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HEARD LAST NIGHT: “Adelson: Trump likely to be ‘best president for Israel ever'” by Theodore Schleifer: “Adelson declared Thursday evening that Donald Trump was likely to be “the best president for Israel ever” … Adelson made the remarks at his home on the eve of the Republican Jewish Coalition leadership conference… as Dick Cheney, the powerful Vice President in George W. Bush’s administration, sat among the audience munching on salmon and brisket. Adelson did not say that Trump was guaranteed to be better than the 43rd president.” [CNN]
SPOTTED at Sheldon’s: Sam Fox, Steve Wynn, Sen. Dean Heller, Rep. Ed Royce, Rep. Mia Love, Rep. Lee Zeldin, Rep. Devin Nunes, RNC Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel, Lew Eisenberg, Yitz Applbaum, Phil Rosen, Fred Zeidman, Jay Zeidman, Ed Czuker, David Flaum, Phyllis Greenberg Heideman, Elliott Broidy, and Boris Epshteyn from the White House.
“Billionaire Adelson Reaps Benefits From Big Republican Donations” by John McCormick: “[VP Mike] Pence, who is scheduled to address the gathering Friday evening, is expected to assure RJC members that there’s no distance between the administration and the group’s goals… “Pence is probably the best person in the administration in terms of a combination of seniority and the way that Republican Jews see him,” said Tevi Troy, a policy adviser and Jewish liaison for President George W. Bush’s White House. “There is still discomfort within the Republican Jewish ranks about Trump.” … The Vice President’s activities ahead of his RJC speech, which included a meeting with Netanyahu, a tour of the Dachau concentration camp in Germany and a visit to a suburban St. Louis Jewish cemetery damaged by vandals, have boosted his standing with the group.” [Bloomberg]
“Zuckerberg group that fought Trump gave to transition” by Tony Romm and Theodoric Meyer: “At the height of the 2016 presidential campaign, the immigration reform group FWD[dot]us took aim at then-GOP candidate Donald Trump and blasted him for pursuing policies that might lead to “mass deportations.” But months later the nonprofit, founded by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote a $5,000 check to Trump’s presidential transition… Paul Singer, another top GOP donor who declined to back Trump, gave $5,000 to the transition. Singer also gave a significant contribution to the inaugural committee, though the disclosure is not public yet, according to a source familiar with the donation.” [Politico]
— “The contributor list also included well-known Republican political benefactors, such as Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson. He and his relatives donated a total of $15,000.” [USAToday]
DNC WATCH — “Tom Perez Gains Ground in Race for DNC Chair” by Eric Levitz: “Jaime Harrison began Thursday with a grip on third place in the race for the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee — and ended it by throwing his support to front-runner Tom Perez. Before Harrison bowed out, it was widely assumed that the DNC contest wouldn’t be settled on the first ballot… NBC News reports that Harrison could swing as many as 20 votes into Perez’s column — possibly enough for the former Labor secretary to secure the chairmanship on first ballot.” [NYMag]
“‘Rebuilding’ efforts overshadow Jewish issues in DNC election” by Ron Kampeas: “The leading candidates are sensitive to the disproportionate importance of the Jewish community to the party. They have not forgotten Jewish outreach, even while campaigning on the nuts and bolts that are preoccupying the state officials, state-level party officials and special interest representatives who make up the 447 electors. No one is more acutely aware of the need to reassure the party’s Jewish base than Ellison… Fundraiser Barbara Goldberg Goldman and Susan Turnbull, a longtime Jewish community activist who backs Buttigieg, in interviews said they rejected insinuations that Ellison is anti-Semitic, but worried that his baggage could weigh down the party.” [JTA]
Gabriel Debenedetti: “It’s telling that Chuck Schumer reiterated his support for Keith Ellison in a new letter to DNC members: he hadn’t weighed in since December.” [Twitter]
REPUBLICAN JEWS VS JEWISH REPUBLICANS: Views On The DNC Race From CPAC — by Jacob Kornbluh: CPAC attendee Yitchok (Ian) Cummings, 24, from Linwood, NJ says that as a Republican Jew his partisanship doesn’t seep through when it comes to hoping Ellison wins the DNC Chairmanship. “I do think Keith Ellison’s anti-Israel views are dangerous. I think the fact that he’s such a powerful frontrunner for the DNC, is just indicative of the fact that the Democratic Party has moved to the far left and shifted on Israel,” Cummings told Jewish Insider. “So even as a partisan, while there’s some advantage to see Ellison leading the Democrats, it makes me sad as a Jew that we may not have a loyal opposition that we respect and can work with. Having someone like that leading the opposition is a shot across the bow, and it’s very difficult to have a relationship with an opposition that is headed by someone that has views that are so antithetical to Israel and American Jewry.”
