Daily Kickoff: How a game of basketball landed Avrahm Berkowitz in the Trump White House | Ivanka’s Rabbinic Pass | Bernard-Henri Lévy on Trump

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EXCLUSIVE: How Avrahm Berkowitz Landed in the West Wing — From a simple game of pickup basketball to a top West Wing position in the Trump White House: For Avrahm (Avi) Berkowitz, an encounter on the court with Jared Kushner at a Passover hotel program in Arizona several years ago has led to a number of unique opportunities. The latest manifestation of this journey was announced Thursday in a Trump press release listing Berkowitz’s new title: Special Assistant to the President and assistant to Senior Advisor Jared Kushner… When Kushner and Berkowitz first met during a Passover program at the historic Arizona Biltmore Hotel, Berkowitz was attending classes at Queens College. The two kept in touch and when Avi graduated, Kushner hired him to join his family’s real estate company where Berkowitz helped manage the firm’s apartment portfolio.

On Thursday, Trump suggested that Kushner would serve as a mediator for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, saying “If [Kushner] can’t produce Middle East peace, nobody can.” While some reports suggested that Trump and Kushner were annoyed with AIPAC’s apology at its Policy Conference last year (after a number of AIPAC delegates cheered when Trump attacked President Obama, calling him “the worst thing ever to happen to Israel”), the new Administration doesn’t appear to be holding any grudges. In fact, to the contrary, Berkowitz’s first cousin is former AIPAC President Howard Friedman. David Cordish serves on AIPAC’s National Board. His son Reed, also a friend of Kushner, was appointed this week to serve as Assistant to the President for Intragovernmental and Technology Initiatives. How Trump’s White House and Kushner’s West Wing will operate is anyone’s guess but no one can deny the power of a pickup basketball game. If nothing else, expect to see activity on the White House basketball court come next Passover. [JewishInsider]

“Trump: If Ivanka’s husband can’t broker Middle East peace, no one can” by Caitlin Yilek: “Trump is setting the bar high for his eldest daughter’s husband, Jared Kushner. “If you can’t produce peace in the Middle East, nobody can,” Trump said on the eve of his inauguration at an event for campaign donors in Washington, D.C. “All my life I’ve been hearing that’s the toughest deal in the world to make. And I’ve seen it. But I have a feeling Jared’s going to do a great job.” … “I sort of stole her husband,” Trump quipped about his daughter and Kushner on Thursday.” [WashExaminer]

“Wealthy donors, once Trump’s punching bags, get VIP treatment at inauguration” by Matea Gold:On Thursday, the president-elect headlined a luncheon at his downtown hotel honoring GOP congressional leaders, where he singled out and thanked mega-donors Sheldon and Miriam Adelson for their support… Wealthy contributors may have served as punching bags for Trump on the campaign trail, but they are enjoying VIP treatment in Washington this week.” [WashPost] • Sheldon Adelson and his wife Miriam arrive this morning at the West Front of the U.S. Capitol for Trump Inauguration [Pic]

“Trump’s New York real estate buddies descend on DC” by Kathryn Brenzel and Will Parker: “A cadre of real estate bigwigs are descending on the nation’s capital to watch one of their own be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States. The guest list isn’t surprising: Outspoken supporters like Richard LeFrak, Howard Lorber and Steve Witkoff have all confirmed that they will attend Friday’s ceremony. Vornado Realty Trust’s Steve Roth will most likely also be in the crowd, though he hasn’t yet confirmed his plans.” [RealDeal]

“Trump supporters wish rest of the country shared their enthusiasm for the inauguration” by Hunter Walker: “In an interview with Yahoo News on SiriusXM’s POTUS radio channel on Thursday, [Boris] Epshteyn relentlessly stuck to his message that the inauguration is “all about the people” rather than any big-name talent. “It’s about the peoples’ voices being heard throughout this country and throughout the world,” Epshteyn said.” [YahooNews

REPORT: “Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner Get Rabbinic Pass to Ride in Car on Inauguration Shabbat” by Thea Glassman: “In an interview with Kol Barama radio, Mark Zell, the chair of the Republican Party in Israel, said the couple have been granted special permission by a rabbi to use a vehicle because of “safety” concerns.” [Forward; NYPost]

Jake Sherman: “Joe Lieberman, also an observant Jew, said he would walk to inauguration ceremonies in 2001 — if Gore won.” [Twitter]

— NYTimes report from August 14, 2000 — by Bernard Weinraub and Elisabeth Bumiller:“Just this morning, Senator Joseph I. Lieberman was asked by Tim Russert on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press,’ what would happen if the Gore-Lieberman ticket won the presidency. The inauguration date is Jan. 20, 2001, a Saturday. As an Orthodox Jew, Mr. Lieberman strictly observes the Sabbath, from sundown on Fridays to sundown on Saturdays, which ostensibly prohibits working, riding in vehicles and other activities. Mr. Lieberman smiled. ‘Well, as my mother would say, Tim, if she were here, “Sweetheart, we should have such a problem.”’ He went on to say that he would probably stay near the Capitol on Friday night, to avoid having to travel by car. And, if the Secret Service agreed, he would walk from the Capitol to the White House to participate in the events. Mr. Lieberman said that he has driven on the Sabbath in the past if important issues were at stake.” [NYTimes] • h/t Playbook

Rabbi Levi Shemtov tells us: “I think one should know of and be able to confirm all the details, including perhaps intelligence or other specific factors which could impact such a singular halachic decision for a specific individual and circumstance, before they comment about it. I won’t comment further.”

“Invitations in hand, West Bank settlers head to inauguration” by Josef Federman: “”I definitely agree that we are now getting the VIP treatment, which is something that we have been working on for many years,” said Oded Revivi, chief foreign envoy of the Yesha Council… “You could basically argue that it has taken 50 years, since 1967, to be recognized on such a level for such an event.” … When asked if Trump, his incoming administration or inaugural committee had invited the settlers, inaugural committee spokesman Boris Epshteyn did not answer the question, saying in a statement only that no heads of state or heads of government were among the invited guests.” [AP] • Israeli Lawmakers Celebrate the New “King of the United States” With Evangelicals [TheIntercept]

“Michael Cohen will be personal attorney to POTUS” by Kathryn Brenzel: “The position means he’ll deal with legal matters that don’t pertain to the White House, but to Trump personally, Cohen confirmed to The Real Deal on Thursday. He wouldn’t specify where he’d be based, but said “If (Trump) wants me to sit in the Oval Office, I’ll be at the Oval Office. If he wants me in New York, I’ll be in New York.”” [TRD]  

JI INTERVIEW — Republican Jewish Coalition Executive Director Matt Brooks on what to expect from President Trump: “There can be no doubt in anybody’s mind in the Jewish community that President Trump is going to be a radical departure from President Obama, who systematically weakened and undermined the U.S.-Israel relationship over the last eight years with his administration. You’ve seen it precisely by the people that he has appointed to key positions already… He is surrounding himself with folks who are unabashedly supportive of Israel and are willing to stand up and defend Israel in the international community and in international forums like the UN, something that we have not seen during the last eight years of the Obama administration.”

