DATA DELVE — The recent arrest of financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein has prompted intense scrutiny into every aspect of his life, including his long history of charitable giving. Jewish Insider took a close look at the 20-year pattern of donations by his three main foundations, through data compiled by The Miami Herald and corroborated by IRS filings.
What we found was a consistent and eclectic pattern of giving to Jewish institutions of all stripes, before, during and after his Florida prison sentence.
Most recently, Epstein gave $50,000 to the UJA-Federation in New York in 2017, a donation that the Jewish nonprofit has declined to discuss. Over the years he has given amounts ranging from $500,000 to an Orthodox Jewish day school in New York City to $250 to a kollel study program and charity in Jerusalem. He gave repeatedly to the National Council of Jewish Women, donated twice to a yeshiva day school in Monsey, New York, gave $25,000 to the Friends of the IDF and donated to Jewish groups in New York, Florida, Columbus, Aspen and more. For a detailed list of Epstein’s Jewish giving, read more here [Jewish Insider]
How Jeffrey Epstein used the billionaire behind Victoria’s Secret for wealth and women — by Emily Steel, Steve Eder, Sapna Maheshwari and Matthew Goldstein: “Mr. [Les] Wexner wanted to diversify his personal investments beyond his retail chains… and also wanted to get more involved in the arts, philanthropy and Jewish causes… It was around then, in the mid-to-late-1980s, that Mr. Wexner and Mr. Epstein were introduced by a mutual acquaintance… From the outset, Mr. Epstein’s role extended far beyond that of a traditional money manager… Through his proximity to Mr. Wexner, Mr. Epstein gained unique access to young women.” [NYTimes; WSJ]
ON THE HILL — by JI’s Laura Kelly: House Democratic members, dubbed the “new generation of national security lawmakers,” are pushing ahead for public support on legislation that would reaffirm Congress’s role in authorizing military force before any action on Iran is taken.
Reps. Andy Kim (D-NJ), Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) and Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) participated Thursday in a briefing on Capitol Hill about the ongoing tensions with Iran and strategies to bring the Islamic Republic back to the negotiating table over nuclear weapons. Kim is a veteran of the State Department, Pentagon and White House National Security Council; Slotkin was a Department of Defense analyst on Iraq; and Malinowski is a former assistant secretary of state under former President Barack Obama.
The three are also co-sponsors of recently passed, bipartisan legislation that blocks funds for military force against Iran unless President Donald Trump has the approval of Congress first. The bill, attached as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, will have to survive a conference with the Senate version of the NDAA before it reaches the president’s desk.
“If you were to ask me, what is the number one nightmare that keeps me up at night about the Middle East, it is about a regional war with Iran,” Kim told the audience, at an event hosted by the International Crisis Group. “I see nothing causing more catastrophic damage to the Middle East and to our forces.”
Malinowski said he believes the amendment is more about sending a message than attempting to hinder the president’s authority on attacking Iran. “I don’t think it constrains very much. It’s an important message, it’s important that we send a message on a bipartisan basis that we’re not fully with the program and I think we’re already starting to do that.”
Slotkin addressed the need for communication with the Iranians, and the concern that the posturing by both sides could spill into open conflict. “Something inadvertent can turn into a scenario that spirals upwards,” she said. “Most wars that we’ve gotten into are accidental, we didn’t intend to go into them… One way we can really improve the situation is if we had, at multiple levels, from multiple departments, re-open communication with the Iranians.”
Asked how Democratic presidential candidates should focus messaging on issues of national security, Kim said: “We’re at a very intense moment in foreign policy, national security, even if this president wasn’t the president. We’re at a time when we are coming out from the 9/11 world into a world where we’re posturing more towards great power competition, near peer competition. We’re experiencing a level of technological growth… Cyberspace gets rid of and collapses geography and time such that the two great oceans that have given us so much buffer over centuries and provided for our national security, no longer exist in that type of dimension.”
