Daily Kickoff: Haley “taking names” of countries voting against Trump admin on Jerusalem | The Mooch’s Hanukkah rant | The Knicks’ Bar Mitzvah Man

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DRIVING THE WEEK — “Israel Tells Envoys to Act to Avoid Embarrassment at UN Vote on Trump’s Jerusalem Move” by Noa Landau: “The UN General Assembly is set to meet on Thursday at 10 A.M. New York time (5 P.M. Israel time) for an emergency discussion on the unilateral American recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital… The United States does not have veto power in the General Assembly… In an urgent cable to Israeli diplomatic missions, the ambassadors were asked to seek meetings with high-level officials to persuade them to direct their representatives at the UN to oppose, not to support, or at the very least not to deliver a speech at the General Assembly.” [Haaretz]

“U.S. warns allies Trump will take Jerusalem vote “personally”” by Pamela Falk: “President Trump will be watching a vote in the United Nations General Assembly “very carefully,” and has asked his ambassador to the world body, Nikki Haley, to “report back on those countries who voted against us,” Haley wrote in a letter sent Tuesday to some countries… Haley wrote that the U.S., “will take note of each and every vote on this issue.”” [CBSNews]

‘TAKING NAMES’ — Haley tweeted‏: “At the UN we’re always asked to do more & give more. So, when we make a decision, at the will of the American ppl, abt where to locate OUR embassy, we don’t expect those we’ve helped to target us. On Thurs there’ll be a vote criticizing our choice. The US will be taking names.”  [Twitter]

HEARD YESTERDAY –Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a Likud Hanukkah event: “I told President Trump that keeping a promise was the right thing to do. Some tried to tell him Israel doesn’t really want [the capital recognized or the embassy moved]. He asked me whether Israel wants it. I told him that Israel really wanted it. What does it mean to want? Israel has wanted it for thousands of years. This step will be remembered for generations, as will President Trump visiting the Kotel… The UN says the Western Wall is occupied Palestinian land. I have news for them – the Western Wall is ours, it always was ours and will always be ours. When anyone tries to change history, I say the Maccabees weren’t Palestinians but proud Jews.” [Video]

VIEW FROM EUROPE — Interview with Washington Institute’s David Makovsky following his recent visit to Europe — by Aaron Magid: Makovsky recently returned from a trip to four European capitals where he discussed his new interactive program using satellite imagery to track the latest settlement trends. Makovsky contends that one must differentiate between settlements on the Israeli side of the barrier and those settlements deep inside the West Bank. “There should be at least some understanding where Israel should be permitted to build inside the barrier but in return for restrictions not to build outside the barrier,” Makosky explained. “By drawing the analytical distinction my point is to say there is a basis here to still reach the two state solution not to give up hope and at the same time try to incentivize Israel about settlement activity by being more flexible in areas that in some cases even under Abbas would be part of Israel.”

How the Europeans reacted to the project: “The Europeans understand that any deal means that some bloc settlements will be part of Israel. Yet, they don’t translate this into meaning that adding more settlers into any settlements now — outside of a negotiated deal between Israelis and Palestinians — is something that they can even tacitly support,” Makovsky told Jewish Insider. “As one European diplomat said, ‘Europe has found opposition to all settlements to be a unifier among European states and the EU prioritizes European unity above all.'”

After Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent visit to Brussels, Makovsky noted “there was more convergence than divergence” with Israel in regards to concerns about Iran’s growing military presence in Syria along with Egypt’s fight against extremism in the Sinai peninsula. Nonetheless, on the Palestinian issue, there is a “real chasm” between the EU and Israeli government due to the lack of progress on the peace front. “I came to the conclusion that he (Netanyahu) should almost email his views the next time and save himself the trip,” Makovsky emphasized. Makovsky cautioned that if the Trump administration peace plan fails, it is possible that “several of the more mainstream European countries will unilaterally recognize Palestine.” The full interview will post on later today

GREENBLATT IN ISRAEL — “Met with Special Representative Fernando Gentilini to hear his thoughts on recent developments, to discuss Gaza and the US peace efforts. Looking forward to continuing to work together. Met with Gen. Poli Mordechai to discuss security and economic initiatives as well as catch up on other matters… Together with Amb. David Friedman, met with Prime Minister Netanyahu as a check-in as the Administration continues with its peace efforts which will benefit both Israelis and Palestinians.” [Twitter]

“Greenblatt arrives in Israel for his first major diplomatic test” by Michael Wilner: “His visit is “not about repairing relations – it’s about moving forward with this plan,” [a White House] official said on Tuesday. “It is a missed opportunity if they don’t want to meet – but we’re not going to pressure them and push for it. We’re going to keep our heads down and continue on.”” [JPost

“PA looks for replacement to US as Mideast peace process sponsor” by Ahmad Abu Amer: “Naji Sharab, a professor of political science at Al-Azhar University in the Gaza Strip… said that the United States could be understanding of the Palestinian anger over Trump’s decision if the Palestinian position remained limited to anger and did not translate into policies and positions against the United States and Israel; otherwise, both America and Israel could take strong steps against the PA, such as cutting all the aid and financial support provided to it and tightening the grip around it.” [Al-Monitor]

DRIVING THE CONVO — “Two Cheers for Trump’s National Security Strategy” by Dov Zakheim: “Whatever one might argue about the wisdom of the president’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital — not mentioned in the strategy — there can be little doubt that the authors are absolutely correct when they point out that “Israel is not the cause of the region’s problems.” In one respect, the statement is a mere recognition of reality… Yet it also embodies a repudiation of the Obama administration’s implicit belief that “if only” there were peace between the Israelis and Palestinians all would be well in the Middle East… Perhaps his introduction should be treated as one should treat his early morning tweets: worth noting before getting on to the realities of American policy, which the strategy itself generally articulates exceedingly well.” [FP

“Trump Doesn’t Seem to Buy His Own National Security Strategy” by Peter Beinart: “In its fourth paragraph, the strategy declares that the Trump administration will pursue a “strategy of principled realism.” But Trump mangled the phrase, declaring instead that, “Our new strategy is based on a principle, realism.” Although likely unintentional, Trump’s goof was telling. “Principled realism” probably appeals to Trump’s establishment-minded foreign-policy advisers because it adds a moral patina to America First… This depiction of a globe divided along ideological lines—between white-hatted American democrats and black-hatted Russian and Chinese authoritarians—sounds more like John McCain, Mitt Romney, or Marco Rubio than Donald Trump. Which may be why Trump largely abandoned it in his speech.” [TheAtlantic

ON THE HILL: “Congress demands clarity on Trump administration’s dealings with Qatar” by Josh Rogin: “The American people have a right to know what steps Qatar’s government is taking to deter Islamic terrorism,” a group of lawmakers led by Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) wrote in a letter to Tillerson on Dec. 14. “The decision to classify the document while publicly praising Qatar’s progress toward upholding its contents makes it impossible for the public to judge Qatar’s compliance.”After four months of requests, the State Department allowed lawmakers to view the MOU once last month, but only for a few hours in the Special Compartmentalized Information Facility inside the office of House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.)… Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J) viewed the MOU and said his concern was not just about its secrecy. The document doesn’t specify what happens to Qatar if it doesn’t make progress on combating terrorism financing, he said.” [WashPost]

BREAKING — via Politico’s Kyle Cheney: “Rep. Jerry Nadler has won the race to become the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, besting Rep. Zoe Lofgren 118-72. It puts Nadler in the driver’s seat on efforts to defend Special Counsel Robert Mueller and if Dems take the House in 18, on impeachment debate.” [Twitter]

As Amir Tibon reported last week, two issues that could come up in discussion before the Judiciary Committee, and are of concern to Israel, include: legislation against boycotts of Israel and its settlements in the West Bank; and international legal investigations concerning IDF actions in the West Bank and Gaza.