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

Brooks: “I have no doubt that President Trump would be able to work with any of the organizations or folks in the Jewish community if there’s an opportunity to do so. The bigger question is, are these organizations, which have invested so much publicly in their protests and condemnation of the Trump candidacy and the initial stages of the Trump incoming administration, going to be able to work effectively with this administration. I think there will certainly be a willingness to be inclusive on the part of the Administration. I question and would like to see, hopefully, whether those groups from the Jewish community really will have an open mind and be willing to engage in an honest and sincere manner with the Administration on the range of issues that are so important to our community.”

“The biggest message that I have for people in the Jewish community right now, who are issuing statements left and right about their concern about this and their opposition to that, is: give the guy a chance. It’s easy to criticize. Right now people are criticizing in the abstract. They have no idea what he’s really going to do, or what his policies are because he’s not even sworn in yet. I would say it’s perfectly legitimate for people to be critical of actual policies that run counter to the missions of their organizations or things that they’re concerned about, but right now there’s no actual policy. All this flurry of press releases and interviews criticizing and objecting to this administration, I think, are ill-timed at this point. I think we owe it, as a community, to give the president an opportunity to lead and an opportunity to see what he’s really doing. There will be plenty of time for people to jump on the bandwagon and criticize down the road if they so choose. I say, give the guy a chance, and I think people are going to be pleasantly surprised.” Read the full interview here [JewishInsider

“Following Trump’s inauguration: What’s next?” by Jacob Kornbluh and Aaron Magid: “Analysts in Israel, for example, are hoping the new commander in chief adopts a more assertive approach in the Middle East… Questions remain as to whether Trump’s presidency might push Israel away from the bipartisan support it traditionally has received… And there is still the eternally thorny issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and how it might be impacted by the change in American leadership… What follows are not definitive answers to what we’re all wondering as the Trump era in America begins, but a sampling of perspectives from politicos, domestic and abroad, liberal and conservative.” [JewishJournal] • Dershowitz: Trump likely to be unpredictable on Israel [DetroitNews]

“Jews, Be Wary of Trump” by Bernard-Henri Lévy: “I cannot claim any knowledge of Donald Trump’s “heart” or of the sincerity of his commitment to the Jewish state. But there have been indications going back decades… Like all other American citizens, Jews must respect the president-elect in the forms provided in the Constitution. But they must not fall into the trap of believing in his inconsistent and ultimately double-edged benevolence. They must not forget that, no matter how many times Mr. Trump declares his love for Israel, for Benjamin Netanyahu or anyone else, he will remain a bad shepherd who respects only power, money and the perquisites of his palaces.” [NYTimes

VIEW FROM JERUSALEM: “In video praising Trump, Jerusalem mayor says Obama ‘surrendered’ to radical Islam” by William Booth: “Then the viewer hears some rousing music, sees Trump mount a stage, watches a crowd cheering wildly and cuts to Trump addressing the American Israel Public Affairs Committee lobby in Washington, vowing, “We will move the American embassy to the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem …” [Nir] Barkat follows: “ … Join me in signing a letter supporting President Trump’s decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem and his decisions supporting Israel. Let’s make the U.S. and Israel relationship great again!” Barkat paid for the video out of his own pocket. His spokesman Avi Lerner said the letter campaign garnered more than 10,000 signatures in the first six hours.” [WashPost] • Israel’s right wing has grand plans for Trump era [Reuters]

COMING SOON: “Trump spokesman says of possibility of U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem: ‘Stay tuned’” by Steve Holland and Doina Chiacu: “Stay tuned,” incoming White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters, asked about the issue at a briefing the day before Trump takes office. “There’ll be a further announcement on that… “The president (Trump) has made it very clear that Israel has not gotten the attention it deserves or the respect in the last eight years. He intends to really show his respect for Israel, the importance of it in the Middle East.” [Reuters

“Netanyahu Briefed on Scenarios of Violence Should Trump Move Embassy to Jerusalem” by Barak Ravid: “Earlier this week, Netanyahu convened a special security consultation on preparations for an announcement by Trump on the embassy… According to two senior Israel officials with knowledge of the consultations, Netanyahu and other officials at the meeting said Israel did not have definite information on whether or when Trump would announce an embassy move. One official said Netanyahu had spoken by phone with Trump a number of times since his election, but as of the meeting he had not received a clear answer on the embassy.” [Haaretz

INBOX: “The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has expressed criticism and concern that South Carolina Governor, Nikki Haley, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for Ambassador to the United Nations, said during her Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill that she is a proponent of the “two-state solution”(meaning Hamas/Fatah Palestinian Arab Terror State) and that she understands how settlements “can hinder peace.”

“Donald Trump Should Isolate Iran Immediately” by Jeb Bush and Dennis Ross: “The United States has no shortage of tools for affecting Iran’s behavior. A good one to start with: aggressively enforce the existing sanctions architecture… Only through a new campaign of pressure can the U.S. demonstrate to Iran that it runs very great risks if its policies don’t change and if it is ever tempted to pursue nuclear weapons again.” [TIME]

“An insider’s view: Eight years watching the first Jewish US president” by Steve Rabinowitz: “Additionally, Obama had close relationships with the Crown family; Penny Pritzker, who would later become secretary of commerce; Eric Lynn, who would later work in the Defense Department; and Dan Shapiro, who Obama would seat on his national security staff before making him ambassador to Israel. What these Jews had in common was that they were all progressive liberals and staunch Zionists devoted to Israel and its well-being but who also didn’t think it was off limits to criticize Israeli policies, including settlements. Obama therefore developed an attitude toward Israel that reflected that of his friends: First, just as Jews respond viscerally when Israel is under attack, he doubled down on Israel’s security when it faced dangers. Second, loving Israel sometimes means disagreeing with it, a position that many Jews on the Right seem to reject even when it comes from a fellow Jew.” [JPost

** 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 **

SPOTLIGHT: “Private Equity Eyes Tax and Financial Reform in the Trump Era” by Melissa Mittelman: “Aside from assigning official posts, Trump has hosted a steady stream of private equity executives since the election. Carlyle Group LP co-CEO David Rubenstein, Blackstone’s real estate head Jon Gray, KKR’s Henry Kravis and Cerberus Capital Management’s Steve Feinberg have been among his visitors… Disapproval of the tax treatment of carried interest, the portion of a private equity fund’s profits paid to fund managers, was one of the few issues that Trump and rival Hillary Clinton agreed on during the 2016 election.” [Bloomberg]

