior minister of this Jewish country to make sure this small place can take in those who have nowhere else to go in the world,” said Deri, who leads the ultra-Orthodox Shas party… I say to all the pilots, doctors and professors, well done for fighting for the rights of other people. But as the wise men have taught us: Take care of the poor in your city before taking care of the poor in other cities… We are the only Jewish country in the world; there is no one else who takes care of the Jews except for us. We do what we are required to do by law, which is to take care of those who are seen by our law as being in danger, and we deport those who we are not required to do so.” [WashPost]

Rabbi Susan Silverman writes… “How Did Israel Become a Place of No Refuge? The first deportation-or-jail orders are set to coincide with Passover. The first night of Passover, Jews around the world, including the Netanyahu family, will recite the same line during the Seder: “In every generation we are obligated to see ourselves as though we personally went out from Egypt.” Our prime minister is on the wrong side of the Exodus story. But the people of Israel — a country built by those who fled Hitler’s ovens and the oppression of Arab countries where they were treated as second-class citizens — understand the injustice of the government’s policy in our bones…” [NYTimes]

AL-JAZEERA WATCH — “Qatar Promised U.S. Jewish Officials: Al Jazeera Documentary on D.C. ‘Israel Lobby’ Won’t Air” by Amir Tibon: “Shortly after Al Jazeera announced that the new documentary would be shown, Jewish-community officials asked [Nick] Muzin to see if he could use his ties with the Qataris to stop the airing. One of them, Noah Pollak, a political consultant working with a number of pro-Israel groups, warned Muzin that if the documentary were broadcast as planned, it would sink his efforts to improve Qatar’s image with U.S. Jews. Muzin brought up the issue with the Qataris and by late October received verbal assurance that the film would not be aired. No written assurance was provided… One source told Haaretz that the Qatari emir himself helped make the decision.” [Haaretz]

BUZZ ON BALFOUR: “Israel’s Netanyahu bracing for corruption charges” by John Bacon: “Israel’s Channel 2 reported that a team of top Israeli police officials will seek charges of accepting bribes, fraud and breach of trust… Police will not present a recommendation on another case alleging Netanyahu negotiated with Yediot Aharonot publisher Arnon “Noni” Mozes for favorable coverage… Netanyahu shrugged off the reports in a video posted on Facebook. “Many of you are asking what is going to happen,” Netanyahu said. “So I’m here to calm you down. There won’t be anything, because I know the truth.” [USAToday; Newsweek]

** Good Thursday Morning! Enjoying the Daily Kickoff? Please share us with your friends & tell them to sign up at [JI]. Have a tip, scoop, or op-ed? We’d love to hear from you. Anything from hard news and punditry to the lighter stuff, including event coverage, job transitions, or even special birthdays, is much appreciated. Email Editor@JewishInsider.com **

BUSINESS BRIEFS: BlackRock’s Larry Fink Wants to Become the Next Warren Buffett [WSJ] • Perry Ellis’s Former Executive Chairman, George Feldenkreis, Makes Bid to Buy the Apparel Company [WSJ• NRG Divesting $2.8 Billion in Assets Following Paul Singer’s Push [Bloomberg] • U.S., Israeli drone makers keep wary eye on rising Chines [Reuters

Hungarian government spent €40 million on anti-Soros propaganda in 2017: “The Hungarian government spent 40.5 million euros on advertising and communicating the results of its two ‘national consultations.’ These were the propaganda campaigns that flooded the streets of Hungary with posters of Hungarian-born billionaire George Soros and told people to ‘stop’ him.”[Atlaszo]

US genetics scientist among winners of esteemed Israel prize: “American genetics scientist Mary-Claire King, credited with connecting a gene mutation with breast cancer, is among the winners of Israel’s prestigious Dan David Prize this year… The Dan David Foundation awards $1 million prizes in three categories — past, present and future — for scientific, technological and cultural accomplishments.” [AP]

TALK OF THE TOWN: “New York’s Met can keep Picasso sold during Nazi flight: judge” by Jonathan Stempel: “A U.S. judge has dismissed a lawsuit seeking the return by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan of a Pablo Picasso masterpiece that a German Jewish businessman was allegedly forced to sell at a low price to fund an escape from the Nazis and fascism. U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska in Manhattan on Wednesday said the great-grandniece of Paul Leffmann, who once owned “The Actor,” could not show under New York law that he sold the painting under “duress,” justifying its return to her family.” [Reuters]

