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Daily Kickoff: POTUS, Spielberg to visit Israeli Embassy today for Holocaust Remembrance | Hawks take second look at Ted Cruz | Bernie’s religion

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DRIVING THE DAY: At 5:45PM, President Obama visits the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C., where he will speak at the Righteous Among the Nations Award Ceremony. The event, which takes place on International Holocaust Remembrance Day and the 71st anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, is sponsored by the Embassy of Israel in partnership with Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes Remembrance Authority in Israel. At this ceremony, the first of its kind to be held in the United States, Yad Vashem will posthumously recognize four individuals who heroically risked their lives to save Jews from the Nazis, forever demonstrating the importance of standing up to intolerance and hatred everywhere. The President’s remarks at the embassy will be pooled press.

Julie Hirschfeld Davis: “Take President Obama, add the Oscar-winning director Steven Spielberg and some stories of Holocaust heroism made for the silver screen, and throw in Ambassador Ron Dermer, who has had a somewhat tumultuous relationship with the White House over the Iran nuclear deal. It’s a recipe for a drama-filled evening at the Israeli Embassy in Washington on Wednesday night. Mr. Obama is to make an unusual appearance there to honor Americans who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust, his latest move to show solidarity with Israel after a historic rupture over the Iran accord.” [FirstDraftAP]

IN NYC — At 11am, Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon will host the United Nations Holocaust Memorial Ceremony at the General Assembly Hall. Speakers include UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power. [LiveStream• “Survivors to address UN on International Holocaust Remembrance Day” [JPost]

TOP TALKER: “UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon claimed on Tuesday that Palestinian violence is the result of “frustration,” asserting that “it is human nature to react to occupation, which often serves as a potent incubator of hate and extremism.” “Palestinian frustration is growing under the weight of a half century of occupation and the paralysis of the peace process,” Ban told a UN Security Council meeting on the Situation in the Middle East.” [YNetReuters]

Netanyahu says UN chief Ban Ki-moon encouraging terror: “The comments of the UN secretary general encourage terror,” Mr Netanyahu said in a statement. “There is no justification for terror.” He said the UN had lost its neutrality and moral force a long time ago. Ronald S Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, said Mr Ban’s remarks were a “dangerous justification of terrorism.” “It is extremely worrying and shocking that the leader of the international community has chosen to excuse the inexcusable,” Mr Lauder added. [BBC]

Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon at UN Security Council meeting: “There is one place in the world that this absolute ban on terrorism can be ignored. In the past 4 months, the Security Council has passed 12 resolutions condemning terror in countries around the world, but not once has it condemned acts of terror against Israelis. The facts don’t lie.The Security Council has been hypocritical when it comes to Israel.” [TranscriptVideo]

HAPPENING TODAY: “Bernie Sanders and President Obama to Meet in Oval Office Wednesday” by Michael Shear and Yamiche Alcindor: “President Obama will meet in the Oval Office on Wednesday with Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, offering presidential face-time just days before voting in the presidential campaign begins next week, White House officials said Tuesday evening… Administration officials had struggled to say when Mr. Obama last met one-on-one with Mr. Sanders.” [FirstDraft]

“Bernie Sanders answers the God question” by Frances Stead Sellers and John Wagner:“Growing up, Bernie Sanders followed the path of many young American Jews. He went to Hebrew school, was bar mitzvahed and traveled to Israel to work on a kibbutz. But as an adult, Sanders drifted away from Jewish customs. And as his bid for the White House gains momentum, he has the chance to make history. Not just as the first Jewish president — but as one of the few modern presidents to present himself as not religious.” [WashPost]

“Sanders says a Bloomberg bid would point to wealth imbalance” by Ken Thomas: “If Michael Bloomberg — and I have nothing against him personally — were a normal person with the same ideas, he would never in a million years have thought about running for president,” Sanders said. “But as a billionaire, ‘Hey, I’m thinking of running for president. Throw in a few billion into the race. I’m off and running!’ I don’t think that’s what American democracy is supposed to be about.” [AP]

Chemi Shalev: “When Bernie Sanders Goes Forward, anti-Semitism Will Follow: More than any other Democratic candidate, Sanders fits the bill of the GOP’s favorite Jewish bogeyman, Saul Alinsky.” [Haaretz]

“Is Bernie Sanders Really Naive About Iran?” by Peter Beinart: “There are legitimate criticisms of Sanders’s worldview. Just as Clinton has an overly benign view of America’s actions during the Cold War, Sanders clearly had an overly benign view of the communist dictatorships in Cuba and Nicaragua. But in his call to end America’s cold war with Iran, Sanders is challenging the bipartisan foreign-policy consensus in the same way Obama did in 2008. If he leans into that debate, rather than retreating into his economic-policy comfort zone, he’ll become a stronger candidate.” [TheAtlantic]