“George Soros calls Trump a ‘would-be dictator’ who ‘is going to fail'” by Jeff Cox: “Uncertainty is the enemy of long-term investment,” Soros said. “I don’t think the markets are going to do very well. Right now they are still celebrating. But when reality comes in,” his bets against the market “will prevail.” [CNBC

“Homes Steeped in Jewish Heritage” by Katy McLaughlin: “Lane] Auten’s condos are one example of a new appreciation for traditionally Jewish neighborhoods in parts of Europe. Haunted by harsh conditions for Jews over the centuries and the specter of the Holocaust, these areas are now being embraced by both Jewish home buyers and non-Jews who value their unique character. Tourists are drawn by museums, guided tours and cultural events that explore Jewish history, and cafes, bars and restaurants have opened to cater to them.” [WSJ]

TALK OF THE TOWN: “Cuomo: Bomb threats to Jewish centers won’t be tolerated” by Casey Seiler: “A day after three Jewish Community Centers across New York… received anonymous bomb threats, Gov. Andrew Cuomo released a statement saying… ”We have zero tolerance for any individual who makes such threats – false or otherwise – which is against the law,” Cuomo said. ” … In these turbulent times, New Yorkers reject the divisive forces of hate and bigotry. We will not permit anti-Semitism or bias incidents to go unpunished – period.”” [TimesUnion]

DEEP DIVE: “Seth Rich wasn’t just another D.C. murder victim. He was a meme in the weirdest presidential election of our times” by Manuel Roig-Franzia: “The Jewish kid from Nebraska chose to attend a Jesuit college, Creighton, because he liked its political science curriculum. “He’d sometimes call himself a Jew with Jesuit values,” his father said… In June, an explosive story made headlines: A cybersecurity firm had determined that hackers associated with Russian intelligence had broken into DNC computers. “He was so upset,” a person who was very close to Rich said… “It was crazy. Especially for Seth. He said, ‘Oh, my God. We have a foreign entity trying to get involved in our elections?’ That made him so angry.” [WashPost]

TRANSITION: Longtime diplomat and Israeli Foreign Ministry official David Siegel tapped to serve as CEO of ELNET (European Leadership Network). Siegel served as Israel’s Consul General to the Southwest United States from 2011-2016. He also served as Chief of Staff to three of Israel’s Ambassadors to the United States, and later on as spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in DC. “There are significant opportunities to strengthen the important relationships between Europe and Israel, and the work ELNET does is more critical today than ever,” Siegel said in a statement. “I am honored to join ELNET and contribute to the exciting growth of the organization as we strengthen our presence in Europe and Israel and help deepen these important ties.

Politico’s Katie Glueck moves to McClatchy: “McClatchy DC is boosting its politics team with the addition of Roll Call senior political reporter Alex Roarty and POLITICO’s own Katie Glueck, where they’ll be covering the left and right, respectively. Glueck joins another POLITICO alum, former national editor Kristin Roberts, at McClatchy.” [Morning Media] • Hadas Gold joins FOX 5 as political contributor [Fox5DC]

WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS: Lakewood, NJ-born, American diplomat and former State Department official (1959-1991), later President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (1991-1997), Morton I. Abramowitz turns 84… Israeli politician, refusenik during the 1970s and 1980s who spent nine years in Soviet prisons, since 2009 Chairman of the Jewish Agency, Natan Sharansky turns 69… US Representative from Nevada (1999-2013), now CEO and senior provost for Touro University Western Division, Shelley Berkley (born Rochelle Levine) turns 66… Comedian, writer, producer, political commentator, animal rights activist, actor, media critic and host of HBO’s political talk show “Real Time with Bill Maher,” William “Bill” Maher turns 61… Governor of South Carolina since January 2011 and currently nominee to be US Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley (born Nimrata Randhawa) turns 45… Philanthropist, professional equestrian, author and younger daughter of former NYC Mayor and billionaire Michael Bloomberg, Georgina Leigh Bloomberg turns 34… Member of the digital communications team at Purple Strategies, after internships on Capitol Hill and the MPAA, blogger for Mediabistro’s FishbowlDC, Alec Jacobs (h/t Playbook)… Jason Berger… Adar Belinkoff

Born in Kansas City, raised in Oklahoma City, co-founder of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, philanthropist Lynn Schusterman… Literary critic, feminist, writer on cultural and social issues, television critic for People magazine, Elaine Showalter (born Elaine Cottler) turns 76… Chinese-American Governor of Washington (1997-2005), US Secretary of Commerce (2009-11) and US ambassador to China (2011-14), Gary Locke turns 67… 82nd Attorney General of the United States (2009-2015), Eric Holder turns 66… Political editor at Newsweek, previously managing editor for White House coverage at National Journal, reporter for Time, blogger for Talking Points Memo, Matthew Cooper turns 54… Born in Trinidad and Tobago, SVP and Washington bureau chief for CNN since 2011, employed by CNN since 1991, Sam Feist turns 48… Ramat Gan native, director, producer and screenwriter of American films, best known as the producer or director of the six films in the “Paranormal Activity” series, Oren Peli turns 47… Rabbi and Dean of School at Yavneh Hebrew Academy in Los Angeles, lecturer, educator and author, Shlomo Einhorn turns 38… Chief of Staff in the Health and Human Services Department’s Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. Jordan Grossman turns 31… Former reporter in the Jerusalem bureau of the Associated Press (2006-2011), who later wrote about the bias against Israel at the AP and the international media, author of two acclaimed books, Matti Friedman

Canadian philanthropist who created Shoppers Drug-Mart and Israel’s Super Pharm stores, co-founder of The Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Murray Koffler turns 93… Nobel Prize laureate in chemistry in 2000, since 1982 a professor in the Physics Department at the University of California Santa Barbara, Alan J. Heeger turns 81… Brooklyn-born conductor, who during his tenure as artistic director of the Kraków Philharmonic became friends with Pope John Paul II for whom he later conducted multiple Papal concerts, Gilbert Levine turns 69… Co-managing editor of Bloomberg Politics, senior political analyst for MSNBC and Bloomberg TV, co-author (w/ Mark Halperin) of “Game Change” and “Double Down: Game Change 2012,” John Heilemann turns 51… Senior Legislative Assistant in the DC office of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, Matthew Lustbader… Michael Marquis… Ruth Lynn Sobel

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Daily Kickoff: Trump’s Shadow National Security Council | Obama’s sanctions chief Adam Szubin asked by Trump to stay | Hasidim at Sundance

