WHITE HOUSE HANUKKAH — We’ll get to everyone’s favorite spotted list in a bit but first some real talk.
Ed Note: Our Community’s Rare Convergence — It’s no secret we’re a segmented community, operating in political and organizational silos. For better and for worse, no single individual or group “runs” or “represents” the U.S. Jewish community. One challenge we face: Too often, as a community we’re unable to talk with each other, but rather we talk at one another. We rarely — if ever — attend the same events. And if we’re not in the same room, it’s rather difficult to share a common conversation.
If there’s been one truly diverse annual gathering of the Jewish community in recent years, spanning the communal and religious spectrums, it’s President Obama’s Hanukkah Party. There are those who focus on national security and foreign policy and others who are committed to domestic issues. Groups such as AIPAC, J Street, Bend the Arc, Conference of Presidents, T’ruah, JFNA, Chabad, URJ, Agudath Israel, USCJ, Orthodox Union, IKAR… and so many more, represented by their top leaders and their “plus ones.” We’re talking primarily on the communal side but there has also been a degree of political diversity with several Republican Jews in attendance over the years (here and here). The White House seems to be the only house where all of our people gather.
Our favorite part of the Hanukkah party? The fairly egalitarian queue outside the White House as the Secret Service prepares to open the gates, with some waiting in line for hours. We liken it to our community’s version of a new product launch at the Apple Store. Everyone waits — even Ambassadors and members of Congress — and there are no special lanyards denoting status. So what are influential Jewish leaders waiting in line to do but shmooze with whomever is near them? For us, it’s a highlight to observe the random pairings that would likely never occur, especially with any advanced planning.
The diversity of the White House Hanukkah Party is something to be proud of (and you can see it in the list below). Who knows what a Trump Hanukkah event will look like — aside from a gold menorah of course — but let’s hope it continues the tradition of bringing all segments of our community together — supporters and critics alike.
As for us at Jewish Insider and the Daily Kickoff newsletter, we’ll continue working hard to bring all of you together each day onto a shared platform — doing our best to create and encourage a common conversation across the segments. If we succeed, and with your help we will, it’ll be as if we’re all in the same room together — albeit for only 5 or 10 minutes at a time. Wishing you a very happy, very early Hannukah!
President Obama’s remarks at the first Hannukah reception yesterday: “The first chapter of the Hanukkah story was written 22 centuries ago, when rulers banned religious rituals and persecuted Jews who dared to observe their faith. Which is why today we are asked not only to light the menorah, but to proudly display it — to publicize the mitzvah. And that’s why we’ve invited all these reporters who are here… Through centuries of exile and persecution, and even the genocide of families like the Wiesels endured, the Hanukkah candles have been kindled. Each wick an answer to the wicked. Each light a signal to the world that yours is an inextinguishable faith… I want to say how much Michelle and I appreciate the opportunities to have celebrated so many Hanukkahs with you in the White House. You know, at the beginning of my presidency, some critics thought it would last for only a year. But — miracle of miracles — it has lasted eight years. It’s lasted eight whole years. Nes Gadol Haya Po.” [CSPAN]
For those who tell you they ‘hung out’ with the President at the White House yesterday, here’s video of their very brief interactions over the rope line. Cameo appearance: Amb. Ron Dermer’s kippah [YouTube]
A White House Usher told us: “We’ve seen people linger in the White House after the other holiday events this week but nothing like at the Hanukkah party.” Ushers had to go room to room kindly asking guests to make their way towards the exits as some guests pondered when they’d be back. [YouTube]
SPOTTED at the earlier reception: HIR’s Rabbi Steven Exler, Shira Billet, Marion Wiesel, Elisha Wiesel, Princeton’s Koleinu Acapella Group, First Lady’s CoS Tina Tchen, leading strategist Ann Lewis, Amb. Norm Eisen, Truah’s Jill Jacobs, Conférence of President’s Stephen Greenberg, J Street’s Jeremy Ben Ami, AIPAC’s Howard Kohr, AIPAC’s Bob & Louise Cohen, David & Susanna Cohen, Interfaith Alliance’s Rabbi Jack Moline, Conference of President’s Malcolm Hoenlein, USCJ’s Rabbi Steven Wernick, Central Synagogue’s Rabbi Ben Greenberg, Sharon Weiss Greenberg, Cynthia Bernstein, White House Jewish Liaison Chanan Weissman, Elana Weissman, Daniel Bonner, Brookings’ Tamara Coffman Wittes, Gideon Feen, Cheryl Fishbein, Asher Mayerson, Jerry Wolasky, Judge Karen Friedman, Howard Friedman.
