SCENE LAST NIGHT — Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer and his wife Rhoda hosted Jewish leaders, diplomats, journalists and members of Congress in a tent on the front lawn of their Chevy Chase, Maryland for an annual Rosh Hashanah reception.
“From my vantage point as Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, it is hard to imagine a better year than the past year,” Dermer began his remarks, highlighting President Trump’s decisions to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.
Dermer also paid tribute to the late Senator John McCain, whom he described as “a great friend of Israel and a great champion” of the U.S.-Israel alliance. “One of the things I personally found most admirable about Senator McCain was that he was a fierce fighter who knew the difference between an adversary and an enemy,” Dermer added.
Dermer concluded his remarks with a message of unity: “The Jewish people are a very big tent. In fact, we have always been a very big tent. We began as twelve tribes. And in fundamental ways, we are still many tribes. Look around you. In this tent are people across the political, ideological and religious spectrum. Democrats and Republicans. Liberals and Conservatives. Reform and Orthodox. As for views on Israel, I suspect if I put a ballot box by the door, nearly every party in the Knesset would get a healthy share of the votes. But we should always remember that despite our differences, we are still one people. My hope for the coming year is that as we all continue to fight for what we believe in, we remember that those inside the tent are not enemies. Rest assured, there will always be plenty of enemies outside the tent.” [Pic]
SPOTTED: Wolf Blitzer, Jane Harman, Marty Baron, Ann Lewis, Rep. Eliot Engel, Rep. Ted Deutch, Gabby Deutch, Rep. Brad Schneider, Rep. Lee Zeldin, Rep. David Kustoff, Ron Klein, Elliott Abrams, Sam Feist, Danielle Feist, Jason Greenblatt, Martin Indyk, Stu Eizenstat, Leon Wieseltier, Howard Berman, Henry Waxman, Joe Kristol, Mark Dubowitz, Cliff May, Evan May, Jonathan Schanzer, Michael Tuchin, Rabbi David Saperstein, Mort Klein, William Daroff, Heidi Krizer Daroff, Lily Daroff, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach.
Richard Heideman, Phyllis Heideman, Paul Berger, Rabbi Jonathan Schnitzer, Ellen Hershkin, Mira Resnick, Harold Luks, Nathan Diament, Sarah Stern, Paul Teller, Harold Rhode, Jonny Fluger, Amir Tibon, Aaron Keyak, Steve Rabinowitz, Adam Kredo, David Bernstein, Matt Nosanchuk, Boris Epshteyn, Lauren Tanick, Joel Mowbray, Karen Paikin Barall, Allan Barall, Josh Kram, Mark Hetfield, Mark Levin, Jason Isaacson, Stacy Burdett, Omri Ceren, David Weinberg, Susie Turnbull, Omri Nahmias, Israel Maimon, Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt, Josh Lederman, Miriam Smallman, and Vivian Bass.
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) tweeted yesterday: “I received a call this morning from the Israeli PM, Benjamin Netanyahu. I appreciate the Prime Minister for calling today to express his condolences on the passing of Sen. John McCain… I enjoyed working with Senator McCain to strengthen the US-Israel relationship. This work will never stop and my commitment to Peace through Strength remains steadfast.”
TODAY AT 12:15 PM: President Donald Trump will hold a High Holidays conference call with Jewish community leaders and rabbis.
— Headline: “Last-minute invite appears to treat White House call with rabbis as an afterthought” [ReligiousNews]
FIRST LOOK — The New Republic asked 12 writers to address the relationship between American Jews and Israel: “Many American Jews now report that their position on Israel has become either ambivalent or outright negative. What does this mean for Israel’s role in American Jewish identity? The New Republic asked a dozen thinkers for their reflections on the evolving relationship between Israel and the Jewish Diaspora in America. Here are their thoughts, personal and political.” [NewRepublic]
Dennis Ross on Israel’s Prerogatives; Joshua Cohen on Israel’s Season of Discontent; Michael Koplow: Fraught Relationship, Fated Bond; Ruth Margalit on the Perils of the Ultra-Orthodox Alliance; Theodore Ross: Who’s Afraid of Criticizing Israel?; Talia Lavin: A Memoir of Disillusionment; Jeremy Ben-Ami: Don’t Give Up; Jacob Bacharach: A Homeland in America; Gideon Levy: What Israel Needs From American Jews; Elisheva Goldberg: The intersectional Jewish America; Batya Ungar-Sargon on Two Ways of Being Jewish; Yehuda Kurtzer: The Deep Sources of a Great Divide.