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HEARD LAST NIGHT: “At Dinner Honoring Mike Pence, Donald Trump Touches Many Bases” by Maggie Haberman: “President-elect Donald J. Trump, in a free-flowing speech Wednesday night at a dinner honoring his running mate, Mike Pence, jabbed at his new Republican allies and his critics alike, questioned the ethics of “super PACs” and talked about creating a “merit-based” immigration system… Mr. Trump also took aim at Mr. Cruz (a “smart guy, he was a little late to the plate, but that’s O.K.”); Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, a rival in the primary (“he can be nasty, that Scott Walker”); members of the “Never Trump” movement (“they’re really right now on a respirator; they’re pretty much gone”); and the casino magnate Sheldon Adelson (he mocked him for being late to donate promised money to outside groups supporting his candidacy).” [NYTimes]

Mike Allen’s version of Trump’s remarks: “We could not have done it without the people in this room. The people in this room are very special. Everyone is special. [Applause.] They’re friends of mine. Sheldon Adelson is here someplace. … I think he only gave $125 million. [Applause.]” [Axios]

“Trump: ‘I did not forget’ Jerusalem embassy move pledge” by Alexander Fulbright:“Asked by the Israel Hayom on Tuesday night at the Chairman’s Global Dinner in Washington, DC — an exclusive black tie event for diplomats and members of the incoming administration — if “you have not forgotten your promise concerning the embassy in Jerusalem,” Trump responded that “of course I remember what I said about Jerusalem.” “You know that I am not a person who breaks promises,” the president-elect added in comments published in Hebrew by the paper on Thursday morning.” [ToI]

FIRST LOOK: “Inside Trump’s shadow national security council” by Josh Rogin: “As the Trump administration gets underway, its most influential foreign policy figures are not its Cabinet nominees, or even the National Security Council, but a handful of senior people close to the president-elect… When Trump’s Cabinet members are confirmed and their staffs are in place, heads of national security departments and agencies could be in a position to exert great influence. But for now, incoming chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon, senior adviser Jared Kushner and White House chief of staff Reince Priebus comprise an informal council that sits atop the Trump transition team’s executive committee and has the final say on national security personnel appointments. No major decision can go forward without their sign-off.” [WashPost]

SZUBIN STAYING ON: Edward-Isaac Dovere tweets “Adam Szubin, whom Rs in Congress wouldn’t confirm for his internat’l terrorism $ at Treasury, has been asked to stay in interim job by Trump” [Twitter]

Julie Davis: “Fascinating that Trump would ask Obama’s sanctions chief to stay in place. Has played key role in Iran deal, Russia, ISIS, Cuba policies” [NYTimes]

Of Note: “Mr. Szubin (the initial S in his name is irrationally silent, so when it’s said aloud it begins with the Z) is Teaneck born and bred; he went to Yavneh Academy until high school, when he commuted across the river to Ramaz, the modern Orthodox day school on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.” [JewishStandard]

“Chicago fiscal wizard joins Trump team” by Michael Sneed: “GCM Grosvenor CEO Michael Sacks, a top personal adviser to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, informed his firm that Grosvenor managing director Jeremy Katz is leaving to serve as deputy director of the National Economic Council — as well as a deputy assistant to the president. Katz, 39, a Chicago native, will report to NEC Director Gary Cohn.” [SunTimes]

ON THE HILL: “Haley: Trump Admin. Committed to Longstanding U.S. Policy on Settlements” by Jacob Kornbluh: “I do understand how they think that [settlements] could hinder peace,” [Nikki] Haley said during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when pressed on the issue by Senator Tom Udall (D-NM). “But my question is are you committed to the bipartisan policy on settlements?” Udall pressed the South Carolina Governor. “Yes, I am,” Haley responded. Asked by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) if the incoming Trump Administration is also committed to the longstanding policy on the issue of settlements, Haley said, “I have not heard anything different.” Haley also stated she supports the two-state solution. But she was quick to point out that the recent UN resolution (UNSC 2334), which assailed Israel for its continued settlement construction, was “very harmful to achieving a two-state solution.”” [JewishInsider]

“UN nominee supports Trump on moving US embassy to Jerusalem” by AFP:“Haley… was asked at her senate confirmation hearing if she supported Trump’s campaign trail promise to move the US embassy to Jerusalem. “Absolutely,” Haley said. “And not only is that what Israel wants, but that is what this Congress has said that is what they support.”” [Yahoo]

Richard Haas:“The bigger argument is that moving the embassy risks making Jerusalem an even greater magnet for protest, violence and terrorism. The move could take a conflict that has lost more than a little salience in the Muslim world and transform it into a crisis, increasing the threat to American embassies and personnel world-wide.” [WSJ]

“Israel Wants Trump Understandings on Settlements, Minister Says” by David Wainer and Michael Arnold: “We will propose a law to extend Israeli law in Maaleh Adumim,” a large Jewish settlement outside Jerusalem, “but we do want to have a dialogue to reach understandings with the U.S. government,” [Justice Minister Ayelet] Shaked said… “It’s absurd that during Obama’s tenure we weren’t allowed to build in the settlement blocs,” Shaked said. “It’s absurd that these areas have had a shortage of housing.” [Bloomberg

IRAN DEAL: “Outgoing U.S. envoy says U.N. needs to ‘push’ Iran on arms embargo” by Michelle Nichols: “The United Nations Security Council needs to push Iran to abide by an arms embargo, outgoing U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power said on Wednesday amid U.N. concerns that Tehran has supplied weapons and missiles to Lebanese Shi’ite group Hezbollah.” [Reuters]

PATH TO PENN AVE — In the run up to the inauguration we’re featuring the thoughts of several JI readers on what to expect from the incoming Trump Admin. Email us your thoughts at Editor@JewishInsider.com.

Andrew Weinstein, a Florida-based attorney and prominent Democratic donor: “My expectations of Donald Trump are extraordinarily low. I believe he and his team are historically unprepared to assume the awesome responsibilities of the presidency. As someone who loves his country I am rooting for Trump to succeed, but given his post-election conduct and comments I don’t think it’s likely.”

Hank Sheinkopf, political strategist: “President Trump will do exactly what President-elect Trump said he would do.”

Erin Schrode, former Democratic candidate for California’s 2nd Congressional District: “I’m an eternal optimist, yet in this case, I fear the worst – especially for the most vulnerable among us. In 100 short days, the US government could, or lay the groundwork to, reverse decades of veritable real world progress. I see Trump already beginning to dismantle the very infrastructure that allows us — the activists, the citizens, the stakeholders — to push for and bring about change. I see Congress repealing without replacement, following that similar and perilous trend.”

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

Weinstein: “Trump’s relationship with Jewish organizations will be similar to his relationship with other entities and individuals. Those that praise him will have a seat at the table and those that don’t will be left out in the cold. That’s unfortunate because listening to all of the voices would give him a better understanding of our diverse community.”

Sheinkopf: “Liberal Jewish organizations will continue to lose influence. Israel advocates will be quiet initially.”

