Trump poses a new test for the American Jewish community | House Dems debate ‘only two-states’ | Sandy Koufax to get a statue
DRIVING THE CONVO — The Atlantic’s David Frum notes in a new column — titled ‘What if they’re not coming for the Jews this time?’ — that President Donald Trump seems to have exempted the Jewish community from the same line of attacks he’s been using against other minority groups, including Muslims and immigrants. “This special exemption poses a moral quandary for communally concerned Jews,” Frum writes. “What if American Jews found themselves facing people who practiced a politics of incitement, but not against Jews — indeed, who found it more useful to cast themselves as allies of Jews?”.
“Jews generally believe ourselves to be bound by an ethical code of tolerance and decency larger than our own parochial interests,” he continued. And therefore, Frum speculates whether Trump is putting American Jews to the test — will the incumbent president, seeking re-election next year, succeed in splitting the Jewish community? Frum warns that the president could “split religious Jews from secular; more communally minded Jews from more universalist; more conservative from more liberal — embittering American Jews against one another, as he has sought more generally to embitter American against American.” Worth reading in full [TheAtlantic]
REACTIONS —Sinai Temple’s Rabbi David Wolpe emails JI: “The Jewish community is divided, often bitterly, over this president. But if we believe that the only bigotry we need to fight is antisemitism, we have betrayed both our history and our mission. When George Washington spoke those famous words to the Jewish community of Newport, that America will give ‘to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance,’ he was quoting words the synagogue president had written to him the day before. In this America and Judaism should stand as one. When we don’t, the shame is palpable and the stain ineradicable.”
Opinion editor of the Forward Batya Ungar-Sargon: “It’s a false binary. Many Jews are people of color; we are fighting for our own when we fight the president’s racist rhetoric against minority communities of color. More importantly, American Jews didn’t reject Trump by huge margins in 2016 because we felt personally targeted by his ugly campaign. We rejected him because of his patent disregard for every value we hold dear — as Jews and as Americans — in the service of getting ahead. And we will do so again. His cynical gambit to use us as a shield in his attack against ‘The Squad’ is fooling no one.”
Republican Jewish Coalition’s executive director Matt Brooks tells JI: “I’m pleased that David [Frum] has gone to great lengths to highlight the spectacular and historic record of President Trump in defense of the Jewish community, in support of Israel and his vehement denunciation of antisemitism. He and I reached different conclusions as to what it means for the Jewish community. I, for one, am pleased that we have a president who’s willing to stand up and speak out against antisemitism and is an unapologetic public defender of Israel.”
HEARD YESTERDAY — Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) claimed on Wednesday that some of her Democratic colleagues don’t understand much about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and didn’t necessarily understand the anti-BDS resolution that passed this week with overwhelming bipartisan support.
“When you say one or two-state [solution], they don’t know what you’re talking about,” the congresswoman said during a briefing on Capitol Hill organized by American Muslims for Palestine (AMP). “I had a colleague ask me what the blockade in [Gaza] means… Another person actually signed onto the anti-BDS bill not understanding, but because they saw so many colleagues on there they said it must be important.” [JewishInsider]
VILLAGE VISIT — Residents of Beit Ur al-Fauqa, the hometown of Tlaib’s grandmother in the outskirts of Ramallah, are making preparations for the possible arrival of the Michigan lawmaker next month. The main reception for Tlaib will be held in her clan’s hall at the entrance to the village, The Jerusalem Post reported on Wednesday. “We’re all proud of her,” Ahmed Abdullah Tlaib, one of Tlaib’s uncles told JPost. “Of course, everyone here is excited that she’s coming to visit her village.”
ON THE HILL — by JI’s Laura Kelly: Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) defended her vote on the anti-BDS resolution, breaking from her colleagues of “The Squad” in favor of the pro-Israel measure.
“There are a lot of anti-BDS bills out there that infringe on 1st amendment rights at the state and federal level. In my view, H. Res 246 wasn’t one of them,” Pressley wrote on Twitter. “What I heard resounding in community was that voting yes on this resolution affirmed to my constituents raised in the Jewish faith Israel’s right to exist, a view I share as a supporter of a two state solution.”