Eric Golub from LA, a Trump supporter, had an opposite view. “Obviously as a Jew, I don’t want to see a Jew-hater get anywhere near the levers of power. As a Republican, I want the Democrats to have a complete whack job running their party,” said Golub, while waiting for Mike Pence to take the stage at the annual gathering. “Now, my Judaism always comes first but here is why I am going to make an exception in this case: the heads of the Party are not significant. It’s not like he’s the presidential or vice presidential candidate. The DNC and RNC chairs are symbolic figureheads. So if the Democrats want to have the worst of all worlds for them, that’s a win-win situation for Republicans.”
RJC’s Matt Brooks: “To my friends at DNC please please elect this man [Ellison] Chair!” [Twittter]
Jeff Ballabon: “Politically, Republicans love the idea of Ellison at DNC; Jews, however, should be frightened over the further mainstreaming of a hater.” [Twitter]
Tevi Troy tells us: “I do not prefer to see Ellison elected. I think that both Israel and America are better off if we operate under the bipartisan consensus in favor of strong ties between the U.S. and Israel. It was unfortunate that Barack Obama moved away from that direction with his tough on Israel policy, and I would like to see both parties supportive of Israel in the future. That said, regardless of who wins the DNC race, I do worry about the direction of the Democratic party on the Israel issue.”
VIEW FROM JERUSALEM: “Defending Trump, ex-envoy to US says nobody blamed Obama for leftist anti-Semitism” by Raphael Ahren: “Obviously there is problem with anti-Semitism and we have to take it seriously,” said Michael Oren… “But there is anti-Semitism on the left, and nobody blamed Obama for that. During my time in Washington [as Israeli ambassador], I never encountered right-wing anti-Semitism, but I experienced a lot of anti-Semitism, mainly on campuses.” Just as Obama should not be blamed for these incidents, Trump cannot be blamed for the current wave of attacks apparently inspired by right-wing ideologies, he argued.
“While he himself does not agree with the White House explanation (on Holocaust statement)… Oren said he would not “go out and criticize” the new administration…. Obama, early in his first term, indicated that Israel was created because of the Holocaust, Oren recalled. “This was a problematic narrative, because it basically denies Jewish history. But we didn’t make a big deal about it. It was a new administration and we had important things to discuss.” It took Obama several years before publicly setting the record straight, when in a speech to the UN he talked about the millennia-old Jewish roots in the Land of Israel, Oren said. “Let’s give Trump that same opportunity [to correct mistakes] and not jump at every little thing he says.” [ToI]
Alan Solow emails us: “The reason nobody blamed Obama for anti-Semitism, which admittedly exists across the board politically, is that President Obama consistently condemned anti-Semitism throughout his career including during his June, 2009 Cairo speech. That distinguishes him from the approach President Trump took until earlier this week.”