SPORTS BLINK: Bucks’ Marc Lasry to show off hops in All-Star Celebrity Game: “Four years after buying the Milwaukee Bucks, Marc Lasry has reason to celebrate: His team is steadily trending up, led by one of the NBA’s biggest new stars in Giannis Antetokounmpo… Next Friday, Lasry will need gym shorts and sneakers instead of cufflinks and loafers. He is among 24 players who have committed to showing off their hops in the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game in Los Angeles… Lasry will be playing on Team Lakers, coached by ESPN’s Rachel Nichols.” [ESPN]

“Scrub to Star: Max Adler, Israel’s New Face-off Man” by Justin Meyer: “If things go according to plan for Adler — who dropped everything and relocated to Israel earlier this week — he will don the Star of David at the 2018 FIL World Lacrosse Championships… Adler’s unexpected pursuit of an international career follows his successful debut on the professional circuit. Major League Lacrosse’s Denver Outlaws selected him 61st overall in the seventh round of the 2017 Collegiate Draft and he had his professional debut in July, his first of three appearances in his rookie season… Adler recognized the need to help spread lacrosse in the country he desires to compete for through its’ grassroots movement of school visits and lacrosse outreach programs. He’s packed his bags and relocated to Netanya, Israel, the host city of the 2018 World Championships, and if all goes according to plan, he’ll earn his way onto Israel’s roster.” [LaxAllStars]

“Story Of Moe Berg, Baseball Player Turned WWII Spy, Set To Hit The Big Screen” by Jesse Bernstein: “Moe Berg was, as a baseball player, unexceptional. He played in the Majors, bouncing around the league for between 1923-1939, but he was a career .243 hitter, and is the inspiration for this ignominious, traditional baseball scouting assessment: “Good field, no hit.” … A diligent scout might have found that, but here’s something they certainly wouldn’t have uncovered: Moe Berg was to become a spy for the O.S.S. That’s the premise for The Catcher Was A Spy, a big screen adaptation of the biography of the same name, by Nicholas Dawidoff… Directed by Ben Lewin, the film debuted at Sundance last month, and stars Paul Rudd as Berg.” [Tablet]

TRANSITION — Tevi Troy has been named as Vice President of public policy at JUUL Labs Inc., a company trying to provide smokers an alternative to regular cigarettes. Troy served as deputy secretary of HHS and Jewish Liaison in the Bush 43 administration. h/t Playbook

SCENE YESTERDAY IN DC — The Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA) hosted Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon for lunch at Char Bar kosher steakhouse. “We need the entire Jewish community united behind Israel. Period,” Danon told the group. “We cannot let issues concerning Israel become partisan issues. Israel is one of the only issues to have unified support in Congress.” JDCA attendees included board chair Ron Klein, Barbara Goldberg Goldman, Joel Rubin, Dede Feinberg, and Peter Gillon. [Pic]

PIC OF THE DAY — Jerusalem-born talent manager for Madonna and U2, Guy Oseary, posted a picture of Chris Rock and Ashton Kutcher standing beside him at his Chuppah ceremony last October as he wished them both a happy birthday: “They are always beside me, supporting me.. Both are godparents to 2 of my children.. Both of these guys were born on this magical day…” [Pic

BIRTHDAYS: Boston attorney and author, whose 2013 book on Jews and baseball was turned into the 2016 play “Swing, Schmendrick, Swing,” Larry Ruttman turns 87… Broadcast journalist, best known as the anchor of ABC’s Nightline from its inception in 1980 until his retirement in late 2005, five-time Emmy Award winner, Ted Koppel (born Edward James Martin Koppel) turns 78… Stand-up comedian, singer and actor, Robert Klein turns 76… Columbus, Ohio born attorney and president of Schottenstein Legal Services, James M. Schottenstein turns 71… CEO of NYC-based Cohen Brothers Realty Corporation, Charles S. Cohen turns 66… Graduate of Harvard Law School with an MBA from Stanford, active private investor and business operator, Marc Abramowitz turns 65… Founder and President of NYC-based BlackRock, he is Chair of the Board of UJA-Federation of New York, Robert S. Kapito turns 61… Senior Director of Kehilla Affiliations and Operations for United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, Barry S. Mael turns 60…