She also noted her views are shared by Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), who also voted yes on H.Res.246, and, like Pressley, is a co-sponsor of Reps. Tlaib and Ilhan Omar’s pro-BDS resolution.
Pressley, however, stated that she is against attempts to legislate against the BDS movement, saying she opposes S.1, which includes the “Combating BDS Act of 2019.” That bill, which passed with bipartisan support in the Senate, provides more protections to government agencies refusing to contract with businesses that participate in a boycott of Israel. “If S.1 were to come to the House floor, I would vote NO,” she wrote. “We can call out and question the tactics of a movement but we should never question or marginalize the lived experiences and voices of those who call out for civil rights & liberties, including the Palestinian people.”
House Democrats are clashing over a bill that would reaffirm support for a two-state solution, according to Politico. Senior Democrats — including Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-NY) — have reportedly fought over one word in the bill, drafted by Reps. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Karen Bass (D-CA) and Gerry Connolly (D-VA). The draft resolution currently states that “only” a two-state solution can end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, something Engel and other House Democrats have rejected as too limiting. Arguments over the bill have prevented it from coming to a vote so far, but Engel said negotiations are ongoing, and he hoped it would come to the floor before Congress begins its six-week summer recess.
HAPPENING TODAY — Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) is set to lead a discussion in the Senate commemorating the 25th anniversary of the AMIA Jewish Community Center bombing in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Reps. Jeff Duncan (R-SC), co-chair of the Congressional Argentina Caucus, and Robert Pittenger (R-NC), chairman of the Parliamentary Intelligence-Security Forum, will also be speaking at the event, which will discuss what steps can be taken to improve regional cooperation on counterterrorism.
Democratic representatives from the fields of national security and diplomacy are scheduled to discuss increasing tensions between the U.S. and Iran today. Reps. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI), Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) and Andy Kim (D-NJ) will speak on a panel organized by the International Crisis Group and Foreign Policy for America.
President Donald Trump vetoed three joint resolutions on Wednesday prohibiting arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. “Apart from negatively affecting our bilateral relationships with Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, Spain, and Italy, the joint resolution would hamper the ability of the United States to sustain and shape critical security cooperation activities,” Trump wrote in one of the messages he sent to the Senate on Wednesday.
JI INTERVIEW — U.S. Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating Antisemitism Elan Carr spoke on Capitol Hill Wednesday morning at an event examining the resurgence of antisemitism. He took a few minutes to speak with JI’s Laura Kelly about what more needs to be done.
JI: The House and Senate have introduced several different bills prioritizing the importance of Holocaust education and increasing resources in law enforcement to punish antisemitic attacks as hate crimes. Is there anything more President Trump can do to signal the House and Senate to make these bills a priority?
Carr: “I can’t comment on legislation. But I will say that the priorities expressed in those bills and through member of Congress statements are 100 percent our priorities. Look, you see more and more kids throughout the world, including in the United States, who don’t know what the Holocaust is, that have never heard of Auschwitz.
“It’s very difficult to fight antisemitism without educating people on where this ancient and vile poison leads… [but] it’s not only about Holocaust education, it’s also about philosemitic education, educating on Jewish contributions to the United States and to countries around the world.”
Gary Bauer, the commissioner of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, who helped organize the event, spoke to JI on what more the administration can do to support such legislative efforts: “I think they just need to do more of what they have been doing.”
Asked where the Commission stands on Trump’s rhetoric targeting Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), four minority women, Bauer said: “Personally, I’m more concerned about Congresswoman Omar’s, I believe, antisemitic memes that she uses, than I am by the fact that the president is angry about those things. I think she, and some others, have been mainstreaming antisemitism in the halls of Congress and that is a disturbing and dangerous thing to be happening in America.”
SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP — The United States on Wednesday blocked a U.N. Security Council condemnation of Israel’s recent demolition of Palestinian homes. U.S. officials rejected two versions of a draft statement composed by Kuwait, Indonesia and South Africa that warned that the demolition “undermines the viability of the two-state solution and the prospect for just and lasting peace.”
BIBI GETS HIS WAY — The Israeli cabinet is expected to approve a one-year extension to Ambassador Ron Dermer’s already-extended term as Israel’s top diplomat in the U.S., despite initial opposition from a civil service panel. Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit approved Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s request to ignore the recommendation, according to a report by Israel’s Channel 12.