“Have We Gone Overboard With Anti-Semitism?” by David Suissa: “So, here’s the question: If we’re the most liked group in America, why are we not acting like it? The truth is, hating Jews in America will marginalize you with the mainstream, not make you popular. But in this crazy media landscape we’re in, any moron with a spray can can slap a swastika on the side of a synagogue and take over the national conversation — if we let him. As much as I hate that swastika, I also don’t want to give that moron iconic status or the power to frighten our community.” [JewishJournal]
HEARD YESTERDAY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced new actions to combat hate crimes and anti-Semitism across New York State after meeting with some 50 Jewish community and interfaith leaders at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Manhattan. The measures include a $25 million grant program for additional security training needs, cameras, and other related needs to boost safety and security at religious schools and daycare centers. The state will also expand its toll-free hotline to include text message capability to report incidents of bias and discrimination. “New York is blessed to have more Jewish people in New York than any other place outside of Israel. Yes, I am a New Yorker. But I am Jewish… When you attack a Jewish Community Center, you attack me, and you attack each and every one of us,” Cuomo said. [YouTube]
–SPOTTED: Bob Cohen, Abe Foxman, George Klein, ADL’s Evan Bernstein, JCRC’s Charlie Temmel, Agudath Israel’s Chaim David Zweibel, Sol Werdiger, Chaskel Bennett, OU’s Allen Fagin and Maury Litwack, UJA’s Hindy Poupko and Linda Mirels, Albany JCC’s Adam Chassin, Canarsie JCC’s David Sorkin, Rabbi Joe Potasnik, Rabbi Marc Schneier.
“I Was a Muslim in Trump’s White House” by Rumana Ahmed: “Like most of my fellow American Muslims, I spent much of 2016 watching with consternation as Donald Trump vilified our community. Despite this––or because of it––I thought I should try to stay on the NSC staff during the Trump Administration, in order to give the new president and his aides a more nuanced view of Islam, and of America’s Muslim citizens. I lasted eight days… On Monday, January 23, I walked into the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, with the new staffers there. Rather than the excitement I encountered when I first came to the White House under Obama, the new staff looked at me with a cold surprise… The days I spent in the Trump White House were strange, appalling and disturbing.“ [TheAtlantic]
BACK TO TWO STATES? Trump in an interview with Reuters: “I like the concept of the two-state solution. People have been talking about it for so many years now, it so far hasn’t worked. But I am satisfied with whatever makes both parties happy.” [Reuters]
KFILE — “Trump Israel ambassador pick bragged of removing two-state solution from GOP platform at November event” by Andrew Kaczynski: “In the speech delivered in his hometown of Woodmere, NY… [David] Friedman boasted of removing references of the two-state solution and occupation of the West Bank from the Republican Party platform… He also attacked two Jewish organizations, J-Street and the ADL. “What the ADL has become is not the Anti-Defamation League, it’s the league to combat anti-liberalism,” Friedman said. “The ADL has a wonderful long legacy, primarly under Abe Foxman, who I disagreed with but who certainly knew anti-Semitism when he saw it. The ADL is now run by a guy named Jonathan Greenblatt who is strong supporter of J-Street and they’ve lost all credibility.” At another point in the speech, Friedman falsely asserted that the J-Street board was “more than half Arab… they are a dangerous, dangerous organization.” … Friedman said… “The liberal Jewish community has not been a friend, not been a pro-Israel force in this country.” [CNN]
President-in-law: “Kushner, Ivanka Trump Pushed to Remove Words Critical of Climate Deal From Executive Order” by Amy Harder and Peter Nicholas: “[Jared] Kushner, a senior adviser to Mr. Trump, and Ms. Trump, the president’s eldest daughter, intervened to strike language about the climate deal from an earlier draft of the executive order… One official said that both Mr. Kushner and [Ivanka] Trump have been considered a moderating influence with respect to the White House’s position on climate change and environmental issues. The move is the latest sign of influence Mr. Trump’s daughter and Mr. Kushner have in a White House that has seen internal divisions on a variety of issues, including foreign policy.” [WSJ]
“How Do You Solve a Problem Like Ivanka?” by Margin Cogan: “Most women’s magazines agree that one thing has changed: They cannot continue to cover Ivanka as if she is solely a fashion mogul, or even a glamorous nonpolitical member of the first family. “We’ve covered Ivanka Trump, the entrepreneur,” explains Riza Cruz, executive editor of Marie Claire. “Since she’s stepped away from the day-to-day of her company, we would consider how her new role affects women across the country and around the world.”” [PoliticoMag]
“Eric Trump’s brother-in-law gets job at the Department of Energy” by Daniel Halper: “Eric Trump’s brother-in-law — who once competed for the title of “hottest bachelor” in Washington D.C. — has landed a job at the Department of Energy. Kyle Yunaska is working on the “beachhead” team at the Energy Department, as its incoming head — former Texas governor Rick Perry — awaits Senate confirmation. Yunaska, an East Carolina University alumnus and brother of Eric Trump’s wife, Lara, has no apparent background in energy or policy, but is reportedly working with the Energy Department’s Office of Energy Policy and Systems Analysis.” [NYPost; Axios]