British businessman and chairman of the Premier League’s Tottenham Hotspur since 2001, Daniel Levy turns 56… Member of the Knesset for the Jewish Home party between February 2013 and March 2015, and again since October 2015, Shulamit “Shuli” Mualem-Rafaeli turns 53… Attorney, rabbi and New Jersey political consultant, Benjamin G. Kelsen turns 46… Popular Israeli musician Eviatar Banai turns 45… President of Zichal Inc., a DC-based energy and environmental advisory consultancy, she was a deputy assistant to President Obama for Energy and Climate Change, Heather R. Zichal turns 42… Member of the Knesset for the Zionist Union party, he is a former leader of the National Union of Israeli Students, Itzik Shmuli turns 38… Founder of DC-based JTR Strategies, she is the former head of Aviation and International Affairs at USDOT under President Obama, Jenny Thalheimer Rosenbergturns 38…

Senior Counsel to the Inspector General at USAID, Adam Kaplan turns 36… Associate at Sidley Austin, he is a graduate of Yale Law School and served as a law clerk to Justice Samuel Alito in 2012, his father is the Dean of Duke Law School, William Ranney Levi turns 34 (h/ts Playbook)… Professional ice hockey center, has been under contract with five NHL teams including the Islanders, Lightning, Penguins, Maple Leafs and Predators, Trevor Smithturns 33… Canadian jazz-pop singer-songwriter, who performed at the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympics, Nicole “Nikki” Yanofsky turns 24…

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Daily Kickoff: Saudis to allow flights to Israel to pass through its airspace | Houzz acquires fellow Israeli startup | Burgerim to San Antonio

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MEDIA WATCH — “Las Vegas Review-Journal staffers reject claims that Wynn story was a hit piece” by Tom Kludt and Hadas Gold: “To the journalists of the Las Vegas Review-Journal… the mere suggestion that the story was a hit piece commissioned by [Sheldon] Adelson is “deeply offensive.” That’s how Review-Journal managing editor Glenn Cook described it when he was asked about the speculation regarding the paper’s incredible move on Monday — admitting that it spiked a story 20 years ago detailing sexual misconduct allegations against Wynn, but was now publishing some details of the allegations… “He knew this story was coming when it landed on his driveway this morning,” Cook said.

“There’s no communication with ownership on this story. One of the things that frustrates me about any assertion that we did this story because of some interest in our owner.” A representative for Adelson echoed this, telling CNNMoney on Monday that “Mr. Adelson had nothing to do with the story, was unaware it was being published and hasn’t read it.”

“Steve Friess… who worked at the Review-Journal for three years in the 1990s, told CNNMoney that he finds it hard to believe Adelson did not know the story was coming… “The king is dying, and Adelson knows it,” Friess said. “Once Steve Wynn is gone, Sheldon Adelson is the king. There’s nobody singular like that in Vegas after him… Sheldon and Steve have always had very different lifestyles,” Friess said. “Sheldon is very religious, very serious about his Judaism. Steve always has been a flashy playboy, very much like Donald Trump.” [CNNMoney]

“Steve Wynn resigns as chair and CEO of Wynn resorts” by Mark Arsenault: “Stephen A. Wynn… resigned Tuesday night as chief executive of the casino company he founded, in the wake of accusations of sexual misconduct. The Wynn Resorts Board of Directors has chosen Matt Maddox, currently president, to be CEO, and Boone Wayson to be non-executive chairman of the Board of Directors, the board said.” [BostonGlobeWSJ]

PALACE INTRIGUE: “As Memo-gate Implodes, Trump Seeks a Reset” — by Gabriel Sherman: “The president is increasingly frustrated that members of his administration aren’t going to war for him, and he’s being encouraged by his daughter Ivanka to bring in new blood… “He’s saying he should have put Rudy [Giuliani] at State and Chris Christie at Justice.” Ivanka, who’s been frustrated with Chief of Staff John Kelly, has told her father that he needs people around him that will put his interests above their own. “She wants to clean house,” a Trump friend told me. “Her view is J.F.K. had Bobby there to have his back.”