ACROSS THE POND — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson appointedDominic Raab as Foreign Secretary on Wednesday after receiving the mandate to form a new government from Queen Elizabeth II.
Raab was born to a Czech Jewish father who fled to Britain as a refugee before World War II. The British diplomat spent the summer of 1998 at Bir Zeit University near Ramallah, and reportedly worked for one of the principal Palestinian negotiators of the Oslo peace accords, assessing World Bank projects on the West Bank. After returning to London, he worked at the British Foreign Office, serving as an advisor on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict among other tasks.
Johnson also announced the appointment of Priti Patel as Home Secretary. Patel quit her post as secretary of state for international development in November 2017, after it emerged that she held a series of meetings with Israeli leaders — including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — about allocating aid to the IDF’s Syrian relief efforts, without properly informing the government.
Sajid Javid, who served as Home Secretary in the Theresa May government, was appointed as chancellor of the Exchequer. Javid visited Israel earlier this month, and became the first UK government official to pray at the Western Wall.
2020 BRIEFS — Joe Biden tears into Cory Booker and criticized Kamala Harris as well in a shift to aggressively counter his challengers… Bernie Sanders campaign accused Biden of ‘continued lies’ about ‘Medicare for All’… Lagging in the polls, 2020 Democrat and Holocaust survivor’s son, Michael Bennet, is certain he can beat Trump… One donor is backing 14 candidates. Why big-dollar Democrats aren’t picking sides for 2020… Top Obama bundler, Michael Kempner, backs Kamala Harris with Hamptons fundraiser.
RACE TO THE KNESSET — Israelis woke up on Thursday to news of the formation of a new political party, a merger between Meretz, former Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s Israel Democratic Party and former Labor MK Stav Shaffir. The new list, to be called the Democratic Camp, will see Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz in the top spot, Shaffir — who recently lost the Labor leadership primary — as number two, and Barak in only the tenth spot. The new party said that Barak insisted on being placed low on the list, but will get the first pick of ministerial positions if it joins the government.
Labor’s Itzik Shmuli said Thursday morning that Labor leader Amir Peretz — who recently signed a deal with Orly-Levy Abekasis’s centrist Gesher Party — should strongly consider joining forces with the new left-wing bloc. Several reports have indicated that the new coalition is also hoping to convince former Justice Minister Tzipi Livni to return to politics and join them.
REPORT — Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert reportedly canceled an upcoming trip to Switzerland over concerns he would be arrested on charges of war crimes. Channel 12 News reported that Swiss authorities informed the Israeli Foreign Ministry and Justice Ministry that he would be questioned about his role in the 2008-2009 Operation Cast Lead in Gaza.
** Good Thursday Morning! Enjoying the Daily Kickoff? Please share us with your friends & tell them to sign up at [JI]. Have a tip? We’d love to hear from you. Anything from hard news and punditry to the lighter stuff, including event coverage, job transitions, or even special birthdays, is much appreciated. Email Editor@JewishInsider.com **
BUSINESS BRIEFS: Leslie Wexner’s L Brands board opens probe of Jeffrey Epstein’s role at company [WSJ] • Gil Shwed’s Check Point Software second-quarter results meet forecasts, reaffirms outlook [Reuters] • Facebook agrees to extensive new oversight as part of $5 billion settlement [NYTimes] • Sheryl Sandberg debuts new boyfriend Tom Bernthal [PageSix] • Georgina Bloomberg buys another co-op at 101 CPW [RealDeal] • Israel to begin gas exports to Egypt within four months [Reuters]
STARTUP SPOTLIGHT — The Israeli company that produces the most sports video hours in the world — by Ouriel Daskal: “The automated broadcasting technology of Israeli company Pixellot Ltd. can be found at some of the world’s leading soccer clubs, including FC Barcelona, Real Madrid, Chelsea Football Club, and FC Bayern München. But the thing that gets Pixellot co-founder and chief technology officer Gal Oz most excited is the contract, estimated at around $80 million, that the company just extended with PlayOn! Sports Network, an American high school sports media company. Founded in 2013, Pixellot develops artificial intelligence-based production and broadcasting technologies that provide live, multi-angled, panoramic HD broadcast of sporting events… without the need to deploy on-site personnel.”[Calcalist]
TRANSITION — Anne Neuberger, who recently oversaw election security efforts at the National Security Agency (NSA), has been appointed as head of the agency’s new cybersecurity directorate. In her new role, announced on Tuesday, Neuberger will focus on protecting national security networks from U.S. adversaries and sharing “more insights about specific cyber threats with other federal agencies and the private sector.”