Q: Will Israel become more partisan in DC?

Weinstein: “The United States and Israel share an unbreakable bond that should never be subjected to partisan politics. Our common values and interests demand nothing less. Sadly, some Republicans try to equate blind devotion to Netanyahu with support for Israel. That’s just wrong. The reality is many of the most pro-Israel members of congress are Democrats and that’s not going to change.”

Sheinkopf: “Israel will continue to be defined as a partisan issue. More conservative, more religious, the more support. Jewish activists, however, will have to increase their activities and not take younger evangelicals for granted.”

** 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 **

WEF: “Davos Elite Fret About Inequality Over Vintage Wine and Canapés” by Peter Goodman: “Same as every other year, Davos is again plastered with the slogan of the World Economic Forum: “Committed to Improving the State of the World.” But whatever improvements are supposed to be made, one can safely assume they will not conflict with those in attendance continuing to enjoy the state of the world as it is now, with canapés and aged Bordeaux and private jets at the ready. Which means that the global populism insurrection is unlikely to lose momentum anytime soon.” [DealBook]

“Why the elites always rule” by Hugo Drochon: “Pareto’s thesis was that elites always rule. There is always the domination of the minority over the majority. And history is just the story of one elite replacing another. This is what he called the “circulation of elites”. When the current elite starts to decline, it is challenged and makes way for another. Pareto thought that this came about in two ways: either through assimilation, the new elite merging with elements of the old, or through revolution, the new elite wiping out the old. He used the metaphor of a river to make his point. Most of the time, the river flows continuously, smoothly incorporating its tributaries, but sometimes, after a storm, it floods and breaks its banks.” [NewStatesman]

TRANSITION: “The Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics (IOP) has selected its spring 2017 class of Visiting and Resident Fellows… Sarah Hurwitz, Special Assistant to the President, Senior Strategic and Policy Advisor to the Council On Women and Girls, and Senior Presidential Speechwriter. Served as the chief speechwriter for First Lady Michelle Obama (2010-17)… Jon Finer, Chief of Staff and Director of Policy Planning, and previously Deputy Chief of Staff, at the Department of State (2013-2017); Senior Advisor to the Deputy National Security Advisor; Middle East Advisor and Speechwriter for Vice President Joseph R. Biden (2011-2013); White House Fellow (2009-2010)” [HarvardIOP]

SCENE LAST NIGHT: AIPAC hosted its annual Northeast Gala at the Lincoln Center in New York City. With around 2,500 in attendance, the gathering provided a taste of the group’s larger annual Policy Conference, complete with a Roll Call of notable attendees. The evening’s program, held in the David Geffen hall, included discussions with MK Tzipi Livni and Dr. Michael Oren along with remarks from Israeli Consul Gen. Dani Dayan, new AIPAC national board member Yana Lukeman, and student activist Yannick Tona.

SPOTTED: Hundreds of JI readers were ‘spotted’ but, to avoid the risk of omitting anyone and to save some space, we’re limiting the list to elected officials and diplomats Members of Congress Yvette Clark, Joe Crowley, Eliot Engel, Adriano Espaillat, Elizabeth Esty, John Faso, Josh Gottheimer, Hakeen Jeffries, Carolyn Maloney, Sean Patrick Maloney, Jerry Nadler, Tom Suozzi, and Lee Zeldin. New York State’s Attorney Gen. Eric Schneiderman, Assemb. Michael Blake, Walter Mosley, and David Weprin. New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, Council Members Andrew Cohen, Daniel Garodnick, David Greenfield, Barry Grodenchik, Mark Levine, Helen Rosenthal, Jumaane Williams. Canadian Amb. to the UN Marc-Andre Blanchard, Czech Republic’s Amb. to the UN Marie Chatardova, Estonia’s UN Amb. Sven Jurgenson, Lithuania’s Consul Gen. Julius Pranevicius, Romania’s UN Amb. Ion Jinga, Israeli officials David Roet and Amir Sagie.

TALK OF OUR NATION: “How did A Sundance filmmaker shoot a scripted movie in the insulated world of New York’s Hasidim?” by Steven Zeitchik: “The secular filmmaker Joshua Weinstein stood on a helter-skelter corner in this ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhood next to shops selling conservative fashions and Internet-disabled smartphones, and pondered his recent guerrilla shoot. The strangest casting moment, let me think about that,” the director said, tilting back his head. “It might be all the times I sat through an hour of evening prayers because I happened to be talking to a potential actor and they needed a 10th man for a minyan [a prayer quorum]… Weinstein experienced a series of colorful moments to craft the low-key authenticity of “Menashe,” his heartfelt gem of a scripted drama that will premiere Monday at the Sundance Film Festival in the upstart Next section.” [LATimes]

“Jewish Centers Across U.S. Face New Wave of Bomb Threats” by Mitch Smith and Alan Blinder:On Wednesday, for the second time this month, someone called the Jewish community center outside Wilmington, Del., and said a bomb was on the property. For the second time this month, children were evacuated from schools, gym patrons had their workouts interrupted and police dogs searched the campus. And for the second time this month, it turned out to be part of a frightening nationwide hoax targeting Jewish facilities.” [NYTimes]

TALK OF THE TOWN: “Once partners, bagel-making brothers are now competitors” by Pat Wechsler: “The dream of becoming a bagel mogul began for Matt Pomerantz when he and his brother, Adam, were working in finance after college. Both were living in Greenwich Village, and both hated that on weekends they couldn’t find a decent bagel nearby… In 1995, the brothers converted a pottery shop on Sixth Avenue, between West 12th and 13th streets, into a bagel bakery. They named the store Murray’s Bagels. Somewhere along the line, though, the brothers stopped working together. The reason is a family secret as closely held as their bagel recipe.” [Crains]

DESSERT: “The Non-Jewish Family That Serves ‘Kosher’ Quesadillas to Mexico City’s Jews” by Alan Grabinsky: “Every day, at around 5:30 in the evening, a white van loaded with kitchen utensils, cooking ingredients, chairs, tables, and a tent departs on an hour-and-a-half ride across Mexico City towards Bosques de la Reforma, a wealthy enclave on the outskirts of the megalopolis… They do this every weekday, except on Fridays, when it makes no financial sense: 90 percent of La Muertita’s customers are Jewish. And, like their clientele, the non-Jewish staff of the “kosher” quesadilla stand keep Shabbat.” [TabletMag]

“Lox Without the Line (or Check) at Russ & Daughters New Sabbath Brunch” by Liza Schoenfein: “Leave it to the 21st-century scions of a venerated 103-year-old smoked fish emporium to figure out how to serve a restaurant brunch on Saturday mornings to Sabbath-observant Jews — and anyone who can’t stand late-morning lines. Niki Russ Federman and Josh Russ Tupper, the 4th-generation owners of Russ & Daughters, have done just that. At Russ & Daughters at the Jewish Museum, they are now offering a reservation-only, pay-in-advance, kosher-compliant, fixed-menu feast.” [Forward]