“Another scenario being discussed is that Trump could fill the strategist role with [Corey] Lewandowski and former deputy campaign manager Dave Bossie. Both… face stiff opposition from Ivanka and Jared Kushner. “They have blocked Corey at every turn. They kept him from going into [the] family box at the inaugural,” one former campaign staffer told me. “If Corey gets back in, they’re not long for the place.” [VanityFair]

WEATHER REPORT: “The Trouble Before the Storm” by Andrew Miller: “For all of the tumult of the last year, the Middle East was relatively crisis free… Without minimizing the Gulf crisis or Jerusalem situation, Trump remains untested in a military emergency. How will the administration respond if Iranian proxies in Syria kill U.S. soldiers, a Houthi rocket hits a major target in Riyadh, or Israel launches a new war in Lebanon? Nothing in this analysis instills confidence in Trump’s capacity for managing such situations.”[ForeignPolicy]

BREWING? “Syrian Air Defenses Respond to ‘New Israeli Aggression’ Near Damascus, State TV Reports” by Jack Khoury: “Syrian state media said early on Wednesday that Syrian air defenses had responded to what it described as “a new Israeli aggression” in the countryside around the Syrian capital of Damascus. Sources close to the Syrian government said Israeli missiles had targeted a “research center” in the town of Jamraya… According to reports on social media, three explosions were heard in the Damascus area.” [Haaretz• Netanyahu visits Golan Heights, near Syrian border, and cautions Israel’s enemies [Reuters]

“Neither Israel nor Hamas wants another war in Gaza. That might not be enough to stop one” by Noga Tarnopolsky and Rushdi Abu Alouf: “Gen. Yom-Tov Samia, who retired from the Israeli army as head of its southern command, noted that before each of Israel’s three recent wars with Hamas, in 2009, 2012 and 2014, “all analysts agreed they were completely unwanted by all sides.” “Sometimes you have a confluence of circumstances that leads to war without anyone actively wanting war,” he said in an interview.”[LATimes]

“Cabinet mulls artificial island for aid transfer to Gaza” by Itamar Eichner: “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has directed his cabinet to look into Transit Minister Yisrael Katz’s proposal to construct an artificial island across from the Gaza coast to allow aid to be delivered from the island to Gaza itself… Israel believes that Hamas is not interested in conflict at the moment. However, if hundreds of thousands of Gaza residents take to the streets to protest harsh living conditions, Hamas might be inclined to create a conflict with Israel… “If Hamas senses that it is in existential danger and that the protests are out of control, the only way for them to extricate themselves would be to direct the fire at us,” warned a cabinet minister.” [Ynet]

“Israel needs Abbas to solve Gaza crisis” by Shlomi Eldar: “Some in Israel think Abbas’ refusal to take a stand stems not only from unresolved issues with Hamas over the stalled reconciliation process with Fatah, but also from a desire to take revenge against Trump and Netanyahu for humiliating him… And for that, Abbas would rather see Gaza’s downfall blamed on Netanyahu.” [Al-Monitor]

HEARD YESTERDAY — State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert: “We are calling upon the international community to sit down and have conversations about this to come up with some sort of a resolution, because it’s clear that the people of Gaza continue to suffer and it’s largely of the hands of Hamas, because Hamas has the authoritarian rule over that area… We’re glad that the Palestinian Authority has decided to restore previous levels of electricity to Gaza, but the electricity is simply not enough.”

Abbas says US cannot impose peace deal: “Raising his pen at a rally on Tuesday, he said “this is our pen and we are the only ones to sign.”” [ABCNews]

“Trump shouldn’t take Jordan for granted” by David Ignatius: “What worries Amman is that Trump’s disruptive diplomacy — symbolized by his decision in December to reverse long-standing U.S. policy and move the embassy in Israel to Jerusalem — will cause internal political problems for Jordan, with its large Palestinian population. When Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas denounces Trump’s peace process, Jordan fears it will have to pick up the pieces.” [WashPost]