HEARD LAST NIGHT — Chris Christie on MSNBC: “Jared Kushner “deserves the scrutiny. You know why? Because he was involved in the transition and involved in meetings that call into question his role. If he’s innocent of that, then that will come out as Mueller examines all the facts, and if he’s not, that will come out too.” [Video]

“The Mooch rips ‘loser’ Steve Bannon at Hanukkah party” by Mara Siegler: “The Mooch was invited to Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s Hanukkah party to speak about his trip to Israel… But [Anthony Scaramucci]… once again went wildly off-script during his Sunday night sermon at the rabbi’s Upper West Side townhouse. Of [Steve] Bannon, he told the crowd, “He’s a loser. He’ll be a stalwart defender of Israel until he’s not. That’s how this guy operates. I’ve seen this guy operate… The problem with Bannon is he’s a messianic figure. It’s his way or the highway. He was dramatically and incredibly divisive in the White House… He was leaking on everybody… So the guy’s a loser.” [PageSix

** 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 **

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Trump chief economist Gary Cohn says he’s staying [CNN• Israel’s Elbit Systems wins U.S. contract worth up to $176 million[Reuters] • At Jann Wenner’s Rolling Stone, Prospective Buyers Are in the Final Tire-Kicking Phase [VanityFair] • How Elliott gained its stake in the duty-free retailer Dufry is pretty complicated [DealBookFinancialTimes] • 2nd Phase of David Cordish’s Ballpark Village in St. Louis Breaks Ground [CPExec]

SPOTLIGHT: “A New Playbook for Real Estate Dynasties” by Peter Grant: “The Lowys consciously didn’t steer the next generation into Westfield careers because it was a public company, Peter Lowy said. “My dad never believed, I don’t believe and my brother doesn’t believe that just because of us, you would not take [the sale to Unibail] to its logical conclusion,” he said… There were earlier signs the Lowy family was open to selling Westfield at the right price, and family members were eager to do other things. For example, Peter Lowy, who resides in Los Angeles, has made it clear that he was interested in other pursuits, including politics in the U.S. and surfing. His roles include serving as chairman of the Homeland Security Advisory Council for Los Angeles County… Peter initially decided to leave because he didn’t feel there was enough work or the company was large enough for two chief executives. Peter’s father and the board changed his mind.” [WSJ] • Disclosure: Peter Lowy is the Chair of Tribe Media

PROFILE: “The Man Who Made The Republican Internet — And Then Sold It To Far-Right Nationalists Overseas” by Henry Gomez: “In 2015, [Vincent Harris] signed on with Israel’s Likud Party and the reelection campaign for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a move that fit Harris’ evangelical conservative politics, in which Israel’s importance is deeply ingrained. The timing of his hiring fueled speculation that he was a favor from some of his conservative clients back home. “I have not spoken to Senator Cruz or to Mitch McConnell about my job here,” he told the Jerusalem Post at the time… Lacking strong ties to Trump or to a Republican establishment that hasn’t yet found the secret to navigating Trumpism, Harris’ US prospects are a bit murky. The firm has been closely aligned with Secure America Now, a conservative, pro-Israel advocacy organization that has a digital-first messaging strategy.” [BuzzFeed

TEVI TROY’S LATEST: “Heritage’s New President Faces a Challenge” — “The campaign and election of Donald Trump largely rewrote conventional wisdom. Traditional conservative think tanks were not Trump-friendly… A more likely punishment for a think tank out of presidential favor would be a deliberate lack of relevancy with the administration, relegating it to the same status as the 1,800 or so other think tanks in the country (400 or so in Washington alone). But the Trump administration is different. If it does not like the direction of the new Heritage, it is more apt than previous administrations to express that unhappiness personally and publicly. At this point, given the challenges both Heritage and Trump face in our fractured political debates, their alliance may grow stronger.” [TheAtlantic

“Conservatism Can’t Survive Donald Trump Intact” by David Frum: “The conservative intellectual world is whipsawed between its distaste for Trump and its fear of its own audience… The vast majority of those in the conservative world who do not admire Trump—and who cannot safely divert their feelings into anti-anti-Trump fulminations against the detested liberal media—are carefully treading his own prudent path… As the scandals about Trump worsen, pressures on right-of-center people to conform will only tighten… The urgency to defend Trump will accelerate should Republicans lose one or both chambers of Congress in November 2018.” [TheAtlantic]

TRANSITION — Frank Lowenstein, former Mideast Envoy and longtime adviser to John Kerry, joined APCO Worldwide as head of the firm’s growing Global Solutions Practice.

TRAGIC: “After Fatal Fire in Brooklyn, a Somber and Cautious End to Hanukkah” by Luis Ferre-Sadurni and Kenneth Rosen: “The fatal fire rattled a deeply religious community… On Tuesday, as neighbors grappled with the loss of life, they also focused on the safest way to celebrate the seventh and penultimate night of Hanukkah… “Jewish families are generally very cognizant of the danger of open flames, as candles or oil lamps are used to usher in the Sabbath each week as well as on holidays, particularly Hanukkah,” said Avi Shafran, the director of public affairs at Agudath Israel of America. “But, like any open flame, they should not be left unattended.”” [NYTimes] • Dad doesn’t know his children died in fire caused by menorah[NYPost]

TALK OF OUR NATION: “Jewish family pulls off a ‘Toys for Tots’ Christmas miracle” by Carl Campanile: “The family sprang into action when Toys for Tots was overwhelmed by demand and didn’t have enough toys to go around. Within 24 hours, Gabriella Rizack, 22, her dad, Joshua, and brothers Reid and Emmet came to the rescue by raising $17,000 to deliver gifts to the waiting children… Gabriella volunteered after seeing an appeal for the toy charity online, persuading her father to overcome his reservations about wearing a St. Nick costume. “What’s a Jew doing putting on a Santa Claus suit?” Joshua quipped. “Think about all the Christians who died liberating the [concentration] camps and how we can set an example to people of all religions, dad,” Gabriella responded.” [NYPost

SPORTS BLINK: “New York Knicks’ O’Quinn: ‘Next thing you know, I was just Bar Mitzvah Man’” by Ian Begley: “For a few Saturdays during his tenure in New York, [Kyle] O’Quinn has taken on an entirely different one: bar mitzvah and bat mitzvah entertainer. “The parties are crazy,” he said. “I did one, did two, and the next thing you know, I was just Bar Mitzvah Man.” O’Quinn is one of the bigger comedians in the Knicks’ locker room, so it makes sense that he would thrive as the headline act at a party filled with 13-year-olds. The 6-foot-10 center spends most of his time at the parties socializing, dancing, joking around with families and — of course — taking plenty of selfies.” [ESPN