INSIDE THE WHITE HOUSE — White House Searches for Anonymous Inside Critic — by Michael Bender: “White House aides launched a search for the anonymous author of an opinion column who claimed Wednesday to be part of a secret group of officials inside the administration acting as a check on President Trump’s “worst inclinations.” … The writer was identified only as a senior administration official… Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.)… told reporters Wednesday night that the op-ed wasn’t a surprise to many officials. “This is what all of us have understood to be the situation from Day 1,” Mr. Corker said.” [WSJ]
— “Trump reacted to the column with “volcanic” anger and was “absolutely livid” over what he considered a treasonous act of disloyalty… According to one Trump friend, he fretted after Wednesday’s op-ed that he could trust only his children.” [WashPost]
Woodward’s Reality Bomb Is Blowing Up the West Wing — by Gabriel Sherman: “Two sources said Trump is particularly angry with former economic adviser Gary Cohn… “He hates that people are leaking. They think they can take things off the Resolute desk because of this idea they’re ‘saving’ the country,” one senior West Wing official said… One source said Cohn called up his former colleagues to ask them how he came off in the book. “Gary wanted to make sure he didn’t compromise himself that much,” a source who spoke with Cohn said.”
“Even Trump’s family is concerned the president is in deep trouble. After attending John McCain’s funeral, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump told Trump he needs to get control of himself. A person briefed on the conversation recalled, “Jared told him if they’re going to last in Washington they can’t be this far off the mark with the establishment.” [VanityFair]
Another passage from Woodward’s book — by Tom Mccarthy: “Jared Kushner made a few stabs at brokering a deal on immigration reform with congressional leaders, Woodward reports, and he seems to have waded into, and then mostly out of, Middle East policy. But Kushner’s main role in the campaign was to help make spending decisions for his father-in-law, to which the answer was almost always “no”, according to Fear. “He doesn’t have a lot of cash,” Kushner is quoted as saying.” [TheGuardian]
CFR’s Richard Haass tweets: “In Woodward book, Egypt’s Sisi says “Donald. I’m worried about this investigation. Will you be around?” Now he, others are reading the anon op-ed. So we have uncertainty about Donald Trump future combined with uncertainty over the present. US cannot be effective in the world.”
REPORT: The White House is discussing potential replacements for Jim Mattis — by Josh Rogin: “The speculation about who replaces Mattis is now more real than ever,” said a senior White House official who was not authorized to speak about internal matters. “The president has always respected him. But now he has every reason to wonder what Mattis is saying behind his back. The relationship has nowhere to go but down, fast.” [WashPost]
#CHUTZPAH — Iran accuses Trump of ‘bullying’ other countries into anti-Tehran stance: “Iran’s foreign minister has accused Donald Trump of trying to hijack the United Nations security council for the purposes of “bullying others” to turn against Tehran… “There’s only one UNSC resolution on Iran … Donald Trump is violating it & bullying others to do same,” Javad Zarif wrote on Twitter. “Now he plans to abuse presidency of SC to divert a session – item devoted to Palestine for 70 yrs – to blame Iran for horrors US & clients have unleashed across (Middle East) #chutzpah.”[TheGuardian]
— Israeli Consul General Dani Dayan tweets: “You know, Mr. Zarif? It’s always that way. You start hashtagging Hebrew words. Then you suddenly find yourself singing #HavaNagila in the shower. Then wearing a #KovaTembel. And here we are: you became a #Zionist! Welcome (or best ברוך הבא) to the club!”
