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Ed Note: We hope everyone had an enjoyable and relaxing Labor Day Weekend ahead of the upcoming Jewish holiday season. As a reminder, you can access the Daily Kickoff on-demand using the Debut Inbox app.
FAVORITE QUOTE OVER THE WEEKEND — “People don’t expect zombie jeeps to be driven by Orthodox Jews from France, but they are” — from a NYTimes Magazine profile of actor Riz Ahmed, describing a roadside encounter the HBO star had with the “The Twins From France” who were in the process of producing a kids’ DVD based on their zombie-proof jeep.
JI SCOOP — The excerpts published in Jewish Insider on Friday from former Secretary of State John Kerry’s new book made news in Israel over the weekend. Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, commented on the excerpts with a link highlighting his rejection of Kerry’s security plan: “Any extra word would be superfluous.”
BIG BOOK DAY TODAY — In addition to Kerry’s book, other authors releasing books today include Wendy Sherman on diplomacy, Mark Leibovich on the NFL, Yuval Noah Harari on 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, Norm Eisen on The Last Palace, Scott Shay on Questioning Religion and Atheism, and Strauss Zelnick on Becoming Ageless. Zelnick, a 61-year-old CEO, shared his tips for staying fit on ABC News’ Good Morning America.
In her new book titled Not for the Faint of Heart: Lessons in Courage, Power, and Persistence, Wendy Sherman, former Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs and chief U.S. negotiator for the Iran nuclear deal, details her decades-long career in the State Department and her role in negotiating the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
A few excerpts and notable highlights from Sherman’s book:
“My father had come to Judaism late in life,” Sherman writes about her Jewish background. “He had been spurred to explore his faith by his marriage to my mother, Miriam, but he only embraced it after the death of his sister, who, like their father, killed herself before reaching midlife… Never having been bar mitzvahed, my father never felt fully accepted as a Jew, Nevertheless, he found serenity in the ritual of prayer, and I cherished sitting all day with him in High Holiday services.”
Summarizing her work on foreign affairs in the State Department, Sherman writes that while one of the greatest moments of her professional pride was when she became the first woman to serve as Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, she was disappointed that she wasn’t selected to be the Deputy Secretary of State when Bill Burns retired in 2014.
Sherman recounted the moment that John Kerry informed her of the decision. “On a Friday, the eve of Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, Secretary Kerry called me to his office. The president, he informed me, had decided on Tony [Blinken].” Sherman took the news very hard, breaking into tears as she packed up to go home to the final meal before the Yom Kippur fast and for evening services at the synagogue. “I spent the holiday in mourning,” she writes.
Sherman found her inner peace when she got her wish to serve as acting deputy until Blinken was confirmed by the Senate. She also found comfort in the fact that by not getting this top position at the State she was able to serve as chief negotiator on the Iran nuclear deal, which she calls “one of the singular accomplishments” of her time at Foggy Bottom.
Sherman writes how pleased she was when the Jerusalem Post placed her in fourth place in its 2015 list of most influential Jews in the world. “Behind Jack [Lew] but, maybe as satisfying, ahead of the casino magnate and major Republican donor Sheldon Adelson,” Sherman noted. [JewishInsider]
INTERVIEW — Norm Eisen, former White House ethics czar and ambassador to the Czech Republic, discussed his new book titled The Last Palace: Europe’s Turbulent Century in Five Lives and One Legendary House in an interview with Jewish Insider‘s Jacob Kornbluh.
The book tells the story of the fight between democracy and illiberalism in Europe and the US over the past century through the lives of four occupants of the United States Ambassador’s residence in Prague, the Petschek Palace, which was built in the late 1920s by a wealthy Jewish banker Otto Petschek. Those accounts are woven together by the story of Eisen’s Czechoslovakian mother, Frieda, who was deported to Auschwitz by the Nazi regime that once seized the house.