OLIVE BRANCH — “In Historic First, Saudi Arabia Allows Flights to Israel Over Its Airspace” by Anshel Pfeffer and Rina Rozenberg Kandel: “Saudi Arabia has granted Air India approval to operate direct flights from Delhi to Tel Aviv… Air India’s New Delhi-Tel Aviv route is the first concrete and public piece of evidence to the warming of ties between Israel and the Saudi leadership… Air India will now be able to operate a flight which will be at least three hours shorter and most likely significantly cheaper, than El Al’s Mumbai service.” [HaaretzNDTV]

RAISE FOR NICK — by Theodoric Meyer and Marianne LeVine: “Nick Muzin, whose firm, Stonington Strategies, signed Qatar as a client last summer, has gotten a raise. The Qatari government is now paying Muzin $300,000 a month, six times the $50,000 rate Muzin commanded when he was hired in August, according to Justice Department filings. The catch: The contract requires at least $150,000 per month to “be reserved for compensation of Stonington Strategies’ subcontractors, selected after written approval by the Embassy, which shall assist in performing the services required by the Agreement.” The raise took effect in November, and the contract runs through August.” [PoliticoInfluence]

ON THE HILL — Some 200 activists from across the country gathered yesterday for an event marking the eighth annual Jewish Disability Advocacy Day – as part of Jewish Disabilities Awareness and Inclusion Month – on Capitol Hill. The event, sponsored by The Jewish Federations of North America and URJ’s Religious Action Center, featured panels by disability experts and administration officials, and a luncheon attended by Reps. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Pete Sessions (R-TX), Leonard Lance (R-NJ), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Gene Green (D-TX), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Brad Schneider (D-IL) and Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL). [Pic]

PROFILE: “The Congressman Who Infuriates the President” by Natasha Bertrand: “A GOP aide… said he doesn’t think Trump “has ever faced an adversary quite like [Rep. Adam] Schiff, and it’s freaking him out. First off, he’s a skilled prosecutor with an acid tongue, and a command of all the facts including the most deeply held classified information,” the aide told me. “Second, he’s not in leadership and therefore doesn’t have to consider being at the negotiating table like [Chuck] Schumer or [Nancy] Pelosi do. Third, he’s got a squeaky clean record (wouldn’t have ascended to that position if he didn’t) and comes from a district where when Trump lashes out at him, it only makes him more powerful and popular.”” [TheAtlantic]

2018 WATCH — “Pritzker apologizes for remarks on African-American politicians, as rivals say he’s now unelectable” by Rick Pearson, John Byrne and Monique Garcia: “Democratic governor candidate J.B. Pritzker issued a public apology Tuesday, saying he regretted remarks he made about African-American politicians with then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich during a 2008 discussion about filling Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate seat. “I regret some of the things that I didn’t say and some of the things that I did, but my heart is in the right place — that I’ve tried really hard through the course of my life to do the right things for the African-American community and for communities across Illinois,” Pritzker said at a West Side restaurant… The apology came as other Democratic governor candidates contended Pritzker’s comments tainted the billionaire’s candidacy and would jeopardize chances for a Democratic victory in the fall.”[ChicagoTribune]

“New candidate for Massachusetts Senate president emerges” by Frank Phillips and Joshua Miller: “As Senate Democrats prepare for a tense, closed-door meeting Wednesday amid a leadership crisis… State Senator Eric P. Lesser, 32, of Longmeadow, is pulling together a politically and geographically diverse faction of other relatively new faces to the Senate… “I would feel very confident backing Eric as Senate president,’’ said Senator Anne M. Gobi of Spencer. “He would be great as well as a fresh face for the Senate.” She… said he represented a “fresh set of eyes” and would be able to lead the Senate into a new era.” [BostonGlobe]

BUZZ ON BALFOUR: “Police Recommendations on Charges Against Netanyahu Expected Next Week” by Josh Breiner: “In recent weeks, investigators wrapped up their work in the two cases dubbed Case 1000 and Case 2000; the recommendations are expected by Tuesday.” [Haaretz]

TOP TALKER: “Poland’s Controversial Holocaust Bill Becomes Law” by Drew Hinshaw: “Poland enacted a libel law to punish those who accuse Polish society of complicity in the Holocaust, despite objections from the U.S., Israel and some Auschwitz survivors, who said it threatened to stifle honest discussion of the Nazi genocide.” [WSJ]