“Pence takes victory lap at CPAC: ‘This is our time’” by Max Greenwood: “Pence also voiced support for Israel, vowing that Trump would “stand with” the Jewish state. “Israel’s fight is our fight. Her cause is our cause. Her values are our values,” Pence said to rising applause. “And under President Trump, America will stand with Israel.”” [TheHill]
“Steve Bannon: Trump is ‘maniacally focused’ on executing promises” by David Smith: “Dan Cassino, a political scientist at Fairleigh Dickinson University, said… “I think we are seeing Bannon’s influence in Israel policy: the idea we have to support a militarily strong Israel and the coexistence in the Oslo process for two decades needs to be thrown out. That tells us he has a lot of influence and he wasn’t kidding about this.”” [Guardian]
BUZZ ON BALFOUR: “Netanyahu Graft Affair: Israel Police Wanted to Question Kerry and ex-U.S. Envoy but Were Blocked by AG” by Gidi Weitz: “Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit objected to having police question former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and former U.S. Ambassador Dan Shapiro in the investigation known as Case 1000, in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is suspected of methodically accepting gifts from tycoon Arnon Milchan… Mendelblit told Justice Ministry officials that taking testimony from senior people in the administration of former U.S. President Barack Obama, who had tense relations with Netanyahu, was very sensitive and might not even be necessary for building a case.” [Haaretz]
KAFE KNESSET — by Tal Shalev: For years, politicians have been complaining about the Netanyahu-Israel Hayom connection, and several probes have been launched into the claim that the pro-Netanyahu daily is an illegal political contribution. Before the last election, the Likud submitted a written affidavit in which it declared Netanyahu had no connection to Israel Hayom whatsoever. But the Noni tapes reveal that Netanyahu was negotiating the commercial aspects of the newspaper with its biggest rival. Moreover, Mozes has supposedly passed on even more evidence proving Netanyahu was involved in the newspaper. According to Abramovich, the State Comptroller now believes there are grounds to prove that Israel Hayom is an illegal political contribution and is requesting the investigation materials, but the Attorney General is refusing to do so until the police probe is concluded. The Netanyahu-Noni tapes hardly interest the wider public, but for politicians and journalists this is the hottest potato around, so the saga continues.
The State Comptroller Yosef Shapira was personally vetted by the PM and his wife and was originally expected to be a Netanyahu “yes man” but Shapira has turned out to be quite independent and is giving the PM quite a hard time. Next week, Shapira will be publishing the loaded report about Operation Protective Edge, which is expected to criticize Netanyahu’s decision-making process ahead of the war and also re-spark the intensive political fight inside the security cabinet. On one side of the arena are Netanyahu and his former Defense Minister Yaalon, and on the other side, Naftali Bennet, who has accused them of not informing the cabinet about the terror tunnel threat. Shapira is expected to accept Bennet’s version of the events. The report is likely to be attacked by the PM who once appointed Shapira so gladly. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset [JewishInsider]
“Netanyahu, Former Aide Maneuver for Position in Israel” by Rory Jones: “The political tug of war between Mr. Netanyahu, who has won election to three consecutive terms but has been weakened by corruption probes, and Mr. Bennett, a former aide who now leads a different political party, has become a central feature of the Middle East peace process.” [WSJ]
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Israel’s Wix buys DeviantArt for $36 million, raises revenue outlook [Reuters] • Why Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield is staffing up the $3.8 billion company with Intel and Salesforce veterans to fight Microsoft [Yahoo] • Alan Howard Said to Create New Brevan Fund Managed Only by Him [Bloomberg] • Why Westfield’s Steven Lowy bought from Apple in a shopping centre [AFR] • How Mark Cuban Hangs Onto His Money [NYTimes]
TOP TALKER — Cover of today’s WSJ B1: “Orthodox Jewish Hedge Fund Exec Suspended Without Pay for Publicly Criticizing His Trump Mega-Donor Boss” by Yair Rosenberg: “David Magerman, an Orthodox Jewish computer scientist who helped write the trading systems that made the legendary Renaissance Technologies a billion-dollar investment success, was at loggerheads with its CEO Robert Mercer… The story of his dispute with Mercer was quickly picked up by other business publications… But by this afternoon, the Journal had appended an update to its original piece: ‘On Thursday morning, after an online version of this story appeared, Mr. Magerman received a new phone call from Renaissance. A representative told Mr. Magerman that he was being suspended without pay and no longer could have contact with the company.’” [Tablet; WSJ]
–We’re told this wouldn’t be the first time Magerman has left Renaissance… but he’s apparently so essential to their business model that last time they begged him to return and he agreed albeit mostly working remotely from Philadelphia. No word yet on how this episode will play out.