Eisen was appointed Ambassador to the Czech Republic by his former Harvard Law School classmate, President Barack Obama in 2010. “I was shocked when I was asked to take the job,” Eisen said in an interview on Friday. “Even though it wasn’t my idea, I did see the historic nature of it and the American nature of it. This is the very American story of a first-generation American, going back to represent America in his parents’ land, and to live in this historic house which was built by a Jewish family, and to put a mezuzah on the door, to make it kosher, to light the Shabbat candles on Friday night, and keep Shabbat in that same house where the Nazis and the Soviets once dominated.”
Eisen details in the book how he tried to persuade his mother to come to visit him at the residence. “I thought she would be excited when I called her from Air Force One to tell her” about my appointment as Ambassador to the Czech Republic, Eisen recalled. “Instead, she was anxious. She didn’t want me to go. Eventually, I persuaded her to let me go.” He later tired convincing her to come to visit him by explaining that living in the house was the best revenge on Hitler. Eisen insisted we don’t publish how the end of the story so that readers could read it for themselves. “For any readers of Jewish Insider who have a Jewish mother, it will put a smile on your face.”
In 2016, Eisen told a Jewish audience in New York that every time he ate a kosher lamb chop in Prague, he would say ‘take that Hitler!’ “People loved hearing that,” Eisen tells us. “Jews and non-Jews alike, Americans, Czechs, and Israelis who visited me, wherever you came from, people loved hearing that. For me, it was a great act of historical vindication.”
Q: How many lamb chops did you consume there?
Eisen: “Thousands. We had thousands of lamb chops. I’m afraid that having a Kosher Ambassador in a house with such a large dining room was very bad for the lamb population, but very good for the kosher butchers of Europe.” Read the full interview here [JewishInsider]
Taking on the New Atheists, Scott Shay’s new book sparks a conversation about the existence of God — by David Goldman: “Scott Shay is a banker, not a rabbi or professor. He’s a founder and chairman of Signature Bank, a New York lender catering to local middle-market businesses and one of the financial success stories of the past decade. He dedicates a large part of his time to Jewish community work… A few years ago, Shay noticed that Jewish kids with a high degree of Jewish literacy, including day-school students, drew a blank on the central premise of Judaism, or any religion: that there is a God who wants something from us. He noted the cultural impact of the New Atheists, a small but influential group of writers… He couldn’t find a book that took on the New Atheists, so he wrote it himself: In Good Faith: Questioning Atheism and Religion.” [TabletMag]
— Former Congressman Barney Frank, who sits on the board of Signature Bank, writes: “I can’t think of another book with which I disagree so strongly that has engaged me as deeply as this one. Scott Shay makes the case for religious belief with deep scholarship, clear logic and great civility. It would be wonderful if other advocates on both sides would take up this discourse in a similarly civil manner.”
‘Humans are a post-truth species’ — an edited extract from 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari: “A cursory look at history reveals that propaganda and disinformation are nothing new, and even the habit of denying entire nations and creating fake countries has a long pedigree… In the early 20th century, a favorite Zionist slogan spoke of the return of “a people without a land [the Jews] to a land without a people [Palestine].” The existence of the local Arab population was conveniently ignored. In 1969 Israeli prime minister Golda Meir famously said that there is no Palestinian people and never was. Such views are very common in Israel even today, despite decades of armed conflicts against something that doesn’t exist… In fact, humans have always lived in the age of post-truth. Homo sapiens is a post-truth species, whose power depends on creating and believing fictions.” [TheGuardian]
A Palestinian Memoir to Counter Trump’s Troubles in the Middle East — by Robin Wright: “Yousef Bashir… was eleven when the second intifada erupted, in 2000, and the Israel Defense Forces took over the family farm in Gaza… and Bashir’s father, Khalil, refused to move. “My father was as much in love with his land as he was with my mother,” Bashir recalls in his remarkable new memoir, “The Words of My Father.”