Israeli Amb. Ron Dermer, Rhoda Dermer, Israeli Embassy CoS Yarden Golan, Tablet’s Yair Rosenberg, Menachem Butler, Rabbi Eliott Perlstein, Janie Perlstein, President Obama’s speechwriter Stephen Krupin, AIPAC’s Lee Rosenberg, Rabbi Julie Schoenfeld, Rabbi Steve Gutow, David & Sharon Butler, Naomi Adler, Rabbi Sid Schwartz, Susie Turnbull, Dan Mariaschin, Ken Bob, Nancy Kaufman, Ron Klein, Barbara Goldman Goldberg, Gideon Taylor, Susie and Jeff Stern, Michael Adler, Matt Dorf, Rabbi Jonah Plesner, Jason Isaacson.
Agudath Israel’s Sol Werdiger, Jordan Hirsch, Matt Rosenbaum, JFNA’s William and Heidi Krizer Daroff, JFNA’s Jerry Silverman, JFNA Chair Richard Sandler, Alan Solomont, OU’s Nathan Diament, American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad) Rabbi Levi Shemtov, Rabbi Avraham Shemtov, Rabbi Menachem Shemtov (photo of the three generations of Shemtovs at the White House), DC Federation’s Steve Rakitt, OU’s Allen Fagin, AIPAC’s Jonathan Kessler, JPost’s Michael Wilner, JTA’s Ron Kampeas, Hadar’s Rabbi Elie Kaunfer, Schusterman Foundation’s Lisa Eisen, Hillel’s Sheila Katz, Bend the Arc’s Stosh Cotler, Rabbi Sydney Mintz, Hillel’s Eric Fingerhut, Amy Fingerhut, Charles Herzka, DNC’s Aaron Weinberg, Julia Ioffe, Deena Ioffe, Neil Weissman, Pam Weissman, Ruth Messinger, AJWS’s Robert Bank, Kathleen Levin, Hartman’s Rachel Jacoby Rosenfield, Joshua Fried, IKAR’s Rabbi Sharon Brous, Jay Ruderman, Shira Ruderman.
POTUS at the evening reception: “This is our second Hanukkah party today, but in the spirit of the holiday, the White House kitchen has not run out of oil… This is a White House tradition that we are proud to carry on. It gives us a lot of nakhas. (nachas) If I pronounced that right, then that was a Hanukkah miracle… And in my last months in office, I want to thank you for all your courage, and your conviction, and your outspokenness. The story of this community and the work you continue to do to repair the world forever reminds us to have faith that there are brighter days ahead… And we want to emphasize that although we will be leaving here on January 20th, we will meet you on the other side.” [CSPAN]
SPOTTED at the evening reception: Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff (pictured with Adam Finkel from Detroit), John Kerry’s younger Jewish brother Cam Kerry, Kathy Weinman, Treasury Sec. Jack Lew, Laura & Gary Lauder, Philanthropist Lynn Schusterman, Sandy Cardin and Melody McCoy, Treasury’s Adam Szubin, Avi Friedman, Robert Sugarman, Hal Ossman, Jay Lewis, Matt Nosanchuk, Alan & Andrea Solow, Daniel & Abby Solow, Andrew Weinstein, Abe Foxman, Mark Kalish, Shalom Klein, Leon Goldenberg, Jim Heeger, Daryl Messinger, White House speechwriter Sarah Hurwitz, Aaron Keyak, Avi Goldgraber, Steve Rabinowitz, Laurie Moskowitz, Greg & Marti Rosenbaum, Mira Kogen Resnick, Matt Weiner, Steve Sheffey, Marc Stanley.