“I’d like to see a candidate that is able to speak to this understanding,” Kim said. “Not to where we’re at, but where we should be going and what that vision is going forward. I have yet to see that in the debate.”
Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) explained his co-sponsorship of H. Res. 496, a pro-BDS resolution introduced by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) in a statement on Thursday. “My support of this resolution was a simple demonstration of my ongoing commitment to the ability of every American to exercise the fundamental First Amendment right to protest through nonviolent actions,” Lewis explained. “However, as a longtime friend of Israel and also as a cosponsor of H. Res. 246, the resolution ‘opposing efforts to delegitimize the State of Israel and the Global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement targeting Israel,’ I want to make it very clear that I disagree strongly with the BDS movement. Economic, educational, and cultural interaction with Israel, America’s democratic ally, is not only in the best interest of Israelis and Americans, but it improves the climate for peace with Palestinians, which is in everyone’s interest to encourage.”
Omar writes in The New York Times… “It is not enough to condemn Trump’s racism: Throughout history, demagogues have used state power to target minority communities and political enemies, often culminating in state violence. Today, we face that threat in our own country, where the president of the United States is using the influence of our highest office to mount racist attacks on communities across the land… The chants of ‘Jews will not replace us,’ shouted at a rally in Charlottesville in 2017 by white supremacists, whom this president tacitly accepted, are a direct attack on the values of religious freedom central to the founding of our nation.” [NYTimes]
HEARD ON CABLE — White House counselor Kellyanne Conway criticized The New York Times for publishing the Omar op-ed in an interview on Fox News’s Outnumbered Overtime on Thursday.
“I am [also] very disappointed that The New York Times would run an op-ed by such an antisemitic member of Congress,” Conway said. “Just last week, she pulled another stunt with her [opposition to the] anti-BDS [bill]… and that failed 398 to 17. CNN called it ‘divisive.’ That’s called decisive. It must have been a spellcheck error.” [Video]
THE CONVO CONTINUES — The Washington Post spoke to several Jewish thinkers about Trump using Israel and Jews at the center of his attacks on the “Squad.”
“To be Jews and to have that associated with hating others, when that’s totally counter to Judaism, is deeply troubling,” Rabbi Michael Holzman, leader of Northern Virginia Hebrew Congregation, told the Post.
Michael Koplow, policy director of the Israel Policy Forum, told the publication: “Trump is doing something incredibly, obviously divisive and, from my point of view, terrible for the country and certainly terrible for the American Jewish community in that he’s seizing on politics to try to divide Jewish people from one another. I think it’s smart politics from his perspective, and I think he’ll keep doing it.”
Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, who addressed Trump’s inauguration, maintained that the president has credibility on the issue because of his record on Israel and the severity of the comments sometimes made by the Squad. [WashPost]
INBOX — “The RJC PAC is endorsing President Trump, the most pro-Israel President in history, for reelection.” [Video]
David Brooks writes… “How white Democrats moved left: For most of the 20th century, for example, white liberals consistently sympathized with Israel more than with the Palestinians. But that has reversed. White progressives are much more critical of Israel than ever before. What had once been seen as an intractable regional conflict between a democracy and a series of authoritarian regimes trying to destroy it is now seen as a conflict between a white colonialist power and the brown people it oppresses.” [NYTimes]
LONG READ — One of Donald Trump’s most ardent defenders is Dallas Pastor Robert Jeffress: “Jeffress agrees with the popular comparison evangelicals draw between President Trump and Cyrus the Great, the ancient Persian king who, according to Jewish tradition, allowed the exiled Hebrews to return to Jerusalem. Cyrus is thought of as a secular agent of God’s divine plan, and this oft-cited parallel is useful to Trump’s most enthusiastic backers as a way of explaining their support: they can champion him, they say, because there is a difference between the earthly realm and the heavenly one, between government and church.” [TexasMonthly]
TALK OF THE REGION — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared“a cessation of all agreements signed with Israel, including security coordination” on Thursday.