“Last year, he was a congressional intern with the Virginia Democrat Gerald Connolly, who suggested that Bashir, who is now twenty-nine, may someday be President of the Palestinian people. While on the Hill, Bashir went with a group of Israeli students to meet Senator Bernie Sanders. “I told Bernie he was the most popular Jew in Gaza since Moses,” Yousef told me. Sanders laughed, and later hired him as an intern… Bashir, who now spends his time lobbying for the Palestinians, speaking to Jewish groups, including AIPAC, and telling his story to anyone who will listen, hasn’t given up hope on peace.” [NewYorker]
TALK OF THE REGION — Abbas: Trump’s Team Offered to Establish a Jordanian-Palestinian Confederation — by Yotam Berger and Amir Tibon: “I was asked if I believe in a federation with Jordan,” Abbas said about a talk he held with Trump’s aide and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and his Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt. “I answered: Yes, I want a confederation with Jordan and Israel. I have asked the Israelis if they would agree to such an offer.” [Haaretz]
— Palestinian intelligence delegation in D.C. for talks with CIA by Barak Ravid: “Abbas told Israeli members of the Knesset… that — despite the deep crisis with the Trump administration — a Palestinian delegation of security and intelligence officials is in Washington, D.C. for talks with the CIA… The official heading the Palestinian delegation is General Majed Faraj — who was also in Washington for medical treatments.” [Axios] • Abbas demands US replace ‘biased’ Greenblatt as peace mediator [IsraelHayom]
This afternoon, Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt will discuss the Trump peace plan in a conversation with Rabbi Shmuley Boteach at the World Values headquarters in Manhattan.
Jason Greenblatt writes… President Donald J. Trump wants this to be a new year of shalom, salaam, peace [JTA]
REPORT — The Trump Administration’s decision to stop all aid to UNRWA was supported by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu without any discussion in the Israeli security cabinet or in consultation with Israel’s security and intelligence services, Barak Ravid reported over the weekend. In the past, Israel never asked the U.S. to end funding for the Palestinian refugee group, according to former Ambassador Daniel Shapiro. • The U.S. Is Sidelining Itself in the Middle East, writes Krishnadev Calamur [TheAtlantic]
Israeli-Palestinian hi-tech hub heading to West Bank — by Ofer Petersburg: “A joint Palestinian-Israeli industrial and commercial center is set to be built near the Teneh Omarim settlement located in the Mount Hebron Regional Council… The mixed industrial hub will receive government funding and is expected to serve as a model of Israeli-Palestinian economic cooperation that will be presented at a conference of US-led finance ministers in the World Economic Forum in Davos in January.” [Ynet]
U.S. Tells Israel Not to Attack Iranian Targets in Iraq —by David Wainer: “The U.S. sent a message to Israel warning it not to attack Iranian targets in Iraq, the Kan public broadcaster reported… Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Monday that Israel could target Iranian military assets beyond Syria, in the wake of a Reuters report that Iran had transferred short-range ballistic missiles to Shi’ite allies in Iraq in recent months.” [Bloomberg]
LongRead — How Rudy Giuliani Turned Into Trump’s Clown — by Jeffrey Toobin: “Theories abound about Trump’s refusal to give Giuliani the State Department job. One of them is that Trump was penalizing him for his closeness to Christie, who had been placed in charge of the transition and then was quickly fired… Yet another theory is that Kushner and Bannon wanted a weak Secretary of State so that they could run foreign policy out of the White House.” [NewYorker]
New Yorker Festival Pulls Steve Bannon as Headliner Following High-Profile Dropouts — by Sopan Deb and Jeremy Peters: “Stephen K. Bannon, President Trump’s former chief strategist, will no longer appear as a headliner at this year’s New Yorker Festival, David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker, announced in an email to the magazine’s staff on Monday evening.” [NewYorker; CNNMoney]
MIDTERMS — Florida Election Is Latest Target Of White Supremacist Robocalls —by Emily Sullivan: “Racist robocalls targeting Andrew Gillum, a black Democrat gubernatorial nominee in Florida, went to residents throughout the state recently in an apparent attempt to influence voting… The calls end with a disclaimer that they were paid for by The Road to Power, a neo-Nazi, anti-Semitic podcast operated by Scott Rhodes of Idaho… A spokesperson for [Ron] DeSantis said the calls were “absolutely appalling and disgusting.”” [NPR; Politico] • DeSantis PAC Returned $11K To Fervent Fan Of Trump And Israel [Forward]
Michigan Democratic gubernatorial running mate supported Hamas, blasted politicians for ‘kissing Israel’s a**’ — by Jackson Richman: “Garlin Gilchrist, the running mate of Michigan Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer, has come under fire for Twitter posts from almost a decade ago, supporting Hamas and demonizing those who kiss “Israel’s a**.” This development comes as Whitmer declined to take a stance or denounce the BDS movement earlier this week at a town hall event.”[JNS]