SPOTLIGHT: “Waymo sues Uber and [Israeli founded] Otto for theft of trade secrets” by Darrell Etherington: “In its complaint, Waymo says that it developed a “combination of unique laser systems to provide critical information for the operation of fully self-driving vehicles,” which were taken by Otto founder Anthony Levandowski specifically, who was previously a manager working for Waymo. Levandowski downloaded more than 14,000 “highly confidential and proprietary files” from Waymo prior to leaving the company… The Waymo suit cites Biz Carson reporting for Business Insider that Otto’s in-house development of its own LiDAR tech was key to its acquisition by Uber, and the suit also says that Levandowski and Otto gained more than half-a-billion dollars directly via the theft.” [TC] • An email fail made Google suspect Uber was copying its self-driving car technology [BI]
“Credit Suisse Probe Opens Old Wounds” by John Letzing and Aruna Viswanatha: “The U.S. Justice Department in July 2014 discovered that American professor Dan Horsky was potentially hiding money overseas in his Credit Suisse accounts managed by the bank’s Israel desk… Investigators are determining if other clients with dual Israeli citizenship also got help in concealing American tax obligations by using their Israeli or other personal documents, people familiar with the matter said…. Employees of the Israel desk believe Mr. Horsky surreptitiously recorded their colleagues on several occasions during his cooperation, on the phone and in person… Around the time [Romeo] Cerutti became roughly aware of what was going on, a senior manager at Credit Suisse’s Israel desk traveled to Israel to meet with Mr. Horsky… The senior manager and four other Credit Suisse employees from the Israel desk were later suspended by the bank, after it was fully briefed by the Justice Department on its probe last year.” [WSJ]
“How the elite network now: in remote locations out of the social media spotlight” by Tiffanie Darke: “I’ve been invited to Stream, a secret tech and media gathering, laid on by ad guru Martin Sorrell and his co-conspirator Yossi Vardi, the Israeli tech investor. Vardi calls it an ‘un-conference’, and if you wanted to pay to come, you couldn’t. This one, like a growing number of influential gatherings, is under the radar, offline and invite-only.” [Standard]
TALK OF OUR NATION: “Israeli models hit the catwalk for Modest Fashion Day” by Eli Berlzon: “Forgoing the provocative and risque, a group of designers in Jerusalem on Thursdayheld Israel’s first major fashion show for Orthodox Jewish women, whose tradition requires they dress in conservative outfits. Hundreds of Orthodox women and fashionistas were in the audience for “Modest Fashion Day” as Israeli models hit the catwalk wearing long sleeves and dresses down to their ankles. “People are looking in our direction now to find that modest kind of look, which is very interesting to see,” said ultra-Orthodox stylist Miri Beillin.” [Reuters]
“Does Melania Trump Have A Twin? Meet Mira Tzur, First Lady’s Israeli Model Lookalike” by Janice Williams: “Mira Tzur is a former model who has now launched a new career as a Trump impersonator alongside her President Donald Trump lookalike husband, New York actor John Di Domenico, according to a Miami Herald report Feb. 16. After gaining attention for features that strikingly resemble Melania Trump, Tzur said she’s managed to reach new heights in her career. The 45-year-old model, who has graced international runways and appeared in Advil, Neutrogena and various other commercial advertisements, said she charges $3,000 plus expenses to appear at private events dressed and acting like 46-year-old first lady.” [IBTimes]
TRANSITION: Yeruchim Silber, Executive Director of the Boro Park JCC, emails… “After much thoughtful deliberations, I decided to accept a new position as New York Director of Government Relations for Agudath Israel of America… In my new role, I will be joining a group of devoted advocates both professional and lay, working in Albany, City Hall and at other localities throughout the State advocating for the community.
WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS: Attorney General of Connecticut (1983-1989), US Senator (1989-2013), Democratic nominee for Vice President (on the Al Gore ticket) in the 2000 US presidential election, Senator Joe Lieberman turns 75… Founder of WhatsApp in 2009, sold the company to Facebook in 2014 for $19 billion, Jan Koum turns 41… At age 42 he became the first-ever Jewish winner of an Olympic medal in sailing at the 1972 Munich Olympics, 30 years later at age 72 he won a US sailing championship, Don Cohan turns 87… Former chairman and CEO of Warner Bros (until 2001), then chairman and CEO of Yahoo (2001-2007), co-chair (emeritus) of the board of Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Terry Semel turns 74… Moscow-born professor of mathematics at Yale University since 1991, Grigory Margulis turns 71… Rabbi and author of a book about chocolate and Judaism, has held a number of leadership positions in the national and regional Reform movement, Deborah R. Prinz turns 66… Public relations executive, television pundit, author and lecturer, Howard Bragman turns 61… Explorer, author, survival expert, anthropologist and TV host, Josh Bernstein turns 46… Professor of history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, one of his books has been translated into 30 languages and his on-line course has had over 100,000 students, Yuval Noah Harari turns 41… Director of Investments at Strategic Cyber Ventures, Aaron Applbaum turns 26… Faye Waldman… Mitchell Brown… Program Associate in the Washington, D.C. office of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Foundation, Mary Ann Weiss (yesterday)…
SATURDAY: Former talk show host, Sally Jessy Raphael (born Sally Lowenthal) turns 82… President of the Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore (1979-1986), then EVP of the UJA-Federation of New York (1986-1999), then first-ever CEO of United Jewish Communities, Stephen Solender turns 79… Chief of the General Staff of the Israel Defense Forces (2007-2011), Gabi Ashkenazi turns 63… Comedienne, actress and writer, Chelsea Joy Handler turns 42… Actress, comic book author, producer, singer and screenwriter, best known for her roles in NBC’s “Parks and Recreation” and Fox’s “Boston Public,” Rashida Jones turns 41… Lyla Rose Holdstein turns 35… Actor, writer and producer, best known for his portrayal of Malcolm’s second-oldest brother, Reese, in Fox’s “Malcolm in the Middle, Justin Berfield turns 31… American figure skating champion, Max Aaron, turns 25… Graduate of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, formerly CEO of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (2005-2015), Steve Gutow… CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Buffalo since 2015 after a 20-year career at Hillel, Rob Goldberg… General manager of Covenant Wines in Berkeley, California, previously at at Larkmead Vineyard in Napa Valley, Sagie Kleinlerer… Michael Smith…
SUNDAY: American sociologist now living in Israel, received a Ph.D. in sociology from The New School for Social Research, Professor Emeritus of sociology and Jewish studies at Rutgers University, Chaim Waxman turns 76… Billionaire, art collector, philanthropist and political activist, President of the World Jewish Congress since 2007, active in rebuilding Jewish communities in Central and Eastern Europe, Ronald Lauder turns 73… Singer and songwriter in multiple musical genres, who has sold over 75 million records, Michael Bolton turns 64… Baltimore community activist, previous Chair of CHANA (Counseling, Helpline and Aid Network for Abused Women), Julie Applebaum turns 60… Founder of Tablet Magazine in 2009 after being a a religion reporter and then arts and culture editor at The Forward, Alana Newhouse turns 41… Chief Planning Officer of the Paramus-based Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, Lisa Harris Glass… Brett Kaufman turns 23… Chantal Reuss…
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