Rep. Jerry Nadler, Rep. Ted Deutsch, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Jarrod Bernstein, UJA’s Eric Goldstein, former Rep. Henry Waxman, Susie Gelman, Gail Norry, Ezra Friedlander, Shoshie Lew, Sarah Arkin, Philadelphia mega-donor Mel Heifetz whom the President hosted earlier in the day in the Oval Office, Danny Schwartz, Asher Lopatin, Marin Stein, Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes, YU’s Richard Joel, Ann Jacobs — Senior Advisor to Sen. Ben Cardin, Rep. Elliot Engel, Ira Forman, Stuart Eizenstat, Justice Stephen Breyer, Judge Merrick Garland, Rep. Jan Schakowsky, Chemi Peres, Guy Peres, Julius Genachowski, Yehuda & Anne Neuberger, Jonathan Powell, Mark Winkelman, Eric Feldman.
TOP TALKER: “Jews protest major Jewish organizations’ Hanukkah party at Trump’s D.C. hotel” by Julie Zauzmer: ““We didn’t leave Mitzraim,” Rebecca Dorn’s sign said, using the Hebrew word by which the Bible calls the land of Egypt, where the Jews were enslaved, “for you to kiss up to Pharaoh.” The Chevy Chase 18-year-old’s sign was meant as a message to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, an umbrella body of 50 Jewish institutions that hosted a Hanukkah party at President-elect Donald Trump’s Washington hotel Wednesday night despite consternation within its own ranks and in the broader Jewish community.” [WashPost]
DRIVING THE CONVERSATION: “Iran sanctions renewal becomes law without Obama signature” by Josh Lederman: “Although the White House had said that Obama was expected to sign the 10-year-renewal, the midnight deadline came and went Thursday with no approval from the president. White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Obama had decided to let it become law without his signature. “The administration has, and continues to use, all of the necessary authorities to waive the relevant sanctions” lifted as part of the nuclear deal, Earnest said in a statement… Though Obama’s move doesn’t prevent the sanctions renewal from entering force, it marked a symbolic attempt by the president to demonstrate disapproval for lawmakers’ actions.” [AP]
“Netanyahu to Iran: Don’t threaten us; we’re not a rabbit, we’re a tiger” by Itamar Eichner:“Netanyahu responded on Wednesday to Iran’s spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who predicted that Israel would cease to exist within 25 years. “Don’t threaten us, we are not a rabbit, we are a tiger,” said Netanyahu while on a visit to Kazakhstan.” [Ynet]
TRANSITION TOWER — “G.O.P. Resistance Builds to John Bolton as State Dept. Deputy” by Jeremy Peters and Maggie Haberman: “Mr. Tillerson has expressed misgivings about having Mr. Bolton as his deputy, according to a person who has spoken with Mr. Trump in recent days. But Mr. Bolton remains under consideration for the job. And he enjoys a powerful ally in Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate and Republican megadonor who favors the kind of hard-nosed posture that Mr. Bolton would bring. Mr. Adelson’s backing has gone an especially long way with Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who is expected to take on an important but still undetermined role in the new administration… “I like John Bolton and hope he gets a senior position,” said William Kristol… “But the Trump people shouldn’t kid themselves that any selection as deputy would erase the deep concerns about Tillerson of those of us who believe we can’t afford to continue Obama’s policy of supineness to Putin.””