Salazar Meets Fellow Jews of Color After Twitter-storm — by Shahar Golan: “It’s shocking and disappointing to have your Judaism scrutinized,” [Julia] Salazar told the dozen or so members of Jewish Vote… Adding that she was happy to be around “people who affirm” her Judaism… Calling the criticism “unfair scrutiny” Salazar claimed that her identity is “not what this campaign is about,” before telling the room that “we can inspire other Jews of color.” [Bklyner]
PRIMARY TODAY — In Massachusetts, Rep. Mike Capuano faces his first serious challenger since taking office in the late 1990s — Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley, a 44-year-old African American woman. Pressley said she supports a House bill that would require the American government to ensure that none of its military aid to Israel would be used for reported “detention and mistreatment of Palestinian children.” Capuano said he opposes the bill because he doesn’t think it “presents a balanced account of the continuing tragedy of the Israel-Palestinian conflict.” On BDS, Capuano wrote, “I do not support BDS, but I believe others should be free to advocate for it.”[Politico; Boston]
— Alex Goldstein, who was the campaign press secretary for Deval Patrick during his 2010 gubernatorial campaign and subsequently served in the then-governor’s communications shop, is advising Pressley on strategic communications in her primary race… [BostonGlobe]
HAMPTONS SCENE — Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer met up with Alex Soros on Labor Day. “The secret is out: the Democrats are taking the Senate,” Soros wrote on Instagram. [Pic]
At David Zaslav’s annual end of the summer bash on Saturday night — by Brian Stelter: Lloyd Blankfein with Chuck Schumer; Oprah Winfrey with Nancy Pelosi; Steve Kroft and David Rhodes at the bar; Ron Howard with daughter Bryce Dallas Howard; Don Lemon and his mom Katherine with Tamron Hall; plus David Geffen, Josh Sapan, Jeff Zucker, George Stephanopoulos, Savannah Guthrie, Alan Patricof, Barry Diller, Katie Couric, Dan Abrams, Jon Bon Jovi, Jon Steinberg, Mark Hoffman, Bob Kraft, Jordan Roth, Richie Jackson, Alec and Hilaria Baldwin, Emily Jane Fox, Aryeh Bourkoff, Eric Kuhn, Dr. Oz, Jerry Seinfeld, Ron Meyer, Joy Behar, and Martha Stewart. [ReliableSources; PageSix]
VIRAL IN JERUSALEM — Monica Lewinsky shuts down interview —by Amy Spiro: “Monica Lewinsky ended a live discussion and walked off stage at an event in Jerusalem on Monday night after being asked a question involving former President Clinton. Following her speech at the Channel 2 news conference, Lewinsky sat down for a scheduled talk with news anchor Yonit Levi. Levi asked Lewinsky if she was still expecting a private apology from Clinton after all these years. Lewinsky simply answered: “I’m sorry, I’m not going to be able to do this,” and quickly walked off the stage… Lewinsky later said in a statement shared on Twitter that she walked off stage because she and Levi had agreed to “clear parameters” for the interview and that she had told Levi that the Clinton question was “off limits.” [Video]
— “Before leaving the stage, Lewinsky gave a thoughtful, emotional speech… “My strong sense of family is rooted in the cultural traditions of Judaism,” Lewinsky said, “but there have been periods of my life where my faith has been challenged.” Lewinsky, who attended the Sinai Akiba Academy as a child in Los Angeles, said that after the Clinton story broke, “I was shunned from almost every community which I belonged to, including my religious community. That led to some very dark times for me.” [JPost]
— Roseanne Barr Says She’s Moving to Israel [HollywoodReporter]
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim talks antitrust on Recode Decode [Recode] • Incoming GitHub CEO pays visit to Israel [Globes] • Aaron Levie, the 33-year-old founder of $3.75 billion Box thinks everyone needs to read these 2 books [BusinessInsider] • Seen at Burning Man: Idan Ofer [Instagram]
Israeli general’s text messages misfired to old number: “An Israeli businessman on Monday said he received calls and messages from senior Israeli and foreign military officials after he was assigned the former phone number of Israel’s military chief of staff… Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot… According to the radio report, the provider said the number was not classified and was reassigned to another customer.” [AP]
PROFILE — Batsheva Hay Rethinks the Traditions of Feminine Dress —by Anna Russell: “Hay, a willowy redhead with a quietly assertive manner, grew up in a secular Jewish family in Kew Gardens, Queens. Her mother, Gail Rosenberg, met her father, an Israeli research engineer, while she was working on a kibbutz. When choosing a name for her daughter, Rosenberg was drawn to the Old Testament. She liked Yocheved and Elisheva, but settled on Batsheva, after the object of King David’s lust. “I wanted the name of someone who’s known for being beautiful,” Rosenberg told me. “Beauty, but power also.”