Neuberger, originally from Brooklyn, will be one of the highest-ranking women at the NSA since Ann Caracristi was named deputy director in 1980, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Neuberger’s new role comes at an important time, former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-MI) noted on CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper on Wednesday. “The one thing lacking was a person to make a decision — now it looks like they have one — and the coordination. Somebody they know can call up the CIA and say, ‘I am not asking, I am telling you, giving you this information.’ The same with the FBI and others,” he said. Rogers described Neuberger as a “national treasure… brilliant, bright.” [Video]
BERNIE’S BID — Bernie Madoff, who is currently serving a 150-year jail sentence at the federal prison in Butner, North Carolina, for orchestrating the largest Ponzi scheme in U.S. history, is asking President Donald Trump to commute or reduce his sentence, according to an application filed with the Justice Department.
Madoff’s prosecutor, Marc Litt, called the request “the very definition of chutzpah.” Litt told CNBC on Wednesday that “Bernard Madoff received a fair and just sentence — one that both appropriately punished him for decades of criminal conduct that caused devastating damage to tens of thousands of victims, and sent a loud and clear message to deter would-be fraudsters.”
BEHIND BARS — Accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein was reportedlyfound unconscious in his New York city jail cell after a possible suicide attempt. According to NBC New York, two sources said “Epstein may have tried to hang himself, while a third source cautioned that the injuries were not serious and questioned if Epstein might be using it as a way to get a transfer.” Epstein, who was recently denied bail, was reportedly taken to a hospital for treatment.
A report in McClatchy on Wednesday detailed exactly how Epstein spent $30 million in charitable donations over a period of 20 years. His largest single donation was more than $14 million to Les Wexner’s YLK Fund. Other donations included to The Jewish National Fund, The UJA-Federation of New York and the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. The public revelation of a $500,000 donation to the Orthodox Jewish Ramaz School in New York City led the school to clarify its relationship in an email from the school’s chairman. According to JTA, the school noted that “At the time, the source of the foundation’s funding was not made known to the school.”
HOLLYWOOD — ‘Jojo Rabbit’ teaser continues tradition of mocking Hitler — by Whitney Friedlander: “The new teaser trailer for Taika Waititi’s upcoming dark comedy ‘Jojo Rabbit’ promises to ‘go to war on hate’ — which may be an interesting choice of words as the ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ writer-director appears in the dark comedy as Adolf Hitler… It focuses on a bullied German boy named Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) who has an imaginary friend who takes the form of the Nazi dictator. Things are increasingly complicated because his mother, who is played by Scarlett Johansson, is protecting a young Jewish girl by letting her hide in their attic.” [CNN]
Captain America ‘passionate’ about role as Israeli agent, says Netflix director — by Jordan Hoffman: “[In] Netflix’s ‘The Red Sea Diving Resort’… Gideon Raff, the creator of ‘Prisoner of War,’ the Israeli series adapted into the Emmy-winning ‘Homeland,’ has assembled an outstanding team of actors to pull off this caper. Leading the charge is Marvel’s Captain America, Chris Evans… ‘He was very passionate about doing this movie,’ [said Raff]. ‘He read the script and sought me out… Chris understood that this is a story about humanity, about people coming together, about a family reunited.’” [ToI]
SPORTS BLINK — Legendary pitcher Sandy Koufax will get a statue at Dodger Stadium — by Bill Shaikin: “Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax will be honored with the second statue at the stadium… Koufax, 83, dazzled Los Angeles and all the major leagues with five of the most electric seasons ever recorded… However, he gained his greatest fame… when he decided against pitching in Game 1 of the World Series so he could observe Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year. In the wider American culture, that quiet act transformed Koufax from an excellent pitcher into a Jewish icon.” [LATimes]
In an interview with Fox News on Wednesday, retired Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera pushed back against a widely-shared Daily Beastcolumn describing him as “far right” over his support of Trump and vocal support of Israel. “Mr. President Trump to me, he was a friend of mine before he became president,” Rivera, who was inducted as the first-ever unanimous member of the Hall of Fame this week, told Fox & Friends. “So, because he’s president I will turn my back on him? No. I respect him… When it comes to Israel, you know, as a Christian, if my savior Jesus Christ — he’s a Jew, okay. So how am I going to turn my back and say, ‘Oh, I won’t support Israel?’”