“The Truth About Poland’s Role in the Holocaust” by Edna Friedberg: “In 2012, President Barack Obama made reference to a “Polish death camp” when posthumously awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom to the Polish resistance figure Jan Karski. While Obama quickly apologized, his statement touched a nerve in the debate about Poland and Poles’ place in the universe of Nazi victims. Make no mistake: Terms such as “Polish death camps” are historically inaccurate and distort our understanding of how and why Nazi Germany came to build killing centers in that country. A clear-eyed look at the facts demonstrates that the record of Christian Poles, amid the German occupation and the crimes of the Holocaust perpetrated in their country, is not uniformly one of complicity or innocence.”

“Poland was the victim of German aggression, suffering one of the most brutal occupation regimes among countries in the Nazi orbit. Despite severe penalties, more Christian Poles have been recognized as Righteous Among the Nations—those who risked their lives to aid Jews—than citizens of any other country in Europe. But many others supported and enabled Germany in its campaign to exterminate the Jews… Individual Poles also often helped in the identification, denunciation, and exposure of Jews in hiding, sometimes motivated by greed and the opportunities presented by blackmail and the plunder of Jewish-owned property.” [TheAtlantic]

** Good Wednesday Morning! Enjoying the Daily Kickoff? Please share us with your friends & tell them to sign up at [JI]. Have a tip, scoop, or op-ed? We’d love to hear from you. Anything from hard news and punditry to the lighter stuff, including event coverage, job transitions, or even special birthdays, is much appreciated. Email Editor@JewishInsider.com **

BUSINESS BRIEFS: George Soros, Steve Cohen Boost Stakes in Argentine Mobile Banking Venture [Bloomberg] • Here Are the World’s Virtual Currency Billionaires (or at Least They Were) [NYT] • How Salesforce is compelling Israeli retailers to go online [JPost• Alex Taub’s SocialRank is making it easier to suss out fake Twitter and Instagram followers[FastCompany] • Clark Valberg’s InVision launches Studio Platform, challenging Adobe with an open ecosystem [TechCrunch• Delhi-Israel Flights Soon, Air India To Get 7.5M Lakh Euros For Launch [NDTV• Talks for an Israel-India anti-tank missile deal are still ongoing [CNBC

STARTUP NATION: “Houzz acquires IvyMark to expand into services for designers” by Ingrid Lunden: “IvyMark’s designer customers primarily are based in the U.S., but the company was founded in Tel Aviv and as it happens its offices are right around the corner from Houzz’s R&D offices in the city, Houzz’s co-founder and president Alon Cohen said in an interview. The team based in Israel will continue to work there, and those in California will move over to Houzz’s offices in Palo Alto, Cohen said… Cofounded by Alex Schinasi and Lee Rotenberg in 2016, IvyMark has now signed up some 2,400 design firms and under Houzz will likely be scaling that quite significantly.”[TechCrunch]

SPOTLIGHT — “Penny Pritzker’s firm gets a name change and a new office. What’s next?” by Lynne Marek: “Billionaire Chicago businesswoman Penny Pritzker… this week moved her firm, formerly known as PSP Capital, to a 40,000-square-foot office… “I am very excited to share the news that we have decided to acknowledge in our name the great contribution of our team and change our name to PSP Partners,” she told investment clients and other contacts outside the firm in a short note today. “We are also pleased to announce that to accommodate our growth, we have moved to a new office.” PSP currently has about 70 employees, most of whom work in Chicago. It invests in real estate, mature private companies, startups and other investment funds.” [CrainsChicago]

INTERVIEW: “The Closing: David Rozenholc” by Will Parker: “David Rozenholc is one of NYC’s most feared tenant lawyers. Over three-plus decades, Rozenholc has won millions of dollars in settlements and gone up against some of the city’s biggest developers, including the Zeckendorf brothers, Tishman Speyer and Donald Trump… You represented tenants in the ’80s against Trump at 100 Central Park South. Was he different than other developers? Rozenholc: “He was much more aggressive. He brought a $105 million RICO lawsuit against my firm. People threaten me, whatever. Nobody brought a completely frivolous RICO suit to try to convince us not to represent the clients. It made no difference. Ultimately, he paid my legal fees, the case was dismissed, he withdrew his application to evict the tenants and demolish the building.” [TheReaDeal]