“In her early twenties, when she was a lawyer, she would throw on a Moschino dress and platform shoes at the end of the day and head downtown. Then she began dating Alexei Hay, a well-known fashion photographer, who had recently become an Orthodox Jew. Alexei was serious about his spiritual pursuits, but he and Hay both took an interest, too, in Orthodox clothing, with its modesty and rigor. Alexei photographed Hay constantly, and sometimes she modelled Orthodox styles for him.” [NewYorker]
How This Fashion Brand Is Bringing Women From Israel And Palestine Together —by Michelle Martin: “After visiting Israel and seeing the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians firsthand, [Paula] Jones began looking for ways to facilitate peaceful connections that could transcend the conflict. Given the skill sets of women in the region, Jones had the idea to bring Israeli seamstresses and designers together with Palestinian embroiderers to create a high-end fashion collection that could create jobs and highlight talents from both sides of the conflict. The result, Two Neighbors, is a socially conscious fashion brand that is empowering women and encouraging ‘peace through the eye of a needle’ as their tagline states.” [Forbes]
Lana Del Rey Cancels Israel Performance a Week Out From Concert — by Shirley Halperin: “Lana Del Rey has called off her Sept. 7 performance at Israel’s Meteor Festival… Writing on social media, Del Rey commented: “It’s important to me to perform in both Palestine and Israel and treat all my fans equally. … therefore, I’m postponing my appearance at the Meteor Festival.” … A source tells Variety that Del Rey had already been paid for the performance, receiving a fee of $700,000. Although the cost will be reimbursed, and the festival is nearly sold out, organizers are said to be livid at the last-minute cancellation.” [Variety] • Yair Lapid in letter to Lana Del Rey: You were lied to [JPost]
The Chosen Wars review: study of American Jews reveals familiar schisms — by Lloyd Green: “The political cleavages that mark the broader American landscape exist among America’s Jews. Just as Jews were to be found on both sides of slavery, secession and the civil war, they are again combatants in a political skirmish. Think of Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, and Chuck Schumer, the Senate minority leader. Welcome to The Chosen Wars, a narrative of the Jewish journey across the American landscape. Steven Weisman, who covered politics and economics at the New York Times for a quarter of a century, marshals an impressive array of facts to argue that the competing tugs of separatism and assimilation have been present ever since Jews landed in the New World in the 17th century, that even among the devout the broader culture affected religious practice, and that Jewish communal engagement has ebbed and flowed with time.” [TheGuardian]
Duterte calls Hitler ‘insane’ at Israeli Holocaust memorial — by Aron Heller: “Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who once compared himself favorably to Adolf Hitler, paid a solemn visit to Israel’s national Holocaust memorial on Monday, branding the Nazi leader “insane” as he lamented the genocide of 6 million Jews.” [AP]
ACROSS THE POND — Protests as Labour vote on anti-Semitism definition — by Jon Craig: “At a crucial meeting of Labour’s ruling body, the national executive committee (NEC), [Jeremy Corbyn] is hoping to reach a deal on a definition of anti-Semitism. Protesters on both sides gathered for a heated demonstration outside Labour’s headquarters ahead of the vote.”[YahooNews]
Corbyn a ‘danger’ to British Jews, says ex-chief rabbi: “Lord [Jonathan] Sacks has said he stands by his view that Jeremy Corbyn made “massively irresponsible” comments about Zionism and the Jewish people… He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr that the Labour leader presented as great a danger as Enoch Powell did in the late 1960s after his infamous “Rivers of Blood” immigration speech – and Mr Corbyn must show “clear remorse.” [BBC]
— Listen to Rabbi Sacks’ new podcast on the “Morality in the 21st Century” [BBC]
REMEMBERING JOHN MCCAIN — Joe Lieberman lauds John McCain’s accommodation of Jewish observance, love of Jerusalem — by Ron Kampeas: “Lieberman, speaking Saturday at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., recalled McCain suffering through Shabbat elevators in Israel, walking long distances with him on Shabbat, and forgoing Friday night festivities overseas to share a quiet meal with Lieberman — what McCain called a “Shalom Shabbat.”