“Hillary the dove” by Michael Crowley: “To hear Bernie Sanders tell it, Hillary Clinton is too hawkish for Democratic voters. Clinton voted for the Iraq War and favored bombing Libya. She may be experienced, Sanders recently admitted, but “Dick Cheney had a lot of experience,” too. As she makes her closing case to the anti-war Iowa liberals who rejected her in 2008, Clinton is calibrating her message to deflect those charges. Though she has long stressed her toughness against foreign adversaries, Clinton is now spotlighting her role as a peacemaker.” [Politico]

“Despite Jabs And Attacks, GOP Hawks Take Second Look At Ted Cruz” by Rosie Gray:“Cruz, it turns out, hasn’t fully burned his bridges with that set of advisers and supporters of George W. Bush — figures like Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol and former National Security Council official Elliott Abrams, who aren’t closed off to Cruz, especially in the case of Abrams… “I would not hesitate to back Cruz as the nominee,” Abrams — who not long ago told National Review that Cruz’s use of the word neocon invoked “warmongering Jewish advisers”… Ideologically, the GOP foreign policy establishment is more in tune with Rubio or Jeb Bush. But as both of those candidates struggle in the middle of the pack, a reckoning is underway with reality.” [BuzzFeed

Ron Kampeas: “Ahead of the Iowa caucus: A Jewish guide to the presidential candidates: Here’s a look at the leading candidates – their Jewish friends, family, advisers and donors, their stances on Israel and their Jewish-related controversies.” [JewishJournal]

Bethany Mandel: “How the Truths Marco Rubio Told an Atheist Could Lure Jews to GOP” [Forward]

Chris Cillizza: “Why Michael Bloomberg running for president this year might kind of make sense” [WashPost]

Rand Paul in an interview with SiriusXM host Stephen Bannon: Bill Clinton “got paid nearly a million dollars by [the Swedish communications giant] Ericsson who was petitioning to sell stuff to Iran and it had to be approved by Hillary Clinton [as Secretary of State]. How is that not a conflict of interest? How is that not illegal?” [NewsMax]

Kasich in New Hampshire: “Kasich said he does not believe that Iran has nuclear weapons, but said, “If we had evidence as to where they were developing it, and if we could get at it, if I were president, we would take that out.” [WMUR]

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

BUSINESS BRIEFS: “Mike Bloomberg Is Worth $49 Billion, Much More Than Most People Thought” [ReCode• “Jonathan Triest’s Ludlow Ventures Targets $40 Million For Second Fund” [TechCrunch] • “David Schottenstein along with two other outside partners,  announce the formation of their new investment fund, DSCN Capital.” [NewsWire] • “Oscar Health’s Marketing and Customer Experience Is Top-Notch. But Is Its Health Insurance Model Truly Disruptive?” [FastCompany]

TALK OF OUR NATION: “Goldman Sachs is in the eye of the campaign storm” by Maria Recio: “It’s a metaphor for the highly aggressive investment bank. It’s the brand name for that kind of banking,” said Gerald Benjamin… Benjamin added that there is also an undercurrent with some people of anti-Semitism. “The names are identifiably Jewish,” he said, and there is still a tendency to refer to “Jewish bankers” in a way to suggest Jews have undue influence. Benjamin said he was sensitive to the point because he, too, was Jewish.” [McClatchy]

LongRead: “The Wreck of Amtrak 188” by Matthew Shaer: “As the train pulled away from Baltimore-Washington International Airport, Darby looked up to see a 20-year-old Navy midshipman named Justin Zemser making his way down the aisle, clad in his dress whites. Zemser was from Rockaway Beach, Queens, the only child of Howard Zemser, who worked in printing, and Susan Zemser, an assistant supervisor at an insurance company. When Zemser was a child, his uncle Richard used to kid that he was destined to be the first Jewish president. In high school, it stopped seeming like a joke: Zemser was the valedictorian of his class at Channel View School for Research, a star running back on the football squad and a regular volunteer at the local soup kitchen.” [NYTimesMag]

SCENE LAST NIGHT: Mishpacha Magazine convened 150 Jewish community leaders last night in the DUMBO neighborhood of Brooklyn. Speakers included NYC Councilman David Greenfield, Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder, Phil Rosen, Jeff Ballabon, Rabbi Shmuel Lefkowitz, and Malcolm Hoenlein. SPOTTED: NY State Senator Simcha Felder, Ari Werth, Pinny Ringel, AIPAC’s Jason Koppel, Ezra Friedlander, Leon Goldenberg, Yitzchok Saftlas, Duvi Honig, Rabbi Jack Meyer, OU’s Josh Pruzansky, Shai Markowitz, Rabbi Baruch Bender, Mishpacha CEO Avi Lazar, and Shoshana Friedman.

BIRTHDAYS: Howard Mortman, Communications Director at C-SPAN… Casino magnate Steve Wynn turns 74… Josh Weinstein… Joseph Helfer… U Mass Amherst Professor Julius Lester turns 77…

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