Outcry from Israel after Paraguay moves its Jerusalem embassy back to Tel Aviv — by Oliver Holmes: “Paraguay has reversed a decision to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem after just three months, prompting anger from Israel which responded by shuttering its embassy in Asunción and recalling its ambassador… Former president Horacio Cartes personally inaugurated the new diplomatic site… However, Paraguay’s new president, Mario Abdo Benítez, who took office last month, reviewed the choice and his foreign minister told reporters on Wednesday that the decision had been changed.” [TheGuardian; Newsweek]
Israel’s top court says West Bank village can be demolished — by Aron Heller: “Israel’s Supreme Court on Wednesday cleared the way for the demolition of a Bedouin village in the West Bank… The court rejected an appeal to block the demolition of Khan al-Ahmar… The United Nations, the European Union and others have expressed concern over the fate of Khan al-Ahmar, which is just east of Jerusalem.” [AP]
US ambassador believes Golan will be ‘part of Israel forever’ — by Ariel Kahana: “In an exclusive interview with Israel Hayom… [David] Friedman says that “I can’t imagine a circumstance where the Golan Heights will be returned to Syria. I cannot imagine, frankly, a circumstance where the Golan Heights is not a part of Israel forever…” Friedman stressed that the Trump administration may consider official recognition of the Golan Heights as Israeli territory in the future.” [IsraelHayom; NYTimes]
— Martin Indyk tweets: Yet again US Ambo in Israel decides to change US policy. Does @jdgreenblatt45 (Jason Greenblatt) agree or is the Ambo freelancing?
Hussein Ibish writes… “Trump’s Middle East Peace Plan Makes Palestinians Disappear: If Trump and Kushner really imagine that stripping Palestinians of their claims regarding Jerusalem and refugees will coerce them into abandoning any aspirations for independence and first-class citizenship, they’re in for a surprise. But if they’re just trying to set up a pretext for castigating the Palestinians as the party that “said no to peace,” it’s a sound stratagem.” [BloombergView]
ON THE GROUND — In Secret Program, Israel Armed and Funded Rebel Groups in Southern Syria — by Elizabeth Tsurkov: “Israel secretly armed and funded at least 12 rebel groups in southern Syria that helped prevent Iran-backed fighters and militants of the Islamic State from taking up positions near the Israeli border in recent years… The military transfers, which ended in July of this year, included assault rifles, machine guns, mortar launchers and transport vehicles… Israel also provided salaries to rebel fighters, paying each one about $75 a month… The payments, along with the service Israel was getting in return, created an expectation among the rebels that Israel would intercede if troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad tried to advance on southern Syria. When regime forces backed by Russian air power did precisely that this past summer, Israel did not intervene, leaving the rebel groups feeling betrayed.” [ForeignPolicy]
SCOTUS WATCH — Kavanaugh stumbles when grilled on whether he discussed Mueller probe — by Elana Schor: “Nearly 12 hours into Brett Kavanaugh’s Senate confirmation hearing, Kamala Harris opened with a tantalizing query: Has the Supreme Court nominee ever discussed Robert Mueller’s probe with a lawyer at Kasowitz Benson & Torres, President Donald Trump’s longtime law firm? ‘Be sure about your answer, sir,’ Harris asked Kavanaugh. Trump’s high court pick appeared nonplussed, responding that ‘I’m not sure I know everyone who works at that law firm,’ but the California Democrat — a veteran prosecutor known for her tenacious questioning and high on her party’s 2020 presidential short lists — would not let up.” [Politico; Video]
Rep. Pete King (R-NY) on interruptions at Kavanaugh’s Senate hearing in a Facebook post: “Let me make it clear that I would say the same thing if right wing agitators resorted to mob rule — as I did when I condemned the neo-Nazis and White Supremacists in Charlottesville last summer… I fully understand and respect Senators who have serious questions for Judge Kavanaugh. That is their right and obligation. Nazi Beer Hall tactics, however, have no place in a democracy.”