BIRTHDAYS: Retired after 40 years of service as a news reporter and White House correspondent for ABC News, Ann Compton turns 70… Political journalist who has covered the White House, Capitol Hill, the Pentagon, and the State Department, now Chief White House Correspondent for ABC News, Jonathan Karl turns 49… United Arab Emirates’ ambasssador to the USA, Yousef Al Otaiba turns 43 (h/t Playbook)… Actor since early childhood, has already appeared in over 20 films, played d’Artagnan in 2011’s “The Three Musketeers,” Logan Lerman turns 25… Television journalist, entrepreneur, social activist, YouTube creator and motivational speaker, Jessica Abo… VP of “Poverty to Prosperity” program at the Center for American Progress, previously a senior policy associate at the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Melissa Boteach… DC-based Director of Political Outreach at AJC: Global Jewish Advocacy, Julie Fishman Rayman… Young Leadership board member at the Jewish Federation of Chicago, Deputy Director of Strategic Partnership and Global Affairs in the office of Chicago’s Mayor, after four years at AIPAC, Emily Berman Pevnick (h/t Playbook)… Alex Bronzo… Isaac Wolf

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Daily Kickoff: Haley to tap Jon Lerner as Deputy UN Amb | Ben Rhodes to join Holocaust Memorial Council | The Jewish awards hanging on Trump’s wall

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TURTLE BAY TRANSITION: “Jon Lerner to Serve as Deputy UN Ambassador” by Aaron Magid and Jacob Kornbluh: “Nikki Haley, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for UN Ambassador, has selected Jon Lerner to be her deputy, according to FITSNews, a South Carolina political website. The selection was first reported by New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman, citing several sources… “Jon is one of the most brilliant minds in politics, having guided candidates such as Tim Scott, Nikki Haley, and Marco Rubio,” Nick Muzin, a former senior advisor to Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) told Jewish Insider. “He is also a tremendous mentsch, and a Kiddush Hashem. I can’t wait to see what he and Nikki will do at the UN.” … When asked about the appointment, Sean Spicer, the incoming White House Press Secretary, emailed Jewish Insider, “There have been no announcements.”” [JewishInsider

HAPPENING TODAY: Nikki Haley to testify at her confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at 10:00AM EST. Senators Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott will introduce the South Carolina Governor. [Livestream]

PREVIEW: “U.N. nominee Haley to blast world body over Israel: testimony” by Patricia Zengerle: “Nowhere has the UN’s failure been more consistent and more outrageous than in its bias against our close ally Israel,” Haley will say in the opening remarks before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. ““I will not go to New York and abstain when the U.N. seeks to create an international environment that encourages boycotts of Israel. I will never abstain when the United Nations takes any action that comes in direct conflict with the interests and values of the United States… Any honest assessment also finds an institution that is often at odds with American national interests and American taxpayers.” [Reuters; WashPost

“S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley prepares for confirmation hearing in tough political terrain” by Emma Dumain: “Senators’ attitudes on Israel will, without question, come up during her confirmation hearing, and it could put her in a difficult spot. She is expected to be a strong proponent of Israel but it could be hard for her to reconcile her disapproval of the U.N. resolution with support for efforts to withhold funding for the new office she’s about to run.” [PostandCourier

TRANSITION TOWER: “Reed Cordish to join Trump administration” by John Fritze: “”I am humbled by the role and excited to work with the incredible people within the West Wing and the Agencies to effect change,” Cordish said in a statement released by the transition… The transition said Cordish will be responsible for “presidential initiatives that require multi-agency collaboration.” Cordish, whose appointment was first reported by Jewish Insider, will also focus on technological innovation and modernization.” [BaltimoreSun] • Our January 4th scoop [JewishInsider]

“Google’s Schmidt met with Kushner in Republican outreach” by Tony Romm: “Spotted on an unannounced visit to Trump Tower on Thursday, [Eric] Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google’s parent company Alphabet, lunched privately with Jared Kushner… Exiting Trump Tower on Thursday, Schmidt — whose visit was not announced by the president-elect’s aides — ignored shouted questions from reporters.” [Politico

“A cliff-face of self promotion: what’s on Donald Trump’s other wall?” by Tim Dowling: “The Sholom Award: One of two that appear on the wall from Jewish organisations. The other, the Tree of Life award, was given to Trump by the Jewish National Fund in 1983, “in appreciation of his outstanding dedication to the cause of American-Israeli friendship.” They had little idea Trump would one day try to put his son-in-law in charge of Middle East peace negotiations. Other recipients of the Tree of Life include Dr Ben Carson and Al Gore.” [TheGuardian]

“Republicans Look to Reince Priebus, Trump’s Chief of Staff, to Bring Stability” by Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman: “Ultimately, it’s a chief’s job to create an orderly process that gives a president the full range of opposing viewpoints so that he can make a decision based on the best information available,” said Joshua B. Bolten, who served as George W. Bush’s chief of staff. But even Mr. Bolten conceded that nothing mattered if Mr. Priebus could not “develop a good working relationship” with his president.” [NYTimes

PATH TO PENN AVE — “Redskins owner attends exclusive Trump inaugural celebration” by Jordan Fabian: “Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder was among the guests at an exclusive reception in the nation’s capital Tuesday night to celebrate President-elect Donald Trump’s upcoming inauguration… Other notable people in attendance include casino magnate Steve Wynn, actor Jon Voight, Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer.” [TheHill] • Spotted: Trump with Sheldon and Miriam Adelson at the event last night” [Pic

In the run up to the inauguration we’re featuring the thoughts of various JI readers on what to expect from the incoming Trump Admin. Email us your thoughts at Editor@JewishInsider.com.

Danny Ayalon, former Israeli Ambassador to the US: “President-Elect Trump should abide by his word and move the US embassy to Jerusalem. He should strengthen the natural alliance between Israel and the US through strengthening Israel’s deterrence capability. He should help us to fight BDS, especially by blocking biased UN resolutions.”

Tevi Troy, former deputy secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services and Jewish Liaison for President George W. Bush: “President-elect Trump has defied expectations so often that I am loathe to make predictions. I have been generally pleased with his cabinet and staff picks, who have been both qualified and conservative. Based on what I’ve seen in the transition, I expect to see an activist first 200 — not 100 — days, with lots of both regulatory and legislative activity.”

Susan Turnbull, former Chair of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and former Vice Chair of the DNC: “I have no expectations. He is consistently inconsistent and seems to have little understanding of the consequences of his actions.”