— “Another name that has been mentioned as a possible deputy to Mr. Tillerson, according to two people with knowledge of the transition process, is Elliott Abrams, a former Bush adviser. Mr. Abrams was at times critical of Mr. Trump during the 2016 campaign, but less pointedly so than other foreign policy veterans.” [NYTimes]
“Trump’s flirtation with Bolton sends shivers through Senate” by Nahal Toosi and Madeline Conway: “Bolton is deeply pro-Israel, so much so that he’s suggested forgetting the idea of creating a Palestinian state.” [Politico]
“Kissinger at 93 Expounds on Rex Tillerson, ‘One-China’ and Trump” by Sangwon Yoon: “I pay no attention to the argument that he is too friendly to Russia,” Kissinger said. “As head of Exxon it’s his job to get along with Russia. He would be useless as the head of Exxon if he did not have a working relationship with Russia.” Citing his acquaintance with Tillerson from serving together on the board of a Washington-based think tank, Kissinger praised Trump’s selection and added that “we should not think about these relationships as the personal relationship of individuals.” [Bloomberg; Politico]
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: “Tillerson can influence Arab governments to recognize Israel: Given that peace with the Palestinians is a fantasy, Tillerson can use his ties with the Gulf states, now with the backing of the United States government, to encourage and, if necessary, pressure them make peace with Israel and establish diplomatic ties.” [TheHill]
“Sources: Ivanka Trump to have East Wing office” by Sara Murray and Daniella Diaz:“Trump transition aides are already planning for an “Office of the First Family,” in the East Wing where the current office of the first lady is located, sources familiar with the plan told CNN. Melania Trump is still expected to play a role in the White House. However, Ivanka is expected to have a prominent slot as well. A source said she is likely to play the part of Washington hostess as well as advise her father on issues including family leave to climate change… Titles for Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner, have not been determined. But Kushner, a publisher and businessman, is expected to have his own role outside of the family office — the latest indication that he could be bound for the West Wing.” [CNN] • “Other ethics experts said Kushner might be able to dodge conflict-of-interest laws by becoming a government contractor, rather than a Trump staffer.” [CNN]
“Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner house-hunting in Washington” by Richard Johnson:“Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner are house-hunting in Washington, DC — but not as quickly as commerce secretary nominee Wilbur Ross, who already bought a $12 million mansion near the vice president’s residence. Sources say Ivanka and her husband are looking in Ross’ neighborhood as well as Georgetown, and might be seeing the same houses Trump’s nominee for treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, is eyeing. Luxury Listings NY reported Wednesday that Ivanka had put her Trump Park Avenue apartment on the market for $4.1 million.”
“The French-château-style manse that Ross and his wife, Hilary Geary, bought sits on an acre across the street from Penny Pritzker, the current commerce secretary. So if Wilbur needs to borrow a cup of sugar, Pritzker can also give him the scoop on the dealings at his new office.” [PageSix]
“Holy Coincidence? Chief Rabbis Step Up As Ivanka Takes Stage” by Michele Chabin: “In fact, a source with ties to the Trump transition team told The Jewish Week that high-ranking transition officials were concerned over questions about the legitimacy of Ivanka Trump’s conversion and even raised the issue with Israel. “An approval by the Chief Rabbinate is seen as making for a closer personal relationship between the Trump family and Israel, and it is a step that is warmly welcomed,” the source quoted a transition team official as saying.” [JewishWeek]
“Moving U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem Only Requires New Sign on Consulate Building, City Officials Say” by Nir Hasson: “City planning officials shrug that there’s no need to build anything new to house the embassy in the Israeli capital: The Americans built a big new consulate in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Arnona, which had been planned in advance to be converted into the actual embassy one day. All the Americans need to do is change the sign on the door, they say.” [Haaretz]
“IDF concerned Trump administration may cut Israel’s security assistance” by Anna Ahronheim: “According to the senior military official speaking to reporters in Tel Aviv, added budget cuts by the Trump administration will further burden the Israeli defense budget, despite the $38 billion Memorandum of Understanding recently signed between Jerusalem and Washington.” [JPost; ToI]
INBOX — NJDC: “We are alarmed by reports out of Israel that the Trump administration may cut vital security assistance to Israel. We call on President-elect Trump to address the concern from the IDF ‘that the Trump administration will cut Israel’s security assistance budget,’ and commit publically to standing with Israel and address these reports.”