DESSERT: “Harlem rugelach bakery is a hot spot for Midtown media crowd” by Emily Smith: “Alvin Lee Smalls, 75, who runs Lee Lee’s on 118th Street, is said to be Harlem’s last old-style rugelach baker, and we are told customers have been lining up for orders before the holidays. Tamron Hall also joined the queue and managed to snatch one of the last rugelach batches, bringing it to Michael’s on Monday… Hall… shared them with her high-powered friends after lunch, including p.r. expert for city billionaires and new communications firm founder Christine Taylor, Full Picture and Project Runway’s Desiree Gruber, philanthropy and events specialist Vanessa Weiss and Sandra Lee… before the delectable dish was passed around to other diners. Smalls describes his baking style as “a dying art” and he rolls each rugelach by hand.” [PageSix

BIRTHDAYS: Television producer, creator and executive producer of the Law & Order franchise, Richard Anthony (Dick) Wolf turns 71… Founder of an online childrens bookstore featuring titles in a variety of languages, Yona Eckstein turns 76… Former chair of the executive committee of the Jewish Federations of North America, he also served three terms as president of The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, Michael Gelman turns 73… Illusionist, magician, television personality and self-proclaimed psychic, Uri Geller turns 71… Carol Gene Berk turns 67… President of the University of Miami since 2015, he is a Mexican-born physician and former Secretary of Health of Mexico, Julio Frenk turns 64… Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Yale since 2014, she is a professor of both philosophy and psychology, Tamar Gendler turns 52… Writer, best known as the author of the book “Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough,” Lori Gottlieb turns 51… Actor, producer, screenwriter and comedian, Jonah Hill(full name Jonah Hill Feldstein) turns 34… Development associate at the UJA-Federation of New York, Adam Wolfthal turns 32… Denver-based director of communications at Israel on Campus Coalition, Megan Nathan turns 32… Executive Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston, Jeremy Burton… Bob Lindenbaum

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Daily Kickoff: Experts react to Trump’s UN veto | Bloomberg investigates Kushner Cos. holdings | How a New Orleans Kosher restaurateur got his start

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PIC OF THE DAY — What shuttle diplomacy looks like in 2017: Mideast Envoy Jason Greenblatt was spotted boarding a flight from Newark to Tel Aviv last night [Pic]

PENCE ISRAEL TRIP POSTPONED, AGAIN — Vice President Mike Pence’s trip to Israel and Egypt has been delayed once again due to the tax reform vote expected this week. Pence was scheduled to arrive in Egypt on Wednesday for a meeting with President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, and travel in the evening to Israel. “The Vice President is committed to seeing the tax cut through to the finish line. The Vice President looks forward to traveling to Egypt and Israel in January,” the Vice President’s Press Secretary Alyssa Farah said in a statement.

A White House official emails… “Since the tax vote could possibly take place shortly before midnight on Wed, it was not practically possible for the VP to travel this week. He would have arrived in Egypt late on Thursday night and then would have run up against Shabbat and Christmas for his visit to Israel. Therefore, to get the most out of the trip, the VP will now be traveling in mid-January. Jason Greenblatt is still headed to Israel as planned to continue working on the Administration’s peace efforts.”

REPORT: Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, the Chief Rabbi of the Western Wall, rejected an American request for Vice President Pence to hold a press conference at the Western Wall during his — now delayed — trip to Israel. “According to the [Channel 10 News] report, Rabinowitz said in private that his main concern was the threat of renewed violence due to the press conference likely conveying a political message… The report said the US is now searching for an alternative site nearby in which to hold the press conference.” [ToI]

DRIVING THE CONVO — The U.S. used its first veto power in the Security Council since Trump became President as Ambassador Nikki Haley was the only one to vote to against an Egyptian-sponsored UNSC resolution calling on Trump to rescind his declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. “The United States will not be told by any country where we can put our embassy,” Haley said in remarks following her vote. “A ‘peace process’ that is damaged by the simple recognition that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel is not a peace process; it is a justification for an endless stalemate.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu immediately released a video message comparing Haley to the Maccabees. “On Hanukkah you spoke like a Maccabee, you lit the light of truth and expelled the darkness. One triumphs over many; truth triumphed over falsehood. Thank you, President Trump. Thank you, Nikki Haley,” Netanyahu said. [Video]

HOW IT PLAYED — “Why the U.N. veto was a loss for Trump and Netanyahu” by Barak Ravid: “In reality, Netanyahu led Trump to defeat in the U.N. Security Council twice in one year – today and last December, when the Trump transition team tried and failed to prevent a Security Council resolution on West Bank settlements behind the Obama administration’s back. Trump doesn’t like to lose.” [Axios

REACTIONS — FDD’s Jonathan Schanzer tells JI’s Aaron Magid: “The veto is not a defense of Israel. It’s obviously a defense of the U.S. It certainly looks like an extension of U.S. policy to challenge Israel bias at the UN… For [Egyptian President al-]Sisi, who purportedly values his relationship with the Trump administration, the move was rather odd. Not to mention that the Sisi regime values its security cooperation with the Israelis. All of this amounts to mixed messages from Cairo, to put it mildly… My sense is over time this will likely blow over because, again, it doesn’t impact the final status of Jerusalem as it pertains to negotiations. I am taking a wait and see approach to see how long this crisis lasts for.”

The Washington Institute’s David Makovsky: “What we have seen with the Arab states is that there is a clear firewall between what they do on security and how they vote politically, and this has consistently been the case. While people can talk about an Israeli-Sunni Arab convergence — which is accurate — it is not a political alliance, certainly when it comes to things that have a religious resonance like Jerusalem. This is not going to end so easily.”

The Wilson Center’s Aaron David Miller: “This is the mandatory rhetorical hoops which the Arabs have to jump. Look at the reaction in the Arab world to what Trump did. Had this happened a decade ago, there would have been a severe reaction. It means the Arabs are preoccupied, they are distracted and have other business to attend to that is more important. It doesn’t mean that they can flagrantly abandon the Palestinian cause so they have to jump through these hoops. It’s a game. That’s business as usual. The U.S. stands up against other members of the Security Council and basically protects Israel. Trump’s team is simply not going to do nothing. Having set into motion the Jerusalem decision, they were going to defend it. They couldn’t walk away from it.”

Former Ambassador Dan Shapiro: “It’s the right decision. Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. Now they need a policy to promote an end of the conflict and a realistic vision of two states to go with that decision.”

MEDIA OBSERVATION from Noah Pollak: “When Obama vetoed an anti-Israel UNSC resolution, NYT reported it straight. When Trump vetoed an anti-Israel UNSC resolution, NYT reports the US is “isolating” itself.” [Twitter

“Trump’s foreign policy smacks of isolationism and retreat, French FM says” by Oren Dorell: “Trump’s order to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem undermines U.S. allies who’ve backed the notion that Jerusalem’s status should be decided in negotiations, and plays into the hands of adversaries, such as Iran, [ [French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves] Le Drian said. “With this decision, President Trump gives Iran the opportunity to control all Palestinian issues,” he said… Le Drian, previously France’s defense minister, was in Washington for meetings with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, national security advisor H.R. McMaster, senior adviser Jared Kushner, and Sens. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and Ben Cardin, D-Md.” [USAToday]

TRUMP PARK — Trump thanks Kiryat Yam mayor for naming park after him: “I recently learned that you will name a new park after me in beautiful Kiryat Yam,” Trump wrote in the letter. “Thank you for this great honor…I am grateful for your gesture and am moved to know that the people of Israel are encouraged by my decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. I send my very best wishes to you and the people of Kiryat Yam.”[JerusalemOnlineJPost]

INSIDE THE ADMIN: “The Guerrilla Campaign Against McMaster Is Alive and Well” by Jenna McLaughlin: “Two sources with ties to the White House are telling Foreign Policy that Oracle Corporation CEO Safra Catz and Peter Thiel, a tech magnate, both turned down jobs to lead the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board at least partly over concerns about [H. R.] McMaster… Frank Gaffney, the president of the Center for Security Policy… on Wednesday blamed McMaster for having “wasted a precious year of Donald Trump’s presidency,” arguing he “sabotaged” President Trump’s campaign against “defeating ‘radical Islamic terrorism.’”” [FP]

COUNTERING IRAN FIRST: “Trump national security strategy doubles down on Iran” by Jack Detsch: “Released on Monday, the 55-page document draws from Trump’s foreign policy speeches throughout his first year in office… The Trump strategy comes as the White House is trying to deter Iran, dubbed “the world’s most significant state sponsor of terrorism” in the document… Monday’s strategy could provide a preview of how the Trump administration’s pressure campaign will develop over the next year. It cited Iran’s efforts to beef up its influence through proxy groups, weapons proliferation and a recommitment to its ballistic missile program, activities that have “continued unabated since the 2015 nuclear deal.”” [Al-Monitor• Mattis: Iran Working to Destabilize Middle East [DODNews]

“Three Ways to Read Trump’s National Security Strategy” by Eliot Cohen: “Another way of exploring the NSS is with the mindset of a rigorous 19th-century critical student of the Bible. In the same way that those scholars dissected the holy texts for multiple authors (J, P, and E for the five books of Moses, Proto-, Deutero- and Trito-Isaiah for that prophet’s works) so too may one begin to see multiple hands in the crafting of this otherwise enigmatic work. Here too, remarkably enough, three authors emerge: the Trumpian Monarchist, the Deep State Scribe, and the Bureaucratic Redactor… There is not a great deal one can actually do with spoor; it does not predict whether the beast will turn right or left, gore an innocent farmer or charge madly off a cliff. It offers a few clues, and that is about it. So by all means study it. Just don’t swallow it.” [TheAtlantic]

“Obama’s Alternative Facts on the Iran Nuclear Deal” by Eli Lake: “Russia established those air bases less than two months after the end of the Iran nuclear negotiations. The chief of Iran’s Quds Force, Qassem Suleimani, also saw the close of the nuclear talks as a green light. He was soon on a plane to Moscow to iron out the tactical alliance between Russia and Iran in Syria as Obama went about trying to persuade more than a third of Congress to support the nuclear bargain… At the time the Obama administration told us that in exchange, the U.S. had to lift only the crippling nuclear sanctions against Iran. It turns out the price was much higher.” [BloombergView]

CURRENT ISRAELI GOV’T HAS LIMITS, APPARENTLY: “Israel to Boycott Austria’s New Far-right Cabinet Ministers” by Noa Landau and Ofer Aderet: “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who also holds the foreign affairs portfolio, said Monday that Israel will boycott Austria’s far-right ministers, instructing Israeli ministers to work only with lower-ranking officials… [Sebastian] Kurz, the new Austrian chancellor… calling the Israeli prime minister by his nickname… said: “Bibi Netanyahu is a friend whom we work well with.” With regard to Israel’s reexamination of its ties with Austria, Kurz said: “We respect Israel’s decision, but are optimistic nevertheless,” referring to prospects for good relations between the two governments.” [Haaretz

IN THE SPOTLIGHT — “Amid Backlash for Defending Trump, Dershowitz Reminds Everybody He Voted for Clinton” by Alberto Luperon: “I have never voted for a Republican for president,” he told Law&Crime over email. “Of course I voted for and contributed to Hillary Clinton.” [LawandCrime]

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

BUSINESS BRIEFS: WeWork settles trademark lawsuits against Chinese rival UrWork [TheRealDeal] • Bernard Madoff victims near full recovery of principal with payout [CrainsNY] • Toby Moskovits’ Heritage Equity Partners lands $68M loan for Williamsburg Hotel [TheRealDeal] • Teva Pharm Woes Seen Denting Israeli Exports, Economic Growth[NYTimesJPost] • Softbank Leads $120 Million Investment in Israeli AI-Based Insurance Company Lemonade [CalcalistVentureBeat] • Aby Rosen sells Tribeca dev site for $56M [TheRealDeal] • Clark Valberg’s InVision is investing $5 million in design startups with new fund [TechCrunch]

SPOTLIGHT: “Kushners’ New York City Buildings Are Mostly Owned By Others” by Caleb Melby and David Kocieniewski: “The vast majority of the money behind the purchases didn’t belong to Kushner or his family. Rather, it came from an obscure Israel-based company called Gaia Investments Corp. and related entities. Gaia has almost no public profile in New York real estate. Its principals have held roles in enterprises owned by the diamond-trading Steinmetz family, with close ties to Raz Steinmetz, the nephew of billionaire Beny Steinmetz. A 2015 deal for 16 apartment buildings had a similar structure… The investors in this case… were C-III Capital Partners, a Texas-based asset manager run by Andrew Farkas, who also invested in Cadre, the real-estate startup co-founded by Jared and his brother Joshua Kushner.” [Bloomberg

TRANSITIONS: “Tony Ressler’s Ares Management names Michael Arougheti as chief executive” by Javier Espinoza: “Ares Management has become the latest big alternative asset management group to make leadership changes this year after naming Michael Arougheti as its chief executive officer. Tony Ressler, the company’s co-founder and chief executive, is set to become executive chairman with a focus on investor relationships, strategy and marketing. The move comes as Ares business becomes more complex and larger with $106bn assets under management in real estate, private equity and credit and more than 200 funds, the company said.” [FinancialTimesBloomberg

Darin McKeever has been named President and Chief Executive Officer of the William Davidson Foundation. “McKeever, the Foundation’s chief program and strategy officer, will succeed Jonathan S. Aaron, chairman of the Board of Directors, who has served as president since the philanthropic organization’s founder, William “Bill” Davidson, died in 2009. The William Davidson Foundation is a private, family foundation established by Mr. Davidson in 2005 to advance the economic, cultural and civic vitality of Southeast Michigan, the State of Israel, and the Jewish community.”

TALK OF OUR NATION: “Is the BDS Movement Failing? Depends on Your Definition of Success.” by Armin Rosen: “If BDS activists’ goal is to remove Israeli products from college campuses, or end academic exchanges with Israeli institutions, they’ve failed so far… But if the movement’s goal is to make any Israel-related topic poisonous, or to make students wary of associating themselves with the Jewish state in any way, its success has be measured against nebulous and largely unknowable criteria. In the future, the movement might get more mileage out of interrupting or “no-platforming” Israeli speakers, as recently happened to Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat at San Francisco State University in April of 2016, or stigmatizing participants in Birthright—the goal of a newly launched JVP campaign—than from organizing campus boycott efforts.” [Tablet]

One of two Swedish synagogue firebomb suspects released: “A Swedish prosecutor… Stina Lundqvist says the 18-year-old man… remains a suspect in Dec. 16 attack in Sweden’s second largest city. She said Tuesday there was not sufficient evidence to keep him jailed while police investigate the attack. No one was injured and the firebombs didn’t damage the building.” [AP]

TALK OF THE TOWN: “Hundreds gather to mourn mom, three kids killed in Brooklyn fire” by Elizabeth Rosner: “The assembled mourners were distraught and wailing as they clung to the vehicles. Unable to enter the synagogue, the bodies then headed straight to JFK airport where a flight was preparing to fly them to Israel.”

CHALLAH RISING: “In One New Jersey Town, Pending Tax Changes Create Anxiety” by Patrick McGeehan: “The pending tax changes have been a prime topic of conversation this week among the diners at Eppes Essen, a Jewish delicatessen on one of Livingston’s main thoroughfares, said its manager, Jeff Lajqi… “If they’re raising the taxes, you know what’s going to happen: Everyone’s going to raise prices,” Mr. Lajqi said. Picking up a loaf of challah bread, he added, “Raise my taxes, I raise your challah.”” [NYTimes

“This Israeli designer was asked to sketch a wedding dress for Meghan Markle — here are the designs” by Bobbie Edsor: “According to the Jerusalem Post, Israeli fashion designer Inbal Dror… was asked by palace officials to provide some sketches of potential wedding dress designs for Markle last week. When approached by Business Insider, a spokesperson for Inbal Dror declined to comment on whether Dror had been approached by the palace. Nevertheless, the spokesperson did say: “We have been responding to an initiative of the Bridal Council to present the sketches [for Markle].”” [BusinessInsider

DESSERT: “Kosher Cajun Deli in Metairie feeds the hunger of a community” by Todd Price: “Thirty years ago, Joel Brown was a 19-year-old from Metairie. He had a complaint you don’t often get around here. “There were no places to eat in New Orleans,” Brown said. Brown is Jewish. He keeps kosher. Growing up, the only place for him to eat out was at someone else’s house. Now, Kosher eaters have a handful of options around New Orleans. One of those is Kosher Cajun in Metairie, which Brown opened 30 years ago this month.”

“How did a 19-year-old start a grocery and deli? Appropriately enough for a teenage entrepreneur, it started with pizza. Brown had been in Philadelphia visiting family. He discovered kosher pizzas, and brought some back with him to New Orleans. His friends devoured the pizzas and wanted more. “The supply and demand lightbulb went off,” Brown said. The closest kosher pizzeria he could find was in Miami. So he ordered 150 pies, all pre-sold to friends, and arranged to have them flown back via Delta air freight. “They thought it was a prank call,” he said.” [NoLA]

“Fat Sal’s — We’re Making Hanukkah Sandwiches Here” by Susan Hornik: “In honor of the eight-day Jewish holiday, a food collaboration between Fat Sal’s Hollywood, Instagram celebrity the Fat Jewish, Yeastie Boys Bagels and celebrity chef Eric Greenspan came together to create “The Fat Jewish.” Greenspan, who runs modern kosher eatery Fleishik’s and the Roof on Wilshire, thought it was a no-brainer to get involved. “The three of us are sandwich guys and are Jewish — the minute we ran into each other and started talking, we knew we had to team up. It was beshert, which means ‘meant to be’ in Yiddish,” Greenspan said.” [LAWeekly]

BIRTHDAYS: President and Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva University (1976-2003), then YU’s Chancellor (2003-2013), scholar, author and communal leader, Rabbi Norman Lamm turns 90… Israeli novelist, essayist and playwright, winner of virtually every Hebrew book award, referred to as  the “Israeli Faulkner,” A. B. Yehoshua turns 81… Communications director in the Clinton administration (1999-2001) and then a senior aide to Hillary Clinton, sister of Barney Frank, she is President of the Joint Action Committee Education Foundation, Ann Frank Lewis… Journalist and playwright, Bernard Weinraub turns 80… 1983 winner of a MacArthur Genius Fellowship, mathematical physicist, scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, Mitchell Feigenbaum turns 73… NYC-based real estate investor, developer of four of Manhattan’s tallest towers in recent decades, Douglas Durst turns 73… Ruth Wolff turns 71… Israeli scientist, high-tech entrepreneur and leading businesswoman, Orna Berry turns 68… Publisher of Long Beach (California) Jewish Life, Jon Strum turns 63…

CFO at wine importer and distributor, New York Wine Warehouse, Jane Troyturns 63… British cellist, distinguished for his diverse repertoire and distinctive sound, Steven Isserlis turns 59… Member of the Knesset for the Meretz party (2000-2003 and again since November 2017), he has served as secretary general of Peace Now, Moshe “Mossi” Raz turns 52… Acclaimed actor, whose mother is Jewish, he reports that on his 13th brthday he performed a “bar-mitzvah-like act, without the typical trappings,” Jake Gyllenhaal turns 37… Program officer for education and research at the Steinhardt Foundation for Jewish Life, Eli Schaap turns 22… Founder, President and Chief Creative Officer of Rachel G Events LLC since 2008, following an event-planning career in the private and non-profit sectors, Rachel L Glazer turns 45… Peter Keizer turns 33… Partner in Tel Aviv-based venture capital firm Aleph, Aaron Rosenson turns 28… David Ginsberg

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Daily Kickoff: Sen. Schumer’s Hanukkah humor | Yair Lapid, Michael Oren react to Politico’s report on Hezbollah | NYT on ‘rainmaker’ Aryeh Bourkoff

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DRIVING THE DAY — “U.N. to vote Monday on call for U.S. Jerusalem decision to be withdrawn” by Michelle Nichols: “The one-page Egyptian-drafted text… does not specifically mention the United States or Trump. The draft U.N. text expresses “deep regret at recent decisions concerning the status of Jerusalem.” It “affirms that any decisions and actions which purport to have altered, the character, status or demographic composition of the Holy City of Jerusalem have no legal effect, are null and void and must be rescinded in compliance with relevant resolutions of the Security Council.” The draft also calls upon all countries to refrain from establishing diplomatic missions in Jerusalem.” [Reuters] • Palestinians may seek U.N. Assembly support if U.S. vetoes Jerusalem resolution: envoy [Reuters]

DRIVING THE WEEK — Vice President Mike Pence and Mideast Envoy Jason Greenblatt are expected to visit the region this week, but will not meet with Palestinian Authority officials, after the Palestinians have decided to halt its contacts with the Trump administration. Majdi al-Khalidi, a senior diplomatic adviser to Abbas, said over the weekend that Greenblatt did not request a meeting with the Palestinians. Yesterday, a small group of Palestinian protesters set fire to placards printed with images of Pence and Greenblatt outside the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Abbas is expected to meet with Saudi King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman in Riyadh tomorrow.

Meanwhile, senior administration officials indicated on Friday that the Western Wall is part of Israel. “We cannot envision any situation under which the Western Wall would not be part of Israel,” one official said during a background briefing discussing Pence’s visit to the region. As a result, Pence’s visit to the Kotel on Wednesday has been labeled as an official visit. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu noted the shift in policy at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem: “I would like to express once again our special appreciation for the determination and leadership of President Trump and his administration in defending Israel’s truth.” [Video

Former U.S. Ambassador Dan Shapiro on the administration’s statement re: the Kotel: “It wasn’t what they said, but what they didn’t say. Palestinians and also Muslims and Arabs interested in an agreement have a justifiable question: what can they expect to receive at the end of the process? … Even a mediator that’s exceedingly close to one of the sides, as the US is to Israel, should be forthright and honest with all parties regarding what they can expect on an issue as sensitive as Jerusalem.” [Ynet]

“If You Want To Understand Trump’s Stance On Israel, Just Ask Evangelicals” by Miriam Berger: “One of the largest philanthropic organizations in Israel raises money from American evangelical Christians. Others, based in the United States, send volunteers to Jewish settlements in the West Bank. “Those organizations are certainly growing and they are making a difference,” said leading Christian Zionist Reverend Johnnie Moore, the unofficial spokesperson for the around two dozen members of Trump’s evangelical advisory board, made up of prominent and powerful politicians and clergy who now have “an open door” to the White House.” [BuzzFeed]

“A War Trump Won” by Ross Douthat: “The Trump strategy on Israel and the Palestinians, the butt of many Jared Kushner jokes, seems … not crazy? The relatively mild reaction to recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital may be a case study in expert consensus falling behind the facts; the Arab world has different concerns than it did in 1995, and Trump’s move has helped clarify that change. Likewise, getting the Saudis to lean hard on the Palestinians, to float radical ideas for a supersized Gaza and a very Israel-friendly solution elsewhere, is as plausible an attempt to break the logjam as was the pressure Obama put on Israel.” [NYTimes]

DEEP DIVE: “The secret backstory of how Obama let Hezbollah off the hook” by Josh Meyer: “In its determination to secure a nuclear deal with Iran, the Obama administration derailed an ambitious law enforcement campaign targeting drug trafficking by the Iranian-backed terrorist group Hezbollah, even as it was funneling cocaine into the United States, according to a Politico investigation… The administration’s eagerness for an Iran deal was broadcast through so many channels, task force members say, that political appointees and career officials at key agencies like Justice, State and the National Security Council felt unspoken pressure to view the task force’s efforts (on Hezbollah’s drug cases) with skepticism…”

“The White House was driven by a broader set of concerns than the fate of the nuclear talks, the former White House official said, including the fear of reprisals by Hezbollah against the United States and Israel, and the need to maintain peace and stability in the Middle East… “I guess it’s possible that they [the White House] didn’t want to try hard because of the Iran deal but I don’t have memories of it,” said the former official. “Clearly there were things that the Obama administration did to keep the negotiations alive, prudent negotiating tactics to keep the Iranians at the table. But to be fair, there was a lot of shit we did during the Iran deal negotiations that pissed the Iranians off.”” [Politico

KAFE KNESSET — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: Right-wing Twitter broke out in calls of “I told you so” this morning following the Politico story on Obama, Hezbollah and the Cassandra project. “Is there any doubt about why Obama was bad for Israel, and how Trump is better for us? I wonder who will apologize now?” Likud Communications Minister Ayoob Kara tweeted, complimenting the “excellent” Politico report.

In the opposition, Kafe Knesset asked Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid for his reaction at the weekly faction meeting. “First of all, at the moment it’s only an report on a website, a respected site, so we do not know if it’s true. If the report is correct, Obama must return his Nobel Peace Prize – because Israel repeatedly warned that there can be no connection between the nuclear agreement and anti-terror activity, certainly against Hezbollah, which is the largest terrorist organization in the world. We also warned specifically about this because of the proven link between Hezbollah and Iran.”

Former Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Oren said the report “is no surprise for me and every Israeli who was involved in the effort to prevent a bad nuclear agreement with Iran. It was clear that the administration was willing to do anything to reach an agreement, including ignoring the smuggling of Hezbollah’s cocaine into the United States, and the Iranian terror that had taken hundreds of Americans and Israelis lives and hundreds of thousands of Syrians. This exposé, and others that may be published in the future, must strengthen our determination to cancel, or at least substantially alter, this dangerous agreement.” Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here[JewishInsider]

HAPPENING TODAY AT 2:00 PM ETPresident Trump will unveil the administration’s National Security Strategy at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center [Livestream]

— The strategy document asserts that “for generations the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has been understood as the prime irritant preventing peace and prosperity in the region. Today, the threats from radical jihadist terrorist organizations and the threat from Iran are creating the realization that Israel is not the cause of the region’s problems. States have increasingly found common interests with Israel in confronting common threats.”” [AP

— Flashback: Jared Kushner at the Saban Forum a few weeks ago — “I think that if we’re going to try and create more stability in the region as a whole, this (Israeli-Palestinian) issue has to be solved.” [JewishInsider]

“As ISIS Recedes, U.S. Steps Up Focus on Iran” by Dion Nissenbaum: “Gen. [H. R.] McMaster has made it clear in recent days that the U.S. is crafting ways to contain that threat in Syria. “What we face is the prospect of Iran having a proxy army on the borders of Israel,” he said at a public forum earlier this month. American and Israeli officials are especially troubled about intelligence suggesting that Iran is establishing a military facility in northwestern Syria to make long-range missiles… The Trump administration is seeking ways to prevent the Syrian war from transforming into a new regional conflict between Israel and Iran. The U.S. and its allies are trying to use the expansion of de-escalation zones in Syria to halt Iran’s expansion along the borders with Israel and Jordan. But critics say the agreements have actually shored up Iran’s gains and undercut the goals.” [WSJ]

— “Trump faces another difficult deadline on the Iran deal in mid-January. That’s when waivers expire that currently hold back U.S. sanctions against Iran. This deadline puts Trump in the uncomfortable position of choosing whether to keep the sanctions at bay, in accordance with the deal, when he’s told Congress he thinks sanctions relief is inappropriate.” [LATimes]

SCENE YESTERDAY — 5 Towns Edition: Trudy and Stanley Stern hosted Senate Minority Leader, and the highest ranking Jewish elected official in the country, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), along with Sen. Debbie Stabenow(D-MI), at their home in Lawrence, New York on Sunday afternoon. The event, organized by NORPAC, was a fundraiser to benefit Sen. Stabenow’s re-election campaign. While the substance of the conversation was off-the-record, in introducing Schumer, host and NORPAC Long Island President Stanley Stern noted how Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell similarly visited the Stern’s home for a NORPAC fundraiser. “At the time he was the minority leader but soon thereafter he became majority leader, so you never know,” Stern joked, to which Schumer quipped, “as Mitch McConnell would say, ‘Im Yirtzeh Hashem.’” Later in the discussion, Schumer described how the Senate is such a small place where members really get to know one another, “kind of like a New York shtiebel.”

Before speaking, Schumer made three blessings — including the Shehecheyanu, explaining that while the third blessing is typically reserved for the first night “we’ll make an exception” — and proceeded to light the Hanukkah menorah, with assistance from Sen. Stabenow. Schumer then sang Haneirot Halalu and described his wife’s legendary latkes he planned to eat later that day.

SPOTTED: NORPAC President Dr. Ben Chouake, Joshua and Harriet Muss, Iris and Shalom Maidenbaum, Dana and Marc Gibber, Esther and Dov Zeidman, Ilyse and Alex Sternberg.

THE DAILY KUSHNER — “Kushner’s legal team looks to hire crisis public relations firm amid Russia probe” by Josh Dawsey: “Kushner’s lawyer, Abbe Lowell, has quietly called at least two firms… The inquiries have occurred in the past two weeks… Kushner has been in the headlines almost daily, and he has complained to friends about the nonstop negative attention from the news media…” [WashPost] • Mueller obtains “tens of thousands” of Trump transition emails, including emails of Jared Kushner [Axios]

IN THE SPOTLIGHT — Trump picks on Rosenstein as campaign to discredit Mueller’s investigation heats up — by Philip Rucker, Josh Dawsey and Sari Horwitz: “Trump appeared to be contemplating changes in the Justice Department’s leadership. In recent discussions, two advisers said, Trump has called the attorney general “weak,” and complained that Rosenstein has shown insufficient accountability on the special counsel’s work. A senior official said Trump mocked Rosenstein’s recent testimony on Capitol Hill, saying he looked weak and unable to answer questions. Trump has ranted about Rosenstein as “a Democrat” … and characterized him as a threat to his presidency. In fact, Rosenstein is a Republican.” [WashPost

ON THE HILL — “Race for top House committee position reflects Democratic Party’s Israel dilemmas” by Amir Tibon: “The Judiciary Committee doesn’t regularly deal with foreign policy questions, and its jurisdiction doesn’t directly address Israel most of the time. Democrats involved in the race between [Jerry] Nadler and [Zoe] Lofgren, however, did mention two issues that could come up in discussion before the committee, and are of concern to Israel: legislation against boycotts of Israel… and international legal investigations concerning IDF actions in the West Bank and Gaza… On these two issues, a statement by the leading Democrat on the Judiciary Committee “could definitely influence how it will be discussed within the party,” said a senior official in a leading pro-Israel organization.” [Haaretz]

“Franken urged to reverse his resignation” by Edward-Isaac Dovere: “At least four senators are urging Al Franken to reconsider resigning, including two who issued statements calling for the resignation two weeks ago and said they now feel remorse over what they feel was a rush to judgment… People familiar with Franken’s plans said he has not changed his mind and intends to formally resign in early January.” [Politico]

2018 WATCH: “A Republican Running To Replace Paul Ryan Comes With White Nationalist Street Cred” by Christopher Mathias: “[Paul] Nehlen campaigned in Alabama recently for Roy Moore… On Dec. 9, Nehlen was a guest on an anti-Semitic white power podcast called “Fash the Nation,” talking to hosts “Jazzhands McFeels” and “Marcus Halberstram” for about an hour. (“Fash” is shorthand among the so-called alt-right, a loose association of white nationalists, for “fascist.”) It was Nehlen’s second appearance on the show, and his fluency with white nationalist jargon was evident as he made thinly veiled anti-Semitic remarks and proudly recounted having told a Jewish magazine editor to “eat a bullet.”” [HuffPost

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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Next Up for Westfield’s Lowy Family: Blurring Retail Lines [WSJ] • Israel Poised for ‘Economic Earthquake’ Caused by U.S. Tax Reform [BigLawBusiness] • Workers at Israel’s Teva Pharm block roads, continue protest over job cuts [Reuters

PROFILE: “A Rainmaker Seeks to Grow His Firm at a Time of Big Media and Tech Deals” by Michael de la Merced: “Five years ago, the investment banker Aryeh B. Bourkoff, on his own after having left UBS, hitched a ride on the private plane of the billionaire John C. Malone and pitched a deal: Now was the time for the mogul to get back into the telecommunications business… Mr. Malone was intrigued by the possibility. And what started with a $2.6 billion investment into Charter has become a national cable empire that includes the former Time Warner Cable — and the promise of yet more deal-making, led in part by Mr. Bourkoff and his boutique bank, LionTree… But the question Mr. Bourkoff faces is whether he can transform his schmoozing into a business that can outlast him.” [NYTimes

SPOTLIGHT: “Mining World’s Ultimate Deal-Maker Struggles in New Frugal Era” by Scott Patterson: “[Mick] Davis, 59 years old, remains a leading figure in the global mining industry and maintains a high profile in his home, the U.K. He is chief executive of the British Conservative Party, holds a leadership role in London’s Jewish community and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for work commemorating the Holocaust.” [WSJ

“Toronto Buzzes With Talk of Billionaire Couple’s Suspicious Death” by Catherine Porter: “Barry Sherman, a Canadian billionaire, generic-drug mogul and philanthropist, once promised that the autobiography he was writing would be a page-turner, packed with stories of intrigue, duplicity and outright corruption by his competition. The last chapter was without doubt the most sensational — and he did not get to write it. It occurred last Friday, when his body was rolled out of his Toronto mansion by the police, together with that of his wife, Honey. On Sunday night, Toronto police announced that its homicide team was leading the investigation.” [NYTimes]

“Polish Holocaust Survivor Heeded Brutal Advice, Then Moved On” by James Hagerty: “Hilda Gimpel was born April 25, 1917, in the Polish village of Izbica Kujawska, about 100 miles west of Warsaw… In a video interview recorded by the USC Shoah Foundation in 2001, she remembered a peaceful girlhood. “We had a good life,” dancing to Jewish music and occasionally going to movies, she said. “We didn’t know better.” After the invasion of Poland in 1939, Jewish businesses were shut down. Belongings were smashed or stolen. Religious rites had to be concealed. “We just closed ourselves up in the house,” she said. Later, while other Jews were being rounded up, she escaped with her first husband. He had blond hair, looked “like a goy” and could find odd jobs as a mechanic. They moved from city to city… When the war ended, she found her childhood home in ruins and reconnected with a young man she had known as a girl: Harry Eisen. He had survived the Auschwitz death camp, and nearly all of his family was gone. They decided to marry. They moved to Southern California and made a fortune raising chickens to produce eggs for supermarkets.” [WSJ]

HOLLYWOOD: “Seinfeld: My comedy career started on Kibbutz Sa’ar” by Amy Spiro: “My very first thoughts of being a comedian were in Israel when I was 15,” [Jerry Seinfeld] told Dana Weiss in an interview with Channel 2 News… Seinfeld was there working – or not working mostly – on Kibbutz Sa’ar in 1970, and “there were a couple of other kids there from New York, from Queens, and we were doing lots of comedy things you know, hanging around… I ate halva and falafel and it was really a fantastic summer.” … Seinfeld is bringing his whole family with him when he returns to perform two shows in Tel Aviv on December 30. Since they’ve never been before, he said he wants to hit all the sites, including “Masada and the Dead Sea and Jerusalem.”[JPost]

TALK OF THE TOWN: “Lauder brothers among high school Hall of Fame inductees” by Ian Mohr: “Leonard Lauder and his brother, Ronald Lauder… will soon add to their accomplishments with an induction into the Bronx High School of Science Hall of Fame as part of the school’s 80th anniversary… Other notable inductees will include superlawyer Ira Millstein, political columnist William Safire, Rep. Nita M. Lowey, architect Daniel Libes­kind, Burberry Vice Chairman Rose Marie Bravo, veteran J.Crew CEO Mickey Drexler, “Pretty in Pink” star Jon Cryer and “Iron Man” director Jon Favreau.” [PageSix]

TALK OF OUR NATION: “Rabbi Brous: ‘I’ve Spent My Life Studying These Books That Say Decency Actually Matters’” by Emma Green: “The senior rabbi at IKAR, a non-denominational spiritual community in Los Angeles, [Sharon Brous] believes this is not a normal moment in American politics, and Jewish leaders need to speak out. The models of Jewish movement-building are also changing, she says: Gone are the days when the president of the Union of Reform Judaism or the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly are the only voices who can speak for American Jews.” [TheAtlantic]

“The Bar Mitzvah Party Starters” by Jen Doll: “Meir Kay is a bar mitzvah party motivator. Well, not just that. As he explains on his website, “I’m all about spreading positivity through different mediums.” Along with producing and directing and starring in videos that emphasize kindness and happiness, he’s a hype man, a dancer, a balloon animal-maker, a distributor of neon hats and glow sticks, a wrangler of both kids and adults on the dance floor. “I love entertaining people,” he tells me on a phone call during which I finagled an invite to the party. “I’m always the guy on the dance floor at weddings and parties. Two years ago, I got a call from a family friend. They said, ‘We’re doing a bar mitzvah, we love your energy, how do we get you involved?’ I was like, ‘I’ve never done this before.’ They said ‘We trust you,’ and brought me down to New Jersey to do the party.” [Topic]

“Google Thinks I’m Dead” by Rachel Abrams: “A search for “Rachel Abrams” revealed that Google had mashed my picture from The New York Times’s website with the Wikipedia entry for a better-known writer with the same name, who died in 2013… My father pointed this out in a quizzical text message, but the error seemed like an inconsequential annoyance best ignored indefinitely… But when an acquaintance said she was alarmed to read that I had passed away, it seemed like an error worth correcting. And so began the quest to convince someone at Google that I am alive… That biographical information belongs to the writer Rachel Abrams, the late wife of Elliott Abrams, who held prominent positions during the administrations of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. Ms. Abrams… published online on her blog, Bad Rachel, and her writing appeared in national publications.” [NYTimes]

SPORTS BLINK: “Commentator jumps to conclusions and is left eating crow” by Max Jaeger: “CNN guest commentator Hilary Rosen is on the hot seat after she publicly and baselessly panned a Georgetown University sports fan as anti-Semitic — because he was wearing a bacon suit during his school’s recent basketball game against Syracuse University. It turns out the fan’s name is Michael Bakan, and he regularly wears the get-up just because his last name is pronounced like the non-Kosher breakfast staple.” [NYPost

BIRTHDAYS: Winner of the 1989 Nobel Prize in Medicine, he served as director of NIH (1993-1999) and director of the National Cancer Institute (2010-2015), Harold Eliot Varmus turns 78… Office Manager in the DC office of Kator, Parks, Weiser & Harris, Ramona Cohen turns 72… Co-founder of DreamWorks Studios, Academy Award-winning director of “Schindler’s List” and “Saving Private Ryan” plus many other box-office record setters like “E.T.” and  “Jaws,” Steven Spielberg turns 71… Member of the US House of Representatives from Florida since 2009, he previously served in the Florida Senate (2000-2008) and the Florida House of Representatives (1992-2000), William Joseph (Bill) Posey turns 70… Former CFO of the Pentagon (2001-2004), he held high ranking posts in multiple administrations, Dov S. Zakheim turns 69… Film critic, historian and author of 12 books on cinema, Leonard Maltin turns 67… Winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Economics, professor at both Stanford and Harvard, and the 2017 President of the American Economics Association, Alvin Elliot Roth turns 66… Television writer, producer and director, best known as the co-creator and executive producer of the award-winning series “24” which ran for eight seasons on Fox, Joel Surnow turns 62… Labor leader, attorney, and educator, she is the president of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten turns 60…

Philanthropist, the founder and chief executive of Third Point LLC, Dan Loebturns 56… Editor since 2008 of The Jewish Chronicle (a London-based Jewish weekly newspaper since 1841), Stephen Pollard turns 53… Member of the Board of Governors of The Jewish Agency, he is the former Secretary General of World Bnei Akiva, Gael Grunewald turns 53… Principal with the communications firm 30 Point Strategies, formerly a White House speechwriter and Jewish liaison for George W. Bush from 2002-2005, Noam Neusner turns 48… Member of the Florida House of Representatives since 2012, Jared Moskowitz turns 37… Chicago-based, Midwest deputy political director for AIPAC, Marc Ashed turns 30… Community Liaison for U.S. Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY-10), Eliezer H. (Elie) Peltz turns 27… Emily Cooper

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Joint Distribution Committee Centennial Celebration in DC

Monday, December 9, 2013

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, celebrating its 100th anniversary, held its opening dinner tonight at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, DC.  …

Netanyahu at Saban 2013

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Watch Netanyahu’s Speech Here I am pleased to be joining you today, even if I’m doing it by remote satellite. I remember the Willard Hotel when I came…

Video: John Kerry at Saban 2013

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Secretary of State John Kerry delivers remarks at the Saban Forum in Washington, DC on December 7, 2013. SECRETARY KERRY: (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, Tamara, for…

Innovate Israel 2013 – Video & Pics

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Innovate Israel is Europe’s largest Israel focused digital & tech conference and it took place on December 4, 2013 in London. Here are some highlights… Conversation – Israel…

Top Tweets from White House Hanukkah Party

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Update: Scroll down for video of President Obama chatting with Israeli NBA player Omri Casspi   Father daughter dinner @whitehouse with Larry David — Jerry Silverman (@JerrySJFNA)…

Scene at the UJA-Federation of New York Wall Street Dinner

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Last night was the annual Wall Street Dinner to benefit the United Jewish Appeal-Federation of New York. A large (over 1,700) and generous crowd of bankers and hedge-fund…