INBOX — Student leaders at Hillel International today launched MitzVote, a non-partisan campaign to register and engage 100,000 voters on more than 100 college campuses across the United States. Hillel International worked with Mik Moore (co-creator of 2008’s The Great Schlep with Sarah Silverman) to produce a video, Today You Are A… Voter. Featuring popular actors and comedians, it mimics a bat mitzvah mazel tov video, with friends and family congratulating Hannah, a typical college first-year student, on her MitzVote.
Want to Be the Next Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez? Be Careful What You Wish — by Jesse McKinley: “As next week’s Democratic primary draws near, scrutiny of Julia Salazar’s history has revealed numerous inconsistencies in her background that threaten to undermine her candidacy… Born into a Catholic family, Ms. Salazar said she converted to Judaism in her early 20s, and has been a part of a number of groups devoted to Jewish causes. Ms. Salazar said her interest in Judaism is rooted in family history and their Sephardic roots in Spain, and was spurred as she was mourning her father’s death from prostate cancer in 2009…”
“Ms. Salazar’s mother said that neither side of the family was Jewish, though she confirmed her late husband’s family had a Sephardic background, and that Julia had been curious about it. “That’s where her interest stems from,” she said, noting that her daughter had traveled to Israel during college. “This is not something that was invented for the purposes of this campaign.” [NYTimes]
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: CBS board offering CEO Les Moonves $100 million in stock as exit package [CNBC] • Sharon Waxman’s The Wrap is adding a subscription business, by buying a subscription business [Recode] • WeWork Fails in Bid to Lease Space in New York’s World Trade Center [WSJ] • Under the sea: antiquities make way for Israel’s Leviathan pipeline [Reuters] • Bloomberg Forum in Beijing for Business Elites Is Put Off, Chinese Hosts Confirm [NYTimes]
Virtual reality tour brings biblical-era Jerusalem to life — by Ilan Ben Zion: “The Tower of David Museum, which is housed in the Old City’s ancient stronghold, plans to launch the high-tech guided tour this month ahead of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. The virtual reality guide, “Step into History,” offers visitors a chance to “walk in the streets of Jerusalem and enjoy the present and take a look back to the past,” said Tower of David Museum director Eilat Lieber.” [ABCNews]
PROFILE: Palestinian Journalist Declares Jerusalem Mayoral Run — by David Brennan: “Aziz Abu Sarah is a cosmopolitan figure, who divides his time between Washington, D.C. and Jerusalem. The journalist has traveled the world working for National Geographic among other publications, and has been involved in many joint Israeli-Palestinian projects in his home city… Sarah plans to focus his campaign on the city and its residents, avoiding larger practical questions of peace deals.” [Newsweek]
Roy Moore Sues Sacha Baron Cohen for $95M Over ‘Who Is America?’ Appearance — by Ashley Cullins: “Sacha Baron Cohen is being sued for defamation by Roy Moore over his appearance on the actor’s controversial Showtime series — and the embattled former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice is seeking $95 million in damages… “Defendant Cohen’s character falsely and fraudulently introduced a false and fraudulent ‘device’ supposedly invented by the Israeli Army to detect pedophiles,” state the complaint… Moore is suing Cohen, along with CBS and Showtime, for defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress and fraud.”[HollywoodReporter]
Goat Yoga, Mosh Pits, Glow Sticks: Younger Jews Reinvent Yom Kippur — by Shayndi Raice: “This year, some rabbis, eager to woo younger people to High Holiday services, are holding programs in a beer garden, replacing deep reverential bows with goat yoga and celebrating the end of the season with glow sticks in a mosh pit… Many Jews still want to attend a synagogue, listen to a cantor and hear a rabbi’s sermon on the holiest days of the year. Robert Smith, a 77-year-old retired engineering professor who lives in Syracuse, N.Y., and attends the Conservative synagogue Congregation Beth Sholom-Chevra Shas, said he finds programs like Yom Kippur in a bar to be “strange,” especially if the point isn’t to lead young Jews back to a traditional Jewish life.” [WSJ]
DESSERT — Denver Jewish Deli Nosh-Off — by Daliah Singer: “The Mile High City’s lineup of Jewish-inspired delis nearly doubled when Rye Society Delicatessen & Picklery and Leven Deli Co. opened their doors (in RiNo and the Golden Triangle, respectively) in July. Now, with the High Holidays around the corner—Rosh Hashanah begins at sunset on September 9—it’s time to celebrate the new spots by pitting them against local deli vets in a battle based on four classic Jewish eats.” 
For this Greek immigrant, Jewish New Year brings back sweet memories — and foods — of home — by Susan Barocas: “[Paulette Nehama’s] childhood home in Greece always had some ready to serve with strong coffee or tea to anyone who stopped by for a visit, which meant lot of extra biscottakia, also called paximadakia, had to be made for such Jewish holidays as Rosh Hashanah… Apple preserves called mylo tou koutaliou were another traditional Rosh Hashanah dish in Nehama’s childhood home. The name means “apple spoon sweets” because they were traditionally served on individual spoons with a glass of water to welcome guests.” [WashPost]
REMEMBERING: Sheldon S. Cohen, IRS commissioner who computerized agency, dies at 91 — by Adam Bernstein: “Sheldon S. Cohen, a tax lawyer and certified public accountant who helped set up the first presidential blind trust, for Lyndon B. Johnson, and then helped fully computerize the IRS as Johnson’s commissioner of internal revenue, died Sept. 4… Mr. Cohen, a longtime resident of Somerset, Md., was an officer in Jewish, community and legal groups. He also advised foreign countries on their tax systems.” [WashPost]
BIRTHDAYS: Member of the US House of Representatives since 1983 (D-MI-9), he was Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee (2010-2011), Congressman Sander Levin turns 87… Short Hills, New Jersey resident who is the co-founder and CEO of Murray Hill Properties, a NYC-based real estate development and property management firm, Norman Sturner turns 78… Beverly Hills-based public relations consultant, Mara Kochba turns 76… Retired director of the Robotics Laboratory at the Technion, Jacob Rubinovitz turns 71… Democratic member of the New York State Assembly from a district within Brooklyn since 1981, she chairs the Assembly’s Judiciary Committee, Helene Weinstein turns 66… Oncologist and bioethicist, the older brother of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Hollywood talent agent Ari Emanuel, he is a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, Ezekiel Jonathan “Zeke” Emanuel turns 61… Co-founder in 2008 of Kol HaNeshamah: The Center for Jewish Life and Enrichment, Dr. Adena Karen Berkowitz turns 59…
Former New Jersey Governor (2010-2018), Chris Christie turns 56… Native of NYC’s Lower East Side and Brooklyn, Treasurer of Southfield, Michigan, Irv “Moishe” Lowenberg turns 50… Director in the NYC office of AIPAC, he is a co-founder and chairman emeritus of Fuel For Truth, an Israel advocacy organization, Joe Richards turns 46… Chief Communications Officer at Bloomberg LP since 2012, formerly assistant press secretary in the White House (1997-2001), Jason Schechter turns 44… Rabbi at Beth El Synagogue in Minneapolis, Avi S. Olitzky turns 37… Communications advisor at the Commerce Department, Ari Schaffer turns 27… Australian born entrepreneur, now living in NYC, he is the co-founder of the technology and social media company Monkey Inc. and Executive Director at HPS Investment Partners, LLC, Ben Pasternak turns 19… Senior advisor at Israel’s United Nations delegation, he was previously a senior analyst at Avascent, a veteran of the Israel Defense Forces and an AIPAC alum, Daniel Flesch… Toronto-based publisher and philanthropist, Elisa Morton Palter... Madi Portugal…