McCain, Lieberman said, “is deriving pleasure from the fact that his funeral is on a Saturday and I had to walk here,” prompting laughter… Lieberman wrapped up his eulogy, recalling how much he and McCain enjoyed talking about faith whenever they visited Jerusalem… When Lieberman entered the private sector, McCain urged him to buy an apartment in Jerusalem with a view, and to reserve a room for him.” [JTA; Video]
— McCain’s two best friends were glad Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner were at the late senator’s memorial service — by Ellen Cranley: “Former Sen. Joe Lieberman and Sen. Lindsey Graham said they were happy Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner attended Saturday’s memorial service for the late Sen. John McCain… “Nobody that was at the funeral didn’t get invited by the family,” Graham said. “Ivanka said nice things about Senator McCain after his passing, and it was not unnoticed by the family.” … Lieberman said the couple sat right behind him and when he spoke to them after the ceremony, he thanked them “as John’s friend,” and they seemed to have enjoyed the service.” [BusinessInsider]
PICS — Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer in a conversation with Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) [Pic] • Joe Lieberman, U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman and Henry Kissinger “reminiscing tonight about a world without John McCain.” [Pic] • Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump listening to Meghan McCain’s eulogy of her father [Pic] • Jared and Ivanka chatting with Joe Lieberman [Pic]
BIRTHDAYS: Born in Tel Aviv, award winning computer scientist and philosopher who is a pioneer in artificial intelligence, he is the father of slain WSJ journalist Daniel Pearl, Judea Pearl turns 82… Emeritus professor of law and former acting dean at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Lester Brickman turns 78… Louisville, Kentucky resident and principal of Bluegrass Progressive Strategists, Mark Ament turns 67… Celebrity doctor who is a board-certified internist, addiction medicine specialist and media personality, best known as “Dr. Drew,” Drew Pinsky, M.D. turns 60… Inmate #79112-054 at the Federal Bureau of Prisons Medical Center in Devens, Massachusetts, he is scheduled for release on 5-14-2019, former Congressman Anthony Weinerturns 54… Real estate strategic advisor, political strategist and commentator, E. O’Brien (“Obi”) Murray turns 52…
Screenwriter best known as the writer of the 2008 film Vantage Point, Barry Louis Levy turns 46… Member of Knesset for the Labor / Zionist Union party and the Deputy Speaker of the Knesset, he was the Secretary General of the Labor party until early 2017, Yehiel “Hilik” Bar turns 43… General partner in Josh Kushner’s Thrive Capital, he was a special assistant and personal aide to President George W. Bush (2006-2009), continuing on in Dallas even after GWB left office, Jared Weinstein turns 39… Actor Max Greenfield turns 38… Television and film actor, Carter Mark Jenkins turns 27… Professor in the Department of Microbiology at the University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine, Edmundo N. Kraiselburd, Ph.D…. Melissa Kaplan…