SPORTS BLINK: “Israeli players ‘honored’ to represent country in Davis Cup” by Dzevad Mesic: “Israel handed a 3-2 defeat to South-Africa in the Europe/Africa first round to set up a second-round clash against the Czech Republic… “The Israeli players regard it as a great honor representing their country – and reserve their best performances for the Davis Cup,” [Captain Harel] Levy said.” [TennisWorldUSA]

PROFILE: “The Israeli Taking Concrete Steps to Save Marine Life” by Merav Savir: “Shimrit Perkol-Finkel’s office sits in an industrial section of Tel Aviv, a few kilometers from the shorelines of the Mediterranean. Outside are warehouses, garages and a smattering of food joints. A concrete jungle, if you will. From the midst of this concrete jungle, Perkol-Finkel, a 42-year-old marine biologist and CEO of ECOncrete, is working to save urban marine life by using a new type of concrete, one she and her business partner, Ido Sella, patented in 2011.” [Ozy]

COMING SOON — “Gal Gadot to Voice Herself in Upcoming ‘The Simpsons’ Episode” by Beatrice Verhoeven: “Gal Gadot will voice herself in an upcoming episode of “The Simpsons,” the actress announced on Twitter Monday… Gadot will star in an episode titled “Bart’s Not Dead” airing in during season 30, which will debut next fall.” [TheWrap]

“Israeli actress to star in NBC drama” by Amy Spiro: “Moran Atias… has just been cast in an upcoming NBC drama called The Village. The Village, which NBC picked up for its 2018-2019 season, tells the story of a diverse group of residents living in a Manhattan apartment building… According to Deadline, Atias will be playing Edda, an Iranian immigrant who is detained by immigration officers over fraudulent citizenship papers.” [JPost]

“Can a Film Push Israelis Into Peace Talks?” by Justin Higginbottom: “The Oslo Diaries, directed by Mor Loushy and Daniel Sivan, tells the secret history of the 1993 peace talks between the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Israeli government… Daniel Sivan: “It makes me feel old, but this historic handshake [between PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin] was over 20 years ago. That means that a 20-year-old Israeli soldier today, or a 20-year-old Palestinian who crosses a checkpoint and meets that soldier, has never lived in those years of hope. I really hope this film can give them this glance into a different reality.” [OZY]

“Thirsty for Wisdom of the Body, Finding It in Dance” by Brian Schaefer: “Facing each other, Rabbi [Hanania] Schwartz and Mr. [Yuval] Azoulay alternately adopted opposing postures meant to represent the extremes of modern Jewish and Israeli masculinity: One was bent over, as if studying in a yeshiva; the other upright, chest thrust out like a soldier or farmer. “These are the archetypes,” said Ronen Izhaki, who choreographed the piece. After laying them out, “we destroy them, we mix them together.” The excerpt is from a work called “Heroes,” which is to be performed on Wednesday at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan when the Ka’et Ensemble, a contemporary dance company of religious Jewish men from Israel, makes its American debut.” [NYTimes]

TRANSITION — Steven Hodas, an innovator and business entrepreneur, was appointed as ADL’s Vice President of Education. Hodas, who served in New York City Department of Education’s Office of Innovation in the years 2012-2014, will be responsible for creating and implementing a strategic vision for ADL’s educational programming.

TALK OF THE TOWN: “Buffalo area’s second-last kosher restaurant closes in Jewish Community Center” by Andrew Z. Galarneau: “Tel Aviv Café by Falafel Bar, the kosher restaurant inside the Jewish Community Center in Amherst, closed Feb. 5 after losing its kosher certification. Chef-owner Oded Rauvenpoor said that factional disputes in the Buffalo area’s Jewish community made it infeasible to continue the restaurant’s operations… The café’s closing leaves NY Deli and Diner, in Talbert Hall on the University at Buffalo’s North Campus, as the only BVK-approved restaurant in the area… Rauvenpoor said he was disappointed but thankful to all the staff and customers at JCC who made it possible.” [BuffaloNews]