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

Troy: “There is a healthy number in the cabinet and the White House staff, with more likely to come. And Trump seems certain to have much friendlier relations with Israel than the outgoing Obama administration. I fear that will not improve relations with the Democratic-leaning American Jewish community writ large, but it should lead to strong relations with the increasingly Republican Orthodox Jewish world.”

Turnbull: “The new President has shown no evidence that he understands that the Jewish community is not a monolith and all Jews do not have the same views on Israel and actually care about other critical issues both domestic and foreign. It is going to be one rocky road. Our organized community leaders are trying to get their footing and balance potential impacts with actual organizational positions so as not to alienate the 70+% of the community that did not support Trump. I wish them luck.”

Q: Will Israel become more partisan in DC?

Ayalon: “I hope not. US national security interests and morals should not be partisan. Hence, support for Israel should remain bipartisan, as it has always been. Unfortunately, lately we have seen some far-left elements of the Democratic party that are trying to change this, such as Bernie Sanders and Keith Ellison.”

Q: What will happen with the Iran deal?

Ayalon: “Israel and the US must tighten their coordination and make sure that the Iranians abide by the current agreement to every letter. Any breach, however slight, must bear severe consequences. The other members of the P5+1 should follow suit, with renewed American leadership.”

Turnbull: “Since diplomacy is more complicated than saying you’re making a ‘deal,’ and because there will be significant learning curves and changed relationships, it is impossible to project what actually will occur and what will be attempted.”

“Fear of ‘Ill Will’ Toward Jews Helped Convince Rabbi to Pray at Trump Inauguration” by Amir Tibon: “Rabbi Marvin Hier, head of Los Angeles’ Simon Wiesenthal Center, told Haaretz that he accepted the invitation to say a prayer at Donald Trump’s inauguration on Friday in part because refusing it would cause “ill will” toward Jews among the American public… As for the growing number of politicians who will boycott the event, Hier says he sees their protest as a mistake. “I know John Lewis and respect him. He is truly an iconic figure… But I think it’s wrong for him and others to boycott the inauguration. This kind of behavior undermines democracy, and it will bring about a dangerous tit-for-tat, once we go down that pathway.” Hier says that when it comes to Trump, there’s at least one thing he feels optimistic about: “I’m a big fan of his support for Israel. I hope he brings a change on this front.”” [Haaretz

“As he heads back to Boston, John Kerry sees North Korea and terrorism as the new administration’s main challenges” by Carol Morello: “Kerry said the U.N. resolution, and a speech he made defending it, was prompted by his conviction that the time for a two-state solution to the decades-old conflict is running out, and Israel has ignored U.S. entreaties to rein in settlement growth. “But if our good friends are just not ready to listen to us when we say we’re having a harder and harder time defending you, it’s getting harder and harder in the international community to defend it, I think that it was really important for us to support our own policy,” he said. “But I will stand up forever for the truth of the words I spoke about what is happening to Israel and about the choice Israel has.”” [WashPost] • Read the full transcript of Kerry’s conversation with Tom Friedman in Davos [State

“An Israel-Palestine peace conference—without Israel or Palestine” by The Economist: “Reactions to it were apathetic. Israelis are more preoccupied with a criminal investigation of Mr Netanyahu… Talk of an early election is in the air. Among Palestinians, politics is as stagnant as ever… The real target audience of the organisers was in midtown Manhattan, not on the Mediterranean… Diplomats promised to meet again in Paris later this year. It may be difficult to justify the trip.” [Economist

“Israel as the Lights Go Out” by Roger Cohen: “Speaking of Kushner, I was told he refused to meet with a senior French diplomat after a demand from Trump Tower that the Paris conference be canceled was ignored. Get used to my-way-or-the-highway diplomacy with team Trump.” [NYTimes]

“U.S. Envoy’s Farewell: Relations With Israel ‘Stronger, Closer’ Under Obama” by Judy Maltz: “When history is written about this period in the future, the historians and their readers will understand that relations between the two countries actually got stronger and closer,” [Ambassador Dan] Shapiro said at a farewell reception hosted in his honor by the Knesset caucus on U.S.-Israel relations. “It is true that there were controversies, and it is true that there were arguments, but it is also true that that is perfectly natural when it comes to friends,” he added, delivering his address in fluent Hebrew… National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz, who represented the government at the gathering, called Shapiro “the best U.S. ambassador ever in Israel.” [Haaretz]

“Obama, Trump and the dangers of a ‘Jewish’ president” by Yossi Klein Halevi: “Where the Obama seder stressed a universal message – guests greeted Elijah by reciting the Emancipation Declaration – Trump’s seder will likely express a more traditionalist sensibility… American Jews need to resist the temptation of totally identifying their preferred president with Jewish interests and values. Revering any American president as an honorary member of the tribe risks debasing Jewish identity and communal discourse.” [ToI] • Shmuel Rosner: “Obama Jews, Trump Jews – is the division inevitable?” [JewishJournal]

DEEP DIVE: “Obama won the Jewish vote without winning over the pro-Israel mainstream” by Ron Kampeas: “Just as quickly as Obama could turn a Jewish room on, he could turn it off, chilling the air with an insensitive aside… It was there in 2008, when he met with Jewish leaders in Cleveland – a community known to be more conservative than coastal Jewish communities… The meeting went well, and then, during a Q&A, Obama said, “This is where I get to be honest and I hope I’m not out of school here. I think there is a strain within the pro-Israel community that says unless you adopt an unwavering pro-Likud approach to Israel that you’re anti-Israel, and that can’t be the measure of our friendship with Israel.” Some folks in the room said later that their jaws dropped… The Likud was not then in power, but it was a major party in Israel, and as president he would likely have to deal with it. Indeed, his eight years in office almost wholly coincided with Likud-led governments.” [JTA

INBOX — responding to the Yesha Council’s Eli Pieprz who, in listing settler leaders attending Trump’s inauguration in yesterday’s Daily Kickoff, referred to Maale Adumim Mayor Beni Kashriel as a ‘leading candidate to replace Natan Sharansky at the Jewish Agency in June,’ a JI reader with knowledge of the deliberations surrounding the election of the next Jewish Agency Chairman emailed “Kashriel is a leading candidate to replace Sharansky like I’m a leading candidate to replace the Pope.”