“We will not yield to the dictates and the imposition of the status quo on the ground by brute force, specifically in Jerusalem, and all the actions of the occupying state are illegal and null and void,” Abbas said in a speech to the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah, referring to the recent Israeli demolitions of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem.
ACROSS THE SEA — The European Commission filed a case against the Hungarian government — led by Prime Minister Viktor Orban — at the European Court of Justice on Thursday over its new laws, known as the “Stop Soros” laws. The legislation — which targets philanthropist George Soros and others — toughens eligibility requirements for asylum seekers. “The Hungarian legislation curtails asylum applicants’ right to communicate with and be assisted by relevant national, international and non-governmental organizations by criminalizing support [for] asylum applications,” the European Commission said in a statement.
PIC OF THE DAY — Reporter Rachel Holliday Smith photographed former New York City Mayor David Dinkins arriving at the funeral of former Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau at Temple Emanu-El, wearing a white yarmulke. Dinkins told reporters the yarmulke was given to him in 1988. [Pic]
Jeremy Burton, a former Dinkins aide and currently executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Boston, tweeted: “Mayor Dinkins is very proud of his kippah game. When he was Mayor of NYC, I had the distinct responsibility (as a very junior aide) of keeping track of them — especially the prized one given to him by a local rebbetzin in ’89 campaign; hand-stitched with ‘David’ in Hebrew.”
2020 BRIEFS — Elizabeth Warren has a radical plan to beat Trump at his own game… Tulsi Gabbard sues Google for $50 million for suspending her ad account after the first Democratic debate in June… Julián Castro announcedmore than a dozen new hires on Thursday… New York City and South Bend cops lash out at Mayors Bill de Blasio and Pete Buttigieg… Cory Booker makes new hire to win over faith voters in South Carolina… CNN to hostclimate crisis town hall with 2020 Democratic candidates…
QUEENS DA RECOUNT — Queens Borough President Melinda Katz declared victory on Thursday after a recount in the Queens District Attorney race, but opponent Tiffany Caban has vowed to take the results to court. The recount data — which has yet to be publicly confirmed by the New York City Board of Elections — appears to show Katz a mere 60 votes ahead of Caban.
BUZZ ON BALFOUR — Attorney Yossi Ashkenazi joined the criminal defense team for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday. Ashkenazi is a senior partner at the Herzog, Fox & Neeman firm. In May, attorney Navot Tel-Zur left the prime minister’s defense team due to his lack of payment for legal services.
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Sheldon Adelson ‘doing fine,’ Las Vegas Sands Corp. COO Rob Goldstein said during a second-quarter earnings call [LasVegasSun] • ISS backs Icahn’s call for more shareholder say after Anadarko deal [Reuters] • Daniella Vitale’s Barneys is scrambling to find a buyer to avoid bankruptcy [NYPost] • Martin Sorrell slams Holding Companies’ data strategies and insists Facebook and Google are not ‘frenemies’[Adweek]
MORE BRIEFS: Guy Oseary’s latest undertaking, Community, nurtures celebrity-fan relationships through text [TechCrunch] • Japan’s largest insurance company, Tokio Marine Holdings, has partnered with Israel-based Harel Insurance Group to target Israeli hi-tech companies [JPost] • Why billionaire John Arnold is critiquing donor-advised funds, Silicon Valley’s favorite philanthropic loophole [Vox]
STARTUP NATION — Israeli company growing bones in a laboratory outside the body — by Eytan Halon: “Haifa-based biotechnology company Bonus BioGroup… has developed a unique technology that promises to revolutionize the future of bone healing and is delivering promising clinical results. Founded by Dr. Shai Meretzki and the late Prof. Avinoam Kaduri in 2008, the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange-listed company is behind the world’s first viable human bone graft manufacturing facility, where bone grafts are constructed ex vivo — outside of the human body — from the patient’s own live tissue.” [JPost]