DESSERT: “Israeli burger Burgerim franchise opening first San Antonio location” by Paul Stephen: “Burgerim is an Israeli chain launched in Tel Aviv in 2011. The name, in Hebrew, is the plural form of “burger,” and reinforces the brand’s focus on a mix-and-match mini-burger approach… Chris and Brenda Branchizio, the third generation of Branchizio restaurateurs behind the late Branchizio’s Naples Italian Restaurant in Alamo Heights, will open the city’s first Burgerim franchise.” [Chron]

“Abigael’s Takes Over Kosher Stand at MSG for Knicks & Rangers Games” by Dani Klein: “After recently bowing out of the Barclay Center, Abigael’s by Jeff Nathan has taken over the kosher stand inside Madison Square Garden, replacing Carlos & Gabby’s for Knicks & Rangers games.” [YeahThatsKosher]

BIRTHDAYS: Milwaukee-born businessman and philanthropist, former US Senator from Wisconsin (1989-2013), and former owner of the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks, Herb Kohl turns 83… and also born in Milwaukee on the same date 16 years later, Senior Rabbi of Beth Tzedec Congregation in Toronto, president of the Toronto Board of Rabbis (2012-2015), Baruch Frydman-Kohl turns 67… French native, now living in West Roxbury, MA, he is a financial advisor for the Bulfinch Group, Michel R. Scheinmann turns 70… Democratic member of the Illinois House of Representatives since 2010, previously the Executive Director of the Illinois Maternal and Child Health Coalition (1988-2010), Robyn Gabel turns 65… Rick Wice turns 62… American businessman and investor arrested in Bolivia in July 2011 and held for 18 months without charges, freed through public outcry and the efforts of Sean Penn, Jacob Ostreicher turns 59… Actor, humorist, comedian and writer known for his Saturday Night Live “TV Funhouse” cartoon shorts and as the puppeteer and voice behind Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog, Robert Smigel turns 58…

Rabbi, director of congregational learning at Har Shalom in Potomac, MD and author of Jewish children’s books and teen novels, Deborah Bodin Cohen turns 50… VP of marketing and communications at trade show manager Hargrove, Inc., previously a VP/MD at at Qorvis MSLGROUP and a producer at ABC, NBC, CBS and Discovery Channel, Jennifer Diamond Haber turns 49… MLB pitcher since 2005, has played for the Rangers, Cubs, Orioles, Astros and Blue Jays, signed to a one-year deal in 1-2017 by the Reds, now a free agent, Scott Feldman turns 35… Executive Director of the Aviv Foundation, Adam Simon turns 43… VP at Lieberman Research Worldwide, Jonathan Weissturns 42… Associate Director of Development at Chicago’s Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School, previously Major Gift Officer at U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Rachael Fenton… Rabbi, spokesman and director of public relations for the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, Zalman Shmotkin… David Israel… Michael Harris… Carol Mulrooney

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Former Cruz Spox: Sheldon Could Sit Out Trump/Hillary Matchup

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Pro-Israel megadonors like Sheldon Adelson and others would likely sit out the general election if Donald Trump is the Republican Party’s nominee, former Cruz spokesperson, Rick Tyler suggested…

House Members Introduce Bill to Ensure Resolution for Jewish Refugees

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

WASHINGTON, DC – A group of bipartisan lawmakers are taking action on the issue of Jewish refugees from Middle Eastern, North African, and Gulf countries, making sure a…

Top Senate Dems Hit Obama’s Objection to Anti-BDS Provisions on Settlements

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Senate Democratic leaders defied President Obama’s objection to the anti-BDS language in the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 he signed into law last week. The…

NY Republicans Call on State Assembly to Pass Anti-BDS Legislation

Sunday, February 28, 2016

NEW YORK – New York State Republican lawmakers on Sunday called on the Democratic majority in the New York Assembly to pass legislation that would prohibit state contracting…

A Congressman, Israeli Ambassador and Hall of Fame Running Back Celebrate Black History Month

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Approximately one hundred and fifty guests of the Israeli Embassy and the Elijah Cummings Youth Leadership Program in Israel (ECYP) gathered in the lower level of the U.S….

Obama Signs Anti-BDS Bill, Objects to Pro-Settlement Provisions

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

President Barack Obama reiterated his strong opposition to the BDS movement as he signed the “Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015” on Wednesday despite the inclusion…