TOP OF THE HILL: “Senate Muslim Brotherhood Bill Provokes Controversy” by Aaron Magid: “Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) introduced the Muslim Brotherhood Terrorist Designation Act of 2017 last week in a bid to “fight against radical Islamic terrorism.” The bill notes that “it is the sense of Congress that the Muslim Brotherhood meets the criteria for designation as a foreign terrorist designation.” In addition to the bill’s affect abroad, Schanzer also noted that the Cruz measure may have an impact in America. “My sense is domestic charities are likely to come under scrutiny again,” he stated. “Some of these US-based charities could have ties with the Muslim Brotherhood,” Schanzer added.” [JewishInsider] • Senate Bill Introduced to Protect States Countering BDS [JewishInsider]

ON THE HILL: “DeVos pledges not to undo public education, pushes choice” by Maria Danilova and Jennifer C. Kerr: “Asked by Sanders about her views on tuition-free public colleges and universities, DeVos said: “I think we also have to consider the fact that there is nothing in life that is truly free. Somebody is going to pay for it.” She skirted Sanders’ question on whether she would support making child care free or much more affordable for low-income families as is the case in many countries around the world, saying only that she feels strongly about “parents having an opportunity for child care for their children.” “But it’s not a question of opportunity,” Sanders fired back, raising his voice. “It’s a question of being able to afford it!”” [AP

“Joe Lieberman disses the entire education establishment at Betsy DeVos’s confirmation hearing” by Valerie Strauss: “Lieberman — a member of the board of the organization that DeVos founded, the American Federation of Children — talked about DeVos in glowing terms… “She’s a mother and a grandmother. She cares about children more generally, and she has been involved in education, like so many parents and local citizen school board members across America for almost 30 years,” he said.” [WashPost]

Chaskel Bennett‏: “At confirmation hearing for Betsy DeVos, Agudath Israel of America represented by A.D. Motzen sitting behind the nominee. We wish her well.” [Twitter] • As DeVos confirmation begins, Orthodox enthusiastic, Reform concerned [JTA]

BUZZ ON BALFOUR: “Netanyahu Offered Israeli Daily Yedioth Ahronoth to Murdoch Family” by Tali Heruti-Sover: “Lachlan Murdoch, the son of billionaire Rupert Murdoch, visited Israel and met with Netanyahu, who invited him to look into the matter. It’s not clear whether Murdoch met Yedioth publisher Arnon Mozes during that meeting.” [Haaretz

** 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 **

SPOTLIGHT: “Bank Leumi CEO Plans More Cost Cuts After Eliminating 2,100 Jobs” by Alaa Shahine, Stephen Morris: “Bank Leumi Le-Israel Ltd., Israel’s second-biggest lender, will continue to cut jobs and take steps to boost efficiency amid plans to reinstate its dividend. “Banks are going to be smaller,” Chief Executive Officer Rakafet Russak-Aminoach said in an interview in Davos, Switzerland. “We’re going to have very permanent streamlining processes. Unlike a decade ago, the model of banking is changing every day. If we don’t transform ourselves, we’ll be dead.” [Bloomberg]

“Elliot announces stake in Jersey-based power company” by Carleton English: “Elliott Management has a new activist target and for the first time ever it is working with a partner. The Paul Singer-led hedge fund on Tuesday announced a 6.9 percent stake in NRG Energy, a diversified power company with headquarters in Princeton, NJ.” [NYPost

TALK OF THE TOWN: “Country Club Member Who Left After Obama/Israel Controversy Says He’d Do Same Over Pence or Ivanka Trump” by Sarah Begley: “I think President Obama has been the best president for the Jewish people and for Israel. But I respect opposing viewpoints, and like I’ve been saying from the beginning, that’s all irrelevant to whether he should be admitted or not,” [said Jeffrey Slavin, the mayor of Somerset, Maryland]. “People are saying, ‘Would you feel the same way if it was Vice President Pence, or Ivanka Trump?’ And yes, I would feel exactly the same way if it was an attempt to blackball them.” [TIME

TOP TALKER: “Obama names Iran deal salesman to Holocaust Memorial Council” by Kyle Balluck: “[Ben] Rhodes, whose mother is Jewish, played a key role in shaping Obama’s foreign policy during his eight years in the White House. He also came under fire from some U.S. Jewish groups for his role in selling the Iran nuclear deal and the administration’s decision to allow a resolution condemning Israeli settlement activity to pass the U.N. Security Council.” [TheHill]  • Exit interview: “What Worries Ben Rhodes About Trump” [PoliticoMag]

“Obama grants pardon to NYC nightlife impresario Ian Schrager” by Daniel Halper: “Among the 273 people on the latest White House pardon and commutation lists are Ian Schrager, who revolutionized New York City nightlife in the ’70s and ’80s disco era with Studio 54. It was that club that led to Schrager’s legal troubles. He served 20 months in prison and five years of probation, and paid a $20,000 fine for tax evasion.” [NYPost

“Steve Israel Finds New Platform” by Aileen Chuang: “Former New York Democratic Rep. Steve Israel, an eight-term veteran of the House, is joining CNN as a contributor to its political coverage… CNN anchor and media correspondent Brian Stelter tweeted Tuesday morning that the former chairman of the House Democratic Policy… will join the network.” [RollCall

MEDIA WATCH: “Politico Names National Editor” by Chris O’Shea: “Politico has named Allison Hoffman a national editor responsible for overseeing coverage of the Trump admin. Hoffman previously worked for Businessweek, Tablet, the AP and LA Times. “Allison impressed us with her deep understanding of the political landscape, her big-picture approach to storytelling, her enterprise sensibility, and her creative ideas for breaking through the clutter and making sure we’re always telling readers something they didn’t already know,” wrote Politico’s Carrie Budoff Brown, Paul Volpe and Karey Van Hall, in a memo.” [AdWeek

BIRTHDAYS: US Representative for Maryland’s 7th congressional district since 1996, following 14 years in the Maryland House of Delegates, Elijah Cummings turns 66… Microbiologist and professor of biology at Wichita State University since 2006, Mark A. Schneegurt, Ph.D. turns 55… Governor of Maryland (2007-2015) having previously served as the Mayor of Baltimore (1999-2007), Martin O’Malley turns 54… Actor, comedian, producer, composer, musician, singer and screenwriter, wrote and acted in both 2008’s “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and 2011’s “The Muppets,” Jason Jordan Segel turns 37… Baltimore-born basketball player, dubbed by Sports Illustrated as the “Jewish Jordan,” Tamir Goodman turns 35… Israeli-born, moved to Los Angeles as a child, comedian, actor, writer and television host, best known for his web series “Jake and Amir” (with Jake Hurwitz), Amir Blumenfeld turns 34… SVP of PR firm GMMB, with a focus on education policy, previously worked for seven years at the U.S. Department of Education including as press secretary, Samara Yudof Jones turns 39… Publisher of a weekly community newspaper founded in 2016, “The Boston Guardian,” after a 20 year stint as the publisher of the now defunct “Boston Courant,” David Jacobs… Director of Communications at NYC’s Department of Education, formerly at NYC’s Administration for Children’s Services and the NY Daily News, JoAnne Wasserman… Northeast Political Coordinator for AIPAC’s Grassroots Mobilization Network, Tali Alter… Linda Rubin

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

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Sunday, February 28, 2016

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