TALK OF THE NATION — Baby needed the world’s most expensive drug. Jewish community raised $2 million in five days — by Amanda Rosa: “A young couple in Aventura was running out of time and praying for a miracle. Their daughter, Eliana Cohen, fast approaching her second birthday, was diagnosed with a rare disease that could keep her from walking, eating and breathing on her own. But her best hope also happened to be the world’s most expensive drug — a $2.1 million treatment called Zolgensma.”
“Without support from insurance, her parents Ariel and Shani Cohen turned to their Jewish community through social media in hopes of covering the staggering cost… A campaign on the Jewish crowdfunding site The Chesed Fund raised more than $2.2 million — in just five days… Eliana received the treatment on Friday and the little girl, who has since turned 2, was doing well over the weekend, said Rabbi Yosef Galimidi of the Edmond J. Safra Synagogue, who is close with the family.” [MiamiHerald]
DESSERT — Mayim Bialik blossoms into grain bowl restaurateur — by Greg Morabito: “Actor Mayim Bialik is using her newfound free time to start a career as a fast-casual restaurateur. The former ‘Blossom’ star has partnered with vegan chef Allison Cruddas on running a restaurant in Downtown LA called Bodhi Bowl that serves grain bowls, salads, soups, and sandwiches. Bodhi Bowl’s homepage boasts that it’s a ‘100 percent vegan restaurant owned and operated by 100 percent vegans!’” [Eater]
New Chicago cafe hopes to make kosher food cool — by Naomi Waxman: “A new cafe from the owners of popular Fairgrounds Coffee & Tea opens in West Rogers Park on Thursday. Bond Coffee Collective from co-founders Max Dayan and Michael Schultz is designed to function as a gathering place for families and communities, and will abide by strict rules of kashrut, or Jewish dietary laws… ‘We’re disrupting misconceptions that something kosher can’t be cool,’ Schultz said.” [Eater]
BIRTHDAYS: Journalist, writer and author, early supporter of the neo-con movement, Midge Rosenthal Decter turns 92… Cinematographer, whose work includes “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and “The Empire Strikes Back,” Peter Suschitzky turns 78… Member of the New York City Council, elected in 2014 and re-elected in 2018, he was formerly a member of the New York State Assembly (2006-2013). Alan N. Maisel turns 73… Born in Casablanca, nightclub owner, entrepreneur and film producer, he produced “The Woman in Red” and “Weekend at Bernie’s,” Victor Drai turns 72…
Former IDF Brigadier General (he was part of Operation Entebbe in 1976), a former leader of the National Religious Party, then a member of Knesset (2003-2009), now President of Genie Oil and Gas, Efraim “Effi” Eitam turns 67… Chief Creative Officer at WildBrow MediaWorks, Peter Grossman turns 62… Pulitzer Prize-winning author and journalist, Anne Applebaum turns 55… Retired MLB pitcher (1988-1997) from the small Jewish community in the Dominican Republic, he maintains a kosher home, José Bautista turns 55… Israeli journalist, television news anchor on Channel 13, Oshrat Kotler turns 54… Senior managing director of the Orthodox Union, he is a popular teacher and lecturer, Rabbi Steven Weil turns 54…
EVP of government relations at Oak View Group in Los Angeles, former member of the Los Angeles City Council in 2018, Mitchell Englander turns 49… Born in Baku, Azerbaijan, he is a NYC-based criminal defense attorney in many high-profile cases, Arkady L. Bukh turns 47… Head coach of the men’s basketball team at Kent State University since 2011, Rob Senderoff turns 46… Director of PR at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Erin Seidler turns 37… Baseball pitcher for the Milwaukee Milkmen of the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball, he is competing on the Israeli national baseball team for qualification for the 2020 Olympics, Joseph “Joey” Samuel Wagman turns 28…