DNC WATCH — Ellison Calls Past Praise of Farrakhan A ‘Distraction’: “For clarification purposes, the show’s host, Joe Scarborough, posed the following question: “Do you believe that Louis Farrakhan is an anti-Semite?” “Sure, but I mean, what does he have to do with anything going on in this race or this country at this time? Absolutely nothing,” Ellison replied… Asked if he disavows comments which Jewish Democrats look at “with some fear and some trepidation,” Ellison said, “Man, I am telling you back in 2006 and before, I disavowed them.” [JewishInsider]
“Israeli ambassador praises Frank Gaffney” by Yousef Saba: “Hailing Gaffney as a “steadfast friend of Israel,” Dermer praised his “unwavering commitment to freedom” and thanked him for “standing up for all of us.” Dermer then raised concerns some had with him accepting the award from CSP. He said that the Southern Poverty Law Center, an NGO that monitors hate groups, wrote to his office asking why he was accepting an award from “an anti-Muslim hate group.” Dremer said he was slightly surprised, noting that he has known Gaffney for years. And while he might not always agree with Gaffney, he said: “Frank is no hater and no bigot.” After praising the SPLC for its historic role in fighting racism, Dermer accused the group of painting with too broad a brush in naming anti-Muslim extremists.” [Politico]• Read the full transcript [Facebook]
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: How Did the American Dream Mall Turn Into a Nightmare? [Businessweek] • What’s next for Jared Kushner’s Gowanus development site? [BrooklynEagle] • Donald Trump Strikes Conciliatory Tone in Meeting With Tech Executives [WSJ]
SPOTLIGHT: “Israel’s Coffee King Takes on Starbucks With $1-a-Cup Franchise” by Yaacov Benmeleh and Illya Krennikov: “Founder Avi Katz, who started the chain in Israel in 2013 and now is the country’s biggest coffee-stand operator, has big plans. In addition to Russia, he’s planning to expand into the other two top branded-coffeehouse markets in Europe: the U.K. and Turkey. He’s also about to open New York and Madrid offices for Hagshama Fund, his $650 million real estate investment firm. Katz, 54, says he’s counting on the Cofix model: Strip out the chairs and waiters. Sacrifice space and price for volume. Most importantly, find places where the difference between what people pay in shops and what it costs to make coffee at home is huge. Then drastically undercut the competition.”
“A new market is opening up to those who couldn’t afford outside coffee,” said Katz, wearing jeans and a blue polo shirt, a small knitted yarmulke on his bald head. “And for those who already can, they save money. This is my revolution.” Born to an Orthodox Jewish family in Bnei Brak, he left religious seminary for boarding school at age 14. He still devotes 15 hours a week preparing his Wednesday sermon, delivered in his packed living room in Kfar Saba, and is writing an introduction to a book about Ayn Rand. A passage from Genesis in which Jacob professes his unworthiness of all that God has given him is painted in black above the sofas in his corner office at Hagshama headquarters in Petach Tikva, an industrial town east of Tel Aviv.” [Bloomberg]
KAFE KNESSET — Dress Code Outrage — by Amir Tibon & Tal Shalev: The most fervent political discussion in Israel in the last 48 hours wasn’t about the upcoming budget, the controversial land appropriation bill, or the future of the nuclear deal with Iran. Instead, it was about skirts. Dozens of female staffers working for members of Knesset from various parties staged a protest yesterday at the entrance to Israel’s parliament, after a number of them were turned there by security guards who claimed that they weren’t properly, or modestly, dressed. Israelis are not known worldwide for being formal dressers. But the fact that only female workers have been delayed or stopped in the name of the dress code sparked quite the debate.
The Knesset’s spokesman bashed the protest as “an orchestrated provocation that does not show respect for anyone,” and the Director General is trying to broker a compromise with the aides–so far without success. Merav Michaeli from the Zionist Union told Kafe Knesset: “We’re standing at the Knesset’s entrance because our aides will not have their skirt measured – and rightly so. The fact that the director general didn’t even bother to come out and speak with the dozens of agitated workers outside the Knesset and deal with the crisis alone testifies to his unwillingness to reach a solution.”
BIRTHDAYS: Polish-born violin prodigy who lived in London and then Miami, recording artist, performer and teacher, Ida Haendel turns 88… Film, stage and television actress and voice artist, best known for her role in the 1990s Fox sitcom “Parker Lewis Can’t Lose,” Melanie Chartoff turns 66… Associate Lecturer in Religious Studies at the University of Wyoming, where he has been teaching about Islam and the Middle East since January 2003, Seth Ward turns 64… CEO and founder of BizBash, a resource marketplace for event organizers, David Adler turns 63… Leader of the opposition in the South African National Assembly (1997-2007), then South African ambassador to Argentina (2009-2012), Tony Leon turns 60… Actress and singer, and songwriter, appeared in the title role of the 1984 film Supergirl,” Helen Slater turns 53… Television and movie producer, screenwriter and executive, producer of the first eight seasons of the Pokémon TV series and writer of most of the Pokémon films, Norman J. Grossfeld turns 53… Actor, writer and musician, he has appeared in dozens of movies and televison programs, he is best known for his role as Seth Cohen on The O.C., Adam Brody turns 37… Account executive at TMP Worldwide, Julie Winkelman (h/t Playbook)… Paul Gordon…