TOP-OP — Rabbi Ari Lamm, special advisor to the president of Yeshiva University, writes… “Is Jesus good for the Jews? Was Jesus a Jew? The idea shouldn’t be controversial. Yet there have been plenty of attempts to challenge his connection to Judaism. Dissociating Jesus from his Jewishness has a dark history that continues to poison discourse today… As Jews increasingly come under attack in Europe and elsewhere, they should once more be prepared, if necessary, to assert Jesus the Jew, even as they have no wish to claim Jesus the Christian.” [WSJ]
SPOTLIGHT — The therapy session between you, a therapist — and thousands of listeners — by Rachel Dodes: “What happened in therapy used to stay in therapy. Now a wave of podcasts allows anybody with a Wi-Fi connection to be a fly on the couch as people bare their souls, sharing their deepest anxieties with thousands of people… It all began with ‘Where Should We Begin?’ which debuted in 2017. Produced by Audible and now in its third season, the show features renowned Belgian psychotherapist Esther Pereltalking to real couples — using pseudonyms — as they discuss issues such as impotence, infidelity and addiction. The podcast was a breakout hit, ranking in the top 5 of both iTunes’s and Audible’s charts.” [WSJ]
TEL AVIV SCENE — Around 45,000 people turned out in Tel Aviv last night for a concert by Bon Jovi at the city’s Hayarkon Park. And among the revelers was none other than New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, an avid fan and close friend of Jon Bon Jovi. Murphy and his family arrived in Israel on Thursday and will spend a couple of days there before departing for Italy. In an interview earlier this year, Bon Jovi said he was bringing the governor and several other friends with him for the Tel Aviv show.
MEDIA WATCH — CNN photo editor resigns over antisemitic Tweets — by Aaron Bandler: “CNN photo editor Mohammed Elshamy has resigned from his position at CNN due to a series of antisemitic tweets from 2011, according to a spokesperson from the network. The tweets, which started to gain attention on Twitter on July 25, involved Elshamy writing on March 23, 2011, ‘More than 4 Jewish pigs killed in #Jerusalem today by the Palestinian bomb explode.’” [JewishJournal]
PERSPECTIVE — Mariano Rivera gets beaned — by the WSJ Editorial Board: “Mr. Rivera was the subject of a hit piece in the left-leaning Daily Beast claiming that his plaque in Cooperstown should include references to his ‘far-right politics.’… Mr. Rivera made clear he’s not apologizing for any of this: his support for President Trump, his support for Israel, or his Christian faith. Sounds like a man with a better perspective on life than the killjoys who can’t even let people enjoy a day that should be all about baseball without trying to politicize it.” [WSJ]
TALK OF THE TOWN — MGM will redesign its uniforms after a complaint of Holocaust imagery — by Chris Boyette: “June Scharf was going through the security checkpoint at the MGM Northfield Casino near Cleveland recently when something about the security guards’ uniforms struck her… The guards were wearing yellow shirts with a six-pointed star. It was a security badge-type image, but to Scharf it evoked imagery of the Holocaust… Debra DeShong, a spokeswoman for MGM Resorts International, said a reporter from the [Cleveland] Jewish News contacted MGM. ‘We appreciate this being brought to our attention and will begin the process of changing the badges on the uniforms in question. We regret anyone was offended — it was certainly not our intention,’ DeShong said Monday.” [CNN]
Lynn marijuana company CEO ‘speechless’ after storefront vandalized with antisemitic, racist symbolism — by Felicia Gans: “Jordan Avery was at a loss for words Monday when he walked into his rented storefront and found it vandalized with antisemitic language and racist symbolism… But even worse was the rope hanging from the ceiling, tied in a knot resembling a noose. A long knife hung from the rope, and antisemitic rhetoric was written on the walls… Avery, who was born and raised in Lynn, is African-American and has plans to convert to Judaism… Lynn police are investigating the vandalism, but no arrests have been made, said Lieutenant Michael Kmiec.” [BostonGlobe]
Woman shoots 2 Israeli men to death at Mexico shopping mall: “A woman wearing a blond wig disguise fatally shot two Israeli men at a restaurant in an upscale Mexico City shopping mall, and authorities said Thursday they were investigating links to organized crime. Though the woman was quickly arrested and claimed the killings were a crime of passion, prosecutors later discounted that motive and said international ‘criminal groups’ were involved.” [AP]
DEEP DIVE — Meet the Jews of Havana: The small but thriving Cuban community you didn’t know existed — by Harry D. Wall: “The U.S. embargo against Cuba, tightened since President Donald Trump assumed office, has impacted the island’s Jewry as with the general Cuban population. Poverty, lack of basic commodities and rationing prevail. However, there is a steady influx of Jewish tourism. Tourists are attracted by the proximity of the island as well as by its old-fashioned and exotic character. Many American Jews travel to the island on the ‘people to people’ exemption that allows for religious and educational trips… Havana’s Jews get support from the nonprofit American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and other American and Canadian Jewish organizations, which provide medications, kosher and other foods, assistance to the elderly and the well-attended Shabbat dinner at the Patronato that is free for all members of the community.” [Haaretz]
PERSONAL ESSAY — ‘Fiddler,’ Tevye’s daughters, and me — by Elaine Showalter: “There are Fiddler on the Roof resisters, Fiddler on the Roof enthusiasts, and Fiddler on the Roof fanatics. I am in that last category… when I see Fiddler, I don’t identify with Tevye. I identify with his three daughters, who one by one insist on marrying the men they love… For me, the story is personal. In June 1963, when I married a nominally Episcopalian professor of French, my parents disowned me, and so did my grandparents, all but two of my twenty-plus aunts and uncles, and all but three of my dozens of cousins. No one from my family came to our wedding, and I did not see them again for fifteen years.” [NYRB]
REMEMBERING — Rabbi Harry Jacobi obituary — by Margaret Jacobi: “My father, Rabbi Harry Jacobi, who has died aged 93, escaped from the Nazis twice before coming to Britain as a refugee. A vice-president of Liberal Judaism, he touched many lives through his compassion. Harry was born in Berlin as Heinz Martin Hirschberg, to Eugene, a businessman, and his wife, Margarete (nee Jacobi)… His bar mitzvah was the last held at the Friedenstempel, just before Kristallnacht in 1938. The following January, he was sent to Amsterdam and was among 74 children rescued from there by Truus Wijsmuller-Meijer.” [TheGuardian]
WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS — FRIDAY: Photographer and documentary filmmaker, Elliott Erwitt turns 91… Member of the British House of Lords, Baroness Sally Oppenheim-Barnes turns 91… Mayor of Las Vegas (1999-2011), where he was succeeded by his wife, Oscar Goodman turns 80… Administrator at the University of Illinois and the University of Houston (1972-1982), chancellor of the California State University system (1991-1998) and CEO of the J. Paul Getty Trust (1998-2006), Barry Munitz turns 78… Member of the Florida House of Representatives since 2012, representing southern Broward County, he is the deputy Democratic leader since 2018, Richard Stark turns 67… Film and television director, she is best known for her work on the Showtime drama series Homeland, Lesli Linka Glatter turns 66…
Sports columnist, author, television and radio personality, he’s worked for ESPN’s Charlotte-based SEC Network since 2014, Paul Finebaum turns 63… SVP of strategy and growth and Chief Medical Officer of Blue Health Intelligence, Alan H. Spiro, MD, MBA turns 67… Correspondent for ABC News, a co-anchor for Nightline and the weekend edition of Good Morning America, Daniel B. “Dan” Harris turns 48… Founder of the DC-based consulting firm, Stonington Global, he graduated from Einstein Medical School and Yale Law before becoming a senior aide for Senators Tim Scott and Ted Cruz, Nicholas Muzin turns 44… Israeli-born classical music composer, Gilad Hochman turns 37… Israeli-born R&B singer and songwriter, Hila Bronstein turns 36… Political correspondent at Israel’s Walla News, Tal Shalev… Tomer Barazani… Reporter at the National Journal covering Senate campaigns, Drew Gerber turns 24…
SATURDAY: Television producer, Norman Lear turns 97… Managing partner of Access Fund Management Company, he is a past President of the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, Harold Zlot turns 82… Former CIA Director (1995-1996) and Deputy Secretary of Defense (1994-1995), now a professor emeritus at MIT, John M. Deutch turns 81… Steven M. Mizel turns 80… Immediate past chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations (2015-2018), Stephen M. Greenbergturns 75…
Editor, producer and director at Israel’s Channel 1 TV where he co-directed the science show and was the education reporter, he is best known for his documentaries of Israel’s intelligence agencies, Yarin Kimor turns 67… Comedian, writer, producer and actress, Carol Leifer turns 63… Journalist at the Christian Science Monitor since 1981 and now its Washington bureau chief, Linda Feldmann turns 60… Former VP of global communications, marketing and public policy at Facebook, Elliot Schrage turns 59… Former CEO of the Rabbinical Assembly, the international membership association of Conservative/Masorti rabbis (2009-2019), she is now the managing director at Leading Ethics, LLC, Rabbi Julie Schonfeld turns 54…
Member of the Hungarian Parliament (1990-2009) and member of the European Parliament since 2009, Tamás Deutsch turns 53… Rabbi at Kesher Israel in Georgetown, he has served as a rabbi in St. Louis (thirteen years) and India (one year), he is the author of the Everything Jewish Wedding Book, Rabbi Hyim Shafner turns 51… Former chief of staff of the House Republican Conference (2012-2019), he is now the managing partner at Capitol Venture, LLC, a boutique public affairs firm, Jeremy Deutsch turns 43… Sales and customer service representative at Rockville, Maryland’s Travilah Beer and Wine, Benjamin Rothenberg turns 37…
SUNDAY: Survivor of Auschwitz-Birkenau as a teen, he emigrated to Israel and became an artist, his work, mostly Holocaust-themed, appears in the Israel Museum, Yad Vashem and the U.S. Capitol, Yehuda Bacon turns 90… Chicago radio news personality, Walter Jacobson turns 82… Former U.S. District Court Judge in Manhattan (1988-2006), then U.S. Attorney General (2007-2009), now of counsel at the international law firm of Debevoise & Plimpton, Michael Mukasey turns 78… Swedish industrialist, chairman of the Nobel Foundation (manager of the Nobel Prize) from 2005 to 2013, his father was the chairman of the Swedish branch of the World Jewish Congress, Marcus Storch Ph.D. turns 77…
In 1986 she became first woman in the IDF to hold the rank of Brigadier General, she was a member of Knesset (2006-2009) and now serves on multiple for-profit and non-profit boards, Amira Dotan turns 72… President of the Council on Foreign Relations since July 2003 and previously a State Department official, Richard N. Haass turns 68… Sports columnist, commentator and author of 35 sports-related books, John Feinstein turns 63… French-Israeli hairdresser and entrepreneur, Michel Mercier turns 58… Sports executive, attorney and former president of basketball operations for the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves (2009-2013), David Kahn turns 58… Actress and reality show personality, Elizabeth Berkley Lauren turns 47…
Co-founder and CEO of the personal genomics and biotechnology company “23andMe,” Anne Wojcicki turns 46… CEO of NYC-based Xukuma, LLC (a consulting firm), previously she served as COO at the Birthright Israel Foundation and was a producer for ABC News, Jennifer Lew Goldstoneturns 46… Managing partner at Altitude Ventures, a healthcare venture capital firm, he is a former White House liaison to the Jewish community (2005-2007), Jay Zeidman turns 36… Assistant general manager and director of baseball research and development for the Washington Nationals, Sam Mondry-Cohen turns 32… Political Reporter at BuzzFeed, Ruby Cramerturns 29… Partner and managing director of private investment bank DH Capital, he serves on the boards of American Jewish World Service and Hazon, Marty Friedman… Larry Gordon…