Jewish Insider Kickoff
DRIVING THE DAY – A Reuters report that “Israel has agreed to a proposed formula for new peace talks with the Palestinians under which the border of their future state would be along the lines that existed before the 1967 war, but with agreed land swaps, an Israeli official said on Thursday. The official said that, were the Palestinians to accept the formula, it would be announced by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who would also describe the future Palestine as existing alongside a “Jewish state” of Israel.” [Reuters]
AMIR MIZROCH, editor of Israel Hayom, tweets “Israel Prime Minister’s office says “not aware” of Reuters report that Israel has agreed to resume talks on 67 lines with swaps and that report is “UNTRUE.” [Israel Hayom]
FIRST LOOK, LONG READ: Jeffrey Katzenberg – ‘Mogul on a Mission’ by Danielle Berrin for the Jewish Journal. “The publicity chief arrives to escort me to Katzenberg’s office. “You have one hour,” he reminds me — one short hour — in which to attempt to pin down the prolific executive. Which worries me. Katzenberg has been around too long to make the mistake of telling a reporter anything truly revealing, so the prospect of a probing interview seems both ambitious and unlikely. And yet, surely such a calculated man has his motives for talking to me today.
Judaism played a role in Katzenberg’s upbringing, albeit a peripheral one. “I wasn’t bar mitzvahed, but on the other hand, faith was in our life. I went to Sunday school; we belonged to Emanu-El,” he says, referring to the historic Reform synagogue on Fifth Avenue and East 65th Street. “I would say it was a part of our culture.” Given that his Jewish upbringing wasn’t religiously immersive, I ask Katzenberg what his Jewish identity has accorded him in life. He thinks for a minute, then says, “Pride. Conviction. A sense of belonging. The Jewish community of New York is one in which there is a lot of connection. Much more connected [than in Los Angeles]. You’re a part of something there. [In Jewish life] there’s a connection to your roots and to Israel, a sense of belonging and a sense of obligation.”
Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, can speak to Katzenberg’s Jewish life, if not religiously, then in terms of his commitment to the community: “If you know Jeffrey, you know that Jeffrey doesn’t like long telephone conversations,” Hier says sardonically. “Sometimes Jeffrey can speak for 30 seconds, but to me, he is the epitome of the talmudic dictum in Pirkei Avot that says, “Emor me’at — say little, v’asey harbeh —– but do much. That fits him to the T. You ask him to do something — he says, ‘Yes’; you have about a 30-second conversation, but when you come to the delivery, it’s amazing.” Over the years, Katzenberg has not only helped fundraise for the Wiesenthal Center, attending its annual banquets and inviting his friends, he has also helped secure celebrity narrators, such as Sandra Bullock to voice Golda Meir, for the center’s award-winning documentaries. Hier also said that it was Katzenberg — along with Universal Studios chief Ron Meyer — who advised him to create an in-house production company, Moriah Films, instead of outsourcing the center’s film work.
According to a recent article by Andy Kroll in Mother Jones, Katzenberg is currently the nation’s most powerful and effective Democratic fundraiser. Since 1999, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, the Katzenbergs have donated an estimated $4.8 million to Democratic causes, topping every other star political donor in the United States — including George Soros and the right-leaning Koch brothers — except for Sheldon Adelson ($94.2 million). Kroll portrayed Katzenberg — who did not consent to be interviewed — as a “deep pocketed kingmaker” much cherished by the Obama administration for his fundraising efficiency and low-maintenance personality. When he and George Clooney hosted a final-stretch campaign fundraiser for the president last spring, it became the highest-grossing campaign dinner in history, raising $15 million in one night. Katzenberg’s strategy for getting wealthy democrats to pony up their pocketbooks was simple: Show them a good time. He reportedly “fussed” over details like seating arrangements — leaving an extra seat at each table so Obama could “mingle” (something the president is oft criticized for doing poorly) —– which prompted Kroll’s winning description of the dinner as “a night of political speed dating.” Another of Katzenberg’s tricks is his old-fashioned etiquette. In the age of mass e-mails and Facebook posts, Katzenberg is old school, plying his friends with “personal calls and handwritten thank-you notes.” Jim Messina, Obama’s campaign manager, described him to Kroll as “one of the best, if not the best, fundraisers out there,” and, according to the same piece, he doesn’t ask for much in return: “No ambassadorship to Switzerland, no regulatory tweak, no nights in the Lincoln Bedroom,” Kroll wrote. Although, he added, there are some perks: “Obama takes Katzenberg’s calls, and he and his political adviser, Andy Spahn, visited the White House almost 50 times between them during Obama’s first term.” Not to mention, “It has also left [Katzenberg] well positioned to advocate for his industry’s and his company’s interests in China’s booming film market.” “Ten years from now, China will be the center of the universe,” Katzenberg declares. “And that’s what’s exciting — climbing mountains.” What drives him now isn’t fame or fortune, he says. “It’s not about the money — it was never about the money.” His goal is simpler: “New mountain. New challenge.”
Two minutes before the end of our hour, I realize I’ve forgotten to ask Katzenberg about Israel. He tells me he has personally taken Jerry Seinfeld, Ben Stiller and Chris Rock on visits there, which I hadn’t known. “I think it’s important,” he says. Israel “is a jewel. It’s this amazing beautiful gem that exists in a place where there are not a lot of gems.” So, in addition to the business, philanthropy and politics, Katzenberg quietly supports Israel and even leads trips there. It is all so very Lew Wasserman. The Wiesenthal’s Rabbi Hier even compares Katzenberg to the unnamed heroes of the Bible, the characters who never starred in the Jewish story, but who nevertheless made an impact on the whole of Jewish destiny. “If you want to know who’s going to change the course of Jewish history, you don’t necessarily find them in the temple on Shabbos getting an aliyah,” Hier says. Hier acknowledges the skepticism with which more observant Jews might view the likes of Katzenberg, who rarely steps into a synagogue. “When I was in yeshiva, I thought everyone there who wears a yarmulke is the epitome of all goodness, but it’s often people not involved religiously who do more work for the Jewish people than some who wear yarmulkes.” “Who’s gonna say Theodor Herzl didn’t work for the Jewish people because he didn’t wear a yarmulke?” Hier says wryly. “You might not see some of these people on Shabbos, but what they do affects everybody.” At 60 minutes on the dot, my time with Katzenberg is up. The PR chief peeks his head in with an interested expression. “How’d it go?” he mutters. Katzenberg answers: “Very lively.” Done. [Jewish Journal]
POWER PLEDGE – Obama’s UN Envoy Pick Samantha Power Pledges to Defend Israel: “Samantha Power, President Barack Obama’s nominee for ambassador to the United Nations, disavowed her decade-old critiques of American foreign policy and promised to root out anti-Israel “bias” at the international body. Power said she will “work tirelessly to defend” Israel in an organization where many countries don’t recognize it, and to lobby for the Jewish state to have a rotating seat on the Security Council for the first time.
“The UN must be fair,” Power told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at her confirmation hearing yesterday. She criticized the organization’s human rights council for making Israel a recurring item on its agenda, rather than nations such as North Korea, Iran or Sudan. “Israel’s legitimacy should be beyond dispute, and its security must be beyond doubt,” Power said. She blamed anti-Israel attitudes at the UN on the fact that fewer than half of its members are democratic nations. For those states, “it helps to have a diversion,” she said. “It helps to scapegoat other countries.” [Bloomberg]
HOW MICHAEL JACKSON’s RABBI, SHMULEY BOTEACH, MADE SAMANTHA POWER KOSHER – by Colum Lynch for Foreign Policy. [FP Magazine]
‘COMPROMISE’ – EU’s Ashton floats plan to break Hezbollah deadlock – “The European Union could blacklist Hezbollah’s military wing while stressing it is open to talking to the militant Lebanese movement’s political faction, under a proposal by the EU’s foreign policy chief, EU diplomats said on Wednesday. Blacklisting the group would mark a major policy shift for the European Union, which has resisted pressure from Israel and Washington to do so for years.” [Reuters]
BEWARE of HEZ in NEW YORK – by Matthew Levitt in the New York Post: “Next week, European leaders will meet to decide whether to designate the military wing of Iranian-backed Hezbollah a terrorist organization. Banning the group in Europe is long overdue, but the issue is only now on the agenda due to the Hezbollah bus bombing in Burgas, Bulgaria, a year ago today. Only after a successful Hezbollah strike on European soil has the issue of banning it in Europe – and only the group’s military wing, at that – risen to the attention of European lawmakers.
But today’s date was significant in the annals of Hezbollah long before last year’s attack in Bulgaria: Nineteen years ago today, Hezbollah operatives and Iranian agents blew up the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, killing 85 and injuring 150 others. It was Hezbollah’s second bombing in the city in less than two years. And it appears that Hezbollah operatives in New York City played a part. [New York Post]
POST CONGRESS, DEUTSCH FINDS NEW LIFE IN ISRAEL: “When U.S. Rep. Peter Deutsch lost his campaign for the U.S. Senate in 2004, forcing him out of Congress for the first time in 12 years, he didn’t quite know what to do with himself. So he did something not entirely uncommon among American Jews who haven’t quite figured out their next step: He went to Israel. More than eight years later, Deutsch is still here, living with his family in Raanana, a Tel Aviv suburb. His 22-year-old son recently completed a stint as a combat soldier in the Israeli army, and his 21-year-old daughter is studying at an Orthodox women’s seminary. Deutsch’s move is more than just atypical; it’s unprecedented. He is the only member of Congress ever to have moved to Israel, and he may be the only living ex-congressman who is an expatriate. He’s also unusual in one other respect: Deutsch is an Orthodox Jew, which helps explain his unorthodox choices.” [JTA]
U.S. Senate candidate David Young: Sharing ‘good news’ of Christianity would build ‘deeper relationships’ among lawmakers – “David Young, a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, told a crowd of Christian conservatives this week that he would like to sit down with U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer to share “the good news of Jesus Christ.” Schumer, a Democrat from New York, is Jewish.” [Des Moines Register]
BDS STUDENT JOINS UC REGENTS: The University of California’s Board of Regents today voted in UC Berkeley undergraduate Sadia Saifuddin, 21, as a student member of the board, a move that triggered strong reactions from Jewish organizations concerned about her support for the controversial Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS). [Jewish Journal]
A ‘BAN FOR A BAN’ – Saudi Arabian Airlines Risks Ban Over Anti-Israel Discrimination: “Arabian Airlines may be banned from operating at New York City’s John F. Kennedy airport because of its policy of not selling tickets to Israeli passport holders. New York City’s Public Advocate, Bill de Blasio held a press conference explaining the development, after a member of de Blasio’s staff unsuccessfully tried to purchase a ticket from the airline. De Blasio blasted the airline’s discriminatory policy, which is illegal under U.S. law.” [The Tower]
CONFRONTING BIGOTRY: When is the Word “Jew” An Offensive Stereotype? by Peter Dreier for Huff Post [Huffington Post]
THE NAZARETH CODE: Can Israel’s Booming Tech Sector Heal the Wounds of Israeli Arabs? by Yoav Fromer for Tablet Mag. “Driving through Nazareth’s industrial zone is no easy task. Congested, confusing, and somewhat chaotic, it is not very inviting to first-time visitors. But at the end of the freshly paved road lined with auto-body shops, garages, warehouses, and one oddly situated girls school, awaits a surprising sight: a new industrial park, recently built by the Israeli billionaire and philanthropist Stef Wertheimer.
Constructed to promote Arab-Jewish economic cooperation and coexistence by providing “quality employment” in export-oriented industries, the park, which formally opened in April, is also an attractive tourist destination: Towering above the biblical Jezreel valley to the south, it affords a stunning view of one of Israel’s lushest landscapes. Once you enter, it looks more like a museum than a place of business. The illuminated sunlit lobby exhibits bronze sculptures by the local Arab artist Sana Farah Bishara that suggest the work of August Rodin, while the surrounding stone walls are draped with abstract-art tapestries by the Israeli choreographer Noa Eshkol. With top-notch facilities, breathtaking views, and a work atmosphere evocative of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the park appears to have everything necessary for an ideal industrial hub—except for one thing. There are very few people. Operating at only 30 percent occupancy, the Nazareth Industrial Park has the feel of a luxury ghost town. [Tablet Magazine]
CartCrunch – Crowdsourcing Your Supermarket Shopping Experience: “In a world suffering from a recurring economic crises with countries plunging into debt while the cost of living continues to rise, consumer awareness is greater than ever and market populations are looking for shopping experiences that are not only user friendly and filled with quality products, but that are cost-effective as well. With the rampant use of smartphones, geo-tracking technology and social, the ground work has been laid out for a specialized application to come along and address this issue. Israelis Eyal Yair, Eyal Molad and Eylon Ohevya founded CartCrunch in early 2012 to be that application. The three began to test different solutions that allow users to compare on the spot prices at different locations. They created a shopping list and began their research by going to various local supermarkets and checking out prices. One of the biggest inherent problems with such lists is that prices vary from day to day, even within the same location. The founders were surprised to find that there’s often a 10%-30% discrepancy in prices of the same product in the same town, so they decided to develop a solution based on crowdsourcing that they believe will solve for this issue. The result was CartCrunch, an app that allows users to take pictures of their receipt and which then updates the network as to that particular location’s prices for the items purchased. After four months of work, CartCrunch has already raised $1M in investment from LionBird, Plus Ventures, Jeff Pulver, MicroAngel Fund and Techstars. [Geektime]
BUSINESS BRIEFS: note to readers: at times we’ll explain the Jewish connection or angle and at times we won’t. Where we don’t it is generally because we are following the view that if one is meant to know the connection then they already know it.
HACKING OBAMACARE: Josh Kushner Targets Health Insurance With Tech Startup – “Josh Kushner, the 28-year-old founder of New York V.C. firm, Thrive Capital, is jumping into the health insurance game. Kushner, whose investment fund holds about $200 million in assets under management, has scored hits with early bets on Spotify, Nasty Gal, ResearchGate, Codecedemy, Warby Parker and, most famously, Instagram. Now Kushner, along with cofounders Kevin Nazemi and Mario Schlosser, is out to inject technology know-how into the bloated, byzantine health insurance industry with his new health insurance company Oscar.
Just how will this hybrid of technology and health insurance work? Details are still fuzzy, but sources say Oscar will use design, big data and transparency to improve customer experience and customer knowledge. Oscar was awarded a New York health insurance license in July and will begin enrollment this fall. Kushner, who will continue to devote most of his time to Thrive Capital will first target individual New Yorkers opting to buy insurance through the public exchanges established under Barack Obama‘s Affordable Care Act. That’s likely just the beginning, the real money is with corporate clients – Kushner and his V.C. backers tend to think big. [Forbes]
GOV CHRISTIE’S FED UP – done intervening in fight between Jewish developer and NFL teams including Jewish owned Giants: “Now that the feud between the developer of American Dream and the New York Giants and Jets footballs teams is in court, Gov. Chris Christie said today he’s done trying to intervene in the dispute that has stalled construction of the sprawling entertainment and retail complex in the Meadowlands. Calling the sports teams “unreasonable,” Christie said it’s not likely the complex will be completed by next February’s Superbowl at nearby MetLife Stadium but noted portions of it may be ready with a favorable timetable. “I have personally spent days and days and days negotiating with these parties and I think at this point….I think the teams are being unreasonable in terms of their approach…but ultimately now this is going to be for a court to decide,” Christie said. “I can’t do anything further than what’s been done — which was to personally intervene and try to bring a resolution — and for the (New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority) to act on its own to approve the changes to the master plan that the American Dream folks requested.” Claiming breach of contract, the Jets and the Giants took the Canada-based developer, Triple Five, and the sports and exposition authority to court in May two weeks after the authority approved the addition of a huge indoor water park and theme park.” [The Star Ledger]
OMNICARE SETTLES: “An Illinois federal judge approved the dismissal of a whistleblower lawsuit against Omnicare, following a settlement agreement on July 9,according to local media reports. Although a deal between Omnicare, the U.S. government, and the states of Illinois and Florida was reached “in principle” last August, the agreement was delayed a year, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported. The case, filed under the False Claims Act, went on for six years after its initial filing. The agreement terms were not released. The case involved former employee Maureen Nehls saying that Omnicare paid a kickback to owners of Total Pharmacy Services, LLC, during the $25 million purchase of the company. The payment allowed Omnicare to gain contracts with nursing homes owned or controlled by the kickback recipients, Philip and Morris Esformes, the suit claimed. The Esformes’ deny receiving kickbacks and are scheduled to go to trial in August to fight the allegations in a separate case.” [McKnights]
VERSACE MANSION TO BE AUCTIONED OFF: The Versace mansion will go to bankruptcy auction on Sept. 17 according to listing broker Jill Eber – “The majority owner, telecom mogul Peter Loftin, has battled a foreclosure action by a company owned by the Nakash family, the founders of Jordache jeans. Convicted Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein admitted to funneling millions through his firm to acquire a 9.99 percent stake in the 19,000-square-foot property in 2009 and more to later keep the property running, wiring the money to Loftin’s Luxury Resorts LLC. Nakash family investment vehicle VM South Beach bought a note from Loftin’s original lender, which makes them the stalking horse at the upcoming auction. They will be entitled to a credit bid of $32.7 million, Eber said, or whatever the value of the existing mortgage as determined by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Laurel Isicoff.” [The Real Deal]
BELIEVE IT OR NOT – JEALOUSY IN THE HAMPTONS: Neighbors of Ira Rennert are upset about an application for a zoning variance to make ‘slight’ additions to Rennert’s house. “But the attorney for Rennert, whose net worth is listed by Forbes as $6.5 billion, said the expansion is minimal. “It would be totally invisible from anybody unless you flew over it,” said Gilbert G. Flanagan, of Southampton.” [Long Island Newsday]
MACCABIAH GAMES: The city of Jerusalem took center stage as Mayor Nir Barkat hosted a spectacular gala event on Wednesday night at the Tower of David, just 24 hours ahead of the Opening Ceremony for the 19th Maccabiah Games at Teddy Stadium. A who’s-who of VIPs were in attendance at the intimate gathering just inside the walls of the capital’s Old City, including new Hapoel Jerusalem owner Ori Allon and National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman, who brought along many of his six team owners, including Larry and Judy Tanenbaum of the Toronto Maple Leafs, who stepped up to sponsor the Maccabiah ice hockey tournament. [Jerusalem Post]
EVEN CUBA IS SENDING A DELEGATION with uniforms sponsored by the Tisch family of New York [HAARETZ]
VIDEO: AMAR’E STOUNDEMIRE is the assistant coach for the Maccabi Canada Basketball Team. [YouTube]
VIDEO: MEET NEW YORK’S ORTHODOX JEWISH BOXER, Dmitry Salita [The Atlantic]
Thats all folks, have